Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Lesson from History

All this talk of unity caused my mind to wander back to the early nineteenth century and an obscure event, the unification of Scottish Anglicanism.

In 1800 Scottish Anglicans were divided into two, somewhat hostile camps. Four bishops, twenty-odd clergy and around forty congregations belonged to the Scottish Episcopal Church which carefully guarded its Non-Juror heritage since disestablishment in 1690. They had laboured under governmental disapprobation until 1792 when the Penal Laws(1) imposed in 1715 were finally repealed following the death of 'Bonnie Prince Charlie.' Although Scottish Episcopalians used the English BCP for services, other than the Eucharist, they adapted it freely. Many of these liberties with the text foiund their way into the first American BCP in 1789. The Piskies (as Scottish Episcopalians were called) had little time for the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, preferring the "ancient Fathers and Councils," and strongly disapproved of the English Communion Service. Instead of Cranmer's flawed Eucharistic Rite, they used "wee bookies" containing the 1764 Scottish Communion Office, or Scottish Liturgy - the grand-daddy of the present American 1928 Communion Liturgy. All in all, they stood for a uniquely Scottish expression of Anglicanism, rooted in the tradition of the Caroline Divines, the Aberdeen Doctors, and the Non-Jurors. However, it was a tradition that had grown weary due to the long years of proscription and intermittent persecution.

The bulk of Scottish Anglicans belonged to one of the forty or so Qualified Chapels that had been erected under the Scottish Toleration Act of 1712. These used the English BCP of 1662 and employed ministers ordained by English or Irish bishops. Quite frequently these chapels were 'establishment' in their philosophy, keeping firm hold on their English BCPs as a mark of their legitimacy. In truth, lacking bishops, the Qualified Chapels were in no better shape than the exhausted SEC, but they did at least have a presence in the Lowlands that the SEC largely lacked. Of course, to all right minded churchmen, both in the Qualified Chapels and in the Scottish Episcopal Church, this lack of unity was a scandal, and there was much that they could give to each other.

In the end it was the Scottish Episcopal Bishops who took the lead, and decided to do something about Unity. Their first move was to set their house in order. The old freewheeling way with the BCP was put under official disapproval by a modification to the SEC Canons which began to require strict adherence to the liturgy. Scottish Episcopal bishops began to wear rochet and chimere and to the eyes of the 'Qualified,' look like bishops, whilst the surplice began to appear in Scottish Episcopal Churches. The old hands complained about "Anglicization" but they also saw growth.(2) Then, in 1804, the Scottish bishops decided to accept the Thirty-nine Articles as a doctrinal statement, though they refused to make them a test of orthodoxy, preferring to stick with the old 'Piskie' appeal to the Scriptures and the Early Fathers. This removed the last remaining barrier between them and the Qualified congregation, and the latter began to move into the formerly persecuted, and proscribed Episcopal Church. By 1843, most of the Anglican congregations(3) in Scotland belonged to the Scottish Episcopal Church. The reunion of the two Anglican factions within Scotland in the early 19th century enabled the Scottish Episcopal Church to grow from about ninty congregations divided between the Scottish bishops and the English Chapel in 1800, to approximately three hundred organised into the seven dioceses of the Scottish Episcopal Church by the end of the century. This tremendous growth would not have taken place without the Scottish bishops' courageous decision to meet the Qualified Chapels halfway.

It is amazing what a little bit of give and take can do. Maybe if the Continuum tries it, we might achieve the same sort of results!

(1)It should be noted that the last ecclesiastical disability for clergy ordained in the Scottish Episcopal Church was not removed until 1862, when they were finally permitted to accept benefices in the Church of England.
(2)In the eighteenth century, the Scottish Episcopal clergy wore gowns and tippets and occasionally the cassock. The surplice was though to be either too Popish or too English.
(3) The so-called "Drummond" or "English Episcopal" schism that persisted from the 1840s to the 1890s. The Drummond Schism seems to have never consisted of more than seven churches at anyone time, but it gave the Scottish bishops sleepless nights into the 1890s. The last 'English Episcopal' church - St Silas, Glasgow - remained outwith the SEC until the 1970s!

Fr. Wells' bulletin inserts


Concerning the Epistle:

Today's reading from 1 Corinthians is a truly puzzling passage, with its unfamiliar allusions to the Old Testament. It also requires of us a particular way of reading the Old Testament. Paul saw the entire Old Testament as a preparation for Jesus Christ, with Jesus Christ prefigured and foreshadowed on every page. In references which make little sense to us Paul was pointing out that even in the time of Moses, the Exodus from Egypt, and the wanderings in the wilderness, Christ was already present and active, approximately 1500 years before He was born at Bethlehem.

But this amazing blessing did not save them. “But with many of them, God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.” This, Paul teaches, is a warning to us. If God could be displeased with His people of the Old Testament, His people of the New Testament are subject to the same holy and righteous judgment.

The specific danger which Paul was dealing with was the sin of idolatry. The worship of false gods seemed to be the incorrigible vice of the people whom Moses led out of Egypt and through the wilderness. It remained their besetting sin right up until God finally drove them into their exile. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” was the commandment most frequently disobeyed.

Paul ministered to his Corinthian converts, people who had not quite detached themselves from their pagan culture. If we read just one verse further, he drove home his point: “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” One could not be a faithful Christian and still retain souvenirs or traces of the pagan gods; saying “Jesus is Lord” means Jesus is exclusively Lord, Lord of all, and we are exclusively His.

When the Old Testament Israelites, after their Babylonian exile, gave up the false gods (idols) of the Egyptians and Canaanites, they quickly found new idols of an immaterial form: their Law, their race, their tradition, their culture. The Greek pantheon which was so strong a temptation for the Corinthians has long since faded from our world. But our culture still provides us with false gods galore.

Pleasure, entertainment, luxury, more money than we really need, popularity, social status, learning, power, privilege, are only a few of the false gods which seek to enslave and destroy us. When God—the only true God—redeemed His people, He demanded their sole and exclusive loyalty and service. He requires no less of us. LKW

... and the Gospel:

What does the word prodigal really mean? Apart from this parable the word has virtually disappeared from our language. Because of the story contained therein, we commonly take the word to mean "wayward, disobedient, ungrateful" and thereby reveal ourselves to be rather like the audience to whom the parable was originally addressed, self-righteous Pharisees and grumbling scribes. Interestingly, the word does not occur in the Biblical text.

Prodigal, however, means something rather different. Merriam-Webster defines the word "recklessly extravagant, characterized by wasteful expenditure, lavish." That was the substance of the elder brother's complaint.

Actually, the parable gives us not one but three examples of reckless extravagance. The first, of course, is the younger son who went away to the far country. He has thrown away his inheritance in a depraved manner which is delicately described as "riotous living." He can only correct his mistakes by returning humbly to his father's house. The contemporary heresy of "unconditional love" would rewrite the parable to say he e-mailed his father, "I'm broke, please send some cash." But return home he must.

The elder brother, for all his diligence, and hard work is even more wasteful. Living in proximity to the father ("Son thou art ever with me," truly ironic words!), the mental and spiritual distance between him and the Father seems almost unbridgeable. He has wasted 10,000 opportunities to become his father's friend. They co-exist in the same home but they do not live together. How many dwell in the Lord's house but never know Him?

The most extreme example of prodigality is the conduct of the father himself. Unwisely, in terms of human wisdom, he has made an early payment of an inheritance. Now he provides a lavish and expensive feast celebrating the ne'er-do-well's return, Presumably, he will divide his estate all over again. Not a prodigal son, but a prodigal family!

The parable is Our Lord's rebuke to the self-righteousness of those "who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others." But even more, it sets forth the lavish generosity of God toward sinners. We remember Judas Iscariot's complaint against the woman who anointed Jesus for his burial, "Why this waste?" Her action reflected the costly love of God for us, the price with which we were bought, the Divine prodigality which went to the "far country" of the Cross and continues to feed us sinners at the rich and inexhaustible banquet He sets before us. LKW

Ninth Sunday after Trinity

Reflections on the Prodigal Son (for Trinity IX)

The Gospel. St. Luke xv. 11.

1. We have three characters in this parable, and the most important of them is the father. It is the love of this father that remains the most important lesson. He is shown in such a way as to give us the true picture of God’s impassibility, because his love is constant, never destroyed, never diminished, always present. Because we think of love in strictly emotional terms, that is emotion instead of feeling, we think of changes and reactions as part of what it must be. Not so the love of God. The father in the parable is patient, quick to forgive and completely gracious because nothing changes him.

When the prodigal returns to his father’s house, he finds that the return itself is sufficient for him to receive forgiveness, because the father does not base his love on reaction, or on whims. If we believe that the love of God is based upon how He feels at the present moment, then we do not understand the cross. The forgiveness of sins can be anticipated with hopeful expectation because Jesus Christ died for all of our sins, and “He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:2) If we understand that mercy or judgment depend on where we stand, because both were present on the cross, God’s impassibility becomes a great comfort, and His love becomes our certain hope and expectation.

2. Another character is the elder brother, the one who does not know that he too is a sinner. Neither does he care that his bitterness grieves his father, because, after all, he is right. Right, that is, in that he is correct. If ever we forget that everything we do in Church is all about the Father’s love for sinners (including ourselves), we become the elder brother. In every Holy Communion service we quote Saint Paul in the Comfortable Words: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” The elder brother takes many forms, and that includes the forms he takes among people like ourselves. I have been present in services where people seemed more concerned with a performance than they were with worshiping God in spirit and in truth. Infinitely more important than getting all the details right, such as which candles to light first, is remembering why we are here to begin with.

Everything we hear from God’s Word, and every sacrament we receive, is all because Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. The elder brother is not capable of obeying the words of Saint Paul, “Do the work of an evangelist.” He cannot do this work, because he is so very correct about how unworthy the younger brother is; he would never have sought for his lost brother. And, because of this his heart is far from that of his father. He cannot make merry because joy depends upon love. And, to understand his father he would have to be filled with the love that forgives and restores.

3. Finally we must consider the prodigal son himself. Anyone who cannot identify with this repentant sinner (including his elder brother) wallows in self-deception because, as the Beloved Disciple wrote: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (I John 1:8-10).” In order to learn about sin, I did not really need a textbook in Seminary. All I ever needed was to look in the mirror. Like Count Dracula, some people have no mirrors in their houses, and could not see their reflections even if they did. What is the mirror but the word of God, the perfect Law of liberty that James tells us we must look into? (James 1:22-25) The laver in which the priests cleansed themselves before entering the Holy Place was made of mirrors, all of which helped them to wash. Look into God’s word, and let the truth convict you of your own sins.

When I teach people about Confession and Absolution I tell them that they must remember that Christ is the Advocate for us; but we appear before a priest (and the Priest) to make confession as witnesses for the prosecution. Without excuses, without sugar-coating, we must testify against ourselves, and let the love of the Father come through to us by way of this sacrament of Christ’s own priesthood. We must learn to identify with the prodigal son, to be able to say, “I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.” “'Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to be merry.” In other words, spoken through the priest, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in Him, of His great mercy forgive thee thine offences: And by His authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen." So too, with the General Confession for “all who truly turn to him.”

Saint Paul tells us that we are all called to become saints, both in the opening chapter of I Corinthians, and in the opening chapter of Romans. My Roman Catholic mother-in-law once, in 1984, gave me a dose of “nun theology.” Her bad understanding of her Catholic Faith became quite clear when she insisted that regular people, like you and me, could never be like the saints, let alone among the saints: They are “special people who were able to be holy.” This makes them sound like superheroes, bitten by just the right spider so they can shoot webs out of their fingers, or that they can fly because they come from Krypton. On the other hand, I have had Fundamentalist friends who preach that once you “come to Jesus” you are no longer a sinner, but rather you are already a saint. However, what Saint Paul told the Corinthians and the Romans was that they were called to become saints, because holiness of life is a vocation for every Christian.

But, unless we first identify with the prodigal son, we haven’t a snowflake’s chance in “the other place” of becoming saints. Knowing we are called to become saints, but seeing the terrible truth in the mirror of God’s word, we must be willing to appear for the prosecution in order to receive the grace of forgiveness. The joy of sin-forgiven creates charity; and this, in turn, fuels the ability to do the work of an evangelist.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The United Episcopal Church and "Foreign Churches"

As Archbishop-Coadjutor of the United Episcopal Church, I think I may take the liberty to point out a couple of misunderstandings about UECNA and churches outside North America.

The assumption tends to be made when discussing the United Episcopal Church in North America on this blog that it is purely a North American phenomomen. Whilst this is true today, the UECNA has had relationships with overseas juridictions in the past. Whilst it is accurate to say that the UECNA's Constitution confines its jurisdiction to affiliated parishes within North America,(1) this does not preclude us being in full Communion with suitable Continuing Anglican groups abroad.

How so?

The UECNA's Canons allow it to consecrate Bishops for other Churches provided they fall within the parameters set by the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.(2) The Canons also grant permission for the ordination of priests and deacons for overseas churches. For those not familiar with it, the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral is the document that has traditionally regulated Anglican relations with other, non-Anglican, Churches. In its day, the Quadrilateral paved the way for the old Anglican Communion's relationships with the Church of Sweden and the Old Catholics. Looking to the future, it could be used in a similar manner between the Continuing Anglicans and the remaining orthodox Old Catholic body, the Polish National Catholic Church.

For churches to enter into FULL communion with the UECNA it is necessary that, in addition to adhering to the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, the potential partner Church uphold the Anglican Tradition in theology and liturgy. This would include adherence to their local edition of the Book of Common Prayer - provided it pre-dates 1977, the Ordinal, the Thirty-nine Articles (3), and the two Books of Homilies. The UECNA has been approached several times by overseas groups, but, so far, none of them have been able to fulfill the requirements for full inter-communion(4).

So to summarize. The United Episcopal Church of North America confines its jurisdiction to the USA and Canada. However, our Constitution and Canons permit the UECNA to ordain clergy for suitable jurisdictions abroad, and to enter into full Communion with other Continuing Anglican Churches both within, and outside of, the United States and Canada. As a statement of policy, it is accurate to say that the UECNA House of Bishops remains receptive to any approach from Continuing to Anglican bodies overseas with a view to entering into full Communion as equal partner Church within the Anglican tradition.

+Peter D. Robinson,
Archbishop-Coadjutor, UECNA

(1) UECNA Constitution makes no specific provision limiting the UECNA to North America other than only Bishops having jurisdiction, or resident, in North America can be voting members of the House of Bishops.

(2) UECNA Canon 44.

(3) The concordat with the ACC is based on the Affirmation of St Louis rather than the Articles due to our common origin in the St Louis Congress (1977) and the Denver Consecrations (1978).

(4) The stumbling block in relations with churches overseas has usually been orders. The applicant churches have had doubtful TEC, or Old Catholic, orders and have been unwilling to submit to 'sub conditione' ordination to remove the element of doubt from their Orders.

Comment build up

For approximately 24 hours I was away from the computer, and no one was moderating comments. If you have waited for the past day to see your comment posted, you should see it now.
-Fr. Hart

Additional thoughts

In my post two days ago I was writing in attempt to represent a point of view that had been expressed in comments here, and in some emails to me. I think it useful, considering how much discussion has been generated, to reproduce the following from my own responses in the comment section.

"Every edition of the BCP that was authorized, whether in England, the U.S., Canada, South Africa, or anywhere, was authorized only after discussion and through a legal process. In England it involved both the General Synod, Parliament and the Crown; and in the U.S. it involved, in the old days, the national Church in General Convention (the old American way of saying "General Synod"). So, for the ACC to act in Provincial Synod is quite proper by all the old standards of Anglican Canon Law. We are a church; we are neither an extension of the Episcopal Church nor of the Church of England.

"I have voiced a point of view that is in keeping with public knowledge, there being no dark, deep secrets. The Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) has placed all its cards on the table, without pretense to perfection or claims of infallibility. All over the world, where Anglicans are in a state of emergency and turmoil, the ACC is the best option. We may not be the perfect solution in a perfect world governed by the Ideal of Plato. But, the ACC is the best option on the ground in the real world."

I do not mean to take away anything from the United Episcopal Church North America (UECNA) or the Anglican Province of Christ the King (APCK). But, the fact is that these are both to be found only in North America, frankly in the United States. An exodus from the Church of England that is taking place at the same time in which the "Traditional Anglican Church" in England (the TAC body there) has voted to go Roman, presents a need that only the ACC can fill.

Also, I want to reproduce this comment:

"I received this, interspersed with other information, from an ACC Bishop:

Authorization of the 1662 book has been proposed to Provincial Synod and has not received a majority in any of the three constituent houses, much less the requisite supermajority in all of them. The English delegates spoke against such authorization more strongly than most...Bishop Mead has asked to hear from anyone who might be interested in the ACC but also wants to use 1662. The notion that failure to authorize 1662 is keeping folk out of the ACC is, I think, just not the case. If it were, Bishop Mead would have gotten a response that he has in fact not received."

Frankly speaking, those who want to communicate with Bp. Mead about the 1662 BCP ought to do so directly. Commenting here is perfectly fine, but it is not the way to open truly effective discussion, and neither is emailing me personally about the matter. Those who have made known their interest in the matter by these two methods, and yet have not contacted Bp. Mead himself, appear to be less than strongly motivated.

What should be clear, from all this discussion, is that the ACC operates according to its Constitution and Canons. That may make some people unhappy, and it certainly cannot guarantee either perfection or infallibility; but, it should indicate stability and therefore provide a sense of security. This matters because of the lawlessness and secrecy that have been characteristic of certain jurisdictions calling themselves "Continuing Anglican," and paying lip service to The Affirmation of St. Louis. It should be clear also that a church that welcomes and gives voice to such priests as Fr. Laurence Wells and me, under the Archiepiscopal jurisdiction of a confirmed Anglo-Catholic (indeed also our Diocesan Ordinary) makes room for orthodox catholic Anglicans without overmuch partisanship.

For all of these reasons, and others, the ACC is the best international option for Anglicans who are displaced by the simultaneous Anglican Communion heresy and TAC Romeward roaming.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Church of England Faces Biggest Exodus Since the Reformation

News Analysis
As posted on VirtueOnline
By David W. Virtue

Embattled Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals in the Church of England, smarting from the recent Synod decision to consecrate women bishops, are licking their wounds and planning their exodus from the Mother Church.

Even though the Church of England prides itself on its inclusiveness and holding conflicting views together under one big tent, those policies failed when General Synod met in York recently and decided to ordain women to the episcopacy. A Rubicon was crossed.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York's failure to cobble together a measure that would make special provision for those members opposed to women bishops only weakened Dr. Rowan Williams' overall authority which is now see an all time low in the Anglican Communion.
(The rest of the article may be read by clicking here)

The question we have to face, especially the Anglican Catholic Church Original Province (ACC-OP), is, what are we willing to do? If we believe we wear the mantle of genuine Anglican belief, and therefore carry the burden of the Christian mission that Canterbury has abdicated, then what we do in the immediate and near future will determine whether we assist Bishop Mead and the English ACC in taking advantage of what is, from one perspective, the current opportunity, or if we might even obstruct their efforts to grow to the extent that this hour of history offers. This opportunity is, at the same time, a great need on the part of English Anglicans who want to Continue to be faithful to the Catholic and Evangelical emphases of the true Anglican patrimony.

My own perspective comes from across the pond, and as such is somewhat that of a mere observer. Nonetheless, from over here it seems that we who are not living in England have saddled our church in England with an unnecessary burden. Whereas I count myself among those who find the Holy Communion services in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, our American 1928 Book of Common Prayer, or the Scottish Non-Juror Book of Common Prayer, to be superior to the Holy Communion service as contained in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, it seems a small price to pay to accommodate English Anglicans who cannot abandon their Prayer Book. It is not as if the 1662 BCP contained any theological problem, and needed to be shut out. No one has charged error, nor could such a charge hold water.

It may be that the English Anglicans we have heard from on this blog (represented by one Fr. Edward) have an attachment to that one edition of the BCP that is more emotional than logical. But, that does not change the fact that they feel what they feel, and have let us know that they remain, at this time, unable fully to trust us. After all, we are talking about the BCP of William Wilberforce and C.S. Lewis (among so many, many names), the book that the actual Oxford Movement Anglo-Catholics defended and cherished, the book that had signaled quite clearly the triumph of Caroline Anglicanism over the excesses of Puritanism (even if some misinformed souls imagine it to have been the other way around). My own perspective tells me, from this distance, that we have heard rather frankly from a segment of the Anglicans in the native home of Anglicanism. It may not be a huge segment, but we have it on the Highest Authority that "one the least of the least" counts. I believe the issue needs to be reopened and that waiting for the Provincial Synod in 2011 may be too late to meet the current need/opportunity. Such a time as now may not come again.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

St. James the Apostle July 25

Acts 11:27-12:3a
Matt. 20:20-28

In the Book of Acts (17:6) we may read where the Christians were described, in no friendly terms, as "These that have turned the world upside down." What an apt description, however much it was meant as a warning and accusation, the charge that our beliefs are inherently subversive. May we live up to it. My brother, David, in his book Atheist Delusions, summarized the implications of Christ's cross as the most subversive fact in all human history. Indeed, it was. The world has built its only possible notion of order on power, strength, and a shallow kind of honor, merely paid like a tribute, given to those who can grab it. "Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them," says Jesus in today's selection from the Gospel According to Matthew (and I shall use an updated translation): "But it shall not be so among you: but Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your servant; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your bond servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

The Roman Empire used the cross to symbolize its power, and it used the sword. Both were used in images of mighty Caesar forcing his will on the conquered nations in a manner that clearly depicted the empire as able to assert itself on the unwilling-with all of the most obscene and violent implications. The cross was a crude symbol to the Romans, a symbol of their power over everyone and anyone. This was, in that Pagan empire, both political and religious, as Caesar was lord and god to the hordes of Rome.

But, our Lord Jesus Christ turned the cross into the symbol, though more than a mere symbol, not only of Rome's ultimate collapse, but of the defeat of the whole system we call the world, and of its evil prince. John tells us of one manner in which Jesus described his cross, and what it would mean, as follows:

"'Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.' This he said, signifying what death he should die." (John 12:31-33)

Indeed, the cross condemned the word's system, and all of its evil priorities.

This lesson, however, at the time that the mother of James and John came to speak to the Lord on behalf of her sons, was yet to be learned by the disciples. Oh yes, the Lord told them that to follow him was to walk his path, the path of the cross. He said that no one could be his disciple unless he was willing to take up his cross and die. Earlier, in the same Gospel According to Matthew, the Lord had to rebuke Peter for his attempt to dissuade the Lord from going to his cross -- and that right after pronouncing a blessing on him for speaking the truth revealed by God the Father, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

"From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, 'Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.' But he turned, and said unto Peter, 'Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.' Then said Jesus unto his disciples, 'If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?'"(Matt. 16:21-26)

What Jesus referred to as the cup that he would drink, in today's Gospel reading from chapter twenty, asking the sons of Zebedee if they were able to drink it, was his cross.

This lesson was learned eventually, and John and James became able to drink it, only after their Lord had died on the cross, as the ransom for many. He died there, that is, as the One for the many, a full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. He gave his life, that no man could take from him, in the great heroic service of your salvation from sin, and mine. He became the ultimate servant of servants by enduring the shame and pain of the cross, the derision of priests and soldiers, the insults of onlookers, the cruel lashing of the Roman nine-tail whip, the thorns and the nails, the vinegar and the gall, the thirst, the pain and the dust of death.

"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:4-6)

The Suffering Servant, foretold by Isaiah, was in fact the Lord of Glory. But he made himself a servant out of the great love wherewith he loved us, so that we might become the children of His Father, having our sins washed away, and our consciences cleansed, ourselves redeemed to become "partakers of the Divine Nature." (II Pet. 1:4) Jesus Christ showed the way; he, equal to God by His Divine Nature, humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:5f). The Lion of the Tribe of Judah became as a Lamb that had been slain (Rev. 5:5,6); he did this willingly, having told us, "Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." (John 10:17,18)

But, as of yet, James and John lacked the power to perceive of Christ the Lord taking the death of the cross on himself. In fact, they had yet to see him rise from supper and wrap himself in a towel to wash their feet, by his example rebuking the argument about who among the disciples would be the greatest. As John wrote, years later:

"So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, 'Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.'" (John 13:12-17)

But after all of the events of Passiontide, after they saw Christ crucified, and risen again from the dead, and after receiving on Pentecost the power to drink from his cup, by grace only the Holy Spirit could provide, they were changed men. Today we see that James, that is Yakov (Jacob) Bar-Zebedee the brother of John, had the grace to be a servant in the ultimate sense. He had enough humility to know that the Church would live without his help. He had the grace to accept death as a martyr.

Last year, in his final weeks on this earth, Bobbly Springle joked with me about how once he responded to the suggestion that he trust certain doctors in a specific VA hospital: "I gave my life for my country once; do I have to give it again?" I knew what he meant. He had been in the Korean war, and by signing up for the Navy in time of war had, in effect, laid his life down. So too, my father during World War II, having joined the army because his country was at war. Those who enlisted in the wars did in fact give their lives, for once in battle they might survive, but they went into combat as men already dead, retaining their lives as a gift should they come out alive.

The Apostles and all those who endured persecution in the early Church laid their lives down by confessing their faith in Jesus Christ before a hostile world. So too, many today. The 20th century saw more Christian martyrs than all previous centuries combined. The first ten years of this century have seen no respite, no relief from the persecution. It takes the heart and mind of a servant, genuine humility and trust, to die the death of the Christian martyr, to follow the Lord so literally to the cross. James learned the lesson of this humility, and proceeded to die; and in so dying, he was the first of the Apostles to receive the Martyr's crown.

The cross is the great subversive message that the whole system of the world is worthy of contempt, and that it is all overthrown. The world's exaltation of power and riches, the world's perverted sense of what constitutes honor, the world's admiration of sin, the world's culture of death, the pride, arrogance and ambition of men, is all overthrown. It is made a spectacle of defeat, led about in a Triumph by the Son of Man. For pride itself is laid in the dust to be trodden underfoot, sin is washed away as dirt and stain removed from garments, power is reduced to rubble for the Prince of this world is cast out, and death is overthrown by the Risen Christ, the Son of Man with the wounds in his side, his hands and his feet, now revealed to be the Son of God with the true power of an endless life.

Decide which path you will walk. Will you walk the path of this world's conceits, or heed the words of Christ? "I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." Everything done for power, for a place of honor and recognition, or for the praise of sinful men, may as well have been done for the basest of lusts, the lowest of sinful habits, the most disgraceful acts of secret and private shame. Desire for power and ambition for honor is no higher and no better than the most shameful of habits, no higher and no more praiseworthy than cowardice or avarice.

My concern is not that the world has yet to learn the message of the voluntary servitude and humility of Christ the Lord, his example of foot washing, and his obedience unto the death of the cross; my concern is for how much we, those of us in the church at this time and in this place, have yet to learn his way of the cross.

His words ring today in our ears:

"I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you."

"Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your servant; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your bond servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

Fr. Wells' bulletin inserts


When we go looking into today's Gospel from Matt. 20 for a sermon, we are confronted by an embarrassment of riches. Here is a story of two disciples, with their mother in tow, asking for special privilege and status in the kingdom Jesus was soon to inaugurate. The request might not be as presumptuous as it appears. There are clues which suggest that the mother of James and John was a sister of the Blessed Mother and therefore Jesus' aunt. That would make James and John the cousins of Jesus. Family ties were important in that age and the request would not seem out of order to them.

But here are some of the issues which emerge in the passage. First, the sinful desire for rank and power in God's kingdom That is hardly a thing of the past. Ambition for office and influence plagues the Church in every place and time, at every level from parish to diocese to province and even to the ends of the earth. Whereas Matthew and Mark tell this story, Luke does not. Instead he told a more shocking incident in which the Twelve, gathered in the Upper Room on the night of the betrayal, only hours before the crucifixion itself, squabble and quarrel over "who should be the greatest."

Second, the timing of the incident shows the shallowness and insensitivity of Christians to the way of the cross which Jesus has taken. Our reading begins at verse 20. This follows the third great prediction of the passion, in which Jesus had said, "and they shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify, and the third day he shall rise again."

Do we only hear the final part of that prophecy? The happy indifference to our Lord's agony for us probably explains our preference for a "beautiful" and "glorious" cross to the wooden crucifix which confronts us with His pain. But the incident in today's Gospel reading is so embarrassing (to James and John and to us well) that we know it must have really happened. Anyone who invented such a tale would be guilty of slander.

Finally we must notice the gentleness of our Lord's rebuke, which is hardly a rebuke at all. He reminds them "Ye shall indeed drink of my cup and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with." As Paul tell us in Romans 6, all who are "baptized into Jesus Christ are truly baptized into his death." The mother, who seems so opportunistic, was one of the women who gathered at the foot of the cross to watch Jesus die. James was the first of the twelve apostles to die as a martyr for the faith. John was the "first to believe" the good news of Jesus' resurrection, lived to a great old age and had a vision of "new heavens and new earth" while enduring the existence of a penal colony. They were not wrong when they said, "We are able." LKW


During this portion of Trinity Season we have a series of readings from Paul's greatest work, his Letter to the Church in Rome. Before commenting on today's portion, it is necessary to point out that Paul's “letters” were not simply personal correspondence like a letter you or I might write, but were official apostolic letters, intended to be read publicly and received as authoritative. It is altogether appropriate that we call them Paul's “Epistles.”

Today's reading comes from Romans 8, the apex and summit of the entire book. This chapter, as a whole, deals with the doctrine of sanctification, the process in which the pardoned and born-again sinner is gradually and progressively made over into a saint. We all know, as Paul surely knew, that this does not happen instantly! This is a process which goes on through our entire earthly lives (and perhaps even in the next life as well). By experience we know it is not a consistent process, but advances by fits and starts.

This new life-style requires a certain degree of exertion on our part. This is why Paul says, “we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.” By “flesh” of course Paul means our old sinful nature, the fallen nature we had reborn. We owe nothing at all to that nature. On the contrary, we are debtors to our new “born-again” nature.

Paul has already told us in this Epistle that for the time being, we are people of two natures simultaneously, which he calls flesh and spirit, the old sinful nature and the new life in the Holy Spirit. Therefore, there is always a tension, a certain degree of conflict between the two natures in the Christian person. This is well expressed in the formula simul iustus et pecccator, "a righteous man and a sinner at the very same time." Righteous by virtue of God's decree of pardon and acquittal, sinful by reason of our imperfect sanctification.

A major key word in today's passage is the term “adoption.” When Paul wrote “When we cry, Abba, Father, it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” Adoption is a fairly common thing in our time, but in Paul's world it was somewhat rare—a legal procedure practically limited to the extremely rich. It purpose was to secure an inheritance to a person unrelated by blood, a person who had no right of inheritance, no valid claim at law.

To become adopted as an incalculable privilege, entitling the adoptee to numerous privileges. In order to live out the new life we have been granted this gift, a gift so great we might doubt its very reality. Therefore the Spirit Himself—the Third Person of God Himself—assures and reassures us, “bearing witness with our spirit.” LKW

Friday, July 23, 2010

A couple of thoughts for the day

of Bulverism and Infallibility

The approved modern method

Drawing analogies from the current political scene is risky, inasmuch as the real point may be interpreted as essentially political in nature and intent (for, it is only in issues where politics and morality are unavoidably intertwined, most obviously abortion, that we must speak directly to political matters). Nonetheless, I shall, in this introduction, take a path that angels fear to tread. Right now, in the United States, the never-ending debates go on about the same old issues, some of which are taxes and the size of government, especially the Federal Government. Such debate is, no doubt, healthy for a free people, and disagreement is a required part of the process. However, in the ongoing discussion, certain individuals have decided to cheapen the quality of the debate. Contrary to the principles and spirit of honest intellectual exchange, these persons have decided to accuse their opponents of racism. The "argument" they use, or rather the excuse they use to avoid argument altogether, runs as follows: "The current President is black, therefore the only reason why conservatives or republicans (or tea party people, etc.) oppose his policies is because they are racists." The fact that conservatives and republicans used the same arguments against identical policies for decades becomes irrelevant.

It reminds me of a kind of racism I encountered often on the mean streets of Baltimore in my days as an investigator: "I can tell you are a bigot by the color of your skin." To people who "think" in racial terms, such a comment makes perfect sense. We have experienced much the same kind of non-argument, or accusation, in a religious context.

For example, in recent months, this blog has presented criticism of the movement by TAC/ACA bishops and apologists to sell their interpretation of Anglicanorum Coetibus. This we have done by presenting facts about the new constitution itself drawn from its contents, and in the context of Roman Catholic Canon Law. Also, we have presented theological grounds for remaining separate from Rome in our polity, for the foreseeable future, as Continuing Anglicans. For the most part, the answer we have been presented with, sometimes in comments, sometimes by members of the opposite blog, boils down to their accusation that we are simply "Anti-Catholic" by which they mean to accuse us of either irrational fear or just plain mean old hatred, accusing us of bigotry against Roman Catholicism. My answer to such people is, "don't you wish it were that simple?" If only they could avoid the content of our arguments, the theological and historical facts, the studied analysis, the logic and reason with which we have proceeded. It is ever so effective to shout "hate!" or "prejudice!" It is, after all, the approved modern method.

In his essay, Bulverism, (1) C.S. Lewis described this modern method by using satire and humor:

"You must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong. The modern method is to assume without discussion that he is wrong and then distract his attention from this (the only real issue) by busily explaining how he became so silly. In the course of the last fifteen years I have found this vice so common that I have had to invent a name for it. I call it 'Bulverism'. Some day I am going to write the biography of its imaginary inventor, Ezekiel Bulver, whose destiny was determined at the age of five when he heard his mother say to his father — who had been maintaining that two sides of a triangle were together greater than a third — 'Oh you say that because you are a man.' 'At that moment', E. Bulver assures us, 'there flashed across my opening mind the great truth that refutation is no necessary part of argument. Assume that your opponent is wrong, and the world will be at your feet. Attempt to prove that he is wrong or (worse still) try to find out whether he is wrong or right, and the national dynamism of our age will thrust you to the wall.' That is how Bulver became one of the makers of the Twentieth Century."

So, in reply to the Bulverists, we say, the inconvenient truth is that hate has nothing to do with it; prejudice has nothing to do with it; and our presentation of facts and logic are not mere expressions of anger. If only they were, just as if political disagreements were about the President's race rather than the same old clash of political ideas, how easy it would be to cut to the chase and ignore the opposing view.

Infallibility of the Church: Ours or theirs?
Currently, we have more potential to unify the Continuing Anglicans who remain faithful to The Affirmation of St. Louis than we did before this new Roman constitution. A few matters stand in the way, and this blog is just the place to bring them out into the light, for so it has ever been a stated purpose of The Continuum to promote unity in Continuing Anglicanism. I have tried to bridge an old divide between partisan Anglo-Catholicism and (if I may choose a way of saying it) the more Protestant side, or Anglican Evangelicalism in the classic sense. Of course, this is an over simplification inasmuch as Classic Anglicanism includes varying degrees of churchmanship under an orthodox umbrella.

The fact is, The Affirmation of St. Louis was drawn up by Canadian Anglicans and American Episcopalians who represented those varying degrees within the acceptable framework of orthodox belief and practice. To go forward, into better and more perfect unity, it may be helpful to decide one point about the Affirmation right now.

Under the subheading, "The Essentials of Truth and Order" which is the second subheading of Principles of Doctrine, our Affirmation lists "Holy Scripture," "the Creeds," "Tradition", "Sacraments," "Holy Orders," etc. The section on "Tradition" affirms the Seven Oecumenical Councils in what was believed to have been the logical conclusion of Anglican thought and principles, and also seven sacraments. The whole subsection concludes with these words:

"The Use of Other Formulae

In affirming these principles, we recognize that all Anglican statements of faith and liturgical formulae must be interpreted in accordance with them. "

Different interpretations are possible. One is that we must interpret Anglican statements and liturgy in accordance with "these principles" whether or not those statements and liturgy were the intended meaning of those who gave us the Book of Common Prayer, The Ordinal and the Articles of Religion. By this interpretation we subject the Classic Formularies to our take on them. Another view, which is better, is that in so doing we submit our own heritage, as Anglicans, to the judgment of the Universal Church. The third approach, which is mine, is that it really means that we are bound to the Classic Formularies by the Affirmation of St. Louis (which is part of the ACC Constitution and Canons, and is an accepted standard of both the UECNA and the APCK), but within the safe assurance that adhering to the judgment of the Universal Church was the objective of our Anglican fathers in the first place (therefore including the second view, but removing the option to reject our own way).

That is to say, though the Classic Formularies do not mention the Seven Oecumenical Councils, the logic of Classic Anglicanism must lead us to accept them once all the issues have been clarified, and we see them in their historical context, and read them in light of their own intended meaning. If under the subheading, "The Use of Other Formulae," we were affirming some Anglican statements and liturgy, namely whatever statements and liturgy we, in a given jurisdiction, determine to be conformable to "these principles," our job would be easy. But, if we hold to the Affirmation, we are given a more difficult challenge: For if, as it says, "all Anglican statements of faith and liturgical formulae must be interpreted in accordance with them," then it becomes our duty to recognize that "all" of the classic Anglican statements and liturgy can be so interpreted. Furthermore, if they can be so interpreted, we must be affirming that they are so interpreted when properly understood. The only other conclusion is a cynical one: That the early Anglicans intended rebellion against God and His Church, meant to create a new "Protestant religion" and that we are going to clean it all up by gratuitous revisionism.

We have then three positions before us:

1) That the judgment of the Universal Church gives us the option to choose which Anglican Statements we like.
2) That we must revise the intended meaning of the English Reformers and Anglican Divines.
3) That the English Reformers and Anglican Divines were catholic men whose goal was the same as ours: To submit the Church of England (and, by extension, Anglicanism) to the true judgment of the Universal Church.

Obviously, I go with option 3 as the correct way to interpret The Affirmation of St. Louis, and as the understanding that best fits the overall efforts of Anglican theology and scholarship from the earliest days. This requires of us harder work, but I have spent the last few years building a body of essays intent on this very purpose. In that body of essays I have intended to lay a groundwork in which Anglo-Catholics and classic Anglican Evangelicals may find agreement. I believe my efforts have been free of Revisionism, have been free of efforts to sanitize the Reformers of the reactionary elements of their work that was made necessary by the times in which they wrote, that puts those most reactionary elements of their work into the larger context of the catholic faith they aspired to and believed, that shows its fundamental catholic orthodoxy and why their Biblical and Patristic scholarship was second to none in their own generation.

However, the fundamental question remains. Are we to interpret the works of our Anglican fathers in the light of their own stated goal of reestablishing catholic orthodoxy, or are to see them as innovators and react against our own heritage? I believe that the Affirmation of St. Louis holds us to the former. And, in so doing it is not cynical or dishonest; we need not engage in Revisionism in order to pursue this goal. In fact, we will arrive at the logical conclusion of their efforts.

The question of Infallibility arises when we speak of the judgment of the Universal Church. To the Roman Catholics the whole question is made utterly simplistic: It is reduced to "Simon says." The need to inform the mind and conscience requires absolute trust in an office held by one man. To many Protestants it means standing only on the Bible and nothing else. But, we have something else; we have the Bible, and we have the catholic faith of the Church without adherence to the Roman theories about the papacy; we have the Bible and the judgment of the Universal Church to which and through which God gave it.

In his own time, Richard Hooker wrote the enduring apologetic for holding both to the Bible and to the Church, not as if each were weighed against the other, but in needing both as if speaking to us with one voice. In so doing, he exemplified the Anglican stand on eternal and Universal principles. This Anglican mind and approach was, however, larger than one man. As I wrote elsewhere:

"The English Church established a carefully maintained balance between Rome, Calvinism, Lutheranism, and Zwinglianism, criticizing and rejecting various ideas in each of these systems. This in turn kept the Anglicans in a state of at least some amount of opposition to everybody all the time. Each of these camps saw the Church of England as accepting error by adopting or maintaining some of the ideas and practices of Rome, or some of those belonging to Calvin, or some of those belonging to Luther, but never to the satisfaction of loyalists in any of those parties." 2

What then assures infallibility? If we say, "the Scriptures," we are left with endless interpretations and innovative "magisteriums" for which we reserve the label "cult" to some. Left to itself, the Bible can justify, or even require, anything. This is a fact that has been demonstrated so many times, and so tragically, that we need not argue it. But, we know that the Universal Church in Antiquity believed that all the necessary doctrines of the Apostles, the full revelation given to the Apostles and Prophets, is recorded in the canonical Scriptures. 3

So we come to what St. John said about error in his own day, and how to defend one's mind against it:

"But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father." (I John 2:20-24)

St. Paul assures us that "We have the mind of Christ." (I Cor. 2:16) He also told his son in the faith, St. Timothy, that the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth (I Tim. 3:15). And, the Lord Himself promised us that the Holy Spirit, that is the Spirit of Truth, would guide the Apostolic Church into all truth (I John 16:13). These Scriptural quotations speak of the Church, of dependence on the Holy Spirit, and seem to make their promise for each immediate generation.

That is, to see in these passages an unfolding of truth that allows for new dogmas to be revealed as some sort of "Doctrinal Development" would have made each of the promises a lie in its own generation, a promise not fulfilled until all revelation would unfold over centuries (as St. John wrote, "that which ye have heard from the beginning"). On the other hand, to see these passages without respect to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit to make these timeless truths fully known in each generation, would have the same effect for everyone else-for even with the Scriptures, our minds are closed to both their strength and meaning without His grace alive and operating in us ("For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."-Heb. 4:12).

Therefore, we need that unction, that power, and the written word through which God speaks the same timeless message to and through His Church in each generation. That is about all we are given when it comes to the promise of infallibility; but what more could we need, want or have a right to expect?
1. God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics, C. S. Lewis, Walter Hooper (Editor), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Reprint edition (October 1994; original copyright 1970 by the Trustees of the Estate of C. S. Lewis).

2. Anglican Identity- a paper delivered in 2009 to the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen and Anglican Guild of Scholars conference that took place in Delaware (Friday Sept. 19, 2009).

3. Concerning which, St. Thomas Aquinas had given us the phrase sola scriptura long before the Reformation era.
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote:
Notandum autem, quod cum multi scriberent de catholica veritate, haec est differentia, quia illi, qui scripserunt canonicam Scripturam, sicut Evangelistic et Apostoli, et alii huiusmodi, ita constanter eam asserunt quod nihil dubitandum relinquunt. Et ideo dicit Et scimus quia verum est testimonium eius; Gal. I, 9: Si quis vobis evangelizaverit praeter id quod accepistis, anathema sit. Cuius ratio est,
quia sola canonica scriptura est regula fidei. Alii autem sic edisserunt de veritate, quod nolunt sibi credi nisi in his quae ver dicunt.

-Thomas's commentary on John's Gospel, Super Evangelium S. Ioannis Lectura, ed. P. Raphaelis Cai, O.P., Editio V revisa (Romae: Marietti E ditori Ltd., 1952) n. 2656, p. 488.

Translated into English: ""It should be noted that though many might write concerning Catholic truth, there is this difference that those who wrote the canonical Scripture, the Evangelists and Apostles, and the like, so constantly assert it that they leave no room for doubt. That is what he means when he says 'we know his witness is true.' Galatians 1:9, "If anyone preach a gospel to you other than that which you have received, let him be anathema!" The reason is that canonical Scripture alone is a measure of faith. Others however so wrote of the truth that they should not be believed save insofar as they say true things." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of John 21)

The emphasis is on the word "canonical" as opposed to just anything written and preserved, and held up as valuable or true.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Two New Martyrs in Pakistan

This in from Rev. Canon John Hollister:

The following message has been received from the Church of India, Pakistan, Burma, and Ceylon's Diocese of Lahore, Pakistan:

"Two Christians accused of blasphemy in Pakistan were killed as they left a courthouse Monday afternoon, Pastor Rashid Emmanuel and His brother Sajid Emmaniel.

"All Anglicans are requested to pray for their souls and express feelings of condolence for the parents and relatives by praying for them.

"The Archdeacon Fr. Mushtaq Andrew

Diocese of Lahore

Church of Pakistan CIPBC

2nd Province of Anglican Catholic Church"


For One Departed.

ALMIGHTY God, we remember this day before thee thy servants Rashid Emmanuel and Sajid Emmanuel, and we pray thee that, having opened to them the gates of larger life, thou wilt receive them more and more into thy joyful service; that they may win, with thee and thy servants everywhere, the eternal victory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

REST X eternal grant unto them, and let light perpetual shine upon them. May their souls, X and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

The Collect for a Martyr

(A Book of Common Prayer 361 [South Africa 1954])

O ALMIGHTY and eternal God, who didst kindle the fire of thy love in the hearts of thy holy martyrs Rashid Emmanuel and Sajid Emmanuel: Pour into our minds such power of faith and love, that as we rejoice in their triumph, we may profit by their example; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Those Who Mourn.

ALMIGHTY God, Father of mercies and giver of all comfort; Deal graciously, we pray thee, with all those who mourn, especially thy servants the families, friends, and flock of Rashid and Sajid Emmanuel, that, casting every care on thee, they may know the consolation of thy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Right Reason

Due to a question presented in a comment, I am re-posting a two year-old essay.

The question arose here on The Continuum as to what is meant by Right Reason, and how it has come to be placed alongside of Scripture and Tradition. Too often it has been assumed that these three, Scripture, Right Reason and Tradition have been placed as equal parts of an epistemological triad for discerning the truth, with the idea of a "three legged stool" that provides the Anglican concept of authority or a magisterium. As we have seen before, however, this concept is not quite correct. It is drawn from Richard Hooker, but is not exactly what he meant. Whereas he laid great stress on all three of these (though rarely together in any one passage), the "three legged stool" analogy gives the false impression of equality, as if our mind could reason anything that equals revelation. In fact, Hooker saw the Scriptures as possessing the greatest weight of authority, but only understood correctly with the aid of the Church- or as we say, Tradition. And, as we have seen, neither human reason nor the Tradition of the Church can be weighed against Scripture, nor Scripture against the Tradition, since these two things speak the same truth with one voice. They support each other, not by comparison, certainly never with contradiction, but in a way even stronger than complement. The Scripture and the Tradition are one and the same, so that we say the Creed with the same conviction and certainty as words from the Bible.

How, then, do we understand Hooker's estimation of Reason?

One: regarding Church Polity

What does he mean when he speaks of Reason in connection to the Church? It must be remembered why he wrote The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity. The Church of England faced a threat from the Puritans. They wanted to overthrow the Church of England and its episcopal structure, and replace it with the "Calvin's Geneva Discipline." Hooker argued quite persuasively that Calvin's form of church government was no fit basis for polity (he preferred to say "polity" since he thought of "church government" as an insufficient concept). It did not conform either to the scriptures or to anything that was practiced by the Church in its earliest generations. He especially mentioned, in more than one place, just how unwarranted he found their notion of "Lay elders."

"So as the form of polity by them set down for perpetuity is three ways faulty: faulty in omitting some things which in Scripture are of that nature, as namely the difference that ought to be of Pastors when they grow to any great multitude: faulty in requiring Doctors, Deacons, Widows, and such like, as things of perpetual necessity by the law of God, which in truth are nothing less: faulty also in urging some things by Scripture immutable, as their Lay-elders, which the Scripture neither maketh immutable nor at all teacheth, for any thing either we can as yet find or they have hitherto been able to prove." BOOK III. Ch. xi. 20

In short, he found the Calvinist discipline, as it existed in those Reformed churches, at best the result of necessity that drove men to create some kind of order where none had existed, and at worst he found Calvin's ideas to be, as he wrote, "crazed." For the Church of England, never deprived of bishops and due order, he would have none of it.

One of the ideas that he refuted was the notion that the scriptures clearly set down everything that the Church was commanded to do, and how to do it, in exact detail. And, anything that could not be found in scripture should be forbidden. To this end, the Puritans imagined all sorts of interpretations to justify their own ideas, and condemned anything that did not fit their scheme.

It was not at all difficult to show that the Bible did not contain detailed instructions about many things that the Church must do. Hooker acknowledged that the scriptures command the things that truly matter most in every generation, but that it does not give detailed rules about many particulars that must vary from time to time and place to place. These things can and must change to meet the needs of real people in real places and ages, unlike God's eternal and unchanging commandments that are always and everywhere the same.

"The matters wherein Church polity is conversant are the public religious duties of the Church, as the administration of the word and sacraments, prayers, spiritual censures, and the like. To these the Church standeth always bound. Laws of polity, are laws which appoint in what manner these duties shall be performed." BOOK III. Ch. xi. 20

He gives one obvious example:

"In performance whereof because all that are of the Church cannot jointly and equally work, the first thing in polity required is a difference of persons in the Church, without which difference those functions cannot in orderly sort be executed. Hereupon we hold that God’s clergy are a state, which hath been and will be, as long as there is a Church upon earth, necessary by the plain word of God himself; a state whereunto the rest of God’s people must be subject as touching things that appertain to their souls’ health."

He argued that the Scriptures teach the office we call "bishop," knowing that the other orders depend on this office. Having given this example of a permanent law of polity, from scripture itself, he goes on to mention those things that are necessary, but are not commanded in detail by the word of God:

"A number of particularities there are, which make for the more convenient being of these principal and perpetual parts in ecclesiastical polity, but yet are not of such constant use and necessity in God’s Church. Of this kind are, times and places appointed for the exercise of religion; specialties belonging to the public solemnity of the word, the sacraments, and prayer; the enlargement or abridgment of functions ministerial depending upon those two principal before-mentioned; to conclude, even whatsoever doth by way of formality and circumstance concern any public action of the Church. Now although that which the Scripture hath of things in the former kind be for ever permanent: yet in the later both much of that which the Scripture teacheth is not always needful; and much the Church of God shall always need which the Scripture teacheth not." (emphasis mine)

Laws of ecclesiastical polity are necessary; everything from canon law to rubrics. And, it is obvious that many of these things cannot be drawn directly from scripture, even though they must be in accord with the teaching of scripture, never violating the principles and doctrine contained in it. To this end, he had opened the third book by extolling the high place of Reason, called also Right Reason, as a light given to man from God. The wisdom that is so highly praised in the Book of Proverbs is a light that also guides, even where no exact law of God is written in his sacred word.

The simple fact is, this is one use of what is meant by Right Reason (or Reason for short). It is a source of authority, yes, but not equal to the authority of revelation. It gives wisdom needed to establish many details of Church polity. True doctrine, however, comes only from Scripture as known by the Church.

Two: Subject to Scripture and the Tradition of the Church

The other proper use of Reason for Hooker, therefore, is when he speaks of it as subject to the Church, especially the testimony of the Church, by the Holy Spirit, that the scriptures are no less than the word of God. It is earlier, in chapter VIII of this same Book III, that we find the strongest of Hooker's statements to this effect.

"The question then being by what means we are taught this; some answer that to learn it we have no other way than only tradition; as namely that so we believe because both we from our predecessors and they from theirs have so received. But is this enough? That which all men’s experience teacheth them may not in any wise be denied. And by experience we all know, that the first outward motive leading men so to esteem of the Scripture is the authority of God’s Church. For when we know the whole Church of God hath that opinion of the Scripture, we judge it even at the first an impudent thing for any man bred and brought up in the Church to be of a contrary mind without cause. Afterwards the more we bestow our labour in reading or hearing the mysteries thereof, the more we find that the thing itself doth answer our received opinion concerning it. So that the former inducement prevailing somewhat with us before, doth now much more prevail, when the very thing hath ministered farther reason. If infidels or atheists chance at any time to call it in question, this giveth us occasion to sift what reason there is, whereby the testimony of the Church concerning Scripture, and our own persuasion which Scripture itself hath confirmed, may be proved a truth infallible. In which case the ancient Fathers being often constrained to shew, what warrant they had so much to rely upon the Scriptures, endeavoured still to maintain the authority of the books of God by arguments such as unbelievers themselves must needs think reasonable, if they judged thereof as they should. Neither is it a thing impossible or greatly hard, even by such kind of proofs so to manifest and clear that point, that no man living shall be able to deny it, without denying some apparent principle such as all men acknowledge to be true.

"Wherefore if I believe the Gospel, yet is reason of singular use, for that it confirmeth me in this my belief the more: if I do not as yet believe, nevertheless to bring me to the number of believers except reason did somewhat help, and were an instrument which God doth use unto such purposes, what should it boot to dispute with infidels or godless persons for their conversion and persuasion in that point?" BOOK III. Ch. viii. 14.

We see in this that Hooker did not shy away from such Catholic principles as the Church's authority, rooted in Tradition (and notice his positive use of the word "tradition" in this case, contrary to recent assertions made about him) teaching us that the Scripture is the word of God, and that this teaching is no less than "infallible." And, lest we charge him with insufficient appreciation of mystical religious experience, it is useful to notice what follows directly:

"Neither can I think that when grave and learned men do sometime hold, that of this principle there is no proof but by the testimony of the Spirit, which assureth our hearts therein, it is their meaning to exclude utterly all force which any kind of reason may have in that behalf; but I rather incline to interpret such their speeches, as if they had more expressly set down, that other motives and inducements, be they never so strong and consonant unto reason, are notwithstanding uneffectual of themselves to work faith concerning this principle, if the special grace of the Holy Ghost concur not to the enlightening of our minds. For otherwise I doubt not but men of wisdom and judgment will grant, that the Church, in this point especially, is furnished with reason, to stop the mouths of her impious adversaries; and that as it were altogether bootless to allege against them what the Spirit hath taught us, so likewise that even to our ownselves it needeth caution and explication how the testimony of the Spirit may be discerned, by what means it may be known; lest men think that the Spirit of God doth testify those things which the Spirit of error suggesteth. The operations of the Spirit, especially these ordinary which be common unto all true Christian men, are as we know things secret and undiscernible even to the very soul where they are, because their nature is of another and an higher kind than that they can be by us perceived in this life. Wherefore albeit the Spirit lead us into all truth and direct us in all goodness, yet because these workings of the Spirit in us are so privy and secret, we therefore stand on a plainer ground, when we gather by reason from the quality of things believed or done, that the Spirit of God hath directed us in both, than if we settle ourselves to believe or to do any certain particular thing, as being moved thereto by the Spirit. BOOK III. Ch. viii. 16.

We see in Hooker an appreciation for the work of the Holy Spirit as a normal part of the life of every devout Christian who submits the mind to Scripture. He sees Reason as a tool to gather these things. The mind that comprehends and explains what we have learned from the Holy Spirit who enlightens us, expresses these things as things that have been learned and are evident. They are "gathered" by reason when reason is directed by the Scripture and the Church. Reason is not a source of authority for doctrine, but the receiver that gathers what it learns, orders it, and gives expression to the truth.

Reason is placed along with Scripture and Tradition in these two ways. It provides wisdom whereby the Church in various times and places can establish polity, including those matters not directed by any permanent and unchanging commandment, and in forming ways to obey permanent and unchanging commandments, or do other necessary things, where changes of detail are permitted. Reason is also the servant of Scripture and Tradition, and indeed, of the Holy Spirit, for everything from teaching to apologetics. It is always subject to the authority of the Scriptures and the Church (with its infallible Tradition) and whatever we receive from the Holy Spirit is known and expressed by Reason as drawn and gathered from the Scripture.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pax Anglicana

The genius of Anglicanism is not to be found in a lack of definition, but in strict adherence to doctrinal priority combined with Reason. The potential of genuine Anglican thought could be devastating to those who cherish the divided condition of the Church, inasmuch as the logical conclusion of Anglican thought would reunite the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. But, what G.K. Chesterton observed about Christianity in general, from his Roman Catholic perspective, is true in a special way about Anglicanism: "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried."1 The latent power of Anglican reason to unite the Church has not been tried, at least not more deeply than on the surface.

For purposes of fitting into one essay an ambitious and comprehensive evaluation of this idea, it will be presented as a statement of theses with only modest support at the present time for each. This may fuel discussion, and certainly will be followed by more attention to many details. That is, this may turn out to be Part I.

To begin with, the Anglican Communion has dropped the ball, and so its various churches cannot be considered the heirs of Anglican belief. Rather, the heirs are the Continuing Church bodies who have accepted The Affirmation of St. Louis. The relatively small membership of Continuing Anglicans, against the millions who belong to the Anglican Communion, the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the various Protestant churches, is not relevant to discussion of beliefs and of the Anglican approach to Right Reason. For this discussion only ideas matter, coupled with facts about history and the current state of the Universal Church.

Spiritual Warfare

Those who believe in Demonology, as a true subsection of theological science, should consider the theory that Anglicanism has been attacked by the forces of Darkness precisely because of the potential it had to reunite the Universal Church. Not only does it have the necessary Reason to reunite the Church, but to empower it with a practical approach to theology that would arm the Church to encounter its mission more strategically and effectively than anything the modern world has seen.

The "Liberals" in the modern Anglican Communion have perverted the idea of "the Bridge Church" to indicate a soft approach to ecumenism that amounts to nothing but attempts to compromise, to run from meaning to vagueness, from definition to confusion and from principle to laxity. But, the true principles that could yet, if allowed to prosper, build the bridge that has potential to reunite the Universal Church, would have to be strong enough to endure every assault, unlike the false start that brought the Cantuarian project to moral and doctrinal collapse in the closing decades of the twentieth century, with the collapse still rumbling.

...and members in particular

Every apostasy must be, first and foremost, rebellion against the house in which that apostasy arises. Apostate Anglicans had to reject the specific form of Christianity known as Anglicanism and Episcopalianism. They had to destroy its doctrines and sacraments, and they had to replace the Book of Common Prayer with something enough like it to fool a large number of people. Therefore, it is not correct to see the apostate condition of modern Anglican churches in the Canterbury communion as some natural or inevitable result of Anglican beliefs; for those beliefs first had to be buried and forgotten.

People who live on the two poles of Anglican partisanship, employing the words "Protestant" (or "Evangelical") and "Catholic" by in-house definitions unique to Anglicanism, need to work at finding the reconciliation of their divergent positions that is, in fact, within the actual properties and contents of Anglicanism. This includes the development of Anglican theological thought and liturgical practice over centuries in which responsible churchmen found solutions to relevant issues facing their own respective generations. For example, the writers of the Thirty-Nine Articles addressed the needs of their time with language easily misunderstood today: But, what they actually taught, upon genuine and honest study, was as essential to the Catholic Faith of the Church as the later emphasis of the Oxford Movement proved to be in its time. The two do not contradict each other, but rather complement each other across the centuries.

Divergent practice, and to a degree divergent theological views, can and must be reconciled by what we have in our own possession. This requires, also, that each avoid extreme views that exclude orthodox believers of the other party, that we overcome the ignorance that enables prejudice and misunderstanding on our own part, and that we hear each other with willingness to learn instead of eagerness to react. The result will be, for many, rediscovery of the true Catholic and Apostolic Faith that each of the two parties on each pole have only in part, unless and until they reconcile spiritually and intellectually with the other. Neither party, the Evangelical party nor the Anglo-Catholic party, when refusing to hear the other, have the complete picture; though sadly, the partisan elements among them often exhibit a sense of self-sufficiency and wholeness that is, in fact, an illusion. Evangelicals who think they have no need of Anglo-Catholic respect for the Universal Church and the Sacraments, and Anglo-Catholics who think they have no need of Evangelical emphasis on Scripture and salvation, are both condemning themselves to severe spiritual deprivation.

Myths of consensus

Because the older division of the Church was between the East and the West, we have tried to be faithful to a consensus of the Universal Church that was expressed in the Seven Oecumenical (or Ecumenical) Councils. The Affirmation of St. Louis affirms all seven of them. Opposed to that correct definition of "consensus," it is factually wrong to mistake an ancient consensus of East and West for a modern consensus of Rome and Orthodoxy. In fact, the continued division between Rome and Orthodoxy is deeper than the division between Rome and most forms of Protestantism in the West.

The notion that the Orthodox Church sees the Roman Magisterium as closer to themselves then, for example, the Southern Baptist Convention, is debatable. The two western bodies, from the Eastern Orthodox perspective, share beliefs that rely on Augustinian and Anselmian paradigms 2, and are therefore closer to each other than to the Orthodox Church. In some places, including Holy Mount Athos, the rejection of Roman Catholicism is more fierce than anything to be found in most of the Protestant churches, even the most anti-Roman of them. Just how much we may speak of East West consensus as any sort of Orthodox and Roman consensus, is highly debatable. The former is a historical reality that alludes to the Seven Oecumenical Councils, the latter a deception that alludes somewhat to a grand fiction.

Some writers confuse later Roman Catholic developments with Universal Consensus. A perfect example of this confusion was caused by the fallacy that Rome's dogma of a punitive Purgatory with temporal punishments, including the Medieval and modern "Treasury" doctrine unique to Rome, was ever a doctrine of the Universal Church. Such late developments have no claim to Universal Consensus, and as doctrine are rightly rejected by Anglicans, by the Orthodox Church and by the many Protestant bodies. get back homeward

If we were to look for a Church that has found a sure path back to Antiquity, and also has worked its way back forward with all of the essential doctrines and practices of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, we would need look no further than our own native ground as Continuing Anglicans. We find that full Catholic doctrine in our Evangelicalism, and in our Catholicism; we practice it in our liturgy and experience it charismatically in the sacraments, including the five sacraments of the Old Testament that were spiritually and significantly enhanced in the Church as revealed in the New Testament (one partly corrupted from anointing for healing to "extreme unction" and one a state of life called matrimony). We experience it also in the other two sacraments that are generally necessary to salvation, which we call sacraments of the Gospel, instituted by Christ with a visible sign and ceremony ordained of God, namely Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Indeed, by explaining the correct meaning of Article XXV, as I have just done in the paragraph immediately above, I mean to show the way home, the path back to Right Reason.

1. Chesterton, G.K, What's Wrong With The World, 1910 1910, London, chapter 5.

2. My brother, David Bentley Hart, however, made the argument that St. Anselm, properly understood, can be reconciled to Eastern Orthodoxy, especially by comparing his work to that of St. Gregory of Nyssa. - Hart, David Bentley, The Beauty of the Infinite, 2003, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing co., Grand Rapids.