Tuesday, February 13, 2007

ORTHODOXY brings RESPONSIBILITIES: To whom much is given, much is expected

“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required…” Luke 12:48

If we think of the recent history and experience of the people of The Anglican Way in North America, not at the level of ecclesiastical, global politics, the sociology of religion, or the success of this or that Anglican jurisdiction or group, but from the perspective of the moral law, of God’s Law and will, and of the New Testament doctrine and vision of the One Church of God, then each and all of us will surely tremble with fear—and, for the sake of our salvation, let us ensure that it is godly fear.

Why “the fear of the Lord”? Because not only the so-called progressive liberals and revisionists have caused havoc to The Anglican Way of Reformed Catholic Faith, but those of us also who have “come apart to be separate” from them do not yet show in basics and essentials in our life and witness what really belonging to the Ekklesia of God, the Body of Christ, actually means. Put simply, we have simply gone the way of the typical American denomination when it has faced internal strife and division, and, because such behavior is so common, we hardly notice it in our own camps.

This may seem a harsh judgment, so please read on and charitably consider the following.

To leave The Episcopal Church (TEC) in 1977 protesting its apostasy through ordaining women, changing The Book of Common Prayer and innovating in doctrine and morals, or to leave the same Church twenty or thirty years later in 1997 or 2007 protesting its apostasy through ordaining persons living in same-sex partnerships and innovating in doctrine and morals generally, really and actually places upon those who engage in such schism tremendous responsibilities. That is, having taken the high ground of Scripture and Tradition and having sat in judgment upon TEC and found it seriously in error, it is morally incumbent on the departees so to organize themselves and so to live and witness to Christ and his Church that they show in their common life what The Anglican Way ought to be and truly is. That is, by their schism they begin to show what true unity in faith, hope and love mean. Schism should not be the basis for ever more schism and for the institutionalization of schism!

Let me make the point clearer by giving an illustration both from the 1977 departees and then from those of two or three decades later.

As their Affirmation of St Louis (1977) makes clear, the departees of 1977 placed great emphasis upon the Sacraments and the apostolic Ministry. For them, valid Sacraments were critically important and to have such meant a valid Ministry; and a Ministry that included ordained women (as in TEC) was not valid. So on the principle to whom much is given (in terms of their claims to orthodoxy) much is expected, the departees (“Continuing Anglicans”) ought to have determined to testify by their common life to a Ministry that was unified and valid. That is, to an Episcopate that was a sign of the unity of the Church across space and through time and to a people united under this one Episcopate in the worship and service of Almighty God through Jesus Christ the Lord. They were called—by their own claims—to exhibit what TEC did not. Sadly, regrettably and tragically, what was originally in 1977-8 one movement is now several, with minor streams from the several, and instead of One Episcopate there are several, with in all an excessive number of bishops for several thousand people. And while there is some cooperation here and there between the various parts, what is in place sociologically is religious competition of separate but similar groups, mirroring what is the case on a large scale in the massive supermarket of religions in the U.S.A. It is true that there are some attempts at creating Federations within the Continuing movement but it is to be remembered that a Federation is basically a business model not an ecclesial model and thus it is more about unity through baptismal faith than about the full reality of Eucharistic Communion with a unified Episcopate.

The “departees” since the 1990s include the Anglican Mission in the Americas, the Convocation of Churches associated with Nigeria, associations of churches associated with the Church of South and North India, and many break-away congregations which have placed themselves under the oversight of an absent but willing overseas bishop from a province within the Anglican Communion. So we have once again not the slightest hint anywhere that the Bishop is meant to be the sign of the unity of the Church across space and through time, for here we have up to fifty or sixty bishops with overlapping territories, and often those territories overlap not only those of the “Continuing Churches” but also eight or nine dioceses of TEC which are regarded by them as “orthodox.” In this camp talk of church growth and evangelization, good in themselves, help to hide or divert the fact of many bishops and no unified Episcopate.

I ask myself and my reader this question. Where is the recognition that what is present here in The Anglican Way as much divided is totally contrary to the will of Jesus (see John 17), the profound exposition of unity in truth by his apostle to the Gentiles, St Paul (see Ephesians) and the best Catholic and Anglican theology of the Episcopate? I realize that many explanations can be given for the current mess that is Anglicanism and that in the mess there are amazingly many wonderful stories of faith, hope and love to be told. Yet, as is made clear in the book, The Fate of Communion: The Agony of Anglicanism and the Future of a Global Church, by E Radner and P Turner, orthodoxy that is truth is orthodoxy that prizes unity and does not easily or readily accept brokenness and divisions as normal (because seemingly inevitable in the U.S.A.). In fact true orthodoxy abhors divisions, especially those that are waiting to he healed and can be healed.

What in fact the Anglican situation in North America right now clearly testifies to—and who knows this may even be the secret belief of one or another “orthodox” Anglican leader—is the doctrine that the Church is primarily Invisible, the Church of the elect known unto God alone. Thus chaotic conditions on earth do not really matter because the real Church is known and viewed from heaven as one, because, in the great scheme of things, each member is personally united to Jesus Christ by his faith and the work of the Holy Spirit. And, after all, American business is said to thrive on variety and competition with scope for the entrepreneur. If we do not believe, teach and confess that the Church is primarily Invisible, then we need to take its unity in truth and truth in unity much more seriously than we presently do.

“Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required…” Luke 12:48

drpetertoon@yahoo.com Sexagesima 2007

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