Monday, July 13, 2009

Size matters

or does it?

In recent comments meant to denigrate and ridicule Continuing Anglicans, our numbers have been compared to the newborn Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) on one hand, and, on the other hand, to the Roman Catholic Church (RCC), or, more boldly and daringly, to what the size of the Two One True Churches would be if only, alas, they were not Two, but one One True Church. That last category belongs to the world of fantasy, a unified disunity of Rome and Constantinople (allegedly unified because, at least, they are not Anglicans). Nonetheless, we have been assured that we could not possibly count for much because, as seems self-evident to our critics, Broad is the gate and wide is the way of that leadeth unto life, and many there be that go in thereat. Funny, that does not quite seem to match what Jesus said.

The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people. Deut. 7:7

Our numbers are not as small as many allege; and yet that is not really what makes anyone valid or invalid. Size should neither impress nor should smallness of numbers provoke derision.

Size matters to those who want to Stand Firm, even though it means that future colors for vestments may have to be pink and blue instead of seasonal, to tell the guy-priests from the gal-priests. And, to think: C.S. Lewis said that priestesses would make the Church less like a ball. Already, we are told, that the ACNA outnumbers the American portion of the Continuum; so, we ought to just fold on many important issues, except for homosex! and join the big party. Critics want to know why Archbishop Haverland of the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) would not even attend the ACNA bash in Bedford Texas (as if he had not made all his reasons perfectly clear). One thing should be quite obvious: The presence of the Archbishop of the ACC would be interpreted as endorsement, and as a sign of full sacramental communion with a church body that "ordains" women. He just does not seem to be impressed by the big numbers.

On the One Two True side, size matters because they have it. This explains their boldness and daring. Also, size matters to them because they still cannot grasp the fact that we do not think the same way they do about the Church. They bewail our manifest heresy (in their eyes) called the Branch theory, because, obviously, if the Church is one Church, it cannot possibly be divided. In their thinking, this means that it must be unified politically, as in being joined by one earthly polity with one HQ. To them the Church is visible only insofar as it is reduced to a theory of Universal jurisdiction, reduced to a legal and juridical system; not visible in that people may actually see it and experience it.

Here we may once again refer to the Articles.

XIX. Of the Church. The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance, in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same.

In practice, and in the only sort of experience human beings can appreciate and benefit from, the Church can be visible only insofar as it is local, and only insofar as it is faithful. The Roman theory of Universal Jurisdiction is not very helpful, or self-evident, outside of the city of Rome itself; it is not a guarantee of faithfulness. American Roman Catholicism, on average, is as dangerous to the soul as is the Episcopal Church; and the two are barely distinguishable. I am glad that Pope Benedict XVI is orthodox; but, that has very little effect, even now, in the United States (and the same may be said for many other countries). However, where the Church may be perceived for its faithfulness to Christ, it is visible, and visibly different from the world. As Anglicans, we are glad whenever and wherever that may be; whether among Roman Catholics, among the Orthodox or among us.

To understand one very important Biblical picture of the Church, we must see Apostolic Succession in terms of the Apostolic fellowship taught by St. John, fellowship that comes from the Incarnation of the Word:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and shew unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full. I John 1:1-4

Where the local Church is faithful this fellowship is to be found. Where the pure Word of God is preached, and the sacraments are duly administered, the Church is visible. Without these elements, whatever may appear is not visible as the Church; it cannot be the agent of the kingdom of God and of His salvation. In our ecclesiology, there is no room for competition against any church that communicates and makes visible the life of Christ. No juridical theory or legal consideration is a pastoral and evangelistic substitute for the visible Church. People can see it, or they cannot.

Compared to the reality of the Church in these essential manifestations, numbers count for nothing.


Anonymous said...

It seems to me that numbers, for the sake of numbers, absolutely do not matter. God did not intend for his ministers to be "bean counters", in my humble opinion.

What is more important is that the Word of God is faithfully preached, the members of Christ's Body are taught to be true disciples, lost souls are brought to Christ, and the sacrments faithfully observed and dispensed.

That said, if we are truly living a life of discipleship, laity and clergy alike will want to bring lost sheep into Christ's flock.

This is the duty of all Christian disciples. We cannot sit back and expect the Rector to do the work of seeking the lost sheep and bringing them to a new life in Christ. We must all do our best to bring others to Christ.

So, if we are doing our duty as Christians, the church will grow and new members will be added to Christ's Body.

But we must bring souls to Christ for the purpose of leading their souls to salvation. We must never do it to try to be bigger than the parish down the street, to get more money into the offering plate, etc.

We must live up to the Great Commission. If we are doing that, the numbers don't matter. Sometimes I think we'd be better off not to think so much of numbers.

BCP Catholic

Fr. Steve said...

This makes me wonder what blogs you have been reading, or what news outlets you have read.

People who are worried about numbers fall into the traps that come with that mentality. We are in the business of advancing the Kingdom of God, not building "Mega-churches".

And I agree that just because the "big two" are big, don't mean that they have a lock on who is, and who isn't "the" church.

David said...

Recently my mission ended ubruptly stranding a number of new converts who had not been "churched" well into the culture of Orthodoxy. We are lost. I can't get my bishop to respond to me. Some families are afraid if they attend another parish they are going to stick out since at the mission there was no confession, little instruction of how one acts in a church. For a one true church Orthodoxy leaves a lot to be desired. So many of my Orthodox friends think it is so remarkable. It isn't, might be less remarkable in the sense of lacking fellowship and the common decency to get a phone call returned when you are dumped on the sidewalk.

I know I am part of the church, I am less sure that the church I am part of isn't made up of orthodox Orthodox, orthodox Anglicans, etc.
I am interested in Jesus and being transformed

Fr. D. said...

Often those of us who are unashamedy Traditional Anglicans are often chided for not making the move to one of "the two true Churches". As Fr. Hart correctly points out Pope Benedict is truly orthodox and perhaps the best Pope during the last half century; however that does not equate to orthodox local Roman parishes. On the contrary many (at least in the U. S.) are far from being in any sense orthodox.
The same holds true for Eastern Orthodox Churches. A good, sound Patriarch, Metropolitan or Bishop does not mean that a local parish is sound. In the city that I serve in nearly every Uniate Church is repesented along with every ethnic Eastern Orthodox Church; onion domes abound! Some are good and sound and others????
Then there is the terrible shortage of priests! Good, sound priests capable of leading local parishes or missions are even more scarce.
The local Episcopal diocese reported the minimum stipend for their ministers is $60,000.00 per annum plus lengthy vacations, health insurance, retirement plans and educational leave. One could easily pay three or even four Continuum priests with that package. (some of my aquaintance receive $0)I expect the same is similar amongst E/O clergy.
David, let not one perceived failure sour you! Press forward and persevere!
Fr. D.

Nathan said...

The only aspects of numbers that matter are their movement. Are they increasing, decreasing or remaining stagnant?


Addison said...

It strikes me as strange that we refer to "the branch theory" as if we are speaking about an abstract "idea" about the church, or a mere hypothesis. A "theory", strictly speaking, is more than a hypothesis. It is something that has empirical, evidential validity behind it. Christian history is the story of a single, widely (and sometimes wildly) "branching" entity; and "the branch theory" is not something floating about in an ideal realm of abstract ideas (as with some ecclesiastical claims -- many of them built on wishful thinking, bald assertions, the occasional forgery, and implausible biblical exegesis -- to be "the one true church" -- meaning thereby "the one right historical institution"), but it is a simple observable fact -- an unpleasant fact for some, but a fact nonetheless.

Now, I don't limit that "branching" to two, three, or a handful of churches; it is a very large "tree" with numerous branches. Some may be healthy, some sickly, some dead; but they all stem from Christ. Once we "get" this rather down-to-earth, pragmatic fact, then wrangling over who has the proper pedigree, the most sacramental sacraments, and the kind of liturgy Jesus would have celebrated if he hadn't had to settle for Aramaic and Jewish dinner parties sans organ and acolytes (neither Latin, nor Byzantine, nor BCP), then we can get on with vastly more important matters -- like endeavoring to live according to the Sermon on the Mount, among other things.

charles said...

For me ACNA is a question of common descent. Do we have an obligation to pick up a fallen brother? In some ways we share the same fate as they. We are not totally unconnected. It is well understood Bp. Duncan is horrible, but there are tendencies which this thread entirely ignores. The ACNA is not monolithical, and more catholic tendencies might be presently or gradually) further influenced and encouraged. We have the wonderful statement from Bp. Wantland (Diocese F.Worth) that WO is basically "lesbianism" between Christ and His Bride/Church.

There are holdouts, and where there are holdouts, shouldn't we lend a hand however we can? Perhaps a strong catholic party would emerge? This doesn't mean we suddenly abandon St. Louis affirmation. Nor does it mean we stop confessing sacramental realism in Orders. Bp. Haverland surely his reason why a boycott or absence in TX was due. But in the same breath, OCA did not loose its sacramental orders by letting ++Jonah attend? What Jonah did gain was a concrete dialogue. He also further isolated TEC. Bp. Jonah, in my estimation, did good.

If you don't take opportunities for dialogue then you aren't sharing the pearl. Dialogue doesn't mean we want communion, but it does acknowledge ACNA's willingness to submit to at least some kind of biblical standard. Moreover, ACNA is not just 'any' protestant church. However incomplete, we share common formularies and origins. Even the evangelical REC has moved away from fanaticism, recently adopting the 1662 BCP. REC has even embraced a good degree of ritualism alongside new APA parishes. There has been a 'rubbing off'. Meanwhile we can either help spread catholic influence, adding outside weight to the AngloCatholic presence in ACNA (no matter how anemic), or we can go on our own way proving these folks are not brothers-- not even in the same faith or tradition, certainly not the same holy catholic church we are? However, I believe there is something in mercy and episcopacy which says we actively extend a hand when invited. Perhaps circumstances (the delicacy on ongoing merger in the Continuum) prevent such? But when if able, we should try. Jonah and APA are examples in my opinion. If we are strong in our confession (St. Louis) then what 'orthodox' skin will we loose?

charles said...

in terms of numbers you do need families with babies. that should not be neglected. Also, if catechist was done with an attention to Anglican distinctives and orthodoxy,then we'd retain children confirmed in the faith. Retention, like infant baptisms, are a product of sound ministry and instruction. And surely this is likewise a function of a trained and educated clergy.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that Abp. Haverland's attendance would be seen as an endorsement or full sacramental communion? Is that how you viewed the attendance of the Metropolitan of the OCA and the RC Bishop of Fort Worth? Is there sacramental unity with the OCA and ACNA and the RCC and ACNA? Seems like a pretty intellectually dishonest statement.

BigTex AC

Fr. John said...

Numbers do matter. God's elect must be gathered into the Church. We have work to do to help that come true, but we also know that "the night cometh when no man can work."

We should always act as if we stand at the brink of dawn, but we should also strive to be able to recognize that night that is coming.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Charles wrote:

It is well understood Bp. Duncan is horrible...
Charles, I like the man, and have been on his side when he has been up against Bloody Katherine, Litigator in Chief for TEC. The fact is, we cannot join with his new church body.
OCA did not loose its sacramental orders by letting ++Jonah attend
No one is talking about losing sacramental orders. The OCA Metropolitan is automatically able to send a message from the outside; an Anglican bishop does not have that luxury.

Perhaps discussion in private between appointed clergy and theologians is not to be ruled out.

Big Tex:

I think my answer to you is the same. There is a safe distance for a RC bishop and an Orthodox Met. regarding public attendance.


In that sense, yes numbers matter, in that Christ died not only for all, but for each one. "Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled."


What? You think Jesus did not have a BCP at the Last Supper? Next you will say He did not have a KJV either.

Bruce said...

"The same holds true for Eastern Orthodox Churches. A good, sound Patriarch, Metropolitan or Bishop does not mean that a local parish is sound."

Same holds true for our continuing parish. Zero teaching, zero Bible study, zero Christian fellowship (in the sense that Christ is never mentioned outside of mass). All fellowship meetings (men's group, women's group, etc.) are Christ-free and they say that's the way they want it. The only person who I see freely talking about and praising Christ is the Baptist piano player.

They seem to want to grow the parish by snagging cafeteria Catholics from the local Roman parishes. When they come we tell them it's the same as Roman Catholicism only the priests can marry.

The health of the parish seems to be measured by everyone getting along which is a great metric for the current rector since there was massive discontent under the former rector.

It's a old folks home for people that want to play church and eat donuts. My young family of soon to be 7 (the only kids in the parish other than an occasional kid or two who comes with grandma) is LCMS or WELS bound.

Sorry. Very frustrated.

frron said...

Not too long ago I was in a conversation with a friend who along with his parish was moving to the REC and ultimately the ACNA.
During the conversation he brought up what he seemed to consider as a major justification for leaving the continuum.. These guys have 401 K, health insurance,seminaries and so many other benefits including the almighty coffer full of money.." this he said is what we need to bring in priests"
I shudder to think that one called to holy orders would first consider the benefit package prior to making his decision .
I have tremendous for those " Tentmaker Priests" who by necessity work a secular job but still preach the gospel, celebrate the sacraments and pastor their flock.
God Bless you all.

Fr. Robert Hart said...


That is pathetic. I do not know your jurisdiction, diocese or anything else. But, the priest over there may benefit from reading our archives. He might learn something. Unless something radically wonderful happens, the parish you have described will not survive. And, it will not deserve to.

Sorry to be so blunt.

charles said...

I have high hopes. Sorry for being so critical. I just see flux in TEC, and that opens doors to increasing influence. Not sure why we being Anglican prevents us from doing as much as OCA or RC, however?

Anyway, I'd like to see the merger continue with St. Louis Affirmation churches and an Anglican orthodox revival based on many of the distinctives discussed here. Having a specific Anglican identity is crucial to growth.

I also would like to see parishes get above the bare necessities of survival to the point they can open up private schools and other amenities. There is nothing wrong for the Church to be a self-contained society or kingdom. It is nothing more than having a strong deaconate which works for the benefit of the bishop.

Anonymous said...


Sounds like a meeting of Virginia Shinto Building worshipers.

Fortunately for us our backsliding Shinto building worshipers left. They wanted their old PECUSA back. Too bad, it ain't ever going to happen. God has uprooted that bit of luke warm stuff.

Anyway there are many vibrant and thriving CHRISTIAN parishes and Missions in the Continuum that are centered on Christ. Ours is one.

Virginia Real

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart-

I appreciate your thoughts on why is was ok for Metropolitan from the OCA and Bp. Vann to attend and observe but not for Abp. Haverland. I must respectfully disagree. If bishops are bishops for the whole church catholic then, IMO, they are obligated to provide leadership for the whole church catholic. Metropolitan Jonah recognized a teaching opportunity and pulled no punches and didn't mince words. While Abp. Haverland might not have had the opportunity to address the gathering as a whole his mere presence(as well as conversations he most certainly would have had with other bishops, priests, etc.) would have been such a powerful witness to the catholic and apostolic faith. Instead we are treated to a letter posted on a blog(and yes, I'm aware that the letter was sent to Abp. Duncan personally prior to the public posting). I'm not saying that what is contained in Abp. Haverland's letter is wrong, I'm just opining that compared to the forthright, charitable and pastoral presence of Metropolitan Jonah and Bp. Vann it was woefully ineffective.

BigTex AC

poetreader said...

Let me put mu two cents in here. ++Jonah because he was not an Anglican, could stretch out a friendly hand from outside, giving advice, some of which would seem approving and some disapproving without entanglement in the affairs of ACNA. From this vantage point he could be listened to without fear.

Unfortunately ++Haverland could not stand in the same place. He is an Anglican, cannot but be perceived as competition in some manner, and representes positions that many in the new jurisdiction haqve consciously rejected. I can't see any way that his presence at the meeting could have had a positive effect. Sp far as I can see, he would either have been perceived as giving approval to something he could not approve, ir as arriving to meddle in ACNA's internal affairs, perhaps even attempting to stir up trouble. Showing up would not have worked out to be a matter of kindness.

I think his decision to abstain and to write +Duncan with an explanation was the wisest way to handle a touchy situation. Yes, it is a judgment call, but I certainly respect his judgment in this matter.


Anonymous said...


I guess we'll just agree to disagree as to how Abp. Haverland's presence would have been received by the ACNA. Remember, he was invited....and I would think that the invitation was extended in good faith. Would you invite somebody who you would perceive as attempting to meddle in your affairs or stir up trouble? Doubtful. But ultimately you're was a judgment call on his part. certainly hope that Fr. Hart is not off the mark in suggesting that some private dialogue is not to be ruled out.

BigTex AC
( a neo-Anglican, whatever the heck that is)

RC Cola said...


I think part of the reason Archbishop Haverland chose not to go was precisely because you don't "invite somebody who you would perceive as attempting to meddle in your affairs or stir up trouble." In good conscience, Abp. Haverland would NEED to stir up trouble because some of ACNA's positions are dubious. So he was in a quandry:

1. Stir up trouble at the event and look like a real S.O.B.
Poor form to say the least.

2. Go to the ACNA event, say nothing, and have everyone understand that as approval of the ACNA and all of their positions.

3. Politely decline the invitation with an explanation as to why. No one mistakes him for supporting ANCA errors, and he has expressed his reservations clearly and charitably. No one was harmed in the least.

RC Cola said...

True, the ACC is small, but that should excite us more than deter us.

When I daydream about the ACC (which I do a lot) I imagine growth, in both quantity and quality. I envision schools, medical clinics, new parishes, a seminary, a college. In short, I envision rebuilding Christendom, and we are on the "ground floor" (despite being around for 2,000 years already).

We have over 6 billion potential converts. In the U.S. alone there are over 300 million people, many of whom would love to be exposed to the Catholic Faith.

Let's go! Let's get out there and "Live Christ" such that those who see us want to Live Christ, too. God has given each one of us gifts and graces to make this happen. "Now on us."

Bruce said...

"I do not know your jurisdiction.."

The one that likes to flirt with the Whore of Babylon.

"Sounds like a meeting of Virginia Shinto Building worshipers."

More like an Elks or Moose lodge that happens to say 1928 BCP mass on Sunday mornings.