Where’s the ACC in this mix?

I received a brief e-mail this morning from an Orthodox correspondent with this link from David Virtue’s site.

Some things in this article made me bristle somewhat, making me grateful to know that our Metropolitan Archbishop Haverland is always open to dialogue, but there are certain principles governing any question of formal relations between the ACC and other churches of Anglican tradition. I am very happy as a simple priest not to be involved in such decisions.

Traditionalists of all kinds have been discussing problems of “liberalism” (intolerant anti-conservatism) for almost fifty years. Some get the “big picture” and others are mired down in single issues like homosexuality, abortion, marriage issues and the ordination of women. These are, of course, important moral issues – but there are different ways of addressing them.

I recently spent a pleasant evening with a priest who serves a Forward in Faith parish in the south of England. One reflection he came up with was that the “Constantinian” Church is nearly dead, but let’s not kill off what is still going. In a parish, there is the hardcore of the devout, but there are also many other people who are of good will but less “single-minded”. Can a church be a church of the people, or must it be an enclave of the devout and holy? I am a priest in a Continuing Church, but I can sympathise with this good priest. Thus I can sympathise with all gatherings of Anglicans, both “mainstream” and traditionalist, whose heart is essentially in the right place in spite of all the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism, high church and low church and the various little pet issues related to doctrine and moral teachings. Their frustration with the “seas of post-modernity” is understandable. It is a part of our own vocation as continuing Anglicans to oppose the forces of destruction as well as ploughing ahead with what we believe to be right.

It is rightly argued that strength is in unity, and conservative and continuing Anglicans would unite in an ideal world. What usually puts a stop to this is when bishops and priests of one institutional body deny any legitimacy in another body, accusing it of being in some way false. I could say really facetiously that such is hardly an icebreaker. And so our Churches continue separately along parallel tracks. Dialogue is improving, but there is a long way to go. My own Bishop in England has suffered from such treatment by Established Church clergy.

There is much hope in continents like Africa, Asia and South America, but we should not forget that the churchmanship is usually Evangelical. At the same time, we do need to work for unity at a human level, forge friendships and combat irrational prejudice.

Three enemies of Christianity are identified: Islam, secularism and materialism. There are undoubtedly more, but these are things of which we are all made aware in our daily lives. What is our response? It is essentially that of the Saints: service, abnegation, self-sacrifice, refusal of power, ambition and desire. This has been the Christian message from the beginning.

Now something made me quite angry:

Strong stuff but necessary for Anglo-Catholics, especially the Continuers, who have been fragmented since 1977 and the St. Louis Convention. A number were at this conference, signaling that perhaps it was time to come in out of the cold and ally with the ACNA. One can but hope.

More of the same… If they trash us, they can hardly expect us to come knocking on their door! Is the ACNA thinking of offering ordinariates for converts from the “bogus” continuing Churches. If that is their attitude, then they can go and take a hike!

It is encouraging to see Episcopalian bishops refuse to jump of the same-sex marriage bandwagon. A careful distinction is made between the civil marriage contract and the Sacrament of Matrimony. They are often combined, when the priest has the civil power of a registrar. It is becoming much simpler when couples make their civil contract before going to church for the sacramental wedding (if there are no canonical impediments). Under such circumstances, a priest is free to make this distinction.

Something in this article makes me quite nauseous, which is the Archbishop of Canterbury’s plan to save the Church of England.

There’s a fantastic article this weeks’ Spectator entitled ‘God’s management consultants: the Church of England turns to bankers for salvation’. It’s the sort of piece that is bound to send many clergy and lay members of the Church of England into a big flap, accusing Justin Welby of attempting to turn their beloved church, with all of its woolliness and eccentricity, into an efficient and hard-nosed organization full of managerial types who have more interest in numbers and “talent pools” than theology or the pastoral wellbeing of parishioners.

Oh dear! It seems that they see the Church of England finally folding up within a few short years, and that there needs to be a shake-up. Certainly. But, is the brave new managerial bureaucracy not akin to injecting cancer cells to cure a strep throat? Estimate mention the possibility of seven years left for the Church of England before the buildings go to the developers for whatever they want to do with them.

I find the fantastic cost of the incessant meetings to be mind-boggling, £360,000 for the logistics of getting 600 people together to discuss sweet nothings and platitudes about purely secular environmental concerns. Is this the sort of Church we want to negotiate with. I understand those priests who feel called to parish ministry in those places where it is still possible, but the cause is lost. We have nothing to ask for. That isn’t arrogance or aloofness on our part, but simply acknowledging reality.

This may cause conservative Roman Catholics and Orthodox to adopt an attitude of triumphalism and Schadenfreud. Who could afford to buy and maintain all those churches in England and elsewhere? There isn’t a lot we can do about all that, other than continue to worship in our rented chapels and converted outbuildings.

Perhaps, if our conservative brethren want to open dialogue, they could do well to adopt a more respectful attitude and give our bishops credit for getting the house in order over the years after the worst of the fragmentation. Then, perhaps, we could talk shop

* * *

I have just received this message from one of our priests in Canada:

I was there, with Canon Gunn Walberg from Wilmington Delaware & Canon Charles Nalls from Richmond Virginia, as board members of the ‘Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen, but with Archbishop Haverland and Bishop Scarlett for the ACC contingent. I spoke with David Virtue, and am surprised that he did not mention Abp. Mark, as preacher at Evensong, & participant with Bishop Nazir-Ali in a lunchtime forum.

Bishop Janzen from the ACCC/TAC was there with a priest, as well as several African & Asian clergy, & Bishop John Fenwick, of the ‘Free Church of England’, who, by the way, lives in Ulverston….(he has met Bishop Mead, also…..)

He also sent me the text of the Statement from the International Congress of Catholic Anglicans meeting in Fort Worth. Several continuing Anglican bishops were present, including Archbishop Haverland. This statement seems to be very positive.

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1 Response to Where’s the ACC in this mix?

  1. 9.West says:

    I don’t think you need to worry about your Archbishop. Attending the convention, I think it would be fair to say he was (of the Continuing bishops) the one who most emphasized the differences with ACNA Anglo-Catholics rather than then commonalities. His Wednesday night sermon had people scratching their heads the next day, although the points he makes are not dramatically different than what other Continuing clergy have said for the last 35+ years.


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