Friday, September 24, 2010

Bishop attacked for having a backbone

The Former Anglican blog has reacted harshly against Bishop Steven D. Strawn, Bishop Ordinary of the Diocese of the Missouri Valley, ACA, for daring to remain an Anglican. For writing about why he, Bishop Strawn on behalf of himself and the Diocese, will not seek to enter any Roman Catholic Ordinariate, Mr. Campbell has denounced the bishop as "breaking his oath" and rationalizing it. Whether or not Bishop Strawn is breaking an oath is not really important. The Portsmouth Declaration that TAC bishops signed in 2007 may be considered an oath, or maybe not. That question is followed by another question, namely whether or not Anglicanorum Coetibus is or is not an answer to the TAC petition to seek inter-communion and unity.

The answer to the second question is clear: If Anglicanorum Coetibus is an answer, the answer from Rome was, in effect, "no; but here is what we offer instead." In the mind of Bishop Strawn, the only commitment he made at Portsmouth was an old Anglican commitment to work for larger unity in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. At that time, our position here was only to remind everyone that Anglicans had sought unity with both Rome and Orthodoxy long before the Affirmation of St. Louis was written, and that picking up where the official Canterbury Communion had left off was a natural effort for Continuing Anglicans to try to make (see
this essay that I wrote on October 18, 2007).

Such an effort cannot be done in the manner that Archbishop Hepworth has tried to steer the TAC since Anglicanorum Coetibus was released. We now know and can verify that his strategy has been to take the advice to "give the theologians nothing to discuss." Giving the theologians nothing to discuss in serious talks between Anglicans, Rome and Orthodoxy, would be a dishonest and fruitless affair, with somebody merely setting terms for conversion by some small number from another church (which is what the Roman constitution is all about). Therefore, that is a far cry from picking up where Canterbury left off.

Several months ago we removed our link to the TAC/ACA because they seemed to have made up their minds to roam Romeward via Anglicanorum Coetibus, and we could not advertise conversion to Roman Catholicism. It is evident now that the ACA is divided more than we could have verified back then. We knew that a large number of the people had no intention of swimming the Tiber, and almost one year ago Bishop Rocco Florenza was received in his orders into the ACC-OP. Now that three more ACA bishops (Marsh, Strawn and Williams) have made concrete moves toward unity with the APA, it is obvious that the ACA will retain an Anglican identity, but that some of its people and two of its bishops (Falk and Campese) will certainly continue to promote the new Roman constitution, and to join an Ordinariate.

In fairness to the
Former Anglican blog, Mr. Campbell did publish all of Bishop Strawn's letter, but under the derogatory headline, "Another ACA Bishop Rationalizes the Violation of Oath." Then he proceeds to act as a prosecuting attorney, charging Bishop Strawn with violating some promise that must be interpreted as acceptance of Anglicanorum Coetibus, released two years later. The text of Bishop Strawn's letter makes Mr. Campbell's prosecution look silly, since his explanation was rational, and Campbell's attack was not. Furthermore, what would it matter if Campbell's complaint had any merit? Even if Bishop Strawn were to have changed his mind, what matters now is that he is following his conscience and speaking honestly.

Campbell (whose padded cell awaits) summarizes his hysterical prosecution in these words: "And, just like 'you've read on the blogs,' Bishop Strawn is most certainly seeking to 'join the APA.' Which silly acronym graces the home page of the bulk hosting provider's rented web page matters very little. The APA is the most latitudinarian and decidedly Protestant of the 'Continuing Church' sects; alignment or 'intercommunion' of any ACA bishop with this outfit is nothing more than a slap in the Holy Father's face." (Apparently, we are supposed to cringe with horror at the "P" word. The use of the word "Protestant" as derogatory in and of itself is evidence of an anti-educational and anti-scholarly stand).

Mr. Campbell reveals that he will make a good Roman, but a bad Catholic, placing party line and legalism ahead of conscience. He may denounce Bishop Strawn for having backbone, and for following his conscience all he wants, but it is doubtful that a certain Christian who has adopted the name Benedict XVI would be comfortable with that approach. More likely, it is Campbell's attitude that might feel to such a gentle and rational soul as "a slap in the face." It is more likely that the current Pope would prefer the honest approach of Bishop Strawn, and the approach this blog has taken all along, that doctrine does matter, and that conscience is not to be trampled upon and thrown away for the sake of a false and oppressive misuse of the word "unity."

The Text of Bishop Strawn's letter

In what follows, our readers will see that the expressed beliefs of Bishop Strawn more closely match the views expressed on The Continuum by its panel than they do the expressed opinions of Abp. Hepworth. In Bp. Strawn's stated desire to forge stronger unity between the remaining ACA and the APA, we see hope for more unity in the Continuing Church. However, we sincerely hope it does not stop there. True reconciliation and unity must include efforts to return to the intention of having one and only one Continuing Anglican Church. Therefore, we hope that the ACA bishops who remain Anglican, together with the APA bishops, will respond to the three churches in concordat (ACC, UECNA, APCK), and discuss reconciliation and unity with Archbishops Haverland, Robinson and Provence. That is what is needed, a true effort to have workable unity without forced and awkward conversions that compromise people's consciences.

Anglican Church in America

September 23, 2010

Dear Clergy and Faithful of the Diocese of the Missouri Valley.

Just under three years ago the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) met in Portsmouth England, drafted, and unanimously approved a petition seeking “full and visible unity” with the Roman Catholic Church. Of course, since the Anglican Church in America (ACA) is a jurisdiction of the TAC, we too were included in that petition. While I was invited to attend as a bishop-elect, I felt it best to remain here as we were busily preparing for my consecration a week later. However, by all accounts it was a very good meeting, and the signing of the petition was a joyous occasion in which all in attendance felt the presence of the Holy Spirit guiding them as they took this historic action.

Indeed, a few weeks later, I was consecrated as Bishop Coadjutor for our diocese and ultimately became the Bishop Ordinary upon Abp. Falk’s retirement in January 2008. I remember, prior to the consecration, I was asked if I supported “full and visible unity with the Roman Catholic Church.” Of course, I answered that question with a resounding yes, thus joining myself with all of those who signed the petition the week before my consecration. After all, in the Affirmation of St. Louis it is clearly stated that “We declare our firm intention to seek and achieve full sacramental communion and visible unity with other Christians who "worship the Trinity in Unity, and Unity in Trinity," and who hold the Catholic and Apostolic Faith in accordance with the foregoing principles.” Certainly this includes the Roman Catholic Church. Not to endorse the Portsmouth petition would seem counter to the expressed intent of that document. That is exactly why I could affirm and support the Portsmouth petition, specifically the portion that reads:

“…we must now in good conscience bring to the attention of the Holy See, we seek a communal and ecclesial way of being Anglican Catholics in communion with the Holy See, at once treasuring the full expression of catholic faith and treasuring our tradition within which we have come to this moment. We seek the guidance of the Holy See as to the fulfillment of these our desires and those of the churches in which we have been called to serve.”

By supporting the petition I also felt I was affirming the portion that reads:

“Recognizing that obligation, and with great confidence in the Lord and in the power of the Holy Spirit, a worldwide community of Anglican Christians have united under the name “The Traditional Anglican Communion” for three main purposes:

To identify, reaffirm and consolidate in its community the elements of belief, sacraments, structure and conduct that mark the Church of Christ, which is one throughout the world

To seek as a body full and visible communion, particularly Eucharistic Communion, in Christ, with the Roman Catholic Church, in which it recognizes the fullest subsistence of Christ’s one Church and

To achieve such communion while maintaining those revered traditions of spirituality, liturgy, discipline and theology that constitute the cherished and centuries-old heritage of Anglican communities throughout the world.”

Since the delivery of the petition and my consecration, the consistent mantra had been that we are seeking full and visible unity with the See of Peter in such a way that we would be in “Eucharistic Communion” with the See of Peter while at the same time maintaining our own heritage, polity, and structure.

Last fall the Vatican released the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus making the last year a most challenging time for all of us, especially as we tried to determine the implications of the Constitution. Many felt this Constitution was the answer to our petition. Initially, I had reservations as to whether or not this was the case. Since then I have attempted to keep an open mind while listening to all the reasoning as to why it was. However, in the end, I have concluded that, while the Constitution uses some of the language of our petition, it does not appear to be a direct answer to our petition. Rather, it appears to me that Anglicanorum Coetibus may be an answer to the call for unity by many Anglican groups throughout the world, first and foremost, within the Church of England.

When I first read the Constitution, I felt that this historic document was offering much more than we had sought, certainly much more than Eucharistic communion. But the question I kept coming back to was, “is that what we really hoped for?” Everyone agrees that the Holy See has been very generous in forging a way for Anglicans to become “Catholic.” And I think therein lies the problem. I am already Anglican Catholic. Whether or not I become part of any Anglican Ordinariate of the Roman Catholic Church will not change that. I have been an Anglican Catholic all of my life.

That is because Catholicism is our Faith and we practice that Faith in the Anglican Tradition. Make no mistake about it, those choosing not to join the Ordinariate will still be Anglican Catholic. Simply put, Anglicanorum Coetibus does not “create” Anglican Catholics nor does it recognize Anglican Catholics to the extent that full communion is realized, which was the intent of our petition. Rather, it allows a way for Anglican Catholics to become a part of the Roman Catholic Church while retaining elements of their liturgy and vestiges of their heritage. That is very generous for those who desire such union. However, Anglican Catholics who do not desire such and choose not to take advantage of that do not cease to be Anglican Catholics.

You may ask why I refer to Anglicans becoming Roman Catholics when they join the Ordinariate. We have been told repeatedly that this was corporate reunion and not absorption and that the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) was careful not to use the term “Roman Catholic” but Catholic only. The simple fact is that the Roman Catholic Church does not recognize any other type of Catholic in the Western world. Therefore, every reference within the Constitution to becoming Catholic means, in their minds, becoming Roman Catholic.

That is why you see terms in the Constitution referring to our Clergy as “ministers” that will become Catholic Priests. They see us as “imitators” of the Catholic Church. Therefore, we have to become “Catholic” Clergy and the laity must become “Catholic.” But make no mistake about it, they mean Roman Catholic. This interpretation is consistent with everything that has been written by Roman Catholic theologians and those in authority. Specifically I would note Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, a canon lawyer who serves as Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

Bishop Arrieta presented a paper at the Anglican Use Conference last spring making clear his understanding of the implementation of the Apostolic Constitution. With this concrete evidence as well as my own understanding of the Constitution, I have a hard time seeing Anglicanorum Coetibus as anything other than absorption. Indeed, the Vatican will develop some sort of liturgy that will have “elements” of Anglican liturgy in it. But it will be developed by the Vatican and it will be uniform liturgy throughout the Ordinariate.

So, while I am sure the liturgies we treasure will still be permissible for use until the Vatican develops an Anglican liturgy for the Ordinariate, once that is developed I would expect that the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, Anglican Missal, and/or American Missal will not be permitted.

Additionally, many other questions concerning provisions of Anglicanorum Coetibus have been raised. We have tried to get answers to those questions. Initially we were told that we need to understand how Rome writes such documents and that we essentially have to “read between the lines.” Since that time we have been told all sorts of things about the Constitution and how it would be applied to the TAC. We have been told that they would be highly flexible in applying both the Constitution and the Norms. We have been told to just trust the CDF, if there is an issue, they will make it right.

It was almost as if we were being told that they will ignore some provisions of their own Constitution and their own Canon Law because the Pope wants this to work. I just do not understand how this can happen. In the end, it seemed that any explanation and/or answer to one question seemed to generate more questions. It also seemed that more and more we are getting conflicting information. What was explained one way on one occasion would be explained completely differently at another time.

There has also been an unexplained secrecy that has surrounded this process. Rome has issued documents and statements, but we have been asked to keep silent. I have followed this directive from Archbishop Hepworth until this time. Now the time has come to be forthright and speak, explain our actions and future plans.

As you know, the House of Bishops met in March in Orlando. We all agreed to request the implementation of the Ordinariate in this country and the ACA joined hands with the clergy and parishes of the Pastoral Provision (Anglican Use Roman Catholics). All Bishops signed the letter to Cardinal Levada requesting the formation of an Ordinariate in the United States. I have been asked why I would sign something if I were opposed to it.

First, let me say that I am not opposed to the implementation of the Ordinariate and at the time I had not made any decisions as to what I would do with respect to joining the Ordinariate. Secondly, even if I were not to go into the Ordinariate, I would never stand in the way of those who desire to do so. I still feel that way today. Also at that meeting we generated a list of questions that have come from all over the world, many of which you have asked. We were told that only the formation of an Ordinariate would allow these questions to be answered fully.

These questions were to be covered when the delegation from the TAC met with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF). We were told by Abp. Hepworth that the CDF had set aside a whole day for such a meeting. It was in that meeting that I, and others, hoped to finally get many of our questions answered. We were very disappointed that the group only had one hour with the CDF, thus very few questions were answered. The ones that were answered, I shared with you at Synod last June. But even some of those answers have changed since. As a result the many questions you had asked regarding the implementation of the constitution remain unanswered to this day.

I have decided to stop waiting for answers and start seeking my own. So I started with the Vatican itself. I didn’t have to look long before I found the above mentioned paper written by Bishop Arrieta. In reading this text, and talking with others who are far more knowledgeable on this document; I have concluded that my first impression of Anglicanorum Coetibus appeared to be the most accurate assessment. Based on what I know as of today, the only determination I arrive at is that the Apostolic Constitution is not the answer to our request to be in communion with, but an answer as to how Anglicans can become Roman Catholic while retaining elements of their liturgy and polity and vestiges of their heritage. It does not appear to me to be what we were seeking at all.

Therefore, at this time, I will not apply for entry into the Ordinariate. I simply do not believe that Anglican sacramental acts or our Holy Orders are invalid. I cannot deny my orders. I know it has been said that we don’t have to deny or renounce our orders, but to submit to absolute ordination would have the same effect.

Additionally, there remain elements of Roman Catholic Dogma which are not found in God’s Holy Word, the Bible that is unacceptable for me to hold or to teach as necessary for salvation. While I do use the Roman Catholic Catechism as a teaching aid, I do not subscribe to the entirety of its teaching. It has been said that many Roman Catholics do not either. But to be ordained into the Roman Catholic Church without accepting all of the Catechism in its entirety would not be something I could do.

For these reasons, I must announce that I intend to honor my commitment to the ACA and I will remain as Bishop of the Diocese of the Missouri Valley (DMV) and continue as servant leader of the people within this Diocese and the ACA at large. For those whose conscience leads them to remain with me in the DMV/ACA, it will be time to refocus on the Mission of the Church. The Apostolic Constitution and discussion concerning the implementation have been an enormous distraction to our work as we seek to proclaim the Gospel. It is now time to start focusing on our common life of greater commitment to our Lord with respect to stewardship, ministry and mission.

It is also my intent to join other Bishops of the ACA, who also will not be joining the Ordinariate, not only in maintaining our National Church, but in moving toward the reality of a mission minded Church. We simply cannot maintain the status quo. We have to find ways to move forward to ensure the future of the Church.

It is apparent that the ACA House of Bishops is divided on this subject. Some are ready to enter the Ordinariate as soon as it is formed as are some clergy and parishes. I certainly support their decision to follow their conscience and it is my intent to do all that I can to continue to minister to them until they begin their new ministry within the Ordinariate. I also pledge my support and assistance in helping them make the transition to the Ordinariate in any way I can. I also want you to know that the House of Bishops is committed to make this transition as smooth as possible for everyone out of respect to all those to whom we have ministered, whether they will join the Ordinariate or remain in the ACA. Many years of work, ministry, and prayer have gone into building the ACA. Indications are that only a small number of clergy and parishes will be joining the Ordinariate, so we want to ensure the continuation of the ACA.

At the same time, the ACA must continue to seek unity where possible. This may be the time when we will be able to focus on the question of unity with like minded Anglicans who share the same theology, Tradition and practice. Perhaps once we accomplish that, we can seek unity with larger bodies in Christendom.

Now regardless of what you have read on the blogs, I am not “joining the APA.” However, it is my desire to begin the process of unity of like minded Anglicans now. I plan to join with other ACA Bishops in proposing intercommunion with the Anglican Province (APA). We hope that the full House of Bishops will support this proposal. As many of you know the APA was once a part of the ACA, leaving about twenty years ago. It seems logical that any unity effort we seek begins with the APA. It is my hope that once we achieve this intercommunion, reunification of the ACA and APA will follow at some point in the future.

While we are working towards greater unity among Anglicans and we will seek unity with other Anglican bodies, I also want to reassure that this is in no way an attempt to undermine the effort to establish an Ordinariate for Anglicans that desire to enter it. In fact, I pray that it will be established soon. However, I do join with my fellow brother Bishops who desire to support and minister to those who wish to remain in the ACA with appropriate Episcopal oversight and work to heal the divisions in the Continuum.

This letter may surprise some of you, others it will not. It may even anger some. I hope and pray that this is not the case. It is not my desire to criticize any of the decisions you have made with respect to the Ordinariate, rather I want to respect those decisions and move forward in love and charity as we seek to serve those to whom God has called us to minister. I can assure you that I did not come to this conclusion of my own accord, but after much prayer and study. I have also informed the Standing Committee of this conclusion. Many will agree with my assessment. Some will not, but I hope we can agree to disagree while loving one another as brothers and sisters. I do ask for your prayers and you may be assured of mine now and in the future.

In the Service of Christ and His Body the Church

+Stephen D. Strawn

II Bishop of the Missouri Valley (ACA/TAC)


John A. Hollister said...

By George, I think he's got it!

John A. Hollister+

Fr. John said...

A good start.

Fr.Jas.A.Chantler said...

Good for you Bishop Strawn! Many thanks to the Continuum for posting this.GOD being our helper the Continuum is coalescing.In His good time I'm confident a united, global, vigourous and orthodox communion of Anglicans will be established.

Bruce In Iloilo said...

Reading through the bishop's letter, I am struck with one thought -- he doesn't trust the Vatican. And it all comes down to that.

If one trusts that the Holy Ghost will guide the Vatican and the Ordinariates, then one joins the Ordinariates despite all the uncertainties and worries about what the Vatican might do, now or in the future.

If one doesn't trust, then one demands more details and additional assurances.

Do you trust that the Holy Ghost is guiding the Vatican and the establishment of the Ordinariates? In other words, do you believe or could you see yourself coming to believe that the Pope is the successor of Peter as the Vatican understands it? To me, that is the key question and all else follows.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Do you trust that the Holy Ghost is guiding the Vatican and the establishment of the Ordinariates?

Hell no, and neither do more than half the people of the ACA. Any more questions?

Do you trust that the Holy Ghost was guiding "the Vatican" to prevent the clergy child sex abuse scandals? Or, does that not count, for some very complicated reason that we simply ought to "get"?

Anonymous said...

I am glad to hear that Bishop Strawn does not trust the Vatican. Neither do I and neither does 99% of faithful Roman Catholics. Read National Catholic Reporter, National Catholic Register or the Wanderer and you will see what I mean. Even the most sanguine interpretation of Papal Infallibility (which few RC's really believe in anyhow) acknowledges that it is a part-time charism, one that can be turned on and off at will. Most of the time the Pope is just one more human being. It so happens that every pope of my lifetime (Pius XII to the present) has been a truly good and great man. But as Benedict XVI has sincerely acknowledged, they make mistakes. So this nonsense about "trusting" the Pope is more appropriate for an advocate of the Moonies or some similar cult.

Jakian Thomist said...

Dear Fr. Hart,

It has been some time since I last read through this blog! Thank you for linking your youtube channel, and as a fellow pianist, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed your compositions, especially 'Autumn in Memory', please post more of them!

On topic though, a question of trust, hey? I don't think that Anglicanorum Coetibus was conceived as a malicious act, to steal or to deceive. Rather it was a generous genuine response to a genuine request for unity.

Some people, including it seems some bishops within ACA, did not feel that they made this request and hence are not responding positively to AC. Should that surprise us?

Since it has been almost a year since AC was announced this period has given those involved the breathing space required to come to a considered decision to the satisfaction of their consciences.

I hope and pray that Christian compassion and witness will be shown by all parties during this difficult transition process and that the goodwill displayed in abundance by the Holy Father in issuing the AC will echo throughout the Ordinariate, TEC, and the Continuum.


Fr. Robert Hart said...

No one here has suggested any bad motives on the Pope's part. I assume he always means well.

Mike Bunkermeister Creek said...

While I do not want to go to the Ordinariate, at this time, I am happy to allow others to do so. I would hope that those who go will stay in touch with us so they can tell us about their experience there. If it is all they hope it to be, then perhaps I would reconsider my position and be willing to go there too in the future. If it falls short of their expectations, then I would welcome them back to the ACA.

Each of us must follow our own path as God has directed us to walk. I would like us to be in communion with as many other Christians as possible, but I would like us to retain those values, practices and that theology that make us Continuing Anglicans. At this time, I don’t think the Ordinariate will do that for us, but I am certainly willing to be proven wrong by future developments.

In the meantime, I do support the attempts by those who do not intend to go to the Ordinariate to reach out to like minded Continuing Anglicans to attempt to achieve greater inter-communion among our various fractured groups. This is something we should have been doing all along, rather than continuing to fragment. I hope that those who remain in the ACA will reach out to other Continuing Anglicans and create a stronger more vibrant church as a result.

Mike Creek
All Saints, FV, CA

Joe Oliveri said...

I am glad to hear that Bishop Strawn does not trust the Vatican. Neither do I and neither does 99% of faithful Roman Catholics.

That percentage is probably made up for rhetorical effect, although I wouldb't be very surprised if the actual percentage is still quite high. Especially these days, when our wayward prelates seem to be above Canon Law -- being allowed to go into hiding or on permanent sabbatical -- while the conservatives and liberals in the Vatican continue to play games, and all agree that this is simply the order of things. There are times I think Nero himself should be the patron saint of Vatican intrigue.

Those who believe the Holy Spirit is always guiding the Vatican should remember the altar girl debacle. Roman Catholic Code of Canon Law was revised shortly after Vatican II (natch) and the work was completed in 1984. Ten years later, suddenly it was "Oh, hey look! There's a loophole in the new Code that allows altar girls!" And so there was. With a lot of other conservatives back then, I remember waiting nervously for the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments to speak definitively on the matter. We were assured by Crisis Magazine, The Wanderer and other RC journals that the CDW wouldn't sell tradition down the river. Sadly, however, the CDW confirmed that the loophole did indeed exist. So rather than, oh, fixing the loophole, the Vatican broke with immemorial tradition and approved altar girls.

Trust the Vatican? I apologize for being so blunt, but you'd be a fool. Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. (Ps 146:3)

Ken said...

I hope that the ACC will do everything possible to facilitate intercommunion with ACA bishops that wish to remain Anglican.

At least open lines of communication if none are now open.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

It is not any kind of stretch to say that Archbishop Haverland's open letter to Archbishop Hepworth, which has remained unanswered all these years, can be answered by any of these three bishops on behalf of his own diocese.

Ken said...

That may be true, but it wouldn't take anything more than change the recipients name and then a stamp and envelope or email to send it again.

Opportunities are available to those who take the risk. Even an offer or one-on-one informal talks would be good.

John A. Hollister said...

In the best of all possible worlds, the three loyal ACA Bishops would be able to use the opportunity of approaching the APA to reach through the APA to its partner in communion, the REC, and detach the REC from the neo-ACNA with its acceptance of women's "ordination" and other PECUSA-like practices.

In the next-best of all possible worlds, that is, failing to convert the REC to a Catholic outlook, the ACA Bishops would still be able to use the opportunity afforded by their opening to the APA to detach the APA from both the REC and the associations that cluster around the neo-ACNA so as to strengthen the Catholic witness of both ACA and APA.

After all, by refusing to follow the Pied Pipers of Oz and West Des Moines to Rome, the loyal ACA Bishops are making a stand for the principle that it is possible to be Catholic without being Roman, something most Anglicans have accepted as axiomatic. However, until the REC makes a concerted effort to return to the Catholic roots from which it expressly rebelled, then for the ACA to go into communion with an APA that is simultaneously in communion with the REC (which was anti-Sacramental in its origins) would be to vitiate much of the legitimacy and vigor of that very witness.

John A. Hollister+