"I just love it when these big, beefy guys get all macho, flex their ecclesiastical muscles, and start unchurching each other with head-cracking dogmatic smack downs, anathemas (or is it 'anathemae'?) flying all over the place; bully boys in neon vestments 'kicking and a' gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer'. Beats 'Monday Night RAW'".
Shortly afterward, someone who was oblivious to the gift my brother had exercised, and the impartation of wisdom his words contained, took up the macho role of declaring again our Absolute Nullity and Utter Voidity, no doubt because dogmatic doctrinal development provides a perfect understanding of who to unchurch, who to anathematize, and who to hate, based on true Christian convictions (and, when in doubt, anathematize everybody, including yourself, just to play it safe. Better to condemn the innocent than to let one invalid sacrament seem to convey any grace).
So the wrestler wrote: "Anglicanism, like all other Reformation creations, originated outside the visible Church, and obviously remains outside the visible Church today."
I responded, "Could we get back to discussing the lyrics of 'A boy named Sue' Please? I find them far more enlightening."
Having written many essays over the years (many of which you can read right here) I find "smack down" discussions to be immensely boring. I prefer the short sarcastic "get a life" response when someone has written a long tome, filled with all the same old gobbledygook about why the Pope is the Big Cheese in the Church, the same old stuff we have been through a zillion times. Recently, someone sent me that same old stuff, writing to me personally about our recent post, Nailing it to the Door. He told me that he hoped I would read his remarks carefully, and consider them. What again? I glanced, I saw, I yawned. To him I say, if he is reading this, read my essays, and read the links on our Anglicanorum Coetibus page. Oh, and also, get a life. If you do not agree with my essays, too bad. But, don't expect me to rewrite the same things all over again in some private correspondence. I have a real congregation to care for, and only so many hours in a day.
St. Paul got straight to the point in his writings, reminding us of simple facts like, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." When I read fussy effeminate arguments about some ontological reality supposedly missing from our sacraments, so that the magic doesn't work or the medicine is bad, I have two immediate reactions. The learned half of my brain says, "that is wrong because..." as it recalls the arguments. As far as my learned half is concerned, the debate has been won by the catholic, evangelical and traditional (excuse the redundancy) Anglican side, absolutely and without doubt.
The practical half of my brain responds a little differently (perhaps other brains are divided in some other way). The practical side asks what kind of God would place so high a priority on fussy little legalities that He would give the "fullness" of grace only to those who have some alleged formal and legal tie to the Bishop of Rome. How does that work anyway, if between that Bishop all the way over in Rome, and the local Bishop and Archbishop, a great gulf of disagreement exists? Does the magic work anyway because of the legal and formal paperwork details? Why would God give this alleged "fullness" under conditions described by one Roman Catholic writer as follows?
So, individuals in the constituent member parish are better off because of "something ontologically present" even if the scandals include...? well, you know what the scandals include. This is better, even if boys are treated to...well you know...by a demented priest, and even when the diocesan bishop has been covering it all up, reassigning the predators, and hiding it from law enforcement officers? If so, constituent membership of such an organization has no practical benefits, except that the "ontological presence" operates, if this theory is true, in the same exact way as elemental magic in an amoral universe. Is that Christianity?
The Book of Common Prayer was put together by an Archbishop of Canterbury whose grasp of the Church Fathers, and of the Faith of the ancient Church, was second to none. Archbishop Cranmer's writings, whether you like him or not, prove that his knowledge was as thorough as that of any individual before or after. The classic work that sets us apart, that gives us our special message to the rest of the Holy Catholic Church, and that informs our Faith, is the Book of Common Prayer. The emphasis of this book is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Unless and until we grasp the message of Scripture that our Book of Common Prayer drives home on every page, intricate theoretical formulations that childish minds are so proud of, mean nothing. And, when we do grasp that Prayer Book message, many of those intricate theoretical formulations mean nothing still; but, at least we know it.
The Lord Jesus gave a simple promise to His Church, based on the condition that we work to fulfill the Great Commission:
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All authority is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matt. 28:18-20)
To have Him with us is the presence that matters most. That presence is, in the New Testament sense, charismatic (χάρις). It is experienced sacramentally; it is applied spiritually. It does not depend, as if by amoral elemental magic, on being a constituent member of some worldwide legally defined organization. However, as long as they are part of the Church that tries to fulfill the Great Commission, the Bishop of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch belong to the same Church we do. Whether you want to describe the Divine Presence in the Church, including His sacramental Presence, as an ontological reality, or as fellowship (I John 1:1f), it is not for us to unchurch, smack down, and declare Absolute Nullity.
"The servant of the Lord must not strive," said St. Paul, "but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient." (II Tim. 2:24) That is, he must not, to use the Greek word, machomai (μάχομαι). The Two One True Churches have their fill of wrestlers, having fought each other for a millennium. One of the liberties of being an Anglican is that we do not have to waste our time giving a second thought to their struggles. We have enough to do just fighting the world, the flesh and the devil.
We have the Gospel to preach and a fallen world to preach it too. We have no time for even the most refined ecclesiastical sort of "kicking and a' gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer".