Sunday, April 27, 2014

Watery witnesses

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on Low Sunday. 

 From the man who brought you “In the beginning was the Word” and “we shall see Him as He really is” comes “And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” St John is not the easiest of writers to understand. His gospel is radically different from the other three, though he is in complete agreement with their experience of Our Lord. He often makes very odd statements and they do need some unpacking before we can really understand what St John is saying.


 St John is probably the only one of the Apostles to make it to a grand old age. His gospel is written late in the first century and probably so that he can record his thoughts before age overtakes him. At the time of his writing, a new group of people are beginning to gather and corrupt the Christian Faith with their teaching. These are the Gnostics. They essentially say that in order to be saved, you must hate your body and seek after special knowledge. Only those who know certain things will go to Heaven.

 St John is firmly against this and, following his example, so should we be. He has spent a long time with Our Lord Jesus who has preached to everyone that anyone who believes in Him will be saved. You don’t have to be a professor to be saved; you don’t even have to have an education whatsoever to go to Heaven. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” It’s an opportunity for everyone regardless of who they are. But then it’s okay for St John. He was there with Jesus from the beginning. What about us, 2000 years later?


 St John’s faith has probably never wavered since he saw the Lord Jesus standing before him with his wounds still visible, physical and real, eating and drinking and probably laughing and rejoicing with His disciples. You can’t forget a thing like that. Jesus has very clearly come to us in the flesh, He has died in the flesh and He has risen in the flesh. He clearly does not want us to despise being human, which is something the Gnostics would want us to believe. St John is quite clear that Jesus came in the flesh, “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood.”

 Our Lord Jesus did not identify with us just by the water in which He was baptised, but also with the water and the blood which poured out from His side when the soldier stabbed His crucified corpse with a lance. It is the water and the blood and the Spirit which Jesus took back to form His resurrection body that we know that He was both human and Divine. “There are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”

 So we have these three things that tell us that Jesus was a human being, and we also have the word of the Holy Trinity that He was divine! “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” St John tells us that we can be sure that there are physical signs that point to Our Lord Jesus rising from the Dead in His physical form. Where can we experience this same Christ now?


 Well, Our Lord has instituted the Holy Eucharist for a reason! This is a service of Communion. If we’re willing to believe then we come into contact with God the Son at every Mass. There are little things in the Mass which may pass you by. Watch when the priest prepares the chalice. He approaches the server who gives him first wine then water. The priest prays the prayer:

 “O God Who didst wonderfully create and yet more wonderfully restore the dignity of Man’s nature, grant that by the mystery of this water and wine we may be partakers in His Divinity who didst partake of our humanity, even Jesus Christ, Our Lord Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the Unity of the Holy Ghost, God throughout all ages, world without end. Amen”

 The water stands for our humanity and for all Christians living and departed, the wine the Divine nature, the substance of God Himself. These are mixed together and consecrated together becoming for us the Blood of Christ. Shortly after they are consecrated, the priest drops a little bit of the Body of Christ into the chalice so that we can see that the Body and Blood of Christ have become one with our humanity. This is what is really meant by communion.

 This is not a scientific inquiry. This is the place for things beyond the scope of science and indeed beyond our understanding. This is a matter of believing in our hearts! Our Mass is where we can strengthen our belief so that we can go out into the world bearing God in our hearts, and so that by our living we can help others to see God at work in the world and point to Him beyond the world. “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” What is our faith for, if not to be spread into the hearts of those around us?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Feast of the Resurrection 2014

Early one morning in the garden...

Gardens feature frequently in the interaction between Man and God. In the Garden were we placed; from the Garden did our sin cast us; in the Garden did the Lord begin His Passion; in the Garden was He buried; from the Garden did He rise. It is clear that God intends us to be happy within some form of Garden.

Throughout His ministry, Our Lord Jesus has shown how in control He is of the natural and how much He respects the natural order. He will make sure that there is wine in abundance but He will not turn stone into bread, so that the stones themselves can cry out the praise and glory of God as the stones which God intended them to be. He feeds multitudes by stretching out a feast from the smallest crumbs and He will curse the fig tree that does not bear fruit to remind us that it is the will of God that mankind should bear good fruit. Our Blessed Lord seeks to bring the Creation of God into communion with God.

Everything points to the goodness of God's Creation. Fire burns, and so we are kept warm, yet at the expense of possibly burning to death, Water sustains life, and so we must drink to preserve our lives even at the expense of drowning. The natural order has its order, but only Mankind has the sin. Only Mankind can see Evil in the Created order because Mankind has knowledge of Good and Evil. Yet, for all its inherent goodness, the natural order brings death to human beings - volcanoes, typhoons, earthquakes. They are not evil in themselves, but they are an affront to the dignity of humanity to live, the cause of so much pain, suffering, misery and degradation. Sometimes we forget that we must die, and for most of us that will be in the natural order rather than in the hands of the evil which comes out of a human being.

It is outside the Garden that Our Lord meets Death even as we also must meet Death outside of Eden. His Death makes good the penalty for our sins, that penalty being eternal separation from God. That which is not-God, thus finite and susceptible to corruption and decay, cannot make that reconciliation eternally. Only that which is both human and divine can unify humanity in death to an eternity of living in the Creator.

And so we are face with this enormous fact. Christ has died, but Christ is risen. In His resurrection, we find ourselves brought back into the Garden. At the presence of the Risen Christ, the Cherub sheaths his sword of fire and permits re-entry into Eden for all who follow the Shepherd who laid down His life for the Sheep. Is this a breach of the natural order? No, for all God gives all creatures meat in due season. When He giveth it them they gather it : and when He openeth His hand they are filled with good. When He hideth His face they are troubled : when He taketh away their breath they die, and are turned again to their dust. When He letteth His breath go forth they shall be made : and He shalt renew the face of the earth. The glorious majesty of the Lord shall endure for ever : the Lord shall rejoice in his works. (cf Psalm civ.27-31)

So we shall rejoice with God. In Him is life, and this life is ours too. His son is raised and remains with us. We partake of that single sacrifice and gain our substance  from Him and thus our return to the Garden is assured through the love of God. This is no Garden of Earthly delights, but a Garden of delight in God which begins here and we cultivate its growth in our hearts.

This is the day that the Lord hath made! Let us rejoice and be glad in it. Alleluia!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Week 2014: Holy Saturday

The shepherd has been struck, the sheep are scattered. The Lord knew this would happen and this concern must have been there, gnawing at Him in his Agony in the Garden at the beginning of His passion. What was to happen to the faithful few who had stayed with Him to the end? The shepherd must lay down His life for the sheep.

"Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father."

So, behind the stone, in the cold and darkness, a power is at work and its effect will be astonishing.
O Lord Jesu Christ, the Good Shepherd, preserve the righteous, justify sinners, have mercy upon all the faithful, and be gracious to me, a miserable and wretched sinner. Amen

Friday, April 18, 2014

Holy Week 2014: Good Friday

So here is Good Friday. Darkness falls on Calvary, in the hearts of men, over Creation itself, and darkness falls over the eyes of God Incarnate.

"If I say, Peradventure the darkness shall cover me : then shall my night be turned to day.Yea, the darkness is no darkness with thee, but the night is as clear as the day : the darkness and light to thee are both alike."

Darkness falls, yet in that darkness, a strong, loving hand reaches out.
I adore thee, O Lord Jesu Christ, rising again from the dead, and ascending into heaven and sitting at the right hand of the Father: I beseech thee that I may be found worthy to follow thee thither, and dwell in thy presence. Amen

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Week 2014: Maundy Thursday

Our Lord's descent into Hell started on Maundy Thursday with His agony in the garden  of Gethsemane. Slowly but surely over the next few hours, this world will seek to abandon Him to suffer alone. His friends first, followed by justice, His security, His dignity, His health, and His life. He will end up in the place where all whom this world has forgotten, the mysterious prison of the spirits alluded to in I Peter iii.19. We cannot say for certain what place this is, lying as it does beyond the experience of mortal men.

Yet even this reminds us that we cannot be forgotten, left behind, forsaken, or passed over. We are numbered and accounted for: our names are recorded in Creation itself. We have only to cling on to the living Christ with a living, cultivated and growing faith in Him for our names to be recorded in the Book of Life.

I adore thee, O Lord Jesu Christ, descending into hell and sending forth thy prisoners: I beseech thee, suffer me not to enter there. Amen

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Holy Week 2014: Wednesday

And so we see the Magi's gift finally put to its use. It is part of human nature to try and preserve the dead for as long as possible. It is an art of futility since dust we are and to the dust we shall return. Yet still we cling to the memories of those whom we love, keeping them alive in our hearts when we know we can see them no more. The memories are painful and yet we cannot be without them.

However, the Lord tells Mary Magdalene and, by extension, us that we must not cling on to Him. We have lost all physical contact with Our Lord. We have no image, no bodily remains, nothing by which we can say that He was this human being with this trait, or that trait. He was buried in the hope that He would be forgotten and that His inconvenient teaching would die with Him. Not content with destroying the man, they also sought to destroy His legacy too lest the Church could take root. The seed has died and is buried.

I adore thee, O Lord Jesu Christ, laid in the sepulchre, embalmed with myrrh and spices: I beseech thee that thy death may be my life. Amen

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Holy Week 2014: Tuesday

It seems hard to imagine being dead. You can probably imagine life going on without you, but where is the "you"? You can probably imagine dying, but not what happens when your eyes stop seeing, your ears hearing, your awareness of breathing and your brain processes - does that mean thoughts stop too? We weep for our dear loved ones when this happens to them, and we fear because, truth be told, we do not know absolutely what happens when we've passed away. It is only right that we mourn with those who mourn and pray for the departed.

Death was inevitable for Jesus too. God Incarnate had to die because that is what humans do and further He had to come to terms not only with mortality but with the nature of His mortality. How could Our Lord identify with us if he floated away after a predetermined time, or remained with us for centuries? This Crucifixion was the only death that Our Lord could expect if He wanted to do any justice to the misery of the human condition separated from its creator. We can be sure that God understands our condition first hand, not remote on a celestial throne, but bleeding, disgraced, the victim of injustice, in unimaginable pain - all for us!

I pray thee, O Lord Jesu Christ, by that bitterness of thy Passion, which thou suffered at the hour of thy death, and then above all when thy most holy Soul passed forth from thy blessed' body; pity my soul when it is departing out of my body and bring it to everlasting life. Amen.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Holy Week 2014: Monday

Would you refuse anaesthetic in an operation? It seems rather bizarre that, when offered something to numb the pain, Our Lord refuses. Gall, the colocynth, is an anti-inflammatory, and vinegar a disinfectant given to prevent the crucified from dying quickly through shock caused by the pain. For our Lord, numbness to the pain mean numbness to our sins. Sins exist, are real and cannot be ignored because they separate the soul from God. He knows that it His duty and will to die for those sins in their reality and not their theoretical existence.

All too often, we numb ourselves to our sin, putting them out of our minds so that we do not feel their bitterness, their sharp sting on the conscience. It is a brave soul who truly tries to open itself to the Passion of Our Lord, for it will feel the agony of mankind's curse before it can feel the healing of all harms. For those of us who cannot yet do so, we must pray for a greater appreciation of the crucifixion so that we can seek out the agony of those around us who suffer so much and bring the balm that Christ offers us in His agony.

I adore thee, O Lord Jesu Christ, wounded on the Cross, and having gall and vinegar given thee to drink: I beseech thee that thy wounds may be the healing of my soul. Amen

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Holy Week 2014: Palm Sunday

A crown of thorns. One minute the crowd seek to place upon the head of Jesus a crown of gold as they welcome Him into Jerusalem upon the ass, the next they see Him standing in front of them wretched and beaten and bruised,crowned with the thorns cursed by many a vineyard worker.

Thorns in the Bible are symbols of aridity, lifelessness and pain. St Paul suffered from his thorn in the flesh which God wouldn't heal, but rather allow him to receive an abundance of Grace instead through that pain. Our Lord's head is surrounded by this dead, dried up wreath, scratching and puncturing His Holy scalp drinking deeply of the precious blood.

We too, being dried up dead things without Him, find ourselves revived by His blood which pours from His wounds which we by our unyielding aridity have caused. By His blood are we softened; our hearts become alive again with sap from the True Vine. By this mockery of His kingship, the thorns render that mockery meaningless, for the Blood of Christ redeems the world and thus reinforces the nature of His Kingdom within us.

I adore thee, O Lord Jesu Christ! hanging upon the Cross, and wearing on thy head the crown of thorns: I beseech thee that thy Cross may deliver me from the destroying angel. Amen

Holy Week 2014: Introduction

This year, I will be using the prayers of St Gregory on the Passion to help me reflect on the events of this sacred week. Holy Week is really what the individual makes of it since it is the culmination of the devotions of Lent. For many people, Holy Week will pass them by until we suddenly hit a couple of bank holidays and a festival of chocolate eating. Others will realise that there is something about Good Friday and Easter "Sunday". But there are those who will know that Holy Week in its stark realism of just how vile we can be to an innocent man culminates in a realisation of how truly merciful and loving God can be to even those who perpetrate such vile acts.

There are those who see the suffering in the world and stop there, sickened and depressed at how even the best of us can fall so hard. Forgiveness is difficult when the sins don't stop, when retribution is meted out somewhat arbitrarily and on a tit-for-tat basis, when there is no remorse, no visible justice. On this road to Calvary, we see the suffering of the innocent, the failure of authority to serve the society that it governs.

And yet, we see sins forgiven all the way along the route, right up until almost the last breath, words of forgiveness, of love, of paradise, of fulfilment. All along the way of the Cross, there is no brooding, seething retribution but a fundamental, impartial and innate desire for the salvation of the wicked regardless of crime. There is justice on the Cross, for this is the way that we pass through sin and into righteousness, purgation rather than punishment, restoration rather than rejection, unconditional love rather than conditioned hatred.

Thus, as I try feebly to meditate on the Passion of Our Lord, I do invite you to join in praying these prayers with me, even if you don't find my reflections in any way useful.

I beseech thee, O Lord Jesu Christ, that thy Passion may be unto me virtue whereby I may be fenced, protected and defended. Let thy wounds be to me meat and drink, by which I may be fed, inebriated, and delighted. Let the sprinkling of thy blood be to me the washing away of all my sins. Let thy death be to me everlasting glory. In these let me find my refreshment, exultation, health, longing, joy and desire, both of body and soul, now and for ever. Amen.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Reform of the reform of the reform of the....

Reformation is always a hot topic. I've made no secret of my great distress and distrust that originated therefrom. Doctrinally (as well as almost literally) babies got thrown out with the bathwater: lives were lost and martyrs made. The Reformations in the sixteenth century were born of genuine concern for the Faith, but tempered in the heat of mutual condemnation - a heat which has never truly gone out. I blogged below on the nature of schism and mentioned a wee bit about heresy.

Heresy always forces a walking apart and there is some form of schism extant if it is not always recognised or even deliberately glossed over to preserve some semblance of unity. If we cannot agree on what constitutes Lawful Christian Authority, then schism has already happened. The problem is that with heresy comes the temptation to demonise. We can see this with the literal demonisation of the Pope: the number of rather silly ways of proving that the Pope is the anti-Christ is large. However, so is the demonisation of the Reformers. Luther, Knox, Calvin, et al, have all received the same denunciation as anti-Christ as the Patriarch of the West and all with equally silly proofs. The Anti-Christ is cleverer than that and certainly lies at the heart of the demonisation rather than actually in one person or group here.

My learned colleague and friend, Fr Chadwick, has certainly blogged on the nature of Christian anarchy and one might say that there is Ecclesiastical Anarchy growing ubiquitously as traditional sources of authority are rejected. Every new group is a reform of something or other. Group B is the reformed Group A but rejects the doctrine of X because it is not in canon Y.

Reform is always a rejection of a form of authority whether that be a personal authority like a monarch or a pope, a textual authority like the Bible, or social authority like a congregation, or the authority from a milieu -"polite society". In the Sixteenth Century, the Reformation involved the rejection of the monarchy of the pope and of the material stranglehold that it was exerting over the Laity in the name of Salvation. Followers of Marx would certainly agree that this blind acceptance of authority should be questioned. As the Rev. Adam Smallbone demonstrates in the above clip in his caricature, power and priesthood together have a dark side.

It has often been said that the ACC is committed to undoing the English Reformations. That's not strictly true. The break with Rome had to happen because unnecessary dogmata had indeed been added to the Faith. The climate was certainly that of oppression rather than seeking to free the oppressed. There were many good things happening too. There were Godly priests who looked after their cures well. There were congregations who chose to make much of their church buildings because they valued it rather than feared the authorities. However, small good things seem only rarely remembered in the light of political turbulence.

The Reformations happened because people do not want to live with the fear of Damnation but rather to aspire to Salvation:  that is an orthodox and fundamentally Christian desire to be encouraged and assisted.  Damnation certainly does come from rejecting authority, namely the authority of God, but can a hierarchy that seeks to exact control over others through fear guarantee damnation for those who are disobedient to it? The major issue of the Protestant Reformation was indeed about the recovery of the Good News of Salvation, but at what cost given the slaughter of innocents? The economical attitude of Pilate was there in getting rid of a few noisy people in order to preserve the peace. There are ways and means, and perhaps the prevailing culture meant that the ways and means that we would use now were not open to them. But then are the ways and means we use now any better? One cannot really see that in places such as Syria and in Africa!

The corrupted view of the Papacy stated that Salvation only comes with obedience to the pope. The corrupted view of the Reformation stated that Salvation is a purely individual affair. While I can only agree with St Paul that one must indeed work out one's own salvation with fear and trembling and that I will one day stand before God to render an account of what He has given me, this salvation can only come from being part of the Body of Christ which is visible. We know that the Church is visible since St Paul compares it to a human body with parts and organic unity (I Cor xii.12) and organisation cannot occur in a community who doesn't know who its members are. Likewise, Our Lord Himself reminds us that we are to be like beacons, like a city on the top of a hill. (St Matthew v.14).

Rather than rejecting the Reformation outright, I think it true to say that the ACC seeks a reform of the reform - a refining of the sharper edges in the light of the Church's existence before the schisms grew in earnest. This was already a work in progress in 1543 when the King's Book was published and thus represents a very Anglican response to what was happening on the Continent. The ACC rejects the authority of the pope as monarch, however, the ACC also rejects a doctrine of Salvation that seeks to fragment the body of Christ. In the words of Fr Matthew Kirby, the ACC cannot agree that "the word 'justification', and associated words in the New Testament, always have solely imputational meanings, and never any impartational or transformational connotations."

For the ACC, there is an authority to accept and that is the authority of Bishops on matters of Faith and Doctrine, as well as a healthy remembrance that humanity is fallen and (thanks be to God) our Bishops are human beings! It is this remembrance that should cause us to pull together in prayer and mutual humility in accepting an authority that comes from Christ Himself and that that authority is invested in the Episcopate which is made up of individuals as vulnerable and as prone to failure as anyone else. That pulling together must come through the equality of humanity in the eyes of God rather than with a dictatorial "I am the sole arbiter of Faith and Morals". Priests and Bishops are set apart by their calling by God on behalf of the people for the service of that people, yet their obedience to the Authority of Christ means that while their priesthood is shared with Christ and thus beyond the remit of the angels (Hebrews i.5), their humanity is grounded upon the Earth with its concomitant tendency to failure, sin and folly.

The only option is really the means of checks and balances, and that will mean reform of the reform of the reform... et c, so that the whole Church is in a state of flux rather than a monolithic institution. That's how it should be, it's a body, not a tomb, but it is a body with "Tradition as its DNA" as Ed Pacht once told me! We have the instruments to maintain reform by holding on to the Traditions of the Early Church. As someone commented on Fr Chadwick's blog, it may well be that schisms will last right up until the parousia.  I think, sadly, he's probably right. Perhaps, it is best just to keep praying for the integrity of Holy Church and working at bringing more charity into the world.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Schism and Continuum

One of the central tenets, it seems, of the Anglican Communion is that Heresy is preferable to Schism. James McCord (a Presbyterian) is famous for saying "If you must make a choice between heresy and schism, always choose heresy. As a schismatic, you have torn and divided the body of Christ. Choose heresy every time." This has been endorsed by many an Anglican or Episcopalian (notably the Bishop of Virginia in 2004, Washington Post 31/01/2004), and it is a stick that the Anglican Communion has often used to beat the Continuing Anglican movement. Continuing Anglicans are worse, in the eyes of the "mainstream" Anglican, because they have sought to tear the body of Christ in sunder rather than accept the heresies of some parts of the Communion.

Dr C.B. Moss explains that the Church has forbidden its members from taking part in Schismatic worship, "first, that those who join in such worship may easily be infected by false doctrine, in particular the notion that it does not matter what we believe or what denomination we belong to; second that even if they are not infected themselves, they may cause others to be so, especially the young and badly instructed; third, that our duty towards those outside is not to encourage them in their separation, but to persuade them to come back."( The Christian Faith pp284-5)

It always pays us to be as clear as possible, not that we can ever presume on the judgment of God, but rather that it helps us to see what the issues are and help us to reason with our poor little minds with fewer obstacles that we place in the way of the Divine light. We have to know what heresy is, and what schism is.

Heresy, as we know, has at its root the idea of choice and an exercise of the will. After the Maccabees and before Christianity, a Hebrew could have the choice of three "heresies" and become an Essene, a Sadducee, or a Pharisee. These were properly sects within Judaism as they were "cut" (hence sect) from each other. The whole idea of heresy is a consequence of God's gift of free-will to us; we are free to choose the ungodly as well as the godly, and heresy is the choice in which we decide not to follow the teaching of the Church.We are of course aware of the great heresies which were condemned at the first seven Oecumenical Councils and how this caused schisms, notably with the monophysite churches.

Schism, according to St Thomas Aquinas, is the wilful separation of the Unity of the Church. Yet, is this something that is understood by the Early Church? St Paul bids the Corinthians "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions (schismata) among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment." (I Cor i.10) Yet Dr Moss and Dr Staley (The Catholic Faith) both talk of schism within the Church as well as from it. What could this mean?

 Dr Moss states that schism within the church is "a breach in communion between local churches, though neither side has changed the fundamental faith and order of the Church"(p 281 The Christian Faith). What does he mean by the "fundamental faith"? He says (p 282), "Queen Elizabeth claimed that she and her people were as good Catholics as anyone else. Both sides kept the same faith and order, the same creeds sacraments, and ministry as before the schism." Thus, by "fundamental faith", we understand the Creeds, the Sacraments, and the Faith of the Early Church.

Dr Moss then states that Schism from the Church as being "the revolt of a group of persons, large or small, who separate themselves from the Church by rejecting her faith and order: for instance the Reformation at Geneva." He cites Calvin here as rejecting the Church itself rather than just the accretions to the faith of Medieval Catholicism and thus he concludes from this that the Anglican Church has never been Calvinist in its essence since Anglicanism became distinct from Roman Catholicism as a schism within the Church and not from it. Since Anglicans, Romans and the Eastern Catholic Churches believe in the visibility of the Church, they can suffer schism. Other groups which do not believe in the visibility of the Church have no visible body from which to break, thus they can only separate.

Yet, we have another situation in that the Eastern Church and the Roman Church excommunicated each other in the great schism of the eleventh century. Now, is this a schism within the Church, or is it a schism from the church? The Anglican would say that it is schism within the Church, yet East and West would declare that it is schism from the Church. Again, the supremacy of the Pope is a sticking point and, while there were certain concessions on the filioque clause at the Council of Florence in the fifteenth century, this was not enough for the schism to end. The Anglican will call this schism within the Church since neither the Romans nor the Eastern Church have altered the basic Faith but merely added prescriptions, proscriptions and dogmata for their followers. In Roman, Eastern, Anglican, and indeed, the truly Old Catholic Churches, the Holy Scriptures are being read and interpreted through the Tradition of the Early Church, the Seven Oecumenical Councils with their creeds are held, and the Holy Sacraments distributed as they always have been.

The question I am now looking to understand is whether one can be schismatic but not heretical? Are there such things, as the Romans teach, as pure schism (without heresy) and mixed schism (with heresy)? The Romans, of course, cannot teach about schism within the Church, for at least one body involved in the schism would fail to be in communion with the Pope. In Roman eyes, one must be in communion with the Pope in order to hold the Catholic Faith, so a breach of communion would be impossible to hold without a breach from Roman Catholic Faith and Order.

However, like all continuing Anglicans, I fail to accept that the Roman definition of Catholicism is true. I may, and indeed gladly, hold to the Pope as the Patriarch of the West, the Bishop of Rome, the successor of St Peter and the primus inter pares of bishops, but I cannot see him as a monarch, a bishop of bishops or as the sole Infallible arbiter of the Catholic Faith. The Modern Papacy does fail the Vincentian Canon. This belief makes me, in the eyes of Rome, a heretic and schismatic from the Church. That's the problem when one adds to the faith something that isn't actually there.

Now what about the hypothetical accusation from someone in the Anglican Communion that I, as a Continuing Anglican, am actually schismatic? Again, we have to go back to what it means to be schismatic and as whether I am schismatic within the Church or from the Church. Considering that, as a Continuing Anglican, I hold the same fundamental faith as Drs Moss and Staley, and belong to a church in which this fundamental faith is practiced just as it has been practiced before the Anglican church was forced to be continuing. Do I obey the Bishop of Rochester? No. So in the eyes of the Anglican Church, if  I am schismatic, then I am so within the Church and not from it.

Suppose, then, that a member of the Established Church were to call me schismatic. To do so necessarily presupposes that a schism exists. If that schism exists, then where is it? Well, first let us consider, was there ever the ordination of women in the Catholic Church? Answer: no, despite many attempts by modernists to prove the opposite. The only ordinations of women in the Early Church were made by Montanists who were not Catholic, but heretic. So to ordain women as priests is indeed a change in doctrine, since the Catholic doctrine is that the subject of ordination must be a baptised, confirmed, communicant male. This is a change to the Catholic Faith because it is a change to the definition of the sacraments. If the Continuing Anglicans have not accepted this change, then they cannot be in schism from anyone because they have not changed position. The schismatic body must be the Established Church and, further, because there is a change in faith, this seems very much like a Schism from the Church.

If there is a schism from the Church, then anyone in communion with the schismatic body, is of course endangering themselves in the way that Dr Moss describes. One might say that they cannot understand the importance of what they believe. Yet for many traditionalists within the Established Church, leaving the establishment would be a major life change as they reject stipend, home, living for what they believe. One cannot force them to do that and it must happen only on the strength of their conscience.

IHowever, if a member of the Anglican Communion regards the Anglican Continuum as schismatic, then "He hath graven and digged up a pit : and is fallen on himself into the destruction that he made for other." (Psalm vii.16)

It is, of course, much more preferable to leave all these uncharitable declarations of schism and heresy to the annals of history. If we are to learn any lesson at all from this business of schism, then it is that we had better be convinced by God that we walk in The Way and then commit ourselves wholeheartedly to it. If we are sincere and honest in our dealings, loving in all our ways, and holding tight to the faith once delivered to the saints then schism and heresy will not affect us, neither will accusations of schism and heresy. We continuing Anglicans will continue to do what the Church of England always did.