Thursday, August 12, 2010


Whereas a House of Bishops must teach with authority, it is the accepted Anglican custom never to treat as dogma anything less than what has been received and passed on as certain and necessary. This is not the practice of most churches, even those that aim for the same standard. Somewhere, in practice, others elevate their own magisterium to a level that allows them to speak beyond the limits of the combination of belief in revelation and right reason. It is that combination that creates humility which guards against venturing to require, as articles of faith, the teaching of men. Even the best teaching of men does not equal revelation. The faculty of reason teaches us that the human mind is limited, that eternal truth does not arise from mere logic left to itself, and that the Church can teach with authority only the Faith as it has been received.

The Fundamentalist magisterium is no less prone to require faith in the teaching of men than is the Roman Magisterium. It is no less obvious that Orthodoxy has its own weaknesses, areas where custom has been confused with the Tradition that has passed on the revelation, the Faith once delivered to the saints. For these reasons we stand where we stand, rejoicing in the common ground we have with the rest of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, but standing specifically as Anglicans as long as it remains necessary.

The result of our freedom of thought, is that the true lines that must not be crossed stand out as clear and obvious. Far from making room for heresy, this approach is the best safeguard against it, and the surest defense of genuine orthodox catholic Faith.

On the subject of freedom and orthodoxy, let me quote from two recent posts on this blog that display a real contrast between two approaches. One allows honest questions that require true and persuasive answers; the other stifles thought and banishes the basic honesty that dares to demand truth.

First, on Monday Aug. 2, I wrote this:

"Not a party line

It may have come as a surprise to some readers that clergy of the Anglican Catholic Church have expressed a range of opinion on this blog. Some may have noticed that on particular matters even some opinions of the Metropolitan himself may be subjected to academic discussion, which does not bother him at all (as everyone who knows Archbishop Haverland will testify). Intellectual and academic freedom within the bounds of orthodoxy is a hallmark of Anglicanism, and always has been. I say, within the bounds of orthodoxy because such freedom is not absolute, and, therefore, established doctrine and practices in accordance with that doctrine must set limits. Nonetheless, where some people may see academic discussion and variety of positions in non-essentials as a sign of weakness, I see it as evidence of strength, stability, and true priorities. It is further indication that I have arrived at a solid destination with a deep and strong foundation."

One week later, I posted an essay by Fr. David Marriott that included this ending:

"The approach made by the TAC to Rome represented to many a way forward and a means to achieve greater unity, in joint communion: this was the original concept of the ARCIC discussions of which this was to be the successor. The concept has changed, when the leaders, those of ‘higher rank’ those with ‘better knowledge’, moved the process beyond simple intercommunion to the concept of ordinariate. In this, they neglected their own rules, of consultation and dialogue, and established a proposal for the future of the church. That serious problems have arisen should not be a surprise, in that just as the people in Jerusalem on that very first Palm Sunday heard Jesus teaching on the duties and the abuses of the leaders, of the Pharisees and scribes, so too the people of this day have looked for good counsel from their pastors, for a clear and precise explanation of the proposal. Instead they have been greeted with generalities and empty reassurances: ‘trust your bishops!’

"But for those who have had the gall to question the actions taken by those same bishops, there has been an absence of that very caritas that is the key to our primary obedience: obedience to God, that is the key to our future salvation, in that we are to love our neighbour as ourselves. There has been rejection, not acceptance. There has been harsh action, and little love. There has been hurt, where there should have been balm for the soul, ointment for the wounded, for the troubled and weary traveler, beaten and robbed by the side of the road: ignored by bishop and priest, succored by the Samaritan......and to the point that one of the bishops has stated in his cathedral, that those who do not accept the terms of the Apostolic Constitution have effectively excommunicated themselves!"

There you have a very real contrast. The ACC does not allow heresy, and enforces its own Canon Law (a copy of which may be read by anyone, by buying the book or reading it online at the ACC website). Within that very open and publicly declared position, we have the freedom demonstrated on this blog. Here you see opinions put forth by laity and clergy that have included resepctful and friendly debate within the ACC, including opinions that vary from some of those held by the Metropolitan himself, as I pointed out (above). None of us lives in fear of retribution for daring to say what we think. As long as we remain within the bounds of orthodoxy, we have nothing to fear. Indeed, we have confidence in the bishops and in the Archbishop as the chief pastors of our church.

Contrasted to that, we see the harsh treatment dished out to clergy of the TAC who have dared to question the party line. Furthermore, what they have questioned is, indeed, highly questionable: They have questioned the absurd proposal that one may be a true Anglican and a true Roman Catholic at the same time under the conditions that exist in the real world at this time in history. They have spoken honestly, and asked for genuine and persuasive answers to real and urgent questions. But, for their efforts they have been maligned, disciplined and fired from their positions. It has become, as Fr. Marriott pointed out, so bad "that one of the [TAC] bishops has stated in his cathedral, that those who do not accept the terms of the Apostolic Constitution have effectively excommunicated themselves!"

People who tell the truth and teach the truth, who present it honestly and with authority will not stray from the limits of revelation. They have no reason to be heavy-handed. They have no need to fear that their position is so weak that harsh treatment must be dished out in place of patient answers to honest inquiry. Such pastors of God's Church never treat their people as enemies for the crime of asking the wrong questions.

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