Friday, September 28, 2007

Last One Out Turn Off the Lights

My head is spinning. I never would have imagined that it would happen so fast, but then it really didn't. It has been in the offing for four years.

The Common Cause Partnership (CCP) is born.

This is Explosion Number One, as predicted here just a few days ago:

"Anglican bishops from ten jurisdictions and organizations pledged to take the first steps toward a “new ecclesiastical structure” in North America. The meeting of the first ever Common Cause Council of Bishops was held in Pittsburgh September 25-28.

"The bishops present lead more than 600 Anglican congregations. They formally organized themselves as a college of bishops which will meet every six months. They also laid out a timeline for the path ahead, committed to working together at local and regional levels, agreed to deploy clergy interchangeably and announced their intention to, in consultation “with those Primates and Provinces of the Anglican Communion offering recognition under the timeline adopted,” call a “founding constitutional convention for an Anglican union,” at the earliest possible date agreeable to all of the partners.

"'We met deeply aware that we have arrived at a critical moment in the history of mainstream Anglican witness in North America. God has led us to repentance for past divisions and opened the way for a united path forward. To him be the glory,' said Bishop Robert Duncan, convener of the council."

Read it all here.

The Episcopal Church has been hit by the first major blast, as a whole host of groups and jurisdictions come together to form a new church. They are the American Anglican Council (AAC); the Anglican Communion Network (ACN); the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA); the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC); the Anglican Province of America (APA); the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA); the Anglican Essentials Federation (AEF); Forward in Faith, North America (FIF/NA); and the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC).

Therein lie the elements that will cause Explosion Number Two, as I see little hope of such a disparate group maintaining any sort of real unity.

In the short term, however, we face the prospect of Avignon versus Rome -- two entities vying with each other as the true face of "mainstream Anglicanism" and seeking to convince the world of their bona fides. The Episcopal Church will no doubt retain its recognition by Canterbury, while the CCP will be embraced by the so-called Global South.

There will be more explosions to come, as catholic individuals, parishes and dioceses now belonging to the ten founding entities of the CCP find that there is no place for them in an institution that, in all likelihood, will continue to "ordain" women and worship with the 1979 "book of common prayer."

On that first point, the declaration says as much, when it states that one issue that will have to be dealt with is "How we will live together with bishops and congregations and dioceses that do ordain women and others that do not ordain women, affirming that we will not violate anyone’s conscience on this matter."

As to the second point, it hints as much when it says that two other issues to be dealt with are common worship and stating and maintaining a common Anglican ethos.

Both of these points are a far cry from the clarity provided by the Affirmation of St Louis.

I would so very much like to think that I am wrong, and that there will be no second or subsequent explosions; that the CCP could indeed be the foundation of a truly orthodox and catholic jurisdiction. But I fear that I will be proved right.

Let us pray for Bishop Duncan and all those involved in this bold venture, that they might take the steps necessary to prove me wrong. May God bless them.

And let us in the continuing movement not stand on the sidelines, pooh-poohing. Instead, let us seek dialogue with the CCP. They have already thought of that. The very final point included in their list of issues to be dealt with is this: Consistent with resolutions of Lambeth Conference, seeking to draw continuing churches, not members of the Common Cause Partnership, into fellowship.

Meanwhile, watch as the implosion now begins in earnest, as liberal, faithless "Anglicanism" begins to wither before our very eyes.

At least they'll save on their electricity bills.


Michael said...

I am very eager to know what Forward in Faith North America's take on this is. Since they have managed to survive (kinda sorta) in TEC, perhaps they think that this will be a breeze.

At the same time, the continuing churches (which the Common Cause Partnership wants to bring onside) have generally said that to ordain women not only produces so called (female) priests with invalid orders, but calls into question the authenticity of orders given to male priests as well, because it is debatable whether a bishop is acting with the right intention.

What would have to happen would be the establishment of a province, perhaps modelled after FiF UK's proposal for the C of E.

The difference is that, within an historic state church, one can more easily see the advantages of something like that. The two parties are still united in a legal sense, and both are heir to the traditions and history of the C of E. In the United States, with a different legal and cultural situation, I wonder if the best solution would be to have an even looser sort of confederation, containing both a united orthodox continuing Church - a province with all male clergy, affiliated with the rest of the new church. They could share resources on church planting, educating clergy, etc., and maintain as close links as possible to the rest of the Anglican Communion, but for sacramental purposes they would be independent (although related) bodies.

Although there is little chance of my joining this body personally - since I am quite happily a member of the TAC - I do wish them well, and will continue in prayer for them, that this will come to pass, that we will be "proven wrong" about some of our concerns. Above all, I pray that this group would, in the shorter or longer term, become wholely orthodox in its theology and worship.

The presence of FiFNA bishops, as well as APA and REC bishops on the organizing committee, is a very encouraging sign of their good faith. Let's see what happens.

Anonymous said...

As one who has swum already, and happily so, I do congratulate those who remain behind and in the struggle to find a place in the AC for classic Anglicanism.

In the CC we are seeing the Church make room for the classic believers and an invitation for those who have left to return. I hope this serves as an inspiration for the AC to do the same.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we must pray for these brethren. They're still some distance from becoming a bona fide province, and they'll need some time to get to know each other theologically, given significant differences among them. It would be important for Continuers to engage in conversation with them during this federation stage, and to participate in such commissions as theology and prayer book.

Not to delimit fine academics from any other CC bodies, I would suggest, for example, that we encourage such among our brightest and best as Fr. Charles Nalls, an ACA priest, whose Bishop is + Louis Campese; and Fr. Robert Hart, of this same blogsite, and who is my Canon Theologian in the Diocese of The Chesapeake, and a contributing editor of Touchstone Magazine.

With these and other scholars (who must be as convincing in spoken counsel as in writing), we can assist these commissions to comprehend the radical departure from Catholic Doctrine of the '79 worship volume, and the ecclesiology of Holy Orders.

With reference to the latter, they could enable a restored understanding of that biblical office of ministry given to women, the life and work of the Deaconess, that biblical office abolished by TEC contingent to its apostasy in 1976. As a woman need not be forced to become a man to serve God's Holy Church, it is wholly incomplete merely to rightly teach against women ordained, but to promote women upheld in the ministry they began under the beloved St. Paul.

Of course, I do not mean to suggest that the Common Cause Partnership will have no scholars of their own. To the contrary! I've met some of them, and am impressed. But even many of them realize their own deficits in that they have been educated in Episcopalian seminaries, and thus fed the irenics and apologetics of the '79 volume which -- viz. lex orandi, lex credendi -- supplanted classic Christian theology. Some of them have a desire to recover that treasury of doctrine which has been hidden from them over the course of but one generation.

One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic ... and Resilient. If we Continuers fail to engage in this vital conversation, we shall have much to answer for to the Holy Spirit. This is a kairos moment, a window of opportunity to assist in the struggle to restore the Catholic Faith of Anglicanism to a generation of sons once lost, but whom we see coming up the roadway to their Father. Let us not commit the sin of the complaining elder son.

With love and blessings to all,

+Joel Marcus Johnson
Diocese of The Chesapeake

Albion Land said...

Dear Bishop Johnson,

Welcome to The Continuum!

I couldn't agree with you more on this being an opportunity that I would say would border on being a mortal sin if we were to ignore it.

You are certainly free to name Fr Hart to engage with them, and I agree that he would be a good man to do it.

You are probably aware that during the first half of October, the ACA House of Bishops is meeting in England and the ACC Synod in Indiana. I would hope that the authorities in both jurisdictions will take heed and take action -- if nothing else by adopting a resolution welcoming the formation of the CCP as a first step toward the widespread reestablishment of orthodox Anglicanism in America and expressing a desire to engage in constructive discussions with them.

Alice C. Linsley said...

This strikes me as jaded. I'm personally rejoicing that Anglicans are joining hands, as Archbishop Orombi asked them to do. All orthodox Anglcians need to be positive about this development and encourage the unity. No one is down-playing the differences. They are simply stressing the commom cause of orthodox Anglicanism in North America. This acccord to come together is historic!

Anonymous said...

Wasn't the whole Common Cause movement instigated by the ABC's meeting with Duncan et al right after the Robinson consecration? They seem to be folowing the script to the minute in light of last week's TEC House of Bishops meeting.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, no. The continuing church has no need to fraternize with these common cause people, nearly all of which ordain women. The common cause is just PECUSA-lite, the same revisionism on the same track as PECUSA, and only a couple years behind them.

Anonymous said...

Wandering Aramean: You are usurping my position as the most pessimistic and negative voice in the Continuum, and I will not tolerate it!

Seriously, as Abp Mark Haverland has noticed, the neo-Anglicans who dominate in Common Cause are actually starting to reconsider the whole matter of WO. Some who were quite adamant in their support for WO even six months ago are clearly backing away. The link between WO and SS moral collapse is being perceived.

Without signing anything or joining anything, we need to give these folks room to reconsider grace- fully. As Ezekiel pointed out, dry bones can live again. One Baltic Lutheran Church abolished WO a year or so ago, after experimenting with it for about a generation.

We should not ignore one important hopeful sign: Common Cause bishops
are actually reaching out to the Continuing Churches. A generation ago, the bishops identified with
the FIF forerunner (ESA, ECM, whatever) wouldn't give us the time of day.

We must at least be willing to talk with them courteously and lovingly. We have nothing to lose. We're not buying any wooden nickels or any used cars, but it won't hurt to talk.

Laurence K. Wells+

Fr. Robert Hart said...

"Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day." Isaiah 65:5

If we marginalize the Common Cause bishops and their people, we solidify the Revisionist influence that affects some of them, and give Satan space to operate. Is that what charity requires? Was every sound and orthodox Anglican born with a Catholic mind? Did none of our number ever take part in the Episcopal Church, even after its acceptance of priestesses and a damaged Prayer Book? Did none of our people grow in their understanding until finally seeing essential doctrines? Are none of us indebted to patient Catholic Anglicans who gave of their time to help us see the light? If we cannot reach out to fellow Christians who are weak either in faith or understanding, how do we hope to evangelize those completely outside in the dark?

These people will not influence or corrupt us. But, we can help them.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Thank you, Father Hart, for that Christ-like exhortation. It has taken me many decades to understand the deeper things of God, and I have so far to go. The Continuum has much to offer and can indeed help to forge a wholesome catholic Anglicanism in North America.

Michael said...

The Continuum does have much to offer the Common Cause. I would go an aditional step and suggest that, perhaps, there are a few things that the Common Cause movement has to offer the Continuum.

First and foremost, the idea of a unified Anglican Church for North America. The sad reality is that this doctrinally diverse group of people is talking about it, and might be able to pull it off. The Continuum, which doesn't have the same theological or liturgical diversity seems unable even to go as far as Common Cause has gone already (forming a college of bishops to meet regularly). Now, we can say that it's because we have higher doctrinal standards - Common Cause is made up revisionists who don't care what theological perspectives people have. But I don't think it's fair to say that, especially since so many of the bishops involved agree with us about holy orders, etc. If we cannot get involved in this particular process, then we could begin our own process, parallel to that. Common Cause wants to dialogue with the Continuum. Perhaps Continuing bishops should form a College that can take part in that dialogue, and do so as a united body. That would make it far easier to be a positive influence. But we should allow them to influence us, spur us, towards unity.

The second point where they should influence us is their commitment to plant churches. The AMiA alone has over 100 churches, and I believe the majority of them are not former Episcopal parishes. A great deal of their growth has come from non-Anglican background individuals. This is something that Continuing churches could be involved in, even more than they are.

One of the advantages of the Network is that they do assist in planting churches. If they are willing to provide some sort of administrative covering for traditionalist bishops, who will plant orthodox Anglican parishes, using a real Prayer Book liturgy, with a valid priesthood, then perhaps there is something for us to look at there.

Often in traditionalist parishes we have reached the point where we can work more effectively with Baptists than with mainline Anglicans. However, a lot of this is to do with the history, not a lack of will. WO was forced on us, with even conscience clauses eliminated over time. The Prayer Book was effectively banned in many places. Parishes were closes. Clergy lost pensions, or were even excommunicated. A lot of bad things happened.

However, I think that if a group of Evangelical Anglicans really do want to work with orthodox Anglo-Catholics in good faith, without violating our consciences, and really want to cooperate on things where possible... it should be considered most seriously. Even if we end up having to say "no" down the road.

Anonymous said...

The more involved the Continuum becomes the greater the chances of a good outcome are- please get involved.