Friday, November 11, 2011

Our priorities

At this point in the history of the Continuing Church it seems that three things must be emphasized. These three things are really about our future. They are unity, evangelism and Anglican identity. At this time, the leading bishops of the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC), the Anglican Church in America (ACA), the United Episcopal Church North America (UECNA), the Anglican Province of Christ the King (APCK) and the Anglican Province in America (APA) have, at one time or other recently, committed themselves to establishing that unity. Four of those leading bishops, as readers of The Continuum know (from this and this) were at the recent Provincial Synod of the ACC-OP, and there each of those four said that the recent effort of the pope in Anglicanorum Coetibus has had the unforeseen effect of renewing commitment to Anglicanism, and with it a desire to bring about unity among the major jurisdictions of Continuing Anglicanism. They have each credited the Holy Spirit for this. 

Unity will mean that one Continuing Anglican presence can finally be free of the old range wars. None of the leading bishops (whether Arch or Presiding) ever created the divisions in the first place. They inherited them. Unity would have made us grow larger in the past, and it can do so in the future. It has been obvious to the laity and to observers that we all have more in common than any issues that cause division. In fact, it was not generally doctrine that caused divisions, as we all know. That would, at least, have been principled. 

Evangelism is not an option. It is the direct command of Jesus Christ Himself; and any church that does not have His mission as part of its very reason to exist is not the Church He established. Sacramental validity is not enough to make up for that lack. Without the Gospel being preached and the mission of the Church as a priority, the Apostolic Succession is not complete; for the Apostolic Church was given the Great Commission. Just think about that for a while.

Finally, Anglican identity as we understand it and have Affirmed that understanding, is also not an option for us. Yes, we are free of destructive and erroneous One True Church theories, and unlike both of the two One True Churches we know ourselves to be but a part of the whole (as we know them to be). But, we have chosen to be Anglicans because we believe it to be, although not the only way to be Christian, the way that is most faithful to the revelation of God as revealed and recorded in Scripture, and as that scripture was understood by the most ancient catholic doctors and bishops. 

These three priorities must be embraced as we go forward. Each has been attacked by the great enemy of our souls. It is time to stop being ignorant of Satan's devices (II Cor. 2:11). For too long the enemy has been able to say the words of Israel's enemies of old:

"But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews. And he spake before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, What do these feeble Jews? will they fortify themselves? will they sacrifice? will they make an end in a day? will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned? Now Tobiah the Ammonite was by him, and he said, Even that which they build, if a fox go up, he shall even break down their stone wall. Hear, O our God; for we are despised: and turn their reproach upon their own head, and give them for a prey in the land of captivity... (Nehemiah 4:1-4)"

If you have had enough of that, as I have, it is time to pray and do everything possible to put resources and energy into unity, evangelism and maintaining Anglican identity.

23 comments:

Vern 3 said...

Finally, the truth is stated. Hopefully our bishops are listening and will respond to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit and unite!

Fr. Fabian said...

These are our Bishops and leaders in the Continuum and they need to get to the meat of the problem. Humility, obedience to the Lord and the survival of His Church. Stop dancing and get on with it. Unity or we don't survive.

Abu Daoud said...

I recently read a church review of an APCK church in Las vegas that appears to be a relatively recent plant and seems to be doing pretty well. The link is below for anyone interested.

Sorry the link is so long:
http://duanemiller.wordpress.com/2011/04/12/a-continuing-anglican-congregation-st-georges-church-las-vegas-22-august-2010-12th-sunday-after-trinity/

Yendabril said...

So if two of these juridictions were to actually merge and restructure their dioceses and so on, which two are the most likely ones to do this?

Also, has anyone come up with a step-by-step plan of what that might actually look like?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Fabian

They are getting on with it.

Fr. Fabian said...

Thank you Father Hart! That's music to my ears!

Fr. Wm. Holiday said...

It is truly heartrending that the recent "blood-letting" was the necessary catalyst for this current endeavor toward unity to take place.

May God have mercy on us all, and may the will of His Holy Spirit be done despite us.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

It is time for it also to be done through us, in spite of our weaknesses. We have this treasure in earthen vessels.

Fr.Wm. Holiday said...

Hear, hear!

John A. Hollister said...

Yendabril asked if there was a step-by-step plan for how a merger of two churches might work.

I don't know of any current plan, exactly, but there is a precedent that could be adapted at need. That precedent was the merger in 1981 or '82 of the Anglican Episcopal Church of North America with the Anglican Catholic Church.

The AECNA as a whole became a "non-territorial" Diocese within the ACC, under the name "the Diocese of St. Paul", to which all the AECNA bishops, clergy, and parishes belonged. It was envisioned that, over something like a 10-year period, as the AECNA folk became comfortable with their ACC neighbors, individual bishops, clergy, and parishes could transfer at will from the Diocese of St. Paul into the particular ACC dioceses within whose territories they were situated.

As it turned out, everyone felt comfortable with everyone else much more quickly than had been anticipated and, after something like 3 years, all the former AECNA personnel and congregations had asked for and made those transfers, thus rendering the Diocese of St. Paul obsolete.

I am sure any group could make use of a similar procedure, with a good liklihood of success.

John A. Hollister+

Yendabril said...

Dear John+, thank you for answering my question. Since we are not dealing here with an enormous number of parishes this seems like a realistic precedent today.

Anonymous said...

I hope this is not too tangential, or a jumping of guns, but Stephen Neill has an interesting chapter in his 'Anglicanism' entitled "Anglicans Abroad".

In how far are there (other than a Subcontinental Province or 'sister Churches' or whatever the best term is), "Continuing Anglicans Abroad", and insofar as there are not, how urgently might they be an aspiration?

Neill notes that "what is believed to have been the first Anglican service ever held on the continent of North America" - in California, of all places, in 1579 - was held by a notable layman, Sir Francis Drake, who "himself read from his Prayer Book, and led in the singing of the Psalms appointed for the day"...

Semi-Hookerian

Bruce said...

Is the "Two One True Churches" an accurate characterization of the EO's position. I thought they definded where the Church is but not where it isn't. At least, I read that. For example here in Touchstone:

http://touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=13-01-021-o

"Other than liberals who do not represent the type of faith we hold to, the Orthodox Church knows there are sincere, traditionally minded Christians out there. The Orthodox position on such Christians has been expressed by the phrase that I believe is attributed to George Florovsky: “We know where the Church is; we do not know where it isn’t.” That is, we believe that our churches are a part of The Church—the Body of Christ—and we can’t really say anything about others. That is for God to know, and it is the job of us Orthodox to deal with our own churches.

That may sound like a cop-out, a nonanswer, but it is entirely consistent with the Orthodox apophatic approach to theology. It is uncharacteristic of the Orthodox to try to define God cataphatically. Rather, we would define what God is not: He is unknowable; he is invisible; he is invincible; he is immortal. Such a collection of negative definitions simply draws “boundaries” around God, eliminating everything outside, and when we are done, we say that God is something in the middle—the unfathomable, indefinable center. The same theological process applies to the Body of Christ—The Church. The Orthodox will not draw rigid definitions of who is in and out—we will just draw a few rough strokes and say that beyond that, God knows. And those strokes are drawn at the boundaries of our jurisdiction."

Anonymous said...

Bruce,

It seems that's popular EO theology, and a theology of apokatastasis is found among the Cappadocian fathers and others, so I can understand the appeal. But because we do have a positive definition of where God's grace is found (Romans 10), and the imperative of the Gospel commission to reach out to those "who do not know God" (Paul), along with the idea that outside of Christ there is the old order/kosmos, I find it hard to be cheerful or hopeful about the lost's condition. It's not our business to know whether God will save outside the Church and Her Gospel (obviously with Aquinas we can affirm that God is bound to His means of Grace but not bound by them), but it is our business to preach as if men were really lost outside the hope of the message of the cross.

Maybe I'm alone in this here, but the pagans and heathen are in need of the Gospel, otherwise they perish. Just don't start asking me about Aristotle or Socrates, I'm afraid I'm a little drawn to Clement of Alexandria's view (along with Zwingli) on this, that they had the pre-Gospel Gospel in some fashion (spermatikoi). But I can't say I would be surprised if I found them outside the reach of beatific vision as Dante found Vergil in his Inferno.


In Jesus,
Steven Badal
ACC Layman

RC Cola said...

Bruce and Steven,
I think you would find that the RCC does not talk in terms of being one of true true Churches anymore.
The change from the "Church is the Catholic Church" to the "Church subsists in the Catholic Church" is one clue. Another clue is the reference to the Orthodox Church as 'the other lung' of The universal Church. Another is that they have firmly rejected a Feeneyite interpretation of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. They have also included in the CCC that while they believe the fullness of the faith resides in the Catholic Church, they do not deny that the other Churches are Churches, and they also do not blame any current non-Catholics for not being Catholic as they were born into another tradition. (e.g. A current person cannot be blamed for causing a rift in the Body of Christ as it happened hundreds of years ago.)
This is covered largely in Article 9 (starting at paragraph 811 in the CCC).
So I don't know if "two one true churches" is really a fair criticism anymore. It's a debatable point.

Bruce said...

I think the paragraphs I quoted were referring to the EO position on other churches (particularly “sincere, traditionally-minded” ones), not on unbelievers. I’m contrasting the quoted author’s claims with the “One true Church” characterization of the EO’s way of seeing themselves that I see so often on this blog.

Fr. Spaeth said...

Bruce,

While I appreciate what you're trying to argue (and I for one am not opposed to having a closer relationship with the orthodox), the proof is in the pudding. At the end of the day, all of the murky, softened talk about a possibility of validity outside the walls of the EO Church doesn't count for much when they Confirm/Chrismate and unconditionally reordain clergy from Anglicanism or even the RC (or in some extreme EO jurisdictions, even rebaptize). They may want to play nice (which is to be commended) but when you get down to brass tacks, we're not a real church to them. And that is more than obvious by their actions, even if they choose to speak in more nuanced terms.

Anonymous said...

This little 1994 note by Archbishop Chrysostomos gives a glimpse of some the complexity of 'positions' within (claimants to being)'the Orthodox Church' with reference to Georges Florovsky: http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/florovsky.aspx

I do not find in the CCC what RC Cola seems to see there. For instance, in paragraph 819 a plural - "Churches" - suddenly appears with no explicit explanation in this sentence (coming between footnotes referring to various parts of 'Unitatis redintegratio' and 'Lumen gentium'): "Christ's Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church."

But the tenor of the sentence is quite the opposite of treating whatever may here be called "Churches" - as opposed to the similarly unexplained "ecclesial communities" - as equally manifestations of the visible Church with what is called "the Catholic Church".

I do not know if the ecclesiology of Book III of Hooker's 'Laws' is 'peculiarly Anglican' (so to put it) or much more like 'Patristically mere Christian', but I know of no authoritative contemporary 'Orthodox' or '[Roman] Catholic' exposition like it in its recognition of 'the visible Church'.

Semi-Hookerian

Bruce said...

Thank you Fr. Spaeth for the response. I'm not arguing on their behalf or, for that matter, arguing either position. I just wanted someone to help me understand which characterization is accurate.

If they aren't sure that we're part of the Church, then I suppose it follows that they aren't sure of the validity of our orders. Wouldn't it follow then that they'd have to re-ordain to be sure. It doesn't follow that we're not part of the Church to them, only that their not sure which seems consistent with what I quoted above.

Also, I would think the CCs are nearly invisible to them. They're probably looking at Anglicanism as the church headed by the bishop in Canterbury. I can understand their squeamishness.

Fr. Spaeth said...

@Bruce
Thank you for your response. The part of my comment you're missing is that the EO "unconditionally" reordain Anglican clergy, Continuing or otherwise. They are aware of the continuing Church (I have personally questioned Metropolitan Jonah of the OCA on this matter), but they are interested in converts, not ecumenism.

What it comes down to is that if they were merely unsure it would make far more sense for them to conditionally reordain Anglican clergy ("If you are not already ordained, I ordain you, etc."). If they are indeed unsure as some would claim, they run a very real risk in committing sacrilege by attempting to reordain (ordination is a sacrament of character that cannot be repeated, as is baptism and confirmation). If they were unsure on more than paper, their practice would reflect that.

What doesn't follow, is that they unconditionally ordain people they are unsure about. What you will find is that the EO have their own brand of fudge, not dissimilar to Anglican fudge :)

Anonymous said...

I do not find in the CCC what RC Cola seems to see there.

Because the CCC is like reading the first violin part of a symphony. You can get the gist of what's going on, but without the full score, it remains something of a mystery, if not a let down.

Traditionalist Roman Catholics are terribly up in arms about the expression subsists in because they are convinced that that expression has placed all other Churches on the same plane with the Roman and other Catholic Churches.

Whether it's true or not, I cannot determine. However, it seems that if the people who claim to hold the Roman faith unadulterated complain that their Church has abandoned a key claim to their uniqueness in the economy of salvation such that the RCC says that their refusal to submit to the kinder, gentler RCC, renders them schismatic, then we should stand up and take notice. Rome plays nicer with non-Romans than they do with their own Traditionalists--that is a very clear sign that they have abandoned their claim on being one of the two one true churches. One of the things holding up the return of the SSPX to 'full communion' with the RCC is its refusal to accept what they see as the mainstream RCC's capitulation to protestantism. It should be noted that the SSPX has not developed a doctrine and practice of their own, but are only doing and teaching what was done and taught prior to the Second Vatican Council and the subsequent liturgical reform. So, I think it's safe to say that Rome has change its tune re: other Churches.

RC Cola

RC Cola said...

I don't know how I missed this.

In how far are there (other than a Subcontinental Province or 'sister Churches' or whatever the best term is), "Continuing Anglicans Abroad", and insofar as there are not, how urgently might they be an aspiration?

I can't speak for all continuing or traditional Anglicans abroad, but here in Korea we are a little past the tipping point. Years ago, the hierarchy decided to side with the Anglo-American stark raving mad lunatics and turn their backs on GAFCON. This came as no surprise to me because Koreans don't like black people and will slavishly whites because that's who butters their bread.
They were spun off from the C of E in 1992 and have no idea what they are doing, so they just follow the Anglo-American lead, even though it is to hell. The Church in Korea is very dependent upon donations from other nations' Anglican Churches.

Their seminary is a mess. Most professors have attended University of Birmingham for PhDs because the Church Mission Society will pay for it. It's an unfortunate choice because solid, academically gifted priests come back heretics. (Does it make me feel better to know that the Korean RCC sends its best and brightest to Germany and France only to have them come back socialists? No. I pity all priests who lose their faith due to Euro-American perfidity.) I digress.

I was a little surprised to learn that my diocese (Busan) only has a couple women "priests" and it looks like they are not going to have more unless forced from the outside. Sadly Busan is a dirt poor diocese. I also learned recently that several lay people are fed up with the Anglican Church of Korea and with Canterbury over the same things that caused the Affirmation of St. Louis many years ago.

Here's the problem: Koreans believe that bigger is better. So these fellows who are inclined toward a Continuing Anglican Church will never join one because it is too small. Samsung is a big company, but every wants to work there even though the conditions are better in a small company. Same for their church. The Anglican Communion may be jacked up, but it's big, so it's better.

Having said that, the men I know are planning to establish a traditional parish. They do not like women priests. They know that the gay issue is going to explode on the scene at any moment. They are not happy with the relaxed standards for the liturgy and they are appalled by the lack of prayer life from their priests. Most priests are too busy trying to run side businesses or missions to supplement their $2,000/month salaries, so they ditch prayer first. Prayer doesn't make money!

The saying here is "bad software." That is, the Church has perfectly decent buildings and organization, but the people are messed up.

Seoul and Daejeon are lost causes, like most of the Anglican Communion. Busan still has some hope that they can be a faithful diocese within the Communion.

As for the two women "priests," I suspect that they sabotaged the recent failed election for a new bishop so that the vote would go to national synod. Then a priest from Seoul can be elected, he will come down and poison our diocese with the same filthy heresy that has destroyed Seoul and Daejeon (not to mention most of the Anglican Communion).

It's my understanding that women faux-priests and gays are not really the problem, but a symptom of the spiritual bankruptcy of the Anglican Church. There are Anglicans here who see it, but they feel helpless to hold it off. Maybe if they knew the ACC/APCK/UECNA are out there they would join or at least gain some strength?

Anonymous said...

Dear RC Cola,

Thank you for the informative (and often saddening) comment where Korea is concerned!

If it is not too big a question, what might relations between Continuing Korean Anglicans and 'orthodox' Korean Presbyterians be like?

Would numbers of them be likely who would be friendly to a fairly Baxterian "mere Christian" Continuing Anglicanism?

Or would it be more like the background to 'The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity' all over again?

As to 'Vatican II' and after, I think it is clear that 'Rome' has moved, but how far on a spectrum from 'One True Church' to Hookerian (and/or Baxterian)
ecclesiology?

Semi-Hookerian