Saturday, July 31, 2010

An Epistle from Catholic Bishops in the Church of England

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

'God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you, but I will tell you the good and proper way.' (1 Samuel 12:23)

These are grave times in the Church of England especially for those of us unable in good conscience to accept that any particular church has the authority to admit women to the episcopate. While we certainly accept the good faith of those who wish to make this change believing it to be God's will, we cannot rejoice with them, not least because of the disastrous cost to Catholic unity.

Our concerns are not only about sacramental assurance though that is of profound importance. If the legislation now proposed passes, it will not provide room for our tradition to grow and flourish. We will be dependent on a Code of Practice yet to be written, and sadly our experience of the last almost twenty years must make us wonder whether even such an inadequate provision will be honoured in the long term.

Neither the Report of the Revision Committee nor the legislation itself shows a proper understanding of our reservations, however carefully these have been presented through the consultation process and in the College and House of bishops. It remains a deep disappointment to us that the Church at large did not engage with the excellent Rochester Report and paid scant attention to the Consecrated Women report sponsored by Forward in Faith.

We must now accept that a majority of the members of the Church of England believe it is right to proceed with the ordination of women as bishops, and that a significant percentage of those in authority will not encourage or embrace with enthusiasm the traditional integrity or vocations within it. Nor is it their intention or desire to create a structure which genuinely allows the possibility of a flourishing mission beyond this generation.

However, the closeness of the vote on the Archbishops' amendment for co ordinate jurisdiction, concerns though there are about its adequacy, suggest at least a measure of disquiet in the majority about proceeding without a provision acceptable to traditionalists. The Catholic group fought valiantly on the floor of synod and we are grateful for that, and while many in the Church and press are speaking as if the legislation is now passed, final synodical approval is still some way off.

Whatever happens in the Synod, there are some Anglo Catholics, including in our own number, who are already looking at, indeed are resolved to join the Ordinariate as the place where they can find a home in which to live and proclaim their Christian faith, in communion with the Holy Father, yet retaining something of the blessings they have known and experienced in the Anglican tradition. Of course the Ordinariate is a new thing, and not all of us are trailblazers or can imagine what it might be like. Some will undoubtedly want to wait and see how that initiative develops before making a decision.

Yet others will make their individual submission and find their future as Roman Catholics.

Were the present proposals not to be substantially amended or defeated, many more of us will need to consider seriously three options.

A number will remain, perhaps even reluctantly because of personal circumstances, family loyalties, even financial necessity, but with a deep sense of unease about the long term future, an unease that is surely well founded. There are faithful Catholic clergy and lay people, though deeply opposed to the likely Synodical decision who cannot currently imagine themselves being anywhere else but within the Church of England. They wonder how they can stay, yet cannot imagine leaving their much loved church and parish. They do not want to be forced out of the Church they love and will persevere where they are, whatever the theological or ecclesiological ambiguities, and seek God's blessing on all they do.

Those who are not actively seeking a home elsewhere must work to defeat the currently proposed legislation. It is essential that traditionalists engage in the debate and discussion in their diocese and are active in the election process for the next quinquennium of the General Synod when the two thirds majority in each House will be required if the legislation is to pass. Whatever our individual futures, and however disheartened we might feel, the Church of England needs strong catholic hearts and voices.

The text quoted at the beginning of this letter was the one used by John Keble in his famous Assize sermon, often regarded as the starting point of the Oxford Movement. It seems remarkably apposite, and gives a clue to an appropriate attitude of heart for this process: prayerful and gracious, but clear.

We are all bishops united in our belief that the Church of England is mistaken in its actions. However, we must be honest and say we are not united as to how we should respond to these developments.

Nevertheless we are clear that each of the possibilities we have outlined has its own integrity and is to be honoured. We are resolved to respect the decisions made by laity, bishops, priests and deacons of our integrity, and call on you to do the same. It would be a sad and destructive thing indeed if we allowed our happiness and wondering to drift into unguarded or uncharitable criticism of those who in good conscience take a different path from our own. We must assume the best motives in one another, and where there are partings let them be with tears and the best wishes of Godspeed.

You will we hope know of the meetings in both provinces to take place in late September when there will be opportunities for discussion and an exchange of views about the future. Be assured of our prayers as you reflect about how best to respond to the challenges which face us, and we ask your prayers for us too as we seek to be faithful to the Lord, and to the Faith once delivered.

Please share the contents of this letter with your people, and indeed with any who might be interested to know of it.

The Rt Revd John Hind, Bishop of Chichester
The Rt Revd Geoffrey Rowell, Bishop of Europe
The Rt Revd Nicholas Reade, Bishop of Blackburn
The Rt Revd Martyn Jarrett, Bishop of Beverley
The Rt Revd John Broadhurst, Bishop of Fulham
The Rt Revd Peter Wheatley, Bishop of Edmonton
The Rt Revd John Goddard, Bishop of Burnley
The Rt Revd Andrew Burnham, Bishop of Ebbsfleet
The Rt Revd Keith Newton, Bishop of Richborough
The Rt Revd Tony Robinson, Bishop of Pontefract
The Rt Revd John Ford, Bishop of Plymouth
The Rt Revd Mark Sowerby, Bishop of Horsham
The Rt Revd Martin Warner, Bishop of Whitby
The Rt Revd Robert Ladds
The Rt Revd Lindsay Urwin OGS

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

On the Apocrypha

jacket
The position of the Churches of the Anglican Tradition regarding the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical Books of the Old Testament is affirmed in the VI Article of Religion:

And the other books (as Hierome [Jerome] saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following:
The Third Book of Esdras.
The Fourth Book of Esdras.
The Book of Tobias.
The Book of Judith.
The rest of the Book of Esther.
The Book of Wisdom.
Jesus the Son of Sirach.
Baruch the Prophet.
The Song of the Three Children.
The Story of Susanna.
Of Bel and the Dragon.
The Prayer of Manasses.
The First Book of Maccabees.
The Second Book of Maccabees.

The Apocryphal Books of the Old Testament are not part of the Hebrew Masoretic text officially canonised by Judaism at the rabbinical 'Council of Jamnia' in AD 90, but are books originally (so far as we know) written in the Greek language and incorporated into the Greek Old Testament of the Septuagint (LXX), translated from Hebrew to Greek in c. BC 150. Because we do not possess the Hebrew originals of the Deuterocanonical or 'second-canon texts,' they have been described as Apocryphal or 'hidden,' 'veiled,' for the Hebrew original texts are as yet unknown. Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostles and the earliest Christians read and used the Septuagint Old Testament in its koinetic Greek form, and so would have used the Apocryphal or Deuterocanonical books contained in them as part of Holy Scripture. The earliest Christian councils canonised these books and recognised them as part of the Old Testament, culminating in the modern use found in the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, as well as in Anglicanism. However, the Apostolic Churches have long made a distinction between the character of the Hebrew books and the Greek books, seeing the latter as more instructive and formational in nature, rather than doctrinal or dogmatic.

The Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Churches, sister Churches in the Apostolic Tradition, have achieved full agreement on the matter. The Moscow Agreed Statement of the Anglican and Orthodox Churches in 1956 asserts, 'the Conference agreed that the Canon of Holy Scripture was the same for both Churches.'

In 1672 the Synodical Tome of the Council of Jerusalem gives the Orthodox view that the Anaginoskomena (books which may be read) can be described as good and edifying, and are not to be rejected completely. This accords completely with Anglican Article VI.

The Bonn Conference of Anglicans, Old Catholics and Orthodox in 1874, however, referring to these books as Apocryphal or Deuterocanonical, did not consider that they enjoyed the same canonicity as the books in the Hebrew Canon.

In the 'Conditions of Intercommunion' offered by the Anglicans to the Orthodox in 1921, the Anglicans stated that these books are called either Deuterocanonical or Anaginoskomena or Apocryphal, and that our Church accepts the teaching about them given by Saint Athanasius and Saint Jerome, echoed in Article VI. This statement, with the term Apocryphal removed, was accepted almost word for word by the 1931 Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission in the second article of its Report.

The same unanimity was also shown at the 1956 Moscow Theological Conference, when it was declared by both sides that: 'Both Churches also accepted the uncanonical books, not as inspired by God, but as being useful and instructive.' But here, 'there was some difference between the speakers in their emphasis on the character of the inspiration of Holy Scripture, and on the measure of the human element in it.' This statement neatly summarises the Anglican position on the Apocrypha, which is considered by us an essential part of the Old Testament Canon; a Bible, thus, without the Apocrypha, is incomplete. Although the Apocryphal books may not be inspired by the Holy Ghost in the same way the Protocanonical texts are, they are considered an irreplaceable component of the biblical Canon - for they offer key instruction in the living of the Christian life and in the formation of Christian moral and ethical behaviour. Lex orandi, lex credendi: the Apocrypha is also an essential feature of the Book of Common Prayer liturgy; its hymns are sung as canticles in the Morning Office of the American Book, and the 1943 American Office lectionary includes several books of the Deuterocanonical tradition in the readings for Daily Morning and Evening Prayer throughout the Christian year. The BCP would be incomplete without the Apocrypha as well...

The Anglican doctrine of the sufficiency of Holy Scripture is fully in accordance with the teaching of Saint Athanasius and Saint Augus­tine: 'We believe that Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation.' The Anglican Church professes this faith in the following phraseology: 'Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any that it should be believed as an Article of the Faith or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.'

The Eastern Orthodox express the corresponding teaching of their own Church based on the words of Saint Basil the Great. 'Holy Scripture is fulfilled, clarified, and interpreted by Holy Tradition.' A joint Anglican-Orthodox declaration joins the views in harmony: 'everything necessary for salvation can be found in Holy Scripture as completed, expounded, interpreted, and understood in the Holy Tradition, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit residing in the Church.'

This statement was accepted as it stands by the Doctrinal Committee of Romanian Orthodox and Anglicans in Bucharest in 1935 in the fifth article of their Report. At Moscow in 1956 it was stated jointly that 'Holy Scripture is explained and completed in the light of Tradition.' This has long been the Anglican position, which emphasises the unity of Scripture, Tradition and Church: 'the Church to teach, the Bible to prove.' The old Anglican adage is 'the Bible and the Primitive Church.'

The Anglicans and Eastern Orthodox both proclaim: ‘By Scripture, we mean the Canon of Scripture as it is defined by Saint Athanasius and as it has been received by the whole Catholic Church.’

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bishop Business and Basics

In the wake of the recent controversy over the Sacred Order of Bishops unnecessarily unleashed by the Church of England on the world media, two most interesting articles have arisen online from diametrically opposite perspectives.

In one hand, a simply daft writer for the Guardian intentionally disfigures the teaching of Holy Scripture and two-thousand years of universal Christian tradition and calls for the elimination of the episcopate altogether (he will soon be getting his wish where the Church of England is concerned).

On the other hand, segments of a Christian sectarian religious movement founded in opposition to the sacred hierarchy and Holy Orders are moving back towards Scripture and Tradition, and in some places, are recapturing at least the outward form and titular style of the episcopate, if not its sacramental reality.

Let us be reminded of the Sacred Scriptures and what they teach:

Bishops: the word Bishop, episkopos in Greek, means 'overseer' or 'supervisor', and refers to those men ordained by the Apostles to be their Successors and to govern the local Churches they founded...

Philippians 1.1
Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the BISHOPS and deacons:

1 Timothy 3.1-2
This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a BISHOP, he desireth a good work. A BISHOP then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;

Titus 1.7
For a BISHOP must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre;

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

On the General Synod of the Church of England


A very personal note:

By now, avid, attentive and even curious readers of the internet and blogosphere are keenly aware of what has transpired over the past five days in the deliberations of the General Synod of the Church of England recently held in York: the Synod rejected by five votes in the House of Clergy an amendment to the legislation for the proposed 'consecration' of female bishops submitted by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York which would have created necessary accommodations for traditional Anglicans in the wake of the innovation. 'Co-ordinate jurisdiction,' or a new incarnation of provincial episcopal visitors, would have been established to provide pastoral care, sacramental assurance and ministry in unbroken apostolic succession for those orthodox traditionalists who in conscience can only accept the received practice and teaching of the historic Catholic Church. But that measure was defeated, and with it, the original legislation for the authorisation of female bishops was approved and sent to the Dioceses of the Church of England for discussion before a new General Synod votes on the proposed legislation in eighteen months. By February 2014, barring the failure of ultimate passage by the General Synod, a new form of order and ministry, contrary to the received Apostolic tradition and practice of the Catholic Church for two-thousand years, will be introduced into the C of E. Gone will be, in the fulness of time, the historic episcopate, and the historic deposit of faith, transmitted by the Apostles to their successors in the English Church from the mists of antiquity.

In light of these developments, I wish to offer an earnest and heartfelt plea to those orthodox Anglo-Catholics now agonising and distressed over what has occurred: if you cannot accept the theological claims of the Roman Catholic Church or the position of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, please give the most intense and prayerful consideration to the Churches of the Continuing Anglican Tradition. There continues a true and genuine home for you in Anglicanism, a loving, supportive, vibrant and growing family awaiting you and eager to receive the gift of yourselves and your spiritual vocation and charisms. There is yet an Anglicanism, scriptural, patristic, orthodox, traditional, sacramental, liturgical, Eucharistic, in which one may achieve one's calling to love, serve, adore and proclaim Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of Creation, Head and Priest of the Body and Lord of the Church. There is a living, viable option for orthodox Anglican Catholics who wish to remain Anglican as well as Catholic. I know this because I have experienced the pilgrimage in my own life. Please be assured of the prayers of thousands of orthodox Continuing Anglicans in this country and around the world for their beloved brothers and sisters in England who must now make terribly difficult decisions about their ecclesiastical future. You have brethren in Christ who love you and stand with you in this time of great pain and grief. Anglicanism lives! And it offers continuity and spiritual fulfillment to all those who seek to remain children of the Ecclesia Anglicana. Please do consider it - for the time of exodus has come.

God bless you and Our Lady keep you!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Bishop Lindsay Urwin on the Church of England


Bishop Lindsay Urwin OGS, Administrator of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, offers on YouTube the single best summary to date on the current state of the Church of England and in particular the plight of traditional Catholics in that communion. Bishop Lindsay's presentation in three videos is magnificently charitable, thoughtful, eloquent.. and direct. How splendid indeed to hear straight-talk from a Bishop in the Church of England! The situation for orthodox traditionalists in the Established Church is especially dire, as the General Synod continues its relentless push towards the innovation of a new synthetic ministry of female bishops for the C of E this month. Please pray for Bishop Lindsay, a true pastor of souls, the beloved Shrine of Our Lady, and all orthodox Catholics remaining in the Church of England.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

De consecratione electi in Episcopum


Deo volente, the Most Reverend Walter Howard Grundorf, with the assistance of his co-consecrators, will consecrate yours truly to the Sacred Order of Bishops for service as Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of the Eastern United States of the Anglican Province of America on Ember Saturday, 18th September 2010 at Saint Alban's Anglican Cathedral in Oviedo, Florida.

Please pray for the Province, Diocese and us as plans and organisation proceed apace. God bless you!

UPDATE: The Consecration Mass will be celebrated at 11am.

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