Thursday, November 29, 2007

Feast of St. Andrew November 30th

If I wished to follow in the footsteps of some of today’s alleged New Testament scholars, the kind which C. S. Lewis criticized for their inability to read and understand classic literature, I would point out that this Gospel reading for the Feast of St. Andrew presents a different version of how the Galilean fishermen met Jesus than the accounts presented by St. John and St. Luke. For St. John and St. Luke both go into detailed stories of how Jesus met these four men, Peter and Andrew, James and John, unlike Matthew and Mark who begin by telling us that upon the call of Jesus to follow Him, they immediately left their nets and became His disciples. I could then conclude that the accounts contradict each other.

If, on the other hand, I want to use reason, common sense and logic, I will point out that the Church has always been aware of what is in all four Gospels, and that none of it was recently discovered by "New Testament scholars." I would also point out that the accounts of Matthew and Mark presuppose the fact that these four fishermen already knew Jesus, and had come to trust Him. Furthermore, it is obvious that they had been prepared in their minds and spirits to obey Him. This is obvious because they immediately left their nets, that is their profitable business partnership, to follow Him. So, what St. John and St. Luke provide is the details without which the calling of these four men, as presented by Matthew and Mark, is incomplete, in fact puzzling. Far from a contradiction, it is a perfect complement.

After all, it would not be in accord with Right Reason for men suddenly to commit their lives to following a stranger; the Church does not in its teaching recommend such rashness, but instead has always taught that we must test the spirits and test the prophecies. So wrote St. Paul and St. John in their epistles. In this account by St. Matthew, it is obvious from the immediacy of their obedience that these men already knew Jesus, and were waiting with some anticipation for Him to call them to be His disciples. The details are given in the complementary accounts of Luke and John. We see in Luke’s account that the toughest nut to crack, the one to come around with the most difficulty, was St. Peter. And this was due to his honest recognition of his own sinfulness, and his mistaken assumption that he must have been beyond God’s mercy.

And we learn other details from St. John’s Gospel. Andrew knew from the words of John the Baptist that Jesus was the Lamb of God. He knew somehow that this meant that He was the Messiah. This tells me that Andrew was a theologian of some skill; that he was more advanced in his understanding of scripture than were the leading Rabbis of his day. For, he figured out that the Lamb of God was a term which signified the Messiah. He correctly foresaw the meaning of the Suffering Servant prophecy in the 53rd chapter of Isaiah. I cannot see any other way for him to have connected the idea of the Messiah with the idea of the Lamb of God. The word Messiah is used in the Old Testament first of all when speaking of the priests, Aaron and his line, who offered sacrifice and made atonement for sin. Later, it is also used for the kings, the Royal line of David. Andrew seems to have grasped that the priestly ministry of the Messiah, the ministry of offering sacrifice, would be fulfilled before His reign as King could be revealed.

The life of St Andrew reminds us that the main point is what is revealed instead of the presence of mystery. Recently I read an account of contemporary liturgists (a word I loathe) who created their own version of the Mass. In it there is no Creed, and God is spoken of as the unknowable "it". Throughout their service- or perhaps dis-service- they emphasize mystery. Of course, we have mysteries because we are speaking of God. Indeed, our sacraments are mysteries, because we know not how they work. We do not fully understand the Incarnation or the Trinity because we cannot fully understand God. But, the liturgists with their own version of the Mass are completely wrong. Mystery is to be expected; the amazing thing about Christianity is not the presence of mystery, it is the reality of revelation. Christ is God in the flesh, and He is made known to us. By coming into the world He has shown us the Father.

St. Peter becomes very important to us as we remember his brother St. Andrew. The most well known story of Andrew is in the Gospel of John, in the first chapter. He had been a disciple of John the Baptist, and had followed Jesus in obedience to John who identified the Lord as "the Lamb of God." Andrew did not hesitate to bring his own brother to Jesus. Andrew introduced the Lord to Peter with the words "we have found the Messiah." Later it would be Peter’s own words to Jesus that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, based not upon his brother’s words, but upon the Father’s revelation. Andrew’s words probably seemed to him on that earlier day as mere enthusiasm; but because of his brother, Peter met Jesus for himself, and came to have the faith which recognized Him as the Lord.

So it is that Andrew has always been a living symbol of evangelism. He introduced his brother to Jesus Christ, that is to Jesus as the Messiah. The Father revealed to Peter what Andrew had first told him. This is always the way of evangelism. We can only speak the words of the Gospel, having in ourselves no power to convince hearts and minds. We cannot overcome anyone’s hardness of heart, not even our own for that matter. We cannot reveal Jesus. But, we can and we must proclaim Him. It is our duty to do so; and the example of St. Andrew shows us that we rightly perform this duty when it is our joy to do so.

We Anglicans are not advocates of what is called "Enthusiasm" in the capital "E" sense of that word as a theological term. That is, the kind of "Enthusiasm" which creates weird religious movements and cults. But, a small "e" enthusiasm, based upon the true meaning of that word from its Greek root, is a good and healthy thing; for it means to be "in God." Andrew met Jesus Christ, and in his joy went to tell his brother to come and meet Him too. This kind of enthusiasm, with a small "e", is the joy of true faith that motivates us to introduce people to the Lord.

The rest belongs to the Father, revealing His Son by the Holy Ghost. This is why St. Paul says in today’s Epistle "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." This is why the apostle spent so much ink on the subject of preaching. It seems foolish to a dead and sinful world that preaching, proclaiming the Gospel, brings salvation from sin and death. But it does. St. Paul tells us that "the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes." Hearing the Gospel is powerful; this is because it is the Holy Spirit Who supplies the power.

Our problem is that we forget that the Holy Spirit provides the power. We think that we must come up with gimmicks, and marketing. We suppose that some better way must exist for presenting the good news. Often this is because we forget that the first and most important thing in preaching the Gospel is the salvation of souls; building up our numbers is a result of this, yes. But, simply building our numbers must not be the primary goal. For me as a priest, the temptation is to build our numbers any way we can. But, if we fill up a church without making true converts, we have done nothing of eternal value. If we preach the Gospel, on the other hand, and stick to what the song calls, "the Old Time Religion" we will be what Paul calls God’s co-laborers; we will be, as he wrote, "working together with God." We will proclaim, and He will reveal and convict. We will teach, and He will convert.

Of course, if we create a false gospel, another one which scratches itching ears, which makes everybody feel good, we may be commercially successful beyond the dreams of avarice. We will go to hell in the end; but we will have been successful, and success is, as we know, one of the world’s most influential false gods.

What is the Gospel? It is what we recite in the Creed at every Mass; it is what we say in our Communion Liturgy. It is defined simply by St. Paul in the Fifteenth chapter of I Corinthians. In the first eleven verses we find four simple facts that St. Paul gives us as the Gospel. These four points are in his sermons and in Peter’s sermons which appear throughout the Acts of the Apostles. They are, briefly:

Christ died for our sins (in fulfillment of scripture)

He was buried

He rose from the dead the third day (in fulfillment of scripture)

He was seen by witnesses after His resurrection.

If we continue simply to teach these things, the Holy Spirit, by the will of the Father, does the rest, the work on hearts and minds that we cannot do.

You may have noticed that Andrew has almost disappeared in my sermon, and on this, our celebration of his feast day. I don’t think he would mind. Like his brother Peter, he was willing to be crucified as a martyr for the love of Jesus Christ. His life was lived for the purpose of making Christ known. He was called to be a fisher of men.

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.


Is Christian Faith Intrinsically Irrational?

There are two aspects to this question that are quite distinct. The first, objective version of the question asks whether Christian beliefs are true and able to be supported with evidence, such that a person could justifiably hold those beliefs on rational grounds. This is the question usually addressed by Christian apologetics. Some of my own attempts to answer such questions may be found here and here on this weblog and here and here on my parish website.

The second version of the question pushes aside the answers to the first and zeroes in on a perceived irrationality in Christian faith as it is actually held by the vast majority of adherents. In other words, it questions the rationality of the subjective act of believing itself rather than the objective content of what is believed. It is with this aspect I am concerned here.

Indeed, it is assumed by atheists that the two aspects are fundamentally disconnected, in that, it is argued, whatever purported rational justifications of generally theistic or specifically Christian beliefs are put forward by believers, they are not the true reason these people believe but ex post facto rationalisations. Atheists contend that Christians consider it virtuous to believe things without any rational justification, so that their apologetics are intellectually inconsistent at best and insincere at worst. Catholics in particular reply by pointing out that in fact theologians have taught that we are only obliged to have faith in the teachings of the Bible and Church as divine truth once we are firmly persuaded that God exists and that he has revealed himself and his will through the Bible and Church, and that this judgement can be based on rational consideration of the evidence. In other words, Catholic Faith is not required to be “blind”.

However, the atheist can plausibly respond: “Yes, that may be true in theory, or even in practice for a small minority such as yourself or some Thomists, but the overwhelming reality is believers who glory in believing without reason and have never considered the approach you outline necessary.” Now, it is true that few Christians are explicitly Thomist and that few rely on “proofs” of God’s existence or the Bible’s/Church’s divine inspiration/guidance to argue themselves toward intellectual faith in Divine Revelation. Does it follow that, whatever theologians may do or think, the vast majority of Christians practise a faith against or in spite of reason? No, but this will not become obvious until we investigate the various ways humans know what they know and the relationship between Christian faith and other forms of knowledge.

In discussions of epistemology, of what humans can know and how they know it, it is common to distinguish between certainty and certitude. Certainty is the quality of that which is true and can be known to be so by a properly functioning, sufficiently informed intellect. Certitude is the disposition of the mind towards a proposition that it thinks is certain, whether or not the thing is in fact true or certain. In this discussion I will be using the words “knowing” or “knowledge” to mean “thinking something is true with moral certitude, that is, being sure enough to stake one’s overall well-being or other matters of importance on it”. In other words, I will be including in such knowing that which is held with certitude, whether or not it possesses certainty as well, so that it may or may not be defeasible knowledge. We can then go on to ask what types of human knowing are reasonable or not by asking whether or not those types of knowing are trustworthy, that is, if they can and do match subjective certitude with objective certainty. Finally, we can, based on this criterion, say whether Christian faith is rational and why.

We are, then, at present primarily interested in whether the subjective act of faith is the result of a mind working in accord with reason and honest perception, such that any true knowledge obtained is not obtained merely accidentally but due to a proper functioning of that mind. Remember, the atheist claim is not just that theism and Christianity are wrong, but that believers accept them as right for no good reason or no reason at all and call that acceptance “having faith”. Thus, it is asserted, faith is irrational and unwarranted.

The key to understanding why faith does involve a proper functioning of the mind is to start by looking at all the main human means of knowing and how reliable they are.

How do humans know things? Let’s make a list based on common-sense and experience:

1. Axioms and mathematical relationships may be called tautological (true by definition), “basic” or even self-evident. E.g., “2 + 2 = 4” and “All effects are the result of causes.”

2. Direct sensation or experience. E.g., “That car is red.”

3. Inference by deduction. Syllogistic reasoning. E.g., “All humans are mammals. I am a human. Therefore, I am a mammal.”

4. Inference by induction. Or, “trial and error”, “Does it work? Try it and see.” In other words, knowledge through verification of predictions and repetition with success. If a theory keeps its “promises” when practised, we trust it. E.g., “The Sun will rise in the East tomorrow.”

5. Authority. E.g., “I’ve never seen directly that the Earth goes around the Sun and I don’t understand the proofs it does, but all the scientists tell me it does, and that’s good enough for me.”

6. Intuition. This can be considered a kind of integration of elements of 1 to 5 operating in an implicit or subconscious manner. E.g., “I don’t know how to explain it, but I just knew how to throw the ball so it went over that barrier but under that roof.” “I knew there was something awry with that mathematical proof and the accompanying diagram, but couldn’t see what it was exactly till later.”

The above 6 modes of knowing are roughly in order of decreasing assurance, though the order can be different for different people in different areas. For example, for a man with poor vision, mode 2 may be inferior to mode 5 when making a judgement about shapes or colours, especially if the authority relied on is the consensus of many neighbouring observers. Nevertheless, reliance on these allows for true knowledge of many things most of the time, and is able to match certitude and certainty when the modes work together to give the same “answer”. And much of our true knowledge relies on modes 4 to 6 rather than 1 to 3. For example, our judgements of the personal trustworthiness of friends and thus the truth of what they say rely on intuition and induction from experience, followed by accepting something on their authority.

Now, the modes of knowing associated with coming to or retaining faith are the very same ones. However, different believers will have different epistemological emphases. There are basically 3 ways of becoming or remaining a Christian. First, one might be brought up as one from childhood, accepting what your parents taught you (5). But then it is unlikely true faith will remain unless the faith is practised and works (4)! That is, it keeps its promises and leads to experiencing or “apprehending” God (2*). Second, there are those who convert after childhood, who can be divided into two groups. The first come to Christ with less argument or explicit reasoning and more intuition (6) and emotional response to the Gospel, trusting those who bring them that Gospel (5), but still come to know and experience God (2*). Third, there are those who logically deduce the truth of Christianity (3) either through a more intellectual journey via the arguments of apologetics based on cosmological and historical arguments (1, 2 & 5) or through experience of a miracle (2). These also lead to the spiritual contact with God to which I have already referred (2*). Finally, all these believers come to accept the divine (and therefore perfect) authority of Christ, the Church & the Bible (5*) as deductions of these processes of inference.

Clearly, the claim that Christians possess faith as an essentially arbitrary or irrational act unrelated to trustworthy mental processes is false, as long as mode 2* — the “clincher” that often turns merely probable knowledge or opinion into moral certitude — is real. But since it is supposed to be a gracious act of God and is, strictly speaking, incommunicable, non-believers can only dismiss it by first dismissing the objective truth of Christianity and theism. Therefore, the attempt to argue Christian believing would be mostly irrational, even if what was believed happened to be true, fails. The only other escape for the atheist who wants to prove Christian believing must be a misuse of the mind (without addressing the objective truth of what is believed) is to show that manifestations of 2* are merely natural epiphenomena of the brain. I have addressed that claim here.

Christians, through the special version of mode 2 that I have marked above with an asterisk, experience God through a new spiritual faculty which is analogous to a new “sense”. However, it is not simply a superadditum. It is a quickening and enlightening of the whole soul and body, including the senses, imagination and reasoning. See 1 Corinthians 2.12ff and Hebrews 6.4, 5. The importance of this factor is that it is necessitated for all who are to be saved by the fact that fallen man cannot have Christian faith without grace healing and empowering nature, according to Scripture. This allows the certitude and certainty which leads to acceptance of the whole Faith on the authority of God (the special version of mode 5 marked with an asterisk above), who will not deceive and certifies his Word to us by his Word within us, so to speak (modes 2* & 5* in synergy).

Therefore, Christian faith results from mental processes compatible with and overlapping (though also exceeding in scope and reliability) normal integrated mental processes that are rational in the sense of being significantly more successful than not in acquiring true beliefs. Also, faith is rational in the sense that, not only is it at least as likely to acquire truth as normal human “knowing”, but it does so through intrinsic epistemological appropriateness rather than simply through serendipity or the interference of divine omnipotence. God does not override our minds and just “turn on our faith-switch”, so to speak. There is no artificial inducement of certitude unrelated to all other mental processes.

It is in this latter assertion that I differ most from Professor Alvin Plantinga’s theory of “proper basicality”. Briefly, he posits that there is a sensus divinitas in all human beings which, ceteris paribus, causes belief in God, and a sensation or direct cognitive recognition of God as Judge and Saviour in believers which causes living, penitent faith in Christ. These cognitive dispositions are put there by God and require no reasoning or external justification to produce certitude. Because they succeed in acquiring truth by God’s sovereign providence and grace, they match certitude with certainty and can be considered “warranted” even though they do not rely on human reason at all. Furthermore, the believer is thus not required to justify his beliefs using other reasons and is justified in saying he knows the truths of the Faith with assurance despite this. That is, his belief is “properly basic” or appropriately held as virtually axiomatic.

Where I differ from Plantinga is that I say the spiritual faculties abovementioned are only analogous to a new or extra “sense”. In fact, these faculties do not necessarily immediately produce belief as if it were axiomatic or self-evident. They cooperate with and include the other human modes of knowing. This is in accordance with the Catholic principle that “grace perfects nature” rather than overriding or destroying it. The sensus divinitas integrates and elevates other knowledge. Too, whereas Platinga seems to distinguish strongly between the two “senses” and grant them both certitude-producing properties, I would say that the belief in God of non-Christians is perhaps not assured faith-knowledge but strongly (and reasonably) held opinion, strictly speaking.

I suspect, contra Plantinga, that there is always some type and degree of inference involved, even if only intuitive and implicit (see mode 6 above), in getting from the spiritual sense of God to actual belief, or at least in preparing the ground for the spiritual sense to do its work by removing obstacles and correctly predisposing the mind. Otherwise the talk in the New Testament of “proofs” of the Resurrection (Acts 1.3) and St Paul’s “reasoning” and “persuading” (Acts 18.4) makes no sense.

However, there may be little difference between Plantinga and the classical approach (to which I have tried to adhere) once we take into account an important qualification of scholasticism made by the neo-Thomists. I am referring to the observation of theologians such as Mascall that the traditional arguments for the existence of God are not so much logically inescapable demonstrative proofs as inferentially valid but almost intuitive perceptions of reality as a pointer to God. It is less a matter of syllogism and more a matter of perceiving or apprehending that we and the rest of the Universe are clearly dependent and contingent, particularised and finite, temporal and mutable. From this knowledge of mere beings comes the knowledge of Being Itself. Perhaps what we sense directly is our “createdness”, from which virtually tautologically comes our awareness of the Creator.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Critique of a Reaction to an Announcement

Archbishop John Hepworth has forwarded to me the following comment, written by Fr Samuel Edwards, in response to what the archbishop calls a "quite illiberal attack" on the Traditional Anglican Communion by Dr Peter Toon.

The issuance of a statement by the College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion has incited a heated response from Dr Peter Toon that was uncommonly quick even by his standards. The operative section of the statement is reproduced below as an aid to my readers as I endeavor to evaluate Dr Toon’s response:

“The Bishops and Vicars-General unanimously agreed to the text of a letter to the See of Rome seeking full, corporate, sacramental union. The letter was signed solemnly by all the College and entrusted to the Primate and two bishops chosen by the College to be presented to the Holy See. The letter was cordially received at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Primate of the TAC has agreed that no member of the College will give interviews until the Holy See has considered the letter and responded.”

Dr Toon’s article – issued on October 16, 2007, the same day the TAC Bishop’s statement was released – is being circulated on the internet under the title, “Seeking Unity with Rome: Traditional Anglican Communion's Bishops hope for acceptance.” While about a third of it is something of a commercial for a new edition of Richard Hooker’s Learned Discourse on Justification, the remainder in many particulars distorts and misrepresents the TAC Bishops’ statement.

Indeed, and ironically, Dr Toon’s response (or perhaps more accurately, his reaction) is an example of the documentary eisegesis that he has rightly condemned when it is practiced by his theological opponents: The TAC statement is interpreted not in its plain and literal sense, but according to a pre-existing set of what can only be called partisan prejudices and ad hominem presuppositions. Because of this, it should not be taken as a serious contribution to the debate (which makes it a relative rarity among its author’s writings) but instead should stand as a monument to the result of not allowing one’s first reaction to be released for public consumption until it has been considered in an objective, calm and recollected state of mind. It may be that he who hesitates is lost, but it is probably more true – it certainly not less so – that he who believes will not be in haste.

Unfortunately, Dr Toon’s prominence as a commentator does not permit allowing his reaction to pass without comment. My critique of it will progress more or less from item to item in the order in which it appears in Dr Toon’s article.


Dr Toon remarks that, in light of his reading of the teaching of Hooker, others, and the “the fundamental Formularies of the Anglican Way, with their rejection of the excesses of Romanist teaching, it is most strange that a whole group of Bishops from the Continuing Anglican Movement (having seceded from the Global Anglican Communion) should feel so confident about the orthodoxy and biblical basis of Roman Catholicism that they seek full communion with Rome-on Rome's terms and according to Rome's doctrine and dogma.”

Several things here merit comment. The first, though not the most important, is the use of the term “Romanist.” While it is still heard from anti-catholic evangelicals (who have bought into the false equation of “catholic” with “Roman Catholic”) and, more strangely, from anti-Roman high-church Anglicans (who have bought into the dubious notion that because Rome has erred through excess on certain doctrinal matters, it is no longer a catholic church), the use of this term has become almost wholly pejorative and partisan. In other words, it has become a slogan designed to elicit emotion (and thereby substitute for thought) rather than a description useful for fostering thought.

Next is the parenthetical description of the TAC Bishops (or the Continuing Anglican Movement as a whole – the exact reference is not entirely clear) as having “seceded from the Global Anglican Communion.” One is tempted to ask what GAC is being referred to here: Is it the one which looks – in an anglicized version of the ultramontane ecclesiology that it finds so offensive in the Roman Church – to communion with the See of Canterbury as its defining element? (If so, this entity hardly qualifies as a communion any more: Since clearly it has neither a common faith nor a common ministry, it is at best an association based on historical descent.) Or does he mean the nascent association rooted in the Anglican Churches of the Global South, which in the first place has not yet taken its final shape and in the second place has among its members a variance on the matter of the ordained ministry that may either prevent it from coalescing or call into question its own catholicity when and if it does so?

Next, Dr Toon alleges that the TAC Bishops are seeking “full communion with Rome – on Rome’s terms and according to Rome’s doctrine and dogma.” Presumably in support of this claim, he reproduces the full text of the official statement. The problem for him here is that there is nothing in the statement that gives a single shred of support to his extraordinary claim. (For me, this is strong prima facie evidence that this reaction was written in the white heat of emotion rather than in anything approaching scholarly objectivity.)

After helpfully supplying the reader with the text, Dr Toon then continues to attempt firmly to fix the spin he has put on the statement by wondering, “why, if these men are so sure that the Roman Way is totally superior to the Anglican Way, they are not already in the Roman Way.” But, again, the text gives no support to the assertion, and to anyone familiar with the context out of which it speaks – which, it seems to me, is a restoration of the search for “communion without absorption” begun in the archiepiscopate of Michael Ramsey and the pontificate of Paul VI – it is almost nonsensical.

The suggestion that the TAC bishops are “hanging around the periphery of the Anglican Way constantly talking of heading off” is another tendentious distortion. One might question whether anyone still in formal connection with The Episcopal Church and the Canterbury Communion, given their accelerating slide into doctrinal dissolution and institutional chaos, has a moral right to talk about peripheries at all. And so far as I am aware, no one in the TAC Council of Bishops is talking – constantly or even occasionally – about “heading off.” The talk seems to be about talking with a view toward fulfillment of the Lord’s expressed desire for unity in his truth – not Rome’s version, not ours, but his.

Dr Toon goes on to insist that, “If these Bishops believe that there is no integrity to the Anglican Way and that its only future is in the Roman Way then by all spiritual, rational and decent principles they ought surely to cross the Tiber now and find on the other side rest for their souls-and we wish them well in their voyage.” Again, his premises are assumptions grounded neither in the plain words of the text that has provoked him nor, indeed, in any official utterance of which I am aware by any bishop of the TAC. If the diagnoses – that the bishops believe that the Anglican Way has no integrity and that there is no future outside the Roman Way – are incorrect (and they are) then the remedy proposed is, at best, inappropriate.

The suggestion that, if they had any integrity, the TAC bishops would swim the Tiber forthwith and cease troubling those are portrayed as real Anglicans is interesting to me as one who has been around the Anglican church wars for thirty years: It contains clear and loud echoes of the “go away and God bless you” attitude long expressed toward traditional and conservative Anglicans in The Episcopal Church by hard-core revisionists such as Barbara Harris and contemporary TEC corporatists (including some who are soi disant conservatives, such as the current TEC bishop of Central Florida). It makes one wonder whether similar tactics might be adopted at some point by those who agree.

A relevant postscript

For some time, and at least in two articles circulated on the internet, I have made reference to what I call a fundamental difference of perception between what I call “mainstream Continuers” (those who adhere to the Affirmation of St Louis, such as TAC) and “new traditionalists” (such as the AMiA and the majority of the Common Cause Partership) on the nature of the Reformation, both in general and in its Anglican form. It is my belief that these differences go a long way toward explaining the matters which have exercised Dr Toon’s concern.

Simply put, the difference is this: Dr Toon, together with a significant body of opinion among those new traditionalists who have given the matter any thought, at least implicitly regards the English Reformation as being a completed work. Seemingly on account of this, the Church of England’s formularies – in particular the 39 Articles of Religion and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer – have assumed a hermeneutical authority which sets them on a par with, or even above that of the Ecumenical Councils. By contrast, mainstream Continuers regard the Reformation as a work still in progress. In this view (which I believe accords with the mainstream of classical Anglican practice), it is the Articles and the BCP which need to be evaluated in light of the Councils and of Scripture rather than the other way ‘round.

(The reality of the situation is actually a bit more complex and confusing than one which simply sets the new traditionalists on the one side with the 1662 BCP and the Articles and the mainstream Continuers on the other with the 1928 BCP and the Seven Councils. Within the institutional camp of the new traditionalists are a number of people whose core convictions naturally place them in the ecclesiological orbit of the mainstream Continuers. Specifically I am thinking of those FiFNA dioceses, parishes, and people who make up a significant, albeit a minority, component of the Common Cause groupings.)

When responding to Dr Toon’s allegation last year that to accept the authority of seven rather than four Ecumenical Councils (and particularly that of the Seventh) was to go beyond genuinely Anglican principles, I expressed what I deem to be the mainstream Continuum position as follows:

… I think that the Reformation – including the English Reformation, which was far and away the most reforming and least revolutionary of the group – was an unfinished business, an opus interruptus, if you will. There are few things more frustrating than the movement which largely succeeds, yet remains incomplete in important respects, mostly having to do with the practical application of the triumphing principles (as my fellow Reagan revolutionaries in the political arena can testify). That being so, I do not believe that the Elizabethan Settlement of religion, for all its genius, is something the restoration of which ought to be pursued, not least because it is no longer possible to do so, since the idea of Christendom which it took for granted has long since passed from the status of a living reality to that of a poignant memory. The upheavals involved in the Great Rebellion (1637-49), the Commonwealth, and the Restoration Settlement (which produced the 1662 BCP) effectively stalled the completion of the English Reformation, and the process was not effectively re-started until the ecclesiastical reform movements of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Even then, it was a matter of “fits and starts” that had to await the collapse of Post-Constantinian Christendom to have a hope of fulfillment. …
[Samuel L. Edwards, “Dr Toon, the Anglican Churches,
and the 7th Council” (1 August 2006).]

In the end, it may be that only when the varied attitudes toward the Reformation heritage of the Anglican Church are confronted – with specific reference to whether its objectives were or were not attained by 1662 – that both new traditionalists and mainstream Anglicans can sort out what it is they really want and with whom they have the most genuine affinity. In the meantime, (as Bishop Jack Iker) is fond of quoting, the challenge is to remember that, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” A major component of “the main thing” is this: “Ut unum sint.” No one’s arms are long enough to box with the one who makes that prayer.

Fr Samuel L. Edwards, SSM
Waynesville, North Carolina
18 October 2007

Monday, November 26, 2007


Today The Continuum passed what, for it, is a major landmark -- 100,000 visits.

This is small potatoes compared with other blogs. But for a community as small as we are -- perhaps a few hundred thousand souls in the entire world -- this is a very very big number for only two years of operation.

Again, as I said just a couple of weeks ago, this could not have happened if it were not for our superb contributors and for the thoughtfulness of our commentators. God bless you all.

A bishop then must be blameless

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless. Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

I Timothy chapter 3:1-13

After the comments to a previous posting, it has become obvious that more needs to be said about the requirement that a clergyman be "the husband of one wife." First of all, the time to bring up this subject and its relevance to our claims that we continue the practice of traditional Anglicanism, is long overdue. It is overdue because of the questions I raised: Would men with multiple marriages have been acceptable for ordination in the universally accepted understanding among Anglicans one hundred years ago? Since the answer is "no," what are we continuing? In a comment, my friend Fr. Charles Nalls amplified what I asked:

Merely parroting electronically and in print nostrums like we represent “Apostolic Christianity in the Anglican tradition. Our beliefs are stated on the pages of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer.” Or, how about, “[fill in your jurisdiction here] holds the ‘faith once delivered to the saints’ as handed down from the apostolic fathers.” Really? Without getting into the nuts and bolts of belief in the Continuum which would be a great discussion, I do think the Apostolic Fathers might generally be appalled by the general condition of things in the Continuum’s little corner of Christendom on a number of scores.

The Apostolic Fathers, yes, and also the average Anglican/ Episcopalian in the time when I was a mere boy and beardless youth.

However, it would be wrong to let certain misunderstandings be generated from my endorsement of a letter by Dr. Peter Toon (the real substance of that other post). For example, on the subject of divorced clergy, I am well aware that a good number of people are victims of divorce. A man who has been abandoned by an adulterous or even an insane wife, and yet holds to his integrity (and I am thinking of some actual real life cases), can provide a godly example, and need not be barred from ordination because of the wrong done to him. Nor would I say that such a man, abandoned long ago, granted an annulment, joined to a wife in a sacramental marriage, and then later sensing a call to the priestly vocation (to create a scenario) should be barred, certainly not absolutely. Yet, even here we need to be cautious. Once we embark down a path that differs from the standards of our fathers, we have already wandered into perilous territory. It may be hard to draw the line anywhere if we do not think everything through very clearly.

Looking at the third chapter of I Timothy, and the requirements set out for ordination, I will make a statement that has already caused an objection. Everything that St. Paul lists here is part of what he has identified as the quality of being "blameless." In fact, it is that word that serves as the key to unlock the meaning of the text. And so, the objection has been raised that the requirement that he must be "apt to teach" has nothing to do with being "blameless." The problem is, the context must be understood to give the meaning, and so an interpretation that takes even a part of a passage outside its context simply cannot be right. Looking at the whole context, which describes the "blameless" man, it is this very key of blamelessness that explains just what St.Paul meant by the words "apt to teach." In fact, these words take on a very important significance as a result, one we cannot afford to miss.

As much as the bishop (and St. Paul seems to use this word by a "primitive" definition that includes the office of presbyter, the word "bishop" later being reserved for those few priests who actually enter, as Dix put it, "the apostolic college"1) should be able to teach from the standpoint of theological and scriptural expertise, St. Paul is speaking about the fitness of the man to teach with credibility before the eyes of others. How can a man who is a drunkard teach his congregation to be sober? How can a striker teach that we must be forgiving, kind and that we turn the other cheek? How can a man whose children live scandalous or criminal lives, teach the people to raise their children in the fear of God? How can a man known to be "greedy of filthy lucre" or covetous, teach about giving? How can the husband of several wives teach God's holy commandments? A man who cannot represent the sacrament of marriage, who cannot show forth its sanctity by a life either of celibacy or fidelity to one wife, is not "apt to teach" about anything to do with any of the sacraments, let alone about how to raise a family or about sexual morality.

The credibility problem in the Continuum needs to be addressed by this very passage. Some of the clergy are not apt to teach because they are uneducated. But, Among the educated, others are not apt to teach because their lives do not have that blameless quality of which St. Paul speaks. Obviously, he is not saying that a man must be sinless, since he possessed the humility to call himself the "chief" of sinners, "not worthy to be called an apostle," and "the least of the apostles." The text is about the problem of a life that creates scandal. No amount of legalism and clericalism is sufficient to repair the pastoral damage done when bishops, priests and deacons are not blameless, and therefore not apt to teach.

1. Dix, Dom Gregory, Apostolic Order

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Advent Homilies

Thought these might be of interest. I've been writing homilies for use by layreaders according to the 1943 lectionary, with the expectation that a bishop will authorize them for use. Whether that happens or not, I'm posting them in case they are of interest to any of our readers. They are PDF documents formatted to be printed doublesided and made into booklets. There are two for MP and two for EP for each Sunday in Advent.

ed pacht

Is Roman Catholicism Catholic?

It has been a commonplace of Anglican Catholic thinking for a very long time that the answer to the above question is “Yes!” This is despite the fact that the answer has often been qualified in various ways.

For example, by distinguishing between fundamental and non-fundamental doctrines, a number of the Caroline Divines contended that while Rome had erred doctrinally, its errors did not touch the ecumenical Creeds or the basic nature of the Church in such a way to “un-Church” it. This was Archbishop Laud’s approach. Others argued that Rome had mistakenly and arrogantly elevated permissible but probably erroneous opinions to dogmatic level, but remained a part of the Catholic Church because it did not deny any true dogmas. Bishop Lancelot Andrewes took this tack with the matter of (hellish) purgatory. The Oxford Movement and its descendent Anglo-Catholicism, in the main, came gradually to the opinion that, while Roman dogmas might be capable of orthodox interpretation, their common interpretation and application within the Roman communion was often unorthodox and adverse to true Catholic principles. This approach also had 17th century antecedents, if I remember correctly.

None of these theories ever had binding authority, but what they held in common, that the RCC was part of the Catholic Church, was effectively authoritative, in that while recusant RCs were treated as schismatics within England, RC bishops have been persistently addressed or treated by Anglican bishops as fellow Catholic bishops elsewhere[1], and RCs were not officially treated as heretics or apostates anywhere by the C of E as a body. What all theories also have in common is that they see genuine problems with aspects of the “accepted” teaching of the Church of Rome but refuse to claim these problems are enough to excise it from THE Church. That the justification for this position varied in the specifics was partly due to differing evaluations of what Roman dogma actually was and meant (on both sides at times!), and partly due to subtle differences in ecclesiology. But underlying this was a settled perception that we were dealing, even in the midst of heated controversy, with fellow Catholics. This settled perception is an important datum, and one that should control our theological speculations. A general and consistent apprehension of a divine reality by a body of Catholics is perhaps even more important than the precise theological formulations relevant to it. That is, I think, what is often meant by the sensus fidelium.

Therefore, I was disturbed when I first read Bp Wright’s commentary (on his own jurisdiction’s website first) on the attempt at reunion with Rome by the TAC. This is the case even though I, like Bp Wright, would generally be classified as philo-Orthodox. I still possess the very “Eastern” Catechism co-authored by him when he was a part of our Church, commonly termed the “Wright-Price” Catechism, after its authors, and value it highly. (Its distinction between “capital-S” Saints and “small-s” saints, for example, is one of the best Catholic apologetics tools I have come across when dealing with that issue.) However, this recent essay appears not only to contradict the abovementioned sensus fidelium, but to possess a degree of internal incoherence in doing so. Allow me to juxtapose the relevant passages:

“In this way the Roman Church has long since abandoned the authentic Catholic Church and set up a Church with a ‘different mind’. Judged by the Tradition of the Catholic Church this is a departure into heresy.”

“Meanwhile it is spiritually dangerous to claim that the Roman Church and, for that matter, all Churches originating in the Western Patriarchate, are heretical and false Churches devoid of grace.”

It is perhaps possible to harmonise these two sections, but even if one strained to do so there would remain the problem that the essay then purports to support the latter statements about the true ecclesiality of the RCC by quoting the RCC’s own statements about the true ecclesiality of other groups.

The problem with the essay is not that it is philo-Orthodox, but that it chooses to flatter by imitation that part of Eastern Orthodoxy that delights in maximising differences between East and West, usually by carefully selecting the evidence on both sides and making sweeping generalisations. Fr Dragas’ essay, linked to by Bp Wright, is a fair example of this unfortunate tendency.

Fr Dragas goes to a lot of trouble to show that, despite the fact the filioque clause is never specifically or explicitly mentioned in the pro-Photian Council’s decree on the Creed, its condemnation as heretical in itself is implicit and binding at an ecumenical level because those Easterners who signed off on it knew what the decree was really on about. However, he also virtually admits that the papal delegates did not. And they could hardly do so, since, as admitted by all, even those in the West such as the Pope who resisted the interpolation did so while defending its orthodoxy and refusing to excommunicate the large tracts of the Western Church that used the filioque in the Creed. In other words, we are expected to accept that a Council with minimal Western participation, whose few Western participants would not have consented if they had known or believed the filioque doctrine common to many Western Fathers and Doctors was being condemned, and whose condemnations were (deliberately?) entirely without specific examples having been given so as to promote such clear understanding, is expressive of the Ecumenical will of the Universal Church in repudiating the filioque doctrine root and branch. Sorry, but this is less than persuasive.

As for the claims by certain of our commenters that the differences really are irreconcilable, I remain unconvinced. The particular example most relied upon is the difference between the Roman doctrine of Papal Supremacy and the Orthodox doctrine of Conciliar Supremacy. But are the respective positions really so different when commonly and justifiably attached qualifications are taken into account? Did not the ancient and Eastern Church place great store in papal ratification of Ecumenical Councils and address him as leader of the Church in more than just nominal, honorific terms? Does not the RCC continue to recognise as ecumenical a Council which briefly effectively excommunicated a living pope, the Fifth? Does it not recognise also the Sixth, which excommunicated a dead Pope? And a mediaeval one which effectively unpoped 3 rival claimants to the Roman See? In combination with traditional Roman claims that a Pope can be recognised and certified as self-excommunicate by the Church and that reception of Papal decrees at least has a part to play in recognising when papal infallibility has been truly utilised, surely these facts show that the RCC does not necessarily teach an absolute, untouchable, unrestrained and unqualified supremacy of the bishop of Rome over an Ecumenical Council or over the Church as a whole?

Is it not better to assume as a default position that God has in fact protected each of these great bodies from truly leaving the Catholic fold, sometimes almost in spite of themselves? Is this not often the case with God’s dealings with his people? So, the good bishop’s essay notwithstanding, I remain an ecumenically “maximalist” Anglican Catholic. Even a philo-Orthodox Anglo-Papist, if you will. :-)

[1] E.g., Bp Antonio de Dominis was received into the C of E in the early 17th Century without abjuration of his previous jurisdiction. Abp Wake’s discussions with the French RC bishops in the 18th Century also followed this pattern of mutual recognition. The reply of the English Archbishops to Apostolicae Curae, addressed to the Pope and all Catholic bishops did so as well.

The Collect for the Sunday Next Before Advent

Latin original

Excita, quaesumus, Domine, tuorum fidelium viluntates, it divini operis fructum propensius exsequentes pietatis tuae remedia majora percipiant. (This collect is appointed in the Tridentine Missal for Last after Pentecost.)

1549 BCP

STIERE up we beseche thee, O Lord, the wylles of thy faythfull people, that they, plenteously bringing furth the fruite of good workes; may of thee, be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christe our Lorde. Amen.

1662 BCP

STIR up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Explanatory Note

The meditation below is intended to double as a sermon after an adult + infant baptism this Sunday. This fact and the presence of associated visitors with varying levels of ecclesial commitment is the reason that what follows may be more milk than meat to our regular readers.


Stir up! What a wonderful way to begin a liturgical prayer. When Archbishop Cranmer translated the original Latin verb “excita” into English all those centuries ago, he did a good job. When I say these words I cannot help thinking of a similar phrase: “Wake up!” The beginning of this prayer should act like a splash of fresh water to the face.

To stir up or to excite is to make something that is already there, but is presently quiescent or still, become ACTIVE. In baptism we have been given the gift of new life, but there is always the risk that a gift will remain unopened, or be opened but soon stored away to gather dust, or even abused and thrown away. We can do this with baptismal grace. Some receive baptism as infants but never activate its potential through faith in Christ and love for God and neighbour. Others begin to walk the way of Life but give up through carelessness, distraction or a deliberate refusal to continue in righteousness. (It is no accident that the ancient Church saw great significance in the water for baptism being in motion, that is, “living water”. Water that moves is less likely to be stagnant. Jesus taught that, for the one who believes in Him, “Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7.38).)

So, the Collect for today does not ask that God give us a new will, a new ability to make good choices. It asks that “the wills of [his] faithful people” be stirred up. In other words, we already have the new will through baptism and faith, but this will needs to be doing something. Doing what? The Collect answers very clearly: good works. As St James teaches, faith without works is dead. And what are these good works? Well, of course they are manifold, but they include devoted prayer, giving to the poor, comforting the afflicted, dealing honestly with others (even to our disadvantage), contributing to the Church’s work of saving souls, and, perhaps hardest of all, forgiving those who harm us.

Now, the prayer asks God to stir up our wills, so one might be tempted to leave the matter to Him and not think about it further: “If God wants it done, He’ll do it for me!” But this would be to miss the point. After all, it is we who are praying that God stir us up, so we are not merely waiting for Him to energize us, but co-operating with Him. “God helps those who help themselves” has an element of truth to it. Also, the Bible explicitly tells us to “consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” in Hebrews 10.24.

But, despite the fact that we do have a responsibility in this stirring up, this energizing of the will, it is good to be reminded that we can only do it through God’s grace working before us and in us. The works spoken of in the Collect are called “fruit”, using Biblical language. They are not the seed or the trunk or even the branches of the tree, but the fruit. In other words, they are the effect or result of our salvation, not its cause, for we cannot save ourselves or produce the Christ-life within of ourselves. Our good works must therefore be based on God’s love: gratitude for the love he has already shown us in saving us from sin and death, and reflection of that love to others. In this way they will not merely be outward acts proceeding from empty hearts, but an expression of the Holy Spirit working through us.

And although we cannot earn salvation through these good works, they will be “plenteously rewarded” by God, as both the Collect and the New Testament teach. What is that reward? Fundamentally, it is more of Him, to delve deeper and deeper into the infinite ocean of his goodness for all eternity, for this is our ultimate joy and fulfilment.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sunday next before Advent

From a sermon written and preached in 2005 in Fountain Hills Arizona.

John 6: 5-14

The Collect has resulted in this day being known as “Stir Up Sunday.” And, of course, it means that next week we will enter into Advent. Some things will be different for these weeks that lead up into Christmas. It is a penitential season. Despite everything you will see in the stores- I would say in the shopping malls, remember please what this season is not. No matter what songs they will pipe through the air, it will not be Christmas time in the city- not yet. We are entering a Penitential season. Both of our most joyous feasts of the Church, Christmas and Easter, are preceded by the penitential seasons of Advent and of Lent.

Some things in the Church will be different. The color will be violet (which looks a lot like purple, I am told). There will be no flowers on the altar. We will not have the Gloria during the Mass, and at 10:30 the postludes and preludes will not be heard, that is, the organ pieces before and after the service. And, on some of the upcoming Sundays, the first part of our normal service will be replaced by the Litany from the Prayer Book, as the rubrics allow.

I called a couple whose absence from this church every Sunday, for a long time, has been the most noticeable thing about them. I was told that they would try to get back here, but that, of course, I would understand why, with Christmas coming, they would be awfully busy, too busy for church until it is over. Now, I know that a priest should not use this word very carelessly or often in the pulpit; but that is, frankly, the most (and here it is) stupid thing anyone has ever said to me; the worst part being that I would "understand." Right. We, the clergy, are supposed to expect everyone to stay away from church all through Advent, because they are busy with the Christian duty of shopping and preparing parties (I am not trying to be sarcastic, of course. It is simply one of my priestly charisms). Don’t ask me who said it, because I will never tell you, even if you put bamboo shoots under my fingernails, or (if you wish to be really persuasive) offer me a glass of Maker’s Mark. I trust we all know that Christmas is a feast day of the Church, the Christ Mass, a day of Obligation no less than every Sunday is a day of Obligation- even more of an obligation than golf or shopping. And, I hope we all know why we should be in church during the very serious and reflective penitential season that leads up to it.

In the weeks ahead, we need to consider why the Church year ends its Sunday Gospel readings with this story from the Gospel of Saint John. Two main reasons come to my mind. First of all, we have prayed for God to “stir up…the wills of [His] faithful people”…to continue to bring forth the fruit of good works. And, in the Gospel we see that a little boy placed into the hands of Jesus Christ a rather small thing. He gave Him his lunch, five barley loaves and two small fish. Not only were the fish small, but the loaves were probably no bigger than those little round pita breads you see in the grocery stores. It was not much, but the Lord Jesus was able, with this bit of food, to feed thousands of people.

As you most likely know, very soon all the members of this congregation will receive the annual letter asking for a renewal of your pledge to this church. In case you think money is not a spiritual subject, let me point out that the question of what you do with your money, as well as what you do with your time, is very spiritual. Do you give to God that little bit that He has given to you? The important thing is to place what you have in the hands of Christ by faith, and let Him multiply it and feed many

Remember, we do not belong to that rich, though shrinking, institution called the Episcopal Church, and we do not have its millions of dollars of endowment money. A lot of people, who had lived by the faith of the Old Time Religion, died and left great amounts of money to a church in which they had come to believe in Jesus Christ, in which they worshiped God and received the sacraments. They did not know that its assets would, one day, be seized by unbelievers; apostates who have made it their stated purpose to overthrow the faith handed down from Christ and His apostles, and replace it with immoral ideas and other heresies. But, that is what has happened in that church. You can put your head in the sand and pretend that it has not happened, but it has. Thanks be to God that we can remain faithful without leaving our Anglican way, that is, without leaving the teaching and practice that the Episcopal Church used to believe in. We have chosen to remain faithful to the Tradition of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, preserving, specifically, the Anglican way of being Christian.

I mention this because you need to know that we are healthy, but we are not that big rich organization that has the endowments. We have a more valuable treasure than all those endowments put together, and we must pass it on to future generations. I want this church to grow. I want it to be filled with families, with children and young people who can learn our faith and take it into the future. This is not about having a nice little service like the ones we were comfortable with until the Prayer Book was changed. If it were, this congregation could have continued to meet in a schoolhouse. The very fact that this church has been built speaks volumes about faith, hope and charity. Faith that God is alive and active, and can use what we put in His hands. It is about hope, because the very fact of building means we look ahead to a future in which we hand on the faith to generations yet to come. And, it is about charity, because this place has been built to meet the needs of those people who are not yet here.

When we ask you to place, yet again, your loaves and fish in Christ’s hands, that is to renew your pledge, remember that those hands have been wounded. “Those dear tokens of His Passion, still His dazzling body bears: Cause of endless exultation by His ransomed worshipers.” We need to be here so that the people of this community can come into this place and meet the Christ Who died for each one of them; to come and to find here the Risen Christ. He is here in the breaking of bread. Ultimately, that is the greater message of this Gospel passage. The bread and fish handed over to the Lord Jesus, He then multiplied because He was teaching, by this miracle, that He Himself is “the True Bread that comes down from heaven, which, if man eat thereof, he shall live forever.” He taught that His flesh is food indeed and His blood is drink indeed, and that by Him we are nourished with eternal life.

I have spoken to you in a very straightforward way, because I do not want the pressures of this coming season to distract you from the true purpose of it all. How ironic that the coming of Christmas could keep some people out of Church, as if the main event is not to rejoice in the revelation of the Word made Flesh. The Incarnation, celebrated months ago on the Feast of the Annunciation, was almost hidden away, and unnoticed, until "the babe, the world's redeemer, first revealed His sacred face," that Feast of the Nativity that we prepare for. Shopping malls, and secular parties, are not the preparation. How fitting that Bethlehem means "house of bread," in this case the Bread of Life. The preparation for that feast is to be here, using the penitential season to examine yourself, as St.Paul teaches. It is time to reflect on every change and adjustment each of us may need to make, and therefore, to be receiving each Sunday the Living Bread that comes down from heaven, which, if a man eat, he may live forever.

He commanded that the fragments left over from this miracle be gathered up and that nothing be lost. In this world, by His creation first, and then even more so by His coming in the flesh, as fully God and fully Man, we see that material things can take on the quality of holiness. This bread was too holy to be treated with disdain and left to spoil. And, it was only a mere symbol of this bread and wine, which will become the Reality of His Body and Blood in the Blessed Sacrament of this altar. If you wonder why we go to so much trouble not to profane the sacrament, to preserve it set apart in the tabernacle, remember this story. It was a miracle that only served to shadow this miracle that will happen here today; it was used by Christ to teach that we must feed on Him, and do so in faith, to have His risen life within us.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Partners in Crime

It has been several years since the last time I was in the same room with Dr. Peter Toon, and in recent internet venues we have disagreed about those issues that distinguish Catholic Anglicans who hold to the Affirmation of St. Louis from a somewhat more Protestant variety. Nonetheless, when readers compare what he says about the inconsistency of conservative Anglicans on the issue of marriage/ divorce/ remarriage, and the relationship between these things and ordination, to what I have been writing, we could be mistaken for partners in crime. However, there has been no collaboration.

The following is a letter from the Christian Challenge that Dr. Toon wrote, and that appears in the July-Sept. issue. What Dr. Toon says about conservative Anglicans in the official Anglican Communion and the problem of inconsistent moral standards, has application as well for the Continuing Anglicans who claim that they want to be free from the wrong directions taken by revisionists in such churches as TEC (or ECUSA). Recently, I questioned the wisdom and integrity of an old established jurisdiction elevating to the level of Archbishop a man who, despite his excellent theological mind, brings enough baggage to his new position to cause potential ruin to that jurisdiction's reputation and to the people in their various churches who need clarity of teaching and a strong example of godliness among the clergy. Although I may incur the wrath of some of my CC colleagues, I am posting Dr. Toon's letter, and stating that I not only agree with every word of it, but I see that it is, sadly, relevant to the Continuing Church jurisdictions as well. 1


There is a question worth pondering about African and Asian bishops who have been so upset - even enraged - by TEC’s acceptance of same-sex unions. The question is whether those bishops realize that the church’s relaxation of marital discipline some 30 years ago is part and parcel of the massive change in attitudes toward, doctrines of and practice of sexual relations in both the USA generally and TEC in particular.

In other words, had not TEC liberalized its doctrine of marriage in canon law in 1973, in its Marriage Service (1979), in resolutions of General Convention and diocesan conventions, and in pastoral care and practice, and if TEC had not allowed divorced, and divorced and remarried persons to be ordained and engage in parish work and pastoral care, then TEC would never have come anywhere near to its present adoption of same-sex blessings and the like. For most clearly the latter are parasitic on the former and would not exist without the preparation of the way by them.

What needs to be put forward is a renewed doctrine of sexual relations and marriage, which brings all of us under the Law of Christ, declares to us what is not merely the ideal but the norm, and which judges equally those who unyoke and re-yoke marriages as well as those who engage in same-sex activities.

Unless I am severely mistaken, there has been from “the orthodox” very little critique of the divorce culture within TEC and its offshoots, but much criticism of the “same-sex” culture. Indeed a crisis in the global Anglican family has been caused by excessive attention to this latter issue by the “orthodox,” and the former - the invasion of the church by the divorce culture and of marriage by the therapeutic, self-fulfillment culture - has been treated pretty much as “normal,” at least in North America, by the same people.

Regrettably, the reports and resolutions of The Lambeth Conference from 1930 onwards up to 1998 concerning the doctrine and practice of marriage, the use of artificial birth control and same-sex relations do not provide a clear word for the global Communion to follow. Rather, this “instrument of unity” sends forth a mixed message when it comes to holy matrimony and relations between the sexes.

In contrast, the declarations (Encyclicals) of Popes since 1930 and the teaching of the recent Roman Catholic universal Catechism present a very clear statement of the meaning and purpose of marriage and sexual relations. Happily, the Marriage Service in the classic edition of The Book of Common Prayer (1662) and the Canon Law of the Church of England in place till very recently, do/did testify to a full Christian doctrine of marriage.

I personally cannot see any revival of the Anglican Way in North America which does not include a readiness and resolve before God to face the unhappy situation wherein the whole doctrine of marriage and sexual relations is deeply affected by the American zeitgeist, and where the church is not only in the world but also of the world and for the world, and where morals are based on what sociologists call “rights-monism.”

For an excellent collection of essays on the changes in law, public policy and culture with respect to marriage in the U.S.A. over the last century see: The Meaning of Marriage (edited by R. P. George and J.B. Elshtain, Spence Publishing 2006). And see also Allan Carlson, Conjugal America: On the Public Purpose of Marriage, Transaction Books, 2007, which is very useful.

The Rev. Dr. Peter Toon
President of the Prayer Book Society (
1. Yes, I know that proper annulments make a difference. And, one must hope that these are always done with integrity.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I Am Home

A short note to say that the odyssey is over.

I returned home yesterday afternoon from my month-long trip to Bulgaria and to Kosovo.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Collect - Trinity 24

The Latin Collect
Absolve, quaesumus, Domine, tuorum delicta populorum; it a peccatorum nexibus, quae pro nostra fragilitate contraximus, tua benignitate liberimur.

The Collect 1549
LORD we beseche thee, assoyle [absolve] thy people from their offences, that through thy bountiful goodnes we maye bee delyvered from the bandes of all those synnes, whiche by our frayltye we have committed : Graunt this, &c.

The Collect 1662
O LORD, we beseech thee, absolve thy people from their offences; that through thy bountiful goodness we may all be delivered from the bands of those sins, which by our frailty we have committed: Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ's sake, our blessed Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Archbishop Cranmer translated this collect, first found in the Gregorian Sacramentary, appointed in the Sarum Missal for this day, and in the Tridentine for Pentecost 23

In the frailty of our fallen human nature, we find ourselves seemingly unable to free ourselves from our besetting sins, as is so eloquently witnessed by St. Paul in Romans, chapter 7. Thus we need often and passionately to flee to His boundless mercy, seeking both forgiveness and the strength to overcome our failings.

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

Saturday, November 17, 2007


Col. 1:3-12

Matt. 9:18-26

Taken together, the Epistle and Gospel appointed for today speak to the reality of everything we do. St Paul writes to the Colossians about their knowledge of God, a thing essential to the life of every Christian, and the very definition of eternal life. Jesus had said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”1 This hearkens back to the thirty-first chapter of the book of the prophet Jeremiah, who foretold the New Covenant, that New Covenant that our Lord spoke of as established in his own blood on that night in which he was betrayed. To know God is at the heart of the New Covenant, which contains this promise: “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”2 Here, in the Epistle, St. Paul speaks openly and simply about the knowledge of God; he assumes that his readers do, in fact, know God. The idea that God might be a stranger to the home, and the heart, of any Christian was unfathomable to him. This speaks to the reality of the Christian life of faith; it is not simply a matter of form, and it is never a matter of anything we should call “blind faith.”

Our faith is not blind. Unbelief is blind. Rationalism is blind. The darkness of willful unrepentant sin is the darkness of blindness. But, faith sees, and sees clearly. God remains above and beyond our comprehension, so that we cannot describe him, except by St. Paul’s chapter on charity. That is, we cannot explain God, or know how to define his power, his wisdom or his essence. Nonetheless, this unknowable God has made himself known, and he has revealed himself by the Word made flesh, the only mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. 3 “He who has seen me has seen the Father,” 4 said our Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot comprehend God, we cannot describe God, we cannot understand God, and yet we can know God. He has made himself known, he has revealed himself in his word, and above all the Word made flesh, his only begotten Son. “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” 5

And, we can know his will. He has not hidden it away for the wise and learned, but revealed it. Some of that revelation is so simple that we teach it to our children in their earliest years- or, that is, we should. We teach them the Ten Commandments, the Summary of the Law, to pray “Our Father. “ We begin to teach right from wrong at a very early age. This is part of knowing the will of God. As we mature, and need wisdom, we have the wonderful gift of Holy Scripture to “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest.”6

According to the Wisdom Literature of the Scriptures, such books Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus (or Sirach), Wisdom and Ecclesiastes, the essence of wisdom is moral rather than intellectual. The wise man is a godly and righteous man, and the fool is the one who lives in sin without the fear of God. So, the essence of wisdom is moral rather than intellectual. Someone who has his gaze fixed always and only on the things of this world, and lives as if he is naturally immortal, and will not face judgment, is a fool, no matter how high an IQ he may possess. Recently I wrote an article called “Atheism and Stupidity.” The lack of reason, the laziness of thought, the simplicity and reduction of every theological and philosophical question, that is, the method of atheist apologetics in general, may appear clever to those caught up in them. Indeed, recent books have been produced with this very sort of argumentation by men who should know better, men whose experience when they were in college ought to tell them that simplistic arguments and undocumented material deserve no higher grade than an “f.” Cleverness is no substitute for diligence, and certainly no substitute for either knowledge or wisdom. It cannot deliver the soul from death, nor from standing before the judgment seat of Christ.

True wisdom knows the very thing that genuine science constantly rediscovers. No matter how much knowledge we learn, our ignorance outweighs it all. Every valid scientific discovery adds to our ignorance. How can that be? Simply put, the proportion of human ignorance against human knowledge grows by every major discovery, because every discovery opens more questions than we had before. The arrogance of late 19th century and early 20th century Rationalism should have been blown away forever by the major discoveries of Einstein, and by every advance in modern physics. And, despite this fact, that ought to have everyone in awe, and that ought to produce humility, we still see on some cars those silly “Darwin” stickers that mock the Christian Fish symbol. Don’t they know that they are at least 80 years behind? We still run into people who think there is a conflict between faith and science, and who are unaware of the great number of religious people, Christians and Jews, among the world’s prominent physicists. Of course, this is not just an absence of wisdom, but also of education. But, more to the point, the complexity of the physical universe tells us that the mind of God is beyond all human comprehension. The very complexity that makes up what we call matter, and what we call energy, is enough that we should see how far above our comprehension God is.

Yet, even though his creation is beyond our finite minds, and himself completely hidden, we know God. Furthermore, St. Paul tells us that we know his will, and that he opens the eyes of our understanding to know it as we need to. Listen again to his words:

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might,6 according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.

If we approach what we do here today as simply a matter of form and nothing more, how can today’s scriptures enter into hearts and minds to renew us? I say this because I have been among traditional Anglicans long enough to know that a very great number of our dear brethren have never sought to penetrate the deep meaning and reality of our faith. I have stood in the pulpit of a church, when I was first in Arizona and had been not yet been among that congregation long enough to have an influence, to look out at the spectacle of individuals scattered here and there throughout the pews observing their watches. This was only a minority of the people, but it was disturbing nonetheless. I was acquainted with the term “Shinto Episcopalians.” I asked what it meant. In Japan, the Shinto religion is very old, and no one knows anything about any teaching associated with it. Those who practice it observe the rituals very strictly, but have no knowledge of what they mean. Among that congregation were a few people who had very strong opinions about how to do a Church service “correctly.” They had their own mental rubrics from a lifetime in the Episcopal Church, and had come to us simply because we used the “old” Prayer Book, and they liked it better than the new one that their church had forced on them. They thought it their duty to let me know if I stepped out of line, and they looked at their watches to see if I preached too long. Usually none of them would try to “correct” me more than once.

Those people wanted a very low church kind of service. But, among the high church Anglo-Catholics we have quite a few “Shinto” Anglicans. They know exactly how to perform everything in Ritual Notes, exactly what to do in every way, even how to approach the Gospel Book “at a ninety degree angle.” They swing the thurible exactly the right number of times, and have every detail down perfectly. Fine. I am not against that at all. But, how many of these details really matter if we fail to worship God in spirit and in truth? Recall these words from John’s Gospel:

The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet. Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.8

Listen all mountaineers and “Shinto” Anglicans: Today’s Gospel shows the power of Jesus Christ to raise the dead at his will, and the power of true faith to apprehend his promise. The woman who had the flow of blood was able to get to the heart of true sacramental theology; not that she knew what she was doing in those terms. The grace of God was present in the Word made Flesh, in Jesus Christ who was walking among the large crowd of people, and she pressed through the crowd to touch a simple material thing. She reached out to touch the hem of his garment as he walked, a thing so simple and mundane, and so very material. You know, as a Byzantine Catholic priest who was in our Rectory as a dinner guest a few months ago put it, everything you need for the sacraments can be found in a proper Mediterranean kitchen. Wine, water, olive oil, flour- just a few simple things. The hem of Christ’s garment was a simple thing. It was a real material thing. The sacraments work this way. They all stem from the incarnate Christ. He is present in the world that he created, having added to his Eternal and Uncreated Person the created matter and nature of everything that is truly human. From the fact of his incarnation, his human nature that tabernacled among us, the physical matter of his human body that walked the earth complete with a human mind and soul, and from the garment in which he clothed it, grace flowed out and healed the woman.

Yes, you can go through the Form very properly; but, in addition to that, your real need is to reach out and touch the hem of Christ’s garment. You come to this sacrament today in very real need. You cannot even keep your own soul alive. No cleverness, no correctness of rubrical directions, and no proper performance will save you from sin and death. You must come “with hearty repentance and true faith” to "take this sacrament to your comfort." You are subject to sin and death, without hope of eternal life unless you lay hold on the grace of God as you pass through this life. You are not coming to this sacrament because you deserve to have it, but because you need it. You need to feed on the bread of life, to be saved from sin and death by consuming the food and drink of eternal life. 9 You need Jesus. You are coming in that need to reach out and touch the hem of his garment. Without this faith, without this knowledge of God, without this humility, without dependence and reliance on his grace and on his power, you would be lost and doomed. I like correct Form. But, you are coming for something in addition. You need to receive the Matter with the Intention of feeding on the Living Christ. This sacramental life is the life of faith, and it is based on knowing God.

1. John 17:3

2. Jeremiah 31:31-34

3. I Timothy 2:5

4. John 14:9

5.John 1:18

6. Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent.

7. δύναμις

8. John 4:19-24

9. John 6:26-59

Friday, November 16, 2007

Bishop Michael Wright on the TAC and Rome

The following presents a point of view that deserves to be considered, but, like most things that cross jurisdictional lines of thought on this blog, it does not necessarily reflect the views of The Continuum, namely, the host and those of us who are contributors. The point of view of the author, Bishop Michael Wright of The Holy Catholic Church Western Rite, is clearly more in line with Orthodoxy than with Rome. Ironically, the use of the term "Western Rite" should indicate the "Eastern" point of view to those of you "in the know." By e-mail, Bishop Wright has told me:

"I was present at the Portsmouth Synod. It was a well-run and extremely pleasant occasion. When it came to the Letter [to the See of Rome] approval was unanimous. A draft text had been prepared and presented but the only debate was about minor amendments. It was this unanimity which made me wonder whether the leadership really understood the nature of the commitment it was making."

This gets to the heart of the matter. Is the TAC really anticipating that Rome will grant full sacramental communion any time in the near future? I would venture to say, "no." The whole idea that Rome will do anything in a hurry, or that full sacramental communion could be only months or years away is unrealistic. And, from Archbishop Hepworth to the lowliest Deacon, they probably know that it will take a lot of discussion. To be realistic, the reply from Rome could, potentially, restore the kind of earnest discussions that no longer take place between them and the Anglican Communion. However, if such discussions can begin to take place between the TAC and Rome, that is, the kind with a real goal and purpose of unity, this would not fill in the other great blank from Anglican history. In the old days, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion were working toward a goal of Reunion with Rome (not a simple surrender, but rather something that required Rome to consider the Anglican views- which was taken seriously over there), while at the same time working on unity to become one Church with the Orthodox. If the scenario were to involve a restoration of this newer kind of "East-West" via media that lasted through the Archbishoprics of Lang to Ramsey, where can we see any such approach to the Orthodox at this present time?
- Fr. Robert Hart

"I must leave you to form your own conclusions, but for me the Affirmation of St Louis provides a clear line of direction and responsibility for the Continuing Churches."

+Michael M Wright

A brief study by Bishop Michael Wright
It is now well known that the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) is seeking union with the See of Rome. To quote the official statement authorised by the Primate, Archbishop John Hepworth: “The College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) met in Plenary Session in Portsmouth, England, in the first week of October 2007. The Bishops and Vicars-General unanimously agreed to the text of a letter to the See of Rome seeking full, corporate, sacramental union. The letter was signed solemnly by all the College and entrusted to the Primate and two bishops chosen by the College to be presented to the Holy See. The letter was cordially received at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith....”

The action of the Portsmouth Synod is a courageous step to take as it invites misunderstanding by those of other Churches and even risks rejection by some within the TAC’s own membership. Moreover this is a new departure, the first example of a ‘Continuing Anglican Church’ seeking a wider Catholic unity by stepping outside the area of the ‘Continuum’. The question remains however whether this action furthers true Catholic unity.
The Roman Church claims to be the original Catholic Church unchanged from the time of the Apostles onward. For those who think thus - and this seems to be true of the TAC leadership - union with Rome is the first obvious step on the way to restoring full Christian unity. However, in the interest of true union this claim has to be challenged.

The unity of the primitive Catholic Church was established in the following way. Throughout the whole collection of New Testament Epistles there are exhortations ‘to be of one mind’ and ‘to have the mind of Christ’ This theme appears notably in the Epistles of Saints Paul, Peter, and John - it is an understanding common to all three. To have a ‘different mind’ is the same as maintaining a different Gospel because the effect of receiving in Baptism and Eucharist the life of Christ through the Holy Spirit is to unite believers in one mind - the ‘mind of Christ.’ We see this concern to maintain a ‘common mind’ in the face of a particular problem in the account of the First Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). When the assembly has reached a ‘common mind’ on the question of dietary regulations it is able to announce that the agreement has been achieved by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is left to St James to summarise the conclusion reached by the Council. James acts as Council’s voice. All subsequent Councils of the Church, whether local or involving wider areas of consultation (even to the point of those having ecumenical status) reflect the same pattern - a pattern exemplified at its most basic level by the 34th Apostolic Canon.

Unity is achieved through the maintenance of a ‘common mind’ with Christ. The achievement of a ‘common mind’ is proof of the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The unity and identity of the Catholic Church comes about through sacramental incorporation by the Holy Spirit into Christ’s risen life - and thus the possession of His mind.

The maintenance of a ‘common mind’ linking the Apostolic Twelve with their successors the bishops with their flocks is at the heart of what we call the Holy Tradition and this in turn is the consequence of the abiding, active and direct presence of the Holy Spirit within the Church. For the same reason heretics, those of a ‘different mind’, even if they administer an outward form of Christian baptism, do not receive the grace of the Holy Spirit uniting the believer to Christ and making him a member of His Body, the Catholic Church.
In the course of time the Catholic Church had to come to a ‘common mind’ over the doctrinal standing of various movements which threatened conflict within the Church. Arianism, for example, was eventually rejected by the ‘common mind’ established through the first two Ecumenical Councils. Subsequent Ecumenical Councils dealt in a similar ‘conciliar’ manner with other movements and this accounts for the series of Seven Councils acknowledged by the Orthodox and Roman Churches alike (as also by those Anglicans abiding by the Affirmation of St Louis). The ‘conciliar’ ecclesiology was far more than a convenient way of achieving a majority consensus, it was essential to the nature of the Catholic Church.

The Catholic Church therefore is a sacramental fellowship, a koinônia linking heaven and earth, uniting all members, corporately and individually, with the life and mind of Christ through the Holy Spirit. Any challenge to this ‘conciliar’ ecclesiology overturns the very nature of the Catholic Church and constitutes the intrusion of a ‘different mind’, marking a departure into heretical isolation.
Historically the Roman Church came to occupy the chief position among the great patriarchal sees of the Church, but its confirmation, along with the other great patriarchates, of the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils indicated no more than that the ‘conciliar’ process of consultation was now complete. All this changed following the Eighth Ecumenical Council.

It is little known that there is an 8th Ecumenical Council and it is not the Council listed by the Roman Church. In AD 869 a council was held at Constantinople with the purpose of deposing the Patriarch Photios. The council was driven by the political agenda of the then Byzantine Emperor Basil. Ten years later another Council was held which restored St Photios as Patriarch, declared the previous council null and void, and also condemned any addition to the Creed (the Frankish ‘filioque’ clause was the target). This Council was fully endorsed by all five Patriarchs and for almost two hundred years thereafter was recognised universally as the 8th Ecumenical Council (880). Toward the end of this period the Church in Rome, now under the dominant influence of the Frankish Church, inserted the Frankish ‘filioque’ clause into the Creed. This was done unilaterally, ignoring the authentically Catholic ‘conciliar’ procedures observed and maintained by all previous popes. Some decades later the Roman Pope ceased, again unilaterally, to recognise the true 8th Council in favour of the earlier abrogated council (this earlier council is the one still listed by the Roman Church as the 8th Council).
These actions mark the replacement within the great Western Patriarchate of the essential Catholic ‘conciliar’ ecclesiology. The ‘common mind’ was now to be imposed by a single individual claiming a special delegated authority as the successor of Peter and Vicar of Christ. Although this notion had grown up slowly over many centuries within the Western Patriarchate, this was the first time it was put to the open test and it was never universally received - it was not, in short, the ‘common mind’ of the Catholic Church. With this action the Roman patriarchate broke away from the Catholic Church and has remained unreconciled to this day, still asserting, as in Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution of the Church, that:

“In virtue of his office, that is as Vicar of Christ and pastor of the whole Church, the Roman Pontiff has full, supreme and universal power over the Church. And he is always free to exercise this power.” (Lumen Gentium, Chapter 3 section 22)

In this way the Roman Church has long since abandoned the authentic Catholic Church and set up a Church with a ‘different mind’. Judged by the Tradition of the Catholic Church this is a departure into heresy. From the Orthodox Church point of view the requirement for reunion of the two Churches is the stark demand that the Roman Church repents and repudiates its innovative ecclesiology. A thousand years of separation have also created other doctrinal obstacles, teachings which have no place in the authentic patristic Tradition - these also would have to be repudiated.

This is a brief blunt sketch of the background against which the decision of the TAC leadership has been made. Much that is written about Christian reunion ignores the gravity of the breach between the Catholic Church and the Roman Church. There is an unfounded assumption that the great divide is between Rome and the Churches of the Reformation and that once this obstacle has been removed the far older dispute will be easily resolved. It would seem that the TAC leadership is taking the road to Rome ignoring (probably not even aware of) the far greater gulf between ‘East’ and ‘West’.
On the other hand The Affirmation of St Louis remains loyal to the original, authentic conciliar’ ecclesiology of the Catholic Church, firmly rooted in Scripture and Tradition. If the intentions of the TAC are fulfilled and ‘full, corporate, sacramental union’ with Rome is achieved it will be less a Catholic Church than it is at present - so is its journey really necessary?

Meanwhile it is spiritually dangerous to claim that the Roman Church and, for that matter, all Churches originating in the Western Patriarchate, are heretical and false Churches devoid of grace. Faithfulness to the Holy Tradition can be turned into a new legalism which stifles the voice of the Holy Spirit and creates blindness toward spiritual reality. It is encouraging therefore to be able to quote another aspect of the Roman Church’s Lumen Gentium:

“The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honoured with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. For there are many who honour Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the Holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God. They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood. In all of Christ's disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd, and He prompts them to pursue this end. Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may come about. She exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the earth.” (Lumen Gentium, Chapter 2 section 15)

What is remarkable about this statement is that it acknowledges that Christians outside the confines of the Roman Church are united to Christ by baptism and likewise participate in the Holy Spirit. This statement can only mean, if unintentionally, that the Orthodox Church possesses the essential elements which constitute the Body of Christ - is, in fact, authentically Catholic. The same judgement applies also to those Continuing Anglicans committed to the Fundamental Doctrinal and Moral Principles set out in the Affirmation of St Louis. The Roman Church, of course, insists on a further requirement, acknowledgement of the unique status of the Roman Papacy, but this adds nothing to the Catholic and salvific reality which it admits to be possessed by Churches outside its self-defined confines.

In summary, union with Rome only makes sense once unity is restored between all five ancient patriarchates of the Catholic Church and the ‘common mind’ broken by the Roman Church is once more restored. The present action of the TAC has no significance in terms of furthering the unity of the Church. Meanwhile it is our responsibility to maintain our present witness to the authentic ecclesiology of the undivided Catholic Church, for this is the standard to which all must return if there is to be the true unity which Christ wills and of which he himself is the abiding foundation.

NOTE: The actual course of events and relationship between the two Councils was establish some sixty years ago by the Roman Catholic Church historian, Francis Dvornik. Since that time much discussion and research has been devoted to the matter. The best recent account which gives the necessary priority to the doctrinal issues is by Fr George Dragas.