Saturday, July 23, 2011
The question about why some Continuing Anglican churches seem doomed never to grow needs to be faced squarely. As I said in my recent post Three Assumptions, a significant proportion of the people, at least of the clergy, have allowed themselves to become "a very late model version of Anglo-Catholicism that has little in common with the real thing." Part of this inexplicable phenomenon is some crazy idea that Anglicans have no reason to be Anglicans at all (and yet they persist). After all, once they have dismissed their heritage with its formularies, presenting instead an open rejection of the very Anglicanism they claim to Continue, representing no conviction that endorses their own tradition, they are a pitiful sight. No wonder they cannot build anything, or attract a significant portion of new members.
The ignorance I have encountered from a frightening proportion of Anglican clergy (with frighteningly little to show for their efforts) concerning the writings of Anglican fathers and luminaries, is often compensated for by the propaganda they have swallowed from outspoken proselytizers for one or the other of the Two One True Churches. In place of reading the English Reformers, they are very up to date on all the articles and blogs about English Reformers by those who treat all Anglicans as a mission field in need of conversion. Instead of knowing the works of genuine Anglican thinkers, they are very conversant on the works of open adversaries who labor tirelessly to distort, conceal, twist and otherwise deceive ignorant and gullible people to lead them away.
One very liberating fact that such self-loathing Anglicans need to learn, and learn yesterday, is to stop swallowing everything dished up by the opposition. The Two One True Churches have their own Tokyo Roses broadcasting fear and defeatism over blogs, in books and in publications. Stop listening to it. If you want to know what Anglicanism is, learn it from Anglican sources - in fact, from primary sources. I do not care what some Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox blogger, author or editor has to say about the Anglican formularies, nor their own distorted version of history (besides, I have heard it all before). I have a really novel idea; why not study those formularies themselves? Why not read Anglican teaching from the great luminaries of our own tradition?
Another liberating fact is that there is no such thing as a Roman-Orthodox consensus on Anglicanism. Not that I would care if both of the Two One True Churches did agree; but, their apparent agreement on anything, beyond a few basics, is mere fantasy. First of all, Rome and Orthodoxy have never agreed about Anglican orders. At one time, between 1922 and 1976, Orthodox bishops, with the full authority of their respective churches, allowed their people to receive the sacraments from Anglican clergy (i.e. until women's "ordination. "Yes, I know all about Kallistos Ware's endeavor to explain away the facts of history between 1922 and 1976. It was a noble effort, to the degree that denying facts can be noble. The simple reality is, his very, very scholastic and academic effort just does not hold water).
But, long before then and to this day, the Orthodox are forbidden to receive sacraments from Roman Catholic clergy. That is because any current denial of our orders, or argument against classic western theology, is simply an extension of their rejection of Roman Catholicism, and their tendency to condemn everything western. As such, it cannot amount to an agreement, unless someone says that the Orthodox rejection of Rome equals agreement with them about anything. It makes no sense.
If, however, you want to find the truth of genuine consensus that Continues the truth as received, believed and practiced by the Universal Church before the Great Schism, you need look no further than the Book of Common Prayer. There you have it. The Evangelical and Catholic Faith of the Universal Church has been preserved, including what few things Rome and Orthodoxy actually do agree about, namely ancient things we have never denied or rejected.
Or, if you prefer, you can tell everybody why you have no confidence in your own church's doctrine and practice. This method has been used for over thirty years, and it is obvious where it has been used consistently. It is obvious because nothing much remains to show for it. I prefer the contrast I see among churches where the people are happy to be Anglicans, and where they have made it clear that they are not a mission field.