Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Another by the Babylonian waters.

I am privileged to have among my acquaintances Fr Anthony Chadwick from the TAC who pops in on the Anglican Diaspora forum when he can. In response to comments made about my previous post, he has published the following reflection which I find rather reassuring. The fact that he thinks that I am young means he is my friend for life, especially since I was asked by one of the boys what it was like arguing personally with Martin Luther!

Thank you Fr Chadwick.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

By the waters of Babylon

I've recently set Psalm 136 to music for a couple of friends. It's a psalm that speaks to me very much at them moment, and I've been reflecting on the exile of the Jews from Jerusalem into Babylon.

Certainly the proper Anglo-Catholics in the CofE do feel that they are in some form of exile, especially from the repercussions of the last couple of Synods. The Continuum Churches too are refugees from the iconoclasm and exist (in many cases) in a fragile and delicate state in pockets in England and with a little more stability in the US. Since the schism in the '70s, the Continuers have, in the eyes of the Anglican Communion, been tarred with Archbishop Coggan's unwillingness to accept them as proper Anglicans.

The fact of the matter is that Anglo-Catholics have been and are being systematically pushed out of the Established Church in Britain. Until the twentieth Century the different wings of the Church were in a delicate stability. The rise of the Liberal theology and the fact that it has been allowed to promote the removal of Tradition has prevented Anglo-Catholics from being able to help guide Anglicanism and from playing its part in effective ministry from within the historic Church of England and thus in English society.

So now with another split looming as the Established Church seeks to announce its final renunciation of being part of the Apostolic Church in putting a mitre on a female head, the Anglo-Catholics go further into exile: some will go to the Continuum, some will go to Rome and some will disappear into the woodwork.

It's interesting to note that in Ezra and Nehemiah, the Jews are allowed to rebuild Jerusalem, and lead a life with some semblance of normal Jewish life despite continuing to be in subjugation to another authority. Life goes on, all appears well, but there is an undercurrent, a deep knowledge that things are not really okay and that there is still something that needs to be put right.

The same is true for the Anglican Diaspora. Life goes on, the sacraments are administered, the gospel is preached, the Offices are prayed but still there is something not right in the homes that Anglicans have made for themselves. The acrimony between some Anglican jurisdictions is merely a symptom of this unease.

It was somewhat of a cheer for me to hear the Archbishop of Westminster's remarks:

Let me be frank. Your struggles with issues on Communion which deeply affect the unity of the Anglican Communion, affect us all. Divisions within any Church or Ecclesial Community impoverish the communion of the whole Church.

We Roman Catholics cannot be indifferent to what is happening to our friends in the Anglican Communion and, in particular, in the Church of England. All I can say – and I would not want to be misinterpreted - is that it is only in a fuller and deeper unity that the truth and the demands of the Gospel are to be discerned. In this sense, unity is a prerequisite to truth and you should not settle for less – even if it takes time.

He also says, prior to the above statement but more importantly in my reckoning:

And although Catholics believe that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church, that very wording implies that the Roman Catholic Church is not totally self-sufficient, and that in the riches and gifts of other Christian churches are elements that would contribute to its fullness.

This certainly points to the only way forward - Unity not diversity. Again "how" is the problem. With apparent differences in worldview, doctrine and motives, the Church Catholic - comprising of Romans, Traditional Anglicans (i.e. those who truly embrace the qualifying adjective), and Orthodox folk - seems unlikely to come together in the near future. There are, however, signs that there is movement within the Continuum between the ACC, APCK and UECNA which may provide the largest body in the Continuum. Also, if anything comes from the TAC's work with Rome, then that too will be a marvellous thing.

Using an analogy that I have used before and, I am sure, others have used before me, the Catholic Churches should be singing a beautiful piece of polyphony. The
words have been written by God for us to sing, and each church sings in its own octave to produce the harmonies of human interaction with God. However, it is clear that some people think that we ought to be singing in unison, and that one part is more accurate than the others. This is not true, nor is it true to say that we know all the words to the hymn-sheet that God has given us; we can only keep singing the words in front of us which will occur, as often happens in polyphony, in different times to other folk. Only in the light of Eternity will those words be revealed as complete.

If we date the English Reformation from 1534, then we will reach its 490th anniversary in 2024. Considering that 490 is a significant number, it will provide us with a date by which we can hope for the end of the exile of the traditional Anglicans from each other.

And what of the Anglican Communion of which I am a member, albeit in a state of impairment? The Continuum rails against her, and justifiably so since she is trying to excise the four Credal marks of the church by interpreting those marks differently from their original meaning, or consigning them to History as things irrelevant. Yes, there has to be a distance between the Continuum and the Communion, but there still needs to be dialogue between them. In the eyes of the Continuum, I am a heretic because I remain in order to be in communion with my Monastic Community of which my involvement is happily deepening. In the eyes of the Communion, the Continuum is an irrelevance because it isn't properly Anglican. Both sides need the space to walk apart, but to recognise the need for each other as well as the need for the Catholic Churches around them.

I pray for an end to the bitterness among Traditional Anglicans - a bitterness which gnaws at my own soul, if I am honest - and also for the opening of the eyes of the Communion to the damage that it is causing herself and the Churches around it by pushing out from her midst into Exile those who cannot accept the modern follies which she pursues.