I meant to go for a long sail today along the east coast of the Contentin from Barfleur, but the weather started looking nasty already this morning in advance of what was predicted by the forecast. There’s an old saying “When you start thinking about reefing, get those sails reefed right now!” As I saw the anvil-shaped clouds and the curtain of rain, having reefed the sails, the next thought was getting the hell out of this. I started the engine and took down the sails altogether, and then motored back to the mooring. I was safely anchored by the time I felt the teeth of the 30-knot gusts and the pelting rain.
A good seaman knows when not to go sailing. It’s as simple as that. It is also the same when thinking about human storms in both church and politics. That is the reflection that came into my mind when I discovered the article Conservative Anglicans are close to despair. Is the CofE about to split? I have been reading about splits in the Anglican Communion and schisms in the Roman Catholic Church for years. This stuff is simply rehashed banality. I frankly prefer the wind and rain that keeps my boat tied up to these futilities that drive me further and further away from the “world”.
The “liberals” come up with more and more sell-outs to modern secular systems of ethics and collective personality disorder. The conservatives, generally Evangelicals, are appealing to the “good old days” of the 1950’s, hanging or electrocuting criminals and caning unruly and disobedient children. Is that really what we want? The meme goes round saying that if we don’t get back to old-time religion and the associated social status quo, radical Islam will come and do it for us. Perhaps true, perhaps exaggerated. I do agree that our world is becoming increasingly hostile, anti-humanist and influenced by those with psychopath personalities. Would these Evangelicals bring a juster and more human world, or yet more bigotry and intolerance?
This article comes from a Roman Catholic source, and we get more comments from those promising new homes to stray Anglicans. We read all that during the Benedict XVI pontificate. They now have Pope Francis almost at the end of his de-ratzingerisation programme, and we have the old curmudgeon in western America doing down the Ordinariate. So, Anglicans have to become good corporate RC’s and knuckle up on pain of losing any claim to a principled position. At least the fellow is honest, and his diatribes are a salutary warning against any illusion someone might still entertain. Fortunately, there are alternatives for a few – those of us prepared to be marginal and not care about the “respectable” mainstream. After all, Christ’s mission was all about the human flotsam and jetsam of his era, not the Establishment in Jerusalem that got him killed by the good offices of the occupying Romans.
These stories leave us with a sense of emptiness and grief. Those of us of a certain age have memories, not of a perfect world, but something we loved and found familiar. The familiarity is gone. All that is left is to move away, cast off the moorings and seek the love of God in the most unexpected ways. That is not something the “conservatives” will give us, whether they are Anglicans or Roman Catholics in full cognitive dissonance.
The only way out of all this Scheißewetter, as the Germans call shitty weather, is transcendence. We need a more spiritual and sacramental understanding of the Church in the way Christ probably meant ἐκκλησία, a word analysed thousands of times by exegetes of all churchmanships. There plainly has to be some form of community whose members come together to pray and decide the best way to live together according to its principles. I belong to our diocesan Council of Advice, and it is always an experience of communion in Christ. But, from the little community and assembly to some big anonymous and unaccountable bureaucracy, we have at least an inkling what Christ would have approved or disapproved.
Fewer and fewer of us have any meaningful common life in the Church, and many have to go it alone, become marginal and work out a whole new philosophy of life. I ceased to care many years ago what they do in the Church of England, except empathising with the good clergy I know in Forward in Faith – doing what they can in less than ideal circumstances. The Church of England is crashing like the British Empire over the few years following World War II. The house has burned down and all is lost, which is what sent the Russian pilgrim on his way.
“After all, Christ’s mission was all about the human flotsam and jetsam of his era, not the Establishment in Jerusalem that got him killed by the good offices of the occupying Romans.”
Taking that into account ought to bring some comfort to us. I have personally always taken comfort in the Old Believers and in the Catacomb Church in Russia. These folks lived lives of heroic virtue in the midst of chaos, violence and persecution, some of it committed against them by misguided and evil men within the institutional church! At least these days all of us estranged Christians can communicate and connect on blogs like this. That makes it better than it could be.
I think your linked article is the first I have heard of, or read by, Mr. Sabisky, apparently Deanery Secretary, South Camden Deanery, about, and by, whom various potentially interesting things appear on a quick ‘search’. But I don’t think that “verging on despair” accurately characterizes thoughtful accounts I’ve read by various other Synod members – among whom I have certainly not encountered any “conservatives, generally Evangelicals, […] appealing to the ‘good old days’ of the 1950’s, hanging or electrocuting criminals and caning unruly and disobedient children”(!).
I found the sweep of Mr. Sabisky’s phrasing, “the various Continuing Anglican churches – most notably the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA)”, intriguing, but wonder which of ‘you all’ looking forward to your October joint Synods would recognize yourselves in this description. More interesting is the far-from-despairing specific reference in a 17 May article by my academic colleague (as fellow Charles Williams scholar), the Rev. Dr. Gavin Ashenden, “What is needed now in England is a new Christian Scaffolding – an association of different orthodox ministries cooperating to form the Anglican Church IN England – ACiE. It would draw together bishops across the range of Anglican orthodoxy from Jesmond and AMiE at one end, embracing the Free Church of England at the centre, and gathering together other churches to include the Traditional Anglican Church in England and the Anglican Catholic Church in England.”
Perhaps I misread the article with too cynical an attitude. I have always been wary of the movement of Bishop Flemestad in Norway, the Free Church of England and the remnants of the TAC. My Bishop obviously supports the convergence movement of the “Affirmation of St Louis” continuers in the USA. He is less optimistic about the TAC in England. In about 5 years, there has probably been a lot of talk, but little else. If this grouping to which Dr Ashenden refers would like to include the ACC, it would be interesting to know according to what terms… I have heard of no such project.
It is increasingly obvious that ACNA cannot and will not give up the pretended ordination of women, however many endless and inconclusive “studies” of the issue its bishops sponsor, which rather makes Dr. Ashenden’s hopes unlikely of realization.
In a recent telephone conversation with a Continuing Anglican bishop, the latter opined that, as what I wrote above becomes more generally realised, the result will be the withdrawal (or, more likely, the split-up) of bodies and groups which affiliated with ACNA in the expectation that it was in the process of “phasing-out priestesses;” bodies such as the Reformed Episcopal Church, Forward-in-Faith/North America, and the like. He also added that the idea (which I thought unlikely ever to be realised) that the “Free Church of England” would effectively become “old Old Catholic” and join the Union of Scranton under the aegis of the Nordic Catholic Church has now died the death; and the subsequent discussions about the “Traditional Anglican Church in Britain” doing the same thing appear to be becalmed, despite this:
“The TACB bishop Ian Gray, who was present on September 3rd with other Continuing Anglican leaders, has invited NCC representatives to his international Synod in October where our own Bishop Roald will present new proposals.”
I have not read, nor been able to find information, about Bishop Gray’s “international Synod in October” (2016).
I become weary about these big secrets and the need for “absolute discretion”, which really seems to be an euphemism for there being nothing in reality or outside the world of wishful thinking. This is very clearly what was going on with Archbishop Hepworth. El Dorado was just around the corner, we were supposed to believe, but the problem is that it never existed. In the end, one has to come clean and settle up the accounts.
The ACC is a small Church, and we are all unworthy mortals, but what we talk about in it actually exists and can be observed by anyone.
Yes. Some secrets do need to be secret, but when that is necessary, one does not talk about having secrets. The only legitimate way to handle that is not to say anything until there is something actual to talk about. Ignoring this is what produced such chaos around ++Hepworth’s actions. Mere hints and rumors are not worth even listening to, let alone spreading around.
Fr. Anthony & Dr. Tighe,
Thank you for these additional comments!
I know too little of the Free Church of England, the Nordic Catholic Church, and the current situation of Traditional Anglican Church in Britain, so all such glimpses are welcome!
The announcement I have read of 22 July, by a group of Anglicans meeting “to discuss how to ensure a faithful ecclesial future” has a striking range and variety of signatories, and says of its planned October meeting, “It is our intention to welcome on that occasion an even greater diversity of contributors” – without more specific detail. How single a line with respect to the ordination of women it has, it does not say (and I do not know enough concerning all the signatories to supply!).
I presume that the ordination of women is as much a (looming) GASCON problem as an ACNA one, but have been absurdly inept at discovering for myself which GAFCON and “Global South” Provinces have women ordained to which Orders, how understood (e.g., re. ‘deaconesses’), and (so to put it) how ‘discerningly’ as opposed to ‘finally’.
I can imagine the “faithful ecclesial future” group informs Dr. Ashenden’s 17 May article, which seems to envisage something corresponding to the range of the ‘pre-WO’ (Florence Li Tim-Oi perhaps excepted) British Anglican situation, both within, and, since at least 1844, outside, the Church of England, but with a pronounced ‘Anglican ecumenical’ character where distinct Anglican Churches are involved. And, one can imagine that could also have – or work toward – a sort of orthodox ‘neo-Bonn-Agreement’ dimension, where the Nordic Catholic Church and the Polish National Catholic Church are concerned.
“GASCON” was a typo, not a wordplay (secretly subconsciously influenced by reading Amy Kelly’s Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings, at the moment?)!
There is an expression in French – promesse de gascon, meaning vain promise, a promise that won’t be kept. The misspelt acronym made me think of this – quite appropriate.
The table here concerning the ordination of women in Anglican churches may be of interest:
Many thanks! That’s quite a lot of women’s ordination! Only seven with none, though Nigeria is a pretty populous one, with deacons but no priests or bishops, and discrete diocesan responsibilities elsewhere could conceivably have analogously weighty practical effects.
Ach, ach – if GAFCON and the “Global South” should want uniformly to roll back w.o., that might indeed be a GASCON “promise that won’t be kept” – or a very long haul, in the keeping.
It is perhaps worth noting that the open letter published in the London Daily Telegraph on 25 July, and subsequently provided with a website whereby others can become co-signatories, has been signed by clergy and laity of the ACC in the United States and the United Kingdom (among many other folk, Anglican and otherwise):
On this website, the original signatories characterize themselves as ‘The Movement for a Renewed Orthodox Anglicanism’.