Sunday, June 05, 2011

More thoughts on Unity

It was a bit of a blow to have to miss the conference in British Columbia, especially as I know that my presence would have done something to dilute the impression of outsiders that Continuing Anglicanism is an Anglo-Catholic business. My usual rochet, black chimere, tippet and bands is enough to do that on their own! Unfortunately, some last minute problems required my presence in my home parish and I could not head up north.

However, the mere fact the conference happened marks just how far we have come in recent years. I can remember a time not so many years past that finding representatives, never mind senior bishops, of the ACC, APCK, ACA, and other other jurisdictions would have been considered evidence of the imminent arrival of the parousia! I suspect that is because the Conference was primarily abut affirming our common inheritance as orthodox Anglicans.

Though we have come a long way, I think we should remember that there is still a far longer jouney to undertake before we achieve unity. Although ACC, APCK, and ACA have a lot in common due to the fact they all lean to the Catholic side of Anglicanism, where does the relatively Low Church and protestant tradition that UECNA represents fit in?

Well, I suspect the first surprise is that we actually do fit in. We have intercommunion with ACC and APCK, and relations between the UECNA and the other two bodies are generally cordial, even warm. I think there now seems to be a greater preparedness to tolerate the various minor differences of tradition, outlook, and method of operation between the UECNA and the other two bodies. I hope, and believe, that a similar respect and tolerance exists on their part.

The one thing that I would say would be extremely foolish right now would be any sort of rush to unity. As a wise man once observed "quarrels about trifles, especially between friends, are always the most bitter." Those words would make a suitable epitaph for some of our worst mistakes in the Continuum! Instead of any great rush to unity there needs to be a gradual process of getting to know and understand the other fellow. Our worst problems are always caused by our failure to understand the other chap's point of view. The only way in which to bring reconciliation is by understanding - not confrontation. The one thing that has helped improve the atmosphere in the Continuum in recent years has been a greater realisation that the Anglo-Catholic or the Low Churchman next door may actually have a point and not be "disloyal" or certifiably insane. My own tradition, the rather sober and restrained, even constrained, tradition of Anglo-Irish High Churchmanship, with its tight forcus on doctrine and disike of eaborate ceremonial, finds its place at the table in spite of my own former doubts that such an obvious "foreigner" would be welcome in the American Continuing scene.

I also believe that we need to lay a renewed emphasis on our common Anglicanism rather than on Churchmanship distinctives. The strength of the old church was that we had everyone - Virginia Churchmen, Broad Churchmen and Anglo-Catholics co-existing on the basis of the Book of Common Prayer, and a common acknowledgement of indebtedness to the Bible and the Early Fathers and Councils of the Church. To this was added an appreciation of the positive benefits of the English Reformation in the form of sloughing off the worst excesses of mediaevalism, and a vernacular liturgy of incomparable power and beauty. The future of Continuing Anglican unity will lay in an ever deeper appreciation of our common heritage and faith, and a growing preparedness to live and let live over the details.

I suspect we are entering a stage in our development where some sort of federative process is needed in which the various jurisdictions retain their integity and their traditions, but work together for the common good. For those of us who occupy minority positions within the U.S. Continuum, that may often require us to step out in faith, and it will require of the majority a great preparedness to tolerate those of us who are a little singular in our interpretation of our common tradition. However, the thing that is needed above everything else is regular communication between the hierarchies of the various Churches. I hope the opportunity for the principle bishops to talk to one another was taken at the Victoria, BC, meeting, for it is only by building personal relationships, and a certain amount of cross-jurisdictional collegiality, that the essential work of unity can be taken forwards.


Alice C. Linsley said...

I'm hopeful that the principal parties will set aside their personal ambitions and humbly seek unity from Christ our God, the Head of the Church.

Fr. Wells said...

I am confident that my own Archbishop Mark David Haverland, Archbishop Provence, Bishop Robinson and Bishop Marsh are ambitious ONLY for the glory of Christ and the advancement of His Gospel.

AFS1970 said...

Excellent article, very well said. For me as someone who was (and still is) unchurched for quite a while, the differences sometimes get more important because when I knew it was time to come back to the church, the church I left no longer had a presence in my area, despite there being several parishes still here. It meant I needed to brush up on these disputes over trifles, to make sure I was finding a good home.

While I would love to see more unity, and be able to know that no matter where I was I could find an orthodox Anglican church to attend, I know that there are still some I would not be comfortable in. I also know that there are some I would be, yet if I told someone locally that I had attended one, I would be called a heathen and thrown off a bridge. However we can not pursue unity for its own sake as that does injustice to us all.

This conference was a step in the right direction. The upcoming one in Massachusetts looks to continue that journey. At some point we will have to settle some issues that divide us, and that may change who the players are in the game, but we have made quite a bit of progress.

Anonymous said...

There eventually has to be unity in the continuum and under the banner of the Affirmation of St. Louis. Many people seem to choose ACNA and AC in part because of our disunity - though in theology and practice we are much more united than ACNA and even Rome. A federation would be a good place to begin.


Anonymous said...

Trying to establish 'Unity' in the Church here on Earth, has been played out since the days soon after our Lord ascended unto the Father. The game has always been the same, urged on by men who believe they know the right path to follow, now called bishops, elders etc. and who usually just squabble between themselves.

Jesus asked one simple request of us all...Come follow me. The sooner we learn to do that and trust his love for each of us, the need for division will disappear.Look to the pews and you will find the average church goer is quite happy to work with others of another denomination in the name of Jesus - there lies Unity.


Anonymous said...

My reflections: more attention needs to be paid to our vocations on all levels. We need stability and accountability. For instance, remember Bishop Wes Nolden of the UECNA who went to the ACNA/REC? He has now switched jurisdictions AGAIN by going the to ACNA Diocese of Quincy. Presumably he was not given his "due" as yet. It is this sort of activity that has to stop. Egos abound and this sort of jurisdictional hopping reflects poorly on us all.

Fr. Robert Hart said...


The ACNA and the REC are not Continuing Anglicans. We pray for them and want for them them the best. But, we have not much we can do about anything that goes on among them.

Chris wrote:

The game has always been the same, urged on by men who believe they know the right path to follow, now called bishops, elders etc. and who usually just squabble between themselves.

Really? Is that what they "usually" do? Do you have statistics that confirm what is usual? Granted, we have seen too much of that sort of thing, but I would not venture to use the word "usually," nor would I discredit these bishops who did just meet in Victoria. It seems, if you are anywhere near accurate by saying "usually," that these bishops would deserve credit for being unusual.

Anonymous said...

Fr Hart....
How long do you think it will be before another split takes place? My guess not long and then it all goes full circle and the arguments become familiar again. In the meantime the power struggle continues among the mitres.


Fr. Robert Hart said...


It is a sin to engage in divination, so I will not predict the future. I find your cynicism to be evidence of hostility to the good effort made by these bishops.

And what effort is that? Is it to establish unity? Or, is it to strengthen unity that exists in the Concordat, and to help bring the TAC people into it as well? It is the latter. That is, it is building on a strong foundation that already exists.

I am sure some fellow will buy a purple shirt, locate a Simonist, and purchase a church start up kit for his garage some time before midnight tonight. So what?

AFS1970 said...

There has been no indication (at least publicly) that would make one think there was another split coming anywhere in the continuum. Despite what critics say about purple fever none of he splits have been rash decisions undertaken lightly. Even if you disagree with the reasoning behind such choices, they really do not happen all that often.

RC Cola said...

What is a "Virginia Churchman"? I've never been to a church in VA, so the term doesn't mean anything to me.

+ Peter said...

Virginia Churchman - basically an Evangelical Episcopalian. However, you should understand Evangelical in the English sense of someone committed to preaching the Gospel and looking to convert, rather than the American version which is heavily dependent on Revivalism. As time passed, Viriginia Churchmanship developed into a sort of Low Church vaguely Evangelical version of Episcopalianism as opposed to the Low Church Liberalism you wou find in Massachusetts

RC Cola said...

Thank you for the clarification, your excellency.
I'm much more familiar with the New England low church liberals and (sadly ironic) high church liberals than with the Virginia evangelical types. I think I'd rather like Virginia Anglicans, even if we are on completely different pages liturgically. At least they believe in God, which is more than I can say when at my home EO parish in New England.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

RC Cola, and others:

Just for everyone's benefit: It is not uncommon to call a bishop Your Grace, or simply Bishop.

"Your Excellency" conjures up images of Rufus T. Firefly.

Fr. Wells said...

Alice Linsley's theories concerning the OT may be of interest but they are a distraction here.

I will address only a couple of her more arresting statements. In her first comment in this direction, she wrote, "The sacerdotal priesthood emerged out of the faith of Abraham's people." On the contrary, the Pentateuch makes it clear that the Aaronic Priesthood was instituted by God Himself, several hundred years after Abraham's time. (See Exodus 28, Leviticus 8). In her last comment she tells us, "The first priest was God Himself,..." Now since the term "priest" means (see Merriam-Webster) an Intermediary between God and Man, I have to ask what "god" is "God" an intermediary for? Does Ms Linsley mean to introduce us to some Pantheon in which various gods serve as intermediaries for higher deities?

Her "research" would be more acceptable if she could produce sources for her unique claims. In looking into her blog (when she cites herself as her own authority), I find evidence only of a highly imaginative and truly entertaining mind."

Alice C. Linsley said...

Fr. Wells, Perhaps you should follow some of the links I provide to scholarly journals. Try following the links here:

Or you may have to wait for the books to come out. ;)

We've had this discussion before at Virtueonline. No need to rehash it here.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I believe the last two comments belong to the thread on "Link Restored."

Nonetheless, Alice, I must also ask why the only sources you refer us to are on your own blog? Obviously, it is fair to ask for books and other research by historians and archaeologists already published. And, no, further links to your own blog cannot satisfy this inquiry.

lexflyingfish said...

I think that to accomplish real unity we need stronger apologetics. I wish there was an Anglican equivalent of the Catholic League to counter all the propaganda that seems to always parrot the same tired old memes about Anglican sacraments supposedly not being valid, being a creation of Henry VIII, etc.. Exhibit A: At the American Orthodox Institute is "An Open Letter To Orthodox Anglicans" by a former Anglican convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, which contains the following-- in my opinion propagandistic and historically inaccurate-- statement:

"Traditional-minded Anglicans, fleeing redefined marriage or the ordination of women, cannot expect to find a safe harbour among so-called 'continuing Anglicans', or in the modern Church of England itself: they are based on the same revolutionary spirit of the Reformation. The only safe harbour for those who in their hearts seeks the historic Church is to return to the historic Church: the Orthodox Church."


I'll give him credit for at least being up-front about his erroneous opinion that Anglicans are deficient and in need of conversion, but it's still annoying to see this kind of thing. I hope that the disastrous results of Anglicanorum Coetibus, and the misguided attempts of some EO to denigrate us, will motivate Continuing Anglicans to move towards real unity and strength (not compromise for the sake of legalistic unity, like we see in the Roman Church and other liberal denominations). We need to be making babies and making converts.

And yes, I'm sort of hoping that one of the authors of this blog will respond to this "Open Letter to Orthodox Anglicans," or point me to where a good response has already been written. I don't think I could write a good response myself, at least not one that would be very charitable.

Alice C. Linsley said...

Father Al Kimel (aka the Pontificator) is being ordained today (Feast of Pentecost) as a priest under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. He will use the Western Rite.

As a former Anglican who has found a home in the Orthodox Church, I prefer the Byzantine Liturgy sung in English. We also sing in Greek, Slavic, Russian and Arabic.

The idea that unity can come only by joining the RCC or the Orthodox Churches is misleading. Unity of Christ's own (and He recognizes who they are) comes with His return and the appearing of His eternal kingdom. Until then there will be divisions, but we hope not divisions caused by innovations, heresies and apostasy.