Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Power of Language

Authenticity and the Speech of Mordor

Fr. Robert Hart

I. Authenticity
In July of this year, Pope Benedict XVI issued the Apostolic Letter, Motu Proprio. The letter gives to all Roman Catholic priests direct permission to celebrate the latest edition of the Tridentine Mass (1962), namely, the traditional Latin Mass that was standard throughout the Roman Catholic Church for centuries. It is not required, but permitted. Reactions ranged from jubilant praise to expressions of sorrow. Bishop Luca Brandolini, called a “progressive bishop” by Inside the Vatican Magazine, mourned the decision: “I will obey the Pontiff, but it is a day of grief. The reform [of Vatican II] is canceled." His reaction does not take into account the fact that Pope Benedict has consistently rejected a picture of Vatican II as a dividing line that separates the flow of Catholic Tradition, teaching and practice.

Readers Of
The Ratzinger Report (a series of interviews with then Cardinal Ratzinger by Vittorio Messori published in book form in 1985) should recall that the current pope has always rejected as false the idea of a pre-conciliar and post-conciliar Church. He himself attended the Council as a priest and theologian alongside of Henri de Lubac and has always insisted that Vatican II is not the actual cause of modern liturgical and doctrinal confusion. It was, in his view, simply misunderstood- some might say, abused. In this light, the recent Apostolic Letter should come as no surprise. Furthermore, its implications address a pattern that is larger than the Roman Catholic Church, visible among other western liturgical churches, notably among various kinds of Anglicans, where a common perception of Rome’s lead was imitated, but to a degree far more radical and extreme.

During the 1960s and 70s, after Vatican II, Catholic Church leaders began to transform liturgy into something deemed relevant to the changing times. With the advent of the
Novus Ordo, Anglicans were moved to make changes as well, beginning with experimental services and then whole new versions of Holy Communion and the Daily Offices. When the Episcopal Church in the United States drew from these services to produce a new Prayer Book in 1979, traditional Episcopalians objected that it was not a new edition of the Book of Common Prayer, though bearing that title, but rather something new and different. Along with changes to the frequently used services, its Psalter is not a faithful translation of Hebrew (which I can judge for myself); neither are other parts faithful to Greek and Latin. And, the Confirmation Rite no longer contains the same meaning.

The opposite response of Bishop Brandolini, namely the sincerely grateful and joyful response to
Motu Proprio, fits another pattern as well. Pope Benedict, in separate letter about Motu Proprio answers the desire of many Catholics, old and young alike, to be allowed a return to the Tridentine Mass, and also mentions the separatist movement led by Archbishop Lefebvre that broke from Rome over the issue of fidelity to the old Missal. Here, too, is a pattern, for it brings to mind the Continuing Church movement in Anglicanism that broke away from the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and the Anglican Church in Canada in 1977 over such issues as women’s “ordination” and foreboding about the new Prayer Book of ‘79 (the Continuing movement has spread to other countries). The issues in the Anglican churches were more radical and severe than in Roman Catholicism, and the Continuing Church movement therefore truly necessary. However, in both cases, the same question arises. What is it that people of various ages, old and young alike, are seeking in older forms of worship? What do traditionalists have in common?

To say they are seeking orthodoxy is misleading, because it requires evidence that newer forms are inherently unorthodox, an argument that is, at best, difficult to make. The burden of proof lies on those who condemn the
Novus Ordo Mass, or the Rite II Holy Communion as “heterodox rites,” and I have seen no convincing argument for the charge. The answer is less extreme. What traditionalists are seeking is something authentic. New ideas and new forms may catch on, and endure; or, they may not. However, the Tridentine Mass, the Book of Common Prayer, and I will add, the Byzantine Liturgy, are among things known, tried and true. They are authentic. We can add that the Vulgate and the King James Bible, Gregorian Chants and Bach Cantatas, and a host of prayers, devotions and hymns, having stood the test of time as well, have an authenticity that gives them a superior place to all new and experimental forms.

Each of these authentic forms and usages was new once, and compared to ancient forms that were first in Aramaic (or very possibly older Hebrew, since Jews were comfortable with this as the language of scripture and of prayer), every liturgy has been through a process of reception by the people. For example, The Book of Common Prayer was met with violence in Cornwall when it was first introduced. But, in time authenticity is established due, in no small part, to orthodoxy of doctrine, a focus on the essentials, and uplifting sound combined with profound meaning that can be produced only by carefully chosen use of words.

By far, the most important element of liturgical and devotional authenticity is language, because language has power. To quote Pope Benedict’s letter that accompanies the actual Apostolic Letter:

"In the history of the liturgy there is growth and progress, but no rupture. What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church's faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place."

However, the same cannot be said with certainty about experimental forms, especially since we must add translations of the Bible to liturgy, indeed as a necessary part of the liturgy. After all, these are things that go hand in hand; they cannot be separated. Therefore, we must think carefully about the power of language itself. This is the power to teach or to deceive.

II. The Speech of Mordor

To appreciate fully why people want to pray with authentic forms, we should consider how extreme the consequences may be when they cannot, which means looking at more problematic examples than we have considered until now. These include consequences of using language for scripture and prayer that misleads, distorts and confuses. And, it is this rather than simply a new approach, that is the true opposite of liturgical authenticity. Although I have said that traditional Christians are looking for authenticity, and to identify their quest as a desire for orthodoxy may be difficult to prove, it is not hard to prove when we turn to the harder case. The harder case is among some of the churches of the Anglican Communion, where the attempt to imitate post Vatican II Roman Catholicism, by putting a high premium on perceived relevance, developed into radical and consequential errors.

The Episcopal Church still uses the 1979 Prayer Book, and normally the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. This new Prayer Book replaced the tradition of English Prayer, a simplified Regula by which the Anglican faithful were called to live, with a book of public services. Most of these services were not revised editions of the Book of Common Prayer, with a powerful and majestic language rooted in the entire Christian Tradition, often translated from Latin, always drawn from the scriptures according to the understanding of the saints of past ages. Instead, some of the new services were contrived to be relevant in their use of modern idioms and words. And, the Psalter was mistranslated into socially acceptable and new usages of language. As Dr. Peter Toon pointed out, speaking near Baltimore Maryland in or around 1990, with the use of the mistranslated Psalms “there can be no revival; because this is not the word of the Lord.” He pointed out that the first error was in Psalm 1, where “the Man” was now “they who.” The Man, as the Fathers of the Church taught, was Jesus Christ. But, “the Man” was thrown out in favor of Gender Inclusive Language, and replaced with a plural, “they,” for an individual of either sex (popular, but grammatically wrong, and in this case theologically empty).

In the 1982 Hymnal of the Episcopal Church a modern hymn changes the Lord’s own promise from the sixth chapter of John: “I will raise him up on the last day.” Using a rule common to all classical language, the Lord’s promise is to the individual who truly believes and partakes of the food of eternal life. The “Gender Inclusive” version, “I will raise them up on the Last day” gives no promise to the individual about his own soul- or even about her own soul. It speaks of a collective, and just how many of “them” will be raised cannot be known. The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, is also riddled with mistranslation. For example, the Book of Malachi says “he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.” But, the NRSV arbitrarily mistranslates the Hebrew word for “fathers” as “parents.” There is simply no justification for this. 1

Language of contrived relevance and very modern usage, cannot be used for the Bible and liturgy without violence to the meaning and spirit. This new language, if used for prayer and scripture, is futile at best, and unavoidably deceptive in its effect. Feminism and Gender Inclusive Language combine into a tongue that defies interpretation. As Gandalf was hesitant to speak the language of Mordor in Rivendell, no one can proclaim the word of the Lord in “newspeak.” Saint Paul could speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but the new kind of socially acceptable language seems more like the tongue of demons; it has no word that is understood to mean agape or caritas, since “love,” is too general. Traditional believers are not comfortable praying in this new tongue, and do not want translations of the word of God into such dark and imprisoned language. For them it distorts truth and destroys beauty, muddles all true communication, and twists everything into a lie. It has no word for caritas, because it has no usage of “Father” as the One Who defines love by Himself.

We possess numerous translations, words that cannot exactly haunt us because they are always fresh and alive, though coming from generations long fallen asleep in the dust of the earth. Saint Jerome wrote about his time in the desert: “The flesh I might try to break with frequent fasting: but my mind was seething with imagination: so to tame it, I gave myself up for training to one of the brethren, a Hebrew who had come to the faith. And, so after the subtlety of Quintilian, the flowing of Cicero, the gravity of Fronto and the gentleness of Pliny, I began to learn another alphabet, and meditate on words that hissed and words that gasped.” As Helen Waddell reflected, “the final vintage was to be the Vulgate translation of the Old Testament: he was still working on Hebrew in his old age.”2 As in ancient times, the gift of the Holy Scriptures is only preserved by learning tongues of old, from before the times of our fathers.

The discipline used when translating the King James Bible, for example, flowed naturally from reverence that had motivated Christians of earlier generations to choose words carefully. “Translated out of the original tongues, and with the former translations diligently compared and revised.” In other words, the translators were quite able to make corrections, because they knew Hebrew and Greek. But, they did not take it upon themselves simply to disregard former translations, so when they made changes, it was never arbitrary. But, modern translations, to the extent that many of them can rightly be called translations, too often corrupt their work by contrived relevance. If there is one place above all where we must turn the issue of relevance around, and learn again to apply discipline to our minds so that it is we who become relevant to another’s instruction, it is hearing the word of the Lord. And, if there is one place where our words must be studied and based upon revealed truth, it is in bearing our souls before the throne of the Almighty as we pray.

I am not suggesting that a return to older forms, such as the Tridentine Mass, is the only way to avoid this problem. That would be simplistic and naïve, and require that we embrace a false assertion. But, one advantage to remaining true to authentic forms and translations, updating language and customs only with great care and fidelity and only when truly useful, is the safety of orthodoxy. Authenticity of language helps to avoid error and insure true instruction in the Faith.

To translate the first commandment literally, we are forbidden to have other gods in the Lord’s presence- that is before His face (al-Peni). The only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, along with the other Comfortable, are revealed in the Name spoken by the risen Christ: The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is the Name into which we are baptized. But, this Name is regarded as offensive in the new language, and by invocation of contrived relevance we are bidden not to speak it. Changing the traditions, including the traditional use of language, may appear to make the message more relevant. But, the cost needs to be weighed. When things go too far, the cost is that of knowing God as He is revealed. Which means the cost of contrived relevance through distortion of language is life eternal (John 17:3), a cost that we must decline to pay.

1) The first mistranslation in the NRSV combines the first two verses of Genesis into one sentence, by adding wrongly the word "when," as if the world existed before God’s creation. “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was without form…” The Hebrew simply does not justify this “translation” either. The first two sentences are not joined in the original Hebrew. The older “And, the earth was without form and void...” is literally correct, and it cannot be used to suggest Pantheism.

2) Helen Waddell, The Desert Fathers, (New York, 1998), p.33

Monday, July 30, 2007

Even More on Marriage

The Most Rev. Mark Haverland, Metropolitan of the ACC, sent me a link to an old newsletter (April 2004) from St. Stephen's Anglican Catholic Church in Athens, Ga. Considering some of the discussion that has been going on in the More on Marriage and Annulments article I posted (which has included very good and stimulating insights from Canon John Hollister and Fr. Samuel Edwards), I am posting the link here to Archbishop Haverland's article. It is in PDF format, but PDF from Acrobat reader is free and easy to install. Furthermore, it is a newsletter that continues on with Parish information that is more than three years old. However, I am posting the link because the insights are well worth the little time it takes to read them. It addresses in quite frank terms the very real difference between what Christians know marriage to be, and what society in general has been doing to the whole meaning of the word.

I quote part of it here:

The claims of same-sex couples and polygamists to social and legal recognition as ‘married’ simply shows the incoherence that already is present. If marriage is simply a temporary arrangement for the mutual and private gratification of its participants, then its definition is entirely private and its redefinition is available to anyone who wants to use the term and claim the social benefits. Why should the rest of us subsidize such private and transitory arrangements?

In fact the deepest damage to marriage as traditionally understood has not been wrought by gay couples or by fringe Mormon groups. The deepest damage to marriage is the work of couples who want everything: the personal conveniences and enjoyments along with the legal and social advantages of marriage, but also freedom from any truly binding responsibilities, freedom to personal fulfilment above all other goals, freedom to drop a marriage that has become inconvenient or irksome, and even the freedom while married to break any and all of the promises and vows one made at its outset...

Again, you may read the rest here.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Taking This Bull by the Horns

Do your damndest

I have learned that at least one of the clergy of the Diocese of the Southwestern States, Anglican Province of Christ the King, has written to a correspondent of mine to say that, in addition to what I have reported about my dismissal from the Church of the Atonement, there are “other issues” about me. Furthermore, a priest in the Diocese of the Western States, to be exact in California (yes, you know who you are) told the former chancellor of the whole APCK that he knows “the real story” about me.

Well doggone fellas, don’t keep me in the dark. None of the priests of the APCK has anything of mine to keep under the seal, since my confessor was a Roman Catholic priest the whole time. So, you are all free to say anything and everything that you know. And remember, truth is the one valid defense in cases of slander or libel. But, if any one of you claims to be keeping anything under the seal, I give permission to make it all public. You can use the comments right here (just watch your language)- everyone from his Grace, Frederick the Bishop, to the most junior priest- or a layman- anybody. I really want to hear “the real story” and “other issues.” Was I ordained by the “Dead Hand”? Was I a bank robber? Do I kick dogs? Do I have a secret second wife and family hidden from the little woman? Am I really Baby Face Nelson, finally exposed after all these years? What, pray tell, is the juicy scandal?

Let ‘er rip! Do your damndest!


The Barking Toad is a blog that has been inactive for about two years, but is suddenly bursting with activity. The Toad himself has not revealed his identity; but it seems he knows a lot. I get the idea he was in on some sensitive information.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Collect, Trinity VIII

The Latin Collect

(this collect is appointed in the Tridentine Missal for 7th after Pentecost)

Deus, cujus providentua in sui dispisitione non falitur: te supplices exoramus; ut noxia cincta submoveas, et omnia nobis profutura concedas.

The 1549 Collect

GOD, whose providence is never deceived, we humbly beseche thee that thou wilt put away from us al hurtfull thinges, and geve [us]* those thinges whiche be profitable for us; through Jesus Christe our Lorde.

The 1662 Collect

O GOD, whose never-failing providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth; We humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which be profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


The first clause of this collect reminds us of God's providence, which has a two-fold completeness. It is "never-failing", that is without limit in time (or ongoing effectiveness), and "ordereth all things both in heaven and earth", and so extends throughout the universe. Providence refers to God's ongoing care, preservation, and ordering (according to His overarching wisdom and plan) of Creation. It is seen as mainly expressed through everyday, natural causes rather than overtly supernatural miracles, which are often put in a different category. Because God sees the end from the beginning He has been able to do a great deal of "ordering" of what happens through setting up the natural conditions and laws in such a way as to achieve certain outcomes. It is good to know that our infinitely wise God is in final control, but there a number of things that we need to remember that Divine Providence does not mean.

It does not mean God directly causes or chooses everything, including evil. Instead, He allows room for angelic and human free will to choose and produce good or evil, and then is able to, in the long term, bring good even out of evil. It does not mean all justice is done within this universe. Divine Providence within this Creation does not "tie up all loose ends" because it never intended to. And providence does not mean we will get everything we want or even seem to need, though God does provide for us. We cannot see the bigger picture like He can, and we have trouble understanding (and believing) that what is best for eternal life may appear sub-standard here and now!

This brings us to the second part of the collect, the supplication. We ask God to "put away from us all hurtful things" and "give us those things which be profitable". Our first instinct is to see this as a prayer for avoidance of pain and provision of happiness. And I'm sure God doesn't mind us asking for that. But what is painful can sometimes be profitable, and outward happiness can in some circumstances be hurtful to the soul. "Be careful what you ask for" the saying goes! In the end, while God loves to bless people and does not willingly afflict us (Lam. 3.33), what He wants most for us is the eternal joy of union with Him. Sometimes that may involve difficult journeys. May we trust Him and His loving Providence throughout.

TRINITY VIII 2003 The Sunday after the Episcopal Church's General Convention of 2003, wherein Mr. Robinson's consecration was approved.

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
(from fotosearch)

This week the sermon at St. Andrew's will be preached by another priest with whom I have the honor of serving. This seems like a good time to publish an "oldie but goodie." I consider it to be no coincidence what the Gospel was for the Sunday that followed the ECUSA (or TEC) General Convention of 2003. At that GC the Episcopal Church had approved Vickie Gene Robinson to become a bishop, and approved the "blessing of same sex unions." Normally, we could ignore that sect, but the news was screaming word to all the world right then, and new people were coming to us looking for answers.


Ecclus. 1:18-27
Psalm 119: 33-48
Rom. 8: 12-17
Matt. 7:15-21

If I were of the sort to mince words the scriptures appointed for this day, appointed long ago by remarkable providence it seems, would not give me that option. So, if I had a word mincer I would have to keep it unplugged; but you may rest assured that the priests of this diocese, under the leadership of our bishop, have no such appliance. The Gospel reading from St. Matthew tells us to “beware of false prophets,” not simply to consider the possibility of their existence. They do exist, and we must be on our guard, so our Lord warns us.

“Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep’s clothing...” A con man with a dishonest face has no chance of success; neither does a wolf if he comes among sheep who possess reason, unless he looks as pleasant and harmless as they. Jesus has told us what to expect, of what to beware. The scriptures speak of false teachers, of doctrines of demons, of the spirit of Antichrist, and the spirit of error. But here the specific phrase is used, “false prophets.”

We must beware of those who claim a higher wisdom that teaches something different from what has been held everywhere, always and by all. To them the Tradition of the Church, what it has believed in every age and place, suffers from defects that require the better and higher way shown by some new prophet.

This is convenient for them, because a prophet is hearing the truth directly from God. Furthermore, a prophet can claim to be the one who enlightens with the new paradigm, God’s new epoch for all mankind. As such, he can claim that he is persecuted by the unenlightened bigots who hold to the past, and who act upon a need to remain secure within the old epoch.

He can claim that he follows the Lord and the apostles, as well as the Old Testament prophets, and that all criticism of his “new revelations” are in fact the cruelty and evil of those who persecute him. For so persecuted they the prophets that were before him. He is the messenger of that light that comes Once to Every Man and Nation: “New occasions teach new duties, and time makes ancient good uncouth.”

The use of this method allows him to appropriate Biblical phrases, adopt a Biblical persona, but completely reject the content of everything that the Bible actually teaches. He can contradict every true prophet, the apostles and the Lord, by denying everything for which every real martyr died; and then he can claim that his detractors are malicious. The fact that the Lord Jesus said that the ones who believed Moses and the prophets would be His own followers, and that we would recognize false prophets by the fruit of false teaching, does not make any difference to the apostate in prophetic disguise, in sheep’s clothing. He claims to be wearing the mantle of the same Elijah who would have had him beheaded at the brook Kishon.

What do we see in the scriptures appointed for this day, appointed long ago? (I say “long ago” because we use the lectionary of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, which was not new at the time.) From Sirach, in Ecclesiasticus, we learn that wisdom is essentially a moral attribute, as we learn in all the Wisdom literature of the Bible. It is not in sophistication, the rich man’s sophistry, but rather it is found in humility; it begins with the fear of God. The same lesson is taught to us in the 119th Psalm, adding the simple fact that this wisdom comes only to those who love the truth, and who seek it in the word of God- in fact those who hunger for that word. And from St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans we learn that we must become the servants of righteousness, and turn away from self-destructive lusts; that we must live in and by the Spirit.

The true prophetic spirit can speak in only the same way. The idea that what is new is prophetic, and what is old is not, is a lie. Indeed, the reverse is true. As Isaiah said, “To the Law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, they have no light in them.” As Jesus said, “if they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” “If you believed Moses’ words you would believe Me, for he wrote of Me.” Those who reject the Law and the prophets, yet claim to speak for Jesus, cannot be true prophets. Neither can those who reject the apostles, to whom He said, “He who receives you receives Me.”

The idea that the Holy Spirit is always leading us into some new thing hitherto unknown is a heresy, based upon a notion of a god who is using creation in order to grow and to fulfil his potential. But, our God, the Father of Jesus Christ, is perfect, complete and in need of nothing; He does not grow or change. He is not capricious; He does not adjust, or change with the times. He is the Ancient of Days, from Everlasting to everlasting He is God, Only Wise and blessed forever.

In the Incarnation of the Word, God entered time in the Person of Jesus Christ by taking His creation, the fulness of human nature, into His uncreated and eternal Person, by the Holy Ghost, of the Virgin Mary. There is nothing to add to His revelation of the Father, and certainly nothing to adjust. The truth was delivered once for all to the saints, and for it we must earnestly contend. The revelation of God is perfect in Jesus Christ.

Well, this brings me to the news of this past week- reluctantly I might add; for when I start speaking of the glorious Incarnation I hate to lower my sights to any other topic. I have been asked during the past week, as probably has every Anglican priest, to give my opinion. Simply put, you can change the rules of a country club, but not of the Church. I had a conversation with a young law student this past week, a sincere fellow who was telling me that we must take a view on this Gene Robinson issue somewhere “in the middle”- this is what we cannot do. I asked him the simple question: “Do you believe that your religion is revealed by God or fashioned by men?” He is a Lutheran, and answered “I believe the former.” Well, then, we cannot change it.

I look with sadness at the church in which I grew up, in which I was baptized into Christ in 1958, in which I was confirmed, in which all my children were baptized into Christ, and I see that many of them do not believe in God anymore; at least not in the eternal unchanging God Who has revealed Himself in Christ. I must conclude, based upon the words of Jesus which you have heard me quote, that those who will not hear Moses and the prophets, and who reject the apostles, do not believe Jesus Christ- they are not persuaded though One has risen from the dead.

I must digress a bit further. I heard some of the bishops who voted to allow the consecration of Gene Robinson as a bishop, on news programs. They showed their willingness to give Moses and the Law, to use a slang term from old gangster films, a “bum wrap.” They slung false accusations at the Torah. “After all, the Bible was used” they said “to justify slavery.” Was it now? That is fascinating, because Deuteronomy forbids the very idea of slavery, commanding that any servant fleeing from his master is not to be treated as property- he is not to be forcibly returned. There is no Hebrew word that means “slave”, despite some of the newer translations trying to squeeze such a word into the Old Testament where it does not fit. Or maybe they were referring to New Testament passages which treat the reality of slavery as a fact of life under the Pagan brutality of Rome, something the Christians had no power to change. Who knows which they meant? Either way they were wrong, and this was due to their eagerness to defame the Bible and the people who were involved in its writing.

And that was the point, grasping for straws to prove that ancient good is uncouth, that their god is realizing his potential, and that we are not as wise as they. They were presenting gnostic heresy, that is claiming a right to teach “secret knowledge” which only they, the sophisticated and initiated could possess. And they want us to know how much contempt we ought to have for the ancient scriptures; how much contempt they have for everyone who believes the scriptures.

Is charity, namely the love which comes from God and is the sign of His Spirit working in the human heart, served by affirming people in their sins? Did Jesus lack charity when He spoke the hard truth to the Pharisees, calling them a brood of vipers who would not escape the damnation of hell if they continued in their hardness of heart? Did St. Paul lack charity when he commanded the Corinthian Church to expel from its midst an immoral man, and then later commanded them to take him back because he had repented with genuine sorrow? All of this was the expression of charity, spoken in a kind of pain that very few are willing to understand.

To quote Dr. Mouneer Anis, the Bishop of Egypt:"We cannot comprehend a decision to elect as bishop a man who has forsaken his wife and the vows he made to her in order to live in a sexual relationship with another man outside the bonds of marriage." That is a good statement, for it makes the point that this man cannot, by his life, set forth the teaching of the Church about the sacrament of matrimony, which is vitally important.

Nonetheless, I must ask, is the real scandal simply the fact that Gene Robinson was, by this vote, approved to be made a bishop? No. Before this scandal there was another scandal, namely that he had no bishop who loved him as God loves; neither do the majority of bishops in his church have this love for him. As St. Paul describes it: “charity rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth”.

For true charity, the love of God, would have been expressed in calling him to repent of his sin, the sin of abandoning his wife and children. It would have extended whatever pastoral care is needed to help him recover and heal, instead of affirming a self-destructive, unnatural and immoral relationship. If necessary- meaning if still he would not repent- love, as God loves, would have brought about his unfrocking and even excommunication. How else can we make known the seriousness of eternal matters, of the value of a man’s soul, both to that man himself and to others under the Church’s pastoral care? The greatest harm done in this whole mess is not to the Anglican Communion, or to the Episcopal Church, but to the soul of an unrepentant sinner. And then, by extension, it is the harm done by telling others, by this example, that they need not repent of their sins either.

It is the harm done by those who, as enemies of the cross of Christ, are sending the message that to follow Christ means to feel good, and to affirm ourselves in this temporary and transitory life. It is done by those who encourage thirsty people to drink the seawater, so that their desire becomes intense, until they are dominated by insatiable cravings which are death to all who indulge them. It is, possibly, to blaspheme the Holy Ghost by calling good evil and evil good, until they cause not only themselves, but all their flock to perish. This is the great harm done by false prophets. Beware of them.

I can conclude only by promising you this: We, the clergy of the Anglican Diocese of the Chesapeake are committed to speaking the truth in love. We do not promise that we can affirm you or make you feel good. What comforts we can give we will give by the sacraments and by the Word of God. The challenges we may have to give in calling you to change, or to turn away from sin, will be in faithfulness to you and according to God’s word. We do not promise to be infallible or perfect; but, we do intend, by God’s grace, always to be faithful to the scriptures as understood by the Church in its Tradition. Jesus said that the Spirit of Truth would guide the Church into all truth; and we know also that the Spirit of Truth cannot contradict Himself, for truth is eternal and unchanging. We will endeavor always to hold to what has been held everywhere, always and by all.

And to this end we ask for your help, for your honesty if you believe we are failing you. And we ask above all for your prayers.

And now unto God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost be ascribed, as is most justly due, all might, majesty, dominion, power and glory, now and forever. Amen.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Who is This Jesus?

I would say it is no coincidence that, after much discussion in recent days about the need to increase the focus on evangelism, I discovered that a series of practically oriented courses is being organised by the Anglican Communion Network.

I am having trouble with the overall link, but here is one to the first conference, to be held in Gainesville, Florida (home of my alma mater) on August 24.

Dr. Michael Green, renowned evangelist and author of over 50 books on evangelism and discipleship, is the lead speaker/trainer. The Good News Core Team of speakers also includes:

The Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman,
Bishop of Quincy and President of Forward-in-Faith North America
Mrs. Rosemary Green, wife and ministry partner of Dr. Green for over 50 years
Miss Carrie Boren, Missioner for Evangelism, Diocese of Dallas
The Rev. Cn. Daryl Fenton, Chief Operating Officer for the ACN
Mrs. Jenny Noyes, Coordinator for Evangelism for the ACN

Each conference is planned with a team of local clergy and lay volunteers so the conferences can be tailored to meet the specific needs of that region.

Following Gainesville, here are the other venues and dates:

Bluffton, SC - September 14–16, 2007
Akron, OH - September 28–30, 2007
Savannah, GA - October 5–7, 2007 (Registration open.)
Hamilton, MA - October 25–28, 2007
San Jose, CA - November 14–16, 2007 (Live videofeed available.)
Metro DC (Herndon, VA) - Feb. 8–10, 2008 (Live videofeed available.)

Some Apologetics

There have been a number of claims made over the past few years that modern neuroscience undermines the Christian faith. For those interested in this area, here are two papers I have written related to this controversy.


Quantum Mechanics, the Mind and Free Will

Thursday, July 26, 2007

An Imprimatur

Archbishop Mark Haverland, Metropolitan of the Original Province of the Anglican Catholic Church, has told me he fully supports the post below, More on Alleged Donatism, and has given permission to note this approval publicly.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Now It's Official

The following report was written by Auburn Faber Traycik. I have been sitting on this until it appeared on Virtue Online

JUST WEEKS after an Anglican Province of Christ the King (APCK) bishop voiced serious frustration with longstanding divisions in the mainstream Continuing Church, he and nearly all parishes and clergy of his diocese have left the APCK for the Anglican Church in America (ACA). In a July 23 letter lamenting the APCK's failure to advance dialogue begun with the ACA and another leading Continuing body, the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC), a few years ago, Eastern States Bishop Rocco Florenza told new APCK Archbishop James Provence that 12 of the 14 congregations in the eastern diocese are realigning with the ACA, and that he is going with them...

See the rest here.

Bishop Florenza's letter to the bishops of the Province of Christ the King:

Dear Archbishop Provence:

This letter is to advise you and bishops Wiygul and Morrison that I have received notification that the following parishes and missions within my diocese have elected to separate from the Province of Christ the King and have affiliated with the Anglican Church in America , a body of faithful, traditional Anglicans with whom we are in communion:

1. Anglican Church of the Resurrection, Ansonia, CT
2. Anglican Church of the Ascension, Manchester, CT
3. Holy Apostles Anglican Church, Peewaukee, WI
4. Saint Mary the Virgin Anglican Church, Liverpool, N.Y.
5. Saint Alban's Anglican Church, State College, PA
6. Saint Mark's Anglican Church, Benton, KY
7. Saint Anne's Anglican Church, Columbus, OH
8. Saint Paul's Anglican Mission, Crystal Lake, IL
9. Saint Matthew's Anglican Mission, Custer, WI
10. All Souls Anglican Mission, Schylerville, N.Y.
11. Saint Michael's Anglican Mission, Albany, N.Y.
12. Saint Therese Anglican Mission, Washington, N.J.

In charity and in accordance with the standing practice of the Province, I have exercised my authority as bishop ordinary to dispense them from the canons pertaining to the departure of parishes from this body. As well, I have issued letters dimissory to the clergy of those parishes and missions so that they may affiliate with the Anglican Church in America without interruption to their respective ministries and work for Christ

I have not granted these requests lightly, but after much prayer and reflection on the needs of the people and clergy under my pastoral care and on the future of Christ’s church as it is found in the traditional Anglican expression. I believe that I can do nothing less and remain true to Scripture, tradition and the foundational principles of our movement.

I have been a member of the clergy of this Province since its inception. Now, as a bishop. I must say that I no longer believe that it is possible to remain divided from those with whom we share the same Apostolic origins, the same theology and the same Sacraments. As stated in my recent pastoral letter to my diocese, such division stands in contradiction to the will of Christ, has been a stumbling block to our work for Him in the world, and has inflicted damage on the witness of the traditional Anglican expression. Our clergy recognize this, and, more importantly, our lay people well-know the cost of a fragmented witness. This was the reason for such great hope over our meetings in Fond du Lac two years past, and cause for such great disappointment when our Province, which had convened those meetings, did not move forward to build on that moment.

A community truly centered on Christ present in the Sacrament cannot be closed in upon itself, as though it were somehow self-sufficient; rather it must strive for harmony with other catholic communities. We cannot erect artificial barriers to the unity of the church based on old wounds and particularized views of communion based on those past events. We are called as the people of God to press forward together, to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Accordingly, I have requested that I be received into the Anglican Church in America, together with the people and clergy of the parishes and missions named above, to serve them as a pastor and bishop for such time as God allows me to so to do. This request has been granted and is effective this 23rd day of July, in the year of Our Lord 2007.

In Christ,

The Rt. Rev. Rocco A. Florenza

Two Perspectives, From Inside and Outside

Crow can be a healthy dish.

In previous postings I presented the subject of the 2004 pilgimage to Fond du Lac, knowing exactly and only what we were supposed to see from inside the Province of Christ the King. I have stated rather boldy that position as fact. Having received better information, I am aware that the ACC had made clear their position ahead of time to (now retired) Archbishop Morse, and that this information did not go further as it should have (I know that Bishop Florenza was not informed at all, and expected the ACC bishops to receive alongside the others). The picture is very clear, and what happened was a case of manipulation. Throughout the APCK, the whole affair was chalked up to having learned from experience the bitter lesson: There is no point in trying to unify the jurisdictions. I am sorry to say, I do not think that was an accident.

This does not mean that I have reversed my view that the ACA should be treated as a full partner in going forward to promote unity in the Continuing Church. Neither does it reverse my position that the ACC needs to beware of further manipulation in coming to the aid of the APCK for a temporary new relationship that is really meant to further isolate the ACA because of Bishop Rocco Florenza and his diocese. But, I know that progress will not be made without discussion that involves theological clarity, and goodwill from all concerned, both the ACC and the TAC-ACA. I have seen, very recently, a very different attitude in very significant men in the ACC. It is different from what has been presented locally by a few priests, and what was presented in rather harsh and rigid comments by one priest on this blog (very much the opposite of our own Fr. Kirby, who has consistently represented the ACC intelligently, and charitably).

However, with a new Archbishop in the APCK, that jurisdisdiciton should cease to be, to a very unfortunate degree, too much of a personality cult. But, will they become truly collegial? The exclusion of Bishop Florenza from the voting process is disturbing; however, that was done by the retired Archbishop. Again, it pains me to speak this way, because I have had only affection and respect for the retired Archbishop as well as for the new one, having enjoyed our few times when we met face to face, and when I spoke to Archbishop Morse over the phone on several occasions. And, I do not want to detract from the good things he has accomplished, including his very effective personal evangelism as a college chaplain on the very difficult Berkeley campus.

Bishop Florenza has not had an easy time making his decisions, and did not come to them rashly or quickly. Much will be made of his comments about unity, and I know in advance that people will write comments calling the whole matter into question. However, I believe that his conclusion is valid; he does not see any possible way to work toward unity strictly from within the APCK unless the habits of decades are unlearned. Furthermore, he must act as a shepherd to protect those under his care from harm, and this protection has proved, over and over, to be very difficult to give, sometimes impossible, strictly within the APCK.

More on Marriage and Annulments

Last week some very important questions were brought up about the whole issue of divorced and remarried clergy. This was due to a case involving a very important clergyman in the Continuing Anglican movement about which I had never been fully informed (and don't want to be), but about which I was aware that an annulment had been granted years ago. Therefore, I want to clarify some points.

An annulment is not something that a bishop has the power to effect. It is not sacramental, and is not a charismatic power granted to a bishop that enables him to render a valid marriage null. He does not have the power to unmarry people. If an annulment has been granted, we ought to have confidence that the bishop who had the case investigated and then granted the decree of nullity, did so with complete integrity. The whole idea is not that he can make the previous marriage null, but that, upon investigation, he is able to determine that no marriage had taken place as far as the Church is concerned, meaning that there was no marriage in the eyes of God.

The element of a sacrament that is most important in these cases is Intention. Most decrees of nullity are based on conclusive evidence that a previous marriage, even though it was legal according to the state (which means that the children of such marriages are legitimate, since that is a legal matter), lacked the necessary intention, by one of the parties, to be considered a sacrament. This does not mean that, for the marriage to be valid, they had to understand anything to do with sacramental theology at the time; what it does mean is that they intended to enter into a life long union and to practice fidelity. The grant of an annulment means that the Church considers a subsequent marriage to be the first marriage in any case where the former spouse (spouse in strictly legal terms) is still living, rather than a remarriage.

Here are two problems that must be faced honestly.

1) Bishops can abuse this authority, and if they do so, it is their annulment that is null in the eyes of God.

2) Among Continuing Anglicans, there are quite an alarming number of clergy who have been though the process.

The people have a need for examples of godly living by the clergy, and a very special need for clergy to represent in their persons the sacramental life, and our theology teaches us that marriage is a sacrament. If, however, the clergyman has had an annulment, and has since then married in good faith, we have no grounds to treat him as somehow notorious.

I have helped bishops in two investigations. One involved a husband who wanted his wife to commit adultery so he could watch, and to engage in perverted acts to satisfy him. I refer to the "Clinton Preference," named after an ex-President of the United States. The fact is, such acts are not permitted by God; they are not what He had in mind, and not what is meant when it says that God makes a man and wife into one flesh. Any man who wants his wife to perform the "Clinton Preference" is treating his wife disrespectfully and abusively. Any man who wants her to prostitute herself so he can watch, has shown that he was incapable of the sacramental intention to be a husband. The lady in question received her annulment and was able to marry in good conscience. The other case involved a woman who, shortly after a civil ceremony on a beach, began to pull away from her husband, and eventually left him, then divorced him, never giving any reason (no reason appears in the court documents). He never knew if she had another lover; but the abandonment is, in the eyes of the Church, a form of adultery even without another lover. The man received his annulment in this case, and could in good conscience marry his intended (a very good word for our purposes).

In my former work, dealing with legal/medical matters, I came across a heart broken young woman who discovered, after being married a short time, that she did not have any true information about her husband's identity. He disappeared completely; and, after investigation, she learned that he was not the man whose name appeared on their marriage certificate (Maryland had no marriage licenses in those days, but did keep a marriage certificate on file in the Department of Vital Records). She had no idea at all who he actually was. I informed her that, by law, they were never married, and that, as far as we know, he may have commited bigamy. In any case, as far as the Church is concerned, false identity is grounds for annulment.

For the record, I have been married only one time in the eyes of the state as well as of the Church, so I do not know the pain of divorce first hand at all. My marriage is and always has been quite happy. From what I have seen, however, in the lives of people who are going through divorce, is that in most cases there comes a point at which one party wants reconciliation, and the other does not. At this point, pastoral ministry must be done with the greatest of care and of urgency, if possible, to hold a family together. Sadly, sometimes what must be determined is if one party is in a state of mortal sin by refusing to honor the vows that were taken.

This may or may not put minds at rest. I post this to help your understanding, knowing full well that it may cause questions to arise. If so, do not be afraid to ask.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Collect - Trinity VII

a little late. This is yesterday's collect

The Latin Collect
Deus virtutum, cujus est totum quod est optimum: insere pectoribus nostris amorem tui nominis, et praesta in nobis religionis augmentum; ut quae sunt bona, nutrias, ac pietatis studiom quae synt nutrita, custodias.

The Collect (1549)
LORDE of all power and might, whiche art the author and gever of all good thynges; graffe in our hartes the love of thy name, increase in us true religion, norishe us with all goodnes, and of thy great mercy kepe us in the same; Through Jesus Christe our Lorde.

The Collect (1662)
LORD of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things; Graft in our hearts the love of thy Name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of thy great mercy keep us in the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Cranmer here translated the collect for this Sunday from the Sarum Missal (which appears in the Tridentine Missal for the Sixth after Pentecost). The Sarum Missal, in turn, received this prayer from the Gelasian Sacramentary of about AD 750.

In today’s Gospel we remember the feeding of the hungry bodies of four thousand listeners. In this collect we are reminded that God is indeed the giver of all good things, but we are further reminded (in the words we ourselves pray) that these good things are not primarily things at all, but the love of God, the truth of the Christian faith and practice, and the living out of goodness, none of which can endure without His mercy. Without these things we cannot endure. Without these things we cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. God grant them to us all.

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

A Consuming Fire

Many schools of Religion and Ethics are to be found among us, and they all profess to magnify, in one shape or other, what they consider the principle of love; but what they lack is, a firm maintenance of that characteristic of the Divine Nature, which, in accommodation to our infirmity, is named by St. John and his brethren, the wrath of God. Let this be well observed.

There are men who are advocates of Expedience; these, as far as they are religious at all, resolve conscience into an instinct of mere benevolence, and refer all the dealings of Providence with His creatures to the same one Attribute. Hence, they consider all punishment to be remedial, a means to an end, deny that the woe threatened against sinners is of eternal duration, and explain away the doctrine of the Atonement.

There are others, who place religion in the mere exercise of the excited feelings; and these too, look upon their God and Saviour, as far (that is) as they themselves are concerned, solely as a God of love. They believe themselves to be converted from sin to righteousness by the mere manifestation of that love to their souls, drawing them on to Him; and they imagine that that same love, untired by any possible transgressions on their part, will surely carry forward every individual so chosen to final triumph. Moreover, as accounting that Christ has already done everything for their salvation, they do not feel that a moral change is necessary on their part, or rather, they consider that the Vision of revealed love works it in them spontaneously; in either case dispensing with all laborious efforts, all "fear and trembling," all self-denial in "working out their salvation," nay, looking upon such qualifications with suspicion, as leading to a supposed self-confidence and spiritual pride.

Once more, there are others of a mystical turn of mind, with untutored imaginations and subtle intellects, who follow the theories of the old Gentile philosophy. These, too, are accustomed to make love the one principle of life and providence in heaven and earth, as if it were a pervading Spirit of the world, finding a sympathy in every heart, absorbing all things into itself, and kindling a rapturous enjoyment in all who contemplate it. They sit at home speculating, and separate moral perfection from action. These men either hold, or are in the way to hold, that the human soul is pure by nature; sin an external principle corrupting it; evil, destined to final annihilation; Truth attained by means of the imagination; conscience, a taste; holiness, a passive contemplation of God; and obedience, a mere pleasurable work.

It is difficult to discriminate accurately between these three schools of opinion, without using words of unseemly familiarity; yet I have said enough for those who wish to pursue the subject. Let it be observed then, that these three systems, however different from each other in their principles and spirit, yet all agree in this one respect, viz., in overlooking that the Christian's God is represented in Scripture, not only as a God of love, but also as "a consuming fire." Rejecting the testimony of Scripture, no wonder they also reject that of conscience, which assuredly forebodes ill to the sinner, but which, as the narrow religionist maintains, is not the voice of God at all,—or is a mere benevolence, according to the disciple of Utility,—or, in the judgment of the more mystical sort, a kind of passion for the beautiful and sublime. Regarding thus "the goodness" only, and not "the severity of God," no wonder that they ungird their loins and become effeminate; no wonder that their ideal notion of a perfect Church, is a Church which lets every one go on his way, and disclaims any right to pronounce an opinion, much less inflict a censure on religious error.

- Cardinal Newman, in his sermon on "Tolerance of Religious Error"

A Commercial Break

I am now counting the days until I leave for Spain and a month's holiday there.

I will spend a good portion of it at my house in the mountains of Granada, but for most of the year, the house is vacant.

This is an invitation to readers of The Continuum, particularly the many of you who are in Europe, to consider it as a holiday option. For those of you who might be interested, I am including a link to a website where you can book it. If you identify yoursel as a reader of The Continuum, you can expect a discount.

So what are you waiting for?

Here is the link:


Killing the Velveteen Rabbit

Robert Hart +

It was Ash Wednesday many years ago, and my wife Diane was sitting next to me in church (something we got to enjoy before my ordination). The scriptures for the day had been read, powerful and inspiring, moving and challenging, telling us the serious nature of the penitential season of Lent into which we entered. The prophet Joel cried out to us from centuries past, but as if present in the church with us: “Rend your heart and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God.” The Lord Jesus Christ told us not to lay up for ourselves treasures on earth, but in Heaven; “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Weighty words had been spoken, with the power to transform lives, words by which the Holy Spirit convicts the conscience. And at this point in the service, with the freshly read scriptures still having their effect in human hearts, a priest entered the pulpit, said his brief invocation, and proceeded to expound upon the text before him, fully prepared to exegete from it every ounce of meaning that his gifts allowed. But, the text before him was not one of the Bible passages we had heard. No. For the third time within a couple of years, once again a clergyman stood before us to tell us a story so important that it preempted any need to draw from the scriptures. Once again we were to hear, from the pulpit, the story of The Velveteen Rabbit, with the cliché moral of the story- to “get real.”

Frankly, sensing my call to the priesthood in those early years, and feeling quite tired of such feeble sermonettes, it took restraint to remain in my seat rather than charging the pulpit to impress the collar of the clergyman from all directions. Not again, not on Ash Wednesday for heaven’s sake! How tired I was of this velveteen rabbit chap, and of being told to “get real” by some poor inept fellow who, having the scriptures available to study, to “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest”, could not think of anything to say about them. How long would this velveteen rabbit trend remain fashionable anyway? It was time for serious resolve: If ever I were to meet this velveteen rabbit, I decided, I would kill it, and put the little rodent out of my misery.

I thought about the words of the Prophet Jeremiah: “He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is The Velveteen Rabbit to the wheat? saith the LORD. Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? (Jeremiah 23: 28, 29).” It is one thing to enter a pulpit and preach heresy, the way that James Pike did just before his retirement as the Episcopal Bishop in San Francisco. In his last service, before presiding at the Holy Communion, he preached his final sermon in order to set everybody straight on why we should not believe in the Virgin Birth, Christ’s miracles, His atoning death or His resurrection (of course, not before leading the people in the “Nicene Creed”). As terrible as such heresy is, pure banality cannot be far behind.

Telling the people to “get real” like the toys in a children’s story is not quite as serious an offense as the last sermon of Pike. But, neither is it the word of God. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).” The scriptures deal with something even more important than life and death; they speak directly to eternal destiny.

While walking the earth, the Son of God proclaimed that the Old Testament scriptures were, in fact, actually testifying about Him. After His resurrection He expounded on the meaning of all the scriptures as the things concerning Himself, and opened the minds of His disciples to understand them.

So, too, the New Testament is rich with the reports of Christ’s actions, His words, His life, His death and His resurrection. They tell us, also, who He is: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God… And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:1,2, 14).” It goes on to tell us how His Incarnation is extended in this world through time and space by His Church, founded by Him and indwelt by His Spirit. The doctrines of that Church are forever enshrined in the Epistles, and our hope made firm by the last prophetic Revelation.

This is the hammer that breaks the rock in pieces, a fire that bursts forth and blazes, consuming everything, and making new life. It is a power that transcends every natural force, and every embellishment of those forces, electric or atomic. “The voice of the Lord is mighty in operation; the voice of the LORD is a glorious voice…the voice of the LORD shaketh the wilderness (Psalm 29: 4, 7 BCP).” The scriptures kill and make alive, meeting the truest and deepest needs of man. And yet, many clergymen struggle very hard, trying to think of something to say. Why?

Every seminary everywhere ought to teach a very important principle: It is not the duty of the clergy to blunt the sharpness, to soften the hammer, or to quench the fire. Woe to the preacher who protects the people from the word that kills, because he protects them also from being made alive- truly and forever alive. Woe to the preacher who acts as a buffer, deflecting the force of the scriptures to soften the blow, because in protecting from the stroke, he prevents the healing. If his labors in the pulpit amount to a lifetime of standing between the people and the word of God, reducing its effect, taming it and making it polite, presentable and harmless, he will have nothing to show for it in the end but wood, hay and stubble instead of gold, silver and precious stones.

It far easier to preach if a man will ride the scriptures like a wave, letting them make their own point, and arrive at their own destination (informed by the Tradition of the Church). If the passages that have been read speak of life and death, then elaborate on life and death. If they speak of repentance then preach that men should repent. When they encourage faith, proclaim faith. When they warn of Hell and the judgment to come, then blow the trumpet as a faithful watchman on the walls. When they comfort, speak as a pastor who feeds the sheep. Let the meaning of the scriptures be expounded to their full effect, proclaiming from them the truth that affects the eternal destiny of the souls in your care.

Friday, July 20, 2007

From the archives

In light of current discussions, or at least recent discussions, I believe it would be useful to refer to a much earlier posting by Fr. Kirby. The sanity and reason of this piece demonstrates that among the ACC there are voices far more ready to seek reconciliation than may be seen in some of the comments of late. In this post, our brother has put forth a genuinely Catholic point of view seasoned with the classic Anglican temperment that makes room for right reason. Fr. Kirby's post is a far superior kind of thinking to the rigid apparent Donatism of certain others who, based on a view that is fully debatable and dubious, presume to lay down a claim to jurisdiction as if that alone settles everything. Such a claim presumes trust, even when it has not been earned; it presumes agreement of fact, and therefore willful sin, without any evidentiary basis.

The balance must exist between holding firm to principles and compassion. Furthermore, charity becomes an empty word if we are unwilling to hear each other out, and consider another point of view. Unity, without truth, is evil; this is why God scattered the people at the Tower of Babel. The unity of Christians is based on truth, and is accomplished only as a result of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost; and we must keep this unity in the bond of peace.

I refer also to an even earlier post- of sorts, older than the whole internet. It is a quotation from a post, a letter, by Saint Paul the Apostle:

"...by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. "

Galatians 5:13-15

Are There Two Continua?

It appears to me that there have long been two connotations to the word "Continuum" in the traditionalist Anglican context. The primary and original meaning of the related adjective "Continuing" was "continuing Anglican orthodoxy and jurisdiction after Anglican provinces embraced heresy". But due to the multiplicity of the churches claiming to possess that adjective, the noun "continuum" has come to refer to the fact that these churches are still in some way connected to each other by either the links of intercommunion or of similar commitments. There now appear to be two "continua" in the latter sense that may be distinguished from each other, despite maintaining similarities.

First, there is the smaller original continuum consisting of the ACC, APCK, and UEC. They are all derived more or less directly from the body consitituted and defined by the Affirmation of St Louis and the following Dallas Synod. There exists full communion between these three jurisdictions, so that they may now be effectively considered one church in sacramental terms. Their doctrinal position may be descibed as philo-Orthodox, due to their united formal embrace of Scripture as interpreted by Holy Tradition, including the Creeds, Seven Sacraments, Seven Ecumenical Councils and, in general, the consensus of East and West.

Second, there is the numerically larger new continuum consisting of the APA, REC, AMiA, Lambeth Communion's African and other "conservative" Churches, CANA, FiF, TAC, etc. This grouping is the result of more recent re-alignments within and departures from the Lambeth Communion. (However, some of them also have a strong connection to the original Continuers, especially the ACC-Canada in the TAC, for example.) These bodies make up a continuum not because they are all in full communion with each other, but because they make up a chain of mediate communion, with every body connected to at least one of the others in some sort of intercommunion relationship. Too, they cover a broader range of theological positions and so may be described as comprehensive if considered over this whole continuum. This doctrinal continuum goes from anglopapist to Calvinist, with some ordaining priestesses, but some not.

At the moment the first Continuum sees itself as necessarily distinct from the second one and every church in it, due to the latter's apparent doctrinal and sacramental ambiguity. It feels that the best and most Catholic way to bring people out of heterodoxy is to present a clear witness and a clear choice to them, declaring that intercommunion with and/or official incorporation in formally heretical churches is not permissible.

Those who are doctrinally very close to the first continuum, while being in the second one, such as the TAC, perceive their intercommunion with particular orthodox bishops and others who remain in heterodox jurisdictions or communions as a charitable act of pastoral economy and hope to gradually wean them away completely. They also hope, I think, that re-alignment and rethinking will continue throughout the second continuum so that there will be a gradual evolution of the others towards their position and thus a strengthening and growth of orthodoxy and unity.

Now, while this disunity may be very vexing, it is not necessarily a disaster in the long run. After all, honest, patient, prayerful, thoughtful, and charitable discussion (and experience) may lead to resolution of differences in time, whether one side persuades the other or a synthesis is formulated. This need not be permanent division, so there is no need to panic or demand immediate solutions which ignore real differences. Instead, dialogue on those differences is clearly necessary. It is this the ACC desires.

And, let's face it, the existence of two identifiable continua is closer to unity and more credible than the appearance of an atomised, multiplicitous and incomprehensible "alphabet soup" of jurisdictions. So, let's accentuate the positive and over time maybe even eliminate the negative!

Theology and Humour

Something I found over at ReformedCatholicism that I think we could all do well to read.

“Theology is the study of God and his ways. For all we know, dung beetles may study us and our ways and call it humanology. If so, we would probably be more touched and amused than irritated. One hopes that God feels likewise.”

- Frederich Buechner

“Because of piety’s penchant for taking itself too seriously, theology—more than literary, humanistic, and scientific studies—does well to nurture a modest, unguarded sense of comedy. Some comic sensibility is required to keep in due proportion the pompous pretentions of the study of divinity. When the chips pile too high, I invite the kind of laughter that wells up not from cynicism about theology but from lightness about it. This comes from glimpsing the incongruity of humans thinking about God…The most enjoyable of all subjects has to be God, because God is the source of all joy. God has the first and last laugh. The least articulate of all disciplines deserves something in between.”

- Thomas Oden

“Never attempt the task of theology without a smirk on your face and never trust a theologian who lacks one.”

- Michael J. Pahls

More on alleged Donatism

Recently this blog has been host to a number of posts and comments extremely critical of the ACC and its bishops. My church has been accused of Donatism, arbitrariness in singling out the ACC/APCK/UEC as uniquely legitimate successors of the original Continuing Church, and sowing disunity under the pretext of searching for unity. Strangely, the points in my previous post on this subject have not so much been disputed as ignored. Let me restate and refine the basic problems with the above accusations as succinctly as possible.

The ACC cannot be accused of Donatism as it has never claimed to be the one true church. Instead, it has specifically and repeatedly accepted the APCK and UEC as sister churches and noted its belief that both the RCC and EOC are true Catholic jurisdictions. Indeed, Abp Mark Haverland stated this at the last Provincial Synod, even to the point of calling any claim that the ACC was co-extensive with the Catholic Church preposterous. Given we accept the Catholic bona fides of the vast majority of Christians who claim to be Catholic, any claim of Donatism is undeniably false.

We do question the canonical integrity of the TAC, in much the same way that Rome questions the Lefebvrist SSPX and mainstream Orthodoxy has questioned the status of "non-canonical" churches. Some in the ACC dispute the validity (or more accurately "recognisability") of TAC orders. Others affirm them as certainly valid (like me). Similarly, there has been debate in the RCC over whether SSPX priests can validly give absolution and there is a variety of opinion among EO theologians on the validity of all sacraments in "schismatic" churches. So, the ACC cannot be accused of Donatism without the accusation being vulnerable to a reductio ad absurdum.

The claim that the recent agreed statement by the ACC/APCK/UEC groups these three churches together for no good reason is historically indefensible. The original Continuing Bishops and Church named themselves the ACC and agreed on a Constitution at their first synod. At that point they were still united. (There was only provisional acceptance of the Canons then, and Bp Morse abstained from this vote.) Bp Morse soon after withdrew his diocese, which never ratified the first synod's decisions in its own diocesan synod. While the rest of the ACC regretted this and felt it was unnecessary because there was no question of heresy etc., it never excommunicated Bp Morse or declared him schismatic in the proper sense. After all, his diocese had the right not to ratify, which effectively meant it had the right not to remain submitted to and part of the ACC as a whole. The later departure from the ACC of Bp Doren, another of the original bishops, and his formation of the UEC was perhaps more problematic, but mutual reconciliation and intercommunion with the ACC was afterwards re-established. So, there can be no doubt that these three churches derived from that first united body.

As for the ACA, it was established as a jurisdiction de novo in 1991 and consisted originally of the church of an episcopus vagans, Anthony Clavier, and a few bishops who left the ACC under discipline along with a number of ACC clergy and parishes they took with them. Clavier's church, the AEC, was a breakaway from a racist anti-civil-rights church (the Anglican Orthodox Church) established in the '60s. Clearly, the ACA cannot be considered to be in canonical or jurisdictional continuity with the original Continuing Church in the USA, unless one credits the AOC with being the true original Continuers and accepts that ECUSA abandoned Catholicity by racial integration rather than the ordination of women.

What is so special about the churches deriving from that original Continuing Church of St Louis and Dallas, first called the Anglican Church in North America, then the Anglican Catholic Church? They left the heretical ECUSA as soon as practically possible and placed themselves under the protective jurisdiction of an orthodox bishop, as required by Catholic principles and the canon law of Ecumenical Councils. Only one bishop had the courage to take them, Bp Chambers. They received from that bishop, the only North American one who was willing to be orthodox in both faith and practice by supporting the Continuers departure from heterodox jurisdictions, the mandate to take over the jurisdiction of ECUSA and the Anglican Church of Canada. That is why they could say, "we solemnly affirm, covenant and declare that we, lawful and faithful members of the Anglican and Episcopal Churches, shall now and hereafter continue and be the unified continuing Anglican Church in North America, in true and valid succession thereto." This means that once that church was established, assuming it remained orthodox, all attempts to create completely new Anglican jurisdictions in that same territory in deliberate competition were unnecessary and thus, strictly speaking, acts of invasion and schism. Now, we realise that the complexities and confusions since that time mean that the strict approach does not take sufficient account of such factors as the vagaries of human judgement and understanding. Archbishop John Charles' open letter implies this very thing. But we do not think that automatic acceptance of every "copy-cat" establishment of a new Continuing Church after the original one in the same places would be a genuinely Catholic attitude or witness. Apostolic Succession is succession of jurisdiction, not just orders. (If other churches disagree with our position on this issue, then they need to discuss it with us and help us understand why they believed a particular creation of an additional overlapping jurisdiction was justified. We are open to dialogue on this and other issues.)

Finally, there is the repeated claim that the recent agreed statement by the three Metropolitans was not a new step towards unity but merely an attempt to positively exclude one bishop of the APCK and the possibility of the unity with the TAC that he advocates. Now, it is true that the ACC does not want the APCK to split and part of it to leave for another church. And the agreed statement is deliberately discouraging that. But, as I have said in previous comments, this is not about seeking to isolate one bishop but seeking to re-integrate him into collegial cooperation with his brother bishops in the jurisdiction to which he is responsible. More importantly, the interpretation that the statement seeks primarily to paint the TAC as ecclesia non grata and as simply to be condemned and avoided is manifestly false. How can we know this? By the fact that I have noted here before, but many seem to have missed, that the Metropolitical Statement is only half the story. Abp John Charles' open letter to a broader audience, approved by the ACC's College of Bishops, is the other half. Indeed, Abp Haverland has informed me that his statement needs to be read in the context of the letter. (It was his intention that they appear at the same time, but unfortunately this did not turn out as planned.) From the open letter and the use of the words "first" by Abp Haverland and "begin" in Abp Provence's pastoral letter, it is obvious that the ACC/APCK/UEC statement of full communion and commitment to full organic unity, while decrying association with the Lambeth Communion, is seen as a beginning, not an end. If anybody doubts the significance of this agreed statement, they should remember that never before have these three churches all declared in public their state of communio in sacris. The ACC expressed its commitment to these special relationships back in 1995, however, and did so quoting a dictum of Abp Morse about the Chambers Succession. But this is the first time the three churches have all made this clear publicly and simultaneously.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Questioning Authority

When I drive behind a bumper sticker that says “Question Authority” I always wish that my car were equipped with a siren and flashing lights. I would love to pull the driver over so that I could ask one simple question: “Is that an order?” To expand, the meaning of the question would be “by what authority do you command this thing? Who gave you this authority? Was it from heaven or from men?”

Well, of course the whole point of displaying this imperative is to deny the idea of authority itself; and it is likely that the driver who put this on his car would be surprised to learn that he has issued a command to everyone behind him. It is unlikely that he would want to be thought of as authoritarian, just the opposite. This problem becomes more serious when it has consequences in the lives of people and of churches.

In August of 2003, within minutes after the approval to elevate Vickie Gene Robinson to the office of bishop in the Episcopal Church, the news was flashed across the world that a divorced and openly “gay” man, living with his homosexual lover, was going to be a bishop. An Episcopal priest who was present at that General Convention in Minneapolis that had done the deed by majority vote, stood beaming from ear to ear as he answered questions put to him by Bill O’ Reilly of Fox News.

“What about the Biblical injunction against homosexuality?” asked O’ Reilly.

“The scriptures aren’t the final authority in Anglicanism,” said the cleric, “the Holy Spirit is.”

From the many apologetic responses that were subsequently issued by Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold, and by others, it is clear that what this priest said to O’ Reilly was the simple version of their defense. In the final analysis, they were claiming to have been led by the Holy Spirit to overthrow 2,000 years of Church teaching from the Bible. Any such claim only makes sense in light of the promise that Jesus Christ gave to the apostles, “However, when He, the Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth (John 16:12).”

In an ecclesial body which claims for its validity the Apostolic Succession, this promise of Christ has to be connected to a claim that that body is at least part of the “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.” As such, when they insist that the Holy Spirit made them do it, it means that their very liberal sounding agenda is that we must question every commandment of God and the whole authority of the Church in a Tradition going back past the Apostles to the Lawgiver of Sinai. And, also, that this anti-authoritarian agenda has been ordered by the Highest Authority. So that now “Question Authority” is clearly seen to be the command that it is, and a command from on high no less.

A further irony is that a change of Tradition in an ecclesial body that claims the Apostolic foundation is impossible without adding to itself the exclusive title, The One True Church. Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy make this claim, and each has reasons for doing so. But Anglicans have never made this claim about their whole Communion, let alone one national church- until now. What was alleged to be simply another General Convention of the Episcopal Church, resulted in this rather shrunken little denomination acting as if it were holding the Ecumenical Council of Minneapolis.

And, this was not the first time. This Council should properly be called Minneapolis II, because the “First Ecumenical Council of Minneapolis” should be the name by which we remember the General Convention of 1976. It was held in the same city, and seen to have exercised the same authority to question authority concerning that other milestone “leading of the Spirit”, women’s “ordination”. “Hear the word of the Lord: Thou shalt question authority. Obedience is better than sacrifice”

If we take a close look at the policy of the Episcopal Church in the years that followed, we see that the situation grew from one in which dissent was not only tolerated, but treated with provisions out of respect for the consciences of Parishes and dioceses, to one of outright intolerance. The diocese of Quincy and the Diocese of Forth Worth found themselves under pressure from the headquarters of the Episcopal Church in New York to find a way to accept women “priests” in order to come into uniformity with the denomination as a whole. The fact that these Anglo-Catholic dioceses, and their respective bishops, could not conform without violating their consciences became unimportant.

In 2001 Acting “Bishop” Jane Dixon of the Diocese of Washington D.C. had sued St. John’s Parish of Christ Church in Accokeek Maryland in order to force out their Rector, Fr. Samuel Edwards. This was because he was known to be opposed to women’s “ordination” and could not, therefore, accept her position as a bishop in the sacramental sense, even though he had declared his willingness to accept it as a fact of Episcopal Church Canon Law. This is not the only case in which the promoters of the liberal agenda acted in a very authoritarian manner to force their will through legal power, or through denominational pressure. The liberals are not very liberal, especially when it comes to issues of power.

The Episcopal Church is a very easy target to strike, and lest it seem that this essay is unfair for picking on a little denomination, let me point out that this problem is wider in scope. It is the problem of the entire liberal movement in theology. Certainly it is found among rebellious members of the Roman Catholic Church. I have been present at Roman Catholic Masses, most recently the funeral of my own grandmother in January 2002, in which trendy Baltimore parishes offered in place of the “Our Father” an innovative offering that must have been to Baal and Ashteroth: “Our mother and father in heaven…” One person suggested that I write a complaint directly to Rome.

The difference is that in the Roman Catholic Church this rebellion cannot become policy. The problem, however, is that wherever it is inflicted on the people who come to Church it is done so by the authority on the scene. The priest who uses the sermon in the Mass to preach against the Church’s teaching, as my wife heard one Catholic priest do when she was visiting relatives in Virginia, is abusing the authority he has in that congregation in that time and place. In this case, a priest told the congregation that the See of Rome was wrong to deny women the “right” to be ordained. He spoke from the pulpit, using a place and symbol of authority to demand that authority be questioned. In such a place, the pulpit, he is speaking with authority to denounce authority.

As we look at various examples of the liberal agenda in churches, we see that the system of authority is always called into question by those who promote heresy. Higher criticism challenged the authority of the Bible in late Nineteenth Century German Lutheranism. Rebellious Catholic theologians and clerics rebel against the authority of the Pope throughout many Western countries, sometimes openly contradicting the Church. And Anglicans use Episcopal thrones and the similitude of Councils to assert their power by creating groundless Canons to overthrow the authority of Scripture, Right Reason and Tradition. But, once the authority is questioned, with what is it replaced?

Even more insidious than the use of legal power through the courts, as a means to overthrow orthodox authority, is the replacement of God’s authority with that of the anti-authoritarian liberals themselves. If the doctrine of the Church is to be overthrown, those who do so are claiming a higher authority than all which has come before. They must claim that they have revelation, that they are guided by the Holy Spirit, and that their word ought to be law, if only Canon Law. The theology and teaching of the Church is to be replaced by their revelation, even if this revelation is that they deny that there is such a thing as revelation.

When they speak of their new doctrine as the leading of the Spirit, they claim the authority of the prophetic charism; when they do so in the name of the Church, they claim the authority of apostles. The irony is that even while claiming that we should question everything, they put themselves above being questioned. They claim that the Holy Spirit is revealing all truth to them, and that every objective standard of public teaching must be overthrown.

But, without a known publicly taught doctrine, the people become utterly dependent on the purveyors of “revelation” in order to know right from wrong, and to do the will of God. When the authority of the Church’s teaching office is overthrown, the new “prophets” carve for themselves unlimited power to teach and demand anything they please. And, they become indispensable.

The perfect opposite of their whole endeavor is well symbolized by the papal office, especially when it is held by a humble man who sees clearly his episcopal and pastoral duty to defend the faith. A few years ago, when Pope John Paul II issued a statement about the question of women’s “ordination”, to close the door on the discussion, part of the statement said that the Church has no authority to make this change.

This is the trademark of orthodox pastors in the Church, and among Christian communities: They know the limits of their own authority. A defender of the faith has authority precisely because he has none whatsoever; he is only the instrument of the authority that already is understood to belong solely to God. Whether it is a Pope defending the teaching of the Church which has been entrusted and handed down to him, or the local Baptist Pastor trying to be faithful to what the Bible says, we see the humility of leaders who never would dare to assert themselves and their own ideas.

Authoritarian liberals love to tell us that “such men are dangerous,” that they are despots and tyrants who command us to obey. But what do these innovators offer in place of the authority to which faithful pastors answer as unprofitable servants? Nothing but their own authority, authority such as no Pope ever claimed for himself, and that none of the Ecumenical Councils pretended to; for they have all been the defenders of the faith. But those who order us, in the name of “enlightenment,” to “Question Authority” claim the highest authority of all; to change the truth of God for a lie.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Letter from New APCK Archbishop

The following pastoral letter from the new archbishop of the Anglican Province of Christ the King, the Most Revd James E. Provence, was published on the APCK website. Notice the absence of any mention of seeking unity with the Anglican Church in America.

The Clergy and People of the Province

Dearly Beloved Brethren,

The Feast of St. Peter this year was one of historical significance for the Anglican Province of Christ the King. On that day, in the cathedral church dedicated to Peter, the fisherman who became a fisher of men, Robert Sherwood Morse handed over apostolic responsibility for the clergy and people of the APCK to his successor, James Eugene Provence. To underscore the sacramental character of the office of archbishop, the election took place at the offertory of the Mass. Following the announcement of the new archbishop, the Mass continued, reminding us that without Christ, our work is in vain.

After the Liturgy, many clergy and laity approached Archbishop Morse to offer their thanks for his nearly thirty years of leadership and for giving us an orderly succession.

The election of the Second Archbishop is also a fitting tribute to the courage of Bishop Albert Chambers who entrusted us with the Apostolic Ministry. Acknowledging that trust, your bishops are committed to increased efforts toward unity with the other two branches that spring directly from the root of the Chambers Succession: the Anglican Catholic Church and the United Episcopal Church, North America. We believe that any progress toward unity must begin at that source.

While unity is an important goal, the primary responsibility of bishops is to feed the flock of Christ with the Word of God and the sacraments of the Church. This is the commission given to Peter, to the rest of the Apostles and to the bishops in their direct succession. Aware of this solemn responsibility, it is our commitment to continue leading this branch of Christ's Church in this most holy mission.

Yours in Christ Jesus,

The Most Rev. James E. Provence

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Clergy education

In a series of at least two or three posts I want to open (as I had promised a few weeks ago) the question of clergy education. One of our readers, upon seeing this subject raised in comments, put forth ideas that are due some very serious attention, along with other ideas that I had discussed with individuals in private correspondence before my recent move. Before discussing ideas, however, I want to use this first posting on the subject to raise questions and identify problems that should be overcome.

First of all, even with my very real objections to missteps by bishops of the Anglican Province of Christ the King, I must still correct a notion, put forth in comments, that the St. Joseph of Arimathea Seminary in Berkeley has been producing what a reader called “90 day wonders.” The program takes two years of full time study, and would take the usual three but for the apparent need for clergy ‘in the field” to do the work of the ministry. So I was told by Archbishop Robert Morse late in 2005. Having seen the seminary in action, I know that the academic program there is quite excellent (far superior to what any of the ECUSAn seminaries is doing these days), and that it is combined with the requirement that students must attend, in the seminary chapel, Morning Prayer, a Mass at noon, and Evening Prayer each day. Archbishop Provence (recently made Archbishop of the APCK) once told me that any student who missed the prayer services could not attend classes that day. I believe that this approach is good and healthy, as the student learns the importance of daily prayer, and becomes grounded in a community of prayer as part of his education and preparation for the sacred ministry.

But, many of the men who have felt the call to ordained ministry, and who have been accepted into the seminary, have faced the difficulties of giving up jobs and of relocating their families to the city rightly called “Bezerkeley.” In short, except for men who were already priests (like Fr. Edwards and me) and who transferred into the APCK, the only route to priestly ministry, that is, the only route for a postulant to holy orders, is through that one seminary located in a disreputable town all the way out on the West coast. Forgetting, for the moment, that experience has proved that the APCK is, at best, a very bad place for any man to gamble the economic welfare of his family and future, due to increasing episcopal mistreatment of faithful clergy, the question of practicality arises.

Back in the 1950s, when Robert Morse was a young man who had served his country in combat during World War II, the average seminarian was just that- a young man. It was not uncommon for the students in seminary to be recent college graduates in their twenties. Today this is not the case. Frankly, it is probably a very good thing that most men who prepare for ordination are in their forties, with wives, children, jobs and mortgages. Add to this the fact that seminary itself is a very recent development in history, and that even through most of the nineteenth century the average postulant would “read for orders” under the direction of the Diocesan Bishop (or someone appointed by the bishop). Therefore, how practical is the seminary model in this day and age? Perhaps the seminary must continue, but only as one method of clergy education with the option of at least one more method. That other method would be to restore “reading for orders" under episcopal direction. The danger in this proposal, of course, is that a genuine problem of “90 day wonders” becomes even more of a problem. Furthermore, the problem could arise that different standards of education could cause uncertainty between jurisdictions and even between dioceses within jurisdictions.

The need exists, due to the times in which we live, for a program that can be taken on the road, that is under the direction of bishops in each diocese of each jurisdiction, but that has recognized standards that cross the boundaries, and that promote confidence on the part of everyone.

More will come in this series. For now, I am throwing these questions wide open to the readers The Continuum.