I still regard myself as an Anglican Papalist. This largely reflects my set of pious opinions in addition to the doctrine of the Early Church. In my days within the Established Church, I took up the Anglican Papalist cause for the simple reason that Anglican Papalism exists precisely because it shouldn’t. The schism of the Reformation has wounded both the Roman and Anglican Churches to the extent that both have spun wildly out of control, both claiming authority that neither possess. Of course, this isn’t the first schism, and the Schism between East and West has hurt the Church, the Eastern Church suffering more precisely because of her lack of political power. The Eastern Church has suffered much at the hands of Islamic warriors and even at the hands of Western Christians who were supposed to be defending Christianity. Perhaps this dreadful history has at least prevented them from the politics to the extent that Western Christianity has become inveigled. Schism always seems to go hand in hand with bloodshed. It is my firm belief that there must be a reunification of all Orthodox Catholics who share and who wholeheartedly believe fully the doctrine of the Church before the 11th Century and who are willing to recognise the Patriarch of the West, i.e. the Venerable Bishop of Rome, as the primus inter pares of the Church, yet not as “Bishop of Bishops” which is a title and office reserved only for the Divine Christ Himself and cannot be assumed by any of His vicars.
That is, I hope, as comprehensive a statement that I can make about how I perceive the issue Church Unity at the moment, though I hope I may be able to flesh it out more as I learn about the Church.
One of the big obstacles that faces the Anglican Catholic Church in the United Kingdom is the fact that it is not recognised as a Church. Much of that is historical accident, of which little is our fault. Since the Norman Conquest, our history has been identified with the Roman Catholic, thus the Orthodox Churches of the East do not regard us as being properly orthodox. Since the Reformation, our history has been identified with the Established Anglican Church, thus the Roman Catholic Church refuses to recognise us as properly Catholic and denies our orders. These refusals of recognition are not the fault of the ACC, but rather just the way history has unfolded. The refusal of recognition that one may argue is our fault is the refusal of the Anglican Communion to recognise us as authentically Anglican. As I’ve argued before , any accusation from Canterbury that Continuing Anglicans are schismatic is actually an indictment of Canterbury’s own schism via heresy. Let’s be clear here. Continuing Anglicans walked away from the jurisdiction of the Lambeth Communion because the Lambeth Communion had already walked away from the Catholic Faith. We had no other option. The resulting fragmentation was a terrible indictment of how much confusion there was within ECUSA at the time and how influential personalities caused more splits and jurisdiction when there needed to be clarity. However, given that under the Anglican umbrella there were Anglo-Catholics, Anglo-Protestants, Anglo-Calvinists, Anglo-Articulists (sorry, a little neologism of mine. I mean one who holds to the XXXIX Articles having a confessional status), Anglo-Antarticulists (i.e. ones that don’t), Anglo-Latitudinarians, Anglo-Baptists, et c. fragmentation was very much on the cards.
For us Anglican Catholics, the only way was to stick to our understanding of what “Anglican” means. By the term, we mean Anglo-Catholic, i.e. there is a continuity of the Anglican Church before the Reformation with that Church after the Reformation, that “Anglican” means “English” and that our Orthodox standing is as a Western Rite Orthodoxy. Perhaps our way forward is to flesh this out, to develop an understanding of this as a full integrity that the 40 years of our existence as a body separate from the Lambeth Communion has not yet allowed us to do. The 1970s was a new reformation for us, and the dust hasn’t really settled yet.
Canterbury has Resolution IV.11 in its 1998 Lambeth Conference with regard to Continuing Anglicanism that dialogue should be set up between us. Clearly, there can be no return to communio in sacris until the Lambeth Communion returns to orthodoxy, so what the formal dialogue could achieve would really be little more than an agreement not to get in each other’s way. At the local level, friendships between ministers and priests would be the means in which we can work together. Christian Charity can never be sacrificed being, as it is, the heart of any form of Orthodoxy. Our Lord preferred sinners to Pharisees after all. It’s better to recognise ourselves as sinners rather than infallible.
Nonetheless, in our tiny state, the fact that we have no recognition from Orthodox or Roman Catholic circles does hurt for the simple reason that we have some affinity with them that we simply don’t with the Lambeth Communion. Since we do honestly believe we’re right, should we simply put our heads down and say “we’re right, we’re right, we’re right” into the long night? Perhaps we’re just unfortunate with the fact we are so small. It’s all very well to say “It’s their loss” and carry on regardless, but our size does not help us in this respect. There are talks between Lambeth and the Vatican with regard to ordination. The fact that we are a tiny Church means that we will be excluded from these talks despite the fact that we can legitimately claim to have preserved Anglican Orders more authentically than the Established Church. Of course, we do trust in God to increase us, but perhaps we do need to play our part. That’s how covenants work.
Thankfully, in America, we do have the recent developments between the ACC, the APA, and the ACA meaning that the accidents of the history of the 1970s and 80s are starting to heal. That relationships are becoming better between the TAC and the ACC is also of comfort. In this country, we have very congenial terms with the Old Roman Catholic Church as well. The hand of friendship is being seen and I hope we have seen the last of the ACC being an angry Church.
Every day, we have the opportunity to create more accidents in history. The way to make those accidents happy is to ensure that we look iconographically at our opponents, to see God in them and His work. This is so hard, but perhaps we need more practice, beginning as we should with those immediately around us. We’re living at an age in which it is very easy to dehumanise people who do wrong. Indeed, stripping people of their humanity is precisely how ISIS can commit their crimes. Yet these militants are someone’s children, and will at some point have demonstrated that innate lovability. They want us to forget that so that we, too, will hate them with the same passion. That’s a truly satanic trick. We need to stop that temptation dead otherwise the accidents will continue, the schisms will continue and the fragmentation will continue.
As I used to pray that Anglican Papalism would cease to exist, I now pray that the Anglican Catholic Church will cease to exist for, when it does, the Church will be united once more and to be Anglican Catholic will be the same as being Roman Catholic and the same as Orthodox. Here’s to non-existence!