Saturday, June 30, 2007


Heb. 9:1-11
John 19:30-35

Glory be to Jesus
Who in bitter pains
Poured for me the life-blood
From His sacred veins.

The hymns of the Church have always been quite rich with references to the blood of Jesus Christ as the cleansing fountain, freeing us from sin and death. The hymns are often Eucharistic, and often they are simple bare statements of gratitude for His atoning death and sacrifice such as the verse I have quoted. If we are to understand our salvation and appreciate it as the Bible reveals it, we must return to this tradition; we must speak often with reverence and gratitude for the shed blood of our Savior. We must speak often of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

The Old Testament is rich with many pictures of the blood of Jesus Christ. We recall the sacrifice that Noah offered after leaving the Ark, and that only after he offered it did the Lord promise never again to destroy mankind by the waters of a flood. We see Abraham offering sacrifices on that night when God appeared to him, walking between the sacrifices and promising him that his seed would be the salvation and blessing for all of fallen mankind in every nation. In the days of Moses we see the Passover, and the many laws of atoning sacrifice to be carried out by the priests in the temple.

Let’s look at the Passover. Remember what God told Moses, that the destroyer would pass through Egypt taking the lives of all the firstborn. The people of Israel were told to slay a lamb and put the blood on the doorposts of every home of the Hebrews. God said “When I see the blood I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 12;13) “When I see the blood…” There was no other protection. When John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) he made direct reference to the Passover, and spoke then of the coming death of our Lord. Then, when we read the Law that God gave to Moses, we see that the priests made atonement for repentant sinners by the shedding of blood, by slaying the sacrifice.

The blood of sacrifice is spoken of in two ways when we see the pictures, the shadows and types in the Old Testament that prepare us to know Jesus Christ: As the Epistle from Hebrews for today tells us, and as I have already reminded you when speaking about Abraham, the shed blood of sacrifice is necessary to establish a covenant. And, when the priests of the temple would perform their sacred ministry, the blood of sacrifice was necessary for the forgiveness of sin. And, as you shall see, what this means for you, is that the salvation of your soul has been provided by God’s certain covenantal promise, and by Christ’s offering up of himself, as the same epistle to the Hebrews puts it, “once for all.”

Of certain facts you can be sure. One obvious fact is that you are a sinner, as am I. For this reason alone, the subject of today’s feast is relevant to you, and it addresses your deepest need. Such talk may make you squeamish, and it really is not a “nice” thing to talk about in church. But, what you may have noticed is that nothing in our whole liturgy is nice; It is beautiful, powerful and spiritual. But, it cannot be nice because it speaks directly to the most important need that you have. The entire celebration of this Holy Communion tells the story of your salvation and mine. Even if this sermon were to fall flat, and I were to fail in all my efforts to communicate, the words of this service, all true and directly Biblical, tell the story- the whole story. In this service you hear of the great drama of our fall into sin and death, the danger and despair brought on by sin, and the need of our soul to be reconciled to God. Then it tells the Good News of His initiative in sending His only begotten Son into the world to save sinners, such as you and me.

The shed blood speaks of His covenant. In the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel, when Jesus tells us that His flesh is food indeed, and His blood is drink indeed, he gives the promise of salvation not just to the crowd, the whole number of His true followers; He gives that promise to the individual: He gives it to you. This is why we should resist every effort to retranslate the words from “I will raise him up on the last day” into “I will them up on the last day.” “Them?” How many of them? All or a few? No. The promise is made to each individual when read as Jesus spoke it. It is made to you.

God never breaks His covenant, but keeps it to a thousand generations; that is he keeps it forever. This covenant that promises you the forgiveness of sins and the inheritance of eternal life is no mere sentimental capricious whim of God, deciding in a moment of favorable emotion to forgive your sins and let you live forever. It is the covenant promise established in the blood of His Son. In fact, you and I had no input into this divine plan. We did not decide on a way for God to show us mercy; it was the Father’s initiative to have mercy on us in such a way that His holiness was not compromised. Furthermore, the promise by which you are given a sure and certain hope was not made primarily to us, but was made first of all by the Father to the Son; that is, by a promise within the Trinity of the eternal Godhead, carried out by the Word made flesh who offered Himself without spot to God.

This Atonement was made for you by the true High Priest. Once a year the High priest, on Yom Kippur- the Day of Atonement, carried the blood of the sin offering into the Holy of Holies, in the temple, and sprinkled it on the mercy seat atop the Ark of the Covenant, a picture of the very throne room of God. So, Christ offered Himself once, and when he was risen from the dead and ascended on high into the very throne room of His Father, before sitting at the right hand of the majesty on high, he presented His own blood as the spotless, sinless sacrifice. God said to Moses, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” (Lev. 17:11)

When I read this in Hebrew, I saw that it could be translated “the soul of the flesh is in the blood.” This adds to the power of the words that follow: “and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” Think then on those words from Isaiah about the Suffering Servant: “He hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isa. 53:12)

I want you to know that it is always wrong for a Christian to speak of an act of reparation, that is an act of repentance that makes up in some way for a wrong, as “an atonement.” Such reparation is often a necessary part of repentance, but it is not an atonement. Atonement speaks of your need to be reconciled to God, and it carries with it the reality that all sins are of infinite consequence because God, the One always wronged by sin, is infinite. All sin is of eternal consequence, because God is eternal. Therefore, we have only one Atonement. Even the sacrifices of the Old Testament were not real atonements, as they had no meaning until the day Christ died and made all of them into part of that reality. Your need to be reconciled to God is of infinite and eternal consequence for you; and God has provided the means to forgive you and welcome you into His eternal fellowship by the bloody death of His only begotten Son. That is the one and only Atonement.

The Old Testament altars looked ahead to Christ’s coming sacrifice, and that is why blood was shed on them. Our altar looks back at an accomplished fact: “It is finished.” Our sacrifice involves no killing and no shedding of blood, and so it testifies loudly for all to hear that Christ was once offered to take away the sins of the world. There is just one sacrifice, and only one Mass, even as often the Church enters into it. Our service is not nice; it is powerful, lofty and spiritual because we are here joined to the true sacrifice itself, and taken to the foot of the cross. Look up at the bleeding sacrifice as you pray with us this day, and see what “sorrow and love flow mingled down,” look into His eyes, covered with the blood from the crown of thorns, as He pours for you the life-blood from His sacred veins.

And, joining Eucharistic devotion with simple bare gratitude, once you have made your confession of sin and been cleansed in your conscience by the great gift of absolution made possible by His precious death and sacrifice, come near and receive this sacrament to your comfort. The best way to express your thanksgiving to God is to say with the Psalmist: “I will receive the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 116: 12)

Provence is New APCK Archbishop

Fr Hart was right. The following is from the APCK website:

Bishops of the Anglican Province of Christ the King elected the Most Reverend James Eugene Provence the 2nd Archbishop in the Pro-Cathedral of St. Peter, Oakland, California, on Friday, June 29, 2007.

The new Archbishop will continue to administer the Diocese of the Western States, and Archbishop Robert Morse will continue to direct St. Joseph of Arimathea Anglican Theological College in Berkeley, California.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Most Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ

This Sunday, July 1st, will be the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. I do plan to post a sermon within the next 24 hours, or so. For now, here are the words of a hymn from 18th century Italy (a shorter version of which is Hymn 335 in the 1940 Hymnal) attributed to S. Alfonso and translated by Edward Caswall.

A meditation on this may help to prepare for the feast:

Glory be to Jesus,
Who, in bitter pains,
Poured for me the lifeblood
From His sacred veins!

Grace and life eternal
In that blood I find;
Blest be His compassion,
Infinitely kind.

Blest through endless ages
Be the precious stream
Which from endless torments
Doth the world redeem.

Abel’s blood for vengeance
Pleaded to the skies;
But the blood of Jesus
For our pardon cries.

Oft as it is sprinkled
On our guilty hearts,
Satan in confusion
Terror struck departs.

Oft as earth exulting
Wafts its praise on high,
Angel hosts, rejoicing,
Make their glad reply.

Lift we then our voices,
Swell the mighty flood;
Louder still and louder
Praise the precious blood!

The Collect - Trinity IV

The Latin Collect
Protector in te sperantium, Deus, sine quo nihil est validum, nihil sanctum: multiplica super nos misericordiam tuam; ut te rectore, te duce, sic transeamus per bona temporalia, ut non amitamus aeterna.

The 1549 Collect
GOD the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothyng is strong, nothing is holy; increase and multiply upon us thy mercye; that thou being our ruler and guyde, we may so passe through thinges temporall, that we fynally lose not the thinges eternall: Graunt this heavenly father, for Jesu Christes sake our Lorde.

Archbishop Cranmer translated this collect from the Gregorian Sacramentary. It is found in the Tridentine Canon for the 3rd Sunday after Pentecost.

What power do we human beings have of ourselves? There are times when we look at our abilities, at those talents of which we are proud, and we realise how worthless they are. There are times in our lives when we seem to unable to do anything right. Our failures can often be more memorable than our successes. Why is this?

If we persist in looking only at ourselves then this is all we will see. We will only see those things which make us wince and shudder. We only get a distorted vision of ourselves.

And then we pray this prayer and we see the Source of our perfection. By refocusing our attention on the Divine do we realise that all things work together for good to those who love God. Our deeds will pass away along with their squalid imperfections, but their honest efforts in building up our faithful relationship with our Master will only help us find an Eternal home with Him.

-------------------------------------Jonathan Munn

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Problem of the Episcopalian’s Orders

Two very real theological problems facing Continuing Churchmen and other members of the Anglican Diaspora are about sacraments that have been corrupted by the Episcopal Church in the United States. One is the problem of their current Confirmation Rite (addressed previously by me) and another is the problem of their orders. I have long been accustomed to treating both of these as invalid, following the lead of Bishop Joel Marcus Johnson who openly teaches that Confirmation by the 1979 alleged Book of Common Prayer is not valid, and also that, in its current state as an heretical sect, we cannot treat as valid the orders of the Episcopal Church. Most Continuing Churchmen would agree with this position.

Imagine, then, my consternation when being forced out of the Church of the Atonement by a penny wise bishop, only to see my congregation, the people I had been pastoring for almost two years, given into the care of a man whose only background and “ordination” came from the modern, as in current, Episcopal Church. Here I must speak as eyewitness to a tragedy. In February of this year I was approached by a man who was considering that he might leave the Episcopal Church, having served as a deacon in the Phoenix area for five years, helping right up until the time we met, to build a church in which he, every week, was quite willing to send children into a Sunday School class that was taught by an openly lesbian woman that was raising a child with her partner. He was helping to build this church while men, homosexual lovers, would openly walk up to the altar rail hand in hand in front of the same children after their return from Sunday School. His defense in this matter was that he was trying to be a witness for Christ in such a setting, a defense I find weak.

A retired man, without need for any income from the church, he arranged to fly to Tulsa Oklahoma in March and meet the Rt. Rev. Frederick Morrison, Bishop Ordinary of the Diocese of the Southwestern States, Anglican Province of Christ the King, where the two of them discussed his desire (almost stated as a demand) to become a priest, and his promise that, if he were placed in my church, he would bring in hundreds of people who would follow him, and obtain a very large contribution from a widow who has over 33 million dollars, and that he would never need any income from the church (unlike me, a man who was paid a salary from a combination of church funds and Diocesan funds, the Mission having been very small when I took it over in August of 2005). Bishop Morrison called me from Tulsa a week later, and told me that he was bringing in this man to serve as a deacon in the Church of the Atonement. I asked him if he was sure the man really was a deacon, since his only “ordination” came from the Episcopal Church. He did not answer this question. The fact is, at no time was the bishop willing to question the man’s background, or to probe into the problem of holy orders within the heretical sect known as the Episcopal church.

Well, the hundreds of people who followed turned out to be, in reality, one lady and a very nice couple. That was it. Nonetheless, the alleged deacon was able to keep another promise: He was able to live without any money from the church. And, because the Bishop and Rector of the Mission, Bishop Morrison, appointed him there “to serve as a deacon,” my doubts about his orders were overruled.

Stage two of the process was to get rid of me. From the “deacon’s” perspective, this was so that he could be in charge of my church while somehow preparing to become a priest. And from the bishop’s perspective, getting rid of me was a good way to save money (besides which, he had often made it known that he really wanted to close the church, and sell the property, usually a good way to depress and discourage me in the work I was doing). I answered Bishop Frederick Morrison’s call to move my family 2,500 miles, from Maryland to Arizona, so that his Mission could have a priest, giving up the job and ministry I had in order to do so. I performed my duties exactly as he directed, and according to my gifts, education and experience. I never heard any complaint from him, but only praise from him and all the other bishops of the Province of Christ the King. Nonetheless, on Monday in Easter week, while I was thoroughly exhausted from all the services of Holy Week, I received Bishop Morrison’s letter, dated on Good Friday, firing me and telling me that his Grace would be impossible to reach since he was taking a much needed post-Easter vacation. This was, of course, the most convenient time for him to give me the sack, since he could avoid talking to me. The immediate result of this unexpected letter was that my wife passed out and was hospitalized (Bp. Morrison was later informed about this, as soon as he returned from his restful vacation. He showed no concern at all, never calling or writing to ask how she was). There was no severance pay, none whatsoever, and it cost us $10,000.00 (not that we had such an amount. Without the help of my elderly parents we would have been stranded) simply to get back to Maryland in order to avoid being made homeless.

The Lord provided for our family, and we did get back to the Eastern Shore, and will finish our move into the Saint Andrew’s Rectory on July 2. But, as a pastor I feel like a man who has been forced to give his children over to a stranger. When I arrived in Arizona, this congregation knew almost nothing about the substance of their faith. My job, I was told, was to elevate the liturgy. First, however, I had to elevate the understanding, that is, to teach with patience. And, it was working, in fact working very well. But now, these dear people are in the hands of an Episcopalian, someone who may mean well, but who came full of the silliness, ignorance and presumption of that sect. That does not mean that he endorses the Episcopal Church’s immoral views on abortion or sexual license; but, it does mean that he needed time to learn from us and, at least, to be checked out by the Diocesan Standing Committee. He was, when last I spoke with him about it, unwilling to take a stand against women's "ordination."

On what basis, I must ask, has Bishop Frederick Morrison given a Mission church over to a deacon of the Episcopal Church after meeting him only one month before? How can churches of his diocese be treated to such reckless and irresponsible behavior? Aside from the question of orders, is it reasonable to give this kind of responsibility, the cure of souls, to a man who is virtually unknown? And, of course, on what basis are the orders of an heretical sect treated as if they are valid? Is the Apostolic Succession merely a relay race without the need for at least enough theology for the most minimal sacramental Intention? I have called on the bishops of the APCK to investigate these facts, and have Bp. Morrison face charges that could lead to possible deposition from the sacred ministry. But, I expect no action to be taken.

So now, does the APCK recognize as valid the orders of the Episcopal Church in its current condition? What does it take to notice that a sect is heretical?

The following statement was prepared by the Rt. Rev. Joel Marcus Johnson:

STATEMENT: The Reverend Robert Warren Hart, II, thanks you for your inquiry regarding his removal from the Mission Church of The Atonement, Anglican Province of Christ the King (APCK), Fountain Hills, Arizona, which he has served as Vicar since August, 2005. On Easter Monday, Fr. Hart received a letter dated April 6, Good Friday, 2007, from The Rt. Rev. Frederick G. Morrison, Ordinary of the APCK’s Diocese of the Southwestern States. Fr. Hart was informed of his immediate termination, without cause, and that he would be paid through Easter week. His keys were confiscated the next day by Mr. Daniel Robling, a deacon of The Episcopal Church (TEC), who was appointed in-charge of the mission by Bp. Morrison. As Bp. Morrison was on holiday during the Octave of Easter, he was unavailable for any clement discussion with Fr. Hart. Any subsequent corporal work of mercy was denied by Bp. Morrison in response to Fr. Hart’s plea for himself, Mrs. Hart and their family, in their hour of peril. During Fr. Hart’s twenty months of service at Church of The Atonement, he had received no complaints regarding his priestly work from either communicants or Bp. Morrison, and had received neither reprimands nor godly admonitions from the Bishop. For reasons unknown, Fr. Hart received no communications from Bp. Morrison for approximately three weeks prior to his termination, and none afterward. Citing scripture, Fr. Hart has declined to sue Bishop Morrison and the Diocese of the Southwestern States. Subsequently, Fr. Hart has returned to the Anglican Diocese of The Chesapeake, in which he has been canonically resident since his ordination to the priesthood in 1999 by The Rt. Rev. Joel Marcus Johnson, Bishop of The Chesapeake. Bishop Johnson has appointed Fr. Hart as Canon Theologian, with oversight for The Dahlgren Memorial Theological Library and its staff, and for the Home at Nazareth Institute and its seminarians. He will continue as a Contributing Editor of Touchstone Magazine, writing for other journals, and with a work in progress on the Jewish prophecy of the Christian Sacraments, aiming at publication in 2008. Wishing no spectacle to be made of his life and vocation, this is the only statement issued on Canon Hart’s behalf regarding this anguished incident. Canon Hart and his family now reside in the Rectory of St. Andrew Anglican Church, where he has rejoined the clergy staff. He may be reached at The St. Andrew Rectory, 215 Goldsborough Street, Easton, Maryland 21601.

What to expect

Do not expect me to write this way often. Normally, I write to edify and teach. But, too many issues are coming at us so fast that clarification is needed. Normally, I write as a pastor and teacher; but sometimes one must accept the role of a prophet, however relunctantly.

This weekend you can expect to see Bishop James Provence become the new Archbishop of the APCK. Bishop Provence is a very sound orthodox man whose grasp of theology is excellent, and with whom I have had only pleasant, and edifying, conversations. However, real leadership will continue to come from Archbishop Robert Sherwood Morse. I mean "leadership" in the sense that Ronald Reagan was a leader; that is, apart from official status or position, someone people follow. What I saw during a visit to Berkeley was that his real heart is in the personal witness he continued to give to students at the University campus there, never tiring from this task despite his advanced age (which may have slowed down his walk, but never his mind), and in St. Joseph of Arimathea Seminary. I could not help but feel both respect and affection for the man I saw.

Also, expect that Bishop Rocco Florenza and his whole diocese will be forced out of the APCK, despite that fact that his recent actions do not violate any portion of Canon Law.

Unfortunately, despite its orthodoxy and very high standard of education for clergy, the APCK has a track record of destroying some of its most faithful and effective clergy. We can only hope that the new archbishop will make it his task to find a way for this to end. Instead of Canon Law prevailing, and instead of true pastoral oversight from the bishops, the clergy have been kept in line with intimidation, watching examples made of men who fall into disfavor, not because of sin or heresy, but because of their public profile, or because of imagined threats that they pose to some unwritten rules to maintain the structure.

One example of the kind of behavior that must end is the case of Fr. Novak, a faithful priest who took his role as Ecumenical Officer too seriously. Because he was actually getting something accomplished, his income was taken away, and the Provincial Development Fund foreclosed on his Church (that is, the bishops as a group sold the church property after calling in their loan by majority vote). Fr. Novak is now selling vegetables for a living, and holding his congregation together as they enter a different jurisdiction. Another case is that of Fr. Samuel Edwards, highly respected (as he ought to be) everywhere by faithful Catholic Anglicans- that is, everywhere except among bishops of the Province of Christ the King. Over the years many others have simply been thrown to the wolves for no genuine reason, without regard for the needs of their families and without any process of Canon Law (the old dodge, not charging someone with anything, so that he cannot defend himself).

And, the Provincial Development Fund needs to become what it was truly meant to be: A method of building churches. Right now, it can be used either for that, or simply as a method of holding power over clergy and congregations not really different from the power held by bishops of the ECUSA in their dioceses, except that a church may eventually pay off its debts. These loans involve interest, despite an ancient Canon from the Council of Nicea (AD 325).

The APCK has always had a reputation for being aloof and tyrannical. Frankly, with all the good that one may find there, the challenge to the new archbishop will be to clean up this reputation, and call for the Council of bishops to abide by their own Canon Laws, and to learn to respect the priesthood as a thing higher than their own persons. Even if they have been elevated to the episcopate, the priesthood of Christ in His Church is still greater than any one of them. As long as the clergy are Canon Fodder, the old reputation will cling.

The ACC and "Donatism"

As an ecumenically motivated priest in the Anglican Catholic Church, there is much of what Fr Hart has expressed in his "Donatism and Old Beef" with which I am sympathetic, at least in terms of general principles. I am all for forgiveness and unity between all faithful Anglican Catholics. However, when it came to the specific attempts to apply these principles to Continuing Churches, it seemed the main example Fr Hart gave amounted to an implicit criticism of one Continuing jurisdiction, my own. Apart from the unlikelihood that such a focus will help reconciliation, there is a more important problem with the argument presented. Its fundamental premises actually work in almost the opposite direction if all the actual facts are taken into account.

Here is a summary of Fr Hart's points.

  1. Divisions after the Affirmation of St Louis partly occurred due to Donatist-like desires for an artificial "purity" leading to self-separation by some bishops with their dioceses.
  2. It is wrong to separate, to start or maintain such a schism except for heresy and unrepentant sin.
  3. Even if one church wrongs another, the latter should forgive and re-unite as long as they have common faith and practice.
  4. Therefore, since the events at Deerfield Beach related neither to heresy or (provable) sin, they should be overlooked in the interests of reconciliation.

It seems fairly clear that this is primarily aimed at the ACC, since we are the ones who do not recognise the Anglican Church in America (within the Traditional Anglican Communion) as a sister church, nor the TAC as a canonically legitimate jurisdiction, due to the former's roots in Deerfield Beach and the latter's responsibility for the same. The problems with the above argument are best taken point by point.

Re: 1. Ironically, the statement here applies to all bodies deriving from St Louis except one, the ACC! Remember, the original still-united body at the first synod at Dallas had already, despite much contention, renamed itself the ACC and accepted the Constitution which remains the Constitution of the ACC, before any of the original 4 bishops had left or gone their own way. Bishops Morse and Watterson later withdrew with their dioceses (before diocesan ratification of inclusion in the ACC, it is true) because, among other things, they saw the proposed Canons as insufficiently Catholic because they did not give enough power to bishops. This left bishops Mote and Doren and soon some other bishops still in the ACC. Later, Bp Doren left because he thought the ACC "too" Catholic, though the Church he formed no longer says this. None of these people were excommunicated by the ACC, they just left. (This is not to claim that there were not misunderstandings or faults on each side, or that the ACC and its canons were perfect. By no means. But it does at least mean that we did not expel fellow Anglican Catholics in the name of some unrealistic purity.) Later still, one of the primary accusations against the ACC when they would not unite with Clavier's ecclesial body, the AEC, was that we were insufficiently comprehensive. Now, since there has always been a range of liturgical "churchmanship" in the ACC, the comprehensiveness that we were accused of lacking could only be related to the Faith, which was supposed to show we were not truly Anglican. (This is despite the fact that comprehensiveness in this sense was never an official, committed teaching of the Anglican Church, and has since been disavowed by at least some TAC bishops.) As a result, a number of bishops and others in the ACC decided to leave it and form another Church, purportedly more Anglican -- the ACA. And this brings us to the next point.

Re: 2. In every case, people left the ACC because they though it was "not good enough", to quote Fr Hart, and never because they claimed it was heretical or provably guilty of officially countenanced sin. None of these bodies have ever claimed that since, either. So, if it is always wrong to separate for reasons other than institutional sin or heresy, then every separation from the ACC was arguably illegitimate. The irony deepens. On the other hand, regarding the actions of the ACC bishops who left to form the new jurisdiction, it must be observed that these men had sworn oaths of allegiance to the Constitutions and Canons and jurisdiction of the ACC, oaths from which they were never released. Those oaths are manifestly inconsistent with leaving that jurisdiction as they did. Does not the Bible teach that such solemn oaths must be kept unless doing so would be intrinsically sinful, which nobody ever claimed simply staying in the ACC was? Is not this sin "proved by scripture", as Fr Hart puts it? Additionally, surely the fact that the ACC believes any sacramental communion with heterodox mainstream Anglican Churches is objectively sinful as against the TAC's acceptance of Forward in Faith's contrary position constitutes one substantial doctrinal difference, one that must be resolved before communio in sacris can be attained?

Now, I would like to note before I go on that I don't necessarily think that the two reasons given by Fr Hart for justified separation are absolutely exhaustive. For example, behaviour by a Church that was seriously uncanonical or manifestly opposed to traditional orderly practice, even if it was not provably sinful or heretical from scripture, could perhaps justify at least a temporary break in communion. Too, Fr Hart's categories do not include the possibility that non-communion with a body that was formally orthodox and morally well-intentioned would be not only permissible but mandatory if the said body did not have valid Orders, for example.

Furthermore, it is possible that those who left the ACC sincerely believed they had reasons such as the above or of like seriousness to justify separation, so I am NOT arguing that they must have sinned ("actually" or "subjectively") in leaving us. Indeed, I do not believe it is as simple as that. For example, a former Ordinary of mine told me himself that he believed Abp Morse had some quite fair and reasonable past criticisms of us.

Re: 3. Again there is a great irony here. Despite the fact we do not feel the early defections of the APCK and UECNA were really necessary, overlooking this for the sake of charity and common faith is precisely what the ACC has been doing for years! We have been willing to acknowledge there were faults on our side and we have maintained intercommunion. Indeed, we have consistently made clear in public statements that the APCK is a sister church even when no explicit and public reciprocal statement has been forthcoming. Now, it is true we do not have the same approach to the TAC, but that is because of the honest belief they are not equivalent to the APCK and UECNA for reasons including but not limited to those given above. Nevertheless, even here, where the differences are greater and the hurt more intense, we have made a genuine attempt to resume theological dialogue at an official level. And, as noted on this blog before, we have never received a TAC response at the same level, despite repeated assurances this would happen. How can we unite on common faith and practice if our interlocutor isn't interested in discussing these?

Re: 4. Fr Hart's dismissal of the moral and doctrinal significance of Deerfield Beach is, to say the least, not the only plausible position. Many in the ACC, and not just bishops, see the events there as so disordered that sacramental integrity was broken and TAC Orders are doubtful. As regular readers know, while I see Deerfield Beach as more problematic than Fr Hart does, I strongly argue that the TAC has certainly valid orders. Nevertheless, my opinion has not by any means become universal, and those who oppose it do not do so due to being malicious or ill-informed. Since there is not yet consensual acceptance in the ACC of TAC Orders, we could not immediately restore full communion as a body without acting dishonestly or sacrilegiously.

In conclusion, I must ask how it is that we are accused of behaving like Donatists when the most important divisions in the Continuum have been started by people leaving us? How is it that our attempts to maintain and restore communion in the past are ignored in this context? Is it really the case that we are condemned as Donatists unless we simply declare full communion with a particular church, the TAC, and set aside questions or clarifications on important doctrinal and sacramental matters? Does forgiveness of the disorderly past necessarily entail acting so precipitously that we invite more of the same in the future? Should not genuine reconciliation be founded on preventing past wrongs recurring, through mutual commitments and trust engendered by dialogue? Is our attempt, so far unreciprocated, to have such dialogue to be counted as nothing? I ask these questions not in an accusatory tone, but in sadness. I greatly respect Fr Hart, and nothing I have said above should be taken as personal criticism of him. Indeed, the very fact that I hold him and his Church (the one we feel closest to our own in many ways) in such high regard is what makes this conversation particularly painful. I should also note that I, like Fr Hart, pray for an eventual reconciliation and organic union of all Anglican Catholics with each other and with the rest of the Catholic Church built on mutual respect, forgiveness and charity.

Ed, Matthew and Robert

At ease, gentlemen. I have returned.

The surgery went without a hitch, after I had to wait three hours to get a bed, and that in a private clinic!

I just returned home, and will spend a few days taking it easy. The post-op pain isn't as bad as I anticipated, but it is unpleasant standing up, walking and sitting down. Back to work on Tuesday.

Thank you for all your prayers.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I will be checking into hospital in a few hours for my hernia surgery and, God willing, will be home on Thursday for a few days of recuperation.

Your prayers would be appreciated.

If, perchance, I don't return, I bequeath this blog to my dear colleagues and friends, Ed, Matthew and Robert.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Donatism and Old Beef

Saint Athanasius: my choice for Patron Saint of the Continuing Church

In a recent comment a reader named John coined a phrase that I want, shamelessly, to steal: “Donatism and Old Beef.” It has a ring to it, like Arsenic and Old Lace; and, like the Brewster family of that play, in which insanity gallops, the CC has a few crazy aunts and brothers to hide in the attic as well as some bodies hidden in the basement.

By now it should be clear that the contributors to The Continuum respect the authority and sacramental gifts of the pioneer bishops who, like St. Athanasius of old, have chosen exile from the official Anglican Communion over heresy, and have refused to lay down their calling to ordain and consecrate men, and to establish churches that preach the true Gospel. It should be clear, as well, that we lament the divisions between true Anglicans whose causes of division have nothing to do with charges of unrepentant sin or heresy, which are the only two legitimate reasons for the kind of disunity we see.

"Donatism" refers to the error of those who were all too harsh, unwilling to welcome back into the fellowship of the Church those who had lapsed out of fear during the early centuries of persecution. They lost the necessary idea of forgiveness, and lost their compassion as well. “Old Beef” about, for example, certain consecrations at a place called “Deerfield Beach” somewhere, whether they were right or wrong, are no proper grounds for a new Donatism that keeps schism alive and well, as if it is a precious thing to be nurtured and protected for all coming generations.

Unless people are in a state of unrepentant sin, or heresy, rather than in a state merely of disagreement, it is time to put away Donatism and old beefs. Frankly, what I mentioned above (Deerfield Beach) is an example of nothing more than disagreement: It is wrong to demand that people repent of something they believe to have been right (unless it is proved by scripture, objectively, to violate a commandment- which is most certainly not the case). Unless the charge can be made of unrepentant sin or ongoing heresy, drop it.

From the very beginning of the CC movement the Continuing Anglicans were going their own way, each of the original bishops deciding that the others were not good enough, and would not build a pure and perfect sort of “Anglican” Church. Despite that failure, and despite the divisions into jurisdictions, and despite the many imitators who have taken advantage of religious liberty to create their own “provinces,” the CC movement has grown and flourished. In reply to the many who want to write our obituary, we are alive and constantly growing larger.

The reason is simple: the basic idea of maintaining orthodoxy as Anglicans is right and good, and a better alternative than staying loyal to Canterbury where ever that means being part of churches that teach and practice heresy (about which I quote the words of Saint Maximos the Confessor concerning the then heretic Patriarch of Constantinople: “We are not in communion”). And, for us it is a better alternative than swimming the Tiber, as if we could accept Vatican I or other Roman innovations. As the late Fr. Louis Tarsitano put it in an e-mail to me, “the only valid reason for being Anglican is rejection of innovation, whether it is Roman innovation or Protestant innovation.” It is also a better alternative than becoming Orthodox, and pretending that the latest version of ancient Christianity is perfect and pure, while rejecting basic Christian doctrines such as Atonement (which is absolutely necessary and in the Bible, like it or not) in order not to be “western”- even if being "un-western" amounts to a denial of genuine Orthodoxy itself.

Not for us all this. We are Anglicans by conviction, believing it to be the best way to be both Catholic and Evangelical without any double-mindedness. We see the truth and prophetic power of The Affirmation of St. Louis. There is no getting rid of us. What some of the older bishops need to understand is this: coming up behind them is a generation of future bishops who will not cherish and defend the old divisions. They will throw away old beefs, and choose forgiveness over Donatism. The little kingdoms of men will vanish away. We respect the sacramental power and the authority of their office; but as the CC moves into the future, the younger bishops will leave behind Donatism and Old Beef.

A blob of Tissue?

This is my grandson, due to be born some time in October. Funny, but that looks like a human head with facial features and everything. Hasn't this babe er-fetus- ever read any Supreme Court decisions? What gives him the right to look so, well, human? I think he should have more respect for the law of the land, and try to resemble a mere blob of tissue. Doesn't he care what NOW and Planned Parenthood think? How can he so utterly disregard their arguments without a care?

But, he is kind of cute.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Collect: Third Sunday after Trinity.

The Collect 1549:
Lorde, we beseche thee mercifully to heare us, and unto whom thou hast geuen an heartie desyre to pray; graunt that by thy mightie ayde we may be defended; through Jesus Christ our Lorde.

The Collect 1662:
O Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to hear us; and grant that we, to whom thou hast given an hearty desire to pray, may by thy mighty aid be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities, Through Jesus Christ our Lord.

This collect, from the Gregorian Sacramentary, was appointed for this day in the Sarum Missal, and translated from there by Cranmer. The translation was recast and improved for the BCP of 1662. The continental use embodied in the Missal of Trent knew this as the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost and appointed an entirely different collect.

The Twelve, observing their Master at prayer, were made acutely conscious of the poverty of their own prayer lives. They said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” We truly have neither the desire nor the ability to pray on our own, but become cold and formal, our words seeming to bounce from the ceiling, but He, at our request, stirs our hearts to reach toward Him, gives life to our prayers and deigns to answer. So we receive both protection and comfort in all times of need.

---------------------------------------ed pacht.

What would the Baptist say?

I was released from the hospital a few days ago, having been diagnosed with pneumonia. I did not preach a sermon this week, but have a thought about Saint John the Baptist anyway.
This man is the one whom God called "my messenger"- or "my angel", the meaning of the name Malachi, the prophet who spoke of him in these terms; Malachi foretold that Elijah would come to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers (and the word is "fathers" rather than the generic "parents" of the New Revised Standard Scam). This "angel," the one who came in the spirit and power of Elijah, none greater born of women according to our Lord, made a most remarkable statement. We all know the words from John 3:30: "He must increase, but I must decrease."
In a time when many people want to dodge the plain duty of obeying the words of scripture by asking the hypothetical "what would Jesus do?", in hopes of having no clear answer (at least nothing as clear as what is written), I ask "what would John say?"
Contrasted against clerics who teach that God calls no one anywhere to repent, as they build "affirming" churches, John says, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
Contrasted against teachers who promise universal salvation, John warns that "the axe is laid to the root of the tree."
Contrasted against leaders who build their own little kingdoms in open and unashamed disunity, calling for a following of their own, John tells his own disciples to follow the Lamb of God rather than himself.
Contrasted against the lure of human ego, he welcomes his own decrease, and has the humility to lay down and die a martyr's death, knowing that God will succeed when he steps aside.
It takes courage to listen to what John says. But, it is the only way to be prepared for the coming of the Lord.

Unity or Schism?

The following is from David Virtue:

The Bishop of the Eastern States of the Anglican Province of Christ the King, (APCK) the Rt. Rev. Rocco A. Florenza has written a letter to his clergy and people declaring that "a state of genuine unity and full communion" now exists with the Anglican Church in America (ACA).

Bishop Florenza's unilateral action has neither been approved nor disapproved by the other bishops of the APCK, a denomination which stands at a crossroads.

The timing of this announcement comes as Archbishop Robert Sherwood Morse has said he will step down as the head of the Continuing Church body.

The election of his successor is scheduled for the end of June.

The staunchly Anglo-Catholic APCK was formed in 1977 following the Affirmation of St. Louis because of fundamental changes by the Episcopal Church at the 1976 Episcopal Convention in Minneapolis, Minnesota to accommodate new beliefs and practices i.e. the ordination of women to the priesthood and the adoption of the revisionist 1979 Prayer Book.

The Right Rev. George Langberg is President of the ACA. This Continuing Church body is a constituent member of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) whose Archbishop is Australian-born John Hepworth.

In his letter, Florenza sharply criticized what he called "the brokenness of our witness for Christ as traditional Anglicans.

"Now, some thirty years after the Affirmation of St. Louis...the traditional Anglican expression in the U.S. has grown increasingly fragmented. At present between 20 and 40 groups calling themselves "Anglican" stand divided; and the few major groups whose roots are grounded in the Denver Consecrations, despite sharing communion and in some cases clergy, remain apart." Florenza said the divisions were "man-made."

"How is it possible to remain divided if we share the same apostolic origins, the same theology and the same Sacraments? Such divisions contradict the will of Christ [and] present a stumbling block to out work for Him in this world, and inflicts damage on our witness as traditional Anglican Christians."

Florenza then wrote, "It is in the interest of unity of the Body of Christ that the Diocese of Eastern States, Anglican Province of Christ the King, has renewed its commitment to ever-closer work with those who share the same origins, theology and sacraments."

Florenza then said as "your diocesan bishop I have pledged to increase our cooperation and fellowship with the Anglican Church in America (ACA), a respected body that has been in real and visible communion with this diocese and with the province. Therefore, I now declare openly a state of genuine unity and full communion with these our brothers and sisters who hold fast to the same eternal truths as do we."

A source told VOL. "Bishop Florenza is moving unilaterally toward unity with the ACA because he feels it is right and he has grown tired of the solitary status quo."

"If Florenza encounters opposition from his fellow APCK bishops to his agreement with the ACA, he has the option to move his entire diocese into the ACA," said the source. "Bishop Florenza's letter is a Godly challenge to the current direction of the APCK and is a much needed breath of fresh air and vitality."

I was tipped off to this development early last week, but chose to wait until it actually occurred. I wrote to Bishop Florenza, asking for confirmation and comment, but received no reply.

My source had the following to add: "There is no specific declaration of secession from the APCK, but the idea is that +Morse and the other bishops will take this much as a bull takes a matador's red cape, and go after +Fiorenza to depose him; and then the diocese and most of its clergy and parishes will decamp for the ACA."

We would welcome comment from those involved, particularly Bishop Florenza and Archbishop Morse.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Third Sunday after Trinity

I Pet. 5:5-11
Luke 15:1-10

To speak of God as suffering loss would be, in a literal sense, quite wrong inasmuch as God “hath need of nothing.” Yet, in the three parables from the fifteenth chapter of Luke, the climactic parable being the Prodigal Son (reserved for another Sunday), the Lord speaks of the loss that is suffered by charity. God, who hath need of nothing, so loved the world that He sought and found His lost creation through His Son. How can this be? Charity feels loss based on something other than need, because in the most correct theological understanding, everything we have and are in creation is by grace. Our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above His inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, are all by His grace, the love that gives and keeps giving. In no way whatsoever is the love of God selfish, as ours often is. He hath need of nothing, and yet He has stooped to save His lost creation.

This ought to have a powerful effect on us in two ways. First, by becoming saints through grace. As I have reminded you often, every Christian is called to sainthood, total sanctification, holiness of life. This is impossible for everyone of us without the grace of God, and yet it is the vocation of everyone of us. It is your vocation. Whether or not you are called into ordained ministry, or whether or not you have at this point any sense of the specific gifts and calling God has placed within you, you can be sure of this vocation and calling, and of every gift required to help you along: you are called to be holy as the Lord your God is holy. Among the gifts provided are the Word of God, the Sacraments that come through the Church, and, as Saint Paul wrote, “good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10) And, what we should all bear in mind is the warning contained, if not hidden, in all of the beauty of the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians, that without charity all our works are, as the Collect for Quniquagesima puts it, “nothing worth.”

We ought to pause and reflect on that chapter just a bit longer. What Saint Paul described is a verbal icon of our Lord Jesus, “who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38),” to quote saint Peter. Here we see what I have said about the unselfish nature of charity. The Lord Jesus was rewarded for His good works by unjust condemnation and crucifixion, proving that we cannot measure our love by its reception; this love, charity, is the love of God that accepts the rejection and hatred that may be its only reward in a fallen and sinful world, as it was for Christ. With its affection set on things above, not on things of this earth, charity endures all things, hopes all things and believes all things. For you to begin the process of growing in this virtue of charity by grace, you must come to the foot of the cross, look up on the bleeding sacrifice of the Son of Man in all His agonies, and take it personally. You must see Him there for you; and so the love of God begins to grow in your own heart by the Holy Ghost.

“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” as Saint Paul says. He added those words, “of whom I am chief.” This one time self-righteous Pharisee became aware of his true need at the same moment in which he became aware of his salvation and his calling. Therefore, he spoke of ‘the Son of God who loved me, and gave Himself for me (Gal. 2:20).” Like Saint Paul, you must learn to take it personally, very personally. The Son of God loved you, and gave Himself for you. Look up at His suffering, behold His scars, see the stripes of your healing, behold the nails through the wrists and feet, the crown of thorns, the offering up of His life, the pouring out of his soul unto death, and take it personally. The Son of God loved you, and gave Himself for you.

And, now the virtue of charity begins to grown in you.

This is what it means that He sought after that which was lost, leaving the ninety and nine to search for you and find you and bring you home. And, this leads us to the second point.

We must see today’s Gospel in terms of our mission in the world. One other calling and vocation of which each one of us can be sure is that we are to do the work of an evangelist. This does not mean that you all are called to preach like Billy Graham or Bishop Sheen; but it does mean that you are called to be a witness that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and that God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son. The result of charity taking root and growing within you is that you begin to see the people around you in terms of their need, their greatest need being to know Jesus Christ. If we are Catholic people, then we know that as the Body of Christ in this world, and as members with specific gifts- even with gifts often unknown to those who have them- it is through us that the Son of Man continues to seek and to save that which was lost. His Incarnation is extended through His Church, and I do mean you.

When we become workers together with God, as Saint Paul put it, we can trust the Holy Spirit to make up for all that we lack. When you were confirmed it was not a rite of passage, or simply a ticket to Holy Communion. The gifts of the Holy Spirit were placed within you. When charity makes you aware of the needs of those around you, do not be surprised when you sense that you must do a particular thing, or say specific words to a specific person. Learn to know the presence and leading of the Holy Spirit until it becomes quite a normal part of your life.

Divine love, charity, moved the Lord to speak of God, “who hath need of nothing” as if he suffered loss. The message to day is simple: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Pause for Thought

Judas was in the company of Christ's disciples, and the thief was in the company of murders. Yet it is a wondrous thing, how in a single instant, they exchanged places."

St. John of the Ladder

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Collect: Trinity II

The Collect 1549:
Lord, make us to haue a perpetuall feare and loue of thy holy name: for thou neuer faillest to helpe and gouerne them whom thou doest bryng up in thy steadfast loue. Graunt this, &c.

The Collect 1662:
O Lord, who never failest to help and govern them whom thou dost bring up in thy stedfast fear and love: Keep us, we beseech thee, under the protection of thy good providence, and make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The original Latin collect (whose text I do not have) came from the Gelasian Sacramentary and was prescribed for Trinity 2 in the Sarum Missal. It is not the same collect prescribed for this Sunday (known as Pentecost 3) in the Tridentine Missal. Archbishop Cranmer made a very literal translation of the Sarum Collect for the first BCP of 1549, which was used until 1662, when it was reworked extensively by Bishop Cosin for the new Prayer Book. Cosin managed to improve the form of the prayer greatly without disturbing its content.

“… he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: …” (Ephesians 1:4)
It is God who has chosen us and brought us along to the place where we stand. Today’s Epistle and Gospel both speak of His choosing, of His invitation. Therefore, knowing already his intent toward us, and having already tasted His grace and His mercy, we can come to Him with boldness and confidence to ask that he keep us in His hand and His protection, and thus stir up in us the awe and the love that are due Him. And thus it is that we “… know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8.28)

----------------------------------------ed pacht


Apologies for my silence of the past few weeks.

I have been preoccupied by the chaotic events in the Middle East, wrestling with my vocation and just learned that I have to have minor surgery.

Do bear with me, and keep me in your prayers.


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ockham’s Razor and the Cosmological Argument

It may surprise many people to know that there is a key proposition about reality on which theists and materialist atheists effectively agree. And that is that there exists "something" which "just is" and requires no explanation of its existence or underlying cause, and indeed which cannot have a cause.

Where they disagree is the identity of this uncaused existent. Atheists point to the Universe or Cosmos, that is the whole of material reality (whether consisting of just our observable universe and that in space-time continuity with it or consisting of all universes produced by a higher dimensional "meta-verse" and the metaverse itself, if such exists). Theists point to God, a Being entirely unlike any other being, including the Universe and all its components, in that it is ipsum esse, Existence Itself, not just another type of possible "thing" which happens to exist.

It would be well to consider first why theists identify the "just is" entity with a divine being and not the Universe. Then we will consider the major atheist objections to this reasoning.
  1. Beings that actually exist must either do so contingently or necessarily, that is, they must either rely on something else to cause them to exist or be self-existent and uncaused.
  2. Any real being that can begin or cease to exist, might not have come to be, or has existence as a matter of fact but not due to its intrinsic essence (so what it is is entirely separate from the fact that it is) must be caused and contingent. We can say this because each of these properties means that the being in question can not exist due to itself or absolutely regardless of conditions, so must have relied on something else, on already existing conditions/beings.
  3. If there was no example of a necessary, uncaused being, there could be no contingent, caused beings. We can say this because the only way contingent beings alone could cause each other (without there being at least one uncaused contingent being in the series, which would be a contradiction) is by either an infinite cause-effect chain or by a finite, closed and cyclic network of cause and effect. But both these options can be taken as a composite being and the question can then be asked, "why does this exist at all?" Since the composite being still possesses at least the third characteristic in 2, it is contingent as a whole and thus still requires a cause outside itself.
  4. There are contingent beings as described in 2. The material universe is full of them.
  5. Therefore, there must be at least one necessary being (3 + 4).
  6. In the same way that any being that is temporally finite, merely possible or has its existence distinct from its essence must be contingent (cf. 2), a self-existent, uncaused being cannot have these characteristics, that is, it must be eternal, necessary being and its essence is to exist. (cf. 1)
  7. Only one such being is required to give existence to or cause all other contingent beings, so by Ockham's Razor, there is no need to posit more than one.
  8. Therefore, one eternal necessary being whose essence is to exist, "Existence Itself", does in fact exist (5 + 6 + 7).
  9. A being whose very essence is to exist eternally corresponds to the normal philosophical description of God, Absolute Being, and to the Name of God in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, "I AM" or "He Who Is" (Yahweh).
  10. Therefore, God exists (8 + 9).

Objection One: What makes the Universe contingent but not God? Just your definitions? If contingency is implied by having a beginning or ending in time, then while it applies to everything in the Universe, it may not apply to the Universe as a whole, as some plausible theories posit an eternal metaverse. You may have committed a fallacy of composition. If, on the other hand, you imply it is obvious the Universe is contingent because it "does not contain its own reason for being" and can thus be easily conceived as non-existing you erroneously appeal to the falsified Principle of Sufficient Reason and confuse imagination with reality. You are also ignoring the fact that God can be conceived as non-existent too, showing your conclusion (God is Necessary Being) is inconsistent with your premises regarding the Universe (If it "could have not existed", it is contingent). Your inconsistency can then only be saved by special pleading.

Response One: The argument does not depend on the Universe as a whole being temporally finite, as seen by a careful reading of 2 to 4, where temporal finitude is presented as sufficient but not necessary to characterise something as contingent. Nevertheless, the evidence of the Second Law of Thermodynamics strongly suggests the Universe (or even metaverse) had a beginning. Also, the fact that every "thing" in the Universe is temporally finite or subject to change is sufficient to rule out a non-contingent composite, as shown in 3. As for the rest of the objection, it rests upon a confusion between the Thomist/Classical and Leibniz's Rationalist approaches to the Cosmological Argument. Briefly, the former appeals to a principle of "necessary cause", that something cannot come from nothing and that all finite, particular and contingent entities require causation. The latter claims, in the Principle of Sufficient Reason, that everything that happens or comes to be must have a sufficient reason to do so either within itself or from another. Unfortunately, this principle involves a reductio ad absurdum, in that it leads to positing a self-caused rather than uncaused being and implies that everything that has ever happened had to happen by necessity as nothing can happen unless the "reasons" for it are "sufficient", that is, must lead inescapably to that result. Self-causation is incoherent and such determinism would even take away God's Free Will. The point for us is that it concentrates on "reasons why things are this rather than that" instead of the causal explanation of why contingent things exist at all. So, it is not the question of which beings can be conceived as existent or non-existent, as one can conceive anything one likes, whether God not existing or the Universe being self-existent. It is a question of what things really are. God is not said in our argument to be "logically necessary", in the sense that he must exist as the result of his definition (tautologically), since the inference of an Uncaused Cause as Existence Itself was the conclusion (not the premise) of an argument from observable facts. God is "ontologically necessary", His necessity is at the level of being not of propositional logic or a priori definition. On the other hand, contingent entities are not so simply because we can conceive them as not existing but because their nature is not identical with their existence, instead being a collection of particular (i.e., limited to this or that) properties, properties that often change or are destroyed. Of course, this has an element of intuition to it. Can we prove the Universe is not a "brute fact" that happens to have existence as an essential, irrefragible part of its nature? That it "just is"? No. But is this assumption coherent in the same way the theistic one is? That is, does a self-existent but arbitrary set of multiple beings make as much sense as one Being who is Existence Itself? Think about it. If materialist atheism is true, then science’s search for cause and effect has complete free rein and the expectation of complete success until it gets to a question it can’t answer, and then cause and effect should be assumed to be irrelevant and unnecessary. I see an inexplicable double-standard here.

Objection Two: You claim to use Ockham's Razor, but in fact you multiply entities unnecessarily, in opposition to Ockham's Razor. If the Universe has aseity instead of God, this would decrease the complexity of overall reality, as the extra being is not needed. We still start with a “just is” entity, but now have one fewer link in the cause-effect chain. And, indeed, the complicated idea or conception of the universe (or all possible universes!) that would have to pre-exist in the mind of God is also avoided, emphasising the lower complexity of the Universe-just-is model.

Response Two: Simplicity according to Ockham's Razor is not just about the number of links in the causal chain but explaining the most with least number of assumptions. That is we are not so much concerned with reducing the number of terms in a sequence like A --> B --> C etc. but in one such as this A+B+C+D+… --> Z. The Universe is very much a composition and has very particular characteristics. Whereas God has no parts at all, even in His “Mind”. He knows all possible beings as Absolute Being, so he does not need multiple thoughts as we do. Hence he is a single origin without a particularity that needs to be explained as "this or that for such and such a reason". The Razor thus also relates to Simplicity of Coherency and avoiding ad hoc conditions not necessitated by each other, instead favouring fundamental causes that make sense as a whole. Again, God wins hands down here. His aseity relates to him being Existence Itself, and containing in some sense all perfection, and not being this thing or that thing, unlike the Universe.

Objection Three: Your definition of God is meaningless as "existence" cannot be "itself", it is just a fancy way of saying N(x) >= 1. It is a convenient abstraction based on the verb "exists", it is not a noun that stands for a real thing. You also hide this fact by using the word "existence" in two different senses in the Cosmological Argument, one connoting the obvious fact that lots of things exist, the other to connote a separate being which "must" exist. In other words your argument suffers from an error of equivocation AND a category error, that is, mistaking an abstract noun for something real.

Response Three: We are not using equivocal definitions of existence, but analogical and overlapping ones. Existence in God includes but transcends the other meaning of "existence". Both mean that the thing being discussed IS! More is meant by the word when it is applied to God, but this is not opposed to the general usage, it just takes on greater meaning quite naturally in the course of the argument because we find that God must exist in a different mode, that is, necessarily and absolutely. Can anyone prove the definitions Necessary Being and Existence Itself are incoherent or self-contradictory? No. Indeed, if one was to say that necessity is a solely logical and conditional concept of the "If A, then B necessarily"-type, and that it can not apply ontologically and unconditionally to existent entities, one would have made a purportedly absolutely necessary statement about existent entities! This seems hardly consistent. Finally, existence is more than a counter, which really is just a mathematical concept. It refers to the "realness" of reality, the mystery we are trying to solve here. Assuming there is no mystery or nothing to explain to begin with is begging the question.

Big Bangs and the Cosmological Argument

Recently I read an article, “Why Atheism Fails: The Four Big Bangs”, defending theism and arguing against popular atheist (and anti-theist) books now on the market from authors such as Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. The Four Big Bangs of which the article's author, Frank Pastore, wrote are the Origins of the Universe, Life, Minds and Morality. I would like to make some comments on the first, second and fourth here, and leave the third till later.

The problem with such arguments as I found in the article is that they are easily interpreted as relying on a God-of-the-gaps. This then focuses attention on the details of science and what it has not yet solved. But, respond many, it may solve them in the future. The comments that were elicited show this fruitless kind of discussion. While the article itself is reasonable, a couple of its sentences aided the misunderstanding. E.g., “How do you get matter and energy from nothingness? … How do you go from a tree, to an animal, to a human?”

One commenter, for example, claimed God’s existence is required to explain the “creation” of matter and energy at the Big Bang, in contradiction to the Law of Conservation of Energy. The answer from another commenter was that there is a theory which solves this by saying total sum of energy is zero even now. Yes, by defining gravitational potential energy as negative for example, one can do this. Similarly, there are Quantum Physics explanations which get around this energy conservation paradox using Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, as I understand it. But the fundamental mystery is NOT why there is non-zero mass-energy in the Universe (which there may or may not be), but why there is anything in the universe or any universe at all! Too many apologists for both sides treat mass-energy as if it was something like Aristotle’s “Prime Matter”, the featureless “stuff” out of which everything else is made, so its conservation or amount have some great metaphysical significance. This is nonsense. Indeed, mass is not matter, but one property of it. Everything is NOT reducible to mass-energy. For example, charge is an independent property of matter and is apparently even more strictly conserved. More importantly, whether or not scientists can come up with a theory that explains the Big Bang, its production of energy and matter, and the whole material Cosmos with no “loose ends” (that is, mathematically self-contained and requiring no supernatural additions outside the operation of those mathematical laws) makes no difference! For, in the end, they will still not have explained why the universe is orderly at all, why those particular laws obtain, and why they describe something real, something existent. This is where the Cosmological Argument comes in. See here.

The irony of classical (atheistic) scientific reductionism is that it arbitrarily cuts off the search for cause-effect relationships by saying something like the following: “Everything in the universe can be explained rationally based on cause and effect, following the Laws of Nature. We should continue to search for these explanations. It is illegitimate to expect a cause for the whole universe from outside of itself.” Why? Why should cause and effect and rational order be so universal and apply to everything in the universe but not the universe itself, as a whole?

One answer is to say that if we do not stop here and accept the universe as something that “just is”, we are forced either into infinite causal regress or we must posit another being (i.e., a Creator) who provides the starting point but “just is” anyway. That is, we seem no better off than when we stopped with the universe, which at least we can directly observe. I will deal with this in a later post on Ockham’s Razor and the Cosmological Argument. Suffice it to say for now that “just is”-ness (called aseity in metaphysics) makes more sense for a being which is defined as “Existence Itself” and “Simple” (without composition) than for a complicated, very particular thing like the universe!

Another response, but a sillier one, is to point to the indeterministic nature of Quantum Mechanics (QM) and its spontaneous creation and annihilation of particles in a “vacuum” to show that some of nature does not follow cause and effect and that the principle ex nihilo, nihil fit (“out of nothing, nothing comes”) is false. This might even lead to an interlocutor pointing out that some cosmological theories explain the Big Bang as a similar case of random, uncaused quantum flux. But this is both missing the point and making a false assumption. Events in QM are not uncaused, as each later state is derived from an earlier state in accordance with mathematically regular laws. It’s just that the precise nature of the later state is not uniquely determined by the earlier one, other outcomes having been possible. Also, a vacuum in the space-time continuum is not “nothing”, even ignoring quantum physics. It has measurable volume, for a start. It just contains no net mass or energy, which, as I noted above, are not “prime matter”. Fundamentally, however clever QM theories become, they will always just have to assume the laws are there to begin with and that they describe reality. And so again we get back to the main point: science can only ever tell us how the universe changes and why, it cannot explain why the universe or its laws exist in the first place.

Similarly, the mystery with life is not necessarily that science can not yet satisfactorily explain how the first life developed naturally, but that life is possible. The fact that life actually exists now means that it potentially existed in the universe from the beginning. Most universes somewhat similar to ours could not support life, which requires very specific conditions to enable information-rich and complex but integrated structures to develop. So, whether the first life was miraculously created or naturally emerged is irrelevant to the key facts that the Laws of the Universe are biocompatible, and that such biocompatibility is by no means to be automatically expected from just any set of laws.

As for morality, the mystery here is not the epistemological question of how humans came to perceive what is right or wrong. After all, biologists have come up with scenarios that could explain why social evolution or natural selection could select concepts and behaviours to be passed on (“memes”) that encouraged what is considered morally good behaviour and discouraged what is considered morally bad. These explanations often have limited plausibility or too much arbitrary assumption, it is true, but they are not impossible or necessarily inconsistent with Theism. For theists call objective morality the Natural Law precisely because it does have as its goal happy, healthy and fulfilled (i.e., naturally “complete”) humanity. And this would normally lead to characteristics fostering survival of the human species, obviously. (On the other hand, not all aspects of morality can be explained in terms of the reproductive or survival maximisation of one’s own group. Certain forms of universally recognised goodness, such as standing up for the rights of a race oppressed by one’s own ethnic group to its advantage, provide counter-examples. Wilberforce’s crusade against slavery being a case in point.)

Yet, while evolution might provide a partial explanation for how human motivations for goodness were fostered, it cannot explain why these preferences are not merely experienced as instincts or amoral desires, but as conscience. Or why bad behaviour is seen precisely as bad rather than just inconvenient or undesirable. These are completely different categories, and only the non-moral ones are really necessary to achieve evolutionary success. If all of morality is simply enlightened but disguised self-interest or group-interest or species-interest, why is it disguised rather than raw? To say that the illusion of altruism or objective morality makes us feel more noble and so serves as wish-fulfillment begs the question, since such feelings of nobility only make sense once a moral sense for self-evaluation is already present. In the end, if objective morality exists, however humans came to understand it is secondary to the fact that it is not a material entity and thus can have no material cause. Indeed, the fact that other conceivable physical universes with sentient and rational life would still have the same basic morality (e.g., “do not cause unnecessary suffering to another sentient being”) underlines the latter’s independence and transcendence. Therefore, we are not dealing with something created in the same sense as other things we have been considering. The existence of morality tells us more about God even than does the existence of the Cosmos or biological life. For, in some sense, the former exists in Him and not just by Him.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Collect - Trinity I

The Collect

GOD, the strength of all theym that trust in thee, mercifully accept our prayers; and because the weakenes of oure mortall nature can do no good thyng without thee, graunt us the helpe of thy grace, that in kepyng of thy commaundementes we may please thee, both in will and dede; through Jesus Christ our lorde.

The Commentary

The First Sunday after Trinity is the Sunday in the Octave of Corpus Christi. Modern revisions in the year made by the Holy See have now transferred the feast of Corpus Christi to the Sunday. Cranmer here translated the collect from Sunday in the Gelasian Sacramentary as prescribed in the Sarum Missal.

The Reflection

In his story The Great Divorce, C.S.Lewis has a vision of inhabitants of Hell on a daytrip to Heaven. These folk find themselves to be utterly insubstantial in the blessed realm. Although we are not in Hell, we are perhaps at our most insubstantial now - imperfect, incomplete, merely shades of what God created us to be, and it is now that we have the opportunity to rectify this. At the moment, we try to please God, but, through the flimsiness of our being, the works of goodness slip through the vapour that constitutes our fingers. We need substance in order to serve God.

It is therefore a great comfort to us that God offers us that substance in the Eucharist. As we consume the Body of Christ, we are provided with the substance of God which fleshes out our being with His flesh. It is only through His presence completing us that we can grasp hold of the goodness and love that need to be spread abroad into the world.

It doesn't matter which way we view this Sunday, because in some sense we are praying for the same thing - to become more like God in Christ. But if we examine our lives honestly, just how far have we got in this endeavour?

Jonathan Munn

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Trouble at the AIC


Earlier this week I posted an item on the blog from Bishop Barry Peachey announcing that he had been elected as the new metropolitan archbishop of the Anglican Independent Communion Worldwide.

I have since received communications claiming that this is not true, and that Bishop Peachey has not only been removed as metropolitan chancellor, but also excommunicated.

I wrote to Archbishop Norman Dutton, under whose authority the official notice of deposition and excommunication was purportedly issued, and asked him to confirm those claims and to comment.

He has responded, saying "Peachey is no longer a member of our Communion and I have today received confirmation that he has lost his power base in Latin America. All the churches there have now pledged their support to me."

I also wrote to Bishop Peachey, who replied that the allegations are "wholly false and malicious."

For me, the two responses speak for themselves. There is clearly a power struggle underway here.

In my original post, I did not include the following remarks from the statement sent to me by Bishop Peachey, as I didn't consider it particularly significant. Now, I do. Here it is:

"The Metropolitan Archbishop is pleased to announce that the matter of his successor has now been agreed. He will retire on 30th June 2007, and he will be replaced by the Rt Revd Prof Barry Peachey."

It would seem that the Metropolitan Archbishop is neither pleased, nor has he announced any such thing.

In the end, I do not think it appropriate to proceed further with this. It is not the intention of The Continuum to engage in a blow-by-blow exposition of the problems at the AIC, an entity that by the terms of its own self-definition we do not recognise as being a constituent part of the continuing Anglican movement.

My view, as also expressed by one of my co-hosts, Ed Pacht, is that this story is indicative of the danger of becoming involved with entities that claim to be continuing churches.

By the most generous of definitions, there are only five entities that can by any stretch of the imagination be considered as continuing churches -- and they are all listed in the sidebar on the right. It would behoove anyone who genuinely considers himself to be a Catholic in the Anglican tradition to seek affiliation with one of them.

Again, however, I am indirectly called to task by Ed. I have received communications from people within the AIC which would seem to suggest rather strongly that there are people among them with a genuine commitment to the Gospel, and it would be remiss of me, of us, to treat them with anything less than respect.

I wish them well, and Godspeed.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Personal Prelature?

Okay, let's see if we can "out Virtue" David Virtue.

A hitherto unknown reader of The Continuum who goes by the intriguing nickname of Invicta Veritas, posted this as a comment on the piece about Archbishop Morse. I thought it might be fun to highlight, though I'd be ready to bet a goodly sum that it's just wishful thinking on someone's part:

"Oh, and you might also spare a glance for Rome as well -- if that is true which I heard the other day, that at a meeting of the SSC clergy of the Fort Worth ECUSA diocese (together with Bishop Iker) with the RC Bishop of Fort Worth, Bp. Vann, the latter announced that Rome will soon be transforming the "Pastoral Provision" for "Anglican Use Roman Catholics" by erecting a world-wide "Personal Prelature" for Anglicans wishing to enter into communion with Rome."

I did a quick Google of Iker, Vann and Rome, and came up with the following tidbit from Chris Johnson at the Midwest Conservative Journal, posted in April:

"There's some interesting speculation in the Anglican world these days:

"Over the past week or so there’s been a spike in 'intelligence chatter' in the Anglican-Episcopal universe. From the sources I have been able to tap, along with those that have just fallen in my lap, I am reasonably well assured that a sub-group of some five dioceses within the Anglican Communion Network have cooked up a plan to hold hands and jump off the slowly-sinking ship that is the Episcopal Church and swim to . . . well, here’s where the intelligence gets sketchy--OK, non-existent.

"I don’t expect I’ll cause any tsunamis by predicting that I’m probably not going to like the details when I hear them. In the most charitable construction, a move of this sort represents a ’Plan B’ in response to last month’s resounding rejection of the Primates’ Pastoral Council/Primatial Vicar plan by the House of Bishops. A more jaded exegesis sees it as the most radical fringe of the Network exploiting the HOB’s ill-advised actions by making a run for something more like they would have wanted in the first place anyway.

"A commenter has heard things too. He suggests a possible destination for at least three of the five.

"But where to go? There was that curious meeting last September 6th in Newark, NJ, between the RC Archbishop of Newark, John Myers, who is the 'Ecclesiastical Delegate' for the Anglican Use Roman Catholics, on the one hand, and +Ackerman, +Iker, +Schofield and +Herzog. Well, we know now why Herzog was there, but what about the others? It would appear that +Clarence Pope kept a safe-full of documents relating to those conversations of ca. 1976-1980 with Rome that eventuated in the promulgation of the Pastoral Provision, but which were much more ambitious than that in their scope; and that among these documents were some interesting, detailed and favorable comments by one Joseph, Cardinal Ratzinger -- and that these documents, or copies of them, were literally 'on the table' at that meeting. There is some well-founded thought that a document has been on the pope’s desk for some months, awaiting resolution, that would transform, or at least greatly widen the scope of, the 'Pastoral Provision' if it ever sees the light of day (but cf. the fabled Motu Proprio that is supposed to 'liberate' the old Tridentine Mass: it has been on the pope’s desk for well over a year without a final resolution, but now we are told to watch May 6th). So will it be, for the Forward-in-Faith bishops, a case of 'heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to Rome we go, with a steady gait and a cheerful noise, heigh-ho, heigh-ho?' Such a denouement would make some hearts glad, but others sad; and as 'anam cara' has said, there is also the Orthodox option.

"Is there anything to these rumors? It's hard to say. But this idea is not a new one. In 2003, Seattle Archbishop Alex Brunett reported that an Episcopal diocese approached Catholic officials with just such a proposal.

"Just back from meetings in Rome, Archbishop Brunett revealed in an interview that Catholic officials have received a startling overture from Episcopalians who refuse to recognize Robinson.

"We were approached by a whole Episcopal diocese about coming into the Roman Catholic church, as perhaps Anglican Rite Catholics," Brunett said. He declined to identify the diocese."

"Stay tuned," said Chris.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Just When You Thought it Couldn't Get Any Worse

Assuming that the following article presents a fair assessment of this woman's beliefs, she is a heretic, an Arian at the very least. What, I wonder, are the chances that she will be brought up on presentment. Nil, probably.

A little more than a year ago, the Rev. Dr. Ann Holmes Redding found herself at the doorway of a new world, Islam, and wasn’t quite sure how she got there. As she reflected on her journey, she realized Jesus was her guide. Now both a practicing Muslim and an Episcopal priest, Redding shares her thoughts on how the two faiths inform each other.

"The way I understand Jesus is compatible with Islam,” Redding explains, "and although there are Christians and Muslims who think I must convert from one to the other, the more I go down this path the more excited I am about both Christianity And Islam."

Redding credits her upbringing for early exposure to interfaith relationships. She was baptized by an African Methodist Episcopal minister but the only Sunday school she attended was Episcopal. She attended a Unitarian youth group in high school when the Episcopal group disbanded. She was influenced by a cooperative community near where she grew up that was comprised of mostly Quakers, Unitarians and Jews. Her father was a prominent civil rights lawyer whose work brought him and the family into contact with people of many faith backgrounds.

After an introduction to a Muslim prayer practice in early 2006, Redding knew she had been wrestling with a call to Islam. She approached a Muslim woman and told her so, and the woman replied, "Christianity has been good to you and you to it, and you don’t have to choose." That made all the difference in Redding’s choice to practice Islam.

"What Islam has done for me is shed this light on Christianity and shown for me anew what a glorious way Christianity is," she explains.

"We Christians, in struggling to express the beauty and dignity of Jesus and the pattern of life he offers, describe him as the ‘only begotten son of God.’ That’s how wonderful he is to us. But that is not literal," she continues. "When we say Jesus is the only begotten one, we are saying he’s unique in some way. Islam says the same thing. He’s the only human aside from Adam who is directly created by God, and he’s different from Adam because he has a human mother. So there’s agreement -- this Person is unique in his relationship to God."

If you have the stomach to read on, you can find it all on Page 9 here.