Tag Archives: Catholic

Christians and Hallowe’en

(reprinted from 2008)

In recent years we have started to hear some Christian groups encouraging Christians not to observe Hallowe’en, not to let our children trick-or-treat, not to go to costume parties. Many of those groups urge churches to have “harvest parties” as an alternative, or even just ignore the day entirely and pretend it doesn’t exist. Why do they feel this way?

A few years ago I wrote a tract about this topic, and last year I finally dressed it up for printing.  Please have a look before you buy into anyone’s odd ideas.


Quo Vadis?

A common question amongst Anglicans these days—indeed, it has been for many years now—is “where ought we to go?”  As a matter of fact, I ran an online discussion forum for over a decade where this was the most discussed topic. The landscape has changed quite a bit in the last couple years, however; not only have the options mutated, but conditions within the options have been reshaped.  Even for Anglicans who thought these were settled issues, the question bears re-asking and conditions need re-examination.  There appear to be six basic possibilities, more or less, depending on where in the world one lives.

Anglican Communion

The first possibility is just staying put in the Anglican Communion. That is, of course, the Church of England, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Anglican Church of Australia, and so forth.  These ecclesial assemblies are in undisputed communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and therefore Anglicans who do not believe in the Virgin Birth, Deity, or the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus belong in these groups. It has been said that one might consider the Anglican Communion the Sadducees of our day—deniers of all spiritual reality.


The second possibility for Anglicans, at least in North America, is the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA).1 There are four difficulties with this possibility, however. The ACNA requires acceptance of charismaticism as if it were a legitimate part of Christian tradition despite the obvious historical and theological objections. Secondly, the ACNA has a loose understanding of liturgy, leading to the third difficulty that the most objectionable trendy liturgies are officially accepted by this body. The fourth and most profound difficulty is that the ACNA claims to be in communion with Canterbury. By being in (or even just claiming to be in) communion with Canterbury, the very validity of their sacraments are therefore questionable.Anglicans who have no problem with these difficulties would find a ready home in the ACNA.


The third possibility for Anglicans today, again at least in North America, is the Anglican Mission, originally the Anglican Mission in the Americas. The AM appears to be in the process of separating, whether voluntarily or not, from the Anglican province in Rwanda, the body through whom the AM had claimed connection with Canterbury. If this separation is indeed complete, then one major difficulty with the AM fades, but the AM shares similar difficulties with the ACNA in the AM’s nearly complete abandonment of liturgy and tradition in favor of promulgation of charismaticism as if it were a legitimate part of Christian tradition despite the obvious historical and theological objections. Again, like the ACNA, Anglicans who find these difficulties no barrier would do well to choose the AM.3

The three options above all consider that apostolic order is secondary to following the spirit of the age in that all three of the above have abandoned the apostolic succession. Anglicans for whom this is not a problem should consider only the first three possibilities above. Anglicans who value apostolic succession should consider only the three possibilities that follow.

Catholic Church–Ordinariate

Fourth in the paths for Anglicans is the Catholic Church. Pope Benedict XVI has made a very attractive offer in Anglicanorum Coetibus, and the first two personal ordinariates for former Anglicans are up and running: in the UK the personal ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, and in North America the personal ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter. The difficulties with the ordinariates is perhaps more subtle than those with the preceding possibilities. Although some cite issues with Marian dogmas, there is support within the first seven Ecumenical Councils for all of them. Remaining difficulties would be the issues with the papal dogmas, especially those of universal jurisdiction and infallibility. Anglicans who have no difficulties with these dogmas certainly should feel the spiritual obligation to connect with the ordinariates. A problem one might encounter here is the relative sparseness of distribution—outside of Texas and the south of England, ordinariate parishes and missions are few and far  between, although numbers are expanding.

Anglican Catholic Church

Fifthly we should consider the older, so-called “continuing churches,”4  the original group of separatist Anglicans. There are two difficulties to weigh here, however. The liturgical issue is narrowly defined, and the only options are for older style English.5 Admittedly, like other difficulties, for some this is a plus, not a minus. The second difficulty is, like the ordinariates, the sparseness on the ground.

Orthodoxy–Western Rite

The sixth possibility facing Anglicans today is the Western Rite of Orthodoxy. This option has recently grown considerably, with two canonical Orthodox jurisdictions offering a Western Rite: the Antiochian6 and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. Both these orthodox churches offer a Western Rite vicariate with a structure and liturgy very familiar to Anglicans. The difficulties faced here are identical to those facing the ACC: sparseness and language. The Western Rite in ROCOR face an additional difficulty, however, and that is the Old Calendar—not many Anglicans can get worked up over Calendar questions. We have enough to worry about without it. There seem to be a rapidly growing number of WR parishes and missions all over the US. This may be the most attractive option for many.

One additional difficulty is shared by all the options—and that is the attitude of being embattled in the culture wars. To what degree will bitterness and what my mother used to call “contrariness” fill the ecclesial bodies to which we flee? And how will attitudes afflict our ability to grow and attract others? This final question is one that will need to be answered with specific congregations in mind, in order to make the preceding paths’ evaluation complete.

I hope this short summary may make planning simpler for some.  For all, happy hunting!

1This is the second body to be called by that name. The first body was formed by the St Louis Congress in 1978, later changing their name to the Anglican Catholic Church.

2This point is too complex to be gone into in detail in this venue, but put succinctly, the necessary parts of a sacrament involve matter, form, minister, and intent. Any body claiming communion with any other body that has abandoned apostolic order demonstrates its intent to be party to that abandonment, thereby declaring, whether explicitly or implicitly, that the orders they hold are to a ministry other than apostolic.

3It should be noted, however, that with the AM’s abandonment of liturgy and embrace of charismaticism there doesn’t appear to be any real justification for the AM to remain apart from, and real advantages to joining with, organizations such as the Assemblies of God.

4Pundits have talked about “hundreds” of tiny splinter groups, but the truth is that there are really only five. Of those five, two are talking about intercommunion, and three have already achieved it, so the reality boils down to the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) or one of the two ecclesial bodies in communion with them.

5Of course the advantages in poetic language must be weighed against the corresponding changes, good and bad, in appeal to an unchurched mission field. To what degree is traditional language a barrier to evangelism? Or isn’t it?

6Scholars, please bear with this, for although the usual and customary term in academia is “Antiochene,” the church itself chose to coin the term “Antiochian,” so “Antiochian” it is.

The Judgment of Advent

I thought I’d share a final “Advent-ish” type meditation for these last few hours of Advent.  It is traditional to preach in Advent on the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell.  This particular meditation is about judgment.

The Advent season collect makes it clear that at the last day, Jesus will come in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead.  He came quietly the first time.  Next time he will come in such a way that no one will miss it.  Next time he is going to judge the living and the dead.  Next time we are going to find out who ends up in heaven and who ends up in hell.

It is a mistake to think of judgment as coming only at the end of the world. Judgment does come then, of course—the General Judgment of all the world, but judgment also comes at the end of our lives—the Particular Judgment, also called the Personal Judgment, when our lives will be weighed in a balance at the moment the soul separates from the body. At that moment we will be judged, and souls that are perfectly pure will be admitted to the Presence of God; souls that are in a state of mortal sin are sent to eternal punishment, and for most of us, it will be determined how much purgation our souls will need before we’re fit for heaven.

Judgment is not limited to the end of time or the end of life, however; judgment is coming this evening when you go to Christmas Eve Eucharist—the “ChristMass.”
The judgment that Jesus will bring at the end of the world will not be substantially different from the one you will experience this evening.

But perhaps you didn’t know that you are facing judgment in the Mass.

Continue reading

Praying the Office (part one)

Praying the Office is a daily requirement for Anglican clergy, and a valuable and recommended practice for laity as well.  For some Anglicans, it’s a simple matter of just picking up their BCP or DOB (the Daily Office Book, pictured here, which contains not only the Office, but all the readings from the lectionary, in order—a very handy book.)

For those Anglicans who are (or may be) headed into the Catholic Church’s Ordinariate for Anglicans to be erected on January 1st in the U.S., things might not just be that easy. The approved office liturgy (Liturgy of the Hours, if you will) for the Ordinariate is yet to be released, but until that time, years hence, probably, the Ordinariate liturgy is the Book of Divine Worship, a corrected version of the 1979 BCP.  (If you don’t already own one of those ten pound wonders, trust me, it’s too big to use for anything other than pressing leaves and maybe a booster seat for the little ones.)  To use the approved liturgy for praying your daily office, the simpler path is just to make the necessary corrections to your 79 BCP or better, your DOB.  With that need in mind, I’ve drawn up a list of the necessary corrections.

Here are two PDF files, BCP office conformed to BDW and DOB office conformed to BDW.

God bless, and happy praying!

Well–I Think

I’ve been thinking for a while about resurrecting this blog, and for the last week or so article theses have been flying at me from, it seems, all directions.

First, a little background.  There is a Sunday morning adult education class at St George’s, the CANA parish in Colorado Springs, entitled “The Kingdom.”  The theme for this class is, “if Jesus isn’t Lord of all, he isn’t Lord at all.”  I was invited to be one of the presenters.  After the rector presented the concept and a couple of brilliant PhD biblical scholars presented Jesus’ Lordship in OT and NT, I got to  race hell-for-leather through twenty centuries of “the Kingdom in History” with weekly subtitles of “Jesus as Lord of Truth,” “Jesus as Lord of Christendom,” and finishing off with “Jesus as Lord of the Church.”  Because of a RL scheduling difficulty for the next presenter, he took yesterday to bring the focus onto “Kingdom and Culture” in the current day.  It was great sitting in the class and spotting the metaphorical lights go on around the room as people realized  why I had spent three weeks with the first millennium, detailing its heresies that had plagued the church.

So the idea that needs desperately to be conveyed to all of today’s Christians but especially to Anglicans is actually a simple one.   To get there, let’s recall a few basics:

  • Catholic means “according to the whole.”
  • Orthodox means “right teaching” and “right worship.”  That’s right, both, not or.
  • The opposite of Catholic is heretic, which means “I choose.”
  • The opposite of Orthodox is heterodox, which means “different teaching” and “different worship.”

Tying these together can be straightforward.  To be Catholic and Orthodox, one accepts the whole Christian faith, all the right teaching and practice.  By inserting one’s own rationales, preferences, and worst of all, preconceptions, one picks and chooses out of the whole faith and thereby substitutes  teaching and worship that is not right, that is different from the truth.

In other words, the concept we use with children to prepare them for confirmation comes into play: objective reality.  Objective reality are just a couple of big words we simply explain as meaning “real thing.”  The sacraments have objective reality = the sacraments are real things.  Likewise, truth has an objective reality = truth is a real thing.   To quote one of my brilliant daughters: “some things are just true, whether you think they are or not.”  The truth is a reality.  Reality doesn’t need my agreement in order for it to exist; likewise, truth doesn’t need anyone’s agreement in order for it to be true.

Those first seven Ecumenical Councils were doing something pretty amazing: under the guidance of the Holy Spirit they were defining Truth.  That’s not to use the word “defining” in its sense of making but to use the word “defining” in its sense of describing.  The Councils didn’t make the Truth; they merely described it.

So for example, refusing to honor the Blessed Virgin with the title “Mother of God,” makes one anathema.  The Council Fathers didn’t make up this rule and apply it willy-nilly, they observed that those who reject that Truth have themselves chosen to follow a different teaching and a different worship, and therefore are following the path to perdition.  Yes, it is that serious.  Every Truth described by the Ecumenical Councils is important–and they all are binding.

Therefore, the words that must spring to the Christian’s lips are “credo” — “I believe.”  How often do we hear people who are otherwise seemingly intelligent or apparently faithful use those three little words “well, I think…” ? Usually they’re preceded by a more or less accurate summation of some aspect of the Truth and used to precede some load of, well, codswallop (keeping it rated PG here.)

Frankly, friend, those unfriendly-seeming words “heresy” and “heterodox” are signposts of warning…when you hear them, turn back onto the true path.  “Heretic” and “heterodox” after all, are not words that mean “quirky Christian” or even “bad Christian” (although we certainly in our society don’t think there is such a concept as “bad”).  No, friend, those words mean “non-Christian,” “pagan,” and they mark the double center line of the highway to hell.

Anglican Mass in Modern English – Beta

I have received numerous comments privately and on the Anglo-Catholic Central forum, for which I am very thankful.  Please accept my gratitude, all who passed on your thoughts to me.

As a result, please see the second draft of the Anglican Mass in Modern English.  Again, I welcome your critique.

Anglican Mass in Modern English

After seeing the products of attempts to translate parts of the 1662 BCP and the U.S. 1928 BCP into modern English with varying degrees of success, I was about to give up, as have so many, the idea that liturgy could be written in modern English without sounding either pedestrian or trendy – or horrible.  (Imagine if you will, beginning every prayer with “We just want to praise you, Father God….”)  So I thought I might give it a try myself.

Now, I’m no Shakespeare or Eliot.  The last poetry I wrote resides in my wife’s dresser, written when I was courting her and was less critical.  Thank goodness it isn’t shown to anyone.  After all, being critical, not creative, is my strong suit.  But as I contemplated the attempts out there, a little voice whispered “heck, even I could do better than that!”  So here it is. 

Anglican Mass in Modern English

Here is the Eucharist from the U.S. 1928 BCP, translated into current modern English, following the principles of Liturgiam Authenticam, and using the most up to date ICEL texts, which will be in sync with the next Roman Missal to be issued in English, probably 2010 or so.  It is set up to work with either the 3 year Ordo Lectionum Missae and the Daily Lectionary or the older lectionaries in the various BCPs.  I think the former the better choice, of course.


Because Anglicanism is an international body these days, I have edited the base text in three ways,

  1. By incorporating some features of other national Anglican BCPs (Canada 1962, Scotland 1970, South Africa 1954, West Indies 1959),
  2. By eliminating some of the vague areas that have been patient of heresy, and
  3. By streamlining the whole to make it possible to have a short weekday service for working folk.

I have prepared this text for discussion purposes only, and it has not been authorized for public use by anyone, anywhere.  I haven’t even tried it out by myself. 


I would be glad of any comments.

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!

Sola Scriptura?

We’ve all seen this phrase tossed around, and with varying degrees of understanding what it means or how it is to be applied.  Just this morning I could see the shock and amazement on a couple faces when I pointed out, as a side point, that the Church came before Scripture, that the Church is the interpreter of Scripture, and that the individual has no right to private judgment.  I went on to mention that if the Church thinks a passage means one thing, and you think it means a different thing, well, guess who’s right?  Every clergyman – heck, for that matter, I bet every Christian – has heard someone say “I know the Church teaches … but I believe that ….”  Continue reading

Newman Beatification to be Announced!

According to the Sunday Times of April 20, 2008

Victorian cleric put on path to sainthood

Christopher Morgan

AN ANGLICAN priest whose conversion to Catholicism shocked Victorian England will this week take a big step to becoming the first new British saint for almost 40 years.

The Vatican will announce the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman after accepting that he was responsible for a miracle in which an American clergyman was “cured” of a crippling spinal disorder.

Newman will be given the title “Blessed” after a ceremony later this year, leaving him one step away from full sainthood.

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