Monday, June 20, 2016

And just why should I join the ACC?

Addendum: I offer a clarification here.

This is a good question, and one that we ought to take very seriously. We are, after all, a tiny church calling for moral absolutism in an age of moral relativism. We're not Roman Catholic, nor do we wish to be. We're not "Church of England", nor do we wish to be. Many people would see this as a rather awkward thing, "dodgy" in fact. Why? Because we're very good at saying what we're not and do not seem to be saying what we are. If we use the book of Common Prayer, then why not be a member of the CofE and the Prayer Book Society? If we say the Hail Mary and believe in some form of Transubstantiation, then why not become either a Roman Catholic or an Eastern Orthodox Church?

At this point, I reiterate my disclaimer. I do NOT speak officially on behalf of the Anglican Catholic Church. I speak of things as I find them and as I believe God reveals to me. What does the ACC really offer people that is different, positive and, above all, draws people to Christ?

This is actually a difficult question to answer on the grounds that it sounds like market branding. Why should I buy Sudso Soap Flakes when I'm used to Brighteye Bubbles? This is difficult to answer precisely because the Catholic Faith is not like that. Yes, the Catholic Church is just as fractured as Protestantism. The Roman Church would deny this because they and only they have the Pope. Yet, as I speak to the Roman Catholics around me, many disagree with the fundamental doctrines of Roman Catholicism. I've seen many declaring Pope Francis to be the terrible Pope Peter II who will bring the Church to ruin. Others who are taking what he says to extremes and now calling for a complete reversal of Catholic Dogma. More than a few do not hold to the Roman Doctrine of Transubstantiation (which is not the only form of Transubstantiation, I hasten to add). And then there are the many Jurisdictions claiming the title Orthodox. There are divisions in episcopal authority, but not in the Catholic Faith. If any jurisdiction believes wholeheartedly in the Faith as expressed in the Church in the first 10 centuries and expressed in the Seven Oecumenical Councils, then there can only be schism within the Church. That's desperately sad and these schisms must be ended. Personally, I believe that perhaps we should seek greater unity with the Orthodox Church before Rome. Historically we have already made a beginning at this. Perhaps we should continue.

In that sense, it does not really matter too much which jurisdiction you join, as long as it is truly Catholic. Many believe that the Roman Catholics have added dogmata to the Catholic Faith and they must answer for that.. However, those who have not added those dogmata to the Catholic Faith must answer for why they have not. Yet, further, we do have to remember something of greater importance than that. We will all have to answer for our choices, yet the central thing is that, if we are truly sincere in the Christian Faith, our answers will only single us out for what needs to be transformed in us in order to live in Eternity with God. Our answers will not single us out for damnation unless we have chosen to worship something which is not the One True God. In that political sense there is no One True Church. There is only a One True God. The One True Church is the body into which those who honestly and earnestly seek Him will be joined, united in the Humanity of Christ and thus sharing His divinity.

There is no reason then why anyone should join the Anglican Catholic Church above any other Catholic Church. If Christ is truly present, then we should go where we find Him. We MUST seek first the Kingdom of God at the expense of everything else in our lives. We will not find Him in Division, but only in a spirit that seeks unification. There is One God and He is Indivisible.

So why should I bother with the ACC at all?

I could rattle off more spiel about how the ACC is properly Catholic and culturally Anglican, just as various branches of the Eastern Orthodox Church are properly Catholic and have separate, largely cultural identities. That's not where I'm going to go, though. I can only answer for myself and not for anyone else. If people share my story, then it may be the right thing to do to join the ACC. One must listen to one's conscience.

Contrary to what some may say of Continuing Anglicanism, I did NOT join the ACC to be ordained. One can go back over my blog posts to see that. I'm surprised how much of my journey is charted in this little blogling. I suppose 10 years of blogging charts that.

I joined the ACC from the Church of England, and I joined reluctantly. In many ways I believe that I was forced out by an Establishment that refused to accommodate properly basic Catholic beliefs about the priesthood and about the liturgy which I held and cherished as a faithful Anglican. As a Lay Reader, I knew that I had some ministry within God's Church and I sought out my calling. I sought to remain as I was - one who held the Catholic Faith, desired the Sacraments wholeheartedly, loved the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer but sought to interpret that through the Catholic Faith. For me, the ACC does that. It seeks the Catholic Faith as interpreted through the lens of English History. The CofE does not.

Now this sounds very negative against the CofE. In some sense, it must be since I have a firm belief that the CofE has departed from Catholic Orthodoxy which it did once possess. The CofE has made a clear decision, so has the ACC, and so have I. That cannot give me a reason to hate the CofE. Hatred of people has absolutely no part in ANY expression of the Christian Faith. In contrast, hatred of the works of the Devil has absolutely every part to play in the Christian Faith. I must be able to say that I hate hatred.

And I must hate heresy.

But not heretics.

The Westborough Baptist Church in preaching that "God hates fags" and in demonstrating at the funerals of the victims of the Orlando Shooting quite clearly does not represent any expression of the Christian Faith whatsoever. It is not a Christian institution. And yet, it is my duty, my Christian duty in following the second commandment, to see that each member of that community is a valued human being whose very existence demonstrates the love of God. That's the terrible thing that we Christians encounter. We are deeply conflicted because of God's love and because of the hatred being spread by the Devil. This is why I find myself so drawn and repulsed by the goings on in the CofE that in so many ways, I still love and have so much regard for.

In believing that the CofE is promulgating heresy, I am duty bound to hate that heresy because it is of a diabolical origin not of human origin, but spread through human fallibility and fermented by human intolerances. Does that mean that the ACC is not promulgating heresy? Not directly, but like all expressions of the Catholic Faith, it must continue in prayer that any heresy within it be brought to light in Christ, exposed and expelled. As a Church we MUST seek purity together. If there is any hatred of any human being at all within the Church, then there is heresy. If there is anything that draws us away from worshipping the One True God, then that is heresy. If there is anything that hinders the salvation of any single human being, or prevents that person from receiving the life-enhancing grace that comes from God, then that is heresy.

We have to remember something that is truly fundamental to our Faith. All this, everything we see around us, everyone one we meet, every circumstance we fall into, every star in the sky, every ant on the ground, every nematode worm, every magnetic monopole, every quark, queen and quack, ALL of this was created so that Christ's incarnation would unite us to God in Himself. ALL of this was created so that we could not only exist but be given the mantle of divinity in God and find Eternal Love in Him. Anything which prevents that is heresy. It must be hated because it is contrary to Love.

What has all this to do with the fact that I joined the ACC?

If one truly believes that the CofE has fallen foul of heretical belief, then one MUST leave it. In my final meeting with the female Rural Dean and seeing the disgust in her eyes that I would not accept her prohibition of saying the Angelus - that wonderful prayer which announces the great mystery of the Incarnation and thus the reason for Creation itself - I knew then that the Devil was at work. He sought to separate me from the fact of the Incarnation, I had no choice but to lay down my license, hand back the keys and leave.

And I actually prayed a prayer of thanksgiving that it was all over. The headache that I suffered for many years suddenly vanished.

Yet, the ACC was there doing exactly what I had been doing and it was good. For me, the ACC has the opportunity to do something incredible. It holds to what the Church of England used to believe, but now does not. It has within it the colour of the ikons which the Puritan elements of the CofE destroyed in their Reformation, and it sees these as windows to God. The ACC has the opportunity to use the Seventh Oecumenical Council to great effect by showing the people in this country how to live ikonographically, seeing God in all things and in everyone. The ACC holds to the marriage of deacons, priests and bishops as was practiced in this land in the first years of the Catholic Faith in this Country. Thus, the ACC has an opportunity to show how valuable the family is, how we can live together as a family, a community, as a people with a common prayer, a common cause, a common end in God. In holding to traditional views on marriage, it has the opportunity to promote fertility and faithfulness and the sheer sanctity of human life from conception to the deathbed and far beyond. In holding to the traditional views of the priesthood, it has the opportunity to present the Catholic Faith as timeless through the unchanging and inexhaustible grace that flows from God to whoever would receive that grace, not on their own terms, but in the terms of God who creates all, knows all, and sees all and experiences life as a human being on behalf of all. It has these opportunities and, as more people see these opportunities, the more we can bring them to fruition in this age and in every age. It has the opportunity to bring things old and new out of its treasure house. I rejoice in that and, now that I must share in the responsibility for living that, I seek to promote it as best I can, so help me God!

This cannot be done in a life that seeks elitism, exclusion or excision, but rather must be done, not looking for heresy, but looking for God. We deal with heresy by seeing it and ignoring it. Evil has no substance of its own, and hatred of God is an expression of that insubstantial nature of Evil. Hatred of hatred is therefore to seek the opposite, to seek what is truly substantial. To hate heresy is to look for the substance of God in the heretic and to see that heretic as being no different from yourself, for we are ALL heretics in one way or another. If we see heresy then we are to oppose it, not in condemnation and ridicule, not in hatred, sneering and sarcasm, but to separate ourselves from it and embrace the heretic in our hearts, prayers and lives, even as the holy saints above embrace us heretics in their hearts, prayers and lives. They have been transformed so that no stain of heresy remains in them so that no stain of heresy remain in us. We MUST pray for that transformation and accept it absolutely unconditionally, for then we become what we preach. This is why I continue to beg prayers from my readership, because I am so far fallen from righteousness that I rely on God's grace to do His good things.

And just why should I join the ACC? Perhaps God has called you to. Perhaps the ACC is the vehicle to your transformation in Christ. Perhaps you can honour your calling in a tiny Church. Perhaps you will find the family of God here. Perhaps you just are an Anglican Catholic and that's how you were made.

If you join us, you won't find the perfect Church. We pray earnestly that you'll find a Church striving actively for perfection in the One True God. If you don't join us then know that we joyfully hope that we will find you in our common end - the Eternal Love of God.

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