In January I wrote a little essay called The Yea Sayers, and it was well received by most of our readers. The essential thesis of it is summarized in these lines:
However, having but one life to give for my Lord, I believe that the best way to serve Him, to heal my own sinful soul, and to spread His Gospel in the world, is as an Anglican. I believe we have the best way, combining all that is true from the riches of our Evangelical and Catholic (forgive the redundancy) heritage...Preach the Gospel in the terms it has been given to you, terms of the Book of Common Prayer as it teaches the deepest and enduring truths of the Bible in powerful words that reach the human heart...Who told you that we cannot evangelize and grow? Who fooled you into thinking that we need to be to rescued from the outside?
In looking at the confusion that is taking place about and among the people the of the "Anglican Church of America" (ACA), and the apparent breakdown of relations between their House of Bishops (HOB) and the Primate of the "Traditional Anglican Communion" (TAC), the Most Rev. John Hepworth, we may find some cause for hope. While Archbishop Hepworth communicates to the American branch of his TAC through the mediation of a layman with a blog, Mr. Campbell and his blog of misnomer reputation, the official ACA website repudiates any notion that his blog speaks for their church and even repudiates its alleged statement of facts. In that picture, however, we may see that one bit of true light has dawned on their HOB: A theoretical, forced and awkward attempt to blend Anglicanism with Roman Catholicism is an unworkable abstraction, and the effort is harmful to parishes that must live and try to thrive in the real world.
I trust that all of us hope for real unity in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church; but, real unity must be based on truth, meaning both revealed doctrinal truth, and honesty among ourselves as Christians. The honest approach tells us that differences of doctrine in areas that prevent us from embracing a unity of polity, cannot simply be skated over as if they did not exist. The attempt to force people into a false unity, which is not unity but surrender and submission to Roman Catholicism in its current modern form as it has evolved, produces very bad effects to the health of churches and to their efforts at evangelism. The people are not given a sense of identity within the Church; in fact, they are not given assurance about the validity of their sacraments, or even if they belong to the Church at all.
Hepworth, speaking through Campbell's blog, continues to call the Papal Communion of the Church of Rome and its subordinate ecclesial groupings, "the Church." Parishes with their members, living in the here and now, told that their leaders see "Rome" as the One True Church or Mother Church, exist in a no man's land, that place of death by legal execution outside the city, rather than as full members of the Body of Christ. Second class citizens are not as poor as "children of a lesser god," but neither are they taught the confidence we ought to have when we say "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church," that we speak of ourselves no less than of anyone else who belongs to Christ. In this "no man's land" they are given an extra burden too heavy to bear, impeding any attempt to evangelize and grow.
By the Holy Spirit, if God so wills, the whole Church might someday attain to unity in its outward polity. I remain grateful to God for everyone who finds the grace of God in other churches, including the Roman Catholic Church with its valid sacraments. I remain grateful to God also for those who come to Jesus by the efforts of Evangelical preachers, who present quite often the essential truth of the Gospel. Certainly, we may love one another now, and pray with and for one another now. We may, and we should, honor each others martyrs who have died in the mission field, and in such honor to those martyrs express the deep unity that exists already in our hearts (which may, itself, suffice for now as the will of God for His Church).
But, to grow spiritually, and to grow in number, Continuing Anglicans need to know that they are in the Church now, truly and fully, and that they have sacraments already that are perfectly valid, and that they may proclaim the Gospel and bring people into their own communion in the Church without delay. Unless the priests believe and express faith in their own patrimony, they cannot provide any confidence to their members, or to potential members. Without that confidence reinforced by their bishops and other clergy, and in fact with it undermined by their Primate and his never-ending statements that seem designed to multiply the confusion, they are left in a state of anxiety at worst, unrest at best, and extra burdens of conscience and belief that no one should be made to carry.
"For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints." I Cor. 14:33