I am never going to hide the fact that the Anglican Catholic Church in this country is tiny. We're not particularly big world-wide, but to say that we're a significant size is sheer dishonesty. One day we may be enormous, perhaps. Maybe we shall just fizzle out as our members die out. This is all in the hands of Almighty God and none of us can presume to know the future.
We are, of course, working for growth. There are many obstacles that we face and one of them is the question: you're not real priests, are you? My brother priest, Fr Chadwick has blogged on this point too . Am I, or am I not a real priest?
The Roman Catholic will say no. The Eastern Orthodox will say that my orders will become valid the moment that my church converts to Eastern Orthodoxy. The Church of England would, typically, hem and haw. However, we can show categorically that Anglican Catholic Priests have valid Anglican Orders and believe that they are as valid as any other Orthodox Catholic priest. For those interested, please see the ACC webpage here, and note that our Archbishop John-Charles Vockler was a bishop in the Anglican Communion before joining us. He is a "grand-daddy" consecrator of Bishop Damien.
There is, of course, another issue here. Lots of "Continuing" jurisdictions whether they be continuing Roman, Anglican, or Orthodox orders flout their lineage to convince people of the truth. This is largely due to defending oneself against accusations of invalidity from "mainstream" churches. The fact that there have been some unscrupulous rogue catholic bishops consecrating all and sundry does indeed make a mockery of the the Apostolic Succession.
Fr Chadwick says, "the proof of the pudding is in the eating."
How right he is: he is paraphrasing Our Lord's words, "by their fruits shall ye know them." I notice that so many of these rogue bishops suddenly acquire doctorates in divinity, in laws and letters. They rejoice in titles such as "His Excellency, the Most Reverend Lord....".
I am, apparently, a "Reverend Doctor", but then anyone popping into the University of Warwick Mathematics Library will find my doctoral thesis on Instanton Moduli Spaces. I am a priest and that gives me the burdensome "Reverend".. Most of the time, I'm just plain "Father" and that's how I'd like it to stay. I've said how meaningless titles are below. There is no point collecting them as they carry such little value. Indeed, a collection of grandiose titles is quite simply laughable.
As a Benedictine Oblate, I prefer "Father" because it reminds me of a burden I have to bear. I am an "abbot" to a little parish. They respect me, and I respect them.
But am I valid? To the ACC, yes unquestionably, since Bishop Damien's orders are unquestionable as well. Yet, I can only be a truly valid priest if I embody Christ daily, hourly, minutely, secondly. I have to bear His image in a way that the laity don't and I'm glad they don't have to. It's terrifying sometimes and I do find myself worrying about the little I do do. I worry about my temper, my cowardice, my fears and how I constantly let God down. In order for me to be a truly valid priest, I have to do something that shines His light on people.
I see so much good being done by Christians of all kinds of stripes. I hear of ministers on the streets of Birmingham picking up drunken students and such-like and putting them in cabs home. I hear of unofficial foodbanks just opening up for the poor and deprived. I know an Archbishop who rolls up his sleeves not only in a restaurant, but also in a soup kitchen that his monastic order run for the homeless of Brighton. There is good being done out there and God be praised for it and bless those who work such good in this darksome world!
These rogue bishops revel in advertising their presence and will cite that they are doing the Lord's work by providing the people of God with Sacraments. That's all well and good, but while the starving man benefits much from receiving the Mass, he would also benefit more immediately from a good meal so that he could enjoy the benefits of the Mass. Advertising is not Evangelism. Advertising does not preach the Good News in deed or in living. Advertising is a facade because it is cheap and easy to do, especially on the internet. The Lord's work is the washing of feet as well as the giving of Spiritual Grace. It is the fourteen works of Mercy which include the Seven Corporal Works of Mercy. A priesthood that consists only of "instructing" the ignorant, and "admonishing" "sinners" is likely to come from one's own personal ideology rather than the love of God.
All Christians must bear the image of God, and that image comes with a cross. Holy Orders exist precisely for the service of these Christians. That service has to be active and respect the efforts that these Christians are making to bring the light of Christ into the world. The Clergy bear the image of Christ indelibly etched into their character. There are many Bishops, Priests, and Deacons out there who claim to be valid. They may be valid on paper, but are they truly valid in bearing the image of the Lord? I pray to God that I do better than I am doing now.