Monday, June 12, 2017

The "Archbishop of Canterbury", GAFCON, and the ACC's T-shirt

If the Daily Mail is to be believed (and there is always a very good reason why it should always be taken with a Dead Sea's worth of salt - this is why I've used the quote marks in the title), in a confidential letter from Archbishop Welby to Anglican leaders (which somehow includes the Daily Mail), the Primate of the Anglican Communion has cited Canons 15 and 16 from the First Council of Nicaea in 325AD.

These state:
On account of the great disturbance and discords that occur, it is decreed that the custom prevailing in certain places contrary to the Canon, must wholly be done away; so that neither bishop, presbyter, nor deacon shall pass from city to city. And if any one, after this decree of the holy and great Synod, shall attempt any such thing, or continue in any such course, his proceedings shall be utterly void, and he shall be restored to the Church for which he was ordained bishop or presbyter.

Neither presbyters, nor deacons, nor any others enrolled among the clergy, who, not having the fear of God before their eyes, nor regarding the ecclesiastical Canon, shall recklessly remove from their own church, ought by any means to be received by another church; but every constraint should be applied to restore them to their own parishes; and, if they will not go, they must be excommunicated. And if anyone shall dare surreptitiously to carry off and in his own Church ordain a man belonging to another, without the consent of his own proper bishop, from whom although he was enrolled in the clergy list he has seceded, let the ordination be void
He cites this in regard to GAFCON's decision to ordain a "Missionary Bishop" in Scotland following the vote by the Scottish Episcopal Church to change Canon Law and attempt the sacrament of marriage on same-sex couples. GAFCON would certainly be breaching Diocesan boundaries as well as Provcial Boundaries.

The ACC has, so the saying goes, been there, done that and bought the T-Shirt. In 1977, at the formation of the first ACNA from which the ACC sprung, we declared in the Affirmation of St Louis that communion with the Catholic Church had been abandoned by the Episcopal Church and that we had to continue that communion. We also demonstrated that a schism had actually happened in the alterations to the Catholic Faith attempted by the government of ECUSA and thus we were able to invoke a Canon from the Oecumenical Councils, namely the third from the Council of Ephesus in 431AD.
If any of the city or country clergy have been inhibited by Nestorius or his followers from the exercise of the priesthood, on account of their orthodoxy, we have declared it just that these should be restored to their proper rank. And in general we forbid all the clergy who adhere to the Orthodox and Ecumenical Synod in any way to submit to the bishops who have already apostatized or shall hereafter apostatize.
That seems a strange canon to invoke, what does it say?

Nestorius was the Patriarch of Constantinople who held his eponymous heretical notion that Our Lord's two natures are completely separate and that Jesus was in fact two persons stapled together. The Council condemned this heresy and declared Nestorius a heretic and thus a schismatic. He was the head of a province who required all those in his cure to hold his heresy. In this canon, we find an example that, when an Archbishop "goes bad", all those in his cure must adhere to Orthodoxy and thus submit themselves to the nearest Catholic authority.

This gave the first ACNA (and thus the ACC) the precedent to know that it was free from the authority of ECUSA since ECUSA was in schism from the Catholic Church by way of its heresy. Its pronouncements and declarations against us were declared null and void.

However, for this to work, we had to demonstrate that the ECUSA was in schism, and therefore had broken communion with us. As far as the Affirmation went, we tried to be loyal to Canterbury before that fell, too, into heresy and thus schism from the Catholic Faith. We could not continue in communion with heretical bodies, but made the separation clear.

That's the ACC's story, and we wear our T-shirt proudly, but under our cassocks.

GAFCON have all this to come. The Ephesian Canon will certainly counter the Nicene Canons if used correctly, but GAFCON must demonstrate that the Scottish Episcopal Church are in schism. So must Bishop Pryke in Jesmond demonstrate that the Diocese of Newcastle is in schism. We cannot be in communion with schismatics and so GAFCON must make this intention quite clear and stop thinking of itself as part of the Canterbury Communion, otherwise it is indeed in breach of Catholic authority. The trouble is that GAFCON did not declare schism when we did and thus is perpetuating the same confused nature of the sacraments that are still part of ECUSA. In trying to extricate itself from the mess, it finds itself being pulled back into the hole because it refuses to recognise that it is holding onto the same things that will pull it back in!

GAFCON must make up its mind where its direction lies. If it both holds to the ordination of women and rejects gay marriage then, not only is it being hypocritical in holding to the idea that sex in sacraments is interchangeable, but it is also being homophobic by negatively discriminating against the LGBTI community. The reason for their actions is therefore one of negative discrimination and not of theological discernment. In the ACC, we believe that sacraments cannot be altered, and that this stems from the equal in worth but non-identical nature of male and female. However, we in the ACC too must be careful that our theology does not result in misogyny nor homophobia. We would do well to ensure that we do not allow GAFCON's error to be ours.


Fr Anthony said...

Is this t-shirt an analogy or something that exists and can be bought? It would be interesting to wear one when at sailing gatherings and seeing what questions would come my way. My sailing club made a big order for t-shirts, sweat shirts and hoodies - and they have been very successful. I think this is a great idea for logos and words of the ACC to be printed on them.

I'll see about ordering 2 or 3 t-shirts.

Warwickensis said...

Hello Father. I was alluding to that old phrase, "Been there. Done that. Bought thevT-shirt," demonstrating over familiarity.

I don't wear T-shirts. Given that I have a tendency to turn to dust when exposed to the sun'set rays, it's a good job I don't!

Fr Anthony said...

I fully understand your meaning, Father. As for exposure to the sun, I began my recent sailing jaunt in Brittany with a t-shirt. I graduated to a log-sleeved traditional striped mariner's shirt and wide-brimmed hat. On some days, I used my lifejacket to protect my legs from the sun, and all that while I was using maximum strength sun cream. It was always a relief when the direction of the boat was such as I would be shaded by the sails!

I see your metaphorical use of the idea in that old phrase. T-shirts are casual wear. My own are for the most part plain without printing, and I wear a t-shirt most of the year with or without a cassock over it. They can be quite vulgar - it depends where you are.