Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Coffee with the CofE

Readers of my last post may be somewhat disheartened or even shocked by my negative stance on the CofE. In that post, I have shown how difficult it is for the ACC to define itself without saying why it is not part of the Anglican Communion because of the heresy that is within. How can I justify such unloving language in saying that the CofE "promulgates heresy", especially when I still have good friends aboard her barque?

I should like to say that I honestly bear the CofE no malice. None whatsoever. In fact I still love that Church, but I cannot love the belief that she holds that the Catholic Faith is something that can be voted on outside of an Oecumenical Council. I have been so angry with her about this, angry because she has lost something wonderful and actually rather substantial, and I honestly, truly desire for her to take it back. I have been forthright precisely because of my affection for the CofE.

However, we believe significantly different things. Archbishop George Carey was one of the first people within the CofE to brand a significant number of his own congregation as heretics when he said, "The idea that only a male can represent Christ at the altar is a most serious heresy." The division within the CofE at this point means that one group must be heretical. However, some twenty years later, both opponents and supporters of WO are seeking mutual flourishing within the communion. WO is a by-product of the belief that the Catholic Faith can change to suit the age in which it is found.

I suspect also that my mention of the Devil may have caused some to worry. Am I accusing the CofE of being diabolical? No!!! Not at all! I could never say that. That we are all sinners and, as I said previously, that we are to an extent all heretics is a device of the Devil regardless of which Church we belong to. What marks out true diabolical activity is that which separates Christians. It is never a person because every human being is a child of God and therefore ontologically good. It does mean though that when Christians divide they are necessarily mutually heretical and thus, logically speaking, at least one absolutely so.

I do use the word "heresy" in its proper sense as a choice that is not in keeping with the Faith once revealed to the saints and not as a pejorative, though I appreciate that it is most often used pejoratively as a stick to bash the other over the head and reduce them to something less than human. I must be clear. In that I am probably the worst of all sinners (pace St Paul) I am probably the biggest heretic of the lot in that I believe in the Catholic Faith and yet still make the choice to sin gravely against God. I want to make that quite clear. Heresy is a point of division, and division is not what God wants.

However, it is clear that the CofE and the ACC are distinct Churches in their own right. We clearly have a different faith. We believe that the Catholic Faith is immutable within a divided Church, the CofE does not. It is entirely possible that we are wrong, but I simply don't see how. I do pray earnestly that if I am wrong that I may see it, repent, and return to the right belief in Our Lord.

Orthodoxy does matter. We must worship the God that's really there. The Athanasian Creed begins:
"Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly."
It then goes on to expound the Trinitarian formula. The reason is clear, any deviation from that formula and we cease to be worshipping the One True God as revealed to the Church and as spoken of in the Holy Scriptures. This is still the heart of the belief of the CofE. Yet, there are those within her that reject it with apparently no disapproval from the hierarchy.

Likewise, to change the sacraments is to change or even stem the flow of covenantal grace that comes from God. In the point of view of the ACC, this is to violate the terms of His covenant. I can honestly say I don't know how the CofE would see this, though I am sure that they have thought hard about this.

But that is not to say that God's grace can be stymied. Indeed, God's grace flows through every Christian but it is not as full as the grace that the Holy Eucharist confers - it is not the grace that God promises with which He can feed and nourish us. We Christians are all called to be a blessing in this world.

It is this that reminds me that the CofE is not God-forsaken because I do see blessings come from that communion. There are genuine efforts that are helping communities to grow, develop and find happiness such as food banks, street pastors, and refuges. The pastoral care of a good CofE minister of either sex is invaluable to those who are sick, housebound, or moribund. Yes, there are blessings that still flow in abundance from the CofE. That is a sign of God's presence, but it is limited in that it cannot give the promised grace of God in its fullest sense.

Can I say the same of the ACC in this country? We could use the excuse that we are so small that we can do nothing much, but that's not really an excuse as Our Lord reminds us about moving mountains. There are little projects that go on in our parishes, but we do need to think harder about how we too can be a real blessing on the community around us. The ACC may have the Catholic Faith, but our challenge is how we express that blessing in the community around us. If we're snarky and condescending and give the air that "we're right and everyone else is wrong", then we will simply not be able to bless as we are blessed. If we are snarky and condescending and self-righteous, then perhaps our blessing isn't worth very much.

We have a tension then between Orthodoxy and Mission, and this is why heresy must be hated because that tension produces a temptation. We so easily fall into temptation and thus we fall into division and schism. This is why division and schism must be hated because it stops the grace of God flowing in the world.

I would not say no to sitting down to a cup of coffee (or, preferably, tea) with a friendly CofE priest of either sex. How do I deal with the heresy that separates us? As I said previously, we see the heresy and we ignore it as far as we can. Each of us must recognise that we are separated by a heresy which we will rightly or wrongly attribute to the other. We must agree that we have as distinct a faith as any other Christian denomination. We must agree that the other is a minister of religion, but we cannot agree on the other's understanding of the sacraments. Neither of us will probably give an inch on what we believe, but we must not let the Devil separate us any further than he has done so already.

However, we cannot work to a false ecumenism. There can be no communio in sacris if we have different beliefs about what it is to be in communion. We will not be able to worship together if we cannot agree on the lex orandi. We can and must will and seek actively the other's good but that will not come at the expense of saying what is not true because lies cannot will the other's good. We must bless each other in the people that we are, but not necessarily what we do because we cannot bless heresy. That's the elephant in the room that the Devil brought in. The trouble is at least one of us is feeding it. I pray earnestly that it isn't me.

I pray that one day I will be able to say Mass in a CofE church because of the removal of that elephant. I pray that I may be able to receive the sacraments from a CofE bishop because any and all impediments have been done away by the love of God and that the Catholic Faith has been restored. I look forward to such a day and hope that it is soon.
 Elephants make drinking tea and coffee difficult, but not impossible.

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