A PLACE WHERE THOSE WHO LIVE IN THE ANGLICAN CONTINUUM, OR WHO ARE THINKING OF MOVING THERE, MIGHT SHARE IN ROBUST, IF POLITE, DISCUSSION OF MATTERS THEOLOGICAL AND ECCLESIOLOGICAL. QUOD UBIQUE, QUOD SEMPER, QUOD AB OMNIBUS CREDITUM EST
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Notes on the Bull
Notes on the Decree of Leo XIII.Against the Validity of Anglican Orders.
By the Rev. Wm. J. Seabury, D. D.,Charles and Elizabeth Ludlow Professor of Ecclesiastical Polity and Lawin the General Theological Seminary.
Milwaukee: The Young Churchman, n.d.
IT is necessary to renew the objection which applies to all the papal pronouncements, viz., that, so far as relates to the Church of England and her affiliated branches, they are absolutely devoid of authority, and are to be regarded as mere controversial allegations. There is nothing in this Bull which has not already been controversially alleged against us, and repeatedly and abundantly refuted, not only by Anglicans, but also by reputable Romans; and while it adds nothing to the weight of these statements that the Bishop of Rome should assume responsibility for them, such action on his part has the effect of bringing him down into the arena of controversy, so that we have only to consider the intrinsic value of the statements made.
To say that our Orders are condemned by the Pope on account of the failure of matter, or form, or intention, is of much the same effect as to say that our jurisdiction is null, as not being derived from the Pope; or that our mission has failed by reason of our being in heresy or schism because we do not hold that which accords with papal judgment. Papal authority determines our error, therefore we are wrong. Yet it is obvious that, so far as authority is concerned, the weight of decisions against our Orders depends upon the determination of the previous question whether the authority exists. If so, the case is closed without argument or reason. There is no need to stay for either. All that the Pope need to do is to declare the Orders invalid. The question is settled, or rather there is no question to be settled. That his Holiness should condescend to the use of reason and argument is doubtless to be attributed to the plentitude of his Apostolical care for the Anglican lambs, lest they should conceive that their possession of reasonable minds had been overlooked. But after all, in spite of his assumption of authority, he does base his decision on reasons; and by the value of those reasons, the worth of his pronouncement will be tested, and not by the pretence of authority...
See the entire paper here.
From the 1550 Ordinal
For Bishops (and this entire form with all of these prayers specifying the office of a Bishop is the form that was used when Archbishop Matthew Parker was consecrated) :
1) MoST reverend father in god, we presente unto you this godly and wel learned man to be consecrated Bisshoppe.
2) MIGHTIE God, gever of all good thynges, which by thy holy spirite hast appointed diverse orders of ministers in thy Church: mercifully beholde this thy servaunt, now called to the worke and ministerie of a Bisshoppe, and replenishe him so with the trueth of thy doctryne, and innocencie of life, that both by worde and dede, he may faithfully serve thee in this office, to the glorye of thy name, and profite of thy congregacyon: Through the merites of our savioure Jesu Christe, who lyveth and reigneth with thee and the holy gost, worlde without ende. Amen.
3) TAKE the holy gost, and remember that thou stirre up the grace of god, whiche is in thee, by imposicion of handes: for god hath not geven us the spirite of feare, but of power, and love, and of sobernesse.
(Note: Number three here specifies the office of Bishop by using the words addressed by Saint Paul to Saint Timothy, Bishop of Ephesus. Compare to the words addressed to priests later, and note the distinction).
1) THE same daye at night, which was the fyrst daye of the Sabbothes, when the doores were shutte (where the Disciples were assembled together, for feare of the Jewes) came Jesus and stode in the middes [midst], and sayde unto them; peace be unto you. And when he had so sayd, he shewed unto them hys handes and his syde. Then were the disciples glad, when they sawe the Lord. Then sayd Jesus unto them agayne, peace bee unto you. As my father sent me, even so send I you also. And when he had sayd those wordes, he breathed on them and said unto them, receyve ye the holy ghost: whosoevers synnes ye remytte, they are remytted unto them: and whosoevers synnes ye retayne, they are retayned.
2)REVERENDE Father in GOD, I presente unto you, these persones presente, to bee admitted to the ordre of Priesthode, Cum interrogatione et responsione, ut in ordine Diaconatus.
3) ALMYGHTIE GOD, gever of all good thinges, which by thy holy spirit has appoynted dyverse orders of Ministers in thy church, mercifully behold these thy servantes, now called to the Office of Priesthode, and replenish them so wyth the trueth of thy doctryne, and innocencie of lyfe, that both by worde and good example, they may faythfully serve thee in thys office, to the glorye of thy name, and profyte of the congregacion, through the merites of oure saviour Jesu Christ, who lyveth and reygneth, wyth thee and the holy Ghoste, worlde wythout ende. Amen.
4)RECEIVE the holy goste, whose synnes thou doest forgeve, they are forgeven: and whose sinnes thou doest retaine, thei are retained: and be thou a faithful despensor of the word of god, and of his holy Sacramentes. In the name of the father, and of the sonne, and of the holy gost. Amen.
5) TAKE thou aucthoritie to preache the word of god, and to minister the holy Sacramentes in thys congregacion, where thou shalt be so appointed .
1) R EVERENDE Father in GOD, I presente unto you, these persones presente, to bee admitted Deacons.
2) ALMYGHTIE God, whiche by thy devyne providence, haste appoynted dyverse Orders of ministers in the Churche: and dyddeste enspyre thyne holy Apostles to chose unto this Ordre of Deacons, the fyrste Martyr sainct Stephyn, wyth other: mercyfully beholde these thy servauntes, now called to the lyke office and administracion; replenishe them so wyth the trueth of thy doctryne, and innocencie of lyfe, that, both by worde and good example, they may faithfully serve thee in this office, to the glory of thy name, and profyte of the congregacion, through the merites of our saviour Jesu Christ, who lyveth and reygneth wyth thee, and the holy Ghost, nowe and ever. Amen.
More on Apostolicae Curae
Were we just wrong and was Rome just right?
There is a remarkable blind spot of many conservative Roman Catholics in their anti-Anglican polemic that overlooks the fact that a number of the changes made at or after the Reformation in Anglican Churches were eventually also made by the RCC, though sometimes centuries later at or after Vatican II. I do not complain about these reforms, far from it. I rejoice that Rome caught up to Anglicans and others in:
- giving vernacular liturgies (how many forget that even the Epistle and Gospel were once read in Latin!);
- allowing the laity access to the Chalice;
- accepting religious and political liberty of conscience as genuine rights;
- making the Ordinal's representation of the priestly ministry less sacerdotal and more evangelical and pastoral in emphasis;
- supporting Ecumenism and shared prayer between Christians in different Communions;
- accepting that unity will require reform of the Papacy and some de-centralisation;
- condemning torture (rather than commanding it!) to extract confessions of heresy and wholly abandoning any justification of the Church using or directing violence to fight erroneous ideas;
- making the intermediate state not about God ensuring he get his "pound of flesh" from Christians in a chamber of horrors (yes, that is what the most common medieval RC concept of Purgatory was, with even Aquinas teaching that Purgatory was not about changing the internal state of the soul) but about progress in sanctification (as the Anglican Dean Richard Field taught way back in the early seventeenth century, with various Anglican teachers, bishops and Scottish Episcopalian Catechisms following suit, and as the present Pope has taught while a Cardinal -- see also the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1472 -- last two sentences);
- finally giving proper weight in popular teaching (and not just in the "fine print" and obscure but careful qualifications of theologians) to the doctrines of sola gratia and the insufficiency of works, and how the word "merit" is used in an analogous rather than "strict" sense (CCC, 2007, 2011 quotation);
- re-appraising the once normal Western representation of the Eastern Orthodox Church as simply schismatic and heretical (again, compare 17th C. Anglicans like Field and Blessed W. Laud on this and the modern Balamand Statement);
- admitting ecclesial "reception" has a role in discerning a truly authoritative Ecumenical Council (see ARCIC documents on Authority);
- teaching that the three major Orders are Bishop, Priest and Deacon, not Priest (including bishops), Deacon and Sub-Deacon;
- discouraging non-communicating attendance at Mass;
- and simplifying ceremonial, cutting back on secondary devotions used at the expense of primary ones and encouraging lay piety to focus more on Christ and the reading of Scripture.
Now, my point here is not to rant about old “Papist” abuses or to pretend that Anglican Churches got all these things right from the start either. They didn't, though in each case above they preceded the RCC. I don't claim the RCC erred at a dogmatic level. I don't believe they did go that far, which is why they could improve things later. But, then, neither did Anglican Churches (despite their own long list of failings, ambiguities and outright heresies in particular teachers) definitively deny true ecumenical dogmas or make erroneous doctrinal statements at a binding or dogmatic level: until, that is, the ordination of women, when certain of them introduced an innovation which effectively became binding by infiltrating the Ordinal and forcing those who remained in full communion with the affected churches to accept sacraments of, at best, doubtful validity. Hence our existence as Continuing Anglicans.
Even more to the point, I cannot accept that Rome was quite simply in the right and we were quite simply in the wrong when they excommunicated Elizabeth I and the C of E, so that they were and are the Catholic Church and we are outside it. Taking this Roman perspective would entail accepting the same clear-cut asymmetry in the East-West separation, since the Papal claims of jurisdiction were fundamental to both splits. But when I consider a list such as that above, I cannot perceive as realistic such a rendition of the story. It is not tenable that they are the Church and we are not when we "separated brethren" were imitated to some degree in so many important areas by them, but after such a long delay. Thus, for example, to leave my Church for the Pope's would be implicitly a judgement about the past as well as the present, since his claim on my absolute allegiance is based on a claim about history, identity and the exclusive limitation of indefectibility to within the boundaries of the RCC.
A more balanced narrative might be this: The East-West schism, even if not complete, left the West in the weaker position ecclesiologically, theologically and devotionally, since the initiation of the schism was due to unjust assertion of power and unreasonable perceptions of superiority by Rome. This made the Reformation inevitable. However, the Reformers were as isolated and separated from the East and as bound by merely Western thinking as the RCC, and so could not solve the West's problems. Without the Catholic solution of E-W re-integration, the Protestants fell back on private judgement and denial of any sort of Church infallibility, since the only pre-existing institutional Church they were dealing with seemed so manifestly fallible.
The English Reformation, on the other hand, had at least a formal adhesion to the consensus patrum and even to the ongoing reality of an authoritative consensus Ecclesiae. (There is evidence, addressed in the recent book Anglicans and Orthodox: Unity and Subversion by Judith Pinnington, that Elizabeth I also deliberately picked a number of bishops who looked to the Fathers more than contemporary Protestant theologians.) It took about half a century for this formal adhesion to overcome an initial over-reaction to Roman excesses and successfully inspire better affirmation of Holy Tradition in specific areas of difficulty. At the very same time as this was happening (17th C.) Anglicans were starting to look more at and to the East, which was inevitable if they were to be consistent. (The process had begun in the 16th Century in a small and halting way during the Henrician period when the C of E looked at the question of Papal Supremacy and during the Elizabethan period an appeal to the example of the East was also made in Jewel’s apologetics.) This "facing East", so to speak, never ceased in Anglican Catholicism and really heated up in the early Twentieth Century. After which catastrophe struck as the "cancer" of comprehensiveness which was the unwritten law of Anglicanism finally ate its way to the heart.
A RC could respond to the argument above by giving his own list of areas where Anglican Catholics have come back to them, where we have been playing catch-up, particularly in the areas of the Eucharist and the Communion of Saints. But my point is not that Rome was wrong and we were right. The East was right (though not faultless, as they would admit). We, on the other hand, were right in general principles and dogma and ecclesiological “Orientation” (pun intended) but often wrong on some specifics at the level of popular teaching, belief and practice. Roman Catholicism was also often wrong at this latter level in opposing ways and possibly also without error at the level of dogma (of which it had much more), but lacking the Eastward “Orientation” that would enable it to correct its faults as quickly as Anglicans could correct theirs. Yet, in the end the RCC’s corrections, though belated, took better hold than “Anglo-Catholic” or “High Church” efforts in most Anglican Churches due to both Roman centralism and Anglican comprehensiveness and ambiguity. (Unfortunately, along with the corrections came unnecessary and dangerous changes and movements. If people were once to biblically name the anti-evangelical tendency of Roman Catholicism, they may have talked about Pharisaism. These days they would more likely see Sadduceeism. There appears to have been a move at the popular level from legalism and over-encrustation with merely human tradition or superstition towards minimalism and unbelief.)
But at the Affirmation of St Louis Anglican Catholics more explicitly than ever before asserted the authority of Holy Tradition, including the Seven Great Ecumenical Councils, affirmed the Seven Sacraments, and thus dumped the very ambiguity which Bp Kallistos Ware and others in the Eastern Orthodox Church had said was the main barrier between them and us. My own Church has followed this up with another official declaration against Comprehensiveness, the "Athens Statement". No dogma separates us from the East. What separates us (outwardly if not inwardly) is that the East no longer trusts Anglicans and that Churches such as mine are too small for them to have much interest in as ecumenical partners in dialogue. In other words, it appears easier and more beneficial for them to look on us as just a pool of potential recruits for absorption, for the time being at least. But I have not given up hope. Not even of reconciliation with mutual dignity between us and Rome, and the East and Rome.
Another objection might be to this whole way of looking at things. I freely admit that this kind of analysis -- who influenced or imitated whom, who modified their position outside the area of dogma sensu stricto -- cannot provide a proof of who is and isn’t orthodox or catholic. I am investigating here what might be called the circumstantial evidence. On its own it isn’t sufficient, but that’s why I have written other articles on this weblog dealing with these issues from different perspectives. May truth and love reign supreme.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
DEVIANTS AND FORMULARIES
Even John Henry Newman, after his conversion, spoke about how he had, in his Anglican days, believed the Pope to be the Antichrist. What a splendid example of deviation; because if Newman the Anglican had believed that, he did so in contradiction to the official doctrine of Anglicanism. The Anglican position was formally defined: The Church of Rome is a true Church (not perfect, but True). Furthermore, the Orders of the Church of England are traced through Rome. So, Newman was rejecting his own formerly held ideas upon converting to Roman Catholicism; but he had no reason to suggest that his ideas had been Anglican in the first place.
I remember having an e-mail debate, years ago, with a man who had studied quite diligently the writings of John Jewell. And indeed, Jewell had very nasty ideas about Rome, as well as very unorthodox views about the ancient Tradition of the Church in general. What my correspondent had failed to grasp in our long conversation, was that Jewell deviated from the commonly accepted Faith that the Bishops of the Church would teach in the days of Elizabeth I, and that would be set as the teachings by which the Church would be guided.
If we wish to know what is Official in Anglicanism, we need to refer to the Formularies, and beyond them to the Faith which was being continued in England, and later in Anglicanism as it spread to other countries. In other words, referring again to Orders as a prime example, the opinion of this or that Low churchman, Puritan, Broad churchman, etc., helps us only in understanding those individuals. To know the official teaching of Anglicanism, we need to see what the Ordinal actually says, specifically the Preface. There we see a clear statement that the ancient Orders are being preserved. They are not redefined, recreated, or modified in any way. This is the Formulary that speaks to the subject, and no deviant opinion equals it in authority; no deviant opinion changes the expressed sacramental Intention of the Church.
The official position of Anglicanism was, always, that the Church of England was the same Church that had existed since the Council of Hertford in AD 673, when the Celtic British Christians and the English Christians converted by Saint Augustine of Canterbury became one Church. The spiritual descendents of the Continental Protestants trace their churches to the 16th Century, and see no need for the Apostolic Succession to bind them to the Holy Catholic Church established by Christ. We trace our Church to Jerusalem and the Day of Pentecost. We have the Apostolic Succession not just because we like it, but because, as our Formularies make clear beyond doubt, it is of the essence of the Church to have true Bishops. Deviants say no, but the Formularies say yes.
Thursday, April 27, 2006
On a lighter side
Back in 2000 the Vatican issued the document Dominus Iesus. In it was a statement about itself as the Catholic Church, then a statement about "true particluar churches" and then about something called "ecclesial communities" which do not have a valid Apostolic Succession or Eucharistic Theology. In those days the Archbishop of Canterbury was one Dr. George Carey, the Jimmy Carter of ABCs, known in my circles as "Doc Carey." Instead of keeping quiet, or saying something like, "we have both a valid Apostolic Succession and Eucharistic Theology"- that is, something that an Anglican ought to say, he said this:
"Even though the document is not part of that process, the idea that Anglican and other churches are not 'proper churches' seems to question the considerable ecumenical gains we have made." The document never mentioned Anglican churches. But Doc just had to fill in the blank. At that time I waxed poetic and wrote:
They're saving brains at Lambeth Palace
Good Green Doc Carey is certain t'was malice
Malice that made the Card'nals in Rome
Smirk at his Kirk in a terrible tome!
They're saving brains at Lambeth Palace
Good Green Doc Carey is certain t'was malice
So he opens his mouth
And fingers his own
In g'neric blank spaces
Provided by Rome,
They're saving brains at Lambeth Palace
Good Green Doc Carey is certain t'was malice
If we're lucky he's done
With his singin' the Blues
To the guys and the gals
Who create all the news,
Orthodox: Someone who believes in Apophatic Ecclesiology, i.e. he is not Western
Roman Catholic: Someone who believes that the Pope is Infallible, and quite often wrong.
Episcopalian: A Unitarian with Trinitarian liturgy.
Anglo-Catholic: A Roman Catholic without the Pope, who prays like Shakespeare
Methodist: A Unitarian who sings Trinitarian hymns
Unitarian: Someone who rejects the very idea of dogma, and dogmatically rejects the Trinity
Baptist: Once saved always saved, and does not believe in Indulgences
Pentecostal: Part Baptist, part Medieval mystic
Calvinist: Someone for whom the words of Christ shed light on the teachings of John Calvin.
Lutheran: Someone for whom the words of Christ shed light on the teachings of Martin Luther
There. Now I have offended everybody equally. I have even offended myself. In fact, I have offended me so bad that I will never talk to myself again.
Apostolicae Curae is not our problem- it’s theirs Part Two
What does that have to do with Apostolicae Curae, the 1896 Bull of Leo XIII that declared Anglican Orders to be “absolutely null and utterly void” due to specific deficiencies? Probably only this: The conclusion has never been rescinded by Rome. To do so would be too dangerous. But, what about Anglican Orders? Do we of the various Continuing Anglican bodies recognize Anglican Orders? Yes, but not all of them. We will return to that later.
A SOLUTION FOR ROMAN CATHOLICS
Over the years many self-appointed apologists have argued in many Blogs and other venues against the validity of Anglican orders by using the reasons listed in Apostolicae Curae. This is both annoying and embarrassing. One can only roll his eyes, and ask, “but don’t you know that every point you just made has been answered already, in 1897, by the Archbishops of England?" The document Saepius Officio has already laid to rest the arguments of Apostolicae Curae.
If the practice of the Holy See was simply to make infallible pronouncements, as the uneducated wrongly suppose, the reasons for their statements would be clouded in mystery. But, they argue and give reason for every decision, using the occasion to teach. This practice seems commendable, because the human mind is not treated with contempt, and their faithful are, indeed, taught: the old “pray, pay and obey” line is a vicious slander. The Holy See is very careful to educate, to honor the mind and conscience of the faithful.
For this reason, Apostolicae Curae concluded after making a very strong argument. However, for those who take the time to read Saepius Officio, only one conclusion is both logical and reasonable: Apostolicae Curae contains a lot of non-sense. It makes its arguments from a combination of errors about history and about the Anglican practice of the time- the last part being quickly spotted by anyone who had a Book of Common Prayer, or who had witnessed Ordination (or Consecration) in an Anglican Church. The mistakes in Apostolicae Curae are not only wrong- they are embarrassingly wrong. In 1945 Dom Gregory Dix strengthened the Anglican position by his book The Question of Anglican Orders: Letters to a Laymen.
However, because of precedent, the Roman Catholic Church is stuck with a piece of “scholarship” that would earn any student a well-qualified “F.” And, that is not our problem- that is, it is not the problem of Traditionalist Anglicans. However, I can offer a solution. One can live with the truth about Pope Leo XIII’s Bull, and yet be a good Catholic who believes in Papal Infallibility, even the lowest, or third kind that is not spoken Ex Cathedra, and is based on something less than revelation (see Part One). But first, a few more things should be clarified.
The self-appointed apologists, mentioned above, would love it if the Anglican answer had been to argue with the Roman Catholic teaching on what priesthood is. Indeed, the earlier edition of The Catholic Encyclopedia made a passing attempt to give such an impression by saying that the Anglican response had been simply to assert that the nature of the priesthood was basically pastoral, and not sacramental. That was a good try, but simply not true, as we have seen in Saepius Officio. It is, rather, significant that the Anglican response is based upon the assumption that Rome and Anglicanism have the exact same beliefs about the priesthood (and that this is true is demonstrated in the document- not by citing the private opinions of Anglican deviants, but by citing the chief Formulary itself, the Preface to the Ordinal and prayers from that Ordinal, which was the Ordinal used for the disputed Parker Consecration). The Anglicans did, however, regard it as a deficiency in Apostolicae Curae that no mention was made at all of the pastoral work of the priesthood, or of teaching. However, they made it clear that they were not rejecting the wider meaning of priesthood. The problem for Roman Catholics from Saepius Officio is that the Anglican position was not to argue with the Roman Catholic theology of priesthood and of the Apostolic Succession of bishops, but to accept that theology as commonly held faith.
So, how does one accept the facts about Apostolicae Curae and remain a good Roman Catholic? The answer is very simple, so simple that it embarrasses me to point it out. The errors of Apostolicae Curae are not errors about faith and morals, but about history. And, the Magesterium of the Roman Catholic Church does not claim to be infallible about history, science, archeology, economics- or even about readi’, ritin’ and ‘rithmetic. The conclusion of Apostolicae Curae is wrong, because every argument that led to that conclusion is wrong. But, the theology of the Bull is not in error.
THE REAL PROBLEM OF ANGLICAN ORDERS
However, maybe the Holy Spirit was guiding the Holy See even in the mistaken history of that Bull. Not that its conclusion was right, but that it may be good for Roman Catholics today to beware the orders of most of the trendy, Western or westernized Anglican churches. As the ECUSA, the Church of England, the Church of Canada, New Zealand, etc. rush over the cliff of heresy like nice religious lemmings, the further away from that crowd the better- for all of us. At this time we should not consider the “ordinations” of the trendy Canterbury churches to be valid. The Intention of the sacrament of Orders has been corrupted ever since women were first “ordained.” And, things have only gotten worse, to a point now that seems to be beyond hope for recovery. It is no accident that we have a feast day for the Preservation of the American Episcopate. Therefore, Continuing Anglicans of the Saint Louis Affirmation churches ought to be very clear about such “orders” as those of the ECUSA, as it has morphed into what it is now- at this time those orders are null and utterly void.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Apostolicae Curae is not our problem- it’s theirs Part One
These words were written in 1998 by then Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI. Throughout the Anglican Continuum it was assumed that he was going out of his way to reaffirm the conclusion of the Bull Apostolicae Curae. This seems impossible, however, when the erudition of the man is taken into account; if anyone knows that the Bull of Leo XIII in 1896 was full of mistakes and misstatements, it is Ratzinger, now the Roman Holy Father. And, indeed he does know that. So, we need to understand these words both within their context, and with the encoded message in the very text. Every teaching of the Pope, not just officially infallible ex-cathedra declarations, are to be treated by Roman Catholics as infallible- until another Pope says otherwise. The commentary breaks down teaching on three levels, and places this paragraph at the head of the third section, the lowest. These teachings bind the Roman Catholic faithful to obedience, but they are not on the level of revealed truth, such as the truth we find in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. This low category mentions “the canonization of saints” - a coded message to the astute. Canonizations have been rescinded; some former saints are among the special category of the decanonized.
The real reason why Anglican orders were mentioned may have to do with another issue mentioned earlier in the commentary:
“A similar process can be observed in the more recent teaching regarding the doctrine that priestly ordination is reserved only to men. The Supreme Pontiff, while not wishing to proceed to a dogmatic definition, intended to reaffirm that this doctrine is to be held definitively, since, founded on the written Word of God, constantly preserved and applied in the Tradition of the Church, it has been set forth infallibly by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.”
To put everything together, three points come across:
1) The conclusion of Apostolicae Curae is every bit as authoritative as the canonization of ex-saints. That is, it is not certain.
2) The Roman Catholics are stuck with it, until it can be rescinded by no less than the Magesterium of the Church.
3) They are not about to do that while some Anglican churches “ordain” women.
And, who can blame them for that? However, we non-Canterbury Anglicans are not really the subject of this commentary.
More to come
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
The Catholicity of Anglican Churches
To ask about the Catholic identity of “Anglicanism” or “Anglo-Catholicism”, as is often done, is to ask the wrong question. These two words correspond to abstractions, strictly speaking. What matters primarily is whether Anglican Churches are or have been Catholic, and to what extent. A secondary question is whether those persons known as Anglo-Catholics are in fact faithful Catholics. The answer to the first will give the answer to the second.
I will only be interested in establishing the (imperfect but real) Catholicity of the Anglican Communion before the purported ordination of women by Provinces within it, and the better “clarified” Catholicity of the Churches springing from the Affirmation of St Louis as a result of the aforementioned innovation. What the Anglican Communion (i.e., the group of those Churches in communion with Canterbury) is now I am not concerned to address.
The minimal requirements for an ecclesial body to be a “particular Church”
Continuity of Jurisdiction is a second requirement that is needed to distinguish particular Churches from vagans bodies. There is no argument but that the Church of England had continuity in at least the institutional and jurisdictional sense. Its creation of daughter churches in British colonies, especially in lands previously “heathen”, was perfectly normal in a time when Church and State and their areas of responsibility were intertwined across Christendom.
The Anglican Catholic Church and others like it such as the Anglican Province of Christ the King appealed to ancient Canon Law to justify their claim of inheriting Anglican jurisdiction from those national Churches that abandoned Apostolic and Catholic Faith and Practice in the latter part of the Twentieth Century. Thus the rule was followed that Catholics were obliged to repudiate the jurisdiction of manifestly heterodox and schismatic bishops and place themselves under orthodox bishops who made their oversight available. This was done, beginning in the USA (where the first Anglican Church defection occurred) and the “Continuing” Churches were thus established. Unfortunately, the establishment of a new hierarchy (with the assistance of a few other orthodox bishops in the Anglican Communion), had to occur outside local collegial episcopal authority and the normal canonical processes and without the consent of any Provincial Metropolitans. However, such deficiencies were unavoidable and so covered by the principle of economy and the principle that “necessity knows no (positive) law”. Therefore, while our jurisdictions were not authorised by the pre-existing Anglican jurisdictions, they were valid, and intercommunion that existed later between orthodox remnants of the Anglican Communion and our Churches reinforced this.
There will be those who question the phraseology used in the first section, where I said “to what extent” in reference to Catholicity. (Taunts such as “Like being a little bit pregnant, you mean?” may have come to mind.) The reason for this usage will now become plain. Both the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) and Eastern Orthodox Church (EOC) differentiate between Churches (outside their respective communions) which do or may have the Apostolic Succession and those communities that do not. While both categories are commonly seen as outside the Catholic Church properly speaking, i.e., schismatic, the former is seen as in some sense Catholic or “more Catholic”, to the extent where they can be called “particular Churches”. So far we have only dealt with the issue of whether Anglican Churches could at least be seen as in this category of Apostolic Ecclesia.
Further requirements for an ecclesial body to be part of the Catholic Church
Acceptance of the Consensus Patrum et Ecclesiae as authoritative
The Church of England’s official teaching and the apologetic of its representatives in this regard may be summarised as follows:
- Queen Elizabeth I a number of times defended her Church’s catholicity to foreigners and emphasised what it held in common with the rest of the western Catholic Church. For example, she objected to the “invidious difference” made between her and other “Catholic potentates” when she was invited to the Council of Trent in the same way Protestants were, and said “Many people think we are Turks or Moors here, whereas we only differ from other Catholics in things of small importance.” She also appealed strongly to the Consensus of the Fathers in her apologetic for the C of E to Emperor Ferdinand.
- A canon of 1571 demands that clergy in their preaching “see that they never teach ought in a sermon, to be religiously held and believed by the people, except what is agreeable to the Old and New Testaments, and what the Catholic Fathers and ancient bishops have collected from the same doctrine”. Also, in the Thirty-Nine Articles, the universal consensus of the Church is appealed to for establishing the Scriptural Canon (Article VI) and it is stated that “The Church hath … authority in Controversies of Faith” (Article XX).
- Even the very Protestant Bp Jewel wrote in his Apology “What have Christ and his Apostles, and so many Fathers all erred? What, are Origen, Ambrose, Augustin, Chrysostom, Gelasius and Theodoret Apostates from the Catholick Faith? Was the Consent of so many Bishops and Learned men, nothing but a Conspiracy of Hereticks? or that which was commendable in them, is it now blameable in us?” His implied answer is pretty obvious. He clearly thinks that this would be self-evidently false.
- King James I, on behalf of himself and the English Church, confessed as follows in the first decade of the Seventeenth Century: “[W]ith the maxim of Vincentius Lirinensis, … I will never refuse to embrace any opinion in divinity necessary to salvation which the whole Catholic Church with a unanime consent have constantly taught and believed even from the Apostles’ days, for the space of many ages thereafter without any interruption.”
- In the Preface to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer any suggested revisions which were seen as “secretly striking at some established doctrine, or laudable practice … of the whole Catholic Church of Christ” [emphasis added] were said to be “rejected” and characterised as “of dangerous consequence”.
- From the same period, in a work of Archbishop Bramhall, entitled "Schism Guarded:"—"We do not only admit oral traditions in general, as an excellent introduction to the doctrine of saving truth, and a singular help to expound the holy Scriptures, but also particular unwritten traditions, derived from the Apostles, and delivered unto us by the manifest testimony of the primitive Church, being agreeable to the holy Scriptures. The Apostles did speak by inspiration, as well as write; and their tradition, whether by word or writing, indifferently, was the Word of God, into which Faith was resolved. .... St. Augustine setteth us down a certain rule, how to know a true genuine Apostolical tradition: 'Whatsoever,' saith he, 'the universal Church doth hold, which has not been instituted by Councils, but [nevertheless] always received, is most rightly believed to have been delivered by Apostolical authority.'" [Emphasis added]
- And again, in his Answer to M. De La Militiere, written in the name of the Anglican Church by command of King Charles II.:—
"We receive not your upstart suppositious traditions, nor unwritten fundamentals: but we admit genuine, universal, Apostolical traditions; as, the Apostles' Creed, the perpetual Virginity of the Mother of God, the anniversary Festivals of the Church, the Lenten Fast. .... We believe Episcopacy to an ingenious person may be proved out of Scripture without Tradition ; but to such as are froward, the perpetual practice and tradition of the Church renders the interpretation of the text more authentic, and the proof more convincing."
Adherence to the Dogmatic Teaching of recognised Ecumenical Councils
The Elizabethan Act of Supremacy of 1559 makes the first four Ecumenical Councils standards for judging heresy, while the Homilies (authorised at a secondary level) and a consensus of later divines re-affirmed the universal acceptance of the first six.
The rejection of the Seventh Ecumenical Council was initially based on a Latin translation that actually misrepresented a key teaching of the Council and supported latreia being given to images. This plus popular teaching and superstition, as well as Aquinas’ infamous teaching that the highest worship was also due to imges of Christ, the Crucifix or relics of the True Cross, were sufficient to convince them that image worshippers really were image worshippers, whatever other qualifications some might put forward. Interestingly, despite one iconoclastic Homily referred to in the Articles (where the Book of Homilies is said to “contain” good doctrine) and the efforts of individual men, iconoclasm never became the official policy of the Church as such in theory or practice.
The Elizabethan Injunctions of 1559 only demand the removal of “abused” images that were used superstitiously. E.g., “that no person keep in their houses any abused images, tables, pictures, paintings, and other monuments to feigned miracles, pilgrimages, idolatry, and superstition” and that “they shall take away, utterly extinct, and destroy all shrines, coverings of shrines, all tables, candlesticks, trindals, and rolls of wax, pictures, paintings, and all other monuments of feigned miracles, pilgrimages, idolatry, and superstition , so that there remain no memory of the same in walls, glass windows, or elsewhere within their churches and houses”. These two injunctions in the same document must be exegeted to be consistent with each other, as both refer to what must happen in “houses”. And they must be exegeted to allow for the fact that we know many images in the Church of England were not destroyed and certainly every church still had a table: the Lord’s Table! (It has been suggested to me by Dr William Tighe that the word “table” has two entirely different meanings in this context, the tables condemned being “tablets”. I was under the impression that many shrines had tables, as in with legs, associated with them and that this was the meaning. If I am wrong, I am happy to be corrected, but I think the rest of the evidence is still sufficient to prove my point.)
Another reason to believe that the Elizabethan Church of England was not simply iconoclastic – that is, did not believe that all religious images were sinful and forbidden and must be destroyed – is the Ornaments Rubric placed in the 1559 Act of Uniformity and the associated Book of Common Prayer. It stated that the “Ornaments of the Church” and its Ministers were to be retained as had been in use in King Edward the Sixth’s second year. At this stage the only mediaeval ornaments which had been legally forbidden were votive candles and images abused superstitiously. While this Rubric was generally disobeyed, it remained in the Prayer Book from then on, showing that the Church refused to repudiate the ideal it represented. Indeed, the 1662 revision retained it over the explicit protests of the Puritans.
It is also worth noting that the Articles of 1571 condemn the “Worshipping and Adoration” of images, not all use of images. In fact, the very strong phrase used here corresponds with the very latreia that the Seventh Ecumenical Council also condemns if directed towards images.
James I in the early 1600s specifically denied being an “iconomachus” and said “I quarrel not with the making of images, either for public decoration or for men’s private uses.” Dean Richard Field in the same decade stated that “there are but Seven General Councils that the whole Church acknowledgeth called to determine faith and morals.”
Many images remained more than eighty years from the Elizabethan settlement, only for a large number to be destroyed by the Puritan uprising. Indeed, we have records of Puritans like William Dowsing, for example, boasting of destroying 1000 pictures in one place, including multiple images of the members of the Trinity, Saints and Cherubim! There is a plaque in Oxford (I think) commemorating the attempt by the Roundheads to take out a statue of St Mary with cannonfire.
And various Caroline Divines used better translations of the Council to defend it as legitimate in itself, though they still decried the way its teaching had been applied (or even ignored) in the West. Thus it was that Bishops like Andrewes, Cosins, Laud and others upset the Puritans with their increased use of images, crucifixes, candles and incense and, after the recovery from the Puritan Revolution, imagery never disappeared from the Church of England, especially in stained glass windows. Hence Archbishop Bramhall could say succinctly of the decrees of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, “I know of none we need to fear.”
Acceptance of the living voice of the Catholic Church
The most common ecclesiological accusation among the theologically sophisticated against Anglican Churches is that they have denied the authority of the Church as a contemporaneous, ever-present reality. It is alleged that they have reduced the authority of Tradition to an appeal to antiquity using private judgement against the present consensus of the Church. In other words, they are said to have played the consensus of the ancient Church off against a supposedly different and erroneous consensus of the later Church on the basis of their own idiosyncratic judgement. And, given that they disclaim the ability to make infallible dogmatic decrees on their own, this results in a complete denial of the infallibility of the Church and thus a denial of Catholicism.
The first response to this claim is to point to the fact that a number of the statements evidencing the Anglican appeal to Tradition and Catholic consensus noted above are temporally unlimited in principle. That is, many refer to perpetual consent and the authority of the Church simpliciter, not to one particular age only.
The second response is that the official, authorised teaching of the Anglican Churches never asserted that the Catholic Church had lost its doctrinal authority at some point, nor did it assert that the Church could as a whole could become heretical at any point in history. That is why they accepted that a truly Ecumenical Council operating freely and generally received would have the same authority in their time as did the first seven. However, they believed Trent was not truly Ecumenical because it involved neither the Eastern bishops nor their own, was not operating freely because of Papal power and pressure, and therefore need not be generally received or even contemplated as binding. All of this is supported by the following:
- When Queen Elizabeth I addressed the Spanish Ambassador through Lord Cecil as intermediary in 1561, she informed him that the English would attend the Council of Trent if the Christian princes decided the place of meeting, the Pope presided as head of the Council but not as “universal Bishop”, and that dogmatic definitions should be drawn from Scripture, the consensus of doctors and the rulings of the ancient councils. She also demanded that all her English bishops be granted equal voice and vote with the other bishops in its proceedings.
- Dean Field in his early Seventeenth Century defence of the Anglican position, Of the Church, said of the Catholic Church that “we hold it never falleth into any heresy.” He also noted that later Western Councils were not Ecumenical because of the lack of participation and concurrence by Eastern bishops. He argued that even a truly General (and free and lawful) Council could err, but that such a Council’s doctrinal conclusions were to be believed “implicite, and in praeparatione animi” and that “we dare not resolve otherwise”. He based their final confirmation, it would appear, on what “the whole Church acknowledgeth” (see above). In more modern terms, he believed “General Councils” properly called and run deserved “religious submission” until they were effectively ratified by the process of reception as Christians reflected upon their teaching.
- Archbishop Laud later in the same century said in his Conference with Fisher, “It is true that a General Council, de post facto, after it is ended, and admitted by the whole Church, is then infallible.” Like Field he made the point about the necessity of Eastern participation for Ecumenicity: “Is that Council general, that hath none of the Eastern Churches’ consent, nor presence there?” He also asked “Is that Council legal where the Pope, the chief person to be reformed, shall sit president in it, and be chief judge in his own cause … To which all were not called that had deliberative or consultative voice? In which none had suffrage but such as were sworn to the Pope … ?” In other words, he questioned the freedom of the Council of Trent.
- Archdeacon Hammond (who, having been chosen for the episcopacy, died in 1660 before he could become Bp of Worcester), following Archbishop Laud and Bishop Montague, said in his book On Heresy, “I shall number it among the things that piety will believe, that no General Council, truly such, 1. duly assembled, 2. freely celebrated, and 3. universally received, either hath erred, or ever shall err, in matters of faith.” [Emphasis added]
Further examples, including from later centuries, could be multiplied, but there is sufficient evidence here that the C of E did not posit a trustworthy ancient Catholic Church, now defunct, in opposition to a corrupt contemporaneous one intrinsically unable to exercise definitive doctrinal authority. But, without the intercommunion of East and (all of the) West necessary to enable what the Church of England would recognise as a proper Ecumenical Council, Anglicans did not always give a consistent or practical answer to the question of how the Catholic Church was to exercise its “authority in controversies of Faith” or how this authority was to be recognised and obeyed. Some appealed to what the whole Church held in common, that is, the constant and consensual teaching of Catholic bishops, even where this had not been expressed in a Conciliar context. (This corresponds roughly to what Roman Catholics call the Ordinary Magisterium – with, however, a larger “field of view” in terms of the bishops considered.) Others ignored the issue in despite of their own tradition and formularies. The absence of a uniform appreciation of authority in the universal Church as a contemporary reality is perhaps the fatal flaw of institutional mainstream Anglicanism. In fact, it could be argued that those who have led Anglicans astray are mostly people who happily subscribed to formularies and Creeds without sincerity and never intended to be bound by the authority of the Church, however defined or recognised.
If it is argued that the Anglican requirement of “reception” for a Council to be recognised as binding is proof of Protestant identity, then many Eastern Orthodox theologians, including Bishop Kallistos Ware and the Roman Catholic interlocutors in ARCIC, are Protestant heretics. Bishop Ware notes the importance of reception in The Orthodox Church and the fact that Ecumenical Councils cannot be guaranteed to put out infallible teaching by external criteria alone. The ARCIC document on Authority in the Church (Elucidation 1981) states that “the Commission denies that a council is so evidently self-sufficient that its definitions owe nothing to reception.” There is also a denial there that a council’s authority is due only to later reception, which is also true. Anglicans have never claimed that reception was the sole or sufficient criterion.
Intercommunion with other parts of the Catholic Church
To be a part of the Catholic Church it would normally be necessary to be in sacramental communion with other constituent particular Churches of it. The failure of the Anglican Churches to have communio in sacris with the EOC and RCC (and their sacramental disunity) and the significance of this is discussed in my previous article, “Catholic Ecumenism and the Elephant in the Room”.
The sceptical reply to all of the above might be something like this: “Poppycock! Whatever apparent commitments to Tradition were claimed in general, and however much deliberately ambiguous language in the 39 Articles on specific doctrines allowed theoretically orthodox interpretations by some, the plain fact is that in practice the early Church of England bishops denied Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Real Presence, Prayer for the Dead, Purgatory, Invocation of Saints, Veneration of Images, and everything else other Protestants denied! Heretical bishops and their deficient teaching were persistently tolerated!”
In fact, in each of these areas it can be shown that a long line of Anglican bishops and doctors (e.g., Ridley, Guest, Field, Andrewes, Overall, Cosin, Laud, Montague, Bramhall, Hammond, Wake, the Non-Jurors, etc., etc.) affirmed key elements of Catholic teaching that others denied in the name of Protestantism and that even the denials were often directed at specific understandings of Roman Catholic doctrine that were common but not essential to Roman Catholicism. Indeed, some of the things rejected by Anglicans as RC doctrine are now not held by virtually any RCs, for example, the belief that Eucharistic Sacrifice involves some distinctive act performed by the earthly priest upon Christ as an “object”, such that he himself really undergoes transition from an unoffered to offered state during the Mass. As another example, Purgatory is no longer seen as God getting his "pound of flesh" from Christians in a chamber of horrors not unlike Hell except in duration. So, where there are ambiguities in the official statements of the Church in specific doctrinal areas and so different teachings from different bishops and priests, some orthodox, some less so, the authentic teaching is clearly the one that provides internal consistency between the doctrinal commitments that are officially binding and respects the epistemological hierarchy. In other words, doctrines about how true and false doctrines are recognised, that is meta-doctrines, have logical priority and control our resolution of difficulties. That is why the Catholic interpretation of the Book of Common Prayer and Articles is not merely plausible and permissible, but determinative.
The fundamental point is not to look at any one doctrine or teacher, therefore, but to investigate the basic doctrinal epistemology as expressed in official and/or representative statements and the tradition. The fact that the Church of England and Episcopal Church of Scotland (the mother churches of Anglicanism) taught that Scripture Alone was sufficient in material terms for deriving dogma (which is still a permissible opinion in the RCC), does not change the fact that the consensus patrum was also seen as necessary, and stated to be such, as a formal criterion for establishing definitive teaching by the authority of the Church. And mixed success in understanding Tradition does not prove lack of intention to follow it.
And, given that Faith and Order are intimately connected, the simultaneous preservation of the Threefold Apostolic ministry is also important. The preservation of a Catholic core and identity in the admittedly confused entity that was Anglicanism is due to this continuity, of Faith and Order, “Body” and “Soul”, Intent and Action, despite obscuration and mixing in of errors in life and thought.
So, even if the Caroline Divines are seen as advancing beyond the Elizabethan Divines and the Anglo-Catholics beyond the Caroline Divines in certain areas, this is irrelevant if their position is a logical development of the basic Catholic principles of these earlier Anglicans. The fact that distance from the polemical (and emotionally and politically charged) atmosphere of immediate post-Reformation times may have led to more consistent and sometimes superior conclusions from these principles by the Anglo-Catholics should be seen as a matter for joy, not shame or confusion.
A more specific criticism of the Church of England’s Catholic continuity is that one can find statements by its earliest key apologist, Bishop Jewel, that are inconsistent with it. And Jewel’s Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae was published with the approval of both the Privy Council and the province of Canterbury and his works were ordered by the Queen to be purchased by all parishes.
The Apologia on the positive side, appeals consistently to the Fathers, one example being given above, and says of the Church of England’s leaving the Church of Rome “we have not so much departed from them, as been cast out by them with Execrations and Curses.” In addition, it argues that the C of E can hardly be guilty of schism from the Catholic Church by breaking from Rome, since Rome went into schism from “the Greeks”, described as Rome’s “Spiritual Parents”. Common ground between the C of E and the Eastern Orthodox, over against Rome, is also noted. On the clearly negative side, inter alia, it says the Greeks have “contaminated” the Apostolic Faith without specifying how and implies a “fall and restoration” ecclesiology.
However, whatever Jewel’s opinions, we cannot assume everything he wrote is given infallible authority by a general approval. (Anymore than we can justly "cherry-pick" the worst things we can find in RC books with an Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat and ascribe them to the RCC as their dogma.) We must look to official and authoritative acts and statements of the Church as a whole, as done above. And other Anglican Divines of the Elizabethan and Jacobean period understood the status of the pre-Reformation Western Church and the contemporaneous RCC differently to Jewel. Hooker affirmed that RCs were fellow Christians in the Catholic Church and Field saw the C of E as continuing the true conciliar tradition and refusal to dogmatise scholastic opinions which was only definitively overthrown by Rome at Trent. There are many other signs that the C of E did not see itself as simply repudiating its connection with its pre-Reformation and mediaeval heritage, even apart from the obvious outward and institutional continuity. Finally, and perhaps most importantly since actions speak louder than words, the C of E always and without exception accepted the orders of Roman Catholic priests who came to her, whereas Reformed churches did not, often re-ordaining. In conjunction with an almost complete consistency in re-ordaining Protestant ministers who came to her, this action and attitude shows that the reform of the ordinal was not meant to signify replacement of one ministry or Church with another.
Circumstantial and Supporting Evidence
Economic intercommunion between the Eastern Orthodox and Anglicans existed in many places during the Twentieth Century. Also, positive statements by Eastern Hierarchs and theologians about Anglican Catholicity were made such as these:
- “Anglicanism is not a Protestant Church, but a reformed Catholic Church, which maintains its unity with the tradition of the ancient undivided Church.” (Archbishop Methodius Fouyas in Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and Anglicanism, 1972)
- “[T]he Orthodox Church has always considered the venerable Anglican Church as a branch, in many particulars, in continuous succession with the Ancient Church.” (Archbishop Germanos of Thyateira, cited in book abovementioned)
- “Those Orthodox Churches which have partially or provisionally recognised Anglican Orders did so on the ground that the Anglican Church has preserved the apostolic succession; and the apostolic succession … signifies continuity in apostolic faith and spiritual life.” (The Athens Report, 1978, of the Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue)
“Sister Church” terminology was used by a previous Pope, Paul VI, who also said that “There will be no seeking to lessen the legitimate prestige and the worthy patrimony of piety and usage proper to the Anglican Church” in the event of re-union.
Finally, we see in Anglican Churches a constant stream of Catholic thinking and living that has refused to be quashed, despite the frequency of conditions in Anglican history that should have made this humanly inevitable. This Catholic essence has been recognised even by the present Pope, while still a Cardinal: "Much of Catholicism remains in Anglicanism. In Anglicanism there have always been vital currents that have strengthened the Catholic inheritance … A strong Catholic potency has always remained in Anglicanism, and it is becoming very visible again in the present crisis".
So, yes, Anglican Catholics are Catholics.
Monday, April 24, 2006
From Fr. Robert Hart
Not being present to exorcise every monitor and computer, I have included my mug shot in hopes that it may frighten away evil spirits. A few days ago Albion contacted Fr. Matthew Kirby and me to see if we would take a more active role in the Continuum Blog. So far, I have taken the time to create what bloggers call a profile (see below, under “Contributors”). In the days ahead I look forward to postings from Fr. Kirby that will present, for your education and information, things that he has written already, and that need only his editorial work so that they will be “bloggable” instead of merely readable (all that formatting stuff).
I plan to write apologetic responses for why Anglicanism, when rightly practiced, is a valid alternative within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and that we have- as you may be expecting me to say- valid Orders. That second part is easy to do, since it has been done very well already by the Archbishops of England in 1897 (in Saepius Officio) and then by Dom Gregory Dix in 1945 (The Question of Anglican Orders: Letters to a Layman). The problem is, we get exhausted trying to answer the same objections over and over again. No sooner have we made a point, by commenting on other blogs, then we find that we must make it again, and again. Our defense of Anglican Catholicism meets with repetition instead of refutation. Enough of this tiring business (not that I have been able to give it much time at all in the last several months). From now on, we will make our own position statements, and let others respond to us.
I have good friends who are in the larger Catholic Church, not to mention two brothers- one Orthodox and one Roman Catholic- both of whom I love and respect. Indeed, we get along very well, with more that we agree upon then our few, indeed very few, disagreements. Indeed, the Catholic mind has a common focus, namely the Incarnation. From that we understand the Church and its sacraments as having within her, by the Holy Ghost, the ministry of salvation that God has revealed. We have Protestant friends whom we see as brothers in a common faith in Jesus Christ; with them we can have ecumenical dialogue and many areas of common purpose. Yet honesty requires us to acknowledge that Protestant theological systems are, we believe, impossible to bring into any genuine unity, either with each other or with the Catholic mind. By that, I mean structural and practical unity, the kind that still eludes us, but that can be achieved when the few details are separated from the distracting ones, (probably not to happen in our life time).
I have a few friends whose names are well known, who do not agree with my defense of Anglicanism as a valid way to be Catholic. I am indebted always to my friend Dr. William Tighe, an Eastern Rite Catholic, for the many ways that he clarifies issues and presents facts. And, he is not an Anglican at all. That does not diminish our friendship and mutual respect in any way. In addition to my brother Addison, David Mills (the Editor of Touchstone) became Roman Catholic in, as I recall, 2001. Recently, Al Kimmel, the Blog master of Pontifications and a former Episcopal priest I have known for almost twenty years, also jumped into the Tiber. Yet I remain convinced of the rightness of the Anglican Way, as much as was our late friend Fr. Louis Tarsitano. What the above-mentioned former Episcopalians have in common is that they experienced the fight within ECUSA, and that was the Anglican world as they lived in it. I understand that very well, because I once lived there too. Like them, I needed to escape a limbo where one was in a church that was no church, that had possession of the name, assets and properties of the Episcopal Church. I came to my senses and left the ECUSA (back in 1997) thanks to Bishop Joel Johnson of the Diocese of the Chesapeake, just as these others came to their senses and found the Church of Rome to be their home. And, I have no reason to think their decision wrong. Indeed, I am very glad for it.
Also, I respect the convictions of Low Churchmen, even though I disagree with them. I have enjoyed exchanging thoughts with Dr. Peter Toon, especially on matters in which we do not agree. Plenty of good men see things differently than we do, and they have my respect.
However, I will begin to post my apologetics for the Catholic validity of our Anglican Way. But, the real enemy is the spirit in ECUSA, the spirit of Antichrist that opposes the truth of the Gospel and seeks to create a new religion altogether. My friends who swim in the Tiber are in a perfectly good place; but I believe that I too am in a good place (to be very specific, the Anglican Province of Christ the King). All I hope to do is try to defend the Anglican Way, as we know it in the churches that have sprung from the Affirmation of Saint Louis, as a true Catholic alternative. So, in the coming days look here for information, and challenging thoughts.
Fr Robert Hart a/k/a Donald Sutherland
A little bit of mirth as I return after Easter.
Fr Hart forwarded to me this morning the following item from Touchstone editor David Mills, posted on Mere Comments.
The Continuing Robert Hart Our own Robert Hart has a weblog you may find of interest, called The Continuum. The heading describes it as "A place where those who live in the Anglican Continuum, or who are thinking of moving there, might share in robust, if polite, discussion of matters theological and ecclesiological."
His fans can find his picture at the bottom of the page. He looks a bit like Donald Sutherland.
I wrote to Mr Mills, explaining that the blog is mine and that Fr Hart is one of the co-hosts. I also explained that the photo to which he referred was, naturally, of me. Ironically, I have been getting hit with this Donald Sutherland look-alike business ever since Kelly's Heros came out in 1970.
I could write a short book on my experiences. Most recently, about six years ago, Sutherland and I both happened to be in London at the same time, though I doubt he was aware of it. He was staying at the Savoy Hotel. One of my friends challenged me to go up to the concierge, say I had lost my room key and see what happened. I chickened out, because I really thought he might have given me the key.
Anyway, I shall let our readers decide whether DS and I have anything in common in the looks department.
But more importantly. I have never seen Fr Hart face to face -- virtually or otherwise. Just to clear up any confusion, perhaps he would be kind enough to post a photo of himself.
Meantime, the confusion over at Mere Comments may stem from the fact that my co-hosts (including Fr Matthew Kirby and ACA Reader Ed Pacht) are now able to post directly. I gave them the keys last week, as I had been giving serious thought to giving up and moving on. But Fr Kirby has convinced me to stay.
Hope all that makes sense. Meanwhile, in the next day or so, I shall be posting something on what underlay my frustration. And in that vein, look for something, too, from Fr Matthew.
Sunday, April 23, 2006
FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
I John 5:4- 12 John 20:19-23
When I met with all of the bishops of the Province, they made a very important point- with one accord: In the Anglican Province of Christ the King, we emphasize the sacramental life. Now, generally speaking, the sacramental life is the way of salvation. This is the Catholic Tradition that the Church has taught from the beginning, from that first day of Pentecost when the appearances of the risen Lord Jesus Christ were a fresh living memory. It is the Faith we have received from our fathers, including those of our Anglican heritage. In the Gospel appointed for today we see the ordination of the Apostles themselves. This is not the Great Commission (for that He spoke on different occasions during His resurrection appearances); but rather this was a special bestowal of gifts to empower them for the day their work, after several days of prayer, would really begin- that day that we shall celebrate in a few weeks on Whitsunday, that is, Pentecost.
What happened when the Risen Lord breathed on them, and when He spoke these words of ordination? It was no mere formality; it was supernatural. When we consider those other words we have heard today from scripture, those of the First Epistle of the same Saint John, it may help us to place them in the context of the opening of that Epistle. In this way they take on their full meaning. In a few minutes we will hear that opening. For now understand, when John tells us about the witness of the Holy Spirit who speaks the truth within the Church, he hearkens back to those early days, those days of Easter and Pentecost, those days when they were seeing the Risen Lord, and the day when the Holy Spirit came in power to create a large body of Christ’s Church in the earth. And, at the center of it all was the ministry of the Apostles.
It was given to them to forgive sins; not simply to preach forgiveness, but to have the power of the keys of the kingdom; to bind and loose- and the power to forgive sins or retain them. Do we understand this? Remember in the Gospel of Matthew when Jesus was about to heal the paralytic man? Listen to these words from the ninth chapter of Matthew, vs. 2-8:
"And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house. But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men."
Look at two things that are here: 1) Many people today say that “only God can forgive sins.” But, they are agreeing not with Christ; they are agreeing with the Pharisees who did not believe in Him. 2) Look at the last line: “But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.” Not just to one man- to men plural. And so, Christ, in today’s Gospel tells the Apostles: “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.”
This has special meaning for every priest. I was ordained by a bishop who uses the 1928 Book of Common Prayer; and the Ordinal makes use of the words of Christ from this chapter: This ordinal is all in the Book of Common Prayer that sits in front of you in the pews. It says on page 546:
"When this Prayer is done, the Bishop with the Priests present, shall lay their Hands severally upon the Head of every one that receiveth the Order of Priesthood; the Receivers humbly kneeling, and the Bishop saying,
RECEIVE the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven; and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
This power has been handed down from the times of these same Apostles in a real sacrament through the Apostolic Succession of bishops. It is not simply a relay race; it is the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit active in a time space world of matter, a reality that springs from Christ’s Incarnation and that is embodied in history, and is alive here today among us. Furthermore, it is not based upon the success or failure of the men though whom it has come, in terms of whether or not they have been saints or sinners. The work is the work of God. It has pleased God to establish His Church so that the Risen Christ, even after being taken to the throne of God and hidden away from sight until He comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead, remains present in the earth, extending the mystery of His Incarnation and of His Resurrection through the Apostolic ministry of the priesthood. Many churches have no one who believes that he has this power to forgive or to retain sins. Their doctrine is that only God can forgive sins. And, in all humility and charity, I must challenge them to explain what they do with these words of Jesus Christ. If the power to forgive sins is not present, then how can it be the same Church that Christ established? I do not deny that He is present in these churches; I do not deny that through them God gives knowledge of salvation. But, I must insist that the Church does not only proclaim salvation. To the Church, through the Apostolic ministry, is given the power to administer salvation by supernatural gifts that do not depend on the wisdom of men; but on the power of God. “Ye men of Israel, why marvel ye at this? or why look ye so earnestly on us, as though by our own power or holiness we had made this man to walk?” It is not our own power that had made the crippled man to walk, Saint Peter was telling a crowd that had witnessed a miracle; It is through the name of Jesus Christ and through faith in His name. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” he would say on another occasion.
So we come now to the opening of Saint John’s Epistle, and to the context of the words that we heard about the witness of the Holy Spirit within the Church:
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full."
The message of John in His Gospel was that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. And we beheld his glory…” Here he speaks of seeing Christ, and of touching Him with his hands. He says that what he and the other Apostles heard and saw is what they have passed on. He says that life in the Church, the life in which we are called to be saved, is to have fellowship with the Apostles and through them, fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.
Well, that may make it all sound like an exclusive club- until we remember that this fellowship is to be extended throughout the whole world, and the Gospel is to be preached to all nations. How do we have fellowship with the Apostles after 20 centuries? The simple fact is, through the sacramental life we are given, to use the phrase of Paul Harvey, “the rest of the story.” These days, everyone with a television or radio has heard someone tell them about the need to “come to Jesus and be saved.” And, we say to that, “Amen!” We even may find ourselves pronouncing it with a long “A”- Ae-men! But, we want to proclaim the rest of the story; the sacramental life. We want to extend the fullness of Apostolic fellowship to everyone; We want your joy to be full. Not superficial; not simply a happy feeling. We want your joy to be full- that is, filled with all the fullness of God, established and built upon solid faith, built upon knowledge of the truth of our salvation in Jesus Christ.
And it comes from the Incarnation; it all comes from the manifestation of the Word of Life in the Flesh; it is continued as Christ remains incarnate here in His body the Church. The Risen Christ is known to us in the waters of Baptism, in the Apostolic gift of Confirmation. He is known to us in the priestly ministry of the forgiveness of sins. He is known to us in the Breaking of Bread.
Friday, April 21, 2006
A Battle for Souls
+ As members of the ACC, it's easy for us to feel like a small but faithful remnant. Seemingly isolated and beleaguered, it's us against the world. Sometimes, it even seems like us against the rest of the Church. But this is not the truth of the matter.
It is important to see that we are part of something bigger. Our raison d'etre is not fundamentally about fighting for preserving English heritage or avoiding women clergy.
We are engaged in a battle for souls against the world, against a secular culture of rebellion and scorn, and its agents “inside” the Church. Our true enemy, though, is Satan, otherwise it would be impossible to explain the one link between all these disparate symptoms: The Da Vinci Code and the unquestioning “faith” it engenders in so many readers; anti-clerical stereotypes in movies such as Million Dollar Baby; New Age occultism; pseudo-scientific populist defences of atheism; total separation of Church and State (for which read abolishing God from public discourse); values clarification and sex ed in schools; radical, misanthropic (i.e., humanity-hating) environmentalism, etc.
What is the link between all of these? Disdain for the Church and orthodox Christianity. The Church is said to be to blame for everything that ills society. Radical leftists and libertarian rightists, atheist rationalists and superstitious New Agers, feminists and Muslim extremists who force their women to wear the burka, these can only agree on one thing: Christianity is the enemy. Whether it be the environmentalists who think any interference with nature is evil or the scientific researchers who think that any obstruction to such interference is obscurantism, they are all quite sure that it is the Christians who are getting in the way of their paradise on Earth.
Human-based conspiracy theories cannot account for this confluence of malice. And unless we realise that our battle is not against flesh and blood, i.e., human beings, but against principalities and powers, we will simply return malice for malice and misrepresent the Gospel, becoming locked in a cycle of hate that prevents us bringing the heavenly light of grace and mercy to a deceived and deceiving world.
And … we do have allies in this fight. The Church is bigger than us. We are Christians first, Catholics second, & Anglicans third. That is why we must ensure our focus is God’s focus. We cannot afford to be insular or distracted from the main game. We need to defend the whole Faith, proclaim the Good News. Do apologetics, explaining calmly the reasons we believe, and perform evangelism. We must speak up for the truth, not just about things that led to our separation from the Anglican Communion, but the basic truths of Christianity. Catholic Ecumenism (especially between us and the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church) is inseparable from these priorities because we can and should share resources, we need one another spiritually, and because our disunity undermines our identity and message. After all, Catholicism and sectarianism are meant to be opposed.
Women’s ordination is just one manifestation of mankind’s rebellion against Nature and the God who created it. It is a battle-zone “inside” the Church, yet basically a deliberate attempt to encourage traitors in the ranks, get behind our lines and take our strength away from the main war. Our fight is thus much bigger than this issue.
But do we have any chance in this fight? The Church as a whole may be infallible, but its number of true believers may shrink due to apostasy. The state of the world makes us ask the question: Are we close to the end, with the final complete rebellion and accompanying persecution of Christians about to begin? Is the Church Age almost over, presaging the Great Tribulation and Second Coming?
Some signs, but not all, point this way. Remember, there are two simultaneous sets of images that represent the movement of history through the Church Age predicted in Biblical prophecy. There is growth as we affect the world greatly for the better by being, in Jesus’ parables, salt, light, leaven (which, though initially tiny in quantity, raises the whole loaf), and a small seed growing into a great tree. The victorious Gospel is to go to all peoples, without exception.
But there is also struggle and loss, as we experience constant conflict with the world and, near the end, apparent defeat as the Antichrist is “allowed to make war against the saints and conquer them” (Rev. 13.7). It is about this end-time that Jesus asked, “Will I find faith on the earth?” Well, until the very end we will live in the tension between these two realities. And the Gospel has not been effectively preached to all peoples, and there are some signs of the forces of darkness losing battles. So, it is clear, whatever our chances of “success” may appear to be, we must fight.
How do we fight? By “speaking the truth in love.” Anger is allowed, hate is not. Loving our enemies is in fact a part of the weaponry of truth. Why? Because it falsifies the accusation that our efforts are simply about exerting power over others and coercing them to submit to our will.
And now we come to an issue that Christians in the Western world cannot help but be sensitive to. Christian love demands more than the words. It demands good works, exceptional generosity to the poor and a sacrificial, disciplined lifestyle. (Christians can have honest disagreements about how much of the action for the poor should be expressed and effected through democratically-sanctioned government action and how much through individuals, but what we cannot do is passively acquiesce to a culture of heedless consumerism and selfishness.) And when I said exceptional generosity, I meant it. We should stand out in our willingness to help the poor and suffering – even those we suspect may have contributed to their own problems.
That is the love that goes the extra mile. We should speak out, as the Old Testament prophets did, on behalf of the powerless and oppressed. By doing this at the very same time that we also defend the moral structure necessary to society and uphold virtues such as respect, moderation, modesty, and taking responsibility for your own actions, we will show the same balance and fullness revealed by God in the scriptures. For God judges harshly both the stubbornly and scornfully rebellious and he who takes advantage of the poor. Both sins cry out to Heaven for vengeance. People are more likely to take us seriously if we do not display a preferential blind-spot to some sins while condemning others.
Now, I’ll admit that I sometimes have great difficulty thinking we can make much ground in this battlefield of modern souls, which then almost persuades me we must be near the very end of history. The reason for my occasional pessimism is that we are up against a powerful force and wholehearted group of followers. I warn you, I am about to make an oversimplification. A wit once said there are only two types of people in the world, those who say there are two types of people in the world and those who don’t. I’m one of the former today. A second warning: I am going to discuss quite frankly the great idolatry of our time. There are, I contend, two main categories of people in the western world: those who worship God -- and those who worship the body. The first pursue true happiness: they seek truth, beauty and goodness, whose source is God. The second pursue mere pleasure: they seek food, sex and intoxication. And not necessarily in that order.
If you don’t believe me, look at the great cultural and moral conflicts of our time. Abortion advocates and contraception pushers are deeply offended that anybody, including and especially a baby, should presume to stop people obeying the body and copulating when and how they please. If contraception and abortion weren’t available fornicators might have to actually accept the natural consequences of their actions and acknowledge that sex is not just about fulfilling their desires. Blasphemy! Or, worse still, they might have to deliberately go against the wishes of the body and abstain. To defy the demigod’s will. Unthinkable! How else does one explain the now common characterisation of celibacy as a perversion, except by assuming this kind of thinking? Is it any wonder that their deity demands human sacrifice and that they consider it only right it should have it?
Those who demand homosexual rights also stipulate that to disobey the body is the greatest foolishness (for whatever your hormones impel you to do, surely it is right you should do). For other people to try to interfere with one’s devotion to the body is not simply seen as foolish, but the height of wickedness.
Such blasphemy is sometimes termed today “fascism”. It is quite obvious that for such devotees pornography is not only a right, but its defence a duty. Prostitution, in itself, can have nothing wrong with it, as long as no one gets hurt. Of course, they admit, there are complications when the married partake, but being successfully secretive or having an “open marriage” can, it is argued, fix those problems. Pleasure, no pain, “what’s the problem?” they ask.
So, next time you see hatred or contempt in the eyes of our opponents in these so-called “culture wars”, just remind yourself that they can’t help but see you as an apostate or infidel, for you have questioned the unquestionable. After all, if there is no happiness other than or higher than bodily pleasure, then those who would in any way moderate bodily pleasure, for whatever reason, are cruel. We would restrict the only happiness there is for the sake of what is for them an illusion, a nothing. Similarly, if the only real evil is pain, then euthanasia follows as matter of course, and its opponents are evil-doers.
No wonder they hate us. The body is a jealous god. Or, to put it in St Paul’s terms, “the flesh lusteth against the spirit”. However, we also need to be careful not to sacrifice our integrity to this false god and thereby point to specks in the eyes of others while carrying around logs in our own. For example, gay advocates have a point when they compare the heat generated among Christians by homosexual issues with the languid tolerance of divorce, despite the Saviour’s strong words about the latter.
But, despite the pessimism I mentioned earlier and the challenges we must face, the truth remains that “He that is in us is greater than he that is in the world”. Grace is greater, and can cut through the barriers of the world, the flesh and the devil. We shouldn’t be surprised that the world hates us or that it is mired in sin. It was ever thus, since the Fall, and the battle has also been joined since then. Understanding the forces that oppose us is vital, but fretting about them is not. Quite the contrary. “Be strong and of good courage,” let the joy of the Lord be our strength, as the Scriptures exhort.
Yes, there is a war and a lot of work to do but we are on the winning side. Jesus won the victory at the Cross and Empty Tomb. We are “more than conquerors”, if only we will stand firm in the faith, and combine our devotion to the truth with love. And this will include a commitment to Christian unity, a discernment of who our real enemy is, and a willingness to perfect a strong mind with a soft heart as we demonstrate to the world a courageous compassion. +
Monday, April 17, 2006
An Easter Meditation
Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen…
From Isaiah chapter 25:
6: And in this mountain shall the LORD of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined.
7: And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.
8: He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.
9: And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
In his first Epistle to the Corinthians, Saint Paul lists four points of the Gospel. In the Book of Acts you can find that in all of his sermons, Saint Paul proclaims these four points, and in the sermons of Saint Peter we see these four points as well. Always they are there, with none missing.
I Corinthians 15:
1: Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;
2: By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.
3: For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;
4: And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
5: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
6: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
7: After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.
8: And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
The four are:
Christ died for our sins:
He was buried
He rose the third day
He appeared to witnesses.
Notice that little phrase, “according to the scriptures.” Those of you who were in my class on the Nicene Creed will recall that this phrase (which appears there as well) “according to the scriptures” does not mean, “Well, that’s what the Bible says.” It means that Christ’s death for our sins and His resurrection on the third day, fulfilled the scriptures that foretold these things.
None is better known than Isaiah’s Suffering Servant passage:
5: But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
6: All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7: He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
8: He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. (Isa. 53: 5-8)
The One Righteous Man, Himself without sin, dies as the One True Sacrifice, the Atonement- the One for the many. Therefore our sins can be forgiven without God violating His holiness and His justice.
It goes on to predict His resurrection, saying of the Suffering Servant who has died in this manner:
9: And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10: Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. (Isa. 53: 9,10).
How does a dead man prolong His days, and become the agent of God’s pleasure, that is His will, unless He overcomes death, and lives to prolong His days? He died, and made His grave with the wicked, that is, He was dead the same way that all men die. Except that He alone is not wicked, and died paying the penalty that He did not owe. And, after dying He prolongs His days forever and accomplishes His Father’s will. This happened according to these predictions. They are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Fulfilled also is the 16th Psalm, as quoted often throughout the Book of Acts:
9: Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope.
10: For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
11: Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
The resurrection on the third day came before His flesh could see corruption.
The third of Saint Paul’s Gospel points is that He was buried. In the sermons in the Book of Acts, both those of Peter and of Paul, His burial is proclaimed, and, as we have seen, this too was foretold by Isaiah. His burial is important, because His death was certain. It was a fact that he died on the cross.
The resurrection showed that He was not a lunatic, or a devil, but our Lord and our God. Remember what C.S. Lewis wrote, that Jesus was not a “great moral teacher.” “He did not give us that option; indeed, He did not mean to.” Either He was a lunatic, a very devil of Hell, or He was the Lord our God. His resurrection proves which of these three is the truth. It vindicates all that He had claimed about Himself. When He claimed to be God, equal with the Father, He is vindicated by the fact that He rose from the dead. “Before Abraham was, I AM.” “I and My Father are One.”
And when He rose, He appeared to witnesses. This last point is essential, because the appearance to witnesses is how we know. This testimony is sure and certain evidence. The witnesses of His resurrection, the apostles and the Five Hundred disciples who met with Him on the mountain in Galilee, did not go on to become rich Television preachers. They became wanted men, fugitives. Their lives were lives of suffering. Peter and John were beaten and imprisoned. James, the brother of John, was slain with the sword. Peter was imprisoned and he expected to be executed. The early Church was persecuted, first by their own people, their fellow Jews, and then by the Romans. The testimony of these witnesses makes the resurrection of Christ a fact of history, recorded by eye-witnesses that He was alive again. It is more than mere myth or even simply an “article of faith.” Most of the apostles were skeptics at first, not only Thomas. Indeed, people may experience a group delusion; but never a group hallucination. That is as impossible as a group of people all having the same dream. It does not happen. The fact is, they saw Him alive again, and, rather than recant their testimony, they submitted to death by various means.
The very fact that the Church survived its earliest years is proof that the witness was true. The Greek word for witness is martyr. The fact that we are here as part of the Church, the Church that is throughout the whole world, proves that we are founded on a rock, a sure foundation, testimony signed in martyrs' blood. This is part of our nature as the Church.
The Church remains a living witness, and life in the Church is a partaking of martyrdom, of the Church’s witness in a hostile world. No matter how comfortable we may feel in this country, let us never forget that the Church is an army of martyrs, and that we may find ourselves called to walk the path of the witnesses. But, death is the one thing we need never fear.
We know that when He returns in Glory, we shall be raised from our graves as well, and His immortality shall be given to us. Death has been defeated, and when he comes again it will be destroyed.
1: Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
2: Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.
3: And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure. (I John 3:1-3).
We seek to become pure and holy, not simply out of fear. We press on to the life of following Christ in the calling all Christians have- to become saints- out of hope. Christ rose from the dead, the first fruits of them that slept. When He comes again the harvest of the resurrection will follow the pattern of the first fruits, and death shall be swallowed up in victory, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces.
Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen…