Monday, September 24, 2007

ECUSA goings on. Howe can this be any kind of solution

...for what ails them?

Photo: The Episcopal Church

To some degree the happenings of the official Canterbury Anglican Communion may seem irrelevant to us. I suggest that we cannot afford to ignore it completely if we understand the duty that charity places upon as Christ's servants and evangelists. We must be more visibly welcoming as the truly alternative Anglican home. Our churches are the life boats for those who realize that their ship is going down, and that along with the rats who desert sinking ships, it is intelligent people who abandon them.

The following has been unscrupulously lifted by me from the Stand Firm blog, where it had been posted by Matt Kennedy. I am pasting it here, like the bad fellow I am, and will comment below it.
A Proposal to the House of Bishops from Bishop John Howe

To My Fellow Bishops: We are deeply, tragically, horribly "stuck," not only in The Episcopal Church, but in the Anglican Communion as a whole. In the past three days we have heard again what we already knew, that we have damaged our relationships with many parts of the Communion by failing to give sufficient attention to "common discernment," and by moving ahead with decisions in the area of human sexuality before the rest of the Anglican family is able to accept those decisions. It is clear that the great majority of our Bishops cannot retreat from what they believe to be not only a matter of justice, but a "Gospel imperative." But, in the light of that, we are squandering members, finances, and energy in our deadlock. What we need is a comprehensive solution that will end the international interventions, end the defections, end the property disputes, end the litigation, and end the ravaging of our witness and mission to the outside world simultaneously. I believe there is such a solution, but it will require great sacrifice on all sides.

I propose that we:

1) Put the Resolution of the "Windsor Bishops" to a vote. It calls for full compliance with the requests of the Primates in their Communique from Tanzania last February.
2) Those who cannot, for conscience' sake, abide by the acknowledged teaching and discipline of the Communion (Lambeth I:10) will then voluntarily withdraw (at least temporarily) from the official councils of the Communion (as per Professor Katherine Grieb's much appreciated proposal to us in March at
Camp Allen ).
3) Those committed to the Communion's teaching and discipline will continue their participation in the councils of the Communion.

4) Perhaps we will then adopt the Archbishop of Canterbury's terminology of "constituent" and "associate" membership for our dioceses. "Constituent" = fully
Windsor-compliant. "Associate" = committed to remaining Anglican, but unable to accept the Windsor proposals.
5) Those congregations and clergy which are in "associate" dioceses, who wish to continue in "constituent" membership will be transferred to the oversight and care of "constituent" dioceses and Bishops - and vice-versa.
6) We will then request the Primates who have established extra-geographical oversight in this country to give that up, and fold any congregations under their care back into "constituent" dioceses.
7) We will endeavor to fold any American clergy who have been consecrated by international jurisdictions into Suffragan and Assistant Episcopal positions in "constituent" dioceses.

8) Without relinquishing their membership in The Episcopal Church, the "constituent" dioceses will elect their own Coordinator, and function as a parallel provincial entity for a period of 5 years (or perhaps 6 = two General Conventions, or 10 = the next
Lambeth Conference).
9) After 5, 6, or 10 years we determine whether or not a "new consensus" has emerged within the Anglican Communion, and in the light of that determination -

10) We either recombine as a single jurisdiction, or we fully separate.

Warmest regards in our Lord,
The Right Rev. John W. Howe

Episcopal Bishop of Central Florida

For those who do not know, before he was a bishop, John Howe was the well known Rector of Truro Episcopal Church in Virginia, during which time he was the director of the National Organization of Episcopalians for Life (NOEL), and in that role deserved credit for his pro-life work; a fact I will not forget. Nonetheless, my disagreements with him date back to his extremely Protestant book, Our Anglican Heritage, and have continued to grow due to his support of women's "ordination," and his sadly compromised vote on sexual morality in the Episcopal Church's General Convention of 2000 (concerning the measure that left it up to each Diocesan Ordinary to determine his own policy on the blessing of same sex unions). When he says, "It is clear that the great majority of our Bishops cannot retreat from what they believe to be not only a matter of justice, but a 'Gospel imperative,' " he is being altogether too polite to those who teach that the Church must include "gays and lesbians" by affirming a life of willful sin, without regard to the need for repentance and the healing that only Christ gives to those who truly ask for it.

In Bishop Howe's proposal above we see the desperate measures of Evangelicals and other conservatives in the Episcopal Church who want to hold their national church together, and want to prevent it from being forced out of the world wide Anglican Communion. Not that the Archbishop of Canterbury is really willing to do the things he was promising only last year when he saw no way to keep the Episcopal Church in the AC. His trip to the United States, and his spineless compromise at every turn from the time he got here, have all been proof that Archbishop Rowan Williams is the one man who can hold a debate on any issue without an opponent. Just put two podiums on a stage, and let him walk back and forth between them, and the debate can proceed. Nonetheless, the African Primates, the Primate of the Southern Cone, and others, will stick to their guns, and insist on the terms of the Windsor Report and of the Dar es Salaam Communigue
. So, while the boneless wonder makes nice with the apostates, the swords are being sharpened nonetheless. I mean swords of division. After all the dust settles, the Anglican Communion will never be the same, for it will no longer have even the appearance of collegiality and union.

What does this mean for those of us who stand on the 1977 Affirmation of St. Louis? It means that we really have to clarify our evangelistic priorities. As people leave the Anglican Communion (a likelihood for which we must prepare whether it happens in big numbers or not), we must not provide reasons why they should pass us by and look for options in Protestantism, Rome or Orthodoxy. Neither should we give them reason to feel a need strictly for other Anglican options such as the AMiA, and other bodies that remain compromised on various issues.

We see a blind spot in the Low Church defections from the Anglican Communion. But they see one in us.

Their major blind spot is women's "ordination." In the case of the AMiA, I have made it clear on this blog, consistently, that to the degree we marginalize them we only help solidify them in their Protestantism (speaking in Anglican terms, of course). Their study of women's "ordination" was clearly honest, and not agenda driven, which is why they came close to the right decision. They no longer have any women serving as priests, and they have a clear understanding that such a thing must not be allowed again; for this we can give thanks and we credit the Holy Spirit for opening their eyes. But, they lack still a true understanding of Holy Orders (indeed, not even knowing that Holy Orders is a sacrament), and so they "ordain" women to the Diaconate. 1

But, the Evangelical defectors from the AC, and some still in the AC, have every right to mention a possible blind spot of ours: Are we truly evangelistic? Do our churches reach out to everybody, including the unchurched? I believe that a good number do; but on the whole we are not addressing this as much as we should (by the way, where is Ohio Anglican lately? He was always good at reminding us that this is important).

Our blind spot is the one we must think about the most, because it is ours. This is a time of opportunity, but it is a time of peril. If, indeed, a large defection from the official Anglican Communion is going to happen, we can reach out to those in the waters and give them a life boat- more than that, the home they need- or we can become irrelevant like never before. Also, we can ignore the Anglican Communion in its mess and confusion, and continue to keep ourselves "pure" from its imperfections, or we can be part of the discussion, and so help restore true orthodoxy to any of them who still have ears to hear. We can try to restore the Anglican Way of Faith and practice to Anglicans, which is nothing more or less than the Catholic and Evangelical Christianity of the Fathers.

1. I posted a piece about Holy Orders in January that I recommend for those who want to think seriously about the theology of the priesthood. See it


Tregonsee said...

Fr. Hart,

Your posting deserves a serious comment, beyond the fact that I agree. All I can suggest is that you take a look at:

for some info on the official songbook of the meeting. Were it not on her blog or one of two others, I would take it as being a wonderful parody. Really, C. S. Lewis could not have invented this for the Scretape Letters.


John Dixon said...

"Their study of women's "ordination" was clearly honest, and not agenda driven, which is why they came close to the right decision. They no longer have any women serving as priests, and they have a clear understanding that such a thing must not be allowed again; for this we can give thanks and we credit the Holy Spirit for opening their eyes. But, they lack still a true understanding of Holy Orders (indeed, not even knowing that Holy Orders is a sacrament), and so they "ordain" women to the Diaconate. 1

Dear Fr.

I would like to point out the straw man in this position. The AMiA is a mission enterprise and can make no doctrine on it's own any more than a municipality can impose law onto a state or the federal gov't.

It's 'position' on WO is largely an opinion expressed in a paper by Bishop John Rodgers. This opinion does not have any canonical effect and is not binding on the Province of Rwanda which still does ordain women.

You may recall the TEC parish in Plano Texas that left a few month's ago... All Saints I think, anyway it's 'pastor' or an associate expressed gratude for the parish's decision to affiliate with the AMiA because they could use the Rwandan loophole to continue to receive ordained women into their parish by way of Rwanda.

This intent was expressed clearly on Dick Kim's list which is read by Rodgers and most of the Bishops of the Network, AMiA, etc. There was no denial of the existance of the loophole or the fact it could be used to circumvent the AMiA's "position". In light of this I think it premature to speculate that the WO issue is closed for the AMiA.

This declaration of a ''position'' stating WO is no longer observed in the AMiA while it's episcopate stands by and receives ECUSA parishes who have publically expressed satisfaction with the loophole and their intent to circumvent the policy simply by sending women to Rwanda for ordination seems to me to be purposefully misleading.

As to CC Evangelism: I had the good fortune to witness the ACA's DEUS Synod and I can tell you firsthand it was well organized and first and foremost focused on evangelism, youth and growth. Very impressive. So much so as to remove any doubt in my mind as to the future of the ACA.


Alice C. Linsley said...

Thank you for a compassionate response to the disaster of ECUSA/TEC. By all means send out the life rafts!

Fr. Hart, you might be interested in several essays on the Priesthood posted at my blog:

I've articulated from an anthropological view why the priesthood is from primeval times, and by definition, male.

Anonymous said...

Quote: "What does this mean for those of us who stand on the 1977 Affirmation of St. Louis?" What this means is that we can no longer do business as usual. We need to become motivated and willing to compromise. However, I do not mean compromise on truth. ACA and APA need to stop flirting with AMiA and other non-orthodox Anglicans (they see you all as a bunch of 'hocus pocus' believing Catholics anyway). ACC, UEC, and APCK need to stop carrying on about the Deerfield Beach episode and legitimacy of orders. We in the Continuum need to work together...why? Because we've been around for thirty years and have dropped the ball.

How long has CANA been around? They have over thirty parishes and fifty clergy. How many does AMiA have?...I'm sure a lot more than thirty parishes and fifty clergy. I don't think numbers are everything...but I think motivation and priorities are. We in the Continuum need to get some priorities staright.

D. Straw, Evansville

Anonymous said...

It would be naive to assume that AMIA has come to the orthodox position on WO. I happen to be familiar with a local AMIA parish which has a priestess on staff. A close look at the the AMIA website shows others as well. My impression (and it's only an impression)is that the typical neo-Anglican attitude is that priestesses are okay as long as they serve under the supervision of a male rector. But then at least one congregation of the Anglican Alliance of North Florida has a female Rector.

Anonymous said...

We have a great evangelising tool but it's all too often sadly neglected: the public Sunday Office. Where I live, Mass has virtually taken over the morning, with some brave souls squeezing a quick Morning Prayer in before the 11 a.m. Choral Evensong/Congregational Evensong/Evening Prayer with or without hymns is all too often not done at all, or done only by the enthusiasts.

But, unlike the Mass, which is really for the initiates ("Let no catechumen remain"), Evening Prayer is just made for teaching. Its structure is very simple. You get good chunks of Scripture, including the psalmody, and a better opportunity for discursive preaching--perfect for educating the unitiated. And it's completely inoffensive to all degrees of churchmanship, the perfect thing for ecumenical gatherings as well. The BBC still plays the choral version on the radio once a week. Of course, we've got to get the folk in in the first place, and that might require a bit of creativity, but we've also got the perfect means of educating and re-educating folk once they're in.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

If the anonymous posting above is accurate, then I was fed some false misinformation to the effect that the women "priests" in the AMiA were no longer serving in such a capacity, and had accepted the status of laity or had left. I will look more into the matter, because it requires a level of investigation. What John commented on earlier is clearly correct, as I see already by further examination.

Of course, I did not mention the fact that the AMiA has a wide variety of liturgies, not the Book of Common Prayer, and often these churches are very modern Charismatic Evangelical praise band assemblies. This explains part of the fast success they have had. People like to feel good, clap their hands and feel affirmed.It is small wonder that such churches grow in number. But, what are they preaching? What beliefs do their prayers express (Lex Orandi Lex Credendi)? That is not a rhetorical question; I really am asking at this point.

I appreciate the strong and challenging words of D. Straw, because whether or not every detail is quite right, the gist is right. We must evangelize, and we must do so for the sake of the lost who need Christ as He has been truly revealed, not simply to grow our numbers. The motivation to grow our numbers simply for own sake never seems to produce the success it looks for. The other motive, born of charity, gets a lot more accomplished, because at that point we are co-workers together with God, guided by the Holy Spirit.

Michael said...

Fr Hart,

The AMiA has recently organised itself into networks, one of which is the Anglican Coalition in Canada, which accepts female priests. The AMiA is attempting to come to a solution to allow both camps within one sort of network. It's something of a disappointment to those who saw the AMiA coming towards the orthodox position, and especially because, as has been mentioned, the AMiA has been able to grow a great deal, plant churches, evangelise... If it offered a solution to the problem of WO that would actually satisfy the theological problems of Catholics, the church would owe them a great debt. Alas.

And yet, it isn't just the charismatic, praise-band led churches that are growing. Eastern Orthodox parishes are also growing. Evangelical churches of all kinds, from the very charismatic, to the very traditional, are able to grow - if they make a firm commitment to the worship of God, to comprehensive teaching of the flock, and to outreach and evangelism in the community. Above all, people in a church must love each other, and be firmly united in Christ.

I was just reading some of the early patristic stuff on the reception of members into the church (from Hippolytus). Those who were unbaptised expressed an interest in joining the church before they knew anything really of the worship, or theology. These were revealed over years of preparation for baptism.

They joined because they were attracted by the believers' love for one another.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

They joined because they were attracted by the believers' love for one another.

I seem to remember Somone rather important making a point about that very thing...John 13:35 seems to ring a bell.

John Dixon said...

Anon says "ACA and APA need to stop flirting with AMiA and other non-orthodox Anglicans"

I understand there is no "flirting" going on but rather some frank discussion. One could adopt an attitude of insularism and allow "Anglican" to be redifined by the more protestant wing or one could engage and seek to have an influence on their understanding and how "Anglican" is perceived by other Christians and the unchurched. You cannot do that in a vacuum. Talking is ok as long as it includes asserting right doctrine and belief. I was assured by three ACA Bishops that any engagement with the groups mentioned is not at the expense of truth, not remotely. I do not think there is any confusion about where the ACA stands on any doctrinal positions outlined in the Affirmation and Creeds by any of the semi-orthodox Pre GC03 TEC folks.

As to evangelism I lifted this off another list to demonstrate that all may not be as it seems:
"<< One announcement that received the most response was the fact that someone in Columbia, SC had actually gotten the mailing lists from almost every parish in Columbia. These people then received invitations to come to the new AMiA parish that is being started there. Clearly sheep stealing, not evangelism of the unchurched, as the AMiA claims. >>

Now I think that if this is true the AMiA will likely upset a number of these people because a tactic like this is considered rude in the South. Whether or not there were actually any 'sheep' to be stolen is another issue, huntin' sheep on a goat farm seems not a good expenditure of time. There does not seem to be many left who are interested in the Faith Once delivered. I think they might have spent the postage better by buying a mailing lisst of newcomers in the area.

BTW such lists are available as well as voter registration lists for as little as 30 bucks, a good source for a mailer... what is your church doing????

Alice C. Linsley said...

I worshipped at an AMiA church for a time after I left my parish ministry. I was approached about becoming a deacon, and it was my understanding that AMiA does not ordain women to the priesthood. There may be a few female priests in AMiA, but these would be "grandmothered" in and no future ordinations of women are to take place. I may be wrong on this though.