Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Reposted from November 2008

A worn out gotcha

Among the comments in this blog we saw another one of those "gotchas," manufactured by Polemicists R Us, that is guaranteed to make Anglicans throw their hands in the air, shake their pointed little heads, and beg to be forgiven for five hundred years of mistakes (or is that 450 years of a failed experiment?). The problem is, manufacturers guarantees are designed only to sell products, even products that were built broken and never did work.

I have seen this little "gotcha" before. Back when he was still deciding between the Two One True Churches, Fr. Al Kimel's blog featured it all the time. Here is what the polemical comment said:

"The regula fide--under whatever form of his Branch Theory you might use--requires assent by both East and West, but the assent granted by both East and West is that Anglicans are not a part of the Church. But you will not accept that one ruling from them..."

This reminded me of one of the "Pontificator's Laws" that said something to this effect: "When Rome and Orthodoxy agree on something and Protestants don't agree, Protestantism loses." Of course, that might make sense as long as the Two One Trues are also right on the particular subject, which is not a given; for, by any rules of logic, all such things must be demonstrated rather than assumed. Also, it requires that we define what and whom we mean by the word "Protestantism," which begs definition these days more than ever. It begs the question, as well, whether or not a restoration of Catholic truth is the same as what Fr. Al the Pontificator meant by "Protestantism."

More to the point of the particular "gotcha" quoted above, and the defect of the manufacturer's guarantee, it is not even true that Rome and Orthodoxy agree on the matter in question. At least two facts stand against the argument.

Orthodoxy has never made an official ruling on any Church except the Orthodox Church. However, the only rulings ever made by Orthodox Patriarchs about Anglicanism were far from anything that could be called agreement with Rome. Specifically, the Orthodox Church wrote of their recognition of Anglican Orders (no small matter) in several letters to the Archbishop of Canterbury beginning in 1922. Also, the meaning of this recognition was clear, inasmuch as the Patriarchs and Archbishops allowed Orthodox Christians to receive Anglican sacraments during a time when Orthodox churches and clergy were few and far between in many western countries, including the United States. This ended in 1976, only because of the heresy of women's "ordination"- a heresy we have rejected from its beginning. (Furthermore, concerning the United States, one Russian bishop's opposite opinion that dates much earlier, to 1904, is not relevant, as the date alone makes obvious.) All of the letters will appear in the appendix below.

I quote an earlier post:

"In 1978, after it became clear that churches within the Anglican Communion were 'ordaining' women and intent on spreading this untraditional practice, Orthodox Archbishop Athenagoras remarked: '…the theological dialogue [between the Orthodox and the Anglicans] will continue, although now simply as an academic and informativeexercise, and no longer as an ecclesial endeavor aiming at the union of the two churches.'”(1)

As you can see, the recognition of Anglican orders, and the permission granted to Orthodox Christians from their own bishops, that they could receive sacraments from Anglican priests, was part of an effort to become one Church.(2)

At no time in modern history have the Orthodox Patriarchs, Archbishops and Bishops allowed any of their people to receive the sacraments of Roman Catholic priests. The fact is, Anglican priests were given this honor, and Roman Catholic priests were not. To this day, even though Rome has opened the door to them, the Orthodox are forbidden to receive sacraments from the Roman Catholic Church. Nonetheless, if not for women's "ordination" the practice might still continue ("might" since many Orthodox churches have since been built where there had been none, eliminating the need to go to anyone else), and the goal of unity would have gone forward. How ironic this is for Continuing Anglicans, since we have never suffered women's "ordination" either.

The second problem with the "gotcha" is that it is basically untrue for an even deeper reason. This is also why the "Pontificator's Law" quoted above is irrelevant to this subject. The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church do not agree about Anglicanism; rather they disagree with each other on which of the two of them is, in fact, Really and Truly The One True Church. Any effect this might have on their consideration of any other church is merely an extension of this, their basic disagreement with each other. This disagreement also rules out any validity to their respective doctrines of an exclusive claim to the title, The Holy Catholic Church. That is because it proves immediately that neither claim has Universal consent.

This also begs what I have called the Anglican solution. We look at them and wonder: Why are they blind to the obvious? They are both the One True Church, and so are we. The Anglican solution is summed up not by a Lambeth Conference, not by an ABC, and not even by our Affirmation of St. Louis. Rather, it is summed up by Saint Paul the Apostle:

"If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary." -I Corinthians 12: 15-22

Not only does the body need the "two lungs" of east and west; we, the Continuing Anglicans are needed as well. Only by what we have taught all along can these two ancient communions realize that they are already part of One Church, like it or not (in fact, let's hope they learn all this at the Church of the Nativity before Christmas Eve- a little peace would be nice this year).

(1) As quoted in Anglican-Orthodox Dialogue: The Dublin Agreed Statement, (Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1985), p.3
(2) The permission to receive the sacraments was an official way of treating the Anglican priesthood as completely valid in fact (which pretty much sinks a theory of Metropoltan Kaillstos Ware designed to make it all mean nothing).
Encyclical on Anglican Ordersfrom the Oecumenical Patriarch to the Presidents of the Particular Eastern Orthodox Churches, 1922
[The Holy Synod has studied the report of the Committee and notes:]
1. That the ordination of Matthew Parker as Archbishop of Canterbury by four bishops is a fact established by history.
2. That in this and subsequent ordinations there are found in their fullness those orthodox and indispensable, visible and sensible elements of valid episcopal ordination - viz. the laying on of hands, the Epiclesis of the All-Holy Spirit and also the purpose to transmit the charisma of the Episcopal ministry.
3. That the orthodox theologians who have scientifically examined the question have almost unanimously come to the same conclusions and have declared themselves as accepting the validity of Anglican Orders.
4. That the practice in the Church affords no indication that the Orthodox Church has ever officially treated the validity of Anglican Orders as in doubt, in such a way as would point to the re-ordination of the Anglican clergy as required in the case of the union of the two Churches.
The Patriarch of JERUSALEM, 1923
The Patriarch of Jerusalem wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury in the name of his Synod on March 12, 1923, as follows: To His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, First Hierarch of All England, our most beloved and dear brother in our Lord Jesus, Mgr. Randall. Greeting fraternally your beloved to us, Grace, we have the pleasure to address to you the following: Yesterday we dispatched to Your Grace the following telegram: ‘We have pleasure inform Your Grace that Holy Synod of our Patriarchate after studying in several meetings question Anglican Orders from Orthodox point view resolved their validity.' Today, explaining this telegram, we inform Your Grace that the Holy Synod, having as a motive the resolution passed some time ago by the Church of Constantinople, which is the church having the First Throne between the Orthodox Churches, resolved that the consecrations of bishops and ordinations of priests and deacons of the Anglican Episcopal Church are considered by the Orthodox Church as having the same validity which the Orders of the Roman Church have, because there exist all the elements which are considered necessary from an Orthodox point of view for the recognition of the grace of the Holy Orders from Apostolic Succession. We have great pleasure in communicating to Your Grace, as the First Hierarch of all the Anglican Churches, this resolution of our Church, which constitutes a progress in the pleasing-to-God work of the union of all Churches, and we pray God to grant to Your Grace many years full of health and salvation.(Signed) DAMIANOS
February 27/March 12, 1923 Official translation published in The Christian East, vol. IV, 1923, pp. 121-122. The Archbishop of the autonomous Church of Sinai expressed for his Church adherence to the decisions of Constantinople and Jerusalem.
The Archbishop of CYPRUS, 1923
The Archbishop of Cyprus wrote to the Patriarch of Constantinople in the name of his Synod on March 20, 1923, as follows: To His All-Holiness the Oecumenical Patriarch Mgr. Meletios we send brotherly greeting in Christ. Your Holiness – Responding readily to the suggestion made in your reverend Holiness' letter of August 8, 1922, that the autocephalous Church of Cyprus under our presidency should give its opinion as to the validity of Anglican Orders we have placed the matter before the Holy Synod in formal session. After full consideration thereof it has reached the following conclusion: It being understood that the Apostolic Succession in the Anglican Church by the Sacrament of Order was not broken at the Consecration of the first Archbishop of this Church, Matthew Parker, and the visible signs being present in Orders among the Anglicans by which the grace of the Holy Spirit is supplied, which enables the ordinand for the functions of his particular order, there is no obstacle to the recognition by the Orthodox Church of the validity of Anglican Ordinations in the same way that the validity of the ordinations of the Roman, Old Catholic, and Armenian Church are recognized by her. Since clerics coming from these Churches into the bosom of the Orthodox Church are received without reordination we express our judgment that this should also hold in the case of Anglicans – excluding intercommunio (sacramental union), by which one might receive the sacraments indiscriminately at the hands of an Anglican, even one holding the Orthodox dogma, until the dogmatic unity of the two Churches, Orthodox and Anglican, is attained. Submitting this opinion of our Church to Your All-Holiness, we remain,
Affectionately, the least of your brethren in Christ,Cyril of Cyprus
Archbishopric of Cyprus. March 7/20, 1923 Published in The Christian East, vol. IV, 1923, pp. 122-123.
The Patriarch of ALEXANDRIA, 1930
After the Lambeth Conference of 1930, the Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria found itself able to join in the recognition of Anglican Orders. The decision was announced in a letter from the Patriarch to the Archbishop of Canterbury as follows: To the Most Reverend Dr. Cosmo Lang, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England, Greetings in the New Born Christ The Feast of the Nativity, according to the Flesh, of the Redeemer of our Souls being a most suitable occasion for us, as it were, to visit your Beatitude, our friend, by means of a letter, we come to you hereby with a heart that is filled alike with joy, that "unto us is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord," and with fervent prayers both for your health and for the peace and stability of the holy Churches of God over which you preside. At the same time, together with our greetings for the Feast, we send you as our gift the news, which we are sure will be good news, to you, that having derived the greatest gratification from the accounts which it has received, both of the marks of honor which were rendered in London, alike by your Grace and by the general body of your Church, to the office which is ours, and also of the happy results which by the favouring breath of the Holy Spirit have emerged from the contact of the Orthodox Delegation with the Lambeth Conference, our Holy Synod of the Metropolitans of the Apostolic and Patriarchal Throne of Alexandria has proceeded to adopt a resolution recognizing the validity, as from the Orthodox point of view, of the Anglican Ministry. The text of that resolution is as follows: "The Holy Synod recognizes that the declarations of the Orthodox, quoted in the Summary, were made according to the spirit of Orthodox teaching. Inasmuch as the Lambeth Conference approved the declarations of the Anglican Bishops as a genuine account [1] of the teaching and practice of the Church of England and the Churches in communion with it, it welcomes them as a notable step towards the Union of the two Churches. And since in these declarations, which were endorsed by the Lambeth Conference, complete and satisfying assurance is found as to the Apostolic Succession, as to a real reception of the Lord's Body and blood, as to the Eucharist being thusia hilasterios [2] (Sacrifice), and as to Ordination being a Mystery, the Church of Alexandria withdraws its precautionary negative to the acceptance of the validity of Anglican Ordinations, and, adhering to the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, of July 28, 1922, pronounces that if priests, ordained by Anglican Bishops, accede to Orthodoxy, they should not be re-ordained, as persons baptized by Anglicans are not rebaptized." We rejoice to see the middle wall of partition being thrown down more and more, and we congratulate your Beatitude that under God you have had the felicity of taking the initiative in furthering that work. May the Lord Who was born in Bethlehem give to you and to us the happiness of its completion. In Alexandria upon the Feast of Christ's Nativity, 1930 Your Beatitude's Beloved Brother in ChristMeletios of Alexandria
In reporting this decision to the Oecumenical Patriarch Meletios emphasized that his Synod was acting on the basis that the statements made at Lambeth had removed their former hesitation "as to the teaching of the Anglican Church upon the mysteries and Apostolic succession," and could be held to have met the desire expressed by the Romanian Patriarch in replying to Constantinople in 1925, when he wrote, But in order to make a definite pronouncement, we desire especially that the Anglican Church herself should precise her doctrine concerning the holy mysteries and particularly concerning orders: does she hold it to be a mystery or not? Since that requirement had now been satisfied, wrote Meletios, It is proper that the validity of Anglican Orders should now be recognized by all Orthodox Churches. For that which, according to the same letter, was "one of the most serious obstacles in the way of the Union of the two Churches," has been "removed."
Letter published in The Christian East, vol. XII, 1931, pp. 1-6, with notes as above; the quotation in Note 2 is from No. 11 in the Resume of the Lambeth Discussions, reprinted below, p. 22.
FOOTNOTES[1] The words in the Resolution of the Lambeth Conference are "sufficient account." [2] We transliterate the term, thusia hilasterios, and do not translate it by propitiatory sacrifice, or expiatory sacrifice, because, as generally used, these terms present conceptions which are not attached by the Orthodox to thusia hilasterios. The words used by the Anglican Bishops in their discussions with the Orthodox Delegation, as recorded in the Resume, and endorsed by the Lambeth Conference are: "… that the Anglican Church teaches the doctrine of Eucharistic Sacrifice as explained in the Answer of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to Pope Leo XIII, on Anglican Ordinations: and also that in the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Anglican Church prays that ‘by the merits and death of Thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in His Blood, we and all Thy whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of His Passion,' as including the whole company of faithful people, living and departed." Lambeth Conference Report, 1930,


Theodora said...


May Christ's whole church be re-united and become one in Spirit, soul and body.
I Thessalonians 5:23

AFS1970 said...

Very well written article (again). Basically even if the TOTC's agreed on this, it would be, as we know from our own history, incorrect. Even if they chose to hold the idea that the Canterbury Communion was no longer part of the church, that would not apply to the Continuing Churches for both theological and organizational reasons.

Yet even with this, there has been no move to repair relations between the EOC(s) and the Continuum. Of course there has been very little in this regard from Rome also. I suspect that the real reason for all of this is political and not theological. If either of the TOTC's recognizes our separatist groups, they might also have to recognize their own separatist groups and that is just something they just can not bring themselves to do.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Hart, you seem to forget that the 'branch theory' has been discredited by both the Orthodox (some of whom explicitly anathematize it) and the Romans.

It is also perhaps of interest that Roman Priests are frequently received into the Orthodox church by 'vesting', i.e. not re-ordination) but never Anglican priests. In view of the current anarchy in the Anglican world, ecompassing everything from baptism in the name of other gods, and ordination of people male and female who lead disordered lives) I often wonder how a traditional Orthodox bishop would view a 'traditional' Anglican approaching him, with joy or trepidation?

At any rate, you have made your views clear. It would be up to the Orthodox hierahy acting in synod to adequately respond and that is well above my pay grade, as they say.

Fraternally yours,

Rdr. James Morgan
former Anglican, now OCA

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Fr. Hart, you seem to forget that the 'branch theory' has been discredited by both the Orthodox (some of whom explicitly anathematize it) and the Romans.

Forgotten? of course I haven't forgotten. It's just that I don't give a damn. The only reason the Two One True Churches take that position is to rival each other. The Anglican position is simple: we just laugh at it.

Anonymous said...

Reader James Morgan,
former Anglican, now OCA, wonders:

In view of the current anarchy in the Anglican world, ecompassing everything from baptism in the name of other gods, and ordination of people male and female who lead disordered lives) I often wonder how a traditional Orthodox bishop would view a 'traditional' Anglican approaching him, with joy or trepidation?

Well I suspect it would be the latter, since "traditional" Orthodox bishops view the entire Western Christian world with not only trepidation, but outright contempt. But Fr. Hart has accurately described our natural response to that.

(Rdr.) Caedmon, former OCA, now Anglican

Little Black Sambo said...

"...the 'branch theory' has been discredited by both the Orthodox ... and the Romans."
Saying it doesn't make it so.

Canon Tallis said...

Three cheers and a 'hip,hip hoorah' for both Little Black Sambo and Caedmon.

And much, much more of the same for Father Hart.

One of the things which buttress my own faith in classical Anglicanism is that so many of those who have chose to go Orthodox or Papist can not help but keep looking backwards, never closing their relationship with prayer book faith and practice. Clearly something in the place where they have now parked themselves is lacking.

As Anglicans and Catholic Christians we have our failings, most those of men who have failed to do what we promised, but when all of the prayer book liturgy is given its just due, there is little in Christendom that can truly rival it.

Thanks for the re-posting. So much of this blog deserves to be read and re-read. I hope others do it besides myself.

Confessor said...

The cost of unity (within the Church and within ourselves) is repentance. Repentance is the first, most essential and powerful weapon of our warfare. Without it, we are individually and collectively blind, deaf, powerless, disordered, disoriented, lost. Repentance is the door to power to overcome. (See Fr. Hart's sermon for this week above)

Without wholesale repentance, there will never be unity in the global Church. And, there is plenty of evidence, call and cause for repentance across the board in every tradition and jurisdiction of the Church, both today and over the centuries.

Remember the scene in the Gospels when Jesus contrasted the prayers of the Publican and the Pharisee? This applies to the Church, the daughter of Jerusalem as she stands today, stained, deceived, rebellious, proud and willful...full of herself. Judgment begins in the household of faith. The furnace is in the Temple courts.

Rosh Hashannah, the ten days of Awe and Yom Kippur have passed, but we as Christians can enter into the fasting, repentance of Lent and Yom Kippur any day of the year.

Through His shaking and as the scandals of the Church come to light, God is bringing unity through repentance...where the Church is learning to acknowledge her sin.