Friday, December 09, 2005

Merger ... and why not?

In a thread on Splinter Groups over at Anglo-Catholic Central, I came upon the following comment from ACA Lay Reader Ed Pacht, who is now already a major contributor to this blog (actually one of the few at the moment, in its early life). Does anyone have any answers?

The various Anglo-Catholic Continuing bodies, though they range from moderate to extreme in their catholicism, have precisely no substantial reason, theological or liturgical, to remain separate. The proximate cause of their separation and its continuance is nothing more or less than the perversity of fallen mankind. It's pride, self-will, and stubbornness, and a lack of agape. Reunion is a present necessity.

Why cannot sacramentally minded Anglicans who emphasize the truths of the Reformation and Anglo-Catholics who emphasize the continuity of Tradition unite around the Creeds and the Sacraments? It used to be so. It still can. And He prayed, "That they all may be ONE".

I'm part of the ACA, and thus of the TAC, and am glad of that -- but I bristle at being separated from brethren of other 'jurisdictions' -- this has to come to an end. A revisionist and non-(or barely)Christian Anglicanism has emerged. Why can't we who have determined to hold the Catholic and Apostolic Faith that they have rejected, hold it in unity?


Fr Matthew Kirby said...

While I sympathise with some of the sentiments here and even, to a degree with the analysis of causes of division among Continuers, there is an underlying flaw in the second paragraph.

"Why cannot sacramentally minded Anglicans who emphasize the truths of the Reformation and Anglo-Catholics who emphasize the continuity of Tradition unite around the Creeds and the Sacraments? It used to be so."

The first obvious question an Anglican Catholic must ask is, what truths of the Reformation exist that are not already included in the Catholic Faith? It is a rhetorical question, because we know the answer is none. The second question must be, which truths of which Reformation body? Insofar as any Reformation went beyond protesting Roman and Western excesses and abuses and then rejected a reliance on the common Tradition of East and West, it had to rely on a heterodox epistemology. This epistemology of, most often, sola Scriptura showed its insufficiency by producing a multiplicity of warring groups interpreting Scripture differently.

Anglicanism, in the providence of God, was officially committed to a Catholic epistemology which acknowledged the Church's authority in controversies of Faith, including by authoritatively received Ecumenical Councils, and its obligation to follow the consensus of the Fathers. However, many elements and individuals within the C of E and its daughter Churches paid only lip-service to this, or applied these principles ineffectively due to the heat of controversy, or even ignored them altogether.

The result was comprehensiveness. The unity that used to exist between Protestants (in the fuller sense of the word) and Catholics within Anglican Churches was to a large degree an intrinsically unstable, unhappy and dishonest one. It helped lead to the present situation. Continuing Churches such as the ACC have explicitly dumped the deliberate ambiguities of comprehensiveness and made an irrevocable commitment to the fullness of Holy Tradition. There is no going back for us. While we wish Protestant continuers well, they are on a different path, working from different premises. Our search for unity must be primarily directed towards Catholic Ecumenism, which will focus on bodies such as the RCC, Orthodox Churches, ACC, APCK, Polish National Catholic Church and, I hope, the TAC.


Anonymous said...

Father, it would appear that our differences in viewpoint will continue to add a bit of liveliness to this blog.

I would call attention to the stress I put in refering to sacramentally minded Anglicans who emphasize the truths of the Reformation. Obviously the Reformation did not unearth truths absent from the Catholic Faith, but there were emphases made on parts of the Faith that were being neglected (such as the study of the Scriptures) and there was a pointing out of various very real abuses that did not really belong to the Faith (such as the sale of indulgences). Some Anglo-Catholics have seemed to make it difficult for those that appreciate those emphases to be considered Catholic, and some of those with a high view of Church and Sacraments have wanted to disenfranchise those who appear to put too much stress on less central and perhaps less necessary aspects of tradition.

Frankly, I am firm in my belief that both attitudes are sinful. We need to be active in developing a consensus that will unite without losing essentials or admitting errors. You speak of dumping (ugly word that) what you call ambiguities ond of irrevocable commitment to the fullness of Holy Tradition. OK, but what do you define as fullness?
I think we'll find ourselves at variance in that definition. If that variance breaks our unity, I don't believe God is pleased.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...


If that's all you meant by "sacramentally minded Anglicans who emphasize the truths of the Reformation", i.e., greater emphasis on the Scriptures and their availability and rejection of mediaeval Western abuses, then your description matches not only all Anglo-Catholics but the present RCC! It is on the level of doctrine that there is no room for compromise or cafeteria Catholicism.


Because I believe the E-W division is capable of being healed without surrender of basic principles from either side, I also believe your groups 1 and 2 are able to remain united.


Anonymous said...

Anyone that knows me has encountered my dogged insistence on essential truth. You can't throw away what God has given. But truth held without the kind of love that put passion in Jesus' prayer that they all may be one is, bluntly, no more than an empty form of truth. So long as Christians are not one, we simply must feel the pain, and put the pain into our prayers, and let the pain give purpose to our actions. To be satisfied with the current disunity, or to accept the continuance of a smaller number of disunited groupings, or to sit back and say, "Ah! we've got ot and they don't" is to belittle the pwer of our Savior's prayer. I don't know how, but I do know that Pur Lord expects every Christian to be laboring, not with feelings of superiority, but with true humilty, toward the result that He seeks so passionately. Division, even division in the name of truth is not to be sought and not to be embraced, but to be endured (if it must be endured) with profound sorrow.


Anonymous said...

I submitted this report on New Hampshire to Albion (at his request). He asked me to post it as a comment, and this seems the best thread. Here goes

I'm Ed Pacht, a 64-year-old widower, a poet, a former Lutheran, former Episcopalian, former Pentecostal pastor, and present member and layreader at Trinity Anglican Church (ACA) in Rochester NH. Albion asked me for some kind of report on the state of Anglicanism in New Hampshire in the wake of the Robinson thing. I'm not the right person to ask about things like statistical growth. What I say on such matters woll probably be highly inaccurate, but I can give an idea of what I see and how things seem to be going.

Rochester, my town: We had a strong, conservative, and moderately Anglo-Catholic parish in town, one of the strongest in a diocese of small and struggling churches. Fr. Donald Marsh, the long-time rector (who, alas, in poor health, attends Trinity now) had built up the parish, building a new building, much larger than the old, and was beginning to feel that further expansion might be necessary when he retired in the 80s. The parish steadfastly held to the male priesthood and to the 1928 Prayer Book. His successor, though a Nashotah graduate, quickly introduced the new book, and began to invite female guest 'priests'. A sizeable group (larger than most NH parishes) could not abide the changes and withdrew to found Trinity. Trinity now has its own building (paid and consecrated), and an average Sunday attendance around 100, and is building a rectory. Redeemer (the ECUSA parish) meanwhile continued a sort of conservatism (becoming increasingly evangelical/charismatic) in spite of radical mishandling and bullying by the bishop until the consecration of Gene Robinson made continuance impossible. Nearly the whole congregation walked out. Redeemer is closed. The building, now called "The Episcopal Center of Rochester" is now owned by the diocese and rented out to others, most notably an Indonesian Presbyterian Church. The last wave to leave Redeemer have begun a Netwrik parish now meeting in a Baptist Church. There is another similar group in nearby Durham, also meeting in a Baptist Church. Thus we have three churches called Anglican, Trinity (ACA) and St. Michael's (Network) as well as a smaller ACC mission, St. John's, but no church of ECUSA.

In New Hampshire as a whole there has not been as much turmoil as in Rochester, as there has been only one other 'conservative' church, in Newport, and that one has been more Evangelical than Catholic, but the word everywhere is, though things seem quiet in most of the state, that a slow hemorrhage has begun and that nearly every ECUSA parish is declining in attendance. Some of those leaving have found their way to ACA parishes and our diocese has shown steady growth, but, sad to report, it appears that a large proportion have simply lost heart and ceased attending anywhere. People of merely average commitment have found it difficult to be identified as part of what is increasingly considered the 'gay church' without being motivated to look further. Such is the fruit of apostacy.

The ACA in New Hampshire: Our parishes, though small, are dotted through the state, each one being more regional than local, attracting people from a number of surrounding Episcopal parishes, but probably nearly as many not previously Anglican. They are Trinity, Rochester; St. Luke's, Amherst; All Saints', Concord; St. John's (now in Methuen Mass, but founded in Salem NH, which are bordering towns); Good Shepherd, Charlestown; Trinity, Cornish; St. Michael's, Holderness; St. Margaret, Conway;
Christ, Lancaster; and the North Country Mission in Jefferson. Overall growth is slow but steady.