Saturday, October 31, 2009

All Saints Day November 1

This week has been quite busy, and I simply cannot think of any improvement I could make to the same All Saints Day sermon I posted a year ago, which you may find by clicking on this link. Furthermore, my congregation has not heard, as of yet, this particular sermon.

Reflections on the Synod

This past week in Richmond Va., I attended the eighteenth Provincial Synod of the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC), which was the first for me. This was not the Provincial Synod for the entire ACC, but only for the Original Province. The second Province of the ACC is headquartered in India, but the Archbishop of the Second Province, The Most Rev. John Augustine, was present as an observer. He did address us, and I learned from his address something that was new to me, and which I will share with you by quoting part of their website (and I recommend reading the history page there in full), namely that the ACC in India is not a Continuing Church:

"The Church of India - CIPBC (formerly the Church of England in India) is the original Anglican Church in India. The Anglican presence in India dates back four hundred years ago to 1600, when Queen Elizabeth I was still on the throne of England. From that time until within living memory British chaplains and missionaries arrived in ever-increasing numbers, and were the first to minister to the expatriate British community, and later to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Indian people themselves...

" In the year 1978 following the Congress of St. Louis, (Affirmation of Saint Louis) the news of the Anglican Catholic Church reached India. The Indian Anglicans appealed for a spiritual affiliation in the Anglican Catholic Church Original Province...

"From 1991 until 1995 the late Archbishop William Lewis held office as Acting Metropolitan of India succeeded by Bishop James Bromley. Bishop Bromley appointed Fr. John Augustine as the Archdeacon and the Metropolitan's Commissary to the Province of India. Bishop Rommie Starks succeeded Bishop Bromley as acting Metropolitan. In 2003 the Right Reverend John Augustine was elected and consecrated Bishop of Lucknow. In 2005 the Calcutta Diocesan Council and the House of Bishops elected the Right Reverend John Augustine as the Bishop of Calcutta and Metropolitan of India. The Most Reverend John Augustine was enthroned as Metropolitan of the Church of India -CIPBC on 24th February, 2005 at Christ Church, Lucknow."

I quote this to make the point that our Continuing Church is not necessarily as insignificant as we may allow ourselves to believe. Furthermore, joining us were other ACC members from around the world, including Bishop Damkien Meade from the U.K., The Right Reverend Brian Iverach from Australia, bishops, clergy and laity from Kenya, from the Sudan, from South Africa, Haiti, Colombia. Archbishop Reber and Bishop Robinson of the United Episcopal Church of North America (UECNA) were present as guests.

The truly global presence of orthodox Anglicans in the ACC was something I knew about, but had not had the occasion to experience before this week. The difficulties encountered by our people in foreign lands, due to poverty and persecution, take on new meaning when we meet them. Rt. Rev. Wilson Garang (present at the Synod) and his Diocese of Aweil in Sudan, for example, face a kind of danger in their daily lives that most of us imagine only vaguely. I felt very unworthy, at the Synod Mass, to be preaching a sermon in the company of such true disciples of our Lord; my desire was to encourage with words that might provide edification, exhortation and comfort by the Holy Spirit, something helpful that they could carry with them. But, I felt like John the baptist, unworthy to stoop down and unloose the sandals of Christ himself, as represented by them.

Two priests from South Africa, Fr. Alan Kenyon-Hoare, and Fr. Mahawa, were present to witness the Synod vote on establishing a second diocese in their country, necessary simply because of the vastness of the geography, and the difference of language and culture. The most moving part of the week, for me, was hearing Fr. Mahuawa of the Umzi Wase "Thiyopian" people of the Eastern Cape of South Africa expressing his joy that his people, after over a century of Anglicanism among them, will have their own bishop in their own diocese (and I hope to have more about this for you to read later in the week). The Church of England never gave them what they truly needed for the Church there to thrive, and in recent years other Continuing Anglicans have failed to understand their need as well. He expressed his gratitude to the Original Province of the ACC, and specifically to our Metropolitan, the Most Rev. Mark Haverland. It is expected that bishops for both dioceses will be elected this year, and consecrated by Archbishop Haverland and other ACC bishops in the Spring of 2010.

On a side note, as I saw Fr. Kenyon-Hoare, a white man with a white beard, and Fr. Mahuwa, a black man clearly younger, it was obvious that they share a bond of love that made the difference of color and culture vanish away.

In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North;
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.

It was also quite a joy to see old friends, including Bishop William McLean who received me into the ACC just over a year ago, as well as regular commenting readers, such as Fr. Laurence Wells, Rev. Canon John Hollister, Fr. John Roddy, Fr. James Danford (military chaplain), Fr. Thomas McHenry, and others of you who were there.

Yes, there was the sometimes just plain boring business, that is always proposed, discussed and voted on in synods. Sometimes it is not easy to sit on those chairs at those tables for even a minute longer. But, even then, the manner of Archbishop Haverland was an instructive model of humility and patience, as well as a good amount of humor, much of which was the self-deprecating humor that those who know him have come to expect. The boring synod business may have seemed to be no large matter to those who have long been in the ACC. But, for others it is breath of fresh air. While eating dinner in a restaurant on Wednesday night, Fr. Charles Nalls summed it up neatly to a couple of us: "It was orderly, peaceful, sane and genuinely substantive. It was about things that truly mattered."

Those who are still writing our epitaph, and carving our tombstone as Continuing Anglicans, will themselves be long dead while the work of Christ through our churches grows and spreads. The Canterbury Communion is just about dead, but Anglicanism has its best days ahead.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fr. Wells' Bulletin Inserts


In the harvest-time of the year we celebrate God's great harvest, the harvest of souls, when He will make His final separation of the wheat from the tares. All Saints' Day is the reminder that we are called to be saints and to join the innumerable throng of all who are redeemed in Christ, including those who have gone before us and all who will come after us. We have a picture of this multitude in today's reading from Revelation, “clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.”

All Saints' Day is a good time for us to rethink clearly what is revealed to us in the Bible about the after-life. There is much confused and murky thinking on this matter even among traditional Christians.

At the moment of physical death, there is a separation of soul and body. The body is said to “fall asleep in the Lord, waiting for its final resurrection. The soul continues to be conscious. If it is a Christian soul, it is permitted to have sweet fellowship with Christ and all His vast throng of redeemed people. These redeemed souls are waiting in an “intermediate state” between their previous earthly life and their eventual resurrection. This intermediate state is sometimes called Paradise or even Heaven. It is a temporary, not a final, condition.

The is no basis for supposing that souls in this intermediate state suffer any kind of penalties whatever, for sins committed while on earth in the body. The term purgatory is therefore to be avoided as misleading. Many believe that souls in the intermediate state continue to grow spiritually and our Prayer Book seems to teach it. St Paul may hint at this when he writes, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you may perform it until [bring it to completion at] the day of Jesus Christ' (Phil. 1: 6). What is certain is that all the faithful departed, and our own loved ones who died in the Lord, are happy and blessed with Christ. God grant that we may join them when He calls us.

At the “Last Day,” when Christ shall come again and bring history to its close, all mankind will be raised up. Our bodies will be reconstituted and made glorious, just as His body was raised up on the first Easter. We will see, touch, and hear each other again. This will be in “the new heaven and the new earth,” the new creation already underway but not complete until Christ comes. While this is mysterious to us and most details not yet revealed, we simply must think of our own resurrection as realistically and graphically as we think of His.

In the meantime, while we wait for Christ's coming, we delight in the assurance that all the faithful departed, both the “heroes of the faith” and obscure mediocre Christians, are tightly bound in one great fellowship of the saints. That is what we celebrate today. LKW

Bishop Rocco Florenza received into the Anglican Catholic Church

Richmond, VA.

On Tuesday the bishops of the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) voted unanimously to receive Bishop Rocco Florenza in his episcopal orders. He has been appointed the Episcopal Visitor for the New England Diocese. The vote was taken by the bishops assembled at the Provincial Synod meeting here this week. Bishop Forenza resigned from the Anglican Church in America (ACA) in order to request admission into the ACC in time for the bishops to decide the matter during the Synod.

Other highlights of the Provincial Synod include the establishment of a new diocese in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. It is expected that in the two South African Dioceses bishops will be elected within the next few months, and consecrated early in 2010.

More details will be reported later today.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles October 28

Written to be preached at the Provincial Synod Mass of the Anglican Catholic Church in 2009.

(Jude 1-8) Eph. 2:19-22
John 15:17-27

We know very little about the two saints honored on this day, except that they were Apostles, and Simon had been some sort of Zealot before he followed Christ, while this Jude, or Judas, was not Iscariot. They traveled together, in later years, into Persia, we are told.

The observance of the feast of Saint Simon and Saint Jude, Apostles, provides an opportunity to look at how the Church continues the Apostolic ministry in every age, and will continue the Apostolic ministry until the Last Day when Christ will return and raise the dead. That is what these readings tell us, and what the Collect draws our attention to. Until 1928, and only here in America, the Epistle was not from Ephesians, but rather the first eight verses of the Epistle of Jude where we find these famous words, "Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints." The Collect, however, always drew from the words in Ephesians, "Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone." It is good to think upon both of these passages of Scripture in light of the Gospel portion we have heard, with particular attention to these words: "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me."

We need to think about all of these words, because St. Paul, St. Jude brother of James, and our Lord Jesus Christ have described the life we are living here and now in this world. It is a life of enmity from the world, for we do not belong to this world, but also life empowered by the Holy Spirit. We do not need to belong to this world, because we are part of something better, with a foundation that is, even though quite ancient, always new, because only those who are baptized into Christ's death and raised to walk in newness of life can be the living stones that make up this, the temple of the Lord, "an habitation of God through the Spirit." Because the world hates us, all the wrath of the world, the flesh and the Devil force us to contend for the Faith once delivered to the saints; we are given no period of rest from the war unless and until we are granted to sleep before the dead in Christ rise first, on the Last Day.

A Biblical word not found in today's readings, but relevant to them, is the word, "tribulation." Some of our Evangelical friends believe in a fairly recently concocted theory of Biblical interpretation, that they will be, as they say, "raptured away," and the world will suffer "the Great Tribulation." This theory has never made sense to me, because what the world suffers cannot be called tribulation-wrath , yes, not tribulation; tribulation is the fiery trial of our faith, more precious than gold. In fact, the symbolic period of three and a half years, or "a time, times and half a time" or "forty-two months," comes from the Book of Numbers, and the forty-two encampments of Israel before they entered the Land of Promise; and as such symbolizes the entire time that the Church has been and will remain in this world; it does not symbolize some special period near the end, certainly not some period without the Church.

Those who think they may be spared tribulation as a reward for their faith are living in an ungodly fantasy; in many other countries of the real world, Christians live with persecution, sometimes to the death; indeed, it is our comfort in the West that is the exception to the rule. One Coptic man told me, in early 2005, that he and his father were in America with refugee status because, "in Egypt," he told me, "the mass killing of Christians goes on all the time." Try telling those persecuted Christians that American Evangelicals will be spared tribulation because of their faith, and see how sane they think you are. "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you," said our Lord Jesus. And so, it does. To have the Faith at all requires that we earnestly contend for the Faith, that same Faith that was once delivered to the saints.

Our foundation is the truth of salvation that has been revealed by God. To be built upon the Apostles and Prophets rightly makes us think of the Scriptures, and speaks of Antiquity. The first man called a prophet (נביא , nabiy' ) is our father, Abraham (Gen. 20:7). The foundation upon which we are built goes back through the people of Israel to that nomadic patriarch, and the revelation given to him, and his faith by which all of us who are in Christ are his children and heirs. The revelation of God through all the prophets, from Moses to the later prophets of Scripture, all points to one Man who would come, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostles continued the work through the same Holy Ghost who spake by the prophets. Their words also point to one Man, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostles could speak of the same mysteries with the veil taken away. The Virgin foretold by Isaiah had conceived and borne a son, who is Immanuel, God Incarnate with us even now by His Spirit. The soul of the Suffering Servant, foretold as well, had already been made a sacrifice for sin, and he had already risen to prolong his days, so that the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. The New Covenant foretold by Jeremiah, that mysterious New Covenant in which the Law is written on our hearts and our sins forgiven, had been established in his blood, as he revealed in the night in which he was betrayed. So, the Apostles completed the foundation, Christ himself the chief cornerstone; and no other foundation, says St. Paul, can any man lay. The foundation is the revelation of God fulfilled in Christ, revelation about him, and a temple of living stones-you and me-built on Him.

We Anglicans say much about Apostolic Succession, as we ought. Our bishops trace their Apostolic Succession back to those same men to whom the risen Christ personally, in his resurrected and glorious body of flesh and bone, gave the charge when he breathed on them the Holy Spirit, and sent them into the world. And, their only strength against the enmity of the world was the power of that same Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit who supplies all things needed by the Church for her to be truly Apostolic. For, the Church is not merely in its origins Apostolic; it is in its life Apostolic, in its power Apostolic, and in the proclamation of the Gospel committed to her, the Church is Apostolic in calling all men everywhere to repent. We are built on that foundation, and on no other, "for an habitation of God through the Spirit."

As St. John wrote, in the opening of his first Epistle:

"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."

The Christ with whom we have fellowship, is the same Christ whose Incarnation touches us even now in the sacramental life within the fellowship passed on through all generations of the Church. The Man who they saw and heard, and who they touched with their hands, who lived, died and lives again evermore, is present with us. The foundation is not some ideal to read about, but a living reality here and now. We can approach our mission as the Anglican Catholic Church in one of two ways. One way is to see Apostolic Succession as merely historical; the other is to see it as present, with Apostolic ministry continuing here and now. The gifts of grace that God still gives to the whole Church through our bishops, are not mere formalities; they are the means whereby we realize the words we have heard today: "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me."

We had a choice to make, both as a church body and as individuals who have entered it: We could be among those St. Paul spoke of as "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof," about whom he directed us, "from such turn away," (II Tim. 3:5) or, we could "earnestly contend for the Faith once delivered to the saints." And, however rough the ride may have been at times, or will be, it is well worth it. We are built on Christ's own foundation; we are "an holy temple in the Lord...builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit." This gives us the enmity of the world, but also the powerful life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit. The Apostolic ministry is, even now, the ministry of Christ in his Church, a present reality through which the Word of Life is Incarnate through His Body the Church. That is what the Scriptures for this day teach us. The Church is still Apostolic, in every meaningful way.
Interested readers may find an easy to read statement about Sts. Simon and Jude here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Housekeeping Note

On the whole the discussion of the RC invitation and reaction to it has been both lively and polite, exactly what we want. However ...

This blog is intended for open and sometimes spirited discussion of the issues before it. We are not only willing, but desirous of publishing opinions we do not agree with here, where they can be considered in a rational fashion. We reject very few of the comments submitted to us. I was disappointed on coming to my machine to find two comments from separate individuals that I could not make myself publish.

One was a strictly ad hominem attack on a writer, appearing to me (though I hope I'm wrong) to be an attempt to avoid considering his thoughts by sidetracking the discussion into his own merits. The arguments presented on this blog were presented for the sake of their content, and their content is the discussion at hand. The writer could have been asked quietly and nonjudgmentally to explain what led to a change of opinion and that might have been very productive, but the comment received did not do that.

The other just buffaloed me. It purported to oppose the concept of seven sacraments, but listed a number of practices never refered to as such, while failing to mention any of the 'lesser five'. I'm not at all sure what the writer was getting at and determined that it would add no more than confusion to the discussion.

Both writers are more than welcome to rephrase their comments. Theirs are viewpoints that are not mine, and therefore, for exactly that reason, I do want to hear them.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Still Christian, Still Catholic

The Rev. Canon Charles H. Nalls

“How long, Oh Lord?”


The great flurry over an immenent return of Anglo-Catholics to Rome appears to be in full swing. Some three years after a group of traditional Anglican bishops signed the Catechism of the Catholic Church, there now has been a “generous” response from folks on the other side of the Tiber. Cries of, “Next year in Jerusalem!” (or St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, as the case may be) have given way to a near frenzy to see who can get in “the club” fastest with no idea of what may be in the details of the offer. It is a bit like the way in which the current U.S. Congress deals with legislation: “No reading, please! Just sign it.” Add in the rumblings that many Anglo-Catholic lay people (remember them?) are decidedly uneasy with respect to the trans-Tiber trip, and it appears to be a good time for some reflection.

Truth is, waiting gives one pause to ponder, and these last few years of rumor and waiting and rumor have been more than ample time to think about this whole question of Catholicity amongst an ever-fragmenting body of Anglicans. It is always good to engage in a little ressourcement, but particularly when things seem to be murky or unsettled. Putting aside questions of liturgy and music for the moment, it might be useful to remember a bit about precisely why Anglican-Catholics are not already Roman Catholics.

I began my own reflection with “Christian and Catholic” from The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton.* I have freely adapted the bishop’s text (translate: he who steals from this steals twice) for this essay which I have planned as part of a series.

Bp. Grafton, truly a “venerable” if not a “blessed”, had a way of getting down to brass tacks that seems to escape us in more modern times. Granted, the Anglican communion of which he was a part has rung down the curtain on itself, but the great revival of Catholicity in the Anglican communion of the 19th century stimulated theological investigation in every quarter.

As Grafton pointed out, the Oxford Movement/Catholic Revival opened the long-closed storehouse of patristic learning” in a way that would profit all branches of the Church. It dusted off and polished up the great Anglican divines and “gave a new zest to biblical research and exegesis.” At its heart, “the Movement” arrived at a deeper realization of the mystery of the incarnation and its extension in the sacraments. Again, from Grafton, “The whole range of Catholic theology came out in more vivid colors and was grasped with a new and more intense appreciation.” Higher ideals of sanctity and a personal self-sacrificing devotion both in clergy and laity were the result and “lives, talents, means were lavishly poured out at the feet of Christ.”

Out of all of this, great hope arose for a reunion of Christendom. But, history reveals that such an effort to live the prayer that all may be one was sure to arouse the ancient adversary. And so it was that the Movement was harassed and attacked from all sides. There were tribunals, mobs in the east of London, charges by bishops against Anglo-Catholics, and denunciations in the media of the day.

Now I think we do well to look back over nearly one hundred-fifty years—indeed, perhaps the last five-hundred--and see how the cause has fared. Neither the sometime folly of adherents nor the blindness of adversaries could stop it. It has formed and purified many to a high degree of sanctity, who are now resting with God. Even in these last broken years there have been Baptisms, Confirmations, and Marriages, so many added to the Mystical Body of Christ in the sacramental cycle. In the time of prosperity men may attain salvation, but in times of suffering and adversity they are made saints. And now it seems we Anglo-Catholics find ourselves in a period of trial and temptation.

Looking at Anglicanism throughout the world, we see that the former Communion is broken into a growing number of pieces, shattered by the hammering of revisionists and modernists. Indeed, the once-respected and proud American branch is led by outright heretics and those who deny Christ’s power to save mankind. It is a diminishing force, a patchwork of graying and increasingly empty parishes. The claimed “traditionalists” are besieged with legal actions by a denomination bent on seeing their parish properties used as saloons rather than give ground in its fight against Christian orthodoxy.

More than thirty years past, participants in the Congress of St. Louis in the United States in 1977 rejected changes that had been made in the Book of Common Prayer and the ordination of women, and affirmed Catholic principles and teachings. The Affirmation expressed a determination "to continue in the Catholic Faith, Apostolic Order, Orthodox Worship and Evangelical Witness of the traditional Anglican Church, doing all things necessary for the continuance of the same." Yet, almost immediately after this bold attempt to replant and renew came the fissures and splits that have plagued the Movement into the new millennium. And we have played at church, the fraud and the mountebank decking themselves in rich attire to scrap over a few souls, and, perhaps sell a few “seminary” degrees to those who want to have “authority” and the social position of clergy.

This has been shameful-this proliferation of “jurisdictions”. It is fair to say that we can see the hand of the ancient adversary in stirring the controversy among fellow Christians with the same theological heritage, creed and belief. So it has been the case since the time of the Apostles.

The result has shaken those seeking refuge. Some lost faith in the possibility of an Anglican Church ever regaining its Catholic heritage. They said in their despondency “Can these dry bones live?” And so for one ostensible reason or another they sought relief from the need to fight to claim their heritage by “swimming the Tiber.” Comparatively few seem to have gone from conviction after a candid and full investigation of Scripture and history. They were simply tired of the struggle and sought safety in the numbers and existing structure of Rome.

It could not also but be that under the exasperating and depressing schisms and carryings on of the continuing Church that some were found who could not bear the behavior no matter how sincerely they loved the English expression of the Catholic faith. They became victims of their doubts and fears. They began in their recovery of old truths to lose sight of the proportion of the faith, to question their position, or, attracted by Rome’s external appearance of unity, to contrast unfavorably some aspects of the Anglican Church with that of Rome. The latter church took on, to their imagination, the character of an ideal one.

It also is true that Rome was busy with her own proselytizing efforts. There are those who make this work of proselytizing a business—many of whom are former evangelical Protestants who have swapped team jerseys--and study the art of injecting doubt into susceptible minds as to whether we are Catholic. It is one of the stock arguments to refer to the number of persons who have joined the Roman Catholic Church. So be it. We do well to admire the zeal of those with a truth claim and who are bold in asserting it.

I believe that most are sincere in their desire to see all within the embrace that Rome claims to be wholly salvific. We should consider that these efforts are the result not of malice, but genuine desire to gain souls for the larger Church. There are some points, however, it would be well to consider before one marches down the gangplank onto the barque of Peter.

Let’s be direct for a moment to those who are now attending upon the issuance of an Apostolic Constitution and, with it, the Roman Catholic Church to descend from on high to solve all of their earthly woes. If the Roman Church is the only true church, and is alone possessed of sacramental grace, the same mark of improvement ought to be as obvious on the bulk of her converts from us. But what is the case?

According to the account of some who have “gone over”, they have frankly stated that they were no better after than before, or indeed, worse. They fret over the banality of worship and, worse, the cavalier treatment of the Sacrament itself. At worst, some have given up the faith entirely, or, thankfully, moved on to the Eastern Church where real demands upon faith such as fasting discipline and a robust ancient liturgy have proved the palliative to the mundane and modernist.

Ah, but the cry goes up in this most recent round that all will be well as we are going with our liturgical and musical heritage. That may well be true, although the devil may well be in the details here too. However there are things that Anglicans will not travel with. You will not be independent of Rome—a sort of “communion relationship” without qualification. You will have to assent to all of the dogma, doctrine and discipline of the Roman Catholic Church. That is reasonable, and it is the reason Rome is who she is. Those who assert otherwise—that Anglicans will honored and not “absorbed” are willfully blind, utter fools or outright liars. Those who make the jump will be “former Anglicans”, Roman Catholics with the familiar trimmings but “former Anglicans”. Let us give the Roman Catholic Church credit for saying what she means.

As for the brass tacks, many who have become Roman Catholic have found that they and others fell into the same sins as they did when Anglicans, and that the Roman sacraments gave no other aid than that they had previously received. The devil then had them in a logical vise. They had denied the Anglican sacraments to be channels of grace, and now it was proved the Roman Catholic were no better, and so nothing was to be believed. There were others who grew spiritually, but no more so than did those whom they had left behind. This is what Anglican clergy will have to face no matter what gloss they try to place upon it. If one’s Holy Orders are invalid, then so too one’s Sacraments, and Anglican clergy have been committing spiritual fraud in administering them.

In joining Rome, one must be “received” effectively being re-confirmed. By receiving so-called first communion, one necessarily denies that he has before sacramentally received the body and blood of the Lord. If he is a priest, as we have noted, he denies his orders and the validity of his sacraments. In all these acts a person turns against the Holy Ghost and his Lord, denying their gifts and presence. Moreover, he deserts his post.

On this point Charles Grafton was quite blunt,

God has placed priests in the Anglican Church there to be a witness, just as he placed Elijah in Israel amidst its worship. It was very trying to the prophet and so, heartsick, he fled away to the wilderness. But there the Word of the Lord searched him out and said, ‘What doest thou here, Elijah.’ It is just as much desertion for a soldier to go over to some other regiment or place on the battlefield as to run away. If we believe that we have the faith and sacraments, we must stay where we are placed.

We are reaching to the very core of our claims as Anglo-Catholics. For in deciding on the claims of the papal supremacy against the Eastern and Anglican Churches in favor of Rome, one assumes to himself the powers of an Ecumenical council. It is an act full of spiritual danger. For if Rome were right in her claims, God could not condemn one who said that as a Catholic he had not ventured to assume an authority not given him; and as God had not so ordered it that a council of the whole Church had declared the papal supremacy, he could not, by his not submitting to it, be found guilty of disobeying Him.

And so with it all of the rest. Faber developed a new Italian Mariolatry in England, and the situation has not been mitigated in the last century as Rome had pondered the question of the Blessed Virgin as Co-Redemptorix. So too, one has to consider the question of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception and the decree of “Papal Infallibility.” These are not optional. To be received into the Catholic Church without assent to these matters or with one’s fingers crossed is to be a liar in one’s own right.

“Perhaps,” as Grafton noted, “it is time to learn how to wait on God and to tarry His leisure. It is His Church and He is working out plans, not our plans but His own. We can only read His providences as they accomplish themselves, and by learning to conform ourselves to them.”

Would that all “churchmen”, Continuing and others, learn to trust one another more. Again from Bp. Grafton, “Union within the Church cannot be cut of whole cloth, it must first be won and established within ourselves as in the foundation of any union before we worry about sister churches.” Let Continuing churchmen trust God, get together, bear with one another, and the Church will reap her joyful harvest.

Holding, as Anglican Catholics do, the most important position in the great conflict, they are exposed to special temptations, and none more subtle than to leave their posts. They become depressed with the outlook. They have an ideal of what the king’s daughter ought to be; and they freely criticize and find fault with their own communion as they would not that God should criticize them.

They forget that as God bears with them, so He bears with His Church. Despondency when not occasioned by physical causes is a work of Satan. Nothing so helps it as for two sympathizing friends to talk over together the evils existing in the Church. It may be true that the general ignorance and prejudice is dismal and virulent, that the Agnostic and Erastian spirit is dominant, that Christianity is losing its hold, that the bishops are timid, that the progress of the Catholic cause is slow. There is some truth in all this, but the more of truth the more reasons for courage and hope. When Israel is in the brick kiln then cometh Moses. In the fourth watch of the night to the tired rowers cometh Jesus on the waters.

"Our checks," said Dr. Pusey, "have always turned out to be our greatest blessings. Let us tarry the Lord’s leisure." Let us remember the martyrs and confessors. Let us offer the holy sacrifice and put our trust in the Lord. Not a few who have joined Rome have felt it their duty to leave her. It requires a high degree of Christian fortitude to resist the solicitations of friends. But it is the way of duty and honor, and the only way to make reparation to our Blessed Lord.

* Based upon The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 1), edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914, pp. 343-354. This is the first in a series of reflections based on Blessed Charles Grafton’s works.

Canon Charles Nalls is a priest of the Anglican Catholic Church and military chaplain. As well, he serves at the Church of the Ascension, Centreville, Virginia, and is the director of several charitable and academic organizations including the Canon Law Institute® in Washington, D.C.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Roman Offer: Another Perspective

While I do not see the doctrinal differences between us and the Roman Catholic Church as starkly as Fr Hart, and indeed do not see any insuperable barriers once certain qualifications within the Roman tradition are taken into account, I do have two objections to the "Roman Offer" to traditionalist Anglicans as presented recently that I do not think have been discussed here yet. (These are not my only objections, as I agree to varying extents with others that have been discussed here.)

Firstly, while the Note makes positive reference to the phrase "reunited but not absorbed", the posited reunification is in fact an absorption, since it involves not re-establishing communion with pre-existing continuing Anglican bodies, for example, but dissolving them and having Rome create new jurisdictions for them ab initio. And these "Personal Ordinariates" will be subsumed in the Roman Catholic "Latin-rite" national churches. This offer involves a presumption that it is certain that no Anglican church interested in reunion exists as a "particular Church" presently (as otherwise something like a uniat-style solution would have to be on the table which respected present jurisdictional structures) and thus does not really involve corporate ecclesial reunion. That this is inevitable because of the present Roman position on Anglican Orders brings me to the second problem.

Throughout the Note there is a careful and pointed adherence to terminology which implicitly denies Anglican Orders, despite the fact the some former Anglican clergy have been re-ordained sub conditione by the Roman Catholic Church in the past. It is always "Anglican clergy" as against "Catholic priests". They are even careful to call our non-ordained folk "faithful" rather than laity, as the latter of these might be taken to imply the other class was not laic. The one apparent exception to this is very carefully phrased: "some Anglicans have abandoned the tradition of conferring Holy Orders only on men by calling women to the priesthood and the episcopacy". The insertion of the words "the tradition of" and the use of the words "calling ... to" emphasise that Anglicans, from this persepctive, could only "call" to Holy Orders, and could not abandon "conferring Holy Orders" itself (as they purportedly never have so conferred), but only the tradition of limiting Orders to men. This is a problem for two reasons. One, it is of course a continuation of the unnecessary and untruthful derogation of our Orders, which are in point of fact valid, as I and Fr Hart have argued at length here and elsewhere before. Two, it undermines the claim that this is a compassionate and courageous act by the Holy See. Why? Because either Rome is still sure Anglican Orders are invalid as a matter of infallible teaching, or it is not. If the latter is true, then the language of the Note is offensive without reason, and necessarily involves knowing and accepting the plausibility of Roman and Anglican defences of our Orders but pretending these are irrelevant and sending the message that all Anglican priests would be ordained absolutely rather than conditionally anyway. If the former, then honesty and charity would seem to require that Rome demand of these "converts" immediate cessation of all "mock" sacraments with their risk of material idolatry in Eucharistic Adoration and false assurance in absolution, for example, and would also demand ex fide repudiation of their previous claims to valid orders and ecclesial reality so as to ensure orthodoxy.

Please note that I am not saying the motives of those making the offer were bad or insincere. But there does seem to be some internal inconsistency, especially as very positive reference is made in a general way to ARCIC documents, despite these including the argument that the Roman rejection of Anglican Orders should be revisited and reviewed, and despite the fact that the CDF was very critical of ARCIC in the past.

Fundamentally, for those like myself who accept that the Anglican Churches remained, despite their faults, the native Catholic jurisdiction of the British Commonwealth and colonies and mission zones until their definitive defection from Catholic Faith and Order in the late Twentieth Century, and who believe that the Continuing Churches, particularly the ACC, APCK and UECNA, were and are the legitimate and canonical successors to the jurisdictions thus abandoned, our duty is clear. We must remain faithful to our Churches, since they remain orthodox particular Churches within the Catholic Church with not only valid orders but valid jurisdiction over us. The way forward ecumenically is to maintain our corporate identity and fidelity, and so engage in dialogue with fellow Catholic Churches from a position of both moral and organisational strength.

Trinity XX Sermon

Redeem the time, for the days are evil”.+

What is it to redeem the time? What does this suggestive phrase mean?

The first part of the sentence is partly explained by the second part. “The days are evil.” In other words, in the same way as biblical talk of Jesus redeeming people means Him saving them from sin, our redemption of time includes rescuing each moment from the domination of evil. If we see ourselves as involved in a spiritual battle, with the Kingdom of God advancing against the dark places, against the domain of Satan, we might consider human souls (and even human society and culture to a lesser extent) as the battlefield, the “territory” to be won by the armour and weaponry of faith and love, of prayer and God's word. But the battle can also be seen as fought across the field of time, across our lives' journeys, day by day, hour by hour. The more consistently and persistently we consecrate ourselves to God and his holy will, the more we change not only our own progress through time towards eternity but also that of the world around us.

The word “redeem” means to buy back, or to pay money so as to release someone or something from the former possessor. That is why it is applied to the practice of buying and then freeing slaves from their former owners. (Which still goes on, by the way, in Africa, where a number of Christians are still rescuing Christians and animists from enslavement to Muslims.) And that is why it is also applied to Christ's sacrifice for us, where he pays the debt of our sin Himself (as well as meriting eternity for us by his perfect obedience) in order to release us from its guilt and power over us.

How does this apply to us and time? After all, time that is gone is gone forever and the past cannot be changed. However, the present and the future are in our hands. Unless we cooperate with God in the now, we leave the present and future to the imprisonment of merely continuing the past, of being determined by the influences of the world, the flesh and the Devil. In other words, unless we redeem the time, we leave it to the muddied flow of fallen, corrupted nature. The days are evil because of the working out of the primordial and perpetual rebellions of created beings with free will. Those under God's grace represent His insertion of a different, more powerful dynamism, one which in its “working out” leads inexorably to final victory.

How do we redeem the time?

I have already said it is by cooperating with God. What are the specifics of this cooperation? The first one is a matter of basic attitude to time. We must see it in the context of eternity. St Paul said “this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forward to those things which lie ahead, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

As the words “press towards” indicate, we must also work hard for God and not waste time that should be in his service through laziness. This does not mean every moment that is not spent in prayer or religious or charitable works is therefore wasted. God intends us to set aside time for rest and recreation, hence his institution of a day of rest, the Sabbath, in the Bible. And it is the same Bible that encourages us to sleep properly: “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep.” And the same Bible that says even normal, everyday activities can be done for God: “whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus”. So, yes, we must set aside time especially for prayer, meditation on Scripture, doing good works and going to Church. But all that we do can be given a distinctively Christian character simply by building up the habit of remembering his presence and grace, of consciously living “under the shadow of [his] wings” (Psalm 36.7). Persistent, brief prayer throughout the day is the road to this habitual awareness of God. This does not mean we sin if we are not thinking religious thoughts all the time. The point is to know that He is thinking of us even when we are not explicitly thinking of Him. Some people may find this concept frightening or an imposition. But we neither can have or need a “holiday from God”. On the contrary, he is our resting place, as that quote from the Psalm indicated and as many of the Psalms do.

St Paul says in today's Epistle that we should have the wisdom to know the will of God. And that is so we can do it, obviously, as we have just learnt. Where and how do we find this wisdom? St James (1:5) tells us it is ours for the asking, if we ask in faith. That brings us back to prayer. God speaks to us through the Scriptures always, and much of the wisdom there is sufficient for decision-making if we apply it generally to our situation. (Not every decision requires a special divine inspiration, after all. God gave us a brain as well as a Bible.) He will also speak to us through other Christians, common sense and directly to our hearts.

[B]e filled with the Spirit” the Epistle tells us. If we live full of God, we will clearly affect our times by touching and bringing healing to them with His eternal goodness. Allow me to quote something I have said before: “Paul makes clear in his letters that we can choose to be filled with the Holy Spirit in an ongoing way. Indeed, he exhorts his readers in Ephesians, “be filled with the Holy Spirit”, and the Greek means “be being filled”, it is the present continuous tense. He connects this exhortation with loving Christ and knowing His love for us, instruction to praise and give thanks to God, including in song, and to constant praying generally (Eph. 3.16f, 5.18-20, 6.18). Even in Acts, people who were “baptised with the Spirit” at Pentecost could be filled again later in response to fervent prayer (4.31). Being filled with the Holy Spirit does not have to mean a once-for-all, once-only experience.” So, prayer (including praising and worshipping God) and focussing our attention on Christ are again seen to be the key.

[S]ubmitting to one another in the fear of God” is the last thing mentioned in today's passage. This reminds us that we cannot redeem the time from evil days unless we forego pride, the original sin that caused the days to be evil in the first place, and behave with humility and patience towards one another.

We can redeem the time, through God's grace, as we trust and obey, as we give ourselves to Christ and his Church, as we love God and neighbour and cover everything with persistent and devoted prayer. +

Twentieth Sunday after Trinity

Eph. 5:15-21
Matt. 22:1-14

The parable today is not a pleasant one, for it deals with the subject of judgment, and does so in a way that is both eschatological and historical. That is, it speaks of judgment that actually happened in the past, and of judgment that will happen in the future. Of course, from the standpoint of when the Lord Jesus told this story, everything it predicted would be in the future. And, the judgment of God came across as a single and easily recognized theme. In the sequence of time, the first image of judgment given to us in this parable is that of the king destroying a city that would not honor his servants or his son.

From the perspective of the king, his gracious invitation, given out of kindness and generosity, was rejected. Worse, his servants who went out to carry his benevolent tidings and summons to enter into his joy and the joy of his son, were treated with contempt and then murdered. So, the king destroyed their city. For a long time it lay in ruins, for centuries trodden down of the Gentiles; and to this day the temple has not been rebuilt. In the words of one of our hymns:

O aweful love that found no room
In life where sin denied thee,
And doomed to death, must bring to doom
The power which crucified thee,
Till not a stone was left on stone,
And all a nation’s pride o’erthrown,
Went down to dust beside thee.

This power was simply that of unbelief and rejection, a power that surrendered the king of Israel to the Gentiles to be scourged and crucified. It was the best people that did this, not pagans who worshiped idols and had no knowledge of God. Instead, these were the ones who had been invited. It is not politically correct to speak of such things, and yet the scripture tells us that not one stone would be left upon another, just as the prophets of the Old Testament had predicted the seventy years of captivity in Babylon, and more to the point, said that it was caused by the people’s sin. Saint Luke tells us:

And when [Jesus] was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.
Luke 19:41-44

For many centuries the Jewish people suffered terrible injustices, and some of those injustices were caused by foolish men who dared to misuse these very texts of the New Testament. It is essential for Christians always to remember, when we are reminded of the severity that has fallen on any people, there must be with us only charity for those people and sorrow for our own sins. And, that we have a debt of gratitude to Israel for giving us our faith, for the apostles who preached the Gospel to the nations, and for the Blessed Virgin who said “yes” to God’s will that she give birth to God the Son. To hate the Jews is to hate God, for the incarnate God, the Word made flesh, our Lord and Savior, is a Jew. So, we must speak with great humility about the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and of the Diaspora. But, we must speak of it, because we must learn from it. What must we learn? In the words of Saint Paul:

Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
Romans 11:18-21

And, what those words mean is this: If you are a Gentile by descent, that is, of any people other than the Jewish people, and you have faith in Christ, don’t boast about it as if you were better than the Jews. You are like a branch grafted into a new tree, the tree of Israel. And, the root of that tree bears you, because it is greater than you and all your kin and all your ancestors put together. When your ancestors were worshiping idols, when mine were painting themselves blue and performing human sacrifice, the root that bears us now, the people of Israel, were worshiping the true God in His holy temple. The lesson is: Do not boast, but rather take heed. “For if God spared not the natural branches...” that is, if He allowed terrible things to come upon the people of Israel, “take heed lest He also spare not thee.”

This is the meaning of the judgment to come, the eschatological judgment. That is, in the time of the end of all things as we know them now, when Christ has come again and the dead have been raised to stand before His throne. Again, from the parable, the king has been generous enough to admit into his son’s wedding feast the most common of people- people who cannot claim to be physically descended from God’s own relatives, people who are not of the noble blood of the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And, in keeping with the customs of ancient Mid-Eastern people, he has furnished every guest with an appropriate garment. No one needed to bring his own wedding garment, because that was up to the host. He provided them for his guests, a sort of vestment to symbolize the occasion.

And, from the perspective of this king, we see another offense perpetrated against his generosity, that is, an ungrateful ill-mannered guest who ignores the garment given to him at the door, and who wears nothing over his street clothes while in the royal palace. While there as a guest of the king himself for his son’s wedding, he ignores basic etiquette. The picture is one of a man going out of his way to insult the king, not one of a man too poor to buy a good suit.

The scripture tells us who we are in Christ. We have been baptized into His death, buried with Him in baptism and risen to walk in the newness of life, the life of the Risen Christ. We are told, therefore, by Saint Paul:

"The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.
Romans 13:12-14

We are told to put on Christ, to clothe ourselves in Him. We must not live like the world around us, and not by their rules. Our minds must be renewed by the word of God.

If we understand where we are right now, and that we are here by God’s grace, by the goodness of His love in sending His own Son to take our human nature, and to die for our sins, then we must prepare for the day of that Risen Son’s return. Time will be rolled up like a scroll, and a new heaven and new earth will take the place of the world we have known. We are even now being summoned into that place where there is no more sorrow or sighing, and where God wipes away every tear from our eyes, for the former things are no more. If our hearts and affections cling only to this world of sin and death, living for pleasure instead of preparation to see God, we are most ungrateful and ill mannered. The time is now. We must put on Christ, and be found in Him now. What can we say except words of thanks for a generous invitation we neither deserved nor planned. It is His gracious invitation to one and all that His house be filled with guests, guests invited to abide with him in his house forever.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Spoiling the party

I don't want to spoil the party
So I'll go
I would hate my disappointment to show

Except that, unlike those lyrics from a Beatles song, I am not going anywhere, and my response is not disappointment. One cannot be disappointed by what he expects. Actually, I am willing to spoil the party if that is what it takes. I could say, "no more Mr. Nice guy," except that I have never been thought of as a nice guy in the first place. At least, not by "Roman" polemicists and eager Tiber swimmers.

In the midst of heady, enthusiastic (if not Enthusiastic) responses to Rome's big offer, it seems necessary for someone to have the bad manners that it takes to remind people of classic Anglican disagreements with Roman doctrine. Or so some of the comments to my recent post, Thanks, but no thanks, indicate. And, although it should not be necessary to remind readers of this, the classic Anglican position is not to be found in the multitude of "spirituality" choices currently on the official Canterbury Anglican Communion menu. Neither the perpetual adolescents at Stand Firm, the way out liberals of the modern Broad Church ("Broad" as in 1940s movies- effeminate, with broads at the altar) which includes as well the "sacramental" buggery party, nor the fussy Anglo-Papalists, embrace classic Anglican doctrine. Rather, all of these people live by the humorous lyrics in another Beatles song: "I dig a pony, Where you can celebrate anything you want." Their "Anglicanism" is all made up in their own heads, and mutually affirmed in their own circles just enough to complete the process of deception with confidence. It began with that famous lie, "Anglicanism has no distinctive theology."

Of course that is a lie only when the sentence is incomplete. It is supposed to end with the words, "but only that of the Catholic Church." How often we have repeated on The Continuum those words, under our blog title, Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est. How often we have reminded everybody that the goal of the English Reformers was to restore the full Catholic truth that had been lost by overmuch carnal and demonic "Doctrinal Development." By English Reformers, I mean the men who took up the pastoral challenge to reform the teaching and practice of the Church of England. I do not mean Henry VIII, whose only goal was to rule without interference. It is telling that in his announcement on Tuesday (Oct. 20, 2009), Cardinal Levada did what Romans always do: He laid the whole English Reformation on Henry, as if there was no Bloody Mary between Edward and Elizabeth, and as if there were no Cranmer, no Hooker, etc. who wanted to teach sound doctrine to the salvation of souls.

If ever we would see genuine Reunion in the Church, then ill mannered men like me will have to be given our say first: That is because real unity can have a chance only if it is to follow sincere discussion about theology, inasmuch as Christians must never divorce themselves from conscience and from love of the truth. Frankly, we have so much in common, that overcoming these theological differences is worth the effort. Therefore, it is necessary to state the differences that remain between us and Rome. Differences that are merely those of custom and ethos are important, but here we shall discuss the heavier matters of theology.

1. The papacy.

If we believe in the Universal Consensus of Antiquity then we cannot accept the magnified role of the bishop of Rome. Simply put, we believe in the Conciliar authority of the bishops of the Church, not in the Roman doctrine of Papal Universal Primacy (Before someone lectures us in comments, yes, we do understand the Roman doctrine: We do not agree with it).

2. Teaching authority.

Related to point 1, we believe that all doctrine must be thoroughly documented by the standard of Universal Consensus and Antiquity, and must come from the revelation of God in Scripture as its source. Rome claims to believe this too, but in practice they have relied instead on a flawed concept of Newman's theory of Doctrinal Development. Therefore, they have created "dogmas" such as the full blown Medieval theory of Purgatory and its related errors (which we will address), and have felt free to make dogmas out of pious customs, namely the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, requiring them as necessary to salvation even though they cannot be proved by Holy writ (see Article VI).

3. Justification

The Gospel cannot be preached truly unless we believe that Christ's sacrifice alone is all that is needed to take away human sin. Rome does teach this in their Catechism of the Catholic Church, but on the same exact page they restate their belief that the merits of the saints can be applied by the Church to remit human sins.

May I suggest that this apparent self-contradiction is because Rome confuses Tradition with precedent? The burden of having to keep every doctrine ever taught, instead of weighing truth against error by the standard of Scripture with Universal Consensus and Antiquity, creates a disability that hinders direct and powerful proclamation of the Gospel. They want to proclaim that Christ's sacrifice alone is full and sufficient, but they are in bondage to a Medieval error that ought to be tossed out. This is no small matter. It must be thoroughly discussed and cleared up.

"Article XIV. Of Works of Supererogation.

Voluntary Works besides, over and above, God's Commandments, which they call Works of Supererogation, cannot be taught without arrogancy and impiety: for by them men do declare, that they do not only render unto God as much as they are bound to, but that they do more for his sake, than of bounden duty is required: whereas Christ saith plainly, When ye have done all that are commanded to you, say, We are unprofitable servants."

The above Article is simply the only doctrine known to the ancient Church, and it is consistent with the testimony of every saint who has ever left behind any record of the struggles, the sins and the mercy that were experienced in this transitory life. It is beyond question drawn from the Bible. If the Church has been given some "treasury" of the merits of saints, then it must be that these people were so righteous that God owes sinful mankind a credit based on the merits of these saints; and although that credit is applied against some idea of "temporal punishment" in a state called Purgatory, the idea of any remission of sins that allows one unhindered entrance into God's presence, other than Christ's own sacrifice of himself once offered, is heresy. It is a false Gospel, and therefore no small matter (Gal. 1:8).

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ...For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement." (Rom. 5:1, 7-11)

Saint Paul taught very clearly that justification comes by God's grace, because he does not hold the sinner guilty; not only is the sinner forgiven, but all sin is forgotten; it has been taken away. Justification leads to sanctification, but the justification of the ungodly that comes through faith is immediate, not a process inasmuch as mercy can have no process that delays its full effects.

"Article XXII. Of Purgatory.

The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God."

It may be that some kind of theory of Purgatory, other than "the Romish doctrine" referred to here, is the only meaningful interpretation of various passages that speak of the many stripes given to those who knew, and the few to the ignorant, or of Paul's account of loss by fire of wood, hay and stubble. That is, a final cleansing. It is just as reasonable that this purifying will be painful but achieved in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, when the carnal and fallen mortal condition of the saints must finally die as the power of Christ's transforming immortality perfects all those who are raised after pattern of his resurrection.

Nonetheless, we must be unhindered in our efforts to preach the Gospel. The doctrine condemned in Article XXII was an elaborately constructed teaching about how individuals may earn credits, may receive pardons based on merits of the saints, and be granted a shorter sentence in Purgatory. Indeed, the whole emphasis of complete repentance and genuine faith, so as to be restored to fellowship with God in this life and the in the age to come, was lost. The realization that Christ had offered himself once for all (Heb. 10:10) was lost. Instead, people performed works to lessen the time of temporal punishment, an entire concept that is alien to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, contrary to Scripture, unknown by the Fathers, indeed, "repugnant to the word of God." And, the whole idea of long sentences in Purgatory contradicts the clear teaching that Christ will come again, and that "the dead in Christ shall rise first." (I Thess. 4:16) For, in that whole crazy system, sinners working off their sins will always have time to serve in Purgatory, and so Christ could never return. The time would never be right.

In short, it is a damnable heresy that denies the Gospel. Furthermore, it calls into question Christology.

Our Book of Common Prayer draws from the Epistle to the Hebrews and from the First Epistle of St. John to give us this powerful proclamation in our service of Holy Communion (all of which is edited out of the "Anglican" Use Rite approved by Rome-for no good reason):

(Using the version as it appears in the American , Episcopal Prayer Book, edition 1928)

"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; and did institute, and in his holy Gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of that his precious the death and sacrifice, until his coming again."

That the "Romish Doctrine of Purgatory," with all of its related errors, calls into question the Christological truth drawn from Scripture and well defended at the Council of Chalcedon, should be easy to understand. If anything needs to be added to Christ' sacrifice* then we lessen his Divinity. The death of Christ is not full, perfect and sufficient ultimately because of the intensity of his suffering, but because of the Divine nature of his Person. The Man who is also the Word made flesh, the one who is complete in two natures, the Eternally Begotten Son who is of the same substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten not made, has taken time into his eternity, created nature into his uncreated being, and mortality into his immortal Person. The Person who is both God and man suffered and died. He was sinless, holy and righteous as the Lamb without spot, and he was God the Son, like the Lion who appeared as a Lamb that had been slain (Rev. 5:5,6). How could the death of the sinless one be less than redemptive; and how could the death of the one who is fully God and fully man be less than full, perfect and sufficient? The cross saves us from all sin and from death because of the Divine Person who died there. If we claim to need anything else, are we not denying that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh? (I John 4:1f)

This may spoil the party, but before we can enter into real unity, we have genuine work to do.
* I fear someone may think that St. Paul's words contradict my point: "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church." (Col. 1: 24) St. Paul was not setting forth his sufferings as adding to Christ's atonement, but identifying his sufferings with those of his Lord, as all true disciples may, and trusting that those sufferings were all serving a good purpose in the hands of God.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fr. Wells' Bulletin Inserts

20th Sunday after Trinity

The passage from Matthew read as the liturgical Gospel for this Sunday is really not one parable, but three parables run together. Anyone who has had lunch with Fr. Wells knows his habit of rambling from one story into another, possibly without finishing any of them. The apostle Matthew on occasion telescoped several parables together, expecting his readers to remember them from the oral tradition which circulated in the Church.

The first parable involves a feast with ungrateful guests who refuse the invitation at the last moment. The second involves a king whose ambassadors are physically abused. Both of these parables are found in Luke 14 and Luke 20, respectively. But what about the third parable, the man who appeared, but not properly attired in the prescribed marriage garment? It has no parallel in the other Gospels. In a time like ours, when people are extremely casual about clothing, it seems odd for the king to resort of such an extreme measure (“cast him into outer darkness”) over a mere social faux pas.

The best explanation is a very ancient one. In those days for royal weddings, the host himself provided the garments for the guests to wear. So the man wearing improper clothing either was a party-crasher, who had entered without a proper invitation, or else he had treated the garments provided with disdain and contempt.

Garments happen to be a powerful symbol throughout the Scriptures. When God drove Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden out into “this tough world,” He kindly provided them with garments made from animal skins, as a token of His unmerited grace. The prodigal son was welcomed by his father with a sumptuous robe. The book of Revelation speaks of those who have washed their robs in the blood of the Lamb (Rev 7:14). St Paul speaks more than once of “putting on Christ,” as if Christ Himself were a garment. Paul's imagery has been preserved in the custom of special garments sometimes worn at Baptism and Confirmation.

By our nature, we are sinful through and through. But when we “put on” Christ, our sinfulness is covered and our inward nature begins to change. Like the animal skins given to Adam and Eve or the marriage garments provided to the king's guests, or the robe given to the prodigal son, Christ miraculously becomes our marriage garment which entitles us to stand before the the Father. Left to our own devices, we are naked at God's judgment bar. But He makes us to be clothed and covered with the righteousness of Christ.
“When He shall come with trumpet sound,
oh, may I then in Him be found,
clothed in His righteousness alone,
faultless to stand before the throne.”

Is this an option for traditional Anglicans?

A good essay on line by Robert Bayer of the Prayer Book Society is worth taking time to read.

"...But is the liturgy approved for use the 1662, the 1928 or the 1962 Books of Common Prayer, or even those books with a prayer for the Holy Father added? Traditional Anglicans would want to know what modifications would be expected or required to the BCP to obtain admittance....Benedict has been friendly to those willing to embrace the fullness of tradition in his own church by allowing for the older mass. But on behalf of those too few Anglicans who continue to embrace the theology and spirituality of Cranmer, Hooker, Ridley, Taylor, Donne and Herbert one can only ask of the Vatican how it is that catechetical, spiritual, and liturgical differences can truly be resolved?"

You can finish reading the whole thing here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Thanks, but no thanks

From my childhood I have been wholly unimpressed with Walt Disney's versions of Alice in Wonderland and Winnie the Pooh, thinking he owed A.A. Milne and Lewis Carroll an apology; in recent years I have been mostly unhappy with the new Doctor Who series, because I liked the real one so much. As a life long Anglican, I am unhappy with the "Anglican" Use liturgies approved by Rome for much the same sort of reason. I love the genuine Book of Common Prayer tradition, and do not find a few crumbs from it satisfying, nor do I appreciate the unnecessary "corrections" and deletions. This has come from the same Apostolic See that failed to understand why the first English Ordinal did, in fact, specify each Order, indicating that "[Roman] Catholics don't read the Bible," so that even the Magisterium stubbornly clings even now to a position born of Biblical illiteracy, seeing a defect of Intention because, it seems, they do not notice actual quotations of Scripture appropriate to each Order (translated from a very old Latin rite commonly used with Rome's full approval in "the before time").

And, today I remain equally unimpressed by the announcement of a new "apostolic constitution" from Rome. Obviously, this must mean that I hate the idea of unity, that I refuse to grant the prayer of the Son of God (that He made to His Father, not to you or me), and that I stand in the way. The NOTE OF THE CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH ABOUT PERSONAL ORDINARIATES FOR ANGLICANS ENTERING THE CATHOLIC CHURCH , (dated today, Oct. 20, 2009) closes with the words "In the light of these developments, the Personal Ordinariates established by the Apostolic Constitution can be seen as another step toward the realization the aspiration [sic] for full, visible union in the Church of Christ, one of the principal goals of the ecumenical movement." So, if I am not leaping for joy, overwhelmed with excitement, eager to sign on, and ready to throw myself into the Tiber with full confidence in its currents, tides and waves, I must be against unity.

Or, maybe I do not see a group of people shifting from one denomination into another as particularly relevant to real unity. Perhaps that is because real visible unity has been described by St. Paul in these words: "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment."(I Cor. 1:10) On many essential issues Christians do, in fact, live up to this model more than is commonly appreciated. And, indeed, we have many areas of real agreement with the See of Rome; and to a very large degree it is to Rome's credit that they want to help those who have knocked on their door because of the general state of crisis in the Anglican Communion. But, even if all of the English Anglo-Papalists of Forward in Faith, United Kingdom (FiF/UK)* take advantage of this new constitution, it will not be the Church's answer to God's prayer (doesn't anybody notice a theological problem with the general misuse of John 17:21?). The various camps will vary yet, and within those camps "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3) will remain, as it has always been, mostly a local and pastoral duty.

That closing line of today's "Note," which I quoted, does reveal what Rome means by unity. They mean submission, pure and simple, to the pope and whoever will succeed him. "'The initiative has come from a number of different groups of Anglicans,' Cardinal Levada went on to say: 'They have declared that they share the common Catholic faith as it is expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and accept the Petrine ministry as something Christ willed for the Church. For them, the time has come to express this implicit unity in the visible form of full communion.'"

To understand the full implications of this, we must put away all sentimental gobble-dee-gook for the moment, and, with our feet securely fastened to the ground, use our heads. Let us examine what their words really mean. To do that, we will have to look at the key phrases in the Note from the Vatican.

First, however, we ought to understand that the Church in Rome, or at least Pope Benedict XVI and maybe a few others, really believe what their church teaches about the Papacy: That without it there is no Church, and that it contains the special charism to combat all error, and that without it we all go to Hell in a hand basket. So, it was morally responsible for the Pope to bypass the unfriendly Roman Catholic bishops in England (with implications for other countries) and open the door to Traditionalists who have been made to feel unwelcome and unwanted by the majority of "liberal" modernist trendy Roman Catholic bishops, and by other clergy. Their goal had been to imitate the Church of England, following the lead of the Episcopal Church in the United States; but once again that old stick in the mud, Joseph Ratzinger, has foiled them. This entire thing is an example of pure papal power overcoming all dissent, not an example of unity, that is not as St. Paul described, among Roman Catholic bishops. So, we may applaud the Pope's charitable sense of pastoral responsibility, even though the situation itself demonstrates an area of real concern to those of us who do not believe in universal rule by one man instead of the collegiality of bishops and conciliar model of the ancient Church.

"In this Apostolic Constitution the Holy Father has introduced a canonical structure that provides for such corporate reunion by establishing Personal Ordinariates, which will allow former Anglicans to enter full communion with the Catholic Church while preserving elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony."

We must understand that only those "elements of the distinctive Anglican spiritual and liturgical patrimony" approved by Rome will be allowed to survive. Furthermore, because the Roman way is to rely on the authority of one Bishop in one See, none of these elements is guaranteed to survive beyond the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI himself.

"It provides for the ordination as Catholic priests of married former Anglican clergy. Historical and ecumenical reasons preclude the ordination of married men as bishops in both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches."

This is no surprise, and I have been trying to make clear for many years that no body of Anglicans is going to simply have their Orders recognized by Rome. Some call it Infallibility, and others call it stubbornness. I call it wrong; Rome is wrong about Anglican Orders, as has been proved over and over. No answer from Rome has ever refuted the apologetic work Saepius Officio (1897), and it is unlikely that Rome ever has actually wanted to. Instead they have acknowledged, one after another, the historical errors of Apostolicae Curae (1896), except for their inexplicable insistence about a defect of Intention that ought, really, to embarrass them (for reasons stated in my opening paragraph). On The Continuum we have posted, as well, a brief and excellent summary by E. J. Bicknell (published first in 1919) that makes short work, and a mangled corpse, of the Roman position, in a few words.

But, what does this mean in practice? It means, first of all, that Anglicans swimming the Tiber en masse will lose their bishops. Forget anything to the contrary, despite the empty assurance from these words: "Under the terms of the Apostolic Constitution, pastoral oversight and guidance will be provided for groups of former Anglicans through a Personal Ordinariate, whose Ordinary will usually be appointed from among former Anglican clergy." Please note the word "appointed." There will be no vote, and no court of appeals. In the pray, pay and obey Church your bishop will be appointed-maybe even someone with an Anglican past if you can find a celibate clergyman, and one hopes, a clergyman who is cream of the crop. This appointment will come from the same See that appointed such stellar examples as Bishop Weakland, Cardinal Law, and that other protector of child molesting priests, Cardinal Levada (yes, that Cardinal Levada whose quotes you have been reading). At least Cardinal Levada (yes, that Cardinal Levada) has been good enough to speak of "married" and "unmarried" clergy. Fair or unfair (as each case may be) the term "celibate clergy" has become hard to pronounce, with a straight face, throughout most of this decade.

And, how does this relate to the average Anglican in the pews (assuming that these Anglo-Papalist clergy will have anyone in their pews)? Well, your baptism is valid, so you will not have to become a Roman sort of Anabaptist (i.e. baptized again). But beyond that you have never had, in Rome's not so humble opinion, any valid sacraments. In addition to every clergyman needing to become an Anaordinand, everyone will have to become an Anaconfirmand. That means you will have to be "Confirmed" all over "again" simply because your bishop was only a layman in disguise. And, it means you have never really had Communion, or Absolution either, if you choose to be among the new former Anglicans. Frankly, I do not mean to say that this alone is reason not to go through with it, provided one really believes what Rome is teaching; but, if one really believes that, what has one been doing all along, and what will one do in the meantime?

My criticism in the opening paragraph deals with two matters. One is Anglican Orders, and the other is the insufficiency of the Anglican Use Liturgy. One issue of the Anglican Use Liturgy is a matter that I explained in my essay Anglican Identity, and it deals with very significant doctrinal clarity. I wrote:

"It is worth noting that the Liturgy of St. Tikhon and the so-called Anglican Use approved by Rome, have a very noticeable difference, one which shows a different approach to Anglicans and a different attitude about our patrimony. The Anglican Use Rite approved by Rome has nothing that approximates the perfectly sound theology, drawn clearly and obviously from the Epistle to the Hebrews, expressed so powerfully in these words: 'O God heavenly father, which of thy tender mercie diddest geve thine only sonne Jesu Christ to suffre death upon the crosse for our redempcion, who made there (by his one oblacion once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifyce, oblacion, and satysfaccyon, for the sinnes of the whole worlde…' (1549 BCP) But, the Liturgy of St. Tikhon contains the American version of this part of the Canon.

"To whatever degree we may have common ground with Rome, and aside from other differences, any real union with them would make it necessary that they receive from us a good healthy dose of this Biblical Doctrine: Christ’s sacrifice full, perfect and sufficient. This does not take away from the sacrifice of the Church on its many altars; rather it gives it its context and meaning. This example demonstrates that our Faith is Biblical, Patristic and thoroughly Catholic in ways that can enrich Rome, and that has been affirmed within Orthodoxy. In a rite designed to attract Anglicans, the removal of this irrefutably true doctrine, as though it needed to be subjected to some correction, shows that we have further cause, at present, to maintain our distinct identity. The line that provides the context of the sacrifice, the meaning of it and the joining of our own worship to the actual sacrifice of the cross on Calvary, indicates that we are better able than Rome, at this time, to declare the Gospel in its fullness with the power of directness and simplicity."

About Anglican Orders, everything that needs to be said was written in the two works referenced above. Nonetheless, my one point about use of Scripture in the Ordinal needs to be drawn out a bit more. Even though the Rites in the Ordinal make very clear which office it is that a man is ordained to, Rome has clung to its position that the Imperative lines have failed to identify the Orders of bishop and priest (whereas the word "deacon" is in the Imperative of that Rite) until the 1662 revision. That is not true. The use of the Scriptures that were quoted most certainly (and clearly to those who know Scripture) identified the episcopate with the words from II Timothy 1:6, and the priesthood with words from John 20: 22, 23. This was not only commonly understood, but also it was already traditional, translated out of a Latin Ordinal that had been used for centuries. Simply put, there was no defect in Intention, and the whole argument by Rome in 1896 was completely bogus.

Furthermore, unity is a high priority, but visible unity requires theological and ecclesiastical discussion on some very important matters, ranging from practical issues of polity to issues of soteriology. We are in favor of such discussion with Rome and with Orthodoxy, and with all serious Christians who believe in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Today's approach from Rome, however, assumes full and complete agreement as an established fact. This is all the more serious inasmuch as they also require full and complete agreement as a matter of faith and obedience.

Considering what Rome teaches about Rome, today's announcement reveals a charitable and responsible position that is about the most they can offer without denying their burdensome extracurricular "dogmas" about the Petrine See. I am not writing to criticize the motivation, which I attribute only to one man, but to set the record straight, and once again to explain why the Anglo-Papalists will have to swim the Tiber without me.
_______________ _________
* It is not clear where the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) fits into this, except that Cardinal Levada is certainly aware of them, and that at one time in the past (before his elevation) Archbishop DiNioa was expected to have a role in some discussions. It is clear, however, that Archbishop John Hepworth had expected to lead the way even for English Anglicans (or so he told me himself, in Timonium, Maryland last Summer). But, obviously, this Constitution has been prepared first and foremost for members of FiF/UK. They had requested this, by the way, in the days of Pope John Paul II.