Wednesday, November 23, 2011
We are not a mission field
On implications of wider unity
One of the priorities we must have is real unity among Continuing Anglicans, and that for the sake of our portion of the overall mission of the Church as Christ authorized and commanded it. This keeps the priorities of unity, evangelism and Anglican identity closely related. Having survived the recent storm, it is useful to learn from the dangerous misapplication of the whole subject of unity as it often was related to the Two One True Churches, or as it was during the controversy that enveloped Anglicanorum Coetibus, to the Church of Rome.
It was fashionable among the contingent advocating and misrepresenting that Roman constitution, to quote part of John 17:21, "That they all may be one," in a thoroughly confusing and misleading manner. This practice belonged to the modern "soundbite" culture in which words and phrases are used to prevent rather than aid the art of thinking. The misapplied words of Christ were used to appeal to sentiment, to impart guilt, and in every way simply to manipulate adults. Inasmuch as I have already given my defense of the true meaning of Christ's words (in The Theology of Unity) I will not restate it here. Suffice to say, for now, that even a number of people simply transferring from one denomination to another, say from the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) to the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), would not bring the Universal Church even so much as one step closer to outward and political unity; it would not end divisions that date back to the sixteenth century, or to 1054 AD.
Does this mean we should not hope for eventual outward and political unity? Anglican writers as early as Richard Hooker have always held out that hope. We would not seek to close the door to it. We do, however, see it as more practical to work on unity among our own people as a realizable goal; and it is happening anyway.
More to the point, at this time it is terribly obvious that both Rome and Orthodoxy see unity only in terms of joining them, losing our own identity and ceasing to be Anglican, submitting to them and putting ourselves completely in their hands. To them we are not a real church in any sense (indeed, in reality they still rule out each other as the true Church, though idealistic and misinformed, indeed misinforming, individuals have convinced themselves it isn't so). Whether we deal with the Orthodox or the Roman Catholics, when we talk of unity, they think of evangelism as they see it, regarding us as a mission field.
We are not a mission field, and our place in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is certainly no less secure than theirs; and to the degree that true doctrine is part of the Apostolic Succession, we would argue that our place is more secure. And, it is high time for all Continuing Anglicans, especially Anglo-Catholics, to acquire that security. True doctrine is the issue that divides us still, at this time, from both of the Two One True Churches, because each of them remains muddled and unclear about important elements essential to the very Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not we who need their claims about history to somehow give us perfect validity. It is they who need clarity of doctrine that goes back to "the most ancient catholic doctors and bishops" of the Church; and that clarity is more readily at hand to us.
Some will be fooled by arguments based on unverifiable claims about history, such as the entire basis for the Papal claims, mixed with just plain impossible interpretations of scripture. You may be very sure that polemicists have already lost the real argument when they come back with derisive and silly attempts to dismiss us as "merely five hundred years old." Aside form being incorrect history, it means they have no Biblical or theological point in mind. Of course, that non-argument fits a perverted kind of logic that does not recognize their own divided state, nor the fact that we have maintained the Catholic Tradition that goes all the way back to the beginning. We have merely removed the dross.
If we want real unity, we must begin with our own people. If we hold out a hope for wider unity, it cannot be by accepting the lie that we are a mission filed for either One True Church to harvest. Sadly, that was what the recent storm was all about, Anglican bishops trying to accept the status imposed by Rome on behalf of those who intended loyalty to the truth of the Gospel, faith in the Anglican way, and the understanding Affirmed in St. Louis. Those who believe they need one or other of the Two One True Churches to be valid, or have "the fullness," or whatever, may go with our prayers and charity. But, we already belong to the Church; we are not a mission field.