Friday, June 03, 2011

A tale of two cities

Correction: I have been sent the following since posting this earlier, and have adjusted the second paragraph accordingly: 
The "Toronto Group" with which Fr Foote met is evidently not affiliated with TAC or ACCC.  It is described in the FA article as comprised of about 30 people on a mailing list, not all of whom are definitely known to have sent in the required paper work for reception by Rome.

This is significant, as it illustrates once again how TAC has been sidelined and snubbed by the Roman hierarchy.  The ACCC embargo on the RC "mentor priests" seems still to be in effect. This sidelining is what's at the bottom of all the anger from the TAC crowd.

Two events in two Canadian cities, Victoria, British Columbia and Toronto, demonstrate two approaches to the idea of unity in the Church, and in doing so demonstrate as well that the very subject creates its own kind of division. Even as my predecessor, Rev. William Foote (one time Rector of St. Benedict's Anglican Catholic Church long before I stepped into that position, and who went to the Roman Catholic Church via the Pastoral Provisions, eventually "ordained" by them), as a representative of Rome, was meeting with the few people who plan to enter an ordinariate, Archbishops Mark Haverland (ACC) and James Provence (Anglican Province of Christ the King, APCK) were meeting with Presiding Bishop Brian Marsh of the ACA and Canadians who had been in the ACCC (Presiding Bishop Peter Robinson, of the United Episcopal Church North America, UECNA, could not be present because of last minute developments; but his paper was read there- and we hope he might post it here). 

The North American churches of what was the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC), the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (ACCC, not to be confused with the Anglican Catholic Church, ACC) and the Anglican Church in America (ACA), who formerly would have been considered at unity with each other under one roof in the TAC, now are forced to follow their consciences in separate directions. The TAC, for several years a significant international jurisdiction, has been divided. 

What is the cause of this latest division? As usual, the cause of division is that very office so unjustifiably regarded as the seat of unity for the Universal Church: The Papacy. Since 1054 AD, when the Patriarch of Rome presumed to insert himself into a dispute within the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople, the claims and actions of the Roman Patriarch have created most of the division in the Church. Later, in the sixteenth century, by refusing to listen to some of the best Catholic doctors (who were following the traditions and teaching of the Church in the west, and presenting no new ideas), the Papacy created the Protestant Reformation, that is, it divided the Church in the west. In 1870, by banishing all who could not accept the brand new innovation of Papal Infallibility, they created the Old Catholic movement of churches, or Union of Utrecht.

Oddly enough, however, this time the Papacy has created as much potential unity as it has potential division; but, not by intention. For, even as a few TAC people follow their own consciences to Rome, our own Continuing Anglican leaders have not only increased the unity of the Concordat churches, but have come together with the Presiding Bishop of the ACA. This was a historic occasion, something that speaks of a bright future.

The appeal of Hepworth and his followers to the idea of "unity" has, in the final analysis, divided the TAC into two very separate camps. The constant mantra of "That they all may be one" was, after all, both theologically vacuous and practically unrealistic. It was practically unrealistic because a few hundred, even a few thousand, converts from an Anglican Church to Roman Catholicism has nothing to do with unity. People leave one church for another all the time, and in the end that is all that Anglicanorum Coetibus was about: Converting a few Anglicans to Roman Catholicism.

Presiding Bishop Brain Marsh, however, highlighted the theology of real unity, unity in truth and faith, in a manner that is head and shoulders above the banality of using an edited version of Christ's words as a mantra (as if a word of creative power spoken within the Godhead, the Son to the Father, was a prayer from God to puny mankind; or as if we could grant God's prayer). Bishop Marsh, exhibiting superior thought, said: 

"God's people are truly unified when they can affirm, as Jesus did, that God the Father and Jesus are one. That is all He asked. No less a theologian than Richard Hooker wrote that God's church is one when all affirm that God the Father and God the Son are indeed one. That is unity. That is unity with an Anglican emphasis. That is unity with a Christian emphasis."

And, does that not fit better the words Jesus actually said, especially when quoted more fully?

"That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." (John 17:21, unedited)

Conversion to a different denomination is not the unity of which Christ spoke, and neither is a mere political unity in a huge and troubled communion, torn apart in many ways from within by doctrinal innovations and scandals (decide for yourself whether that describes the TEC or the RCC-I mean the RCC, but the shoe fits both of them). The unity of which Christ spoke is a unity we have already with all believers ("that they also may be one in us"), so that we would stand side by side on the truth of God, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and die, if necessary, the same death as martyrs. 

For, on a level that superficial invocation of the word "unity" cannot touch, even when chanted with the warmest fuzzies that manipulate the most shallow of emotions, we all have unity in the Spirit. Furthermore, we all have our martyrs for Jesus Christ. They knew that He is the I AM before Abraham was, and that He is One with the Father.

And, at this time, to be practical about the potential we actually have at hand, let us stand in unity with those who have met in Victoria. 

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