Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Not as enemies

Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him. Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD.-Lev.19:17,18

Right now I am willing to accept the role of the bad guy, the fellow with the waxed mustache who has tied the helpless damsel in distress to the railroad tracks. My recent criticism of the ACNA, after so many months of what some have called (mistakenly) my Anti-Roman Tracts, certainly demonstrates my insensitive side. However, most of the comments have revealed that I am not alone. Several of you have waxed mustaches as well, and together we seem to wear the black hats.

Nonetheless, as someone said to me via e-mail, the toothpaste is out of the tube where the ACNA is concerned. They will continue to have priestesses in the church. Two comments offered on their behalf, to this blog, were rejected because they failed the "robust if polite" test. The same person or persons may try again to state a point of view without the venom, and we will publish the comment(s), since it is obvious that we welcome intelligent dissent. Those two unpublished comments explained why the Continuing Churches are rapidly disappearing, why we are afraid of ACNA competition, why we are "growing more irrelevant every day," and contained other libel. The problem is, of course, no one should explain why something is happening when, in fact, it is not happening. This picture of our churches as dying off, especially in my experience these last several months in the ACC, is not a portrait, and not even a caricature. A caricature should be at least recognizable, somewhat of an accurate portrait, distorted by emphasis of existing features. False features do not a portrait, nor even a caricature, make. However, the two ACNA problems of women's "ordination" and of violating the integrity of at least this Diocese of the South, ACC-OP by a direct approach to parishes with no episcopal approval, is completely accurate. So, we may as well say so.

The ACNA are not enemies, and they are not competition (in any sense). Rather, they are fellow Christians who have chosen a difficult path. This path will bring them into the same kind of difficulties we have faced for over thirty years. We could make useful guides through this strange country they have entered. They are going to lose the financial backing of the Episcopal Church, and most of them will have none of its real estate to use for their congregations. We respect the courage it has taken to follow our example in these matters. We had hoped that they would follow through with an honest study of the subject of women's ordination, which had seemed to be a likely possibility, and are disappointed. But, it is because we do not consider them to be enemies that we are willing to speak the truth in terms that may indeed wax our mustaches, and place black hats on our heads. So it was done to the prophets who were before us.

Jeremiah's mustache was waxed, and a black hat was placed upon his head.

For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. For I heard the defaming of many, fear on every side.- Jer. 20:8-10

Living in times of moral confusion, it is necessary for the Church to speak with a clear voice, in terms that are so firm as to be of true support for those who need strength to stand. Moral confusion is furthered by theological confusion; and one lesson to be learned from the Charismatic Movement, as it was in the 1970s and 80s especially (without disregarding any of the good things it brought), is the danger of sloppy ecumenism that avoids all strife by avoiding theology. For, in many ways, a large portion of that movement played right into the hands of the zeitgeist by teaching its adherents to treat theological standards as a bad thing. The truth, you see, is divisive.

Theological standards must be applied firmly as a service of charity; and theological standards are the sister of moral standards. The two seem to slip away together all too often. Starting off in dangerous territory without sure footing is never a good idea. All I can think to say to the newborn ACNA is a series of warnings about the wide gate and broad way. It is from charity that I express concern for these Israelites who go up against the Amalekites and the Canaanites while Moses and the Ark stay in the camp (Num. 14:40 f); they seem blissfully unaware of the danger before them. My indignation at their presumption, that is, their classy promotional literature sent directly to parishes as if they have a right to ignore the bishops of long established dioceses, is due to disappointment. At one point, especially while writing for The Christian Challenge, I expected much better of them (knowing also, as I do, that these bishops are the very men whose friendship they need). If it takes a man willing to be cast in the role of the bad guy, in order to say what needs saying, so be it.


Alice C. Linsley said...

Well spoken, Fr. Hart!

Bishop Duncan certainly wants to see Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, PA succeed and Trinity prepares women for ordination. I wonder how that seminary would fare financially were ACNA not to ordain women?

poetreader said...

Indeed, well said, Fr, Hart. If we and ACNA cannot walk as friends, honestly recognizing our disagreements, even considering them to be of high importance, then we demonstrate that the Gospel is not being heard and lived. It is an evil thing to speak lies, half-truths, and exaggerations about brethren, or to indulge in the smearing of character, but it is also an ecil thing to ignore the presence of serious and damaging error. There is a fine line to walk, and it is easy to stray to one side or the other, but to do so is to lose our way.

I just rejected two further comments anonymously presented, apparently from the same person, that present half-truth as fact, that make sweeping generalizations, that very venemously indeed attempt character assassination, and yet that ignore the substantial theological problems. The same person is invited to try again, if he can find gentlemanly ways to express his concerns, if, indeed, those concerns are more than the mere desire to tear down that is all I could see in the comments.

If that causes me also to wear a black hat, well, so be it. I want ACNA to succeed, but sense that it must become truly orthodox in order to do so.


Anonymous said...

As someone who is neither a member of the ACNA nor the ACC (or the Continuum) I would like to see some kind of dialogue established between the two bodies. I would not for a minute suggest that the ACC should compromise in any way over its standards of Orthodoxy nor the integrity of its Orders but there do remain large elements within the ACNA that, once established, could see it move towards a position where dialogue with the Continuum *could* bear fruit. There is at least the potential, at some stage, for a moratorium on the 'ordination' of women within the ACNA which could prove a powerful witness to the rest of the Canterbury Communion. Could not the ACC at least try to encourage this even if some degree of ‘communion’ between the two bodies would still be a long way off if were this to happen?

Fr Edward

poetreader said...

Graciously spoken, Fr. Edward -- makes me glad to share a first name with you.

My own TAC/ACA needs to be involved also. Such converation must be pursued -- but probably in an informal way so as not to give the impression that a relationship not currently possible actually exists.


The Midland Agrarian said...

I think it was a passage in the novel Gilead that differentiated between a prophet like Jeremiah, and a critic. a prophet speaks harshly because he loves his people; a critic does not.

I am glad we are friends on our shared difficult paths, I hope we can indeed find a way to walk closer.


RC Cola said...

I do not doubt the sincerity or the motives of the folks involved with the ACNA. But we all know that good intentions do not good actions make.

As Fr. Hart noted in a comment on the other thread related to this topic, one ACNA commentor wrote that the continuing churches are becoming more irrelevant everyday. I had a priest from San Joachin tell me last year that Chambers succession orders are invalid and that the continuing churches are kooks.

My reply, "Kooks? Then I fit right in!"

What I wrote was what I have observed...that very often people trying to stake a claim will trample on those of others. They may think they are well intentioned, they may think they are justified, and they may even think they are doing the right thing by God and Church. Meanwhile they are trampling on those who ought to be allies.

I don't wish anyone in the ACNA ill, but I've seen this kind of behavior before, and you'll forgive me if I do not want to fall prey to it again. It hurt enough the first time.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I had a priest from San Joachin tell me last year that Chambers succession orders are invalid and that the continuing churches are kooks.

I assume you mean Jerry Lamb's San Joachin ECUSA (inasmuch as Bp. Schofield would not approve of such a comment).

Those are the exact lies that ECUSA has whispered, just quietly enough to have plausible deniability (if caught in the act), for over 30 years. Don't worry. We return the favor with the truth. Their orders have become invalid, and they are heretics. I would rather be a kook than a heretic; and I am glad to be hated by the world, even the world where it pretends to be part of the Church.

Canon Tallis said...

Coming late to this discussion it is my belief that what Father Hart has been doing, indeed what Ed has also contributed is a little thing called telling the truth in love.

I, too, have been told again and again that ACNA would cease attempting to ordain women because they knew that it would affect the way in which they would be perceived, i.e., as less than truly Anglican or orthodox. But they have within their ranks those unable to give up either WO or the 79 liturgy. And with others, I believe that this will simply bring them to the point where all the sins of TEO which they presently acknowledge they will eventually embrace. Alexander Pope said it only too well.

Consequently, I am unashamed to find myself of the same opinion as Father Hart and Ed in this matter.

John A. Hollister said...

A few years ago, I attended a meeting of an inter-jurisdictional association whose members label themselves as "Traditional" and/or "Conservative". (That description itself is not intended to be pejorative, just to indicate the breadth of the audience.)

There I heard a paper by an official representative of a body which is now a major part of Bp. Duncan's new ACNA movement. The presenter described his body's initial search for an "authentic" (i.e., Lambeth-affiliated) sponsor outside of North America and how an African Province appeared ideal except for its acceptance of women's "ordination". He stated that his group then led its African sponsor through what he called a "Scriptural discernment" process on this issue.

He made it clear that at the beginning of this process, the North American end of this axis knew that women's "ordination" was wrong while the Africans did not yet accept that fact. I was therefore flabbergasted when he stated baldly that at the end of the process, implicitly in order to retain the "cover" of canonical residence in the African Province, the North Americans worked out a compromise with their overseas partners: both ends of the axis would accept women as "deacons" but would not advance them farther in Orders.

Right then, I knew that what we now are calling neo-Anglicanism was doomed to futility. Anyone who would get up before a public meeting and admit he and his colleagues had deliberately compromised with something fundamental that he knew was wrong/impossible/both, merely to get the political advantage/social acceptability of an "official" Anglican sponsor, was clearly headed down a dead-end path.

Truth is often uncomfortable but never divisible. Once this speaker and his fellows had reached their original, and correct, assessment that women's "ordination" was wrong, and then thereafter discovered that their prospective African sponsors did not have the same view, they should have drawn off and entered into a discussion of that issue, intended to convert their partners in discussion, not have compromised with them.

Compromising on "truth" is simply not an option and, as Fr. Hart has pointed out before, once one starts down that road, other similar compromises will follow.

(Of course, this is, in essence, the stance Abp. Haverland has taken with respect to Bp. Duncan....)

Being a lawyer, as well as a notably uncharitable cuss, I could not help wondering if this clearly expressed, apparently inexplicable but frenetic drive for "official" Anglican recognition, even at the cost of integrity over basic principles, could not have something to do with tactical posturing in advance of the many real property and financial lawsuits with 815 which have since been filed.

Would that were not so, but if it were, then as we have seen from the trend of those suits elsewhere than in Virginia (which is a special statutory case), it had been at the cost of both integrity and property.

John A. Hollister+

poetreader said...

I seriously wish Fr. Hollister's comments were not an accurate assessment. I sincerely hate all the constant controversy among those of us who call ourselves Anglican. The differences do exist, however, and won't vanish if we ignore them, nor can they really coexist in one structure, particularly in the disagreement over WO.

As I see it, there are

1/those (among whom I am numbered) who cannot recognize the possibility of a woman receiving priestly orders, and therefore cannot recognize those so credentialed as priests, and

2/ those who believe that women can and therefore should be ordained to the priesthood.

These are very clear and distinct positions, resting securely upon scriptural definitions of manhood and womanhood that so not necessarily imply superiority or inferiority, but merely a difference in nature and role. There are, in addition,

3/ those who think women can, but probably shouldn't be ordained.

Am I the only one who sees this as radically discriminatory? Actually, I see this kind of view as precisely the reason that WO has spread so dramatically through the Anglican Communion. Once the possibility is admitted, it becomes nearly impossible to justify not following through. Women in the few dioceses still not admitting WO have every right to feel discriminated against. Since their denomination admits the possibility, they, bluntly, are being discriminated against. It is simply a horrid situation when a church has a class of ministers that some consider perfectly valid and others reject. A house divided against itself cannot stand, and shouldn't.

As I see it, ACNA, then has two choices, and inevitably will make one or the other:

1/ simply to reject WO out of hand as a theological impossibility, or

2/ to permit and recognize such ordinations throughout its jurisdiction.

If ACNA should choose the first option (over the strong objection of its primate), I, for one, would champion some degree of intercommunion immediately and a rapid move toward dealing with the far less troublesome issue that would remain. However, if the first option is not chosen in the very near future, it will become a moral necessity for the majority that does oppose WO either to change their minds or to separate from the body.

These are Christian brethren. We should be talking with them, and finding ways to work with them so far as is possible, I'm afraid, however, that it is out of the question to become entangled with such a movement while this instability is built into it.


Fr. Greg said...

I am curious as to how others herein view the historical reality of women deacons in Eastern Orthodoxy, though this practise has fallen into disuse in most jurisdictions of Eastern Orthodoxy. The Orthodox Church of Greece ordains women to the diaconate, though only in monastic communities at this time. Thoughts?

Fr. Greg

poetreader said...

Fr. Greg, I'm afraid you've opened up quite a can of worms here. I'm going to try to put my cent-and-a-half in as gently as I can.

I'm sure most of those in the Continuum would give that one a resounding NO. Fr. Hart has argued that pretty thoroughly, and will probably come in on this thread. I'm not quite at that place, and don't find those arguments to be that conclusive, but I am on accord with almost all the rest of continuers in feeling that such ordination is, at best, doubtful, and ought not to be attempted. It would take a powerful lot of convincing to change that opinion.

I know of no case where the same word has been used before quite modern times for a deacon (male) and for a deaconess (female). While it is true that the classic languages would probably require a gender specific term even if the offices were identical, it is true that they were referred to by different terms, and that the significance of that needs to be considered. I don't know of any historic accounts that unequivocally describe a deaconess as acting as a liturgical deacon, and the closest approach to that, their function in the baptism of women (for decorum's sake, when baptism was done in the nude) was a very gender-specific role. The office of deaconess is an ancient and important office, but I don't see where it was equivalent to a deacon, but rather appears to be another (and presently too often neglected) role.

Among the Orthodox, I do hear allegations that women in the Church of Greece have been ordained deacons. I'm doubtful, have been looking for evidence more than mere mentions, and haven't (at least yet) found any. There is no question that women have been set aside for centuries for liturgical roles within their own monasteries that are not exercised outside, which seems a sensible and practical matter, and which is not so much different from some of the practices in some Western orders -- but are any of these considered as deacons? Can you point to any solid sources on that?

Also among the Orthodox I hear loud noises of disapproval that any such thing could be happening, not all that different from what I've heard among Anglicans, and from some of the rumblings I've been hearing, this could turn out to be a communion-breaker for them.

That's what I see historically, and none of that gives me confidence that the ordained office of Deacon is rightly given to women. Beyond that I see serious problems in such an attempt. The recent ACNA ordinations were not, strictly speaking, merely ordinations to the diaconate, but to the transitional diaconate. There's a big difference in intent here. To ordain a deacon for life-long ministry as a deacon is one thing, but to ordain transitionally is to express a promise that another ordination will follow (if the deacon doesn't mess up). That is committing to priestly ordination, and pretty much wipes out any argument that diaconate is all that's intended.. Under current societal situations, moreover, even a permanent diaconate, if conceived as the same as the male office, places one in the ranks of ordained ministers and raises the same kind of expectation. These things make it into a matter of rights. No one has a right to be ordained -- NO ONE. I speak from a personal standpoint, as one who firmly believes he should have been ordained, does not believe the reasons to the contrary really hold up, but refuses to fight the decision. It is not my right. It is the prerogative of the Church to choose or refuse, and they are not accountable to the candidate, but to God. Frankly I am convinced that no person who believes he has a right to ordination should ever be accepted. We suffer from the contrary attitude.

poetreader said...

The system wouldn't accept my whole post the first try. Here's part 2:

Now, before I close after having said a lot of NO,. let me express my intense dissatisfaction with the way traditional churches have treated women. God indeed does give gifts outside the normal expectations. Many women are gifted teachers, theologians, even preachers (brethren, don't faint!). We need to find ways that all these gifts can be exercised to their fullest, without interfering with the God-given sacramental role of the apostolic ministry. Saying no is not enough. We continuers are rather good at that, and rightly so, but we have to find the right places to say Yes also.


Anonymous said...

I would ask Fr Greg what his position is in regards to ordaining women to the diaconate?
Especially as a priest in the REC.

poetreader said...

Fair enough, but can you give us some kind of nickname or something if you continue the conversation? It just makes it easier for us to keep track if who is speaking.

Fr. Greg may want to wait for a few comments before responding, but I do hope to hear from him.


frron said...

Fr Greg as a priest in the REC and being folded if you will into the ACNA perhaps you can enlighten us as to what the REC's position is in regards to women in the diaconate.
I couldnt find the answer on their website.
I personally dont see WO, even to the diaconate as a reality but as an anomaly.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

About the Orthodox and the confusing issue of DeaconS and Deaconesses; so far I must treat such a concept as Orthodox female "Deacons" to be a rumor. Some have used the word "ordain" in a non-sacramental sense, (or perhaps as a sacramental but not a Sacrament). Some early rites were to "ordain" acolytes, but not as clergy who are ordered. The fact is, even if the word "ordained" is used loosely, no woman is allowed behind the Iconastasis. So, they are not intending to transmit the sacrament of Holy Orders.

Fr.Hollister wrote:
this clearly expressed, apparently inexplicable but frenetic drive for "official" Anglican recognition...

Those who think Canterbury is necessary for legitimacy need to answer certain questions:

1. Since when? The Episcopal Church was not "in communion with Canterbury" until long after the War of 1812.

2. If a Mother See is so necessary, by what logic does anyone stop so far to the Northwest of Rome?

In the dubious framework of that definition of the Church, it must be asked...

3. ...When did Canterbury become the new Rome?

4. Why is it necessary for validity to be "in communion" with open and unrepentant heretics?

5. How is that desirable?

6. Is that communion with heresy the basis of their proud confident boasting against "kooks" like us?

These people are foolish enough to imagine that a premise, once it is set loose, remains subject to their whims when, in reality, it becomes subject to the gravity of logic.

And, about the gravity of logic, it raises another issue, namely their own major gripe. As I wrote way back on Nov. 15, 2007:

The fact is, once the "ordination" of women was accepted, the movement to bless same sex unions was inevitable. The arguments for Homosexualism are not merely similar to the arguments for women's "ordination." Rather, they are the exact same arguments. The blessing of same sex unions, practiced now throughout the heretical but official Canterbury Communion, is performed as a church rite by sincerely lusting couples under the direction of clergypersons of both sexes and all genders, to be as close to the semblance of marriage as the Law of each state, province or nation makes possible. In short, it imitates the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, and does so on the newly understood basis that the sex of a person has no significance in a sacrament. If Shirley and Maggie can be "ordained" they can also be married, and so can Adam and Steve.

The "conservatives" among the Anglicans have failed to understand the gravity of logic. It works the same way as this illustration. If I stand at the top of a thirty foot hill with a big round rubber ball, and decide to roll the ball only ten feet down the hill and no farther, like it or not, the ball will roll the entire thirty feet to the bottom before it stops after rolling even farther still. It does not matter that I intended only to roll it ten feet. Once I let go, gravity will take the ball the whole way. This is how a premise works in relation to logic. Once you let go of the ball, that is, once you state or merely accept a premise, the gravity of logic will take over. Perhaps you only meant to let women be priests, but not to let the premise take its own logical course to the final end. However, the premise itself is subject to the gravity of logic, and must keep rolling until you are "blessing" Adam and Steve in the imitation sacrament of Unholy Unmatrimony. Those who want to argue that this was not inevitable have two problems facing them: First, we predicted this would happen, and second, it has.

So, with all due respect to our conservative and principled Anglican friends who want to keep their priestesses, and make new ones, we cannot surrender the doctrine that the sacrament Holy Orders is, by God's revealed will, reserved to men. Otherwise, we only slow the process down instead of preventing it. We don't need to be ECUSA part II, waiting to happen again.

The Awful Gravity of Logic

John A. Hollister said...

Ed Pacht wrote about "those who think women can, but probably shouldn't be ordained. Am I the only one who sees this as radically discriminatory?"

No, Ed, I am with you all the way on this one. If women CAN be ordained as Deacons, then, because there is only one Sacrament of Order, not three such Sacraments, they can be ordained as Priests and Bishops as well.

Thus there would be no principled basis for restricting them to the Diaconate or for denying them the Episcopate. For those who believe in the possibility of women's ordination to impose such artificial limitations upon female clerics is simply sexist.

Conversely, this is also why those who do not believe in female Priests or Bishops are compelled, by Fr. Hart's "gravity of logic", to reject female Deacons as well.

John A. Hollister+

William Tighe said...

I agree with Fr. Hart and Canon Hollister, and I would add that my strong impression is that all this talk about reviving the "female diaconate" among the Orthodox is just that: all talk, no action. Where there have been allegations in the last century that the "female diaconate" has been revised in the last century (as, e.g., by St. Nektarios of Aegina in the 1920s in one instance) it turns out that the ladies concerned have been made "subdeacons" not deacons or even deaconesses.

Also, I repeat my many past commendations of *Deaconesses: An Historical Essay* by Aime-Georges Martimort (1986, 2001) which remains in print from Ignatius Press and of which numerous cheap copies can be had through, and the like.

Finally, is "Fr. Greg" REC? I ask because there is a "Fr. Greg" who posts on other blogs that I frequent, and who turns out to be a priest of a pseudo-Orthodox body calling itself something with "Antiochene" in its name but is really an epscopi vagante body that purports to "ordain" women, and not just to "the diaconate," either.

poetreader said...

Yes, this Fr. Greg (screen name recpriest) is the same who recently made a move from UECNA to REC.

and, just to put it on the record, though I won't debate the issue, I do, for the reasons listed above, disapprove of the ordination of female deacons, but I'm afraid I find the "one sacrament" reasoning I often see to be rather thin. I'm able to see it as a possible way of looking at the problem, but I don't see the reasoning as inescapable. It leaks.


Anonymous said...

Then are there 9 sacraments instead of 7?

John A. Hollister said...

Ed Pacht wrote, "I find the 'one sacrament' reasoning ... to be rather thin. I'm able to see it as a possible way of looking at the problem, but I don't see the reasoning as inescapable."

I'm not sure I've ever seen an argument, or structured process of reasoning, that tried to demonstrate that Holy Order is one Sacrament administered in three grades or degrees of functioning. That is with respect to arguments for WHY Order is one Sacrament, not arguments as to what this one Sacrament implies about candidates for ordination, such as that anyone who is ontologically eligible to be a deacon is ipso facto ontologically eligible to be a bishop.

This is not to say that such an argument, or perhaps better demonstration, couldn't be constructed, just that I haven't seen one, probably because most would find it unnecessary. The proposition is simply what the Church teaches about the nature of that Sacrament.*

John A. Hollister+
*For a typical exposition, see, e.g., F. J. Hall, Theological Outlines, Chap. 29, Sec. 3.

poetreader said...

False opposition, John. It is the extrapolation from the existence of a single sacrament to the idea that the eligibility and effects are necessarily singular. In fact, they are not so. Each stage in the ordination process is administered to a person differently qualifies (by virtue of what ordination he has received, if in no other way, and each action has a distinct result from the others. One sacarment, yes, nut the extrapolation from that to the arguments usually made is not a conclusive one.

Fr. Hollister, while I am convinced that the historic teaching of the Church does leave women to be ineligible for the diaconate, I'm unconvinced that this particular line of reasoning can be asserted to be what the church teaches.

My concern is with presenting such thoroughly challengeable defenses of a position as proof is to weaken one's case quite a great deal. If I have to buy this construct in order to come to this conclusion and the construct seems less than conclusive, then I am probably being convinced that the proposition depending upon it is also faulty.

Can the impossibilit5y of ordination of female deacons be conclusively proven. I've not seen a logical path that will accomplish that. However, the question then arises: can the possibility of such an ordination be conclusively proven? I don't see any way to get there either. Therefore, if it is doubtful whether such a thing is possible, is it wise to attempt it?

You see, I'm not going to get into a debate over this argument from the singularity of the sacrament, believing it to be fruitful, but on many other grounds, some of which I've already given, I'm firmly convinced that this is not something the church is correct in doing.


Fr William Bauer said...

If the bishop of rome has a say in the mix, we might listen to what he has stated - that statement from JPII and ex cathedra:

"Our Lord has not given his church the authority to ordain females to Holy Orders."
Rome has spoken.

Canon Tallis said...

But I hope that I will be pardoned because I - as an Anglican - prefer to regard what Saint Paul wrote in his epistles to Timothy and Titus as being of greater authority for a greater number of those who call themselves Christians than the voice of the bishop of Rome. I am glad that John Paul II's views reflected those of St Paul as well as those others who make up the Anglican canon, but it is the Catholic fathers and ancient bishops and the ancient councils to whom we should be looking rather than the view of any modern. Our standard, which should also be his, ought to be "Antiquity, Universality and Consent" as per St Vincent of Lerins.

John A. Hollister said...

Ed Pacht wrote, "False opposition, John. It is the extrapolation from the existence of a single sacrament to the idea that the eligibility and effects are necessarily singular."

I must respectfully disagree. St. Paul makes it quite clear that the requirements to be a deacon and those to be a bishop are identical (cf. II Timothy and Titus). Paul was writing at a time before the priesthood had emerged as a third grade of Order between the diaconate and the episcopate, so there seems no reasonable way one could argue that the requirements for the priesthood differ in any material respect from the joint requirements for the earlier (in point of appearance in the Church) two grades.

John A. Hollister+

poetreader said...

Can't disagree with that.

My point, however, is that the way the issue is so often argued does not follow. There is no logical reason that a single sacrament needs in every case to have the same qualifications and the same specific result. In fact, whatever be said about qualifications, the fact is quite simply that different applications of this one sacrament do produce different results. A deacon is not the same as a priest is not the same as a bishop.

Furthermore, the Church has been very free in applying different srandards of qualification to the different orders - educationally, for certain, but, more tellingly in the fact that we do not ordain a layman to be bishop -- he must first be deacon and then priest. It may be debated whether this is a matter of validity, but it is a matter of what prerequisites are insisted upon. Thus, to argue from the fact of it being a single sacrament is fallacious and weak, and to infer that I am therefore proposing extra sacraments is a false opposition. The problem is that an argument so easily shot down is not an effective tool.

Now, if we can demonstrate (as I believe we can) that certain qualifications apply both to deacon and bishop (and inferentially to priest), then we have to consider ourselves as bound to those standards. This, however, does not necessarily speak to the issue of validity, which must be dealt with on other basis. We do not, after all, declare that a bigamist bishop is therefore invalid -- merely that he should not have the job, nor do we see these requirements as forbidding or invalidating a celibate clergy, in spite of what seems the most natural import of St. Paul's words. These are ultimately disciplinary decisions.

The issue, then, of what is theoretically possible is distinct from the issue of what we are commissioned to do. On the latter point, I am satisfied that the issue was settled centuries ago, and that we are not commissioned to make women into deacons. Whether we could do so, but wrongly, is, however, another matter, and, though there has been much thought given to priesthood because of its sacramental import, I do not think sufficient thought has been given to the diaconate to deal with such matters of validity.

Thus it is that I think that the ordination of female deacons, while a serious offense against historic discipline, is not, in and of itself, a communion-breaker -- though the ordination of transitional deacons certainly is, because of what that says about priesthood.

We have strayed a bit from the original topic. Mea culpa - I seem to be complicit in that, but this issue is a part of what separates ACNA and the Continuum.


John A. Hollister said...

Ed Pacht wrote, "I think that the ordination of female deacons, while a serious offense against historic discipline, is not, in and of itself, a communion-breaker -- though the ordination of transitional deacons certainly is, because of what that says about priesthood."

It always grieves me to disagree with Ed, but in this instance, I must. First, there is no real basis for distinguishing between "permanent" deacons and "transitional" deacons. A deacon is a deacon and regardless of what a particular man's initial intentions may have been when he first presented himself for consideration for ordination, whether he remains a deacon or whether he proceeds to the priesthood is not a question regarding the diaconate as such but is merely a judgement by his bishop regarding (a) the nature of that man's call and (b) the present state of his preparation and formation.

Under the proper circumstances, any deacon may be advanced to the priesthood and, in the absence of the proper progress in formation, any deacon may linger indefinitely in that grade of Orders.

Further, for those of us who understand St. Paul to have laid it down that a deacon must be at least eligible to be an husband, if not that he must be an husband in fact, the purported ordination of any woman to what is said to be the diaconate is, most assuredly, a communion-breaker.

John A. Hollister+

Sandra McColl said...

I believe that the term 'transitional deacon' is a new-fangled Romanism distinguishing candidates for the priesthood from married men ordained to the diaconate as 'permanent deacons'. I don't like the usage, but since I am extremely reluctant to disagree with Ed, I didn't like to say so.

Fr. D. said...

May I suggest that some of the problems being discussed here are caused by some rather new concepts of what a deacon's duties are?

For those of us who have been in the trenches since the beginning no doubt remember the seeming premise of Ed's argument.

Though Ed puts forth his position briliantly (of course) it really does seem familiar IE: separate the order of deacon as unique from those of Bishop and Priest. Once that was accomplished (many here will recall) that opened the door to women being ordained as deacons. And then the fairness issue quickly evolved and then presto onward to priest and ultimately bishop.

Recalling that in the Anglican tradition Orders are cumaltive IE: a priest is still very much a deacon and a bishop is still very much a deacon and priest, in fact the bishop possesses all the gifts, one order, that he ordains others to perform. (Traditionlly the Bishop vests in all three Orders when conducting certain rites) No Bishop, no Church!

I think it unfortunate that the Ordinal in the (28) Prayerbook uses terms such as: "found worthy to be called unto the higher Ministries in thy Church" and "that he must continue in that Office of Deacon the space of a whole year", etc. (BCP. 535) All clearly teaching that the Order of Deacons is merely a training for being elevated to the priesthood. Most unfortunate!

No doubt some of us Anglo Catholics have pushed individuals to seek ordination to the Order of Deacon in order to fill a Dalmatic for High Mass, to adminsiter the Chalice,chant the Gospel, preach occasionally, etc. All important tasks, but the Bishop ordains the Deacon to perform on the Bishop's behalf the crucial administrative task of Catechizing, and "it is his Office, where provision is so made, to search for the sick, poor, and impotent people of the Parish, that they may be relieved with the alms of the Parishioners, or others. Will you do this gladly and willingly?" (BCP. 533)

I wonder how many red faces would occur if the Bishop asked: "let me see your list of the poor"?

The Office of Deacon is a part of the Bishop's responsibility! And therefore not subject to any other criteria regarding qualifications for Ordination.
Fr. D.

poetreader said...

Actially, Fathers and sisters, you aren't really disagreeing with me. My point is that, whatever the position on the possibility or impossibility of a female deacon, Bishop Duncan has removed that from his advocacy by clearly describing these "deacons" as "transitional". In so doing, it is he, not me, that has declared that this ordination is the qualification for another, and that his intent, though not yet realized, is priesthood. That is the only reason this strange term 'transitional' found its way into this discussion.

Please also note that I am most certainly NOT arguing for a female diaconate, having stated that I do not believe the church is entitled to do such a thing, but rather I am arguing that the arguments usually advanced among us are too weak to make the case, depending on assumption that might be true, but cannot be firmly demonstrated.

I'm not sure the nonvalidity of female deacons can be proven, nor even that a 'validity' that does not impinge upon the 'validity' of any particular acts is meaningful (for there is no rite that requires the presence of a deacon to be 'valid', such as the Eucharist for a priest or orders for a bishop).

What I am sure of, however, is that there is something illicit in attempting to equate two scriptural offices which appear actually to be quite distinct: The male deacon and the female deaconness. I think that illicitness is a far easier thing to demonstrate than invalidity.

As for being a communion-breaker ... if no sacrament is actually invalidated, barring other problems I would see no problem in being in communion with a jurisdiction in which such things occurred, but would find it necessary to keep strict canonical separation until such time as these disciplinary abuses were corrected.


John A. Hollister said...

Ed Pacht wrote, "if no sacrament is actually invalidated [by the attempted 'ordination' of women as 'deacons'], barring other problems I would see no problem in being in communion with a jurisdiction in which such things occurred...."

Well, for many of us, a church group's attempt to 'ordain' women as deacons invalidates any later attempts by that group to ordain anyone, whether male or female, to any grade of Orders, whether the diaconate, the priesthood, or the episcopate.

Thus it remains impossible to be in communion with such a group. I wonder if Ed's clear, and otherwise laudable, desire to foster positive relationships among church groups may not be leading him to give, on this point, just a bit too much latitude.

John A. Hollister+

poetreader said...

Sorry, Father Hollister,
I've heard that argument many times and understand how thoroughly convinced by it many are, but , to be frank, I can't make any kind of logical sense out of it. It requires jumping across logical gaps from one question to one whose relationship is not at all apparent. If validity is so easily lost, it would be difficult indeed to champion the validity of any clergy anywhere. I'm even more uncomfortable with bad arguments in support of a position I take than I am with bad arguments opposing me. I see this line of thinking to be the former, and I find that it makes my own position for a male only priesthood look as though it is based on a specious argument. I don't like looking foolish because of what someone else says in my defense.

So, what happens if a bishop mistakenly decides a woman can be a deacon, believing that to be the only office available to her? At worst he's produced an imitation deacon. However (as in the clear distinction I made above) what happens if he ordains a female as deacon with the intent that she become a priest? Now, that could be another matter, for it MAY indicate a misunderstanding of the priestly office sufficient to raise such questions.

Even then, we perhaps give a little more weight to the specious arguments of Rome against our orders in saying as much as we do about invalidity.

I felt it necessary to raise these thoughts to make it clear that there are traditionalists who find these arguments weak. Knowing, however, that this could become a discussion more productive of heat than light, I'd prefer to drop it here, with a simple acknowledgment that we do indeed differ.


RSC+ said...


I gather the nomenclature, or at least the sense of the diaconate as a transitional state, has been around a long time in the Roman Catholic Church. Permanent deacons (or "vocational" ones, if one wants to be squishier) flared up again in te RCC after Vatican II.

I like a strong permanent diaconate, personally, as they are typically unpaid, part time positions, but allow the church more "face time," if you will. I almost never see priests running around anymore, but that may just be because they've left their collars at home. :/

If you look at figures of the early church in the city of Rome, at least where we have them, you'll find one bishop, more presbyters, more deacons, and even more still acolytes, exorcists, and porters. I'd love to see more of that model than a superabundance of purple shirts and one poor acolyte who used to be one back before Vatican II, the latter of which I hear about far too often.


poetreader said...

My understanding is that the 'vocational" deacon was an extreme rarity in the Western Church well before the Reformation, but has never ceased to be seen as a normal thing among the Orthodox.

In the West, it seems to be Anglicans that pioneered in restoring the vocational diaconate, Rome following only after V2. Once this happened, it did become necessary to make some kind of distinction between those who are ready (but for apprenticeship) and expected to become priests, and those who intend to continue as deacons. I agree, every substantial parish ought, if possible, to have a nonstipendiary deacon to assist in ministry, and that such is the best historic pattern.


John A. Hollister said...

Ed Pacht wrote:

"So, what happens if a bishop mistakenly decides a woman can be a deacon, believing that to be the only office available to her? At worst he's produced an imitation deacon. However ... what happens if he ordains a female as deacon with the intent that she become a priest? Now, that could be another matter, for it MAY indicate a misunderstanding of the priestly office sufficient to raise such questions."

1. Bishops do not act in their personal capacities, at least not unless they are utter vagantes. So when a bishop ordains anyone, man or woman, he acts on behalf of the church group to which he belongs and institutes his ordinand into an Office authorized by that church group. Thus the individual bishop's personal misconceptions are of relatively little significance. He ordains to whatever Office his jurisdiction has to offer, and to no other.

Thus when any church group decides to admit women to an Office it denominates as "deacon", it ipso facto departs from the Apostolic Ministry described in the "Preface" to the Edwardine Ordinal (which expressly states that any of "these Orders" is to be "executed" by a "man") and, in place of that traditional ministry, erects a new one of its own creation, one into which women may be installed.

Thereafter, there is no principled possibility of intercommunion between that erring group and others which have preserved the traditional, and entirely male, Apostolic Ministry.

2. Any group which would presume to attempt to install a woman into any grade of that Apostolic Ministry has clearly rejected the normative authority of canonical Scripture, in the form of St. Paul's Epistles, as those Epistles restrict Orders to "husbands". Therefore, on epistemological grounds, if on no others, there is no principled basis for intercommunion between such an erring group and one which continues to follow the Scriptural directives.

3. It is not an act of love to permit a brother to continue in grievous error without remonstrating with him but, instead, while making excuses for his misconduct. If that be so with regard to just one brother, how much more so is it with regard to a whole collection of brothers and sisters.

4. Unfortunately, it was precisely this process of turning a blind eye to fundamental errors, on the plea that the issues involved were "secondary" or "could be dealt with later" -- as "after a 'listening process'" -- that has gotten the Lambeth Communion, and all of that Communion's dependencies, into their current fix.

This, too, is the "800-lb. gorilla in the living room" that, from what I read here, certain other internet discussion boards simply cannot stand to be reminded of....

John A. Hollister+

poetreader said...

I'm going to withdraw from this topic at this point, with just two clarifications.

1. That what I said can be ammended to say, "If any jurisdiction mistakenly ...". which is what I really intended to say -- the criticism of the appearance I gave of meaning individual intention is right on.

2. While believing firmly that women should not be so ordained, and while also believing that disapproval of such actions should be made manifestly clear, I still consider it overblown to make this to be either an evidence of invalidity of orders or a communion breaker. To me the logic fails.

Obviously we do not agree here, and I'm content to leave it at that.


Sandra McColl said...

Shaughn, I have no desire whatever to become squishy. But thanks for the clarification. I began to notice on RC blogs that there had been ordinations of 'permanent deacons' or 'transitional deacons' and it looked to me as if they'd developed a new couple of orders of ministry. For me, there are bishops, priests and deacons. Just deacons. Whether or not a deacon becomes anything other than a deacon in his lifetime, he's just as much a deacon as the next one (and just as much a deacon as is bishop).

As for non-stipendiary deacons in parishes, as I read it, if the deacons were really doing all that deacons should do, it would be the priests who could be non-stipendiary (except, of course, that these are also deacons). Taken seriously, deaconing is no extra-curricular activity.

RSC+ said...


I wish that could be the case. Most of the clergy in my diocese, as far as I know, are either retired, and so may work full time in a parish, or are balancing secular work and parish work to some degree or another. While in my more antiquarian moments I halfway would like to see all the minor orders also restored so that men in the church could be beaten with sticks to serve more, I think most steps toward strengthening the diaconate are ones in the right direction.

(Shhhh. Don't let some folks know about my fascination with the minor orders. It might ruin my street cred, you know. :>)

Sandra McColl said...

Non-stipendiary is the norm in my corner of the Continuum, Shaughn. I think it's something we'll have to live with for a generation or two.

poetreader said...

You know, it was actually the norm right up through the Middle Ages for the "average" country priest to farm a "glebe" and thus make a part at least of his own living, and clergy in the Pauline tradition, earning a living through a trade, were never rare. This was true in both East and West - in the East, actually, right up into the Victorian era. Until relatively recent times it was only a minority of clergy who made their whole living from their ministry. Our tendency to equate the ministry with the remunerative professions like medicine or law is actually rather modern, and in the opinion of some, rather demeaning to the spiritual impact of the vocation. There certainly are practical advantages to having a full-time pastor, but full-time-ness is not even peripherally a part of the vocation, merely an optional adjunct. One of the unfortunate results of our emphasis is the loss of minor orders and of the exercise of nonpriestly gifts by unordained Christians.


Fr. Robert Hart said...

In Colonial America the glebe and the "Living" both became somewhat of a scandal. Generally, it was not work the "Parson" did himself; he just received income from the glebe, and others (often slaves) did the actual farming work. It was like the lord's fief (which was a fifth) in the era of European feudalism.

About Deacons:

I would be very happy to see men, especially some who are retired and looking for something to do, become deacons without any aspiration to be priests. Sometimes, just having someone administer the chalice for congregations of a good size, would go along way.