Monday, June 19, 2006

GC2006 -What Now?

Last night, when I learned of the Episcopal Church's election as presiding "bishop" of a woman who approved of and voted for the episcopal "consecration" of Gene Robinson, who allows the blessing of same-sex relationships and who invited the heretic John Spong to conduct a clergy conference in her diocese, I felt the need to write something.

I could not. I was in shock, and still am.

As it has been many years since I was a member of the Episcopal Church, I would prefer not to comment on, much less attempt to analyse, what this decision will mean for the church of my birth. Others are already doing that, and quite adequately.

What I want to ask is this: what are the Continuing churches doing to provide a haven for those many orthodox Episcopalians who are agonizing over their own future in the Church?

This morning I read an exchange on over at All Too Common, Anglicanism, the Network, and Women’s Ordination, which prompted me to wonder if the Continuing movement is even in a position to do so.

Here is the exchange:

1Fr. Daniel commonly prayed: June 19th, 2006 at 12:18 am
Andy, I think you’ve said it: “We have compromised the truth long enough.” Sometimes, it takes a while before a person/persons realize how much things have been off track. It took several years before I understood that my former Anglican jurisdiction was a sham, that women’s ordination is unbiblical, that theological “innovations” are unchristian. I decided to walk with those who are still faithful to Christ, to Scripture, to Creed–and I’ve not regretted it for a moment.
Unfortunately, many in ECUSA have ignored some very important fundamental issues in hopes that the homosexual problem would disappear (or at least some moratorium was imposed). The homosexual bishop case is not the beginning of these problems; I think we all realize that. These problems won’t be solved–or even begin to be solved–by a simple moratorium.
I honestly mean no “I told you so” when I say this: it’s time that true Christians in ECUSA realize that the Continuing Anglicans saw this coming a long time ago. The road to Christ goes neither through Canterbury nor 815; those can, at best, only be stops along the journey–perhaps similar to Jesus’ stop on his journey, when he talked with the woman at the well. I’m not saying that all those in ECUSA who want to remain faithful to Christ must now come to Continuing jurisdictions. I am saying that those faithful will have to decide whether to continue compromising on so many of the fundamental issues other than homosexual ordinations; they will have to decide whether theological revisions, sexual immorality, blasphemy, paganism, and all the rest are important issues in the life of the Church. Will the axe be laid to the tree?

2The Common Anglican commonly prayed: June 19th, 2006 at 12:40 am
Fr. Daniel,
Thanks for not wanting to be a downer, despite this news. On that same note, I cannot help notice three things about the Continuum: 1)It’s fractured like crazy and spread very thin. It’s juridical communion (recognition of authority) with other jurisdictions is spotty and in-fighting is rampant. It hardly represents Catholic Christianity in this respect. 2) Many, many bishops are divorced and re-married, which to the Catholic, is not all that different from a practising homosexual. 3) I don’t know to which jurisdiction you belong, but the Continuum, despite it’s common sinfulness with the rest of humanity, seems to give off an air of puritanism. Ex: “At least we don’t ________, or we left back in 18__ because of ________, or we aren’t like ________.” Not only is it puritanical, but it seems to praise schism as a good thing.
Honestly, it would seem more appealing if the bishops who divorced for unbiblical reasons would be called out, and if unification with each other and with the rest of Catholic Christianity were being actively and publically pursued. It would also seem more appealing if the Continuum wasn’t maintaining the consistently small number of “faithful” Christians for the past two centuries.
These are just my initial observations. I am not against it by any means, but it just doesn’t seem like an attractive option at this point in time. Please correct me if I am wrong, as I certainly might be ."

This brings me to a second question, one to which I alluded in my catastrophically uninspiring post of June 6 on post GC2006 scenarios: What steps, if any, are the leaders of the Continuing churches taking to make the movement an attractive option by moving toward unification and a common front? Further to this, what obstacles stand in the way of unification?

I, for one, consider it a scandal that our small movement is divided among four principal jurisdictions.

I am a newcomer. Will someone out there set me straight on this?


Albion Land said...

No more did I hit the send button on this post, when I received an email alert from Forward in Faith North America, which I republish below.

Here is a question to Bishop Ackerman, if he is a reader, or to any member of FIFNA: what, if anything, now stands in the way of you and your fellow members from moving, en masse, to a Continuing church?

FiFNA - first reaction to election of Schori as Presiding Bishop
Jun 19, 2006

As the shock of the election of a female bishop to be the Presiding Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America is settling in, my thoughts as President of Forward in Faith North America go to the other Provinces of the Anglican Communion.

Indeed, with the innovative introduction of the ordination of women as priests, first illegally, and then ratified just 30 years ago, it was inevitable that by implication women would be ordained as bishops, with the potential of a female bishop becoming presiding bishop.

However, on the heels of the election and consecration three years ago of a man living in a same sex relationship, it would appear that The Episcopal Church has neither sensitivity nor concern for its relationship with the rest of the Anglican Communion. Despite appeals from primates and other bishops around the world asking the American Province to apologize for its rupturing of the bonds of affection, The Episcopal Church has continued to press on without any obvious concern for the fragile state of the Anglican Communion.

Forward in Faith North America has now, likewise, been pushed to the limit in its attempt to honor its fragile relationship with The Episcopal Church. The officers of FiFNA will be discussing future plans, and after consultation with world wide Anglican leaders will issue a statement. FiFNA will not repeat the mistakes of the Episcopal Church by acting unilaterally, without regard for those who must be involved in decision making that affects the lives of all who call themselves “Anglicans”.

+Keith Ackerman

Albion Land said...

I am posting this on behalf of St. James the Average, over at the "Continuing Anglican Churchman":

I can understand some of Andy's concerns. As for divorce and
remarriage, I am sure that the bishops and priests who are remarried
had a proper church annullment. Roman Catholic priests "marry" the
Church theologically speaking, which is one of the reasons why they are
not allowed to get married in the traditional sense. But when I was in
seminary (Roman Catholic), I met a few men in RC priestly formation
who were divorced! So, the phenomenon of divorced and remarried
clergy does exist in other churches - even Rome. And the orthodox have
a completely different policy on divorce and remarriage - a "three
strikes" rule, I believe. How does one reckon with that? And then,
conservative Christians in the Protestant tradition are divided on this
issue, with some believing that there are biblical grounds for divorce
and remarriage (such as abandonment), and one can make arguments of
varying strengths from the bible for that. So I persaonlly would not
make that the litmus test for joining a continuing Anglican Church.
Doing so sounds more puritanical than anything else in my mind. As for
the divisions, we are divided jurisdictionally but not in terms of the
faith. As a Roman Catholic layman I found that church to be one in a
corporate sense, but theologically it was very divided... almost like
ECUSA. I mean, heck - Rosemary Radford Ruether is Roman Catholic. So
I think that we have a sacramental and theological unity... not
necessarily a corporate one. Unity and oneness can be shown in many
different ways. And as for the puritanical mindset it really depends
on who you talk to. That is not the mark of a church so much as it is
an individual personality trait. There are people out there whose
psychology is such that they have to have everything tied up with neat
little bows, and everythign spelled out in black and white. Yes, we
have them, as do the Romans, ECUSAns, and others. It is an individual
personality trait rather than a church canon.

I think that many people do not consider continuing Anglicanism because
we do not have gobs of huge buildings (yet). Honestly, I think that is
what a lot of it boils down to. The popular way of thinking goes, "How
can that be a real church when the building is so small?" I wonder how
they would have gotten by in the ancient church before the Edict of
Milan? All I can say to someone is this: give continuing Anglicanism a
fair try before you write it off completely.


Fr Matthew Kirby said...

I second what Fr Gordon has said.

The main reasons mainstream Anglicans in heterodox Churches do not come to us are three. One, as Gordon+ noted, we look too small and too poor. So many stick to the still-pretty buildings of ECUSA et al and the occasionally still-pretty liturgies with big organs and choirs. Two, not everybody knows about us. That is something we try to remedy with limited resources, but perhaps could do better at. Three, we are not united. But that is not only our fault, but the fault of those orthodox Anglican hierarchs within the Anglican Communion who refused to supply a stabilising matrix of intercommunion and cooperation back when it might have made a difference, as I have argued before. Their "reticence" has now come back to bite them as they have become ever more marginalised and smaller in numbers within the Canterbury Communion.

As to your second question, Albion, there have been steps taken to improve unity, but they tend to happen quietly in early stages, at least in my jurisdiction. Perhaps the greatest obstacle at present, apart from memories of past sins leading to divisions, is that there are differing understandings on the limits to communion. The TAC believes it can and should seek and obtain communio in sacris with bishops who are personally orthodox within the Anglican Communion even if they maintain intercommunion or some similar connection with the heterodox parts of that communion (including the Abp of Canterbury and his Church). The ACC disagrees and believes the remaining orthodox Anglicans must, for a start, disassociate utterly and publicly from the heterodox. I am unsure of the APCK's precise position. In the past I think it accepted that the FiF/Flying Bp part of the C of E at least had a genuinely Catholic ecclesial identity, but I do not know any further details except that they are less interested in forming sacramental relations with Churches remaining in the AC than the TAC. However, the ACC already understands itself to be in communion with the APCK and there is little or no difference that I can see in doctrine between the TAC, ACC and APCK.

Finally, the TAC's search for unity with Rome seems to have been ignored by "The Common Anglican". And it should be noted that the ACC has pursued ecumenical contacts with both Rome and the East, but that they have not been widely publicised because they are at very early stages and we do not want to poison the waters or offend our dialogue partners by talking or claiming too much too soon. I suspect the APCK may be in a similar position, but I would only be guessing.

poetreader said...

Albion, to your question as to what stands in the way of FIFNA moving en masse to the Continuum, I'm afraid the answer is simple and a bit depressing. It's economics -- buildings, endowments, financial arrangements of clergy. Frankly, were it not for these factors, I think a major portion of FIF internationally would already have made the move. If there is some way for these parishes and clergy to retain what should be theirs for the service of God, I pray that such a way be found quickly. If not, I pray that they may quickly find it within themselves to leave these material impediments to Catholic Faith and practice and come aboard.

In the meanwhile, Father Kirby is quite right in his overall assessment. As a member of TAC, I would agree completely. The difference is that we are temporarily putting up with an anomaly of intercommunion with those who have not yet broken communion with heretics as part of a process of bringing sense to the whole thing. If FIFNA (or any fraction thereof) follows through on what they seem to be threatening, we are more than ready to receive them. If not, this temporasry arrangement has to have an end point, and I don't think that can be very far in the future.