Monday, August 28, 2006

Swedish Lutheran Orders and the Roman Tradition

Did a Society of Saint Pius X Bishop publicly preach the validity of Swedish Lutheran Orders?

According to the Society's own official newsletter, SSPX Bishop Tissier de Mallerais made an interesting statement during the July 30, 2006, SSPX Mass at St. Nicolas du Chardonnet Church in Paris, observing the conversion of a former Lutheran pastor.

During his sermon, Tissier remarked:

'You yourself, dear Pastor, were a priest. You were a priest for 31 years, following a ceremony of ordination. There is evidently a doubt on this ordination, since one doesn't know if the apostolic succession in the Swedish Church is valid or not. You celebrated during 31 years what you thought to be a valid Mass in Swedish language.'

After careful examination, the Church of England officially proposed intercommunion with the Swedish Church, based on the validity of Swedish Orders, at the Lambeth Conference 1920. Perhaps our traditional Roman Catholic friends have begun slowly to discern what Anglicanism realised many deacades ago.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Orthodox, the Anglican Communion Network and the 'Ordination' of Women

The Letter of Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad to Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, Bishop Edward Salmon of South Carolina and Bishop John-David Schofield of San Joaquin, Episcopal Church in the USA:

'Dear Brothers in Christ, We have learnt from the mass media that you have decided to refrain from recognizing the Presiding Bishop Elect of the Episcopal Church in the USA, Ms. Catherine Jefferts-Shori. It follows from the released letter you signed that this step was motivated by your refusal to accept the election of a woman to the post of the head of a Church as a gross violation of the old church Tradition. I would like to assure you that I fully share the stand you have taken. In due time, the Russian Orthodox Church also took not an easy step by ceasing on December 26, 2003, her contacts with the Episcopal Church in the USA because of the "consecration" of Gene Robinson, an open homosexual, as bishop. Through this act, the sinful way of life strictly condemned by Holy Scriptures has been supported by church leaders - the fact that defies any reasonable explanation. It is my profound conviction that secular liberal political and philosophical ideas, however we may treat them, cannot and must not adjust the Apostolic Tradition and the understanding of New Testament texts guarded by this Tradition. Any attempt to adjust Christian morality and especially the church order to the political tastes of an external environment is dangerous as it threatens with a loss of Christian identity. There must be no fear in the efforts to keep faithful to Christ. Indeed, the Gospel calls us to take the narrow path that many believed to be impossible even during the earthly life of the Saviour: "When the disciples heard this they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?"". The example of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Soviet period is a vivid proof that Christians can stay faithful to Christ even in the hardest conditions. Despite the severe persecution and pressure from the Soviet power, our Church did not compromise with the spirit of this world. We continue to follow the situation in the Episcopal Church in the USA because we have always cherished good relations with her faithful. Dialogue between our two Churches was established over one hundred years ago, St. Tikhon the Patriarch of All Russia being one of its initiators. Since that time, our relations have been marked by sincerity, warmth, willingness to cooperate and mutual interest. Now we, regrettably, have been actually deprived of this rich heritage. However, as the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church stressed in its decision to break relations with the Episcopal Church in the USA, we are open to "contacts and cooperation with those American Episcopalians who remain faithful to the gospel's moral teaching". In this connection, I would like to inform you that the Russian Orthodox Church supports your act and expresses willingness to restore relations with your diocese. Using this opportunity, I wish you good health, God's help in your work, peace and prosperity.'

This truly remarkable, history-making epistle received the following unfortunate but necessary response:

'There is one matter, about which I must humbly advise you, that may impede the recognition you so graciously propose. Among the dioceses that Pittsburgh leads are dioceses that do ordain women to the diaconate and presbyterate, just as do many of the Provinces of the Anglican Communion. Under these circumstances would the Russian Orthodox Church still be willing to recognize those dioceses in our fellowship that share this practice, Pittsburgh being among them?'

- Bishop Robert Duncan in his reply letter, 25 August 2006

With all due and charitable respect to our beloved friends in the Anglican Communion Network and the Common Cause Federation, one must ask simply: can the Eastern Orthodox Churches realistically or honestly restore progressive ecumenical relations with ecclesial bodies, in this case several provinces and dioceses of the Canterbury Communion, or even go so far as to achieve theological consensus with such bodies, if the latter affirm and maintain doctrines and practices which are adjudged blatantly heterodox by historic Orthodoxy? Hasn't the purported ordination of women error ultimately imperiled or destroyed the official Anglican Communion-Eastern Orthodox dialogue?

The above-cited correspondence is to my mind proof positive that the Apostolic Churches of East and West, the Roman and the Eastern, should prophetically turn their ecumenical interests and investments toward the orthodox catholic Anglicans of the Continuing Church. Pope Benedict and Patriarch Bartholomew have been taking their official dialogues in a misplaced direction for a very long time now. When will they finally realise that the orthodox Anglicanism they seek to engage is utterly real, alive and well in places where they have yet refused to look? Let us pray for the restoration of authentic catholic ecumenism in our day, and let us pray for the restoration of catholic orthodoxy in those branches of the Church where such truth has been tragically neglected or abandoned. May we all come to see that the heart of genuine ecumenicity is the truth, the Apostolic Tradition.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

'Mission'

'And we humbly beseech thee, O heavenly Father, so to assist us with thy grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in.' As we approach a new season in the calendar year, a season of renewal and change, we are often reminded of the priorities of life, the people and pursuits that really matter to us. Recently I had the great honour of participating in a local outreach ministry to children and families in need, the Summer Blast, which was for the second year in a row based at Community United Methodist Church in Casselberry. To my delight I was able to witness firsthand how financial and personal contributions from parishioners of Saint Alban's Cathedral went directly to the aid of people in serious crisis and need. Our efforts in this regard truly make a difference in people's lives. Our prayers matter. Our gifts matter. Our mission matters. We should never be tempted to believe falsely that our parish, although comparatively small in comparison to other churches of other traditions, does not make a difference or does not in some powerful way touch and transform lives for good. Rest assured, our parish makes all the difference, and has the capacity to transform and sanctify lives in ways we have not yet begun to imagine. All we have to do is freely unleash the supernatural gifts we have freely received. In the hot July sun, surrounded by hundreds of people of many races and languages, hungry for the Gospel, needful of the basics of life's necessities, gathered to receive the corporal alms of the community, Saint Alban's was present and made a difference. In the midst of a swirl of human energy and activity, our parish was duly represented, humbly but perceptibly, a sign of the Kingdom of God in the midst of a world unknowingly craving its Creator and Redeemer. Interestingly, that day's event proffered the opportunity for many guest speakers and musicians to present their several messages and visions of faith... centre stage. We were the only Christians of the Catholic and Apostolic Tradition present - we enjoyed the singular privilege of representing orthodox, sacramental and liturgical Christianity in a setting where the Great Tradition of the Holy Catholic Church has likely never before been seen or heard. There were many evangelical preachers gesticulating, many charismatic singers crooning, and many contemporary styles of both for all to absorb. I doubt that many of the listeners were accustomed to hearing an introduction to the Anglican and Catholic Faith from a man in clerical collar, a talk which referenced the Bible and the Creeds, and receiving a blessing in the Name of the Holy Trinity with the Sign of the Cross! I found doing that impishly fun!

I offer the recollection of this experience to you simply to reiterate what we all already know in our hearts and souls, that orthodox Christianity is the Life of the Holy Spirit, the genuine article, the real thing, and it belongs 'out there,' amongst the people who so desperately need it and perhaps do not even know they so need. Catholic Faith and Apostolic Order has the inherent power to transform society - in times past it transformed the ancient world, the Europe of the Middle Ages, and the Americas of new discovery and promise; it certainly has the power to convert in our own backyards and neighbourhoods. But it must convert us first, to a radical life of self-giving Gospel obedience and service, before we in turn can be used to change our surroundings. Traditional Anglicanism has been 'America's best kept secret' for far too long and it is high time to reverse that posture in our own personal lives of Christian commitment and in the life of our beloved parish as a whole. The more seriously we take our profession of Faith, the more effectively God will use us for His glory. May our heavenly Father grant us new opportunities in future for missionary outreach and greater graces to launch into the deep to make His Son known, loved and adored by all, in our own community and round the world. God desires us to be the unique instrument by which He reunites heaven and earth and restores communion between God and man. We are the Body of Christ. God has blessed our parish and has placed us where we are as we are for a time such as this.

Our Faith, the Faith once delivered unto the Saints, should continually remind us that Our Blessed Lord has not merely given a mission to the Church, but rather, God has constituted His Church a Mission in herself - a mission to transfigure the whole of creation and of mankind in love by the proclamation of Jesus Christ and the fullness of His Gospel to ends of the earth. Mission is of the nature of God Himself: mission is God's very essence, His very character. The Father in love sends or missions His Son and His Holy Ghost to us - God is the primeval missionary, the One Who gives and is given. God is Lover, Beloved and the Love shared. The Church is nothing else but the very Body and Bride of Christ, the totus Christus, the Head and Body of Christ united together as one corporate personality, Christ Himself in action, Christ in mission. Our mission is the Great Commission of Jesus Christ, which sacred charge and task is not an option but a commandment (Saint Matthew 28.18-20). As faithful disciples of Our Lord and Saviour, we seek to fulfil the commission in our place and circumstances according to that Providence which has placed us here today. Ultimately, as we devoutly and earnestly practise our Catholic Religion, which is nourished by Word and Sacrament, by Scripture and prayer and Eucharist, filled with the Holy Ghost, we are challenged to recall that mission, the high calling which is ours in Christ Jesus, is not about a mission's financial solvency or fundraising, not about worldly standards of success or failure, and not even about church growth: mission is about God Himself, for He is the One who has called us to mission and has promised to strengthen us by His life and power to accomplish that which He has commanded and desired. Christian mission is about proclaiming the Thrice-Holy God we love and know to others and manifesting His reconciling grace and salvific glory in the world and the age in which we live. There can be no authentic Christianity, no New Life in Christ, without mission. 'As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you.' The Lord Jesus Christ is the Divine Apostle of the Father, the One whom the Father sent into the world to save, sanctify and glorify it. In turn this Heavenly High Priest and Apostle calls every adopted son of God, every baptised and confirmed Christian, literally to go out; we are to be 'Godsends,' men and women of Apostolic calling and zeal who carry Christ to others, thus inaugurating in Christ the New Creation, a world redeemed and divinised by grace. Jesus reproduces His life and love, His mission in us. The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.

So the next time we hear someone utter the word 'mission' let us be mindful of all that that little word means and implies. That little word is our charter and the course to our glorious destiny in Christ. God bless you.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Random musings for August

Episcopal rings are an ancient sign and symbol of the pontifical office and authority and have been used since patristic times: the ring was a fixed part of the episcopal regalia by the fifth century. Saint Isidore of Seville wrote in AD 637 - 'To the Bishop at his consecration is given a staff; a ring likewise is given him to signify pontifical honour and as a seal for secrets.' Episcopal rings signify the marriage of the Bishop to the Church and his spiritual paternity over the faithful of his Diocese as paterfamilias. The ring is meant to bind the clergy and people of the Diocese to the Bishop, whose authority and teaching in the Faith is central. For this reason, in Western tradition priests have not worn special ecclesial rings. In fact, such rings for priests were banned in the Middle Ages because they were seen as worldly and secular jewellery, not befitting the dignity and simplicity of the priesthood. I remember reading that in the medieval era, most rings aside from wedding bands bore pagan or secular images and were considered a form of vanity and worldly indulgence. In the Latin Communion up until 1983, the Code of Canon Law forbade the use of rings by priests except for religious priests in vows, who wear rings as symbols of vow and profession, not jurisdiction. I like this quote from an RC source: 'Although modern influences now permit certain exceptions, it is best not to assume a ring, for the ring represents the fundamental authority of the bishops.' The wearing of special rings by priests, I think, would be similar to the wearing of pectoral crosses by priests - it is simply not Anglican or Western tradition. Having said that, many Anglo-Catholic priests proudly sport a Nashotah House ring. Many other Anglican priests wear different seminary rings. I have a signet ring from Duke, but I never wear it. I suppose today it is really a matter of personal choice and taste.

But something inside me likes seeing rings reserved to Bishops...

I finally had a chance to look over C. B. Moss and here are some remarks from your amateur correspondent:

1. On Original Sin. It appears Moss is heavily influenced by the modern historical-critical method of biblical interpretation and intends to transfer the meaning of the scriptural language and theological categories of Original Sin into a sort of 'holy symbolism' or sanctified mythology. The concept of Original Sin, from what I can discern from Moss' writing style, seems to be for him a sort of divine syllogism explaining the state of man in his current dilemma. Original Sin is then more an aetiology, an explanation of how we got where we are, than a theological truth in and of itself. Oddly enough, he sounds very Eastern here, almost reducing Original Sin to the Eastern Orthodox view (much milder than the Pauline/Augustinian form) of 'ancestral sin' or 'fallen condition.' While still certainly within the bounds of orthodoxy, Moss in places comes terribly close to sounding like a modern liberal theologian. I believe what saves him, as what saves us too, is his uncompromised belief in the supernatural character of divine revelation and of the Church and Sacraments. Had Moss not really believed in the objective nature of the Incarnation and its sacramental extension via Catholic Church, he would no doubt have been tempted to jump off the precipice into that morass of modernism in which the Anglican Communion now finds itself. Prayer Book Catholicism to the rescue once again...

2. On the Filioque. Here I must confess I sympathise with Moss' position far more than my Augustinian-minded brethren would. Moss certainly appears to be philorthodox and wants to reconcile Anglicanism to the Eastern Churches, and is willing to give up the filioque to do so. To that degree so am I! In my estimation he rightly distinguishes between A. the theological issues implied by a double procession of the Holy Ghost and B. the canonical question of the legality and universality/ecumenicity of the filioque clause qua clause. The filioque is not heretical doctrinally but is uncanonical, illegal, lacking the consensus fidelium of an undisputed ecumenical council. Moss also asserts that the Orthodox are right about the intrinsic papalism of the filioque - it was imposed on the Symbol of Constantinople, not by the action of a general council, but by the unilateral authority of the Bishop of Rome. The clause would then be objectionable as an early instalment in history of that usurpation of authority from the conciliar nature of the Church eventually aggregated to the Pope. Again I am compelled to agree with him. The Old Catholics removed the filioque in the 19th century to appease the Orthodox; if given the opportunity, I would (blush) do the same.

I am afraid I am one for one on these important points raised by the good Dr Moss - I am hopelessly Eastern-minded myself.

PNCC-G4 Dialogue

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