Tuesday, July 24, 2007

"Sin" is key to present state of our disunity, says Continuing Church Metropolitan

The article below was posted at VirtueOnline and I did not see it until today, July 23rd. If my old friend, the Australian Bishop, John-Charles, who taught with me at Nashotah House in the early 1990s, is correct in what he states, then the Continuing Anglican Church(es) are not really Anglican in any historical meaning of the word, for they have rejected the classic, historical formularies of the Anglican Way and adopted other formularies which take them into a kind of half-way point between The Anglican Way and both Rome and Orthodoxy. But not all the Continuing Anglican jurisdictions actually have the Affirmation of St Louis in their constitution--e.g. the APCK-- and so committment to it is not required of clergy. in all continuing bodies. In former times--when I was young-- those who were known as anglo-catholics accepted the classic formularies and added to them what were seen as doctrines and ceremonies which were optional and extra, and these were not made compulsorh for others. For John-Charles the optional and extra are a necessary part of the foundation and so it comes about that many high church evangelicals and old fashioned high churchmen and even Prayer Book Catholics have no place in the Continuing Movement as he describes it.

Posted by David Virtue on 2007/7/5
"Sin" is key to present state of our disunity, says Continuing Church Metropolitan,

Archbishop John-Charles, F.O.D.C.

To all Bishops of Churches Adhering to the Affirmation of St. Louis

In the love of Christ and with all fraternal respect.


It has become a matter of urgency to me that I write to you concerning unity among Continuing Anglicans. As age wearies and I find my physical faculties diminishing, I am constantly reminded that there is less time ahead of me than behind me.

While I am now retired and no longer a Bishop Ordinary, it remains the case that by year of consecration I am the senior bishop of the Continuing Churches. This is no cause for pride or self-assertion, but I do feel that it lays upon me the responsibility of doing whatever I can in the time left to me to break down barriers between us, foster concord and repair communion.

What divides us?

Is it dogma or doctrine? Surely not, for we are all committed to the Affirmation, which in turn commits us, not to yet another confessional statement in the history of the Church, but to Scripture as interpreted by Holy Tradition, that is the Consensus Patrum and the Seven Ecumenical Councils common to East and West. Is there any dispute among us as to the great and foundational dogmas of the Creed, summarizing the eternal Gospel? Do any of us deny the doctrines of Apostolic Succession, Eucharistic Sacrifice, or the Real Presence? Do any of us reject the truth of traditional Catholic teaching on prayer for the dead, the invocation of Saints, or the Blessed Virgin's divine maternity, perpetual virginity, immaculacy and present glory? Indeed, is there any element of the Faith we would vainly wish to filter out in the name of private interpretation, presuming to "correct" the Church Universal? Are any of us "cafeteria Catholics"?

If the answer to these questions is no, as it must be among those who lay claim to the Affirmation of St. Louis, then the way is open to reconciliation. However, there are some critics of the Affirmation that have claimed to see some customary Anglican ambiguity in it.

I would contend that their interpretation is strained and uncharitable, but let us deal with it, nonetheless.

The Affirmation states that we witness to Tradition as an "essential principle" in the following terms: 'The received Tradition of the Church and its teachings as set forth by "the ancient catholic bishops and doctors," and especially as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church, to the exclusion of all errors, ancient and modern.' Some have said that the phrase be-ginning with the word "exclusion" qualifies in an open-ended way our acceptance of Tradition, as if we were saying, "We accept Tradition, except for the parts we deem heretical." Of course, this is hardly the natural reading, and the phrase in fact refers to ancient errors condemned by the Councils rather than any purportedly set forth by them, as implied by the reference to the Vincentian Canon earlier in the Affirmation.

Nevertheless, our assurance of this does not rest on the Affirmation alone. And it is here that our early history, despite its many false steps, mutual misunderstandings and mis-communications, despite its being marred by human frailty and pride, can provide both clarification and a common foundation.

For at the 1978 Dallas Synod, even amongst confusion and acrimony, while the Continuers were still one and newly renamed the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC), a Solemn Declaration and Preamble to the Constitution were agreed to. The Preamble says, inter alia, 'This Church ... accepts as binding and unalterable the received Faith and Traditions of the Church, ... as set forth in the Holy Scriptures; the ... Creeds; the writings of the "ancient Catholic Bishops and Doctors"; and especially as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church' [emphasis added].

Thus, barring heretical statements elsewhere in the nascent ACC's formularies, of which there were none claimed by anyone, we see that at this point the die was cast and Continuers had formally ratified unambiguously their Catholic identity and epistemology. Henceforth, whatever imperfections may have existed in the Constitution and Canons, and whatever personal errors may have later caused some individuals to advocate protestant, minimalist positions or sow discord in other ways, the ACC was irrevocably and undeniably a Catholic jurisdiction.

Therefore, it cannot be claimed that division has occurred for fundamentally theological reasons, as the only justification for separation over matters of faith is if one of the bodies formally embraces heresy. That this is not the case according to those who left the ACC is proven by the fact that there were later Episcopal co-consecrations involving them and ACC bishops. Such shared acts are inconceivable without mutual admission of orthodoxy, as is admitted by all.

And so we come back to the question, what divides us?

Is it liturgical churchmanship? Hardly, for all our jurisdictions contain many parishes which use the Missal and some which prefer the simpler BCP Mass, the latter being in our eyes no less Catholic due to its simplicity than is Novus Ordo. Is it differences in standards of discipline? Unlikely, since all of our Churches aim for high standards but must admit to having licensed, ordained, or even consecrated men who we have belatedly discovered to be of questionable character or stability.

Many years ago, I was asked in a public forum if I could explain how Christians in general had come to be so divided. I rose, went to the microphone and said one word: "Sin." I believe this answer also holds the key to our present state of disunity.

Yet I am far from implying that the fault lies only with those who have left the ACC. An unbiased investigation of our history as Continuing Anglicans does not allow any of us to escape blame. Nor do I wish to pretend that every division or schism has been due solely to clashes of personality, power-seeking or trivialities.

No, all of us must frankly examine ourselves and admit where we may have failed the tests of charity or straightforwardness. We must also all remember that, in the absence of a solution to the initial ECUSA descent into heresy authorized and imposed "from above", Continuers were forced to solve the problem themselves by voluntary association. While this was unavoidable in the emergency situation they faced, and thus actions normally impermissible and irregular were covered by the doctrine of economy, there can be no doubt that such a beginning made later divisions much easier. (It may well be that only by re-establishing communion with other branches of the Catholic Church, and so making ourselves more directly accountable to a wider Communion, will this flaw that was present ab initio be overcome.) And we must face up to the one issue of genuine substance that remains to keep us separate.

I refer to our different policies on the limits of communio in sacris. While this is not an area of difference in dogma strictly speaking, it is an important area of what we might call "applied ecclesiology" that makes closer relations difficult by its very nature. It has become increasingly clear to us in the ACC that the only way for those Catholic traditionalists still in the Anglican Communion to be fully faithful to their beliefs is to make a clean and public break with it.

Vague statements about "impaired communion" are not enough: public, clear, and complete repudiation of heresy and sacramental communion with heterodox Anglican provinces is what is required at the very least. Better still, all except unavoidable historic association with the Canterbury crew should be rejected. Rather than encouraging those left in the mire to retain some attachment to it, we must confront them with the need to make a choice.

Quite apart from questions of sacramental integrity, there is the matter of providing an honest witness to the world. Similarly, it is surely important that Continuing Anglican Churches which can lay claim to the doctrinal heritage of the Affirmation and the jurisdictional continuity of the "Chambers Succession" avoid establishing full communion with bodies of vagantes or heterodox origins until we are quite sure, with moral certainty, that these bodies have abandoned earlier errors and, if necessary, had their Orders regularized.

I beg that as fellow Pastors of the flock we set our house in order, discuss and overcome any theological differences that might remain, make the necessary apologies and present a unified and forthright position to Anglicans who remain in the chaos.

My own experience, having remained in ECUSA longer than was tolerable, assures me that providing them an escape route back to the Church is our duty. Leaving them where they are is simply not an option.

Yours in Christ,

Archbishop John-Charles, F.O.D.C.
The Province of The Anglican Catholic Church

1 comment:

Mark Carroll of Kentucky said...

Seven Ecumenical Councils .... Anglican heritage?

We are frequently reminded on our Society's Blog about the Reformed Anglican Way and Faith, and in that regard, I would agree with Lancelot Andrews: ‘One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries, and the series of Fathers in that period…determine the boundary of our faith"

Mark Carroll of Kentucky
Member, PBS