The old status quo cannot be sustained
When The Continuum blog was created in late 2005 by Albion Land one major idea was to bring unity among the various jurisdictions which adhere to The Affirmation of St. Louis. At that time it seemed to make sense that a blog could exist for clergy and laity to try to discuss openly whatever issues needed to be discussed in order to bring us all closer together. The idea was that all of the major and well-known jurisdictions were, more or less, equally valid (without regard to the many "vagante" operations that spring up as a result of religious freedom). Therefore, under the old status quo we almost had to accept division as a reality, as if it were an essential part of the Continuing Anglican identity. Maintaining the status quo has come to mean, however, maintaining the division itself.
When I was face to face with Archbishop John Hepworth of the TAC, in the Summer of 2008, I asked him why he had never responded to the open letter from Archbishop Haverland, inviting a discussion for the purpose of establishing unity. The answer I was given, which I would not even consider repeating at this time, was no answer at all. That is, in one sense, perfectly acceptable, inasmuch as he is free to ignore the plea for unity, and therefore the gracious invitation to talks. Nonetheless, it raises an issue that effects this blog directly.
In June of 2009 I wrote the following in an essay entitled What is the Continuum at the present time?
"We recognize, in fact, really only two major groupings. One is the united bodies of the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC), the Anglican Province of Christ the King (APCK) and the UECNA. The other is the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) together with with its American branch, the Anglican Church in America (ACA). (As I have stated, the APA [Anglican Province in America] has a separate origin, and existed before the Continuing Church.) The APCK [Anglican Province of Christ the King] and the UECNA [United Episcopal Church North America] have become very small over the years, and exist solely in North America, whereas the ACC has grown to be worldwide with a second Province that is headquartered in India. Therefore, it is not a criticism or a negative judgment on my part that I see the UECNA and the APCK as satellites held in orbit by the ACC. This is simply my own way of phrasing things, and is stated with respect and charity for our fellow Anglicans in the two smaller jurisdictions."
Of these two major groupings, we must ask whether or not the TAC has a commitment to Anglicanism at all. Is there still any reason to hold out hope for unity? if so, what sort of unity?
In light of the experience of the African churches that have turned to the ACC, the question is even more significant. Has the TAC effort to create some kind of "full cooperate communion" with the See of Rome interfered with more than their commitment to Anglicanism itself? As I was told by Bishop Louis Campese in 2007, the advice of the Roman Catholic Church to the TAC/ACA was that they stop making bishops. Have the people of the Congo and South Africa lived without bishops all these years because of misplaced priorities, because meeting their need was inconvenient given the desire to establish a new relationship with Rome? If so, it is a grave matter indeed. The Church needs the Apostolic ministry of its bishops if it is to grow and thrive, and cutting off this vital function for some other priority can hardly be justified. The shifting of at most a few thousand people from one denomination into another (Roman Catholicism) has been confused with "the unity of John 17," and has been spoken of in terms eschatologiocal and messianic. But, weighty as this sounds, it does not justify neglect of one major charge given by Christ to all bishops everywhere: "Feed my sheep."
The time for real unity
Inasmuch as our only TAC/ACA contributor to the blog resigned for private reasons, this blog has, purely by accident, come exclusively under the control of three priests who belong to the ACC. We never planned this, and we did not want Mr. Pacht to leave us, just as we never wanted Sandra McColl to resign earlier. But, neither did we plan any of the events related to Anglicanorum Coetibus. We plan to carry on as before, but in light of the times that have changed; therefore, in some ways not quite as before, inasmuch as living in a fantasy would make us irrelevant.
We distinguish between two realities both of which may be called the TAC/ACA. One is the reality of bishops trying their very best to sell Anglicanorum Coetibus, and the other reality is the people who want now, as ever, to Continue the Anglicanism of the Book of Common Prayer, the Catholic Faith as it has been "believed everywhere, always and by all" without innovations of Protestantism or Roman Catholicism. That is what The Affirmation of St. Louis was all about. I know a large number of people in the TAC/ACA who agree with everything that Archbishop Haverland wrote about this new Roman Constitution:
"We believe that classical Anglicanism, as presented clearly in The Affirmation of Saint Louis and in our liturgies and other authoritative formularies, is already faithful to Scripture and the Fathers and is already fully Catholic and Orthodox. Conversion is not necessary and absorption is not appropriate. We believe that our Anglican patrimony is, moreover, by God’s grace and Providence, also most appropriate for the English-speaking peoples and probably is essential for the successful evangelization or re-evangelization of the English-speaking lands. We hope eventually for a genuine dialogue concerning the Petrine Office and long for the day when we, with our Orthodox and Oriental Christian friends, may again find in the successor of Saint Peter a patriarch with the primacy of honor and with high authority both as an organ for strengthening the Church’s unity and also as an instrument for the articulation of the Church’s teaching. We regret that the forthcoming Constitution, while kindly meant, seems set to delay that happy day."
(The full text may be read here)
So we have two ways to look at the current crisis. One is to say that unity with the TAC is no longer even a possibility, insasmuch as they have chosen to go to Rome, and are merely working out details. The other is to realize that now is the time for genuine unity, because if their bishops go to Rome, the people who want to remain Anglican have no one blocking the path to unity within the Continuing Anglican Church, a home where the lamp is burning in the window and the soup is on the stove.
And, the purpose of this blog can no longer be to maintain a status quo of division, which we see coming to an end; even if we were to maintain that status quo it in the name of unity. The times have changed, we hope for the better.