Monday, March 31, 2008

The 28 Articles of Anglican Papalism

In his book England and the Holy See, Fr. Spencer Jones outlines 28 observations that constitute the basic tenets of Anglican Papalism. I believe that these should set the tone for Anglican relationships with Rome.

  1. That Christendom is divided against itself.
  2. That a house divided against itself cannot stand,
  3. That our Lord meant us to be one.
  4. That it is our duty, therefore, to compose our
  5. That he has endued us with the power to do so.
  6. That this power discovers itself in the work of the Holy Spirit on the part of God, and in prayer and labour on the part of man.
  7. That it was to the Church regarded as one that our Lord vouchsafed the promise of His presence.
  8. That the enterprise of Re-union is, therefore, genuine since its purpose is divine.
  9. That a "divine ideal must be capable of fulfilment."
  10. That as a matter of history no other form or principle of Government has been able to come near to the Holy See in its power to keep together in the bond of a living fellowship so many thousands of Christians.
  11. That the Communion of Rome is conspicuous in the records of Scripture ("I thank God that your faith is spoken of throughout all the world") ; and appears at once unique and conspicuous in the subsequent records of the Church.
  12. That the See of Rome is the Apostolic See and is destined to become the visible centre of Christendom.
  13. That Rome is in fact the mother of English Christianity.
  14. That Reunion, for the English Church, signifies Reunion with the Church of Rome.
  15. That England cannot formally remain as she is except in so far as she is infallible.
  16. That Rome cannot formally cease to be what she is since she claims to be infallible.
  17. That two cannot continue to agree except they walk together.
  18. That fellowship and communion are therefore necessary if faith is to continue one.
  19. That two cannot walk together except they be agreed.
  20. That it is therefore necessary to study the belief of other Communions before we oppose them or unite with them.
  21. That a more extended recovery of contact is calculated to destroy prejudice and thereby to prepare the way for Communion.
  22. That since "large changes and adaptations of belief are possible within the limits of the same unchanging formulae," explanation will be found in fact to remove misunderstandings and to reduce the distance between us;
  23. That time, which is an "element in all growth," has already effected much.
  24. That circumstances which alter cases do thereby, and so far determine duties.
  25. That movements, therefore, which may be inexpedient at one point of time may come to be wise and proper at another.
  26. That fair and free discussion as distinguished from the recommendation of practical steps will serve to prepare us for conjunctures.
  27. That Reunion has come at length to be frankly recognised both as an idea and a necessity among all Communities of Christians ; and that the same freedom of discussion must be allowed in relation to Rome as is universally permitted in all other directions.
  28. And that at all times and under all circumstances " love is the fulfilling of the law."

Articles 15 and 16 issue a rather interesting challenge to modernists and revisionists, don't you think?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New Message Board

Well, I've taken the bull by the horns and set up a new message board.

"Why?" you ask and well you might.

My reason is essentially to help bring together a community of like-minded folk who are scattered across the world and have little recourse to Anglo-Catholic or Anglican Papalist worship. These are the folk who have to make do with what they have got and is usually the best of a bad lot.

My intention is that this board be friendly, with an intellectual flavour, as is the Tractarian wont, but not taking itself too seriously. I hope that there will be a good heated debate on points of Anglican order, but with good humour, and a healthy respect for everyone. I certainly do not want to exclude people from ECUSA or the C of E, after all, there are many of us who, for a catalogue of reasons have nowhere else to, nor wish to.

I'm still experiencing teething troubles as I get used to the software, but please bear with me. I hope you'll consider joining up and striking up a conversation.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Day 2008

Now when these soldiers saw that, they woke up the centurion and the elders (for they also were there keeping watch). While they were yet telling them the things which they had seen, they saw three men come out of the tomb, two of them sustaining the other one, and a cross following after them. The heads of the two they saw had heads that reached up to heaven, but the head of him that was led by them went beyond heaven. And they heard a voice out of the heavens saying, "Have you preached unto them that sleep?" The answer that was heard from the cross was, "Yes!"

This is an extract from the Apochryphal Gospel of St Peter, and perhaps it goes some way to demonstrating why it is apochryphal. It does however paint a picture of the outlandishness and indeed scandelous nature of the resurrection. It is sheer lunacy to think that the laws of nature which seem so familiar to us are so malleable in the hands of the expert that fashioned them.

We've seen resurrections before at the hands of Elisha and Elijah, in the vision of Ezekiel, and in that Hammer Horror moment when, with rustling and shambling the enshrouded figure of Lazarus appears at the entrance of the tomb at the hands of the Lord.

In the Canon of Holy Scripture, we are not permitted to see the Resurrection of Christ itself. It is a moment as intimate as His birth, a moment between Father and Son, and one in which we are not permitted to pry. But this intimacy points to a hope that lies beyond our understanding. We too shall be raised, and, if Jesus truly does set the pattern, we too shall share a fantastically intimate moment with God in the secret of our being. Whether we believe in Him or not, we will all be raised from the dead, bodily. We will all receive this intimate moment, and for some this may be the last intimate moment that they share with their creator if their life has been spent systematically rejecting Him.

For those who have longed for this moment, how wonderful it will be, to be touched with new life, renewed and refreshed by the tender touch of the One Who Loves.

I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me.
Psalm iii.5

Friday, March 21, 2008

Good Friday 2008

What are you doing at the foot of the cross?

As you stand there, looking up at the beaten and bloodied figure stapled to the tree by nails beaten in without any human emotion, what is going through your mind?

Can you make sense of the emotions around this event? Perhaps you want to pull Him down from the cross, bandage His hands and His feet, anoint His wounds, stop the pain. Perhaps you want to bring to justice those who have systematically deconstructed the life of a man whose only desire was to bring life and love to a world that has preferred to walk in the artificial neon light of its darkness.

Or perhaps you realise that there is nothing that you can do, save watch Him writhing in agony trying to breathe, knowing in the great illumination of hindsight that in this agony there is hope and redemption and love. Yet how can we watch this ghastly spectacle unfold without wanting to do something to put an end to this?

In our modern society, we reach for all kinds of medicament to ease our pain and distress - paracetamol, aspirin, peptobismol. We have morphine to numb the worst pains, but primarily we seek to obliterate the awfulness of the degradation of our human condition. Thus we gaze uncomfortably at our dying Saviour, wishing an end to this because, frankly, we can't stand it.

However, the Lord shows us another way. We look at Him on the cross in accomplishment. We hear that cry of "τετέλεσται" almost untranslatable into English but nonetheless a cry of triumph, not defeat. All this pain and suffering and misery in this moment makes sense for the Lord, and here in His final moments does He realise what was going on. He accepted the pain with obedience, not wanting to suffer, but doing so anyway to serve God.

So we stand at the foot of the cross watching someone die the most painful, ignominious and miserable death, and we feel and reach out because of our negative view of such pain. But we walk with the benefit of hindsight and see that it makes sense and know that if it actually pleased Him to suffer then we must be pleased to accept His suffering, and be pleased to suffer with Him. We have to look beyond the pain, treating it as a means to an end, rather than trying to numb ourselves to it, or try to alleviate that pain at a greater cost.

Some pain is just worth suffering in its full intensity.

It proves that we have truly lived.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

More Pick'n'mix?

Things have got a little heated again at Anglo-Catholic Central over obedience to Bishops, especially heretical ones. If your bishop preaches against the existence of the Holy Ghost, then clearly he has rejected the Christian belief. To be a Christian, you have to hold to the existence of the Holy Ghost. And yet there will be some folk out there who call themselves Christian who don't.

I preached on Tuesday about identity, and was followed the next day by a homily on individuality within a corporate identity.

It's easy to know whether you belong to a Company; your name is on the payroll, and on a contract of employment, and if you break the terms of that contract, you cease to be a member of that company. We are free to walk where we choose and to belong to any social grouping we choose, but our choice to belong to our social group restricts where we are allowed to walk. As soon as we step outside the bounds then we are giving ourselves an identity beyond that of our social grouping.

I've already written on Pick'n'mix religion before, in which people claim to pick the best bits out of all religions, wandering around a succession of disjoint practices in search of some enlightenment which is largely superficial, and makes no sense in any rational thought.

The Lord tells us that, to follow him, we must deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. It is a clear statement that our freedom to walk where we choose is to be restricted if we are to be saved. To accept Christ is to be nailed in Him to the Cross. In doing so, we restrict our choices of what we can believe, what we can do and say before it becomes sin.

The modern debate seems to be focused on the flexibilities of the boundary between true Christianity and non-Christianity. The boundary is vague because only God is able to resolve this weird shade of grey into components of black and white. The ultimate decision as to who is really a Christian lies with God Himself. The Church has power to loose and to bind eternally, she has the keys to the front door and outside of her there is no salvation. But the Church consists of those who belong to God. He gets to say who's in her and who isn't.

Lest people feel comfortable with their position, we are reminded that there are those who cry "Lord, Lord" whom the Lord does not recognise. To be a member of the Church requires active obedience to God, and those to whom God gives authority. To claim an identity within that Church requires the awareness that whatever process we use to make judgments on the lives of others, that same process will be turned, like a mirror, onto ourselves.

Does this mean then that Benedictines will be measured against the Rule? Will Fundamentalists be measured up against each tittle and daghesh forte of the Bible? What about the Pick'n'mix Christian? What about the Catholic?

μὴ κρίνετε ἵνα μὴ κριθῆτε ἐν ᾧ γὰρ κρίματι κρίνετε κριθήσεσθε καὶ ἐν ᾧ μέτρῳ μετρεῖτε μετρηθήσεται ὑμῖν

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge , ye shall be judged : and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
(St Matthew vii.1-2)

The word for "judge" is krino which also means to govern, separate or decide. It gives us the words critic and criteria, and the Lord challenges us with regard to our criteria.

If we we make choices and judgments inconsistently with the Christian Faith, then how can we expect God to judge us with any less inconsistency. If, in our lives, we make judgments by our own authority, by our own criteria, then God's awful mirror will be turned back on ourselves, and we will find our own methods of decision and reasons for separation turned against us.

We all have to make our own choices and use our private judgment in religion at some point. That is inescapable, and rightly so, because God wants us to choose Him freely. Once we have chosen Him, it is then that we are nailed to Christ, and bound by the Christian code. This means a rejection of our own authority in making judgments in favour of the doctrine given to the Church. It doesn't say that the Church makes all our judgments for us, but rather where the Church is specific then are we bound to follow.

So what about the selection of bishops and parish? Well this is where we start getting into difficult waters. Ideally, a bishop should be the arbiter and mouthpiece of the authority of the Church. He should be bound by the teaching of the Church and utterly devoted to the suppression of his own private judgment in favour of fidelity to the Church.

Historically, there have been so many instances when this has not been the case. All of the major heresies have had episcopal adherents; that is why they have been so high-profile! There have been heretical popes opposed by orthodox priests and bishops. The modern controversies are nothing new. They still involve bishops making the wrong decisions and imposing those wrong decisions on Christ's Church.

If the layman believes that a bishop has gone wrong, then what can he do? First he must go to his priest and ask whether this is right. The priest is the bishop's vicar in the parish, so if he agrees with the bishop, then the layman must be very sure that his reasons for doubting the bishop are grounded. If the priest disagrees with the bishop, then clearly there is the beginning of a schism here, since the priest no longer represents the bishop in view of his teaching capacity.

What can he do? He must look at the situation as impartially as possible and make sure that he understands that he must select the criteria according to the teaching of the Church. This is so dangerous because it is so easy to fall into the trap of private judgment. It behoves the layman to find some episcopal authority that match his belief. However, in selecting a bishop, he makes a decision, and by that decision he will be judged.

This is an intolerable position for the layman. With his bishop at odds with the doctrine of the Church, with his priest put in an invidious position, he is forced to make decisions himself which do not have the assurance of Christ's authority. He can only act on what he believes Christ to have ordained. The trouble is, is this not now the beginning of congregationalism within a Catholic Church, which undoes its catholicism?

What can be done?

Make a decision and stick to it until it becomes untenable?

Any other ideas?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Putting the pieces together

Tim has his favourite jigsaw on the floor in front of him. He begins putting the pieces together, and shortly the pattern starts to form. But Tim has put this jigsaw together so many times, and he begins to wonder if he can put the pieces together in a different order, to make a new and different and exciting pattern.

He does managed to force some of the pieces together in the pattern he has already started, and it seems quite decent. He picks up a new piece. Tim would like it to go into that space there, but the piece has a protruberance where the space hasn't. Of course the piece objects to Tim's treatment. "I can't go in there, Tim. I'm not meant to fit in there and surely you can see that." "Ah," says Tim, "but I want you in there. I'm going to give you a choice, either you let me cut off that protruberance, or I shall throw you away."

What does the jigsaw piece do? What would you agree to?