Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Before I post this, I want to make it clear that of three bloggers, one of us is in the ACA. That one of our furry-chinned crew is Ed Pacht (indeed, it must seem apparent that the only requirement we hold is that a blogger must be a Continuing Anglican who lost his razor and has not bothered to replace it, not a member necessarily of the ACC. In some circumstances we might be willing to wave the beard requirement). The Archbishops and all the bishops of the Continuing Church bodies were notified several years ago by Albion Land, that their input would be given priority. The only Archbishop to communicate with us in this way, and through us to you, has been Archbishop Haverland of the ACC. But, all of them have had the invitation, including Archbishop Hepworth of the TAC; the invitation stands.

I consider it wise to post again the e-mail I received from Archbishop Haverland, but to do so as a new article to make it more visible.

Dear Father Hart,

The Continuum might or might not be interested in some thoughts of mine about neo-pentecostalism.

First I would like to say that I very much admire Canon Kirby and Father Wells. While I know both are not unduly perturbed by vigorous theological exchange, I sometimes regret that they don't seem to appreciate one another as much as I appreciate them both.

On neo-pentecostalism, my own views on the subject were shaped early by an unforgettable lecture that I heard in about 1980 by Carmelite Father William McNamara. One of McNamara's basic ideas was that the neo-pentecostalist movement has to be judged in the context of the Church in which it arises. When a religious body is dead or dying, neo-pentecostalism may be a sign of relative health or possible hope. When the Catholic faith is alive and well, however, neo-pentecostalism tends to be at best unnecessary and at worst divisive.

So, for instance, in the context of the post-1976 Episcopal Church, a body in which Catholic faith and order were either dead or under attack at almost every level, the neo-pentecostlist movement could be a sign of hope. As Bishop Mote of blessed memory used to say after doing jail time with pro-life 'Charistmatics': 'They believe in the reality of God, the power of God, and the goodness of God.' Those are three very important beliefs.

However, the premium that neo-pentecostists tend to put on personal religious experience tends in turn to lead to division, whether in 1st century Corinth or among the ancient Montanists or in 21st century America. While the defenders of neo-pentecostalism writing to the Continuum are well-aware of this fact, perhaps they underestimate how very often the danger seems to arise. The tendency may not be inevitable or even intrinsically connected to the experiences in question. However, the tendency is common enough to give any bishop or pastor pause.

About tongues I vividly remember McNamara saying of the gift of tongues that the most important recipient of that gift of whom he knew was Fulton Sheen.

About the Pauline evidence, I believe it was McNamara who pointed out that, while S. Paul in the epistles to the Corinthians may emphasize more personal, ecstatic charismata, the later Pauline epistles tend to emphasize more official, institutional gifts. I think the observation is correct and significant. I am inclined to agree with those who note the general turbulence of the Corinthian church, and from that fact conclude that whatever Paul's own personal gifts, he certainly was concerned to control and limit severely 'tongues' and the like. Personal religious experience is vital, and when hearts grow cold in the Church God may well send a S. Francis or S. Teresa or Padre Pio to work in ways that supplement the graces poured upon the Church through the normal means of grace. But as my wise predecessor, Brother John-Charles, often observes: 'Normally God behaves normally.' Normally God uses the objective, known means of grace, and the charisms and experiences that accompany our own non-sacramental prayer lives are usually individual, personal, private, and of their nature rather incommunicable.

I am not a 'cessationist'. I believe in miracles and do not doubt that God can infuse knowledge of unknown tongues or prophecy. I do not presume to judge any man's personal religious experience, except by the proper standards of charity, of consistency with the known and authorized teaching of the universal Church, and of the spiritual fruit of Christian living. But I also believe that where the faith is truly taught and the sacraments are rightly administered, personal religious experience is mainly of private significance.


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