Thursday, July 07, 2011

What of Sydney?

The question of Sydney Anglicanism has come up in recent comments. Sadly, the extremists in that diocese are being allowed to redefine the meaning of "Evangelicalism" among Anglicans. We must not allow this to take hold, or it will further the confusion of Babel against the blessings of clarity. In 2009 I posted my thoughts on the subject. I have edited the original to fit this current moment of history more acutely than the original. Here it is, a bit updated.

Sydney "Anglicanism" - the other innovation 

Probably, most of our readers are aware of an innovation that had arisen in the Diocese of Sydney before the end of the last century. That innovation is called "Lay Administration," which means Lay Celebration of the Eucharist. It has never seemed necessary from my home in America to spend much time and effort combating the Sydney innovation, because until recently it has been unthinkable that it might spread (perhaps our Australian blogger, Fr.Kirby, has run into the problem directly). After all, in the official Anglican Communion with the heresy of women's "ordination," several women have come to feel empowered-finally!-having broken through the stained-glass ceiling; and, no doubt, they'll be damned if they are going to share the "power" with just anybody.
However, some of the Sydney "Anglicans" have begun showing up in other spots, including America. Furthermore, after GAFCON and its American child (having appropriated a name formerly taken), the Anglican Church in North America, the Sydney innovation may come to be tolerated, helping to make it seem mainstream, conservative or orthodox compared to the Same-Sex heresies. For, sadly, that is how the re-appraisers known as "Reasserters" think: They see error as a matter of priorities that they can number in terms of their importance, rather than as symptoms of revolt against God by rejection of His word, as received, understood and affirmed by the universal Church in Antiquity.
The Reapparaisers have no concept of Antiquity, and would have to look up the term "Universal Consensus." They have a Bible, and they have modern teachers through whom they see as much of the English Reformers as those modern teachers care to let them see. Their spiritual and doctrinal epistemology jumps from the close of the first century (just the Bible), to the 16th century with a very brief stay, lest they gather more than they want, directly to the modern era (and, in some ways they have picked up more from the Anabaptists than from the English Reformers). For absolute authority they have a new version of Sola Scriptura, and it is not the kind first mentioned by Thomas Aquinas, or trumpeted by 16th century Reformers. The new Sola Scriptura is an absolute sola, in the sense of something destitute. In that sense, the Reappraisers finally have no Bible, at least not the Bible recognized by the Church.
The Bible, in their view, is subject to a process of reduction to an original or autographa, an actual manuscript produced by the writers. That is because those who hold to what we shall call Scriptura Egenus (i.e. Destitute) cannot trust even so much as the scribes who copied Scripture, inasmuch as discovery of a better manuscript has, theoretically, the power to overthrow the Bible as we know it. If you doubt this, consider that Dr. Wayne Grudem actually wrote that if a book were found, and verified to be the work of an Apostle from the First Century, we would have to recognize it as Scripture (apparently, without regard to its content).1 The logic of this must lead, as well, to the opposite conclusion: If a book could be shown not to be the work of an Apostle (Grudem's own dubious standard, inasmuch as no one knows who wrote the Epistle to the Hebrews) it would have to be scratched from the Canon. An obvious problem with Grudem's view is that it places recognition of Scripture in the hands of modern day scientists and their methodologies, not in our trust that the Church has recognized the Master's voice as guided by the Holy Spirit with universal consensus in Antiquity (John 16:13, I Cor. 2:16).

Jensen vs. the Church
How does this relate to the Sydney innovation? In every way. To be fair, we may note that Archbishop Peter Jensen wrote a defense of his position favoring Lay Administration and posted in online. 2 In some ways it presents some good ideas that do not need to be disputed, but they always end with a twist that disregards the Reason of Anglican doctrine. At best, his good ideas are half-truths. That is not to accuse him of dishonesty, inasmuch as I cannot doubt that he really believes he is teaching the truth of God's word. The problem is not the direction he seems to be going, but rather, that he does not go far enough in that direction. Nor does he spend enough time paying attention along the way. In other words, he means to go in the same direction that the English Reformers traveled, towards the true meaning of Christian doctrine and practice, the truly Catholic way. However, he does not spend enough time with those English Reformers; he does not hear all that they say, and so he actually contradicts the very Formularies of Anglicanism that he professes to believe. So, in the end he summarizes his position "in a box," with five points. The first is "1 Scripture is silent on the question as who [sic] may administer the Lord’s Supper."     
Once again, this presents the difference between Sola Scriptura, and this new Scriptura Egenus or Destitute. We all know Article VI, which opens, "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation." The Article lists the Scriptures with the words, "the Canonical Books." Here we run into the genuine Anglican doctrine, because only the Church could have determined the Canon. Anyone who even so much as uses the expression "the Canon of Scripture" has already acknowledged what we call, in Hooker's terms, the Church with her authority, in which both Right Reason and Tradition are, actually, one.3     
Here we see that by having a Canon of Scripture, rather than merely a Recommended Reading List, we may invoke the real meaning of the Vincentian Canon (in its original context, where it is perfectly harmonious with the correct meaning of sola scriptura): Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est ("That which has been believed always, everywhere and by all" – which, admittedly, requires poetic license). In determining doctrine, the teaching of the Church from earliest times and the Bible are interdependent and inseparable. To understand the Biblical doctrine on Eucharistic Celebration, we must see the apparent silence of Scripture on this one point as answered by the universal consensus of the community in which and to whom the New Testament was written; by whom it has been handed down with the rest of Scripture, and its various books recognized.        
Archbishop Jensen has named Cranmer, Hooker and others, and quoted from the Articles, to try to strengthen his case, which he sets forth clearly:  
"It is commonly suggested that the development of lay administration of the Holy Communion is contrary to the very being of Anglicanism. Certainly it would have to be agreed that non-priestly administration would be quite contrary to some expressions of Anglicanism. But the assertion that it is contrary to the ethos of the Anglican Church really speaks for one side of the Church only. It suggests that one particular view of priesthood and of communion, and one only, is of the essence of the Eucharistic theology. Without going into the question of whether there is only one valid opinion, it is empirically true that at least two views have been evident in the Church for a very long time. According to the thinking of one such view, lay administration is impossible. Accordingly to the other view it is possible, although opinions differ as to whether it is advisable."    

Whether or not what the Ordinal presents within "the ethos of the Anglican Church really speaks for one side of the Church only," must be weighed by the Rites of Ordination that have been a part of the Church of England and Anglicanism since 1550, with the clarifications of the later editions. 4 So, does he mean that only "one side" believes the Preface to the Ordinal?

"It is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church; Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which Offices were evermore had in such reverend Estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same; and also by publick Prayer, with Imposition of Hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful Authority. And therefore, to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed in the Church of England, no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, in the Church of England, or suffered to execute any of the said Functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto, according to the Form hereafter following, or hath had Episcopal Consecration, or Ordination."        

About the Ordinal, does only “one side” accept what is clearly stated by the imperative Form (or Accipe Spiritum Sanctum) in the Ordering of Priests?  To "execute" the office of priest certainly includes Eucharistic celebration. But, to get around "which Offices were evermore had in such reverend Estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except..." etc., Jensen makes this argument:

3 "The priestly role is above all that of pastor of the congregation and cannot be handed over to someone else. 
4 Delegation of the various elements of the role is possible, however, and given developments in ecclesiology, desirable.
"5 The retention of administration of the Lord’s Supper as the only element which cannot be delegated detaches word from sacrament and confuses the congregation about the nature of the sacrament and the priestly role."

Earlier, he had quoted a report by the Australian House of Bishops called Eucharistic Presidency:
"As far as the English Reformation was concerned, the Report says: ‘we find the same heavy stress on the Ministry of the Word in relation to ordination, in line with the continental reformers. In the pre-Reformation Sarum rite, the candidate for priesthood was handed the chalice and/or paten as symbols of priestly office with the words, 'Receive the power to offer sacrifice to God', whereas in the 1552 English Ordinal, the Bible alone is given, accompanied by the words, 'Take thou authority to preach the Word of God, and to minister the holy sacraments in the congregation.’ (para 4.42)"

On which he builds his case further:

        "That is to say the two dominical sacraments depend for their life upon the explicit word of Christ and upon the fact that they visibly proclaim the gospel. In particular, the Lord’s Supper focuses us on the death of Christ with the assurance of God’s favour towards us. It is a 'Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ’s death' (Article 28).
         “There is an indissoluble connection, therefore, between the word of God and the sacraments indicated by the necessity of the sermon in the service of Holy Communion. It is not 'Anglican' to equate word and sacrament. A non-preaching communion service is a contradiction in terms, where the taking of bread and wine is removed from the context of the preaching of God’s word. It is the word of God which warrants the sacrament and explains it. The communal eating of bread and wine is the outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace, namely the grace of God towards us in Christ and at work in our lives. Despite the current emphases of Eucharistic theology, the emphasis of the Book of Common Prayer (including the Catechism thereof) dwells on the Lord’s Supper as spiritual union with Christ (the refreshment of our souls by the bread and blood of Christ) and the faithful remembrance of what Christ has done on our behalf. What is required of those who come to the Lord’s Supper is that they 'examine themselves, whether they repent them truly of their former sins; steadfastly purposing to lead a new life; have a lively faith in God’s mercy through Christ, with a thankful remembrance of his death; and be in charity with all men' (Catechism of the Book of Common Prayer). Not surprisingly, the ordination service published with the Book of Common Prayer emphasises the priestly role of preaching and living the word of God rather than the administration of the sacraments"       

The obvious, glaring problem with his reasoning is that he ignores what the bishop says in even the earliest Ordinal, when Ordering a man to the priesthood:

"Receive the holy goste, whose synnes thou doest forgeve, they are forgeven: and whose sinnes thou doest retaine, thei are retained: and be thou a faithful despensor of the word of god, and of his holy Sacramentes. In the name of the father, and of the sonne, and of the holy gost. Amen... Take thou aucthoritie to preache the word of god, and to minister the holy Sacramentes in thys congregacion[, where thou shalt be so appointed]."  
In this earliest Ordinal it is sacramental ministry that identifies the specific Order of "priest" with the words of Scripture, "whose synnes thou doest forgeve, they are forgeven: and whose sinnes thou doest retaine, thei are retained."5 
The later editions say the same thing, adding only these words to clarify, for those untrained in the use of Scripture, the specific Order , "... for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands." The words, "be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments," and "Take thou Authority to preach the Word of God, and to minister the holy Sacraments in the Congregation, where thou shalt be lawfully appointed thereunto," suffer at the hands of extremists. Some modern people who fancy themselves to be Anglo-Catholics (but having very little in common with the Tractarians) seem only to hear the mention of sacraments, and Sydney "Anglicans" seem only to notice the part about preaching. But, the priest is a minister of both.  
As has been stated on The Continuum, more than once, efforts by some Anglo-Catholics (following an alleged Roman Catholic lead) to reduce the priestly office to its sacramental role, and thereby to under-emphasize the pastoral and teaching responsibilities and gifts inherent in that Order, is quite wrong. This I have stated in clear terms more than once, summarizing my arguments with the words of E.J. Bicknell (from a footnote):

"As we have said, the English word priest by derivation simply means 'presbyter'. But it has acquired the meaning of 'sacerdos'. The Christian presbyter in virtue of his office is a 'priest'. Priesthood is one of his functions."6  

We must turn neither to the right hand nor to the left, but walk within a via media that avoids extremes, following the advice of St. John Chrysostom not to endorse by accident one error through the effort of refuting the opposite error.7 In this manner we must refute Jensen's view. Archbishop Jensen argues that the laity may preach, and that, of necessity, along with preaching is Eucharistic Celebration; if they may do one they may do the other. 8 We may explore the argument itself presently, but first we must note that he tries to pin Sydney's new and novel idea on Cranmer. What he fails to see is that we cannot interpret the English Reformers accurately by drawing our own conclusions from their writings, no matter how intact our logic, unless we face the facts of what polity they insisted on, both by the full body of their teachings and by Canon Law. In the words of Richard Hooker:

“Is it a small office to despise the Church of God? ‘My son, keep thy father’s commandment,’ saith Solomon, ‘and forget not thy mother’s instruction: Bind them both always about thine heart.’ It doth not stand with the duty we owe to our heavenly Father, that to the ordinances of our mother the Church we should show ourselves disobedient. Let us not say we keep the commandments of the one, when we break the law of the other: for unless we observe both we obey neither.” (Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, 3.IX.3)

Hooker upholds not only the teaching of the Church, but also, what he calls “her ecclesiastical authority,” not to be redundant, but to extend the meaning to include all aspects of polity.
No one doubts that some sort of Lay Preaching is permissible under certain conditions, and certainly no one should silence a member of the laity who can, by writing and teaching, edify and instruct us in the ways of holiness and in theology, or who may be a very effective evangelist. Indeed, and without any dispute, Deacons may preach from the pulpit if licensed by the Bishop. But, the Anglican Ordinal, in the Ordering of Priests, lays specific and particular emphasis on the authority, responsibility and the gift through Ordination to be a minister of God's word in a new way that he had not been heretofore as a Deacon, and does so in a line that includes as well his sacramental role. Surely this teaches us something of substance. The priest has a duty and a charism to be that minister of Word and Sacrament, and this answers Jensen's argument on the connection between preaching and celebrating the Eucharist. Furthermore, it answers it according to the only practice ever permitted in the Church, both before and after the English Reformation.       
Archbishop Jensen and the Sydney "Anglicans" quite rightly reject women's "ordination." But, they employ the same method of Scriptura Egenus used by its advocates. In so doing they reject both the particular teaching of Anglicanism, and how that teaching is one of fidelity to Scripture as understood since the beginning in Antiquity, through the Right Reason of Tradition by “the Church with her authority.” The result is, in the Diocese of Sydney, though they are for the moment free from the error of women’s “ordination,” they promote an innovation every bit as rebellious and heretical.

1. Grudem, Wayne: Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Zondervan Publishers, 1995 Van Nuys.

3. “Be it in matter of the one kind or of the other, what Scripture doth plainly deliver, to that the first place both of credit and obedience is due; the next whereunto is whatsoever any man can necessarily conclude by force of reason; after this the Church succeedeth that which the Church by her ecclesiastical authority shall probably think and define to be true or good, must in congruity of reason overrule all other inferior judgments whatsoever.” (Richard Hooker, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity,Book 5.VIII.2)
4. That is, clarification of what the Rites always had meant.
5. From an earlier Latin Ordinal translated by Cranmer, the first English Ordinal used verses of Scripture to identify respectively the three Orders.
6. E.J.Bicknell, A Theological Introduction to The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. See Pastoral Priesthood, andThe Elders that Rule Well.
7. St. John Chrysostom: Six Little Books on the Priesthood.
8. What does he make, then, of Cranmer's rubric from the 1549 Book of Common Prayer? "When the holy Communion is celebrate on the workeday, or in private howses: Then may be omitted, the Gloria in excelsis, the Crede, the Homily, and the exhortacion, beginning..."


Jack Miller said...

Thank you for this timely polemic. The case for ordained ministers of the Church as those solely given authority to dispense both Word and Sacraments is indeed needed. It may not seem apparent to some, but the Church, unfortunately, is not necessarily immune from the growing infection in today's culture that spreads a "spirit" of democratization of authority in all things and the relativizing of truth by modern man from his "evolved" perspective.

Grounded in that which was given in the past, we do find our way through in the present.

Anonymous said...

This movement stinks -- more laymen not understanding the universal priesthood, so they have to play ordained minister; and more clergy not understanding their own calling and sowing confusion.

It's as offensive as the Roman Catholic "Lay Eucharistic Ministers".

Thanks for the good article, Fr. Hart.

Steven Augustine
ACC Layman

Fr. Wells said...

One does not have to do any deep research to show that the Sydney innovation of "Lay Presidency" is an utterly new departure from the concept of Ministry held and taught by the magisterial Reformers, particularly those of the "Calvinist" churches. The Westminster Confession of Faith, in its chapter "Of the Lord's Supper," is quite clear: "The Lord Jesus hath, in this ordinanance appointed his ministers to declare his word of institutioon to his people, and to pray and bless the elements of bread and wine...." In fact, the Calvinist/Puritan tendency was in the opposite diection from Sydney. Lay Baptism was condemned and even the reading of Scripture lessons was restricted to the ordained Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Westminster Directory for Worship.

(The "priesthood of all believers" doctrine has led Lutherans, on occasion, into their own form of lay presidency. But that doctrine is actually unknown to the Reformed Confessions.)

Sydney has stepped apart from its Reformed heritage. But equally erroneous is the attempt to paint the entire Evangelical position with the Sydney brush. "Lay presidency" has not been the case in 500 years, and Antipodean anomalies should be discounted.

Brian said...

Sydney Anglicanism has about as much in common with historic evangelicalism as did the "anxious bench" emotionalism of the Second Great Awakening.

Brian said...

Forgive the double post, but I think the Sydney Anglican situation illustrates how the "O" in WO often goes undefined. It hardly matters that Sydney is against this heresy, given their understanding of ordination itself is at odds with Scripture, ancient tradition and the very principles of the Reformation.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant and timely analysis as usual. I quite agree with Fr. Wells that Reformers such as Calvin would find this out of step with their teaching. It is pure liberalism.


Fr. Wells said...

Permit me to add that the totally unprecedented notion of "lay presidency" did not originate below the Equator. I happen to recall a certain professor of systematic theology in the 60's, neither an Australian nor an Evangelical, but rather an early revisionist who thought the newsprint jottings of group dynamics psychobabble were the real "data" of theology. This learned gentleman thought he was being very clever by framing the question thus: If the rubrics of the Prayer Book only allow an ordained priest to celebrate by the Prayer Book rite, then can a non-ordained layman celebrate the Eucharist is he uses some other rite? By such silliness this "theologian" was definitely coercing his victims in the direction of Lay Presidency.

Brian said...

It should mentioned that lay administration has been preceded in Sydney by diaconal administration.

Heresy begets heresy, just as there is a straight line from ECUSA's tolerance of divorce to its current pansexualist agenda.

Joseph said...

I see this kind of thing and I wonder why people who want "open forum' style of worship join a mega-church or become UU

Jack Miller said...

Does one want to ascribe to Sydney the label of heresy? That seems rather extreme despite their departure from the witness and practice of all of the Magisterial Reformers/Confessions in this matter.

There are many kinds of errors it seems, heresy being the most vile. Shouldn't that label best be confined to matters of soteriology? For heresy is damning.

Anonymous said...

The "Cathedral" of Sydney has "Morning Church" as their prime service called a "meeting" in which they:

* sing about 4 hymns, led by the choir and organist;
* say the Apostles Creed together;
* listen to the Bible readings;
* hear a couple of items from the choir, with titles like Te Deum, or Anthem, or Jubilate;
* pray together, led from the front;
* listen to a talk from the Bible readings (usually about 30 minutes); and
* listen to some notices.

What is this a K-Tel Record? "With titles like "Te Deum" Remember the English Reformation? We've got it in on a 3 record set... well TURN IT UP MAN!

They grudgingly have another "congregation" who uses the BCP but only at 8:30am.

They have also permanently removed the high altar.


Fr. John said...

We have such a Sydney church in Atlanta. The building is just off I-75, and is breathtakingly beautiful in its Gothic and stained glass splendor. It could be called a cathedral. Inside is another look, with theater style seating, rocking chair plush, Desi Arnaz style orchestra on stage, with a granite altar on wheels to be brought out at communion time. One line features red grape juice, the other fermented wine. Praise teams run up and down the aisles urging the less enthusiastic to stand up and clap. No bishop is needed since they do not offer the sacrament of confirmation. The priest was trained and ordained in Sydney, and his associate pastor is a Baptist minister. No prayer books anywhere, since there is really no liturgy to speak of anyway. There are thousands of members.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Jack Miller:
Shouldn't that label best be confined to matters of soteriology?

Ah, but this brings up a question of no small importance: Is the sacrament of Communion unrelated to soteriology?

AFS1970 said...

I agree with the label of heresy, simply because it is time that we in Anglican Christianity started calling the spades spades. We have become comfortable calling TEC by whatever word we need to, but still can not quite bring ourselves to admit that there are other heresies going on in the Anglican Communion.

We are a sacramental church, we have an ordained priesthood. When a body chooses to disregard these concepts and practices then they cease to be one of us. It was breaks in communion like this that lead to the founding of the continuum in the first place.

Perhaps if we learn to correctly label Sydney then we will grow string enough to correctly label other non biblical actions taken in the name of self styled Anglicanism.

Jack Miller said...

Hello Fr. Hart,

Thanks for your response...

you wrote - Ah, but this brings up a question of no small importance: Is the sacrament of Communion unrelated to soteriology?

Indeed... isn't all of Christian faith and practice "related" to Christ's saving work? Certainly some things more centrally related than others. The sacrament of Communion, as you prompt, is intimately related, similarly (but not the same) to how the proclamation of God's Word, the Gospel, is related to the saving work and office of Christ.

"And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of his holy Sacraments."

I take this to mean that both are effectual means of grace ministered by the priest. He is the herald, the shepherd, the ordained communicator of that heavenly food of salvation fed to the sheep of Christ. In both the sermon and the Lord's Supper the priest dispenses, proclaims, and offers the completed work of salvation accomplished by Christ alone. But neither he, nor the preaching, nor the Sacrament are part of that finished word of Christ. Theirs is to proclaim it as food for hungry sinner/saints.

In light of this, my only question is - does one want to apply the label heresy upon those ordained clergy (Sydney) who, under their authority, wrongly delegate the administration of the Sacrament to non-ordained, especially if the words of institution are properly used and the Gospel is clearly declared? Now I think their practice is both unwise and in error. Yet the Protestant Reformed clergy are not in the Apostolic Succession and thus not properly ordained according to Anglo-Catholic doctrine, and I would hope no one here is about to use the word heresy , i.e. damnable, to describe their sacraments. Otherwise heretical comes to simply mean that which does not comport with proper ordination. The English Reformers certainly didn't take that view.

All I'm suggesting is some prudence and nuance in these difficult matters.

best regards...

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Jack Miller:

Your point is indeed worth making and discussing. First of all, I do not regard what I have said as "Anglo-Catholic doctrine," but simply Anglican doctrine.

The line in question was "an innovation every bit as rebellious and heretical [as women's ordination]." That "every bit as" is a qualifier. This involves a somewhat complicated difficulty, namely rejection of truth as opposed to ignorance.

Anglicans have inherited traditional formularies and (though varying a little from country to country) Canon Law that protect catholic order. To treat holy orders, and sacraments that involve those orders, as subject to the whims and innovations of any given diocese or established church, is to denigrate their significance, and to call into question whether or not they were established by God or by man (and in Sydney, they began by open rebellion against those formularies and their canon law).

What do we do, then, with theAnglican Catechism?

"HOW many Sacraments hath Christ ordained in his Church?
Answer. Two only, as generally necessary to salvation, that is to say, Baptism, and the Supper of the Lord."

Is this not based on Scripture (John 3:3f in light of Rom. 6:1f, and John 6:53f in light of- e.g.- I Cor. 11:24,25)? Is not, then, willful rejection of these, by a church body that knows better in its institutional memory, different from ignorance of the same by, e.g. Baptists?

I am still the same man who wrote the three part series on sacraments and grace, and in no way recant that. It includes:

"This is because [we] do not want to 'unchurch' Protestant Christians who make no claim to Apostolic Succession, and to historic continuity with the ancient Church. What I wrote in Part II of this series, however, is very different. The title of this series is 'Grace and Sacraments.' A distinction that needs to made and understood is that of what God may do and what the Church is commanded to do... The limits of God's own workings and grace, however, are also in the category of what He has not defined. The Anglican position of refusing to define these limits is what has confused the two strange bedfellows, the out-dated Roman Catholic apologist and the new-wave Evangelical 'Bin diver.' Both have confused refusal to define what God has not defined with a low standard, perhaps a non-standard, in judging any sacrament to be invalid. Here we must distinguish between what is meant by two different terms: Invalid on one hand, and Absolutely null and utterly void on the other...the expression 'Absolutely null and utterly void' suggests a thing beyond our knowing, for it dares to presume, beyond what God has revealed, a limitation to his grace. 'Absolutely null' may refer simply to invalidity, but 'utterly void' cannot help but beg the question 'void of what?' The only logical answer is grace, the part that God fulfills. This is what we cannot know. We are able rightly to say that a sacrament is invalid, but are not able to say that God has withheld his grace, even the grace that normally comes through the sacrament."

For Anglicans, the ordination of women and lay celebration are equally heretical, for they call into question the truth our formularies and canon laws had affirmed, and that about an issue that goes straight to the basic practice of administering salvation (i.e. sacramental ministry - in addition to only proclaiming salvation) in the normal fashion established by Christ in the Gospel.

Jack Miller said...

Thanks for your reply, Fr. Hart.

Let me clarify that I wasn't applying the term "Anglo-Catholic to anything that you wrote regarding ordination as necessary for the proper administration of the Sacraments. I was only applying that term to the doctrine of Apostolic Succession and the validity of the Reformed ordination/sacraments, in order to differentiate between it and what I think is a fair reading of the 16th century English Reformers' position re: A.S. and the Continental Reformed churches. I know you see it differently, yet others in the Anglican tradition would and do disagree.

I have no real disagreement with you on this matter. Probably more of nuance and when to apply the term heresy.

Btw, should "heresy" be used to describe the preaching of faith in Christ's death and resurrection for forgiveness of sins plus the necessity of good works as a prerequisite to receive salvation? Or even more common in too many pulpits, the preaching of moralism and platitudes without any Gospel food to nourish one's faith? Imagine the Lord's Supper with no bread and wine!

It sometimes seems there is much more concern regarding deviations in sacramental ministry than for the absence of the doctrines of salvation in the preaching.

Just thoughts I mull over... as I consider with thankfulness this blog and the Anglican tradition...

Pete said...

Very interesting; quite shocked to have it set out so precisely and concisely.

Rather than 'Sydney Anglicans' how about The so-called Jensenist church?

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I was only applying that term to the doctrine of Apostolic Succession and the validity of the Reformed ordination/sacraments, in order to differentiate between it and what I think is a fair reading of the 16th century English Reformers' position re: A.S. and the Continental Reformed churches.

Fair enough. Yes, the English Reformers never pronounced judgment on the continental churches exactly, except by implication in English Canon Law. When Hooker defended the English Church polity on the matter, especially in Book VII, he did sound very much like an "Anglo-Catholic," but stopping short of the "absolutely null and utterly void" fallacy. Mainly, he did this by not going into the question beyond his earlier refutation of the Geneva Discipline.

Btw, should "heresy" be used to describe the preaching of faith in Christ's death and resurrection for forgiveness of sins plus the necessity of good works as a prerequisite to receive salvation?

It is absolutely necessary to use the word "heresy" about that, and to remind everyone of St. Paul's terrifying words in Galatians 1:8,9

"But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed."

Jack Miller said...

It is absolutely necessary to use the word "heresy" about that, and to remind everyone of St. Paul's terrifying words in Galatians 1:8,9

I was hoping you would say that. May Christ crucified be proclaimed from the pulpits of the Anglican churches as boldly and clearly as He is rightly and really offered in the bread and wine of Holy Communion. Amen.

Thank you for bearing with me...