For a Continuing Anglican Ecumenical Movement

I jot down these few ideas in response to Ed Pacht who observed the remarks of Archbishop Haverland in regard to Archbishop Falk and the TAC, affirming that there is an ongoing debate. I can easily see that there are two sides to any difficulty, just as my father said to my sister and I when we had childhood disputes: Six of one and half a dozen of the other.

Since I joined the English Diocese of the ACC, I resolved to keep out of American Continuing Anglican politics and I believe I should continue to keep this resolution. At the same time, I am concerned that there should be peace and cooperation between the Continuing Anglican jurisdictions in America as in the other parts of the world. There have been meetings, notably at Brockton, considered as an important milestone in restoring peace and unity between jurisdictions that have until recently been in conflict. The ideas are out there, and the work is already begun.

All I can do here is offer a few reflections which may meet with “That is already on the agenda” or “That idea is totally inappropriate or impractical“. I am just taking pot shots in the spirit of positive “brain storming” for our own little blogosphere discussions.

It would strike me that many of the problems date from the 1980’s and 1990’s and concern many bishops who are now retired or deceased. Someone is going to have to write a good an unprejudiced history to improve on Douglas Bess and others who would trash the “Alphabet Soup” en bloc and encourage conversion to Roman Catholicism or Orthodoxy. Having myself lived though the Ordinariate events from the point of view of the TAC, I have seen how things can become so destructive, and so I resolved to do what I could to help and collaborate in the regrouping movement. Eventually, I found myself in a part of the world where the ACC was quite unharmed and the TAC may yet take many years to get anywhere beyond pious wishes (they are doing well in parts of the USA, but I’m not in the USA). I left the TAC with my prayers for their good, and sought to offer my priesthood to a Church with more youthful hope and life to do its work in my native land and this Continent of Europe.

There may be two possibilities: forget the conflicts of the past and wait for time itself to efface memories and bitterness, or engage dialogue to face causes and look for ways to remedy the difficulties. Since the 1990’s, I notice that in the ACC there is a much higher standard of theological education among the clergy, and this together with other factors has brought an atmosphere of seriousness and maturity that attracts trust and confidence. This spirit also seems to be getting into the other main American jurisdictions. In England, I find a different spirit from the parochialism and petty-mindedness of the 1990’s. The basis is there for something new and refreshing.

An obvious model for sorting out remaining problems would be the early ecumenical movement in Europe involving the Roman Catholic Church, Lutherans and Anglicans. With roots in the end of the nineteenth century, it was largely a reaction to the suffering and hopelessness caused by two world wars and man’s need for hope. Christianity would be that much more credible if the separated Churches and denominations were seen to be uniting in accordance with the mandate of Christ – ut omnes unum sint – that they all might be one.

Ontologically, the Church is already one through belief in the Gospel and the Sacrament of Baptism. Unity is found in degrees between this base and the fulness of sacramental life and Catholic faith found in all the episcopal and patriarchal Churches. However, there is the human dimension of the Church which is broken through sin. The Church, visible through its sacramental signs and humanity, needs to be a bringer of hope and peace in a world torn by warfare, greed and oppression.

There are different approaches to unity, some of which can be counter-productive without a spirit of wholeness and generosity. The Continuing Anglican world has fewer theological differences to resolve than, for example, the Swiss reformed churches and Rome. All ecumenical dialogue involves avoiding “getting stuck” and being prepared to discuss everything. The Orthodox and Rome are much more reticent about intercommunion, whilst the Continuing Anglican Churches, including the ACC, are prepared to give Communion to Christians of other Churches if they are baptised and believe in the Eucharist in the Catholic way. We are thus looser on questions of intercommunion and degrees of unity.

Between the Catholic (not only Roman but also Old and English) and Orthodox Churches, there are two approaches – a dialogue of love and a dialogue of truth. In our Continuing Anglican Churches, this can take the form of forgiving and forgetting the sins of the past, bishops and archbishops meeting together and visiting each others’ churches and congregations. Between high-church and Catholic jurisdictions, there should be no problem about dogmatic agreement based on a common commitment to the Affirmation of Saint Louis. The problem is to what extent we can dialogue with low-church Anglicans whose theology is heavily influenced by Calvinism.

I have already touched upon the square pegs and round holes of comprehensiveness and its limits. This would have to be the subject of dialogue, and is way beyond my “pay grade”!

There are things that can be done. There has already been the meeting at Brockton, just as long as it is followed up and maintained. There can surely be a sharing of resources like seminary faculties, libraries, internet resources, churches and schools and humanitarian efforts. We all need to be motivated by the prayer of Christ more than our grievances and gripes. We could do well to take inspiration from the Vatican II decree on ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, and Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Ut Unum Sint. I won’t quote them here, but the ideas are plain enough and inspiring.

The prerequisite for any dialogue is a change of heart and a disposition to forgiving and seeking forgiveness, self-denial and humility, gentleness and generosity. The collective memory and consciousness of humanity are extremely powerful, and we “remember” events of long before we were born. This anamnesis can be for good or for evil.

We have to overcome prejudice and misunderstandings through ignorance, indifference and complacency. Divine grace obtained through prayer, asceticism and the Sacraments will help us purify the bad memories of the past. When we have order in our own houses, we can set about going the way of dialogue and reassuring the other of our own integrity and trustworthiness.

When discussing issues of theology, there is a certain “hierarchy of truths” – but within limits. Not everything is negotiable, but discussion will enable us to deepen our own perception of truth and revealed dogma. We are not to ask each other to compromise or be unfaithful to our own convictions, because revealed truth is objectively true. But, it is not for us mortals to possess the truth. We are all learning it and approaching the Mystery with fear and trepidation.

Perhaps the goal should be more that of a common celebration of the Eucharist rather than institutional problems of abolishing differences between presently separated Churches. There needs to be a living consciousness that the Catholic Church subsists in all episcopal communities where the Sacraments are true, the Faith is taught and believed, and the Eucharist is celebrated. Christ is mutually recognised in the Breaking of Bread.

Just one final note: I have avoided discussing the “liberal” churches that have adopted sceptical systems of thought in their theology, have modernised their liturgies and follow modern feminist and homosexual agenda trends. This article has been about unity within Continuing Anglicanism. Relations between Continuing Anglicanism and Rome and Orthodoxy would have to be the subject of another article, which I may never feel inclined to write.

Whatever the obstacles, we must persevere.

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5 Responses to For a Continuing Anglican Ecumenical Movement

  1. ed pacht says:

    I thoroughly appreciate this commentary, and I think we are in nearly total agreement. However, I’m not too sure about this: “There may be two possibilities: forget the conflicts of the past and wait for time itself to efface memories and bitterness, or engage dialogue to face causes and look for ways to remedy the difficulties.” For myself, I don’t take an either/or approach here, but pretty much insist that both attitudes need to be worked simultaneously. We can’t but remember the conflicts and hurts, but we can and must lay them aside as the barriers they’ve been allowed to become, with the certainty that time will heal those wounds and ease that bitterness if we truly wish that to be so. In the meantime, whatever differences do exist (far smaller than we’ve made them out to be) do need to be faced honestly and openly, not as obstacles to justify disunity, but as problems that can and will be overcome.

  2. A very good post. I agree with Ed’s comment too. I hope and pray that the Continuing Church here in Canada can come together (we were always small but united). I see no serious reason (other than bruised feelings – largely a result of Anglicanorum Coetibus) for our separation to continue since both groups who’ve remained traditional Anglicans are committed to the preservation and growth of the traditional Anglican way.

    • I wish all the best for the Ordinariates and those who joined them. I wish them every happiness and God’s blessing as they obeyed their conscience and what they believed to be right.

      Now, the separation is complete and Continuing Anglicans has been rebuilding for some time now. The damage was caused, and it is all a matter of healing like one of us who has been afflicted by a disease or injured in an accident. The Church heals – if we let it and give the affected part of the body rest and medication.

      There may be different interpretations as to what the Anglican way is, but we have to develop empathy, tolerance and the will to recognise each other as Catholic Christians. It will take time, but we will get there.

  3. Fr. David Marriott says:

    I wrote the attached in 2009: perhaps it reflected the teaching of The Reverend Dr. Peter Toon, and his frustration with so many of the splinters, now to be seen coming together, healing poast wounds. Perhaps appropriate as we commemorate Fr. Peter’s years’ mind?

    The Anglican Way.

    A conference arranged by the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen will be held this fall in Delaware, USA. One of the topics is the following, ‘The Anglican Way and the Challenges of Post-Christianity, Islam, and Internal Disarray’

    The concept of the ‘Anglican Way’ was inherent in many of the writings of the Rev. Dr. Peter Toon, who held firmly against those who would make the Anglican Way narrow, or against those who would make it too broad. What is meant by this term, ‘Anglican Way’ is not peculiar to the Anglican Communion: it is present in the Roman Catholic church, it is present in the Orthodox church, and, indeed, is present in Islam, in Hinduism, in Buddhism: all major, and no doubt most minor religions on earth. It refers to that propensity of the human race to develop habits and practices which are peculiar to ‘our little group’: be that group a service club, employees of a company – teamwork wins! – or a parish. It is what has led to those strange divisions between us: high or low, catholic or evangelical, prayer book or BAS, 2 candles or 6, vestments or surplice & stole.

    In the Preface to the 1662 book, there is an important definition of who we are, and in truth, of the Anglican Way itself: ‘It hath been the wisdom of the Church of England, ever since the first compiling of her publick Liturgy, to keep the mean between the two extremes, of too much stiffness in refusing, and of too much easiness in admitting any variation from it.’

    This principle applies to so much of our worship and the worship of so many others: but we understand this don’t we, as we progress along the Anglican Way? What right has anyone to tell me that my way to prayer is silly, whereas their way is right and proper? Some like loud music in their worship, others like silence, but the intention and fervency of each of them in their prayer might well approach that of the publican in the Gospel of Luke, ‘And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.’ (Luke 18.13)

    Let us look at ‘the wider implications of our ‘groupings’: this is the challenge, ‘How wide is the Anglican Way?’ or more precisely, ‘How wide should the Anglican Way be?’ And right away, we meet challenges. There is little doubt that to the most of us, in the Anglican Catholic world, there is a core expression of values which we have gained from worship in accord with the Book of Common Prayer: but that there are also many who refer to themselves as Anglican, whose worship styles and habits are very different from those to which we are accustomed. Are they still following the Anglican Way, or is their faith moving away and becoming something very different from our faith? Certainly, there are many who in the name of the Christian faith, proclaim things which seem anathema to us: are they still Christian? The good news for us is that we can leave this final judgment to God in His infinite wisdom, so we can look more closely at those who do follow what has been the Anglican Way, trying to be that part of the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

    I use a ‘new’ word to define the happenings following the Congress of St. Louis, and the ensuing Affirmation: where there was for a brief time, unity in those who proclaimed their faith in the Anglican tradition, only to see that unity disrupted and damaged by the disease of ‘splittism’: where we each, in our own little enclaves, declared to the world that we are right, and that everyone else is wrong. Remember the comment at the start of this piece, ‘that propensity of the human race to develop habits and practices which are peculiar to ‘our little group’: and the Anglican way has now split into many byways and diversions. May we all have the courage to humbly pray that by His mighty aid we may be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

    In the field of medicine, there are those very bright people who make a career of opposing the accepted way of doing something: and many of them are proved to be right in the long term. Science demands clarity, and these people are necessary to bring more light onto issues and to stimulate healthy debate. Unfortunately, in matters such as theology, dogma and liturgy, too often such challenges to the status quo are viewed as threats to authority, especially in an hierarchical church – where authority rests clearly with different roles: Archbishop, Bishop, Rector. Sadly these challenges are more often a cry for help, a cry that one might be understood, that one might be welcomed in from the cold, even though the language spoken is a bit different; maybe the colour of skin is not the same; maybe the way we do things is a bit different: but under all this, we are devoted and faithful Christian believers.

    One team ministry in the Church of England: four parishes, one rector, two assistant priests: in one parish, all the ‘smells and bells’, Crucifix, 6 candles, Lady Chapel, Confessional: in one parish, no candles at all, no cross on the altar, no Lady Chapel, no Confessional. But the same priest celebrates the same Mass in both places: and you know what, the effect of the Mass, of the Prayer of Consecration, of the Communion made by the people in both places is exactly the same: they are both following the Anglican Way, and may it never become narrow and exclusive, for then it will have ceased to be the Way of Christ, and I should have to start to search for that Way of Christ all over again.

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