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.


Anonymous said...

What does this incident, if true, say about this bishop's pastoral sensibility, Christianity, or even common humanity and decency? Or that of the organization to which he belongs? Even TEC would have done better than this. Fr. Hart is not the first priest to have been treated in this way by this organization. As Lord Acton said, power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. May the Lord bless and keep you and your family, Fr. Hart. I am so sorry this happened to you.

Ken said...

Certainly a sad state of affairs. Or should I say outrageous.

Anonymous said...

If this account is factual and I harbor no reservations that it is; then presuming that the APCK takes no action to depose the bishop involved; the APCK claim to be an original and faithful member of the Continuum will become null and void!
(sorry about the run on sentence)
I will see to it that our (ACC) college of bishops and chancellors are informed as this event could easily become a Communion breaker.
Fr. DeHart, ACC

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

I am genuinely astonished by most of this. I am truly sorry for the disgraceful way you have been treated, Fr Hart. I am truly amazed that this and the previous post are the first we have heard of the circumstances surrounding your move. Your self-control when in the agonising midst of this vile treatment was entirely admirable. Your decision now to let us know what has happened is also right and proper. Christians are meant to be meek, but not doormats who will allow themselves and others to be abused by "brethren" without bringing such sin to the attention of the Church, which action Jesus in fact commended (Mt. 18.15ff). Otherwise we allow destructive behaviour to continue.

The one thing that is not news to me is that the APCK has sometimes accepted clergy who obtained their orders from the post-1977 ECUSA. The discovery of this, last year I think, by the ACC when approached by ex-APCK clergy for admission caused some general surprise and disappointment. The ACC conditionally re-ordains all ECUSA clergy priested after that church's lapse into heresy, and I think most of us in the ACC had just assumed until recently the APCK did the same.

Heresy itself does not automatically invalidate orders. From an Augustinian perspective, ECUSA orders (of males) are arguably valid, since the only necessary sacramental condition affected here is intention, and the false belief that females are capable of receiving Catholic orders does not seem to cancel out the specific intention to pass on those Catholic Orders, as long as the subject actually is capable of receiving them. One could argue that form is affected as well, due to the insertion of unisex references, but, again, the essential parts of the form may well sufficiently express the general intention to "do what the Church does" and contain enough of the traditional substance.

HOWEVER, the purely Augustinian approach is not universal even in the West, and even in it doubts must be resolved by conditional repetition of necessary sacraments. The EOC says that a serious enough break from Apostolic belief and practice can undermine Apostolic Succession in itself. And it implied this was probably the case with women's ordination and Anglican Orders in the 1970s.

Since there is a plausible argument (from both perspectives) that ECUSA and most other parts of the Anglican Communion has done this, no such ordinations can be treated as of certain validity and must always be repeated sub conditione. At least, that is the view of the ACC.

Anonymous said...

As a Deacon in the REC, are my orders valid?


Anonymous said...

Bishops Behaving Badly is not, sadly, a purely liberal phenomenon. That saddens me greatly.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Dear REC Deacon,

We have discussed this issue at this blog before and you can use the search engine to find those discussions.

Summary: The ACC does not recognise the certain validity of REC oreders. Many would say they are certainly invalid.

I would not go that far, but there is a plausible argument that explicit public statements at the first REC consecration denying the doctrine of Apostolic Succession effectively canceled out the intention otherwise expressed by the rite that was used then, which was to continue historic orders.

However, it could be argued that detailed analysis of the said denial would find that what was rejected was a caricature or overly-dogmatic version of the true Apostolic Succession doctrine. For example, it was common at that time for Anglo-Catholics and other Catholics to say that the absolute necessity of episcopal, tactile succession for valid orders was Catholic dogma. But a very plausible argument could be made both then and now that this is not strictly true, as both early and later church history contain exceptions to the rule, which were not denounced by the Church. Indeed, the Western theological opinion that presbyters had a power to ordain that was bound by ecclesiastical law and custom, while less and less popular, has never been explicitly condemned.

So, short version: if you were to join the ACC, at least conditional ordination would be necessary for you to function as a deacon. More importantly, and putting all theological to-ing and fro-ing aside, if you are concerned, pray about it, asking God for wisdom and guidance. May God bless your search.


poetreader said...

I originally posted this comment in the wrong thread below. It belongs here.

Unfortunately, I can share similar (though perhaps a bit less extreme)stories from various other 'jurisdictions', as well as from historical events within Anglicanism, within the RC church, in Eastern Orthodoxy, and, yes, among the Protestants. As an old German Chorale with a stately tune began, "This world is very evil..." and the Church, being made up of its denizens, is very much infected. These events are shameful, hurtful, and unacceptable, but far from surprising. I may be a sour old man, but I find myself pleasantly surprised when such events do NOT occur. The end of all things earthly is at hand, but until then we do have an unending battle against fallen human nature. The Lord being our helper, we shall prevail.


Anonymous said...


An Orthodox (ex-Anglican) correspondent replied with thwe following, in response to my sending him this posting. Is what he alleges of the ACC true?

"Like this is news? this stuff happens all of the time in the continuing bodies, which is one reason why I left them. And the ACC has in the past accepted priests from ECUSA without conditional re-ordination. I remember at St. Matthew's ACC in Newport Beach, CA a priest not only accepted without a conditional ordination but proffered for the episcopate. I agree in principle with Bob Hart, but he is fighting a battle where there is no possibility of victory. More or less all of the Continuing bodies want to go back to the good ole days of ECUSA."

Fr. Robert Hart said...

In reply to the very first comment, this diocese is what remains of the Anglican Rite Synod of the Philippine Independent Catholic Church. In January of 1978, it was our Bishop Francisco de Jesus Pagtakhan who co-consecrated all of the four CC bishops as he assisted Bp. Albert Chambers. The CC, in a sense, owes part of its lineage to us. This was part of both the Union of Utrecht and the Anglican Communion at the time of the Denver Consecrations. The implications of this are significant even as far away as Rome.

I plan to help get a proper website going, and I can give more details.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

William Tighe:

Bill, your friend is rather vague. When did the ACC accept such a priest, and when and by whom was this priest ordained? For all I know he is talking about a priest ordained before the heresy of 1976, or maybe a priest ordained by one of the orthodox bishops of the shadow cabinet, +Iker, +Ackerman or +Schoefield. Fr. Kirby has stated right here what the ACC rule is, and I see no reason to doubt that it is applied strictly.

As for "the good old days of ECUSA", what does he mean? What are the Continung Churchmen continuing if not "the good old days" when faith was taken seriously, and the Traditional understanding of Scripture was the rule- or at least supposed to be the rule? Or, as we have discussed privately, just how old? 1900? 1930? 1958? Nonetheless, all of the CC people know better than to accept post 1976 standards, so "the good old days of ECUSA" does not sound at all damning to me.

Dustin Ashes said...

Fr. Kirby points out an interesting topic.

I have only been a "Continuer" for 4 years, and the issue of "Orders" seems at times to be one of first order even above salvation. As someone coming into the CC, seeking a safe place to worship Christ, I could care less about the 'Beach business'- nobody wants to join somebody else's fight and that is exactly what Bishop FLorenza's comments about 'impaired witness' say to me.

While I am not suggesting that about any here, reading the A.S. charts on many independent anglican websites and having heard this topic more often than how to evangelize a postmodern America from the 'big 3', demonstrates the misplaced priority, whether 'valid' or not, whether 'Donatist
or not.

The circumstance that Fr. Hart points too in the APCK is scandalous at best (having his keys taken by a TEC Deacon ordered by a APCK Bishop is close to unforgivable as I can imagine) I have to say that accepting clergy with poor or no formation or seminary training, suspicious orders, and even homosexual clergy, etc. or clergy otherwise known to have issues regarding background checks accepted in the ACC is an impression I have recieved from listening to many Continuers and one not without some basis in fact. I know of one or two such who just slipped in under the radar via the UECNA merger.

The bizzare is at hand:

The Continuum suffers from a clergy shortage, so some ex episcopalian recruitments or volunteers are to be expected- such as Fr. Sam Edwards, (do any think his orders invalid)? Also the equivelent of 'Title 9" clergy have been produced here and there. I know episcopal clergy that are perfectly orthodox but they are all old enough to be clear of the current desacramentalization of TEC. But a deacon with promises and no formation and no clear theological veiws from TEC and one who cannot denounce one of the very issues the Continuing Church was made necessary (WO) to be favored over a seasoned and educated REAL Priestby is inexcusable and seemingly insane! It is also inexcusable (and a demonstration of the desperate circumstances we find ourselves in) to accept clergy who failed background checks performed by other jurisdictions, especially when the means for communicating such information is in place. So, our track record seems to be to abuse sane clergy while hiring a good number of bad clergy, homosexual clergy, huckster clergy or have churches that fail because of no clergy!

Bishop Florenza points to our collective impaired witness. Well here it is in a nut shell and none stand by innocent. As a layman I am concerned that if the APCK will fall on feet of clay the rest of the CC is standing on similar ground and observing the universally peculiar development, handling and pastoral care or lack there of is disturbing at best.

Fr. Kirby , you strike me as a good and godly man but you seem to run straight to the purity/donatist issues that you just defended the ACC against in your recent post. Please do not misunderstand me, I am not making an accusation, but just pointing out the seeming compartmental nature of your discourse. I cannot help think that a policy of reordaining indiscriminately is akin to the rebaptizing done by the protestant sects. Surely some need this and surley some do not and surely if they do not we are right back at the doorstep of donatism.

The only way a traditional Anglican Church is going to advance beyond feifdoms is to get over the past while learning from mistakes made and have in place uniform and sensible policies to prevent these kinds of tragedies in the future. AS long as infighting and accusations fly we will never get off the ground and get to the next level of being fully a part of the Catholic Church.

Blessings on you and the ACC and God's mercy on all of us.


John - in whats left of the APCK, at least for the time being.

ps My hat is off to Bishop Johnson for being a real Christian and a stand up guy. To see another Bishop stand up for common sense, care for and defend orthodox clergy publically is a breath of fresh air.
Our collective movement needs as many real men as it can find and it is comforing to know such as he can be counted among us.

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that these two perspectives aren't mutually exclusive.

The concern over focusing on growth and evangelization and worship rather than getting caught up and stuck in minor matters is, I think, a good concern -- and one shared by all sensible Continuers.

But the argument that "this distracts us from mission, therefore it is irrelevant/unimportant/should be ignored" is a dangerous one. After all, this is the same argument being used constantly by the apostates in PECUSA to advocate their sexuality agenda. "Oh, we shouldn't get all caught up squabbling over homosexuality -- it's distracting us from mission."

Part of the "mission" is the "message". And so solving problems that are the related to that message is important -- it's part of the mission. Seems to me that a catholic respect for the Church and the apostolic succession is an important part of what it means to be an anglocatholic. If there are good-faith disagreements between groups on this issue, then it's a disagreement over an important issue -- and one which can't be simply dismissed or trivialized.

If something is presenting an obstacle to the mission and witness of the Continuum, then the obstacle needs to be removed, not ignored.

But, given that this is an important issue and a real obstacle to eventual reunion, then it seems to me that the ACC and the ACA should make a priority of getting together and dealing with the issue quickly, quietly, and efficiently -- not by airing grievances in public and troubling the laity, but by recognizing that their sacred duty as priests and servants of that laity requires them to leave behind ego and pride and remove those obstacles.

I don't know who's at fault here, nor how blame is to be approportioned. And like most laity, I don't care. There's a problem. There's an obstacle. Fix it.


Now, from what I've seen as I've tried to suss out the history of this ACC/ACA divide, there are three issues -- logically separate even if historically coincident:

(1) Sacramental theology -- requirements for valid ordination
(2) Ecclesiology -- requirements for "full communion" between jurisdictions
(3) History - the Deerfield Beach incident

And one of the problems is that these three seem to get merged. And that 3rd one -- the loaded question of "Are ACA orders valid" -- naturally gets people's backs up and "personalizes" the whole thing, precluding an objective treatment of the other two.

Seems to me, therefore, that "fixing" it would be easiest if the issues were tackled separately. Everyone on both sides keep saying "we hold to catholic sacramental theology" and "we hold to catholic ecclesiology"... and then looking askance at the other and muttering "well, what about Deerfield, hunh?"


FIRST For the first part of fixing it, forget Deerfield. For the moment. Time for that later.

Instead, get the bishops together, come up with a mutually agreeable statement of this theology. If there is indeed a common sacramental theology about requirements for valid ordination, then this is a no-brainer. If there are ambiguities or minor disagreements, solve them -- or agree that there are some minor matters on which variations are acceptable within catholic belief. Write it out explicitly and everyone signs on the dotted line. If the theology really is shared, should take maybe a one-weekend meeting to draft and a half-hour clericus to approve.

There. Done. Now all have mutually confessed and are mutually accountable to an objectively stated standard.


SECOND Clarify what it means and requires to be "in communion" with another jurisdiction.

Is it done by bishop? By diocese? By jurisdiction?

What explicit norms of theology and practice are required? What are forbidden? Write it down - objectively, publicly, codified. This isn't canon law or any "new" belief -- this is a common statement of and commitment to that orthodox & catholic belief and practice as established by Scripture and Tradition.

And here the ACA can make quite clear what its membership in FACA and relation with FIF is or is not. Is it fraternity? Is it fellowship? Is it (as sometimes claimed/described) "full communion"?

If there's a mutually accepted orthodox & catholic understanding, then this is, again, a no-brainer. Meeting; clericus; signed; done.

And then, when there's a shared and explicit understanding, then the ACC doesn't need to worry if the ACA continues in outreach to other persecuted Anglicans with whom they aren't in total theological agreement or even communion.


THIRD Only now should Deerfield Beach even be mentioned. This allows dealing with the theology & ecclesiology as such -- avoids personalizing the "objective" theological discussions.

Here I hesitate to make any suggestions, because I'm not privy to the details nor in a position to evaluate or reconcile the two sides to the story I've heard.

And perhaps, here, a mutually-agreeable mediator would be appropriate -- perhaps a few respected clergy from the APCK who both sides trust and respect. Perhaps a panel of clergy & laity from both groups. I dunno.

And the issue here is not the theology - that's been sorted out above. The issue here isn't the blame game -- it isn't about looking back, it's about looking forward. And if this means that the ACC has to "let go of the grudge" (if that's what it is), then so be it. And if this means that, for the sake of brothers' consciences, some ACA clergy need to agree to be quietly ordained sub conditione as a gesture of good will and earnest in moving forward, then so be it.

Because as faithful servants of God, His Church, and the laity who is the Body of Christ, these clergy - having been carefully & openly assured that the two groups share the essential central sacramental theology & ecclesiology - will be willing to do whatever it takes, in good conscience, to heal the rift, to set the stage for the future reunification everyone keeps saying they want, and to allow anglocatholicism in the U.S. to solve these problems, get past these obstacles, and focus its energy on worship, evangelization, and sanctification.


At any rate, that's the $0.02 of this on-the-sidelines layman. For whatever it's worth.


Alice C. Linsley said...

Dear Fr. Hart, know that my prayers are with you and your family. This Bishop's actions are inexcusable. May God have mercy upon him. Know that your suffering is precious in our Lord's sight. Our great God overrules in all things. It is a mystery. May HE comfort you and increase your ministry.

Dustin Ashes said...


"But the argument that "this distracts us from mission, therefore it is irrelevant/unimportant/should be ignored" is a dangerous one."

Let me be clear I am not making this argument, that error should be overlooked , but rather that perspective need be kept. There is little in the way of direct Scriptural mandate to support how 'orders' are transmitted other than by Christ himself when he breathed out the Spirit and gave the power of loosing and binding. But the imperitive to go out and make disciples of all nations is explicit.
Right or wrong we (US Continuers) are a sect with less than 10-12k people among us all and with 3 archbishops! There are RC parishes with larger memberships than that with a staff of a few clergy. Survival means producing fruit not being fruits. Can anybody claim the CC movement is not stalled and mezzmerized over the issue of Orders? Staring at our own reflection?
If obsession over orders were pleasing to God why are there only 12ooo+- after 30 years in the wilderness? Every Continuing Church I have visited has a mean average age over 50. Either we get it together or we will only have the satisfaction of watching the Titanic go down as we freeze to death on our piece of drift wood. Some victory.


Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Dr Tighe,

All I can say in regard to the somewhat vague claims you pass on is that I have stated the policy of the ACC as it has been for many years, from the beginning as I understand it. ECUSA orders and confirmations post-1977 are not accepted as having certain validity. If some in the past have slipped through the net through insufficient checks or someone in authority ignoring the standard, it is disappointing, but I know of no such cases personally.

As for the claim that Continuers all want to go back to the "good ole days of ECUSA", the statement is both ambiguous and dismissively malicious, since there is plenty of evidence of a commitment among Continuers to leave behind negative Anglican tendencies such as comprehensiveness, for example.


I'm sorry, but I see no compartmentalisation. The ACC view on conditional ordination when there are objectively plausible doubts is that common to the whole Catholic Church. And the EOC made quite clear in the late '70s that the ordination of women by Anglican Churches, in their view, required reconsideration of previous recognitions of orders. This is not Donatism, it is just consensual Catholicism.

As for the ACC or other Continuing Churches having accepted the mad or bad in the past, I do not deny it. Unintentional errors have been made due to poor resources and great need leading to Continuers taking people on trust and not doing enough to check backgrounds. But if this is an argument against us, why on earth is it not an argument against larger Churches, including Catholic jurisdictions, that have made similar mistakes despite having less excuse? Also, it is a simple fact that smaller churches often attract a higher concentration of socially non-adept folks in both the clergy and laity. Why? Because smaller churches are more likely to notice and make a big deal of them and, due to their desire to grow, are often very tolerant of strange or annoying behaviour. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing, though it does set small churches up for having their good intentions abused.


I have no particular problem with your basic idea, but it may be naive to think that agreement on the first two issues could be achieved easily and quickly, for reasons of theological uncertainty/complexity and because both sides will see the importance of getting the right answer as very great, since the consequences of getting it wrong are also potentially great.

However, it should be noted that the ACC is willing and desirous to discuss all three issues. The ACA/TAC, however, as much as it wants unity, does not seem willing to engage them directly, or so it seems from their failure to ever officially respond to the paper we sent putting our perspective and asking for theirs.

Anonymous said...

but it may be naive to think that agreement on the first two issues could be achieved easily and quickly, for reasons of theological uncertainty/complexity

Yes, they are tough questions.

But if the Continuing churches -- after 30 years -- can't agree on these basic elements of theology and catholicism which are fundamental to their very formation and existence, doesn't that threaten to suggest a certain lack of intellectual & theological integrity and solidity on their part?

I'd hate to think that was the case -- after all, it's respect & concern for such theological integrity which is one of the main reasons people would consider joining a Continuing Anglican jurisdiction in the first place.


Dustin Ashes said...

Fr, Kirby I am not making an argument against anybody, I love you guys. I am trying to point out the seeming inconsistancy of examining the ACA as if they were heretics while having a beam in your own eye. The ACC has knowingly hired homosexual clergy, now if you want to take it farther... I also know of one ACC clergyman who has voiced some doubts about WO.

I'm sorry but none of us belong to the 'one true church', there is no room for any pretense of 'holier than thou' in the Continuum. That fact (homosexual clergy) alone sort of negates your argument regarding the purity of the policy of examining other's orders and most especially intentions don't you think?

The big thing here for all of us is to remember that Jesus' sacrafice for us was an act of unconditional love. Forgiveness can't be blind but it can't be conditional based on an 'admit you were wrong and we will forgive you" mentality especially when most of those involved are gone and those left are all mortals and sinners.



Fr Matthew Kirby said...


When it comes to the details of what is required for sacramental validity and what are the related question of proper limits of communio in sacris are, I think you underestimate the breadth of opinion that exists in all Catholic jurisdictions! No Church has come up with complete and definitive answers to all the relevant questions. The difference is that for Continuing Anglicans the questions are live ones and not merely hypotheticals.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...

Oops, mangled sentence. should be "the related question of what are the proper limits".

The Lemonts said...

it is this kinda stuff that has made me realize Eastern Orthodoxy isn't a church but the church and that Continuing Anglicanism is nothing more than people playing church. That isn't to say there aren't alot of wonderful, wonderful Christian souls in the continuing movement. My experience is that the continuing movement is a joke. I have found websites advertsing churches that don't even exist with Bishops that oversee only their delusion. I am very sorry to here what has happened to Fr. Hart, especially since he seems be really one of the most orthodox anglicans I ahve ever read. I wish he had been the priest in Sacramento which really really could use a solid, orthodox anglican parish.

J. Gordon Anderson said...

The Lemonts,

Yes, continuing churches have problems with internal politics, massive egos, scandals, etc. But don't assume for one moment that the Roman and Orthodox churches don't also have problems like this.

If you are a member of a continuing church and thinking of leaving for the supposedly fairer shores of Rome or Orthodoxy, subscribe to the New Oxford Review, and read their news updates each day on their site. It'll make you think twice about joining those bodies. I know of several orthodox priests (Moscow Patriarchate, OCA, Serbian, etc.) who left those bodies (one called his old church a "madhouse") to become continuing Anglican priests, and who now have very happy and fulfilling ministries with us.

Wherever there are human beings there is going to be sin... sinful ambition, pride, hubris, etc. It is not limited to unbelievers, and it is certainly not limited to us; and I, for one, am sick and tired of people thinking that it is, and applying a stricter standard to us than they do the other apostolic traditions/churches.

So please, let's "keep it real" here.


poetreader said...

There are more groups claiming to be Orthodox that fit your description of 'bishops that oversee only theur delusion'. They are, of course, not Orthodox -- neither are those to whom you refer Continuing Anglicans. They are not accepted as such.

Indeed the Continuum is messy and much has occurred that simply cannot be justified. But I'm sorry to say that much of the history of Orthodoxy, especially in America, is strikingly similar.

You are, of course, perfectly free to criticize us for our teaching and for our actions, but it simply is not proper to condemn anyone because some that claim to be their friends are misbehaving. I refuse to do that with regard to the Orthodox.


Anonymous said...

No Church has come up with complete and definitive answers to all the relevant questions. The difference is that for Continuing Anglicans the questions are live ones and not merely hypotheticals.

Fair point. But does the Continuum need, right now, to come up with "complete and definitive answers" to start moving forward? Sure, if we look toward Romans or Eastern Orthodox or Lutherans etc a whole host of issues will come up -- but not all of these are relevant to fellow Continuing Anglicans.

For example, the sacrament of orders. Surely there's little dispute about subject, form, matter. For the moment, the real question will be over minister and "intent", yes?

Subject: baptized & confirmed male (and, one hopes, suitably trained & educated).

Matter: laying on of hands

Form: Ordination prayer [one question here might be whether prayers from a BCP later than an edition of the '28 (or its parallels in other jurisdictions) is acceptable or not.]

Those it seems easy to address.

Ministers: Duly ordained bishops

Here, admittedly, things get trickier if certain episcopal orders are in doubt. But, again, wouldn't the "consensus" definition, with which all would agree, cover most cases. E.g. the Chambers succession all CCers would accept as valid, given that Chambers & his co-consecrators were recognized as valid ministers. Etc. Yes, it might be difficult to get to the kind of precision and agreement to address every specific case, especially in the current chaotic situation, but surely the cases in which there is a _consensus_ would outweigh the other cases?

Besides, if there really is a genuine and humble desire for unity, would not all those who wish to come together be willing -- for the sake of avoiding scandal and division; for the respect for apostolic succession; for the desire to leave the grievances of the past behind and move forward -- to accept a quiet sub conditione (re)ordination in any case of genuine doubt? As long as folks see it for the good of the Church and the security of her people, rather than as some sort of personal attack or judgement, how could this be offensive?

Intent: Here, it seems to me, is where the true challenge lies. Of course, it gets tricky in the specifics. But surely the _general_ definition is, again, easy to find consensus on: e.g. to ordain a man to the clerical order, for the sake of administering the sacraments and preaching the word, accepting the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Granted, that's not everything, but are there any disagreements over those basics?

If I understand it aright (which I may well not), the ACC/ACA division is over the "for a specific ministry" part of the "intent" -- did the jurisdiction exist yet, etc. So here would be a "specific" which would need closer analysis.

Again, I don't mean to suggest that these issues are entirely transparent. Nor, as you rightly point out, that they could be comprehensively answered. But surely a sufficient answer for the current situation needn't be a comprehensive one, given the significant areas of agreement and the specific points of disagreement?

Indeed, a sufficient answer (for the moment) to start moving on with might not even have to address all the points of disagreement, but simply those relevant to the current situation. More points of disagreement might need to be resolved before you could unify jurisdictions, but mightn't it be possible to achieve sufficient agreement to accept that everyone at the table has a right to be there?

Similarly, the "in full communion" issue. Yes, a lot of details to work out. But I get the sense that there's a lot of talking past each other -- the ACA's relation with FIF, the REC/APA/AMiA being used as "proof" or "sign" of an indiscriminate understanding of "full communion" for lack of any clear statement to the contrary. Perhaps what lacks is not a common understanding but a clear statement of that understanding? Perhaps not... I dunno. And there's the issue _people don't know_ because it hasn't been spelled out, and that lack presents an obstacle to unity.

So spell it out!

Yes, it gets tricky. Is "being in communion" transitive (the patristic answer is, I believe, "yes")? What does "impaired communion" mean? Can you pick and chose bishops within a jurisdiction to be "in communion" with if those bishops still hold themselves to be part of that jurisdiction. Etc.

But, again, what's needed is a sufficient answer for dealing with the situation of fellow Continuers and fellow Anglicans -- not one which is the definitive and comprehensive answer to relations with every single denomination.

Yes, perhaps I simplify matters to suggest it would be relatively straightforward... but perhaps that perspective is a good anodyne to, on the one hand, one which (uncatholicly) dismisses the questions as trivial and one, on the other, which despairs of even trying because of the difficulty of coming up with the final/definitive/comprehensive answer.

It just seems to me that, if union -- stable and solid and enduring union is actually sought, then achieving this sort of explicit clarity on the 'objective' theological issues is the obvious and necessary first step, and I'd think that every serious Continuing group would make a high priority of actively and regularly and fraternally working with its peers to pursue this clarity.


Fr Matthew Kirby said...


Privately held errors of clergy are irrelevant to determining the orthodoxy of a church. Homosexuality among clergy has precisely nothing to do with intention and validity of orders, as pretty much all Catholic theologians agree. In fact, if there was a homosexual clergyman who evidenced chaste behaviour and was open about his disorder, promising to remain chaste, it is an open question as to whether his "objective disorder" is sufficient to disqualify him on prudential grounds. However, if you are saying the ACC took on a priest who they knew was impenitent and sexually active, I simply don't believe you.

"the lemonts",

Yes, that's right, you'd never find this kind of bad behaviour or confusion in Eastern Orthodoxy. Well, apart from: the recent spats in the last decades between Jerusalem and Constantinople over precedence, almost leading to excommunications; between Moscow and Constantinople; nasty arguments over whether the Macedonian Orthodox Church is really canonically Orthodox; whether the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (or one of them, since there are now 4 I think) is autocephalous or beholden to Moscow; whether the OCA is really autocephalous; whether the OCA's finances have been dishonestly and irresponsibly managed or whether some laity were just being troublemakers; whether the Moscow Patriarchate is a free and restored-to-health jurisdiction or continues to be compromised by its prior infection by the KGB; whether ecumenism is good or utterly wicked and heretical; inability to unify jurisdictions in the diaspora so there is one bishop in each city; dragging the feet on using the vernacular; division between, for example, those who think Fr Seraphim Rose was a great theologian and those who condemn his work and forbid their people to refer to it; disagreement over whether sacramental grace can be found outside the EOC, including any real Orders; churches used like ethnic clubs, with infrequent communion and nominalism being common; often refusing to speak out against abortion, even to the point of honouring pro-abortion politicians as long as they are nominally Orthodox; and a history that includes a number of persecutions of Jews and Roman Catholics.

None of this proves Eastern Orthodoxy is not "the" or "a" true Church. And one could produce a lists for the RCC as well. For example, what is theoretically "the RC Faith" and what is taught and lived at the parish level are perhaps more disconnected than they have ever been, at least in the majority of the West. Does this disconnect prove the RCC is a "paper church", saying it is and believes one thing, but being something entirely different? Do all the problems I listed above show the EOC is a mess whose purported unity in communion is a fraud? No and no. All this proves is that each church has its own sinners, its own weaknesses and tendency to foolishness, its own testimony to human fallibility and moral failure. Including us.

And as for abusive acts by bishops, anybody who thinks they are limited to the Continuum has not been paying much attention to present reality or history.

Ask yourself: isn't it possible you have resorted to argument by sneer, false generalisation and double standard?

The Lemonts said...

Oh yeah, I made it really sound as if Orthodoxy doesn't have it's problems. Sorry. I guess what I am saying is they don't have problems over as small of issues. Anglicans can't even agree on what Anglicanism is or what they believe or how they should worship. One common thing I see between non cannonical faux orthodox groups and a good part of the Continuum is the maddening desire to prove ones orders valid. Web sites but not actual church. Talking smack about other "orthodox" or "anglican groups". The fruits of the continuuing anglican church seems to be further division. In this case the division is happening why? Because of pride. Lord have mercy on us all.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

One common thing I see between non cannonical faux orthodox groups and a good part of the Continuum is the maddening desire to prove ones orders valid.

Two reasons exist for this. 1) Freedom of religion makes it possible for the vagante problem, which is one of imitation. 2)Our perfectly valid orders have actually been atttacked, but only by means of theological dribble and hogwash.

I am an Anglican not simply becasue I believe it is a true way to be a catholic Christian, but because I truly believe it to be the best way. I prefer its sanity and theological depth to both of the alternatives. Bad behavior is everywhere, and the scandals in Rome and Orthodoxy only show the same thing that sacndals in Anglicanism show: Jesus warned us about wolves in sheep's clothing because they will constantly appear.

The Lemonts said...

Fr. Hart,

One of my points is that if you )and soundly orthodox christians like you) aren't welcome in the APCK or are driven out what does that say about the orthodoxy of the APCK leaders?

poetreader said...


Says absolutely nothing about anyone's orthodoxy. Perfectly orthodox people have sometimes done horrid things, and horrible heretics have done many good and gentlemanly things.


Fr. Robert Hart said...

Furthermore, I can tell horror stories about bad treatment dished out to good priests in Orthodox and RC dioceses as well.

Eleison said...

My dear Fr. Hart,
We are so sorry to hear of the many sadnesses you allege you've encountered at the hands of 'that' organization. May Almighty God bless and keep you and your beloved family. I'm delighted to learn that you are back on the East coast.
We, too, had a wee run-in with 'the Englishman in the episcopal velvet slippers' a few years ago, so we are not surprised that he continues to function as you allege. We are now older and graced with Holy Spirit-guided hindsight. We, too, are now well out of the way of those who would harm or hurt us and the flocks we serve, Deo gratias.
Ad gloriam Dei: in Eijus voluntate.
Keep safe and be strong.