We have been subjected for many years to the notion that uniting Continuing Anglican Churches and their “alphabet soup” is like herding cats, something impossible or futile. This would be the reason why many sought something more “mainstream” in Eastern Orthodoxy or the Roman Catholic Church (or staying with the Lambeth Communion), and scoffed at the remnants and shreds of continuing churches left by brawling bishops, sometimes of great girth, concerned for their bases of power and prestige.
It might have been like that some twenty years ago, but things have changed. Our ecclesial world seems to have sobered up and come to a sense of realism. We are small Churches and being in proportion with that fact – humble and modest – conveys that realism and seriousness to others. This is certainly the case with four Continuing leaders in the USA, our Metropolitan, Archbishop Mark Haverland of the Anglican Catholic Church together with Bishop Brian Marsh of the Anglican Church in America, Bishop Walter Grundorf of the Anglican Province of America and Bishop Paul Hewett of the Diocese of the Holy Cross.
The article in David Virtue’s site Continuing Anglican Leaders set 2017 as Goal for Full Communion is very encouraging. There will be many difficulties to sort out, like ACC clergy having left our Church under a cloud and having joined the TAC, and now expect to be treated as if nothing had happened. I am sure there is a case-by-case solution for most of those priests – just as long as there is some honesty, repentance for sinful attitudes and acts – and better resolutions for the future. There will certainly be many such canonical issues between Churches that like to do things properly and others where things are a little more sloppy. I am sure we can trust our bishops and archbishops to seek and agree solutions and overcome the difficulties.
For the time being, the goal is communicatio in sacris. We already seem to recognise each other’s Orders (nothing messed up by bishops being indirectly involved with women’s ordinations). That is a worthy goal. In England, matters are between Bishop Damien Mead and Bishop Gray of the TAC in England. Only later would there be any question of a full organic union, perhaps something like what the TAC was intended to be in the 1990’s. Our Archbishop and the Presiding Bishops would certainly like such an organic union to come about, but on a sound basis. That would take time to plan and organise.
Many have given up on the Continuum, which is understandable. Commenters on David Virtue’s site are often unkind and cynical, and of Evangelical churchmanship. Threads of comments often go off-topic and become occasions to blame Anglo-Catholicism for all the ills. We little priests and lay folk need to show support for our bishops and those who have been involved with the Continuum right from its beginnings in the 1970’s.
What is apparent from this article is that this will go in stages. Would the final goal be a “union” or “communion” like the TAC in the 1990’s but with lessons learned from errors and illusions?
Although there are different church cultures that exist among the signing bishops, there is no doubt that the commonality which exists far outweighs our differences.
There are the older questions of low church / high church, “old high church” against a culture that resembles Roman Catholicism before Vatican II but in English. There are different ways of organising things and applying laws. There are different rites within defined boundaries using the various local Prayer Books and the English and Anglican missals. There are also differences between cultures between the western world (the former British Empire), Africa, Asia and South America.
Unity and organic union would bring more institutional weight to bear and credibility in the face of our detractors and cynics. More people, presently impeded by “human respect”, would be inclined to join and support us – and then build up everything for which Churches have been responsible in the past.
There is a joy in return, joy in forgiveness and joy in reconciliation. Truly, this is an exciting and historic time to be in the Continuum.
I have felt this before in situations when many of us were led down the garden path. I believe that this time, things are more sober and serious. What is in the jar is what it says on the label. It is paramount to go from a position of truth to oneself and to others. In this, I have full confidence in our Bishops. May God bless this effort and tireless work!
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A clarification: When discussing developments in America, I have sometimes been asked about the Anglican Province of Christ the King, not mentioned in this or an earlier article. This comment was sent by Fr Laurence K. Wells to the article in Virtue Online (there are some nasty and negative comments which are best ignored):
I think we’re beginning to learn that we are indeed all different. The attempt to force us all into the same mold is indeed futile. That is definitely a cat-herding effort. Pushing doesn’t work. However, as we recognize that we have a common purpose, we will be drawn in the same direction and learn to walk together. Sheep that know the shepherd’s voice don’t need to be driven — they will follow. The Church is, in one useful image, a bridge between earth and heaven. Soldiers marching across a bridge do not march in lockstep — that would be destructive — they walk, each in his own way on the same path and arrive safely together.