Wednesday, November 07, 2018

“Loyal to a church that has passed away”

These were the words of the DDO to whom I was sent when exploring my vocation to the priesthood in the CofE. These words with which my vocation was rejected have stuck with me. I wanted to be ordained, but I always knew that wanting to be ordained was not enough and so I resigned myself to wanting something I couldn’t have and stuck it out. When the CofE and I parted company I joined the ACC, and I joined it not because I wanted to be ordained, but because I believed in the principles on which the ACC stands. I was quite content in being the clumsy server in my new parish, however my vocation was discerned and here I am bearing a large burden with a little confraternity of priests.
 
I mention this because I came across this little comment on Fr Little’s blog.

I was a member of the ACC. All I experienced were a bunch of people who wanted to do things the same way they had been for 50 years. Or turn the church into a version of the RCC. Very little about how to reach new people for Christ. Just more of the same.
 
What do I hear in this comment? I hear something very similar to the now-retired DDO that convinced me that the CofE priesthood wasn’t for me – and for whose decision I am deeply grateful. He was about getting new people into the Church.
 
Of course, I am not belittling the need for outreach and evangelism but my problem lies with what we are inviting people into. This is the mistake that the CofE has made: it has become trendy like a dad dressing like a teenager in order to deepen the relationship with his children only to find out that he has pushed them away by embarrassing them. Of course, the Church should invite people to discover their salvation, but that salvation needs to be lived not just read about in the pages of Holy Scripture.
 
I have to sympathise with this commentator. I wouldn’t want to be part of a bunch of people who wanted to do things the same way they had been for 50 years. I find myself part of a bunch of people who want to do things the same way that they have been done in England since time immemorial. This is because we are part of a timeless Church: our worship needs to reach out across Time as well as Space. We need to be authentic to our roots that encompass our Scripture and the Tradition that interpret it. The only thing we can present is a Faith that is two thousand years old.
 
If the worship of the ACC looks superficially like that of the RCC then that is to be expected. We are hewn out of the same rock. Indeed, the CofE has a common heritage with the RCC, and we in the ACC have a common heritage with the CofE. Fr Little’s commentator seems to be one of those Protestants who believe Rome can do no good without realising that he has Rome to thank for the fact that he believes at all, especially if he is of a predominantly Western heritage. Somehow, I doubt that he is of an Eastern Orthodox persuasion given his predisposition to the “new”. That’s his choice and may God enrich him within it!
 
However, he has left a church that regards fashion with a distinct suspicion and rightly so. The evidence is quite damning in that Churches that have gone with the new in pursuit of new Christians have reported a marked decline at a rate faster than many more conservative churches.
 
As for ACNA, well, I believe it to be well intentioned. However, we’ve been there before and know that we need to get ourselves in line with orthodox doctrine – something that ACNA has yet to do. Fr Little and I belong to churches that have fought all this fight before and know where we stand. This is why both our jurisdictions are stable and, in fact growing. The reason is that we seek to present the World with the Faith once delivered to the Saints. That will necessarily look old fashioned and liturgically high because we see in our liturgy the necessity of excellence in order to bring to God whatever worship we believe that we are doing. That seems less like passing away and more like still being here!
 
The commentator left us because he refused to see this which means that either his parish weren’t doing things correctly with God at the centre of the Liturgy, or that God has drawn him to see things differently in which case we would like to see how he demonstrates that from Scripture, Tradition and Reason, or he is mistaken in his understanding. Whatever is correct, it is appropriate for us to pray that he – and we – may always be guided into the ways of God’s truth. One thing we do know, God does not contradict Himself, something that certain ecclesial bodies seem to have forgotten!

5 comments:

Christopher Cox said...

Dear Father,
Good points about the nature of liturgy. Converts who haven't "signed on" for very traditional liturgy really haven't signed on at all. That said, I hardly know of any Continuing parishes that are viable. Even if they evangelize, they evangelize old people for whom the Church is, in part, a nostalgia trip. Do you know of anything that "works," in terms of outreach to the young? If we don't figure this out in 10 years, it's over. Our orthodoxy won't matter at that point.
I was a member of ACNA, and the sad thing about that denomination is that it gave up tens of millions of dollars (and dozens of historic churches) only to end up right where the Episcopalians were, just before Gene Robinson was consecrated. We suffered absolute, unqualified ruin for nothing.
Its ethos is that of a group of Evangelicals who decided that liturgy was trendy. By liturgy, they meant a cassock-alb and a projector for the liturgy! They've hushed it up, but entire parishes have left them over the ordination of women and the sloppy spiritual formation of many parishes.

Warwickensis said...

Dear Christopher,

Good to hear from you. The ACC has had coherent thoughts on evangelism which have certainly worked in California. Bishop Scarlett's thoughts are here.

There cannot be a magic formula. In the UK we are dwarfed by the CofE, the RCC and a European-style Atheism that regards God as irrelevant. We have enormous battles to fight and we do have tiny successes. As Zechariah would have it we simply cannot allow ourselves to despise these days of small things.

I have just started my Mission and I don't expect to see much happen for a while except those miracles that come from God.

At the moment, we just try to live the Christian life as fully as we can and hope that the light of God shining through us will draw people to Him.

I think we need, perhaps, to forget about numbers and focus on being faithful. It seems to have worked for others who are recorded in Holy Scripture.

Warwickensis said...

Oh dear. That link has expired, but it is worth checking out the page it does link to.

Perhaps this might be more indicative of our approach.

Fr Anthony said...

I have posted https://sarumuse.wordpress.com/2018/11/08/strangers-and-foreigners/ on my blog which touches on your reflections. I wish I could be more optimistic about the future both in churches and the political world. I just have a sense of foreboding. The clue is the early Church in the era of the great persecutions. It accepted true converts coming along, but the priority was on the life of the liturgical community and what was the prototype of the monastery. Agree with it or not, Rod Dreher's "Benedict Option" is something we need to read so that we can reflect and improve on his ideas, adapting them for the European side of the Atlantic.

Christopher Cox said...

Dear Father,
Thank you for the response, and for the links. I've actually just tried to get a hold of Bishop Scarlett to ask that he update some of the dead links! Some American clergy love his writing. My own parish is experimenting with the implementation of his model. If you would like an American perspective on outreach, I hope you'll take a look at https://wordpress.com/view/wheniconsiderhowmylightisspent.home.blog. This blog also serves as a hub for Continuers who have no parish, in the hope that their home oratories may one day be parishes. I will pray for your mission!