Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Sacred Order of Deacons

An Ordination Sermon preached by yours truly in May 2005 at Saint Alban's Cathedral, Oviedo, Florida:

This Ordination Day, like all such sacred occasions, causes me to hearken back to my own Ordination to the Sacred Order of Deacons – a hellaciously hot morning in Southern Maryland in June 1996. On that occasion, the Bishop who ordained me almost passed out from the heat. This is my first Ordination sermon, so let us hope that mystical experience will not be reproduced here today.

The Prayer Book Ordination Service holds up two original Deacons for our particular attention, Saint Stephen and Saint Philip, two of the first seven Deacons ordained by the Apostles to be their helpers in the distribution of the Church’s welfare payments.

The establishment of the Order of Deacons was the first time in the long Apostolic history of Bishops that they ‘passed the buck.’ Deacons were ordained to resolve Church crisis.

In a few moments, the Bishop will ask our candidates if they are willing to do what Saint Stephen, Saint Philip, and their five brothers did – to HELP – especially at the Holy Eucharist. Deacons pledge themselves to receive money and other assistance and to make sure those in need receive it. Deacons are to look for people in need and make sure they get help.

I cannot predict Doc’s and Tracy’s ministries will end as Saint Stephen’s did, with an angry mob beating their heads in with rocks, but that is precisely the way Saint Stephen’s tumultuous Diaconate ended-up.

Saint Stephen died because he spoke the truth to the Jewish leaders of his day – and to the world. Later in the Mass, when the Bishop asks our candidates if they will frame and fashion their lives according to the Doctrine of Christ, he will not be referring only to decorous ministerial behaviour…

Saint Stephen reminds us that one supreme price of being a Christian is the constant willingness to speak God’s truth, no matter what the consequences may be.

The Book of Acts also describes how Deacon Saint Philip converted the Ethiopian eunuch and led him to Holy Baptism – the tool he used was his knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. The man was reading the Prophet Isaiah. Philip asked him if he understood what he read. The man replied, ‘how can I, unless someone explains it to me?’

Saint Philip explained to him – he led him to Jesus Christ, the living Word of God.

Doc and Tracy are about to pledge their fidelity to the Scriptures, and their diligence in reading, teaching, and preaching the Holy Scriptures.

We are ordaining them so that they may lead people to our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and Saint Philip shows us how.

There is a third Deacon Who presence permeates the Ordination Mass this morning, and that is the Deacon Who is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

The Sacrament of Holy Orders is one Sacrament is three grades or levels – because the ministry the Sacrament conveys is the one Ministry of Christ Himself. Hence, it is male in character in all three levels, by Christ’s will and institution. The Ministry is the extension of Christ’s Incarnation.

We see that Ministry incarnate now in His Church in three ways.

The Bible tells us that the Lord Jesus Christ is
The Bishop – because He watches over us and feeds us as the Good Shepherd of our souls.

The Priest – because He sacrificed Himself on the Altar of the Cross to take away the sins of the whole world.

But what Our Lord calls Himself is the DEACON.

He asks His disciples the question, ‘which one is greater, the man that sits down to eat or the one who waits on him?’ Obviously the man who sits down to eat, but Our Lord says:
But I am among you as one who serves.
I am here as a waiter, a helper, a Deacon.

Doc and Tracy, my dear friends - I charge you to remember
Deacon Saint Stephen
Deacon Saint Philip
and the Deacon Jesus Christ

May God so replenish you with the truth of His doctrine and adorn you with innocency of life that you may both by word and good example serve God in this Office through our Lord Jesus Christ, who reminds us-

I am among you as a Deacon!

The Authentic APA

I today encountered this most unpleasant quote on the Pontifications blog regarding my beloved jurisdiction:

'The REC is in the midst of a ten-year merger process with the Anglican Province of America, a body that joins Anglo-Catholic ritual with a sort of tepid centrist Anglicanism, and whose distinguishing characteristic is that until recently all of its bishops had been divorced-and-remarried at least once.'

For a more accurate and charitable picture of the Anglican Province of America, one of the original Continuing Churches in the USA and the one certainly having the most significant substantiated membership of any Continuing Church, I invite the reader to visit our Provincial website:


I should hardly think that the Catholic and Apostolic Faith of the Creeds, the Fathers, the Undivided Church, the General Councils, the Book of Common Prayer, the Caroline Divines, the Non-Jurors, the Tractarian and Evangelical Revivals, and the whole Ecclesia Anglicana ought to be characterised as 'tepid' and 'centrist.'

Nothing quite draws vitriol like authenticity and success!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Why the New Rite of Episcopal Consecration is Valid - or- Why the Anglican Rite of Episcopal Consecration is Valid

In preparation for the impending reconciliation of the Society of Saint Pius X, the traditionalist Latin Mass and Sacraments religious society, with the See of Rome, Angelus Press, the publishing wing of SSPX has reprinted a fascinating paper entitled Why the New Rite of Episcopal Consecration is Valid. Pope Benedict XVI has to be a real Bishop if the SSPX is going to reunite with him. In the essay, a traditionalist Dominican theologian, Father Pierre-Marie argues cogently and convincingly that the new sacramental form of the new Roman Pontifical of 1968 is valid, in spite of the fact that it is not the same form as used in ancient Latin rite, because it is an ancient Eastern prayer of consecration based on the Apostolic Tradition of Saint Hippolytus. We are told it is valid because it clearly invokes the Holy Ghost for the office and work of the Episcopal Office, what is called in Latin the Spiritum principalem, the Spirit of Authority, or the Governing Spirit. It suffices, we are instructed, to invoke the said Spirit, for with such prayer is affirmed the intention to confer the grace of the Episcopate.

My question is: how does this at all differ from the original sacramental form of the Anglican Ordinal in 1550? The two rites do exactly the same thing - that is, they both invoke the Holy Ghost for the grace of the Order of Bishops. Yet again it would seem that Apostolicae Curae has been outmoded and circumvented by a more biblical and patristic approach to the subject of the Sacraments and the grace they communicate.

The 1968 Rite:

Et nunc effunde super hunc electum eam virtutem, quae a te est, Spiritum principalem, quem dedisti dilecto Filio Tuo Jesu Christo, quem ipse donavit sanctis Apostolis, qui constituerunt Ecclesiam per singula loca et sanctuarium tuum, in gloriam et laudem indeficientem nominis tui.

So now pour out upon this chosen one that power which is from you, the governing Spirit whom you gave to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the Spirit given by him to the holy Apostles, who founded the Church in every place to be your temple for the unceasing glory and praise of your name.

The Anglican Rite of 1550:

Take the Holy Ghost, and remember that thou stir up the grace of God, which is in thee, by imposition of hands: for God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and of soberness.

The Anglican rite quotes II Timothy 1.6-7, in which Saint Paul describes his consecration of Saint Timothy to the Apostolate/Episcopate. This same quote is cited by the Council of Trent as the biblical basis for asserting the distinctive grace and order of the Episcopate:


CHAPTER III. That Order is truly and properly a Sacrament.
Whereas, by the testimony of Scripture, by Apostolic tradition, and the unanimous consent of the Fathers, it is clear that grace is conferred by sacred ordination, which is performed by words and outward signs, no one ought to doubt that Order is truly and properly one of the seven sacraments of holy Church. For the apostle says; I admonish thee that thou stir up the grace of God, which is in thee by the imposition of my hands. For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love of sobriety.

CANON IV.--If any one saith, that, by sacred ordination, the Holy Ghost is not given; and that vainly therefore do the bishops say, Receive ye the Holy Ghost; or, that a character is not imprinted by that ordination; or, that he who has once been a priest, can again become a layman; let him be anathema.

Both rites equally and explicitly confer the Spirit of Authority, the Spirit of the Apostolic Office and Ministry.

Accipe Spiritum Sanctum!

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Mission Province


The above link connects to an awesome website for the new Mission Province, Sweden's Continuing Church.

Pray for the orthodox of the Swedish Lutheran Tradition!

And for a little background on the position of the Anglican Communion regarding the Church of Sweden...

The Church of England and the Church of Sweden

Report of the Commission Appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury in Pursuance of Resolution 74 of the Lambeth Conference of 1908 on the Relation of the Anglican Communion to the Church of Sweden:

We are convinced by the evidence which has been before us:

(I) That the succession of bishops has been maintained unbroken by the Church of Sweden, and that it has a true conception of the episcopal office, though it does not as a whole consider the office to be so important as most English Churchmen do;

(2) That the office of priest is also rightly conceived as a divinely instituted instrument for the ministry of the Word and Sacraments, and that it has been in intention handed on throughout the whole history of the Church of Sweden. The change in language introduced in 1811, which continued in use until 1894, does not appear to us to have vitiated the intention, when regard is paid to other documents which remained in authority and throughout testified to that intention. For example, this intention is manifested in the Augustana Confessio, Articles V. and VII., and elsewhere, both in the Prayer Book itself and in the Church Law.

We are, therefore, agreed to recommend that a resolution should be proposed, either to the next Lambeth Conference or to a meeting of the English bishops, similar to that which was adopted by the Lambeth Conference of 1888 in reference to the Old Catholics of Germany, Austria and Switzerland, under which members of the National Church of Sweden, otherwise qualified to receive the Sacrament in their own Church, might be admitted to Holy Communion in ours.


1920 Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops

Resolution 24

Reunion of Christendom

The Conference welcomes the Report of the Commission appointed after the last Conference entitled "The Church of England and the Church of Sweden," and, accepting the conclusions there maintained on the succession of bishops of the Church of Sweden and the conception of the priesthood set forth in its standards, recommends that members of that Church, qualified to receive the sacrament in their own Church, should be admitted to Holy Communion in ours. It also recommends that on suitable occasions permission should be given to Swedish ecclesiastics to give addresses in our churches.

Are the Church Fathers 'Lutheran' or are the Lutherans Patristic?


Please follow the above link to a fascinating conversation which addresses many of the concerns and critiques offered for one's consideration in my earlier post on confessional Lutheranism.

The debate is simply this: do confessional Lutherans submit the protestant confessions to the judgement of the ancient Fathers and their authoritative interpretation of the Catholic Faith, or do confessional Lutherans read the Fathers in such a way as to squeeze the Patristic Tradition into the matrix of the Book of Concord? Anglicans are very familiar with this debate. For instance, Father Arthur Middleton in his excellent work Fathers and Anglicans demonstrates how the Caroline Divines tried to make the Fathers into proto-Anglicans and how the Tractarians tried to conform the Anglican formularies to the higher authority of the Fathers. That in-house struggle and debate continues to this day...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Anglican Debt to Father Luther


If anyone is agnostic about the historical connexion between the Church of England and the Lutheran Reformation, follow the above link to text entitled The Lutheran Origin of the Anglican Ordinal by Dr EC Messenger.

As the Bishop who ordained me to the Priesthood with that same Ordinal once quipped, 'If an Anglican Priest says he utterly hates the Reformation, ask him about his wife!'

Defensio: Confessional Lutheranism

With profound gratitude to Chris Jones, I here take the liberty of posting his reply to my earlier post on the phenomenon of confessional Lutheranism. Chris presents a charitable and learned response to my concerns and criticisms. As one discovers when reading his submission, the historical Anglican Catholic position accords very closely in many respects with Chris' particular explication of the meaning of the Evangelical Lutheran confession. Let us pray that someday the orthodox Catholics of the Ecclesia Anglicana and Evangelical (Lutheran) Catholics will be able to forge a fuller sacramental unity in Our Blessed Lord. We see such a convergence now happening in relation to the Free Synod of the Church of Sweden and Forward in Faith. The main point of disagreement which remains between most Lutherans and Anglicanism, a disagreement which remains even within Anglicanism itself, is the Church's self-understanding of the summum sacerdotium, the Historic Episcopate. Is the Order of Bishop of the esse, bene esse, or plene esse of the Catholic Church? This question has yet to be resolved even amongst Anglicans themselves. I vote for esse! It should be pointed out that Chris' explanation of the necessity or lack thereof of the historic apostolic succession of Bishops is very similar if not identical to the original position of the Reformed Episcopal Church from 1873. I should like to ask any knowledgeable readers if they could please locate references in the Augustana to the Anaphora of Saint John Chrysostom or other Eastern Eucharistic Canons. Without further ado...

Fr Chad,

The first thing to know about understanding "Lutheranism of the confessional kind" (which ought to be the only kind) is that to learn the teaching and practice of confessional Lutheranism you need to look at the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord. Not all of the writings of Luther or the other Reformers, not the opinions of anyone who calls himself "Lutheran" today, but the Lutheran Confessions themselves. They are the dogmatic definitions which are distinctive to Lutheranism. Pastors and congregations which belong to a confessional Church body, such as the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod, are required to subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions. With that said, I will try to clarify, and where necessary to correct, the impressions of Lutheran teaching and practice that you discuss in this post. 1. The Lutheran position on the Real Presence is simply the Catholic faith. We believe, teach, and confess that the consecrated bread simply is the body of Christ, and that the consecrated wine simply is the blood of Christ. We do not offer any metaphysical or philosophical explanation of how the Real Presence happens, but we faithfully confess that it is so. Our objection to the Roman doctrine of transubstantiation is not that we deny that the bread and wine truly are the body and blood of the Saviour (God forbid!) but that we do not believe that it is right to bind the conscience of the faithful to the Aristotelian framework of substance and accidents which transubstantiation presupposes. The fact of the Real Presence is firmly taught by Scripture and Fathers, but the explanation of its mechanism that is transubstantiation is not. You are mistaken to believe that Lutherans have an "absolute rejection ... of the apostolic sacramental or ministerial priesthood and of the necessity of episcopal ordination and apostolic succession". The Confessions make clear that the Lutheran reformers were willing, even eager, to continue the traditional episcopal polity. But historical circumstances made it difficult, if not impossible, to do so. And the doctrine of the sacred ministry which was current in the Western Church at the time of the Reformation did not, in fact, hold that episcopal ordination was an absolute necessity. The doctrine current at the time, following St Jerome, held that the episcopate and the presbyterate were in fact the same office, with the sole difference that the bishop was, as a matter of discipline not of doctrine, empowered to ordain. And in fact the prohibition of presbyters to ordain was lifted by Papal dispensation on occasion during the mediaeval period. There came a point in the Reformation when the need arose to ordain pastors for vacant parishes in Lutheran territories. The incumbent bishops, remaining under the Papal obedience, were unwilling to ordain men for the Lutherans. The Reformers, being the heirs of the mediaeval doctrine of the essential equality of the episcopate and the presbyterate, believed that what had been done occasionally by Papal dispensation could be done on an emergency basis by Lutheran presbyters. They believed this to be far better than to leave the faithful without priests. Thus, from a Lutheran point of view, it is not that we reject the priesthood but that we do not hold that episcopal ordination is an absolute necessity. The Lutheran pastor is not simply a layman to whom the duty of administering the sacraments has been assigned; we believe that he holds the same office that any Orthodox, Roman, or Anglican priest holds. It is also untrue to say that "confessional Lutherans abhor the Eucharistic Prayer or Canon, which they say, quoting Luther, 'stinks of oblation.' " It is true that the Roman Canon, as understood and interpreted at the time of the Reformation, involves a doctrine of the sacrifice of the Mass as something separate from the sacrifice of our Lord and God and Saviour Jesus Christ on the Cross. But the Lutheran Confessions never condemn the notion of a eucharistic canon or anaphora as such. To the contrary, the anaphora of the Liturgy of St John Chrysostom is specifically, and approvingly, cited in the Confessions in support of our Lutheran doctrine. The example of St Chrysostom's anaphora is used to illustrate the fact that we do not condemn any and every idea of the eucharist as a sacrifice, but only a doctrine of sacrifice that makes of the Mass a work of man with a merit all its own, distinct from the sacrifice of our Lord. 2. It is not quite true to say that we claim to be the Catholic and Apostolic Church. We certainly claim to be A Catholic and Apostolic Church, but we do not deny that other Churches may, in principle, be authentic manifestations of the Church Catholic. And it is quite misleading to describe Lutheranism as a ressourcement or restoration of New Testament Christianity. What the Book of Concord says is that "we have not departed in any article of faith from the Catholic Church or from the Scriptures, but have only corrected some abuses which are new." We never claim to have "restored" the New Testament Church "from scratch", as it were. "Sola Scriptura" for Lutherans does not mean that everything we have received from the historic Church is to be thrown out, and all Christian doctrine and discipline is to be derived anew from the Bible. To the contrary, we are faithful to all that we have received in the tradition of the Church, except for those errors and abuses which are clearly contrary to Scripture. The theological, liturgical, and spiritual patrimony of the Catholic Church carries great weight among us, but it must be measured by the standard of Holy Scripture; for the written apostolic Scriptures are the pre-eminent and normative expression of the apostolic tradition. It is also untrue to say that the Book of Concord has a higher authority than the sensus patrum. The Book of Concord subordinates the authority of the Fathers to that of Scripture, but not to its own authority. Indeed, it commends the Fathers' writings as faithful witnesses of how the Church Catholic has understood Scripture. A so-called "Catalogue of Testimonies" from the writings of the Fathers is traditionally appended to the Book of Concord as support for its doctrines. Throughout the Church's history, it has been necessary to make dogmatic definitions from time to time, to combat errors which have arisen. The Lutheran Confessions are simply another dogmatic definition, which was made necessary by the errors which arose in the late mediaeval Western Church. To interpret Scripture according to the Lutheran Confessions is no more a compromise of "Sola Scriptura" than it is to interpret Scripture according to the Nicene Creed or according to the Chalcedonian definition. St Irenaeus in the 2d century taught that Scripture must be interpreted according to the Church's rule of faith (indeed the notion of an explicit creed or dogmatic definition by which Scripture must be interpreted may go back to the υποτυπωσιν υγιαινοντων "form of sound words" of 2 Tim 1.13. We do not "hold [ourselves] above the consentient witness and tradition of Catholicism" at all; nor do we regard the Lutheran Confessions as being more authoritative or more definitive than the other dogmatic definitions such as the decrees of the Seven Councils or the definitions of Carthage or 2d Orange. But we do believe that the errors which made the Reformation necessary were serious enough to warrant a further dogmatic definition. The Lutheran Confessions are offered as such a necessary definition, to take its place among all of the other definitions that have been necessary in the history of the Church. There are other issues which you have raised in your post which could be addressed (such as the reservation of the sacrament, and whether there is a "permanent" presence), but this comment is, I am sure, quite long enough. I hope that I have been able, to a certain extent, to clarify the confessional Lutheran view of things.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Q&A: What are the Articles of Religion?

The article that started it all...

What are the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion? Where do they come from? Are they important?

The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion are the charter document of the Elizabethan Settlement and of the English Reformation. Adopted by the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church on 12th September 1801, the Articles have a fascinating history. After some debate beginning at the first General Convention in 1792, the Articles were eventually attached to the 1789 Book of Common Prayer and were constitutionally embraced by the American Church as being representative of her mind. Years before, in 1553, the Church of England initially created, by the hand of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, Forty-Two Articles, which were given under the seal of King Edward VI. The Convocation of Canterbury began work on a revision of the Forty-Two Articles in 1563; in 1571, under Queen Elizabeth, the English Parliament issued the newly-revised Thirty-Nine Articles. The Articles, a formal statement of the principles of the English Church's reform, received the Royal Assent from the Queen on 29th May 1571. Ever since, they have been law in the English Church and Realm.

The Articles enshrine the classical Anglican theological position called the via media or 'middle way.' This golden mean of an Anglican doctrinal standard, it must be said, is certainly not a halfway house to Rome or Geneva. Rather, the via media of the Articles expresses in generous language a resourcement, a recovery of the teaching and doctrine of the early Church Fathers, that is, of Christian antiquity. The Articles therefore boldly articulate the vision of the Anglican theological paradigm: the Anglican Church claims to be a true Church of the Apostles and Fathers. The Anglican Church also claims to be continuous with the pre-Reformation Church of the ages as a Catholic Church which is primitive, patristic, and non-papal. And these claims make the Articles of Religion very important indeed.

They define the historic Anglican approach to matters of doctrine. For example, the Articles affirm the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration (Article XXVII) and the doctrine of the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist, while repudiating the medieval papal errors of transubstantiation and of eucharistic sacrifice independent of the one Sacrifice of our Lord (Article XXVIII and Article XXXI). Again, the Articles clearly affirm that there are seven sacraments which are channels of divine grace, but two only are generally necessary to salvation (Article XXV). They affirm the apostolic ministry of bishops, presbyters, and deacons while abolishing compulsory clerical celibacy (Articles XXXII and XXXVI). Justification by faith is approved (Article XI), while double predestination is corrected (Article XVII). Nothing can be found in the Articles which was not held by the Church of the first six centuries. That is precisely the Articles' claim to fame.

Anglicanism has, as Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher of Canterbury once proclaimed, no faith of its own - only the Catholic Faith of the Catholic Creeds, without addition or diminution. The Articles present to us a Catholicism restored and reformed; nothing is necessary to salvation but that which is contained in and proved from Holy Scripture, and yet nothing is to be rejected which belongs to the legitimate Tradition of the early and undivided Church.

The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion are hence not a confession or confessional statement. The Anglican Church has in fact never been a confessional Church, but, with the rest of the Apostolic Church, has always been a creedal Church. The Anglican branch of the Catholic Church, in union with the Eastern Orthodox and Latin Churches, adheres to the three great Creeds of undivided Christendom, the Apostles', Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds. The Anglican Articles of Religion are unique; they were produced by the authority of the English Parliament in order to bring about some semblance of uniformity in a national Church housing many different theological schools of thought and opinion.
The Articles are thus Articles of Peace,' bringing both uniformity and diversity to a comprehensive Church. They are boundaries within which Anglicans historically engage in theological exploration and thought, and are meant only to exclude the extremes of puritan protestantism on one hand and papalism on the other. The Articles seek to restore and emphasize ancient Christian orthodoxy, the Apostolic Tradition, as contained in Holy Scripture and lived-out in the early Church.

Although clergy of the Church of England were once required to make a general assent to the Articles (as required by the Canons of 1604), our Church has never called them a confession. The American Church has never required subscription to them. We must always remember that the Articles are not, and never were intended to be, an exhaustive compendium of Anglicanism's doctrine. They are neither a theological encyclopaedia nor a complete statement of what Anglicans believe. Because they are historical in nature, they only address questions of doctrine which were disputed at the time of the Reformation.

The Articles are an historical document of great weight and importance, and are still authoritative for Anglicans. But the Articles have always been and must always be interpreted through the lens of the entire Book of Common Prayer. The Common Prayer Book as a whole is still the most authoritative source, aside from Holy Writ itself, for determining what Anglicans believe. Lex orandi, lex credendi: the law of prayer is the law of belief.

Though not binding in the same way the Creeds and Liturgy are, the Articles should still guide Anglicans in the theological enterprise. The Articles remind us of our past, and help to guide our future. Undoubtedly, they are a central feature of our Anglican patrimony.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Is the Roman Church really 'Catholic?'

From the Catholic Enquirer, 1 February 2006:

'Benny Fiedler, who serves as an extraordinary [eucharistic] minister at St. John the Baptist [Roman] Church in El Paso, Texas, hopes people will heed the call and start volunteering again.

'Sometimes Catholics just don’t realize what they have,' he said. 'Back when Catholics used to believe these hosts were actually Jesus’ body, nobody but the priest would be allowed to touch them. But now that we have advanced in our wisdom and knowledge, we are allowed to do almost as much as the priests do.'

Although the statement above appears to be a satirical and fictional quote, does it not echo the sentiments of literally millions of American Roman Catholics today?

In a recent poll it was determined that 75% of American Roman Catholics do not believe in the Real Objective Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ under the form of bread and wine in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Is this the direct result of the Second Vatican Council and its resulting novel interpretation of the Christian Faith in the Post-Conciliar Roman Church? Can a Church that has almost universally lost (in the western world at least) its faith in the Real Eucharistic Presence be considered 'Catholic' in any meaningful sense?

Let us pray for the recatholicisation and conversion of all historical Western Catholic Churches, especially the Roman and the Anglican, back to the Faith of the Apostles and Fathers. Let us remain zealously faithful to the orthodox catholic Tradition.

And what is the Tradition?

'Be careful to observe one Eucharist; for there is only one Flesh of Our Lord Jesus Christ and one Cup in union with His Blood, one Altar of Sacrifice, as there is one Bishop with the Presbyters and my fellow-servants, the Deacons.'

-Saint Ignatius of Antioch, Philadelphians 4.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Tragic Division in the Assyrian Church of the East

An amateur Anglican historian, I have for many years been fascinated with the body often vilified as 'Nestorian,' which is in fact one of the most ancient Apostolic Churches on the earth, the venerable Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East. This Church, commonly called the Church of the East, is the 'Church of Iraq,' based originally in the ancient Patriarchate of Selucia-Ctesiphon, which severed Catholic communion after the Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in AD 431. The Assyrian Church considers Theodore of Mopsuestia and Nestorius of Constantinople saints, and preserves the patristic Antiochene school of theology and liturgy. The Assyrian Church later accepted the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451), but maintained its distinctive life, liturgy, and culture as the Apostolic Church outside the boundaries of the Roman Empire. Boasting the earliest Eucharistic Liturgy extant, the East Syrian Liturgy of Saints Addai and Mari (which is missing the familiar institution narrative), the Assyrian Church has survived centuries of Muslim persecution and even near-extinction. The Assyrian Church pushed its missionary efforts as far as India and China in the early Middle Ages and once possessed a great monastic foundation and tradition.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Anglo-Catholics, under the auspices of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Assyrian Mission, extended financial, educational, and moral support to the Church of the East, all the while strictly forbidding any kind of proselytizing. The Anglican Mission to the Assyrian Church was perhaps unique in Church history - it was a mission of one Apostolic Church to another, meant to enable the Assyrian Church to recover its strength of life and vocation. The Anglicans republished the theological and liturgical works of the Church of the East, rebuilt church buildings, and educated the Assyrian priesthood. The purpose of the project was not to make converts from one Church to another, but to edify and rebuild an indigenous Church along the lines of its own tradition and to promote communion between the Churches. In 1910-11, the Church of England, having ascertained the christological orthodoxy of the Assyrians, attempted to propose an intercommunion agreement with the Church of the East, which was graciously encouraged by the Assyrians themselves. The events of the First World War prevented the agreement from ever being implemented. An early twentieth century Assyrian Patriarch was a student at Saint Augustine's College, Canterbury. The Anglicans have always had a great love and affection for our sister Church of the Assyrians, a catholic and national Church like ourselves.

More recently, a tragic division has occurred in the Assyrian Patriarchate as its most prominent leader in the United States, Mar Bawai Soro, Bishop of California, has been deposed by the Catholicos Patriarch over a controversy concerning the Church of Rome. Bishop Soro is a truly godly man, a charismatic and effective teacher of great ecumenical sensibilities. It appears that Mar Bawai Soro attempted to organise at Rome two years ago a defection of priest-students of the Assyrian Church along with himself to the Roman Communion. In response, the Holy Synod of the Church of the East deposed Mar Bawai from the Episcopate on 7 December 2005. A court battle over parish properties and diocesan assets has ensued between the Bishop and the Synod of the Assyrian Church. It looks like the Church of the East may suffer another schism, the last one being only about 35 years old between Old Calendarists and the Synod. This time it appears the separating group intends to go into the Papal Communion.

I leave it to the discriminating reader to determine for oneself the source of the conflict and its appropriate resolution:



Let us pray for the Assyrian Church and for its unity and peace.

The Church of England and the Seventh Council


Does the Church of England and the historic Anglican Communion reject the dogmatic decrees of the Seventh Ecumencial Council of Nicea II regarding the use of sacred images in Christian worship?

In this matter are Anglicans really orthodox?
I recommend Dr C.B. Moss' classic work on the subject linked above.

'[We bear witness to] the received Tradition of the Church and its teachings as set forth by "the ancient catholic bishops and doctors," and especially as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church, to the exclusion of all errors, ancient and modern.'

The Affirmation of Saint Louis, not an entirely bad document I should say, clarifies this point for Anglo-Catholics...

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Controversy Surrounding Western Rite Orthodoxy

Recently, the blogosphere has been abuzz with news and commentary regarding the Western Rite in communion with the Orthodox Eastern Churches. I refer interested readers to the following links:






Traditional Anglicanism has always contended that she is in fact the Orthodox Church of the West. Any Byzantine Rite resistance to the Orthodox Western Rite is disappointing and disheartening, but, from an Anglican Catholic perspective at least, is not altogether surprising (see my earlier posts on Anglicanism and Eastern Orthodoxy). I honestly believe criticism, and even rejection, of the Western Rite on the part of some Byzantine Rite leaders and representatives is probably inevitable, given the extremely complex cultural and historical differences and prejudices involved. In compassion and love, orthodox Anglicans should reach out to their dear Orthodox Western Rite brethren and offer whatever support and encouragement they can. After all, from the Anglo-Catholic point of view, we are all substantially members of one another in one orthodox catholic Church, bound together by a common Western Rite and a shared fidelity to the Holy Tradition of the Undivided Church. Let us pray for one another...

May 2024 Comprovincial Newsletter

The Comprovincial Newsletter for May 2024 - https://tinyurl.com/comprovincial-2024may