Category Archives: News

An Anglo-Catholic Revival?

The following was posted by another priest in another venue; in the hope of stimulating discussion, I am reposting it here for your comments.

With the Ordinariate in place in the Roman Catholic Church and a growing Western
Rite in Orthodoxy, the question of the day is whether there remains a role for
traditional Anglo-Catholicism? The numbers, certainly among the continuing
churches, are not encouraging and there appears to be a doctrinal incoherence in
these groups that ranges from a neo-Calvinism to an ultramontane, ornate show
catholicism with little behind the pageantry. Are we headed the way of the
Shakers, or is there a group out there with a core understanding of English
Catholicism and the dedication to spark a revival?

Let’s get the discussion rolling, folks.

Priests at Our Lady of the Snows

Here’s a picture that was late coming in due to technical difficulties, but it is at last here, so I’m posting it here now.

These are the clergy of the Society of St Michael (SSM) who were present at the Anglican Church in America’s general synod in October of 2008 at the national shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleview, IL.

ssm-at-aca-general-synod-2008(L-R: Bp Stephen Strawn SSM, Fr Richard Sutter SSM, Fr Nicholas Taylor Obl.OSB SSM, Fr Terrence Keller SSM, Fr Michael Sclafani SSM, Archbishop John Hepworth,  Fr Terence Gross SSM, The Rev’d Dr William Wiener SSM, Fr Carlton Clarke SSM, Fr John Wesley Westcott III SSM.)

His Grace, the Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion, very kindly consented to be photographed with us.  Clearly, we must have been hoping some holiness and wisdom would rub off on us!

The Miracle of Healing

Take a look at this young lady.  This picture was taken on September first of this year.

On September first she underwent emergency cardiovascular surgery for an enlarged heart and a tear in her aorta and had her aortic valve replaced.

Her mother flew to Denver from Georgia to be with her.

Her fiance sat with her non-stop. 

Clergy gave her the sacraments of unction and eucharist.

And of course, lots of people all over the world were praying for her.

Probably many of you reading this were among those praying for her.  At one point at the hospital, a small child pointed down at her in her room and said she saw Jesus.  We have no doubt that he was there, holding her.  This is the same young lady 33 days later:  

  

This is the power of prayer. 

Thanks be to God! 

And thank you, Ven. John Henry Newman, St Michael, St Jude, and our blessed Lady Mary.

We are so blessed!

Initial thoughts on the GAFCON documents

By the Rev’d Fr Samuel L. Edwards SSM

ACA/TAC

 

Preface

            On June 30th, the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) ended in Jerusalem with the release of a “Statement on the Global Anglican Future.”  Within this Statement is embedded “The Jerusalem Declaration,” described as constituting the “basis of fellowship” of the GAFCON movement.

            What follows are my initial thoughts on this pair of documents.  These may be useful, since I write as a priest who served for over two decades (1979-2002) as a member of the clergy of The Episcopal Church (TEC) before transitioning into the mainstream Anglican Continuum where I now serve in the Anglican Church in America – our national iteration of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC).  Because I identified myself with the traditional and conservative resistance to TEC’s decay almost from my entry into it as a college sophomore and particularly because I spent seven years (1993-2000) as the Executive Director of Forward in Faith North America (FIFNA), I have personal acquaintance with many people still in TEC and the Anglican Communion, in the mainstream Anglican Continuum, and in what for lack of a better term I have described as the “new traditionalist” or “neo-trad” Anglicans (some of whom lately have taken to describing themselves as “reasserters” and who made up the vast majority of GAFCON attendees).  As a result, I have become conversant with the assumptions and perspectives that form their various responses to the Anglican crisis.

 

Introduction to Analysis

            To begin with a positive, I found the initial paragraph in the section on “the Global Anglican Context” to present an acutely accurate assessment of its topic.  Probably unintentionally (and therefore the more powerfully) its evaluation Continue reading

How GAFCON Ended Anglicanism

The Global Anglican Future Conference (www.gafcon.org) has finished. The semi-conservative attendees have produced a statement, the Jerusalem Declaration, for which they commend themselves and assert that they have chosen not to split or leave the Anglican Communion, but to reform it.

Alas, what they have in mind is no reform-of-the-reform to reverse the damages of the last 450 years. What this declaration does is create something that has not existed in Anglicanism since 1558 – a magisterium. Unfortunately, instead of accepting the proper magisterium of the Western Church, this magisterium creates a confessional standard, an innovation. What are the bases of this confessional standard? They specified, inter alia,

3. We uphold the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

4. We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.

6. We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.

Let’s look at these three sections one at a time. Section three, while it doesn’t explicitly repudiate councils after Chalcedon, by intentional omission does not acknowledge the authority of the rest of the ecumenical councils, either the seven acknowledged by all Anglo-Catholics, or the twenty-one acknowledged by the Western Church and accepted by many Anglo-Catholics. Such an implicit disavowal removes the GAFCON denomination from the mainstream of the Catholic Faith. Section four undoes the progress made since the inception of the Oxford Movement 175 years ago by requiring submission to the anti-Catholic articles of the reformation era, granting them explicit authority over even ecumenical councils. Or at least over seventeen of them. Section six enshrines the English prayerbook, with the intentional deviations from and denials of Catholic truth found in that book’s bowdlerized eucharist.

The GAFCON participants couldn’t have made any clearer their intention to reshape Anglicanism into just another protestant sect. What once was a place where Catholics could rejoice in their Catholic and Anglican heritage has made the final departure call. Can there be any doubt remaining about the proper path for real Anglicans?

What will we see as the results of GAFCON play out? I suspect there will be a sorting – the protestants into the GAFCON denomination (this “Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans” –FCA?), the trendy secularists fading into humanism, and the Catholics into some future hoped-for enclave under the Holy Father.

Blessed John Henry Newman, pray for us!

A Critique of a Reaction to an Announcement

The issuance of a statement by the College of Bishops of the Traditional Anglican Communion has incited a heated response from Dr Peter Toon that was uncommonly quick even by his standards. The operative section of the statement is reproduced below as an aid to my readers as I endeavor to evaluate Dr Toon’s response:

“The Bishops and Vicars-General unanimously agreed to the text of a letter to the See of Rome seeking full, corporate, sacramental union. The letter was signed solemnly by all the College and entrusted to the Primate and two bishops chosen by the College to be presented to the Holy See. The letter was cordially received at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Primate of the TAC has agreed that no member of the College will give interviews until the Holy See has considered the letter and responded.”

Dr Toon’s article – issued on October 16, 2007, the same day the TAC Bishop’s statement was released – is being circulated on the internet under the title, “Seeking Unity with Rome: Traditional Anglican Communion’s Bishops hope for acceptance.” While about a third of it is something of a commercial for a new edition of Richard Hooker’s Learned Discourse on Justification, the remainder in many particulars distorts and misrepresents the TAC Bishops’ statement.

Indeed, and ironically, Dr Toon’s response (or perhaps more accurately, his reaction) is an example of the documentary eisegesis that he has rightly condemned when it is practiced by his theological opponents: The TAC statement is interpreted not in its plain and literal sense, but according to a pre-existing set of what can only be called partisan prejudices and ad hominem presuppositions. Because of this, it should not be taken as a serious contribution to the debate (which makes it a relative rarity among its author’s writings) but instead should stand as a monument to the result of not allowing one’s first reaction to be released for public consumption until it has been considered in an objective, calm and recollected state of mind. It may be that he who hesitates is lost, but it is probably more true – it certainly not less so – that he who believes will not be in haste.

Unfortunately, Dr Toon’s prominence as a commentator does not permit allowing his reaction to pass without comment. My critique of it will progress more or less from item to item in the order in which it appears in Dr Toon’s article.

Critique

Dr Toon remarks that, in light of his reading of the teaching of Hooker, others, and the “the fundamental Formularies of the Anglican Way, with their rejection of the excesses of Romanist teaching, it is most strange that a whole group of Bishops from the Continuing Anglican Movement (having seceded from the Global Anglican Communion) should feel so confident about the orthodoxy and biblical basis of Roman Catholicism that they seek full communion with Rome-on Rome’s terms and according to Rome’s doctrine and dogma.”

Several things here merit comment. The first, though not the most important, is the use of the term “Romanist.” While it is still heard from anti-catholic evangelicals (who have bought into the false equation of “catholic” with “Roman Catholic”) and, more strangely, from anti-Roman high-church Anglicans (who have bought into the dubious notion that because Rome has erred through excess on certain doctrinal matters, it is no longer a catholic church), the use of this term has become almost wholly pejorative and partisan. In other words, it has become a slogan designed to elicit emotion (and thereby substitute for thought) rather than a description useful for fostering thought.

Next is the parenthetical description of the TAC Bishops (or the Continuing Anglican Movement as a whole – the exact reference is not entirely clear) as having “seceded from the Global Anglican Communion.” One is tempted to ask what GAC is being referred to here: Is it the one which looks – in an anglicized version of the ultramontane ecclesiology that it finds so offensive in the Roman Church – to communion with the See of Canterbury as its defining element? (If so, this entity hardly qualifies as a communion any more: Since clearly it has neither a common faith nor a common ministry, it is at best an association based on historical descent.) Or does he mean the nascent association rooted in the Anglican Churches of the Global South, which in the first place has not yet taken its final shape and in the second place has among its members a variance on the matter of the ordained ministry that may either prevent it from coalescing or call into question its own catholicity when and if it does so?

Next, Dr Toon alleges that the TAC Bishops are seeking “full communion with Rome – on Rome’s terms and according to Rome’s doctrine and dogma.” Presumably in support of this claim, he reproduces the full text of the official statement. The problem for him here is that there is nothing in the statement that gives a single shred of support to his extraordinary claim. (For me, this is strong prima facie evidence that this reaction was written in the white heat of emotion rather than in anything approaching scholarly objectivity.)

After helpfully supplying the reader with the text, Dr Toon then continues to attempt firmly to fix the spin he has put on the statement by wondering, “why, if these men are so sure that the Roman Way is totally superior to the Anglican Way, they are not already in the Roman Way.” But, again, the text gives no support to the assertion, and to anyone familiar with the context out of which it speaks – which, it seems to me, is a restoration of the search for “communion without absorption” begun in the archiepiscopate of Michael Ramsey and the pontificate of Paul VI – it is almost nonsensical.

The suggestion that the TAC bishops are “hanging around the periphery of the Anglican Way constantly talking of heading off” is another tendentious distortion. One might question whether anyone still in formal connection with The Episcopal Church and the Canterbury Communion, given their accelerating slide into doctrinal dissolution and institutional chaos, has a moral right to talk about peripheries at all. And so far as I am aware, no one in the TAC Council of Bishops is talking – constantly or even occasionally – about “heading off.” The talk seems to be about talking with a view toward fulfillment of the Lord’s expressed desire for unity in his truth – not Rome’s version, not ours, but his.

Dr Toon goes on to insist that, “If these Bishops believe that there is no integrity to the Anglican Way and that its only future is in the Roman Way then by all spiritual, rational and decent principles they ought surely to cross the Tiber now and find on the other side rest for their souls-and we wish them well in their voyage.” Again, his premises are assumptions grounded neither in the plain words of the text that has provoked him nor, indeed, in any official utterance of which I am aware by any bishop of the TAC. If the diagnoses – that the bishops believe that the Anglican Way has no integrity and that there is no future outside the Roman Way – are incorrect (and they are) then the remedy proposed is, at best, inappropriate.

The suggestion that, if they had any integrity, the TAC bishops would swim the Tiber forthwith and cease troubling those are portrayed as real Anglicans is interesting to me as one who has been around the Anglican church wars for thirty years: It contains clear and loud echoes of the “go away and God bless you” attitude long expressed toward traditional and conservative Anglicans in The Episcopal Church by hard-core revisionists such as Barbara Harris and contemporary TEC corporatists (including some who are soi disant conservatives, such as the current TEC bishop of Central Florida). It makes one wonder whether similar tactics might be adopted at some point by those who agree.

A relevant postscript

For some time, and at least in two articles circulated on the internet, I have made reference to what I call a fundamental difference of perception between what I call “mainstream Continuers” (those who adhere to the Affirmation of St Louis, such as TAC) and “new traditionalists” (such as the AMiA and the majority of the Common Cause Partership) on the nature of the Reformation, both in general and in its Anglican form. It is my belief that these differences go a long way toward explaining the matters which have exercised Dr Toon’s concern.

Simply put, the difference is this: Dr Toon, together with a significant body of opinion among those new traditionalists who have given the matter any thought, at least implicitly regards the English Reformation as being a completed work. Seemingly on account of this, the Church of England’s formularies – in particular the 39 Articles of Religion and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer – have assumed a hermeneutical authority which sets them on a par with, or even above that of the Ecumenical Councils. By contrast, mainstream Continuers regard the Reformation as a work still in progress. In this view (which I believe accords with the mainstream of classical Anglican practice), it is the Articles and the BCP which need to be evaluated in light of the Councils and of Scripture rather than the other way ‘round.

(The reality of the situation is actually a bit more complex and confusing than one which simply sets the new traditionalists on the one side with the 1662 BCP and the Articles and the mainstream Continuers on the other with the 1928 BCP and the Seven Councils. Within the institutional camp of the new traditionalists are a number of people whose core convictions naturally place them in the ecclesiological orbit of the mainstream Continuers. Specifically I am thinking of those FiFNA dioceses, parishes, and people who make up a significant, albeit a minority, component of the Common Cause groupings.)

When responding to Dr Toon’s allegation last year that to accept the authority of seven rather than four Ecumenical Councils (and particularly that of the Seventh) was to go beyond genuinely Anglican principles, I expressed what I deem to be the mainstream Continuum position as follows:

… I think that the Reformation – including the English Reformation, which was far and away the most reforming and least revolutionary of the group – was an unfinished business, an opus interruptus, if you will. There are few things more frustrating than the movement which largely succeeds, yet remains incomplete in important respects, mostly having to do with the practical application of the triumphing principles (as my fellow Reagan revolutionaries in the political arena can testify). That being so, I do not believe that the Elizabethan Settlement of religion, for all its genius, is something the restoration of which ought to be pursued, not least because it is no longer possible to do so, since the idea of Christendom which it took for granted has long since passed from the status of a living reality to that of a poignant memory. The upheavals involved in the Great Rebellion (1637-49), the Commonwealth, and the Restoration Settlement (which produced the 1662 BCP) effectively stalled the completion of the English Reformation, and the process was not effectively re-started until the ecclesiastical reform movements of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Even then, it was a matter of “fits and starts” that had to await the collapse of Post-Constantinian Christendom to have a hope of fulfillment. …
[Samuel L. Edwards, “Dr Toon, the Anglican Churches,
and the 7th Council” (1 August 2006).]

In the end, it may be that only when the varied attitudes toward the Reformation heritage of the Anglican Church are confronted – with specific reference to whether its objectives were or were not attained by 1662 – that both new traditionalists and mainstream Anglicans can sort out what it is they really want and with whom they have the most genuine affinity. In the meantime, (as Bishop Jack Iker) is fond of quoting, the challenge is to remember that, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” A major component of “the main thing” is this: “Ut unum sint.” No one’s arms are long enough to box with the one who makes that prayer.

Fr Samuel L. Edwards, SSM
Priest, DEUS/ACA/TAC
Waynesville, North Carolina
18 October 2007