Friday, July 23, 2010

Desertion, desolation and deprivation

I'm a terrible Benedictine - I'm always complaining. Usually, as you've probably noticed, it's to do with my apparent homelessness in the Church. I don't think for one minute that I'm alone. Anglo-Catholics in the Anglican Communion have to consider their position very carefully. As Bishop Jarrett has said, there's no point in being precipitous in our actions. Things have been moving very fast in the last thirty years - that does not mean that we should rush our actions until we hear the still, small voice speaking to the Heart of the Church.

There are a lot of confusing factors here.
  1. What is the Anglican Continuum? Are these groups of schismatics with a tendency to schism among themselves, or are the Continuing Churches better exponents of Anglicanism than has been demonstrated by the infighting of Liberal, Conservative and Anglo-Catholic over the various issues? Is it inevitable that Anglicans schism?
  2. Are the Ordinariates safe for Anglicans? Again, there are lots of arguments both ways here. See my earlier post.
  3. Is the Doctrine of Taint viable? By this I mean, the following reasoning:

    (1) Women cannot be ordained.

    (2) When a bishop attempts to ordain women, he claims that he "ordains" a woman into the same order as he ordains a man.

    (3) If (1) and (2) are true then the orders established by that bishop must be as invalid for the male as for the female.

    (4) From (3), doubt arises about the validity of any sacrament in a jurisdiction which supports W"O".

    (5) From (4), to remain fully Catholic and Apostolic, one cannot be communio in sacris with any jurisdiction which admits W"O".

    If this is the correct reasoning by some Anglo-Catholic bodies, then I query statement (2) and the weight of its implication into (3). If a bishop "ordains" a women and claims that the orders he bestows are the same as for a man, can he not be mistaken in his belief? A priest can claim to baptise a bell, but, if our understanding is correct that bells do not have immortal souls, the baptism is useless, ineffectual and quite null. Would that therefore mean that any baptism that the priest performs on a baby is therefore invalid?

    If the Ordination of Women does introduce doubt into Anglican Orders, then is it not reasonable to seek certainty by conditional re-ordination by Rome, or the Orthodox Church?
  4. What about the Heretics? Shouldn't one be concerned with hate the Heresy, love the Heretic? Scripture bids us walk apart from Heretics, but how far should we walk apart? If we are ministers to the world, then we are ministers to the Heretic as well as anyone else. If we have lived in the C of E for a long time, can we just honestly turn to our long-serving and gently disposed priests and utterly reject every good they have done in our lives just because they have been beguiled by the Zeitgeist into accepting W"O"?
    What of Religious orders that have accepted W"O" when their Oblates have not?

    It is God alone who judges the integrity of an individual's Christianity, and nonetheless do we have the challenge of how we can minister with those who profoundly disagree with us. However, supporters of W"O" must show that they understand Anglo-Catholic difficulties if they are maximise the level of communion between us. At present many don't and are unwilling to make the conceptual leap, judging from the self-righteous and arrogant comments made on the Thinking Anglicans blog.

    If we do separate, then what are the conditions that need to be met for coming back together again?

These are the questions that worry me at the moment as I suspect they worry many of us. What is the worst case scenario?

I suppose that it depends on your definition of "worst". For me its the prolonged homelessness that comes from not finding any spiritual stability in any of the above options. We're back to my desert analogies here. The worst thing may well be for good Anglo-Catholics to be forced to fulfill their Obligations by attending Mass in a Parish with a woman in a chasuble. Anglo-Catholics have that sense of obligation, but we could be faced with a choice between two apostasies (go to such a Mass or stay at home) or the loss of our Anglican identity (by becoming Roman Catholic). The latter may be a necessary sacrifice in order to meet our obligations, but then what do we make of "to thine own self be true"?

The desert, however, is not an entirely fruitless place to be. One can consider the Desert Fathers who managed to eke out lives of great solitude and asceticism. I would recommend reading the sayings of the Desert Fathers as they provide some extraordinary attitudes to living in the most inhospitable places in order to free the spirit from the shackles of this world. Consider:

Abba Mark said to Abba Arsenius, 'Why do you avoid us?' The old man said to him, 'God knows that I love you, but I cannot live with God and with men. The thousands and ten thousands of the heavenly hosts have but one will, while men have many. So I cannot leave God to be with men.'

Perhaps this sort of existence is necessary for the Anglo-Catholics in order for them to manifest their saltiness to the World. The worst thing is that we become isolated individuals without priest or bishop living to some personal commitment to our Faith via Breviary or Common Prayer Book and Works of Mercy but hearing Mass in a Roman Catholic Church but never physically receiving the Sacrament again, staying away from the worldliness of a Communion that has become Apostate but desiring still to walk with other Christians.

That's the worst case, and I suspect (though I pray not) it may become a reality for some unfortunate souls. They still have the examples of the Desert Fathers to help them through.

In God we trust.

Of course we do, an thus we know that our future with Him may not be easy, but our striving for fidelity will lead us under His guidance to find a place in the Church where we can exist well, though relying on Him alone for contentment, nourishment and stability. I doubt that we will be comfortable for the next thirty years, but let us carry God with us into our future and let Him have the control over it. We cannot control our future, but God is faithful.


Fr. Dcn. David Gould said...

The desert experience, of having everything stripped away has happened to Christians before. Anglo-Catholics are perhaps in the situation in some ways faced by Orthodox Christians in Russia in the 1920's when the Bolshevik regime was persecuting the Russian Church and set up the "Living Church" movement designed to radically modernise the Orthodox Church. Set up with compliant bishops and priests it was a failure and fizzled out. Truly orthodox orthodox spurned the heresy and innovation.

As an Anglo0Catholic who has come back to Anglicanism vis the Continuum, I can only speak of the Anglican Catholic Church. It has a meaningful worldwide presence, albeit very small in my own country. It has great missionary success in Africa and India, Central and south America and Haiti. It has real clarity about faith and order, and it has not been riven with schism except for the departure of a couple of bishops in 1991 - the deerfield Beach schism that led to Archbishop Hepworth's TAC/ACA.

I would urge you to prayerfully look at the ACC, visit with any parish, write to our Metropolitan, Archbishop Mark (Haverland). Read the Trinitarian newspaper, get some sense of us, and above all pray, fast and seek the Lord's will.

In Christ

Fr. Dcn. David Gould
Annunciation of Our Lady ACC Mission

Fr. Dcn. David Gould said...

In regard to post-ordination of women Anglican ordinations, I believe that the flawed intent substantially taints them. To believe in the ordination of women is heresy. To ordain women is to effectively schism from the Catholic and Apostolic Church even if the vestiges remain such as bricks and mortar cathedrals, organisational structure etc.

Anyone ordained post-ordination of women into a Canterbury Communion church should be re-ordained sub-conditione. Blogger Fr. Matthew Kirby on Continuum would be worth writing to, as he is a noted canonist.

Nicholas Jackson said...

"Would that therefore mean that any baptism that the priest performs on a baby is therefore invalid?"

I wouldn't have thought so. If I attempt to teach a bell (which, to the best of our understanding, is incapable of understanding pure mathematics) about linear algebra, then obviously that teaching is useless, ineffectual and quite null - no matter what I may claim to the contrary.

That delusion (or possibly deception) doesn't affect any preceding or subsequent attempts I may make to teach the same material to, say, a first-year mathematics undergraduate.

The teaching will work for those entities (say, first-year mathematics students) which are capable of being taught about linear algebra, and not for those entities (bells, for example) which are not capable of being taught.

Analogously, I find it difficult to believe that any but the most contrary and pedantic god would refuse to acknowledge the baptism of a faithful person which just happened to be performed by a priest who was mistaken about certain details of theology. As with the teaching of linear algebra, I would expect the baptism to be effective for those entities capable of being baptised, and not for those which aren't.

Consequently, I'm unconvinced by the "doctrine of taint" that you outline above. Surely any reasonable God would, therefore, accept as valid ordinations of male priests by a male bishop who has also ordained female priests? Whether or not the bishop is mistaken in certain points of theology relating to the ordination of women, he'd presumably be on more solid ground when ordaining a man to the priesthood, I'd have thought.

poetreader said...

I'm extremely uncomfortable with the doctrine of taint (as you rather felicitously named it) espoused by so many in ACC, very largely because of the legalistic picture it seems to present of God and His economy. Mr. Jackson has expressed it rather well.

I'd also like to remind Dcn. Gould of the serious schism from ACC somewhat later than the Deerfield thing that resulted in two groups known as Holy Catholic Church, Anglican Rite and Holy Catholic Church, Western Rite, whose connection with each other is rather tenuous. Unfortunately ACC has proven to be no less susceptible to these fractious forces than the rest of us. We're all in the same boat, and the boat has serious leaks we all need to be plugging, instead of finding reasons to snipe at each other.

ed pacht

Canon Jerome Lloyd OSJV said...

Not sure, ed, who Dcn Gould was "sniping" at...?

The problem with the "doctrine of taint" is that one might fall into the ever-decreasing circles of "Apostolicae Curae" rather than the perhaps more level-headed "Saepius Officio"...

Warwickensis said...

Fr. Jerome, I don't think Ed was suggesting that Father Deacon Gould was actually sniping, but rather stating that sniping exists between Continuum members. As I've seen that for myself many a time, I do understand.

Fr Gould, thank you very much for your kind concern which does raise my spirits in a rather dark time. I'm very well aware of Bishop Mead whom I have met once or twice. In my work at the Anglican Diaspora, I like to think I have a basic understanding of Anglican Alphabet Soup.

I don't know whether "disenfranchised" Anglo-Catholics in the C of E are even aware of the Continuum. Many (and I'm given to think that it's the majority) English Anglo-Catholics are Anglican Papalist which the Anglican Catholic Church has not been seen to tolerate (as evidenced by the Continuum blog), and this does put a bit of a wedge for me in thinking about developing a deeper relationship with the ACC. Nonetheless, they will always have my respect, admiration and genuine affection.

Warwickensis said...

Having said that, there are many English Anglo-Catholics who are not Papalist. Are they even aware of the Anglican Catholic Church?

If they aren't happening already, then there really ought to be some discussion between FiF and the ACC so that all Anglo-Catholics in the CofE can find a spiritually fulfilling home.

poetreader said...

You read me right, Jonathan,
It's the overall attitude of fault-finding that dismays me. It dismays me when I myself fall into it, as I admit to doing. What I mean by sniping is the attitude of seeking for reasons to disapprove of others instead of searching for ways to love one another. We so easily see the faults in others and so easily forget to notice the faults we ourselves have, and that is sad indeed. The main burden of what I said is that we need to be plugging the leaks, whereas many of our actions (even if well-intended) serve to make them worse rather than better.