The College of Bishops of the Original Province met October 16th and 17th in Shelton, Connecticut, where they took important steps toward the reunification of Continuing Anglican jurisdictions. In addition to voting to receive former ACC Bishop Thomas Kleppinger back into the Church, a report on Validation of Orders was approved, paving the way towards closer relations with the Anglican Church in America (ACA) and Anglican Province in America (APA). Reception of a new diocese in the Republic of South Africa was conditionally approved and representatives were appointed to respond to a request for dialog from a large group of Anglicans in Burundi. For more information on this and related matters, see the upcoming issue of The Trinitarian.
It looks as if there are some very encouraging signs within Continuing Anglicanism and I am very pleased with this development as it should make my relationships with my brothers in different jurisdictions easier. I have a great number of friends from all over the Anglican spectrum. I am in communion with some but regrettably not others. They are still friends and Christian brothers though.
There is a fervent desire among Continuing Anglicans to make common cause. This may be, in part, due to our tiny sizes, but also due to the fact that we have so much in common. The ACC is already communio in sacris with UECNA and APCK. UECNA is very much a BCP, 39 articles brand of Anglicanism, but we Anglican Catholics are happy to accept our relationship as sister churches. We may not agree about the confessional status of the Articles, but we recognize each others' Anglicanism and common ancestry, and the mission to promulgate the Christian Gospel to all people as once delivered to the saints. Archbishop Robinson is as Anglican as you can get and in the best way too, especially with his Northern English Accent.
In the U.K. Anglican Catholicism is hated in the mainstream churches. There are some in the Established Church who will take every opportunity to distance themselves from us, declare us invalid, improper, label us, perhaps even slander us. To them, we are the "mad church" that says that women can't be priests. We have been shouted at and dismissed in equal measure. The view of such people is that we are a straw man which they can knock down with ease. They will not talk with us or dialogue with us, despite the fact that, within the Established Church, there are entire congregations who believe what we believe. Is this any surprise? We continue to believe now what the Church of England itself once believed and now does not.
Continuing Anglicanism is at an exciting time. We are pulling together and hope that we may find more in common with each other. We may not walk in the same lane, but we can walk together. Admittedly, we'd like to be able to do that with the Church of England too. We don't hate it at all. They may see us as breakaways but, in fact, we are the folk whom they have left behind. We have merely tried to be honest and to seek the truth honestly. There are still things that we are working out, and we look to the Undivided Catholic Church for the answers. The Church of England has its own interpretation with which we cannot in conscience agree. Their belief is, in our understanding, simply not Catholic. That does not mean that they are not a Christian Church. It does mean that, in our belief, they are inconsistent and that the truth could be considered to be clouded by the complexity which they have introduced.
So what do we do?
It is very important for the Anglican Catholic Church to write no-one off. We don't do that in this Diocese. We have our canons and constitution by which to live and at the heart of everything is the love of Christ which writes no-one off. We should look for ways in which we can offer a warm handshake, invite folk for a cup of tea, find a common sense of humour, pray for each others' growth in Christ.
I have so many friends in the CofE. Perhaps some of my words have stung a little, or perhaps they just dismiss my criticisms as one of my rants. I don't seek to hurt old friends, nor to belittle their belief. I rather ask the CofE to give us the room to thrive and be respected. If they are intent on ensuring that different integrities within their government can flourish, are they going to enable those different integrities to flourish? Will they not give the ACC some room to exist and seek the truth apart from the establishment to which they must answer and we need not? I do think that the ACC asks some good questions of the Established Church which have not yet been answered, and they must understand the depth of belief that we had in order to form in the first place.
In turn, we in the ACC should think carefully about the message we send out and show that our missives, statements and announcements are thought through well. We're not an angry church, so let us not rant and rave. We're not a bitter church, so let us show that we're for everyone and have some degree of humanity not born from intellectual argument and theological discourse. We're not a breakaway church, so let us not distance ourselves from people but only distance ourselves from doctrine we believe to be errant. We're not an established Church, so let us not try to force a political agenda on people. In fact, let us see our lack of establishment as a freeing of our religion from secular constraint as well as allowing people the freedom to make the choice themselves in the secular arena of our society.
Brethren, let us love one another and do so properly.