Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The year that was and Anglican education

Looking back on 2008 at The Continuum, I would like to summarize the major thrust of my contributions with this simple line: We are Continuing Anglicans because Anglicanism is worth continuing. The opposite point of view was expressed by a significant bishop in one jurisdiction who made the very unfortunate remark that Anglicanism is a 450 year-old experiment, and that the case may be made that the experiment has failed. To this my answer is twofold: Anglicanism is not an experiment at all, and Anglicanism has not failed. The official Anglican Communion has failed in recent decades; mostly it has failed to continue Anglican practice and teaching. But, we are not of the Anglican Communion, since long ago they rejected our efforts to preserve sound teaching and to safeguard the sacraments.

The bishop's unfortunate remark tells me that even some Continuing Anglicans have fallen into a very dangerous trap, and that for different reasons that interact. First of all, we must confront the problem of ignorance. Obviously, many traditional or Catholic Anglicans have never read the works of the English churchmen of the formative period of the 16th and 17th centuries. As a result, they have swallowed a great deal of what our critics have to say, having nothing in their intellectual arsenal with which they may defend their patrimony. The bishop who made the unfortunate remark merely spoke for many such Anglicans who live in desperation because they believe that something extra is needed for sure and certain sacramental validity. They have no confidence in their own heritage, but nonetheless sweat it out the way conservative Episcopalians sweat out the problems of apostasy, heresy, and immorality. They await a day of some future liberation when they may become truly Catholic.

This is, however, a deception. The cause of this deception is that they have adopted medieval Roman definitions, which then develop endlessly into modern Roman definitions, as the standard of what it means to be "Catholic." But, Anglicans have always held the standard of Antiquity, the Tradition of the early centuries and above all Scripture, to provide the standard of Catholic Faith and practice. In line with what I have written several times, and with what Fr. Kirby has written, Roman definitions do not possess the necessary attributes of authenticity and authority to command either our allegiance or our obedience. The genuine meaning of "Protestantism" in the English tradition was not the same as it was on the European continent; it was not about rebuilding the Church as if it needed a foundation dug out and laid all over again. It was about restoring the true Catholic Faith and practice of the Church.

A line from the oft misunderstood Article XXV sums it up well: "Being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles." The subject of the Article was the sacraments, and it should be easy to follow what the English Churchmen were saying. For example, how Anointing for healing (a sacrament that is explained and described in the Epistle of James) became Extreme Unction for the dying involved a corrupting evolution and "doctrinal development" that strayed away from a genuine following of the Apostles. A sacrament for healing, and one that effectually signifies reconciliation to God and his Church, so that a Christian may be fully restored, was corrupted into a sacrament reserved for the deathbed only, and that carried weighty and Pharisaical requirements on anyone who survived and recovered, such as life-long celibacy, no matter what age the person was, or if he were married. A means of grace became a heavy burden of the Law, grievous to be borne. This was a corrupt following, in the same sense as a corrupt manuscript. The sacrament was preserved, but it required a purifying effort to return to the original meaning and purpose. This is what the thinking and theological stance of the English Reformation was about: Returning to what Christ and his Church taught and practiced "from the beginning."1

I have used this Article quite deliberately too, inasmuch as the average reader's ability to understand it perfectly exemplifies the need for education, which is my next, and obviously related point. In fact, it is almost redundant. But, whereas the problem of ignorance is a diagnosis, this is the prescription.

This education will not come from Roman polemicists, because they do not understand Anglicanism, anyway, and because their goal is to convert us to "the One True Church" that we may be saved (rather, the larger of the Two One True Churches). It will not come from modern Evangelicals or Reformed Protestants (i.e. Calvinists), even if they are living in the Doublethink world of confusing their theology with that of the Anglican tradition. The problem is complicated by the strong agreement between those on the right hand or the left as to the beliefs of our Fathers. They have agreed between themselves that the English Reformers were really Calvinists, and one of their number actually tried to argue that the Anglicans did not believe in Apostolic Succession. The absurdity of that claim should provoke laughter, inasmuch as the only arguments for the ecclesiology and sacraments of Continental Protestants ever made by English churchmen, in those centuries, were along the lines of a possible Divine economy, a theory that the sacraments of non-episcopal churches might be valid if the intention was to meet a true emergency. And this theory, which had existed before the Reformation as a matter of speculation among Catholic theologians, eventually died. And the theory had absolutely no effect on the practice and Canon Laws of the Church of England, in which it was never legal for any but those ordained by a bishop in Apostolic Succession, to act as priests.

What has amazed me is this: All of the evidence proves that the Church of England had always Intended to be remain Catholic in every proper sacramental sense, and no evidence exists that can, under scrutiny, contradict this simple fact. And, yet, because Anglicans are urged to turn to the right hand or to the left, and stray from the via media, many of them come to believe that the Roman and the Calvinist polemicists have to be right. This is the danger we have seen expressed in that one bishop's unfortunate remark. The poor man was sincere, and sincerely wrong. And, what is needed now is education.

Our archives are full of useful articles to that end, mostly during 2008. And, in the future it is my purpose to follow through on helping to meet the educational need. Anglicanism is worth Continuing, so it is worth learning properly.

1. I make here a deliberate allusion to Matt. 19:8, that demonstrates the same principle.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Celibate Homosexual

To go along with the post I made below about Benedict on Gender, I decided, after much consideration to link to an unpublished article that I wrote for a magazine that didn't take it. It can be read on my personal Blog, Poetreader:

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dec. 28th Feast of The Holy Innocents

Revelation 14:1-5
Matthew 2:13-18

No sooner have we enjoyed our Christmas Mass, our Christmas dinner and whatever happy celebrations with family and friends, than we find ourselves facing the fact of martyrdom the next day, with the death of St. Stephen. We in the Church know that day to be more than simply a song about Good King Wenceslas feeding a poor man. The feast of Stephen was never difficult for Christians to understand, inasmuch as the martyr's crown is a crown of triumph. That is why we Christians do not fast for our martyrs; we do not mourn. Rather, we have feast days for martyrs. And, the choice of St. Stephen to lay down his life for Jesus Christ carried with it all the marks of heroism, faith, courage and mercy as he forgave his persecutors with the same love Christ himself had demonstrated from the cross. And, the day after that we celebrate the memory of a holy life, the life of St. John who understood charity, and who fulfilled his ministry faithfully as an Apostle, and as an Evangelist. The joy of Christmas goes on on those two days, the second and third days of Christmas, and have nothing in them that ought to seem puzzling, or even shocking.

But, today, the fourth day of this brief joyful season of Christmas, presents the very sad picture of cruelty and injustice, violence against the weakest and most helpless of persons, children under the age of two. They could not defend themselves, and neither could any of them choose to die bravely. Nonetheless, the Church calls this a feast day and does so because the slain children are recognized as martyrs. We shall have to examine why they are martyrs, and therefore why we are feasting. After all, none of these children had power to take the heroic decision that St. Stephen did. Indeed, they were given no choice and no way out (and, no doubt, many of the parents died with their children, warding off the blow of Herod's mercenaries). So, we must use our minds to understand what the Church has taught from ancient times, and see why these helpless ones are listed among the martyrs of our Lord.

But, before we do that, let us look at what these deaths have in common with others that are not considered to be martyrdom. Only in this way will we be able accurately to see the one crucial distinction that sets them apart from so many victims of violent injustice.

Indeed, whether it is an active government murdering the innocent after the manner of Stalin, Hitler, and many others, using soldiers against their own people; or murder for profit and selfishness, such as Mafia hit-men, abortionists, and all other assassins commit, or the deranged murders of ideological terrorists, victims include the helpless and innocent. In this way the Holy Innocents have much in common with the victims of injustice that have died in every age. And, in this country we have every reason to see the murders commited by means of abortion reflected in their deaths; for the aborted child, who is certainly also a victim of murder, is every bit as helpless as were these children. This is the evil not of an active government bent on extermination, but of a passive government failing to protect the sanctity of human life. Even so, the complicity is there.

Herod was a madman, and like Pharaoh who ordered the killing of every male child among the Hebrews, we see something devilish at work, since Christ as the Prophet like unto Moses, foretold by Moses himself, was targeted for death as soon as he was born. The warfare was, after all, cosmic, and it was spiritual, the conflict of the kingdom of God against the dominion of Satan. Against injustice the Church needs to reclaim her prophetic role in society, giving a sense of moral accounting to the whole culture. I do not say merely moral propriety, but moral accounting, since "we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ." (Romans 14:10)

And, so then, why do we feast on the memory of such a painful and sad day? Many other madmen have ordered such mass murders to be done, and their victims do not all qualify as martyrs. What so many victims do not have in common with the Holy Innocents of Judea, is the crown of martyrdom.

And, martyrdom is not simply a part of history. There were more martyrs in the 20th century than in all previous centuries of the Church combined. The last eight years have shown no respite, no let up. In modern times Christians have been martyred for bearing witness before Communist Atheists, before Nazis, and before Muslims; and the numbers are staggering. And, all they have a crown of glory that awaits them. When Touchstone, A Journal of Mere Christianity, had to cut back a few pages of each issue a year ago, I asked James Kushiner and David Mills not to cut the the segment called "The Suffering Church," even if cutting it would provide more room for my own articles. I am glad to report they have not cut it, and in each issue you can be informed of the persecution of our fellow Christians in other lands, especially for purposes of prayer and works that may help them and their families.

Let us recall that a martyr is a witness. A martyr is not simply a person who dies for a cause, and certainly no suicide and no terrorist can be a martyr; that is, not by the correct definition. The martyr is not marked by death, but rather the martyr is marked by the purpose for which that death was inflicted. The Greek word μάρτυς (martys), from which our word "martyr" comes, means a person who testifies, a witness bearing testimony before the eyes of the world. The word has taken on the meaning of death for a cause only because of St. Stephen and all other Christian witnesses who have given their lives to testify to the truth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who appeared to eyewitnesses alive again after he had died on the cross for the sins of the whole world.

Why should such witness for Christ provoke a violent and hate-filled reaction? Remember what I said about Pharaoh and Herod, that their plots were devilish. I meant that quite literally. As St. John wrote: "And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness." (I John 5:19) The Apostle and Evangelist, John, explained his rather curious use of the expression, "the world." He tells us not to love the world or the things in the world, which he identifies as "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life." (John 2:15, 16) The definition that he gives to his own special use of this phrase, "the world," is explained simply in the prologue to his Gospel, that prologue that sets the double theme of his whole Gospel: The Trinity and the Incarnation of the Word. In that prologue, St. John says very simply: "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not." (John 1:10) This spiritual system that organizes and plans the chaos of the Fallen sons of Adam, is marked by this: They do not know the Word made flesh: That is, they do not know Jesus Christ. He could walk among them right now, and manifest his miracles, and they would not know him. Indeed, we see that they did not know him.

Not that his death was a tragedy; certainly not. He was no helpless victim, since he had power to call upon the Father for, as he said, "twelve legions of angels." (Matt. 26:53) Jesus was a hero, the ultimate hero, not a victim in the modern sense of the word. But, he was the one true sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; or as I shall say in the Communion Service this morning, with words that summarize much from the Epistle to the Hebrews and the First Epistle of St. John: "All glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world." He did not lose his life: He gave his life.

When he appeared to eyewitnesses after his resurrection, he was creating the certainty that his Church would need in all ages. And, those first martyrs had no fear of death, because they bore witness of the Living Christ who has conquered death, and shall destroy it when he comes again in glory. The martyr's crown is a crown of joy, and this does not turn our Christmas into a time of sorrow. No, not at all. But, it turns our Christmas season into a time of distinctly and decidedly Christian joy, a joy that the world cannot know. Whereas we must speak with the prophetic voice about evil, we do so to deliver those yet held captive by the world and its system that is based on not knowing the Lord. It is not because the martyr's crown can be a symbol of sorrow, since it is a sign of triumph and everlasting joy.

But, back to our question. How did the Holy Innocents qualify as martyrs? What turned their deaths into a triumph over the world, the flesh and the devil? The answer is very simple. They were associated with Jesus Christ himself. They were, in a sense, mistaken for him, or potentially for being him.

And, though not as Divine, but certainly as filled with charity and living a life that bears witness to the truth, we may indeed provoke the wrath of the world. I recall a bumper sticker that a friend of mine had on his car when I was in college (which was, I assure you, less than a hundred years ago). The bumper sticker said: "If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" If we provoke the wrath of this world by being like Christ, we become like the Holy Innocents. Yes, we may choose to be Christ's witnesses, unlike them. But, the issue that matters is never any one of us; the issue is Jesus Christ. To any degree that we may be identified with him, indeed, in terms of our love and our deeds mistaken for him, we are Christians. And, if we bear him witness, by life or by death, we do so as martyrs. For, it is about the Truth himself, our Lord Jesus Christ. May we all, in that proper sense, be mistaken for Christ. May there be enough evidence to convict us all, and with that let us continue the joy of our Christmas Feast this entire season.

Holy Innocents Sermon.

I just read this sermon on Fr. David Straw's blog, and felt it worth sharing. Please click this link and read it.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Her Mother's Glory

For the second time I am posting this article from Touchstone, which has been reprinted in various pro-life journals and other publications since it first appeared almost five years ago. It was at the request of David Mills that I made the effort to compose the only article that was ever difficult for me to write. And, I required the agreement of both my wife and my daughter, for reasons you will see. Although I plan to write a sermon for the Feast of the Holy Innocents, this pro-life testimony from our real life experience seems fitting right now as well.

“Her Mother?s Glory” first appeared in the January/February, 2004 issue of Touchstone.

Robert Hart on the Hardest of Abortion Cases

I promised myself that I would not be the stereotypical father of the bride, like Spencer Tracy, who hates to give away his little girl. But as I walked her down the aisle, and approached the moment she would become a full-grown, married lady, I felt everything I had determined not to feel. Very far from my mind was the story of her strange origins. It is always far from my mind, unless something reminds me of it, like the recent news from Poland.

The infamous abortion ship from Holland was daring to stop off a port in Poland in order to make its “services” available to Polish women who do not have “reproductive rights”—as the anti-life crowd call them—in their own country. Polish law restricts abortions to cases in which the mother’s life is threatened, to cases of incest, and to cases of rape. Compared to the ease with which most women in the Western world can obtain legal abortion for any reason, in fact for no reason at all, and at just about any time during pregnancy, Poland is better. But pro-life? No, sadly, no.

His Daughter Alone

Of my four children, my daughter alone is the one I adopted. I never exactly forget the fact; it simply passes out of conscious thought since it does not matter, for she is, in every way that counts, my daughter, my first child. Over the years, I have always felt what a father ought to feel.

When she was eleven, she suffered a staph infection, and Diane and I feared we would lose her. This was the second time in her short life that she was in danger of dying. The first time she was in danger she did not face an impersonal disease, but determined persons: when her mother had to fight against intruding social workers, and the whole system, for the right to make the choice that her baby would be born. After all, when a woman has been made pregnant through rape, it is not only her right, but her duty, to do the “honorable thing.” At least, so it seemed from all the pressure put on her in those months. She was upsetting the expectations and demands that “liberated” women have no right to upset. She was refusing the “sacrament” of abortion.

What a terrible thing she did. For a woman to bear a child when abortion seemed so justified, so necessary, when the pregnancy was the result of rape—well, it was certainly anti-social behavior. She was coerced into seeing a psychiatrist who could help her overcome the obvious defect known to Christians as principle. He might even have cured her of maternal instinct and the malady called love.

But all those years ago I knew nothing of what had happened, only that she was suddenly gone, nowhere to be found. Why had this girl vanished from our hometown in Maryland without a trace? When I discovered her whereabouts, 3,000 miles away in California, I hastened to call her. I had expected, had hoped, to have seen her in those months. “I have a baby girl,” she told me.

“Are you married?”


“I see. Well, as a Christian I hope you have repented of . . .”

“Well, it was from rape, actually.”

I found that she would not put up her child for adoption. She was willing to live as a single mother because she could not be sure that a couple would raise her child to believe in Jesus Christ. She decided to keep the baby; and God rewarded her by giving her a wonderful, not to mention dashingly handsome, husband.

Convoluted Reasoning

I never think of my daughter’s origins and the strange circumstances of her early life unless something brings them to mind; for example, the disappointing remarks of a “conservative” radio talk-show host. This fellow talks a lot about his Catholic faith and Irish heritage, so it was with some astonishment that I heard him defending his view that abortion in cases of rape may be justified. “After all,” he pointed out, “it’s not the same as when it’s someone’s fault that she is pregnant. I just think it’s different.” He certainly did not get this idea from the Catholic Church.

I remembered back over twenty years ago hearing the same convoluted reasoning from Christians, some Catholic, some Evangelical. I recall a very Evangelical and Charismatic lady asking me, “But if it was rape, why didn’t she get an abortion?” I thought about the king of Judah, the one who would not execute the sons of his father’s assassins because of the Law of God, which says “the children shall not be put to death for the sins of the fathers, nor the fathers for the sins of the children” (2 Chronicles 25:4; Deuteronomy 24:16).

Where did the “conservative” radio talk-show host get the idea that pregnancy is a penalty? If it is a penalty, it might be unjust for the innocent to bear it. But what if it is not a penalty? What if it is the healing that God might give to a woman who has suffered a violent attack? What if the Author of Life takes the opportunity to do good from someone’s evil? The injustice done to Joseph resulted in the saving of his life, and that of millions of people, foreshadowing the good done for the whole world by the unjust crucifixion of a young rabbi from Nazareth. It is ever the way of God to make good come from the evil that men do.

Just who is it that these well-meaning people, such as the very Charismatic lady and the talk-show host, would sentence to death?

I remember the very wide eyes of a ten-month-old baby girl looking up at me, having just arrived by plane from California with her mother. I remember her first steps across my parents’ living-room floor. After her mother and I were married, I remember the first Christmas in our apartment, and her excitement at the wonder of a lit and decorated tree. She had names for us from Winnie the Pooh. I was Pooh, she was Piglet, and as she looked at her mom, now pregnant with the first of our three sons, she said, “And mom’s the kangaroo.”

Her very first day of school I remember watching her bravely walking into the classroom, as a lady laughed at the sight of my perplexity—a feeling of mingled loss and pride that was small compared to what I felt when I gave her in marriage to a fine young man. I remember her saying to him, “I do,” and pledging her life not only to him but also to any children they are blessed with, and to God who blesses them.

She is a young lady who spreads joy wherever she goes. She has a place in the lives of many, not only her new husband, her parents, and her brothers, but many who know her well, and many who have met her in passing—a unique place that no one else could fill. She is happy by nature at 23, married, an avid reader, a good friend, a serious Christian. This is the person that these well-meaning people were willing to sentence to death. Oh, not now, not when they can see her; but when she was in danger the first time, in the womb and hidden from view.

Enough for Her

My wife is not living the life of a tragic victim. She is the happy mother of four children, and would not wish to part with any of them. My daughter learned of her origin after she was over twenty years of age and it became obvious that the truth could not be hidden without confusion. Someone had taken pictures of her as a three-year-old, at the wedding of her parents. I had been warned, “Never tell her, it would devastate her to know.”

Not so. Rather, the mystery was unsettling, and the truth was welcome. You see, it did not matter. She had always known that God is the Author of Life—all life. Every human being is made in his image, and that means everything when a child is raised to understand that the image of God became more than an abstract idea in Hebrew Scripture when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. And it was enough for her that she has a mother and a father who love her.

For both Diane and me, the details of our daughter’s early life and strange origins are very much out of mind, far from conscious thought. That is, unless something brings them to mind, such as realizing that it is time to tell our story for the benefit of others who are caught in what seem like desperate circumstances, and who need the courage to make the decision to let the Author of Life do his healing and creative work, bringing light out of darkness and good out of evil: who need to make the decision of love.

December 27th Feast of St. John, Apostle and Evangelist

Click on the picture and it will take you to the 2007 piece that I posted about St. John.

Icon by Monastery Icons.

Benedict on Gender

Recently Pope Benedict XVI made a statement on gender, reported in the following article from BBC. I commented on it in a posting on Anglican Diaspora and was asked by a priest friend to expand my remarks and post them on this blog. On consideration I decided to do so.

Pope attacks blurring of gender

Pope Benedict XVI has said that saving humanity from homosexual or transsexual behaviour is just as important as saving the rainforest from destruction. He explained that defending God's creation was not limited to saving the environment, but also about protecting man from self-destruction. The Pope was delivering his end-of-year address to senior Vatican staff. His words, later released to the media, emphasised his rejection of gender theory. Speaking on Monday, Pope Benedict XVI warned that gender theory blurred the distinction between male and female and could thus lead to the "self-destruction" of the human race.

Gender theory
Gender theory explores sexual orientation, the roles assigned by society to individuals according to their gender, and how people perceive their biological identity. Gay and transsexual groups, particularly in the United States, promote it as a key to understanding and tolerance, but the Pope disagreed. When the Roman Catholic Church defends God's Creation, "it does not only defend the earth, water and the air... but (it) also protects man from his own destruction," he said. "Rainforests deserve, yes, our protection, but the human being ... does not deserve it less," the pontiff said. It is not "out-of-date metaphysics" to "speak of human nature as 'man' or woman'", he told scores of prelates gathered in the Vatican's sumptuous Clementine Hall. "We need something like human ecology, meant in the right way." The Catholic Church opposes gay marriage. It teaches that while homosexuality is not sinful, homosexual acts are.

Rev Sharon Ferguson, chief executive of Britain's Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, described the Pope's remarks as "totally irresponsible and unacceptable". "When you have religious leaders like that making that sort of statement then followers feel they are justified in behaving in an aggressive and violent way," she said.
The article may be found at

As a Christian who knows himself to be same-sex-attracted, I find Benedict's remarks to be among the most hopeful and encouraging I've heard.

It is just plain obvious, on looking at the world as it is and on listening to the Scriptures and Tradition, that maleness and femaleness pervade creation and have profound effect upon the very nature of living things. At least in the more highly organized animals, male is male and female is female, with strongly differentiated primary and secondary sexual characteristics, and (this is important to note) with distinctly differentiated roles, not only in procreation, but in raising of the young, as also in whatever social organization the species may have. Among humans, the secondary characteristics are quite obvious, and it is a universal aspect of human societies that the sexes have differentiated roles, even though the precise assignment of roles does vary somewhat from society to society. In no species, including the human, does this difference necessarily result in a clear statement of superiority for either sex, but rather, each is supreme in its own sphere, but cannot usurp the proper role of the other. This, at least, is what I seem to have learned from the observation of nature

The teaching of the Church with regard to sexual practice and to the differentiation of 'gender' roles is closely linked to how things actually work in nature. Thus the testimony of Scripture, in both Testaments, would seem to give solid support to what I have said above, and this is supported both by the Fathers and by the course of Christian history. While it is manifestly obvious that there have been attempts to assert male supremacy, a close reading of history will show that such attempts are always doomed, and that women, sometimes behind the scenes, and sometimes in leadership have been a strong and formative force in the Church, even though gender differentiation has always been in place.

Be that as it may, there is nothing clearer in either Scripture or the continuous teaching of the Church than its blessing of marriage between a man and a woman with the aim of procreation, and its condemnation of sexual activity outside such a marriage, and especially as between members of the same sex. Bluntly, all the contrary theories one hears so often these days to justify homosexual acts and homosexual "marriage" are in actuality only examples of special pleading, attempts to justify doing what one wants to do, even though it has never been accepted behavior.

However, it is also just plain obvious that there are those like me who adjust rather poorly to these realities, being inclined in a way rather different from the norm. There are those of us who, for whatever reason, genetic, biological, psychological, or social (where it comes from doesn't really matter all that much), find ourselves attracted to members of our own sex. That is a present reality. It is, so to speak, the hand we've been dealt, and we need to be able to play that hand according to the rules. There's a difficulty, a struggle, involved in that. I am male, and that does make me different in a surprising number of ways from females. That is biological fact and any attempt to ignore that or to minimize it is an attempt to make me less than God intends, and this is so for the female as well. True freedom does not arise from denial of biological reality but from embracing it, and it is not freedom to be imprisoned by one's desires, but in knowing how to rise above them and, when they are not acceptable, to deny them.

Thus I am a complex individual. I am male, biologically equipped and socially called to express that maleness in my living. That is reality, but there is another reality as well, the reality that I am, however it came to be, homosexually inclined, and therefore experience emotions and temptations not precisely the same as other men. That is simply a statement of what is, not of value, negative or positive. As with every other aspect of human existence, such a state can lead one into sin, but it also can, in God's hands, become an instrument of His purpose. No temptation, "standard" or not, can be made an excuse for sin, but temptation is not sin, and can indeed be the motivation toward a righteous act that might not otherwise have occurred. I believe Benedict is speaking strongly to the very center of this issue and avoiduing extremes in either direction

Ms. Ferguson, on the other hand, is taking a one-sided and self-justifying stand. Her remarks about Benedict apply very well indeed to herself: they are "totally irresponsible and unacceptable in any shape or form." She advocates a denial of biology and of revealed truth, and, possibly worse, an enslavement to personal desires (relabeled as 'freedom') that prevents an approach to real health, to real freedom, and to God. That's the tragedy of a revisionist position.

In short, homosexual people should not and cannot be despised or excluded from either the Church itself or from ministry therein simply because their temptations are not the same ones that most men experience.


Thursday, December 25, 2008

December 26th: St. Stephen Protomartyr

Click on the icon and it will take you to my posting from 2007 about St. Stephen.

Icon by Monastery Icons.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


I know I speak for Fathers Hart and Kirby in wishing each and every one of our readers and all their loved ones the very best of all Christmasses. May He who became incarnate of Mary reside at the very core of your being and clothe you with His own image. Amen. Peace to all. Amen.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I have accepted a call to St. Benedict's Anglican Catholic Church in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (near Duke University). We expect to move there in February. It is in the Diocese of the South, so I am pleased to announce that I will be serving under Archbishop Mark Haverland...On two upcoming Sundays, Dec. 28th and January 4th I will be celebrating and preaching at St. Andrew and St. Margaret of Scotland in Alexandria, Va.

Below, see my sermon for Christmas, and consider it my Christmas card and blessing for each and everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas The Feast of the Nativity

Hebrews 1:1-12

John 1:1-14

On Christmas, this Feast of the Nativity, the hidden revelation we celebrate on the Feast of the Annunciation becomes visible.

"Then the babe, the world's Redeemer

First revealed his sacred face

Evermore and evermore."

I never tire of the prologue to St. John’s Gospel. This is the Gospel for the first Mass of Christmas, which is also the last Gospel of almost every High Mass. These words are hakadesh hakadeshim- the holy of holies- in all of scripture.

I have no need this day to stand here and relate any personal story, or any tale of fiction. The finest and most entertaining story cannot begin to compare with these words which we have heard from scripture. Though we hear the opening of St. John’s Gospel on every Sunday outside of Advent and Lent, we cannot hear it enough. It cannot become tiresome though we were to read it daily. In fact, listen to the words of our hymns this day. In Hark the Herald, look at Charles Wesley’s words, especially the second verse (the verse beginning Christ by highest heaven adored). Such words as these can never become tiresome either.

A Roman Catholic priest of my acquaintance via e-mail, Fr. Joseph Wilson, wrote, in an article, that it is impossible to overemphasize the Incarnation. How right he is. Many heresies come about by overemphasis on one little part of Christian truth at the expense of the rest of it. This cannot happen to the doctrine of the Incarnation, for it contains all of the truth in itself. This truth, that Christ is God the Son come to us in the fullness both of His Divine Nature, and of His human nature, is the truth, the central doctrine, of Christianity. Take it away and we have nothing. Keep it, and we have everything. No wonder St. John also tells us that this simple true statement, that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, is the one doctrine that the spirit of Antichrist refuses to permit.

The doctrine of the Incarnation contains all of the truth of Christianity. The full revelation of the Trinity becomes necessary for God is the Son, and God is the Father; but the Son is not the Father. And the Son is present with us by the Holy Spirit. But, the Son and the Father are not the Holy Spirit. Yet, every Jew always knew that there is only One God- sh’mai Israel... The truth of the Incarnation opens more questions than it gives answers; the questions are because God is revealed fully by Jesus as being, in His words, The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. He leaves us this new name for God, and teaches us that we can spend eternity asking questions about the infinity of the True and Living God because He will always be beyond our full comprehension. Yet, because He can walk among us as a man, in the person of the Son, we can know Him. He is beyond us forever; He is with us forever. His name is called Emmanuel- God with us.

The truth of the Incarnation tells us that we are sinners, lost because we are lost in sin. The light shines not against lesser light, but in the very darkness itself, a darkness that neither understands nor can solve the problem of this bothersome light. The darkness comprehended it not, the darkness into which we have fallen, and in which we were blind. Even many of the very chosen people themselves received not this Light; no wonder then that most of the world cannot receive Him either. Those who can receive Him do so because they face the light. This light hurts our eyes at first; for it tells the truth, the truth about ourselves which we wanted never to see nor hear.

The writer to the Hebrews wastes no time in telling us that this Man, the Son of God who is the very icon of the Father, in Whom the glory of God is perfectly seen, has purged our sins. The Gospel we read in the second Mass of Christmas is from St. Luke. In it the words of the angels are heard, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” What peace is this? Is it some magic that makes sinful and fallen men stop waging war, as if the cessation of violence is actually worthy in itself to be called peace? Is not the greater war shown to us in scripture? That God has a right to wage war upon man because of our sins? As early as the story of Noah’s flood we see that God accepted the sacrifice of Noah after the flood- a sacrifice that pointed to Christ’s own death on the cross as did all the sacrifices. We are told that God hung up His bow as a sign in the heavens. He hung up what we call the rainbow, His bow of warfare, and promised not to destroy mankind from the face of the earth. This is the peace of which the angels speak. The sacrifice that had been offered in the story of Noah, after he came out of the ark, was only a type and shadow of the cross, the shadow of which hung already, over a newborn infant Son lying asleep in a manger. This night is answered by "the night in which he was betrayed." Only by his cross, by his sacrifice, is peace made between God and fallen mankind.

“Nails, spear shall pierce Him through

a cross be borne for me for you,

hail, hail the Word made flesh,

the Babe the Son of Mary.”

All of the events to come, right up to His dying and rising again are foretold in these words of the angels. We do not see goodwill among men, as some misinterpret the angelic words, but goodwill toward men, from God. The whole revelation that God is Love is thus given to us, also, by the Incarnation. This is the great gift of love, that He would give His own Son; He offers the sacrifice that He would not allow our father Abraham to make. Abraham was ready to obey God, and prepared to offer his son, his only son Isaac whom he loved, upon whom had been laid the wood of the altar while they had climbed Mount Moriah.

Abraham was spared this terrible agony of slaying his beloved son, because God used this dramatic means to teach His people that He would never accept the sacrifice of their children, such sacrifices as the pagans made to what were no gods. But, God in His love gives His only begotten Son Whom He loves. This is the goodwill toward men. This goodwill was seen that night in the manger in Bethlehem; this goodwill was seen on the cross many years later on a Friday afternoon.

In the Incarnation, now revealed, we see that God would call a people to be His children, adopting them in the very Person of His only begotten Son; for as St. Paul tells us, we are in Christ. It is because we are in the Beloved, in the Son Himself, that we are chosen by God for salvation, instead of having been abandoned to the fate we had deserved for ourselves.

We see also that He would establish His Church, and give to it His Word and Sacraments for the salvation of all who believe the Gospel. St. John, in opening his First Epistle, tells us that he had been among those whose hands had handled, and whose eyes had seen the Word of Life; and he goes on to tell us that we too are called to fellowship with God and His Son Jesus Christ through the invitation of the apostles. St. John is telling us that in the Church the sacraments are given and God’s Word is spoken, that we may know Him. Without the Incarnation the apostles have no word to tell, and there is then no Word from God, nor any sacraments. Because of the Incarnation we are given the Word of His truth. And the sacraments stem from His own coming in the flesh, and are given to us only because He was given to us when He came in our own nature, a created nature that was alien to His uncreated Person as God the only Son, eternally begotten of the Father.

In his classic, On the Incarnation, St. Athanasius said that while Christ walked the earth as man, He still filled the heavens as God. The Council Of Chalcedon taught us that He is fully God, being of the same nature as that of the Father, and fully human, being of the same human nature as ourselves, like us in every way except for sin, having human nature from his mother Mary, the Virgin, the Theotokos- which means that God the Son has a mother; and he is "like us in every respect apart from sin."

None of this is explained to us. How is it that God is made man, that the Word is made flesh and that He dwelt among us, that we beheld His glory? We do not really know all the answers- which is part of the revelation. God cannot be figured out, dissected and explained. He cannot be understood, analyzed and described. But, He can be known through Christ, the Only Mediator Who Himself is God and Man.

How do sacraments work? How is bread and wine made into the Real Presence of the Living Christ? How does water, with the right words, give new life when applied to human flesh? How can priests, themselves men, forgive sins? How did Christ’s death take away the sins of the world? How does His resurrection save us from death? If we needed to know the answers in some mechanical way, then salvation would be reserved only for people far too clever for the likes of me. The point is to know that it is beyond our understanding, because we are not God. We know not the how of it. But, what we do not understand we can know; we can know the love of God shown to us in the coming of Christ into the world. “For God so loved the world,” and that is the why of it.

I will close with words written in 1765, by Christopher Smart, words which made it into our hymnal, and which work equally well for this Feast of Christmas and also for the Feast of the Annunciation which was nine months ago:

O Most Mighty!

O Most Holy!

Far beyond the seraph’s thought,

Art Thou then so mean and lowly

As unheeded prophets taught?

O the magnitude of meekness!

Worth from worth immortal sprung;

O the strength of infant weakness,

if eternal is so young.

God all bounteous, all creative,

Whom no ills from good dissuade,

Is Incarnate and a native

Of the very world He made.

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


The interesting piece by Dr. Tighe, posted below, certainly illustrates some of the reasons it is inaccurate to claim that Christmas is "merely" a christianization of a pagan festival. I'm unconvinced by the calendric reasoning involved, though there's a plausibility about it, but I am convinced that the selection of this date (whether His actual birthday or not) does make sense from a purely Christian viewpoint. I wrote the following a few days ago.

December 15, 2008. We've just had an ice storm, and many homes are still without power or heat. The days have been getting shorter, which always tends to feed my depression, and the weather is getting progressively colder, which doesn't help either. Tomorrow would have been our thirtieth anniversary, had Dorothy lived, but she left this world almost seventeen years ago. This could be a very hard time of year, but, during this season of Advent, we prepare for the coming of the Lord, and just as the sun hits its low point on the solstice, and begins to bring light back into the midst of the cold, so on Christmas we remember that greatest of all gifts, and there is hope. . . .


The sun sinks in the sky,
lower, ever lower sinking,
sinking as the days are swiftly waning,
and the nights are waxing ever longer,
and the darkness deepens at the closing of the year.
Spring is far behind us, and the summer gone,
and the harvests have been gathered,
and the windows shuttered tight against the cold,
that cold that soon, too soon, will rule the out-of-doors,
and creep beneath the bundled scarves and cloaks and coats,
and chill the bones of all who venture outward,
even creeping subtly into houses where they dwell,
and nothing grows,
and all the earth is frozen hard,
and mounds of snow make travels very hard indeed.

And it is the solstice,
and the darkness has achieved its greatest length,
and the earth has sunk as deeply into gloom as ever can be seen,
and the sun has barely come to bring the day,
when day is rudely taken from our sight, and ends.
It is the solstice, day of deepest darkness, longest night,
that leads us to the brink of dark despair,
to the brink beyond which we perhaps could not endure,
but, even as the hardness of the winter just begins,
as the sureness of the deepening cold and driving storms is on us,
even then the solstice comes with hope,
even then the knowledge of the end of waning is appearing,
as the shortest day yields to one a little longer, then to yet another,
and the sun begins to rise up in the winter sky,
and in the midst of stressful prisoning weather, there is hope,

And, though the date of birth remains unknown,
the celebration of these days seems very right,
for in a world of darkness and of sin,
where the coldness of men's hearts e'er seems to reign,
and sometimes spirits tire and energies begin to flag,
the Son is born and seen to walk among us,
and in darkness of His death and brightness of His rising,
brings the promise of the dawning of a day of light,
and there is hope.

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

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Calculating Christmas

Every year at this time I like to direct readers to this article by my friend and fellow Contributing editor of Touchstone, a Journal of mere Christianity, Dr. William Tighe.“Calculating Christmas” first appeared in the December, 2003 issue of Touchstone.

William J. Tighe on the Story Behind December 25

Many Christians think that Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th because the church fathers appropriated the date of a pagan festival. Almost no one minds, except for a few groups on the fringes of American Evangelicalism, who seem to think that this makes Christmas itself a pagan festival. But it is perhaps interesting to know that the choice of December 25th is the result of attempts among the earliest Christians to figure out the date of Jesus’ birth based on calendrical calculations that had nothing to do with pagan festivals.

Rather, the pagan festival of the “Birth of the Unconquered Son” instituted by the Roman Emperor Aurelian on 25 December 274, was almost certainly an attempt to create a pagan alternative to a date that was already of some significance to Roman Christians. Thus the “pagan origins of Christmas” is a myth without historical substance.

You may read the rest by clicking here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Psychology and Unity

One of our commenters posted this fine observation in another thread where it doesn't really fit. These thoughts are too valuable to let them be thus obscured.

"My interest in ecumenical dialog stems partly from the point of view of psychology. It seems to me that ecumenism, as practiced today, concentrates on stating our beliefs at each other, and sometimes supplementing such statements with historical data. Usually, that's as far as it goes.

I wonder to what extent denominations shape the psychology of their members, and how this plays into the area of ecumenical dialog. I wouldn't claim to understand all the ways Traditional Roman Catholicism has shaped my own psyche, but I suspect it has, at a deep level. I'm sure it's the same for everyone else who's serious about religion. But neither am I suggesting that we psychoanalyze each other - that would be a terrible mess."

Has anyone noticed how dramatically different are the thought processes of people from different backgrounds? We have different styles of expression, different esthetic sense, different emotional reactions, different 'hot buttons', and even somewhat different sense of logical progression. One's family background and one's subsequent associations probably have a profound effect on how one thinks, how one reaches theological conclusions, and how one discusses these with others.

Some of us (probably most of us) represent a more or less eclectic fusion of various backgrounds. I was raised in a conservative Lutheran background, and can recognize in me thought processes quite unlike those of my later Episcopalian, then Pentecostal, then centrist Evangelical, then Anglican Traditionalist milieux, all of which I have inhabited and adjusted to. I am very much aware of never entirely 'fitting in' and of being a bit out of sync with those around me.

Is "stating our beliefs at each other, and sometimes supplementing such statements with historical data" really sufficient for real communication? Is achieving unity merely a matter of convincing one another to believe the same things, or is unity really something deeper? In thinking about this I am drawn to Revelation 5:9 ...hast redeemed us to God out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation... and to a realization of what a motley group Our Lord has called to Himself.

What this comes down to, I think, is that we need to really listen to one another - not just to words and logical constructs, but to one another's hearts, as best as we can, to grapple with the necessity of figuring out what the other guy is actually trying to say, and to figure out what it is that he hears in our words - it may not be what we thought we said. I know. I'm forever needing to backpedal to try to restore suddenly failed communication.

He called us to be one. Now it's up to us, with His guidance, to find out what that means in practice.

These thoughts may seem sketchy. They are. I'm not sure what I'm talking about, but I am sure that many of our divisions have been exacerbated by whatever it is. Let's move on from here ever closer to the goal He has set.


Patron Mascot

A comment gave me the idea. Scroll down to the bottom and see our Patron Mascot. It is time to give the Platypus his due.

Fourth Sunday in Advent

St. John the Baptist, by Monastery Icons

Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 80
Phil. 4:4-7
John 1:19-28

With Christmas so close at hand it may seem a little difficult to go through even one more Sunday of Advent. We want to burst forth into the next season and rejoice. Well, very soon the time for that will be upon us (in fact at sundown this Christmas Eve). Right now, however, it is time to think through the meaning of today’s scriptures for the last Sunday in Advent, and not to miss it.

Again we are given that mysterious image of John the Baptist, the burning and shining light who bore witness by his life and death to Jesus Christ. “He must increase, and I must decrease,” said this prophet, this man whose unique vocation was that he bridged the Old Testament and the New. Two weeks ago we saw that all of the scriptures bore witness to Jesus Christ; and now, this last prophet of the Old Covenant bears direct witness to Christ, baptizing Him, and seeing the Spirit of God come upon Him as a dove out of Heaven. This last prophet of the Old Covenant is the first prophet of the New Covenant. The Lord said through the prophet Isaiah, “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert (Isa. 43: 19).” God called this prophet, this unique prophet, to show that the new thing, the New Covenant spoken of by Jeremiah the prophet (Jer. 31:31f) was upon them. John’s father was a priest under the Law of Moses, a descendent of Aaron. Therefore, John was also, by that Law, a priest. Yet, John the son of Zechariah, went into the desert to be the voice of one crying in the wilderness, “prepare the way of the Lord.”

Advent is about the last things, and especially meant to remind us that Christ will come again in glory to judge the quick and the dead, to make the heavens and the earth new, and to rule forever on His throne, surrounded by saints whom He has redeemed from sin and death to rule forever with Him. But, as we have seen, instead of having us read the many passages of scripture that deal very directly with eschatology- the study of the end- the Gospel readings appointed by the Church give us a glimpse of Christ’s second coming by reminding us of events that happened when He came at first. The first week we saw that His kingdom brings judgment on the very House of God in the midst of the holy city, and cleanses it by driving out those who defiled it by their practice of unrepented sin. The picture ought to inspire the healthy fear of God, and to make us repentant and resolute to live in such a way that we will be among those who remain in His house forever, instead of being driven out to spend eternity in outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

And now, thanks to the wisdom of the Church, we are reminded of the Baptist who prepared the way of the Lord by preaching repentance and cleansing. John the Baptist bridged the Testaments and prepared the way for Christ by offering hope, by giving sinful people a chance to start over again. The sinners who came to him were given a new beginning, hope and cleansing- themselves cleansed rather than tossed out as the Lord tossed out the money changers when it was the temple that was cleansed of evil presences and practices. In other words, the vocation of John the Baptist was to prepare people to see Jesus as the Messiah, and the preparation was repentance, the only way to be prepared to meet the Lord. The Advent message of repentance is necessary. Modern popular religion tells everyone that they need not repent of their sins, but rather that everyone is accepted with all of their ungodly baggage. The truth is, some churches are simply helping people go to Hell, due to the false teaching of Satan’s ministers. The truth is, the real ministry of the Church is the most important and serious thing in the world. Here we deal with things more important than mere life and death. We speak and administer the word and sacraments that have to do with eternal destiny. We give out both a warning and hope: "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand."

Now, about the comings of Jesus Christ, and the life of this mysterious John the Baptist, we should dig a little deeper. The word “Christ” is from the Greek for the Hebrew word Meshiach, or as we pronounce it in English, Messiah. We have come to call the Lord by two names more than all others, Jesus and Christ. The one means Salvation- Y’shua. The other means “the anointed” – Meshiach. The implication is the Old Testament expression, “the Lord’s Anointed.” This comes with two pictures, as the word "messiah" is sprinkled generously throughout the pages of the Old Testament. The word speaks of priests and kings, and the anointing comes by the hand of a prophet.

The first men to be called meshiach were the brother of Moses, Aaron the High Priest, and his sons the priests. The King James Bible uses the phrase “the priest that is anointed.” The original Hebrew is h’ kohan h’ meshiach- “the priest the messiah.” The second class of men to be called messiah (meshiach) are the kings. David would not stretch forth his hand against Saul, because he was “the Lord’s anointed.” That is, the Lord’s messiah. Every priest was a messiah, and every king was a messiah. And, yet, the scriptures clearly speak of the one Man who would be both priest and king, and who would be the only hope of the whole world, being the one Jews call H’ Meshiach- The Messiah. So, first Messiah is the priest, and then after that He is the King.

His two comings are foreshadowed in these pictures. First he came as priest. The Epistle to the Hebrews is the most explicit New Testament book that tells of Christ’s priestly ministry when he came the first time, and does so in light of the hope of those who look for His second appearing. As the priest He offered Himself as the sacrifice. The Book of Leviticus tells us clearly how a priest made kippur, that is atonement, for a repentant sinner who confessed his sin to the priest and brought a sacrifice. The real meaning is that the priest himself is the atonement, and offers the animal because he cannot sacrifice himself. This is a type and shadow of Jesus, who did offer Himself as priest and sacrifice when He came the first time. The importance of the Suffering Servant passage to the clear New Testament proclamation of atonement cannot be overstated. You will find it in the 53rd chapter of the Book of Isaiah. “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

This Suffering servant, after His death in their place, rises and takes up a ministry of intercession for sinners. “When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.” A dead man cannot prolong his days unless he rises again. In this passage, His death and resurrection are priestly, because he dies as the one true sacrifice, the atonement, and after rising “he ever lives to make intercession for them,” that is, for those who come to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25). The Old Testament sacrifices on those altars foreshadowed His true sacrifice, just as our sacrifice on this altar, in which nothing is killed, proclaims it. In fact, there is only one Mass (Eucharist or Holy Communion), and always when it is offered anywhere in the world by the Church, it is joined to the one true sacrifice on Calvary.

When he comes again, the image of Messiah as King will be fulfilled in all of its glory. This is the terror of all that is evil, and it is the hope of the Church. It is a certainty that he will come on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead, to establish Heaven on Earth, to rule and so grant peace forever. Both testaments speak of His coming as the King Messiah. Daniel saw one coming in the clouds of Heaven as the Son of man to rule with the Ancient of Days; Moses saw that “the Earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” Our eternal hope is not based upon imagination and conjecture, but upon the sure promise given in and by Christ’s resurrection from the dead. We are given the “sure and certain hope of the resurrection on the Last Day.” It is the only such hope, and it is impossible to separate that hope from Jesus Christ, because immortality, the hope of eternal life, is granted through His resurrection. So writes Saint John about those who, due to this hope, purify themselves: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is (I John 3:2).”

John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord by his message of repentance. Pondering these pictures of the Messiah as priest and King we are both warned and encouraged with both fear and hope. This is the meaning of Advent. It is of eternal consequence that we give heed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

E.J. Bicknell on Anglican Orders (first published in 1919)

Mark this as a resource

In the book A Theological Introduction to The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England, E.J. Bicknell took up the matter of Anglican orders when writing about Article XXXVI:
The Book of Consecration of Archbishops and Bishops and ordering of Priests and Deacons, lately set forth in the time of Edward the Sixth and confirmed at the same time by authority of Parliament, doth contain all things necessary to such consecration and ordering; neither hath it anything that of itself is superstitious or ungodly. And therefore whosoever are consecrate or ordered according to the rites of that book, since the second year of King Edward unto this time, or hereafter shall be consecrated or ordered according to the same rites, we decree all such to be rightly, orderly, and lawfully consecrated or ordered.

We now pick up Bicknell's work, beginning at page 339 of the third edition.

The validity of our orders has constantly been denied by theologians of the Church of Rome on various grounds. The earliest and simplest line of attack was to assert that the line of succession had been broken. An absurd story commonly known as the 'Nag's Head fable' was fabricated.1 This alleged that Archbishop Parker was not duly consecrated, but underwent a mock ceremony at the Nag's head Tavern in Cheapside. This has long been abandoned by serious Roman controversalists, though traces of it still linger among the ignorant. A second attempt was made to show that Bishop Barlow, who was the principle consecrator of Parker, was himself never rightly consecrated. This objection too has failed. Three other bishops took part in the consecration, and we are told all laid their hands on his head and said the words. The position of Barlow did not really, therefore, affect the validity of the act. But there is no reason whatever to doubt Barlow's own consecration. It may also be observed that even if the English church had lost her orders in the time of Elizabeth, she would have recovered them later through Laud. At the consecration of Laud there met not only the English but also the Irish and Italian lines of succession. All the bishops who survived in 1660 had been consecrated by Laud. As we shall see in the latest Papal pronouncement on our orders, the historical arguments are all tacitly dropped.

A second line of attack has been to argue that our orders are invalid owing either to 'insufficiency of form' or 'lack of intention'. These two arguments are closely connected, but ought to be kept distinct.

(a) As to 'insufficiency of form'. The Ordinal used in the consecration of Archbishop Parker was that of Edward VI, to which our Article refers. It has been maintained that the form of consecration and of ordination contained is invalid, on the ground that in the words that accompany the laying on of hands the archbishop was directed to say 'Take the Holy Ghost and remember that thou stir up the grace of God which is on thee by the imposition of our hands, etc.' In the revision of 1661 the words were expanded into their present form 'Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Bishop in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. And remember, etc.' It has been argued that the earlier form was insufficient because the particular order was not specified, and indeed, that this insufficiency was felt by the Church of England is proved by the subsequent emendation. This argument is not very strong. The quotation from 2 Tim. 1.6 is sufficient to show that the office to which the the words refer is the same as that to which S. Timothy was himself consecrated by S. Paul, namely the Episcopate. Nor is there any real doubt throughout the service what is taking place. Further, the Latin Pontifical is equally vague in its language, 'Receive the Holy Ghost', the office for which the Holy Ghost is being given determined by the context. So, too, the form in the Ordinal of Edward VI for the ordination of priests ran originally, "Receive the Holy Ghost: whose sins thou dost forgive, etc.' In 1661 the words 'for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands' were inserted. Here, too, the quotation from Jn 20.23, 'Whose sins thou dost forgive, etc.' fixes the meaning. The insertions of 1661 were probably made in order to rule out the Presbyterian idea that bishop and priest were the same office. They must be viewed in light of contemporary Church history.

A further objection now proved to be unsound must be mentioned. In the Western rite for the ordination of priests there had been introduced a ceremony known as the the 'porrectio intrumentorum'. The bishop presented the candidates for ordination with a paten and chalice, saying, 'Receive authority to offer sacrifice to God and to celebrate Masses as well for the living as for the dead.' This was deliberately omitted in the second Prayer-Book of Edward VI. It was argued, therefore, that this omission rendered the 'form' invalid. In the seventeenth century a school of theologians had come to hold that this particular ceremony, with the words that accompany it, was the actual matter and form of ordination. In the fifteenth century Pope Eugenius IV, in his letter to this to the Armenians which was appended to the decrees of the Council of Florence, had definitely committed himself to this view. Other controversialists were content to maintain that only certain powers of the priesthood were conveyed through this ceremony. But in the seventeenth century, owing to the researches of the Roman Catholic antiquarian Morinus, it was established beyond all doubt that the ceremony had not existed during the first thousand years of the Church's life. It was purely Western and Roman. If, then, it was essential for a valid ordination, the Church had possessed no valid orders for a thousand years. The objection, therefore, in its old form, fell to the ground.

(b) The opponents of Anglican Orders have therefore fallen back on the charge of 'lack of intention'. 2 This is the argument of the Papal Bull 'Apostolicae Curae' issued in 1896, condemning our orders as null and void. The Pope maintains that the Ordinal of Edward VI and our present Ordinal are not so much absolutely and in themselves inadequate, but that the changes made in them at the Reformation are evidence of a change of intention on the part of the Church. The deliberate omission of any mention of the sacrificing power of the priesthood and of the 'porrectio intrumentorum', which was the visible sign of the conferring of that power, show that the Church of England does not intend to ordain a 'sacrificing priesthood'. Her offices betray a defective idea of the priesthood, and therefore true priests cannot be made by them.3

In reply to this charge it has been pointed out that any explicit mention of the sacrificial function of the priesthood is entirely absent from several forms that Rome acknowledges to be valid, including not only the Coptic rite, but the ancient Roman rite. But this hardly meets the objection. It is not at all the same thing never to have had any explicit mention of the sacrificing power of the priesthood, as to have cut it out after such mention has been inserted. In order to defend the the action of the Church of England we must go back to first principles. Here, as elsewhere, the Church of England desired to return to antiquity. She appealed against one-sided and perverted medieval ideas to Scripture and primitive tradition. In the later Middle Ages the function of offering the Eucharistic sacrifice had assumed such undue prominence in the popular idea of the priesthood, that there was serious danger of forgetting the ministry of the Word and the pastoral work that belong essentially to the Office. The Reformers rightly desired to recall men to a fuller and better-proportioned view of the ministry. Accordingly, in the Ordinal the comparatively late addition of the 'porrectio intrumentorum' and the singling out of the sacrificial function of the priesthood were omitted. This did not mean that the Church of England in any sense intended to institute, as it were, a new order. The preface to the Ordinal, composed in 1550 and continued in 1552, makes it as clear as human language is able to make it, that she intended to continue those orders which had been in the Church from the days of the Apostles, namely Bishops, Priests and Deacons, in the same sense as they had always existed. When we turn to Scripture we find no stress laid upon the authority given to ministers to celebrate the Eucharist. It is preposterous to suppose that our Lord chose or ordained the Apostles chiefly or primarily to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice. In S. Paul's address to the presbyter-bishops * of Ephesus, the stress is laid on the faithful preaching of the Word and the care of the flock (Acts 20.28-31). In the Pastoral Epistles, in the choice of presbyters the emphasis is laid on the possession of qualities of character which are needed for pastoral supervision and teaching (I Tim3.1-7, cp. 5.17, Tit 1.7-9). So S. Peter places in the forefront of the duty of presbyters the general oversight of the flock (I Pet. 5.1-4). In such passages as these there is no explicit mention of the Eucharist. No one can doubt that it was the centre of Christian worship on every Lord's Day, nor that any one of the presbyter-bishops had authority, if need be, to preside. But when we compare the New Testament picture of the presbyters with the modern Roman idea of the priest, we feel the centre of gravity has shifted. So, too, in the early Church, the power to celebrate the Eucharist is not the predominant mark of the presbyter.4 It is not isolated from his other functions. It is not singled out for special mention in primitive ordinals. It was only during the Middle Ages and as a result of a one-sided view of the sacrifice of the Eucharist that an equally one-sided view of the office of priesthood came to be held. At the Reformation the Church of England of set purpose returned to the primitive conception of the ministry.

Again, it is untrue to say that the Church of England denies the Eucharistic sacrifice. She only repudiates any form of corrupt teaching that makes it in any sense a repetition of the sacrifice once for all offered on Calvary. In her service the Church of England makes it abundantly clear that her intention is confer the orders which our Lord instituted and the Apostles conferred. Her purpose is shown by her use of the language of the New Testament throughout her Ordinal. She means her orders to be those of the New Testament. As such she confers upon her priests authority to 'minister the Holy Sacraments'. This includes the celebration of the Eucharist. Here again her intention is that the Eucharist shall be all that the Lord intended it to be. The sacrifice of the Eucharist is not something additional; it is the Eucharist itself in one of its chief aspects. Whatever it means, it is included in our Lord's words of institution. Hence, in conferring authority to minister the Sacraments, she confers authority to offer the Eucharistic sacrifice. Indeed, she cannot do otherwise. Even if the Church of England had denied the Eucharistic sacrifice, that would not render her orders invalid. For, it is agreed, even by Romanists, that heresy does not render sacraments invalid. But she has not done anything of the kind. It is perfectly true that our Ordinal does not make explicit mention of 'the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Christ', because it is unnecessary. The full meaning of the Eucharist depends on the Lord's command, not on our theology. Inasmuch as our priests receive authority to celebrate it, they receive authority to fulfil all that it means.

So, then, our real quarrel with the Church of Rome is, at bottom, about the meaning of the priesthood and of the Eucharistic sacrifice. We contend that Roman teaching on both is so out of proportion as to be almost untrue. If the Church of Rome chooses to say that we do not intend to make priests exactly in her sense of the word, we are not concerned to deny it. We are content to make priests in accordance with the ministry of the New Testament and the Primitive Church.

The Roman arguments rest upon two great assumptions. First, that Rome is at all times infallible, and therefore her teaching at any time about the meaning of the priesthood must be accepted without question. Secondly, that Rome has a divine right to implicit and universal obedience, and therefore any change in the form of service without her consent shows a contumacious spirit. Neither of these assumptions can be granted, and without them the whole argument collapses.
Bicknell's footnotes.

1. 'It is so absurd on the face of it that it has led to the suspicion of Catholic theologians not being sincere in the objections they make to Anglican orders' (Estcourt, quoted by Brightman, C.H.S. Lectures, vol i, p.147).

2. Nothing is more damaging to the Roman case than the constant shifting of arguments to which they have been driven.

3. This Bull is an official condemnation of Anglican Orders, confirming the previous practice of the Church of Rome in refusing to recognize them. Dr. Briggs, however, was assured by Pius X that this decision of his predecessor was not infallible. See Briggs, Church Unity, p.121.

4. As we have said, the English word priest by derivation simply means 'presbyter'. But it has acquired the meaning of 'sacerdos'. The Christian presbyter in virtue of his office is a 'priest'. Priesthood is one of his functions.
My footnote
* Earlier Bicknell had addressed the evolution of how the words presbyter (πρεσβύτερος) and bishop (ἐπίσκοπος) came to have separate meanings, when the word ἐπίσκοπος came to refer only to those in Apostolic Succession after the first generation of Apostles were gone. But here, he refers to an earlier time. See Acts 20:17, 28.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Shifting sands and fancy footwork

A book review by my brother, David Bentley Hart, which appeared in First Things almost two years ago, entitled Daniel Dennet Hunts the Snark, has a few things that apply not only to the hapless target of his criticism in that review, but that apply equally to the many confident critics of our position. His target was one Daniel Dennet, who he describes as a "Darwinian Fundamentalist."

Too often he shows a preference for the cumulative argument over the cogent and for repetition over demonstration. The Bellman’s 1 maxim, “What I tell you three times is true,” is not alien to Dennett’s method. He seems to work on the supposition that an assertion made with sufficient force and frequency is soon transformed, by some subtle alchemy, into a settled principle. And there are rather too many instances when Dennett seems either clumsily to miss or willfully to ignore pertinent objections to his views and so races past them with a perfunctory wave in what he takes to be their general direction—though usually in another direction altogether....

There can be no science of any hard empirical variety when the very act of identifying one’s object of study is already an act of interpretation, contingent on a collection of purely arbitrary reductions, dubious categorizations, and biased observations. There can be no meaningful application of experimental method. There can be no correlation established between biological and cultural data. It will always be impossible to verify either one’s evidence or one’s conclusions—indeed, impossible even to determine what the conditions of verification should be.

His target was a book by a man trying to combine science and philosophy to attack some undefined thing called "religion," as well as the book's author. My targets are critics of something more specific, but which they define as poorly as Dennet defines "religion."

The best defense is a good offense, and in light of what critics of Continuing Anglicanism are saying, all over the internet, I am always ready to resist their offensive actions by being more offensive still. Not only is it the best defense, but a lot more fun (and, as soon as I get back from Confession I will continue this essay). Inasmuch as I have acquired a reputation for being about as nice a guy as Sheridan Whiteside (undeserved really), why should I hide or disguise the offensive nature of my tactics any longer? To strike a blow for the benefit of Anglicans who need relief from constant sniping at their patrimony, someone must be the bad cop-a dirty job, but somebody has to so it.

So, let us now see how my baby brother's remarks apply to those fearless marksmen who claim to take aim at Anglicanism as such, shooting, really, only at straw men.

1. "A preference for the cumulative argument over the cogent and for repetition over demonstration."

Indeed, the cumulative argument is also a regularly employed tactic by the people who write blog tomes about Anglicans like us. Frankly, they seem to believe that we can be worn out by essays long enough to qualify as books, because such long and tedious arguments must be, if they are so wordy, self-evident. They seem not to know that "brevity is the soul of wit," nor to have read that famous letter that says, "I am sorry to have written so long a letter, but I had not the time to write a short one." If the argument is at least 6,000 words in length, they may find that no one can reply to it, especially because it is hard to reply when snoring.

Obnoxious as the long argument is, the deeper problem is that length does not compensate for lack of content, and that lack of content does not hinder such wordy writers from drawing a grand, if not grandiose, conclusion from all the empty and meaningless things that they have pontificated. Generally, that conclusion is not simply that we are wrong, but that we are so obviously wrong that we just, in the words of Michael Liccione, "don't get it." And, what is it that we just "don't get?" Usually nothing more than this: We just don't get how a long string of quotations out of context, run through a mill of pseudo-academic sophistry about non-binding little councils here and there, without regard to alternative patristic points of view, somehow proves that Anglican teaching is incoherent, or that our orders cannot be valid, or something equally absurd. After all of their convolutions about history (that is carefully selected bits from history instead of real history), and whole schools of thought or the works of great men rendered idiotically and embarrassingly simplistic, distilled into parochial summaries, they make me homesick for the genuine simplicity of a preacher in Baptist vestments (suit and tie), with a leather bound volume in his hand, who can say "The Bahble says..!" Did I say homesick? Odd, because that was never my home. But, at least the backwoods preacher draws from some kind of real authority, even if he does so with an obvious impairment (not knowing the Church and its Tradition). Instead of invoking local councils that were never universally received, or waving about deceptively simplified formulas like "the Thomist view," "Anselmian theory of atonement," or something else about which the writer demonstrates the damage done by reading the briefs of academics instead of Primary Sources (like Thomas himself, or Anselm himself), the backwoods preacher in his shirt and tie quotes God. "For God so loved the world..." This he has in common, of course, with both the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen and Billy Graham. Meanwhile the blogosphere Tome-ist provides plenty of clouds without rain.

And, as for repetition, it shares the premise of Bulverism, 2 namely that "refutation is no necessary part of argument." Whereas Ezekiel Bulver created a form of argument that seeks to analyze the motivation of one's opponent, and thereby diagnose why he takes his stand, the method of repetition is just as handy and just as evasive. So it has been our experience that once we give an answer to those who present some case against the Anglican patrimony, they ignore our refutation, give no counter argument, and simply repeat themselves. Now, this works for them, especially since it helps to fortify bias. But, if some Anglican has only just stumbled onto this blog after being savagely trampled by people who want to push him into the Tiber, or into an Anabaptist swimming pool, or something, he will find here many theological resources from our archives that are designed to restore his faith, and allow his conscience to have the well deserved peace that valid sacraments and pure doctrine have been provided for him and to him, and he need take no plunge.

2. "...either clumsily to miss or willfully to ignore pertinent objections to his views and so races past them with a perfunctory wave in what he takes to be their general direction—though usually in another direction altogether."

Let me clue some of our critics in to something. It is not an answer to one of our theological statements to bring up what a bad dude Henry VIII was. Neither is it sufficient to wave around words like "Catholic" and "Protestant" until you have learned that Anglicanism has a distinct usage that gives a unique definition to both of these words, transforming their meaning as if into a different language altogether. Oh yes, we know what you mean, but you do not understand our language. Neither will you convince us that the English Reformers were Calvinists, or that they were confused. The fact is, you keep trying to understand Anglicans by studying the Lutherans, the Zwinglians, the Calvinists and by the definitions produced among Roman Catholics between Trent and Vatican I. Yes, we know what those other people meant by their use of words and theological terms. But, a careful study of our formularies will reveal that the Church of England never went all the way over into any of the other camps, but instead managed to avoid erring into the extremes of bad doctrine. No, this was not confusion, and it was not weakness, and it was not a compromise by men who failed to stand for anything, no matter how many modern academics exhibit great amounts of severely limited knowledge by essays and books to the contrary. No. Classic Anglicanism was the alternative road of very clear thinkers who walked a tightrope and managed not to fall in any of these directions, despite the strong pull of their gravity.

Our archives are full of apologetics, and you need only look at the relevant headings, like "Theology" or "Anglicanism," or "Roman Catholicism" or "Sacraments," etc. It was not my purpose to recreate them here. We have provided them already, and you need only begin clicking and reading, and learning what all those blogosphere Tome-ists cannot teach you.

1. A Character in The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll
2. "Bulverism" is an essay from God in the Dock, by C.S. Lewis. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI