Saturday, May 26, 2007

Mysterium Christi: A Meditation on Ascension, Whitsunday and the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament

'Let us forever adore the Most Holy Sacrament!'

The Feast of Corpus Christi, that is, the Festival of the Body and Blood of Christ, is a fitting complement to and fulfilment of the great Feasts which we shall celebrate the two weeks before, the mysteries of Our Lord's glorious Ascension into heaven and the descent of God the Holy Ghost upon the Holy Catholic Church; in every offering of the Holy Sacrifice, which contains what the Book of Common Prayer describes as 'Holy Mysteries,' the True Body and Blood of Christ under the form of bread and wine, these events of salvation history are made-present to us here and now as continual, perpetual realities to be experienced and lived anew.

The Feast of Corpus Christi reinforces the divinely-revealed truth of the Eucharistic Change in the Elements, the permanent, abiding, objective and substantial presence of the Body and Blood of Christ under the species of bread and wine in the Blessed Sacrament. Our Lord remains under the veil of the Eucharistic Elements to be received, loved and adored.

In the Eucharist, we are drawn into the heavenly tabernacle as the veil between time and eternity is lifted, and we are carried into the eternal priesthood of the Lord Jesus, who, now in His risen and glorified humanity, presents Himself to the Father forever as our perfect and eternal Sacrifice. Every Eucharist is a literal union of the Church with the Act of Intercession of our heavenly and ascended Lord. In the Mass, the central and supreme act of Christian worship, we ascend with Christ and reign with Him in heavenly places, making intercession with and in Him for all creation. So too, in every Mass, at the Invocation of the Word and Holy Spirit in the Prayer of Consecration, called the Epiclesis, the Holy Spirit Himself descends upon the holy gifts to consecrate them into the living Body and Blood of Christ and upon the Church to make of her an energised, recreated, and transformed People. The Body of Christ in heaven makes the Church the Body of Christ on earth through the Body of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Every Eucharist is a reproduction of Pentecost, of the fiery Gift of the Holy Spirit.

Consider these words of Dr John Macquarrie: 'Just as the first appearing of Jesus was like the rising of the sun over a darkened world, so today when the Host is lifted up either in the Mass itself or in Benediction, it is like the rising of the sun upon us and we receive the radiance and warmth of God's blessing through him whom he has sent.' The Lord Himself invites you to come and adore Him in the Holy Sacrament of His Body and Blood, the manifestation of His loving presence and mercy.

Man Who Says 95% of Britons Are Going to Hell Also Rejects Anglo-Catholicism

'I do think, you know, that this means we must be very wary about embracing a Catholic understanding of the Church. There is enormous temptation for evangelicals to embace an Anglo-Catholic understanding of the Church, its nature and its ministry. And I think we need to be very careful indeed that we do not betray - you have been debating the historical nature of Anglicanism, my book on the subject comes out in March, by the way; and we need to be very careful indeed that we do not betray our evangelical identity by embracing an understanding of the Church that is not historic Anglicanism. When Robert Runcie said, "Evangelicals don't have an ecclesiology," what he meant was, "I don't like the ecclesiology that evangelicals have." We do not need to apologise for our understanding of the Church: we are simply to faithfully expound it. So that's my point on evangelical identity.'

-Dr Richard Turnbull of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, October 2006

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

AMiA and CANA: Not in the Anglican Communion

No Lambeth Invitation for AMiA or CANA, as well as Robinson

The Bishop of New Hampshire will not be invited to participate in the 2008 Lambeth Conference, according to the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary of the Lambeth Conference.

Invitations to the conference were mailed May 22 to more than 800 bishops of the Anglican Communion by the conference’s host, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. The Rt. Rev. Martyn Minns, Bishop of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) and the Rt. Rev. Charles Murphy and his suffragans, the bishops of the Anglican Mission in North America (AMiA) will not receive invitations either, the conference organizers said.

Archbishop Williams said he had reserved the right “to withhold or withdraw invitations from bishops whose appointment, actions or manner of life have caused exceptionally serious division or scandal within the Communion,” but did not name names.

The bishops of the AMiA would not be invited to Lambeth because of the decision taken by Archbishop George Carey in 2000. Archbishop Carey “wrote to them saying he could not recognize their ministry” and that their “consecrations were irregular,” Canon Kearon explained. This decision was “confirmed at Oporto” by the primates in 2000, and the “decision was already fixed” by Archbishop Williams’ predecessor. The case of CANA Bishop Martyn Minns exhibits “no difference” from the AMiA and he falls into the same category, Canon Kearon said.

- The Rev. George Conger of The Living Church

Editor's Note - An an essential 'instrument of unity' for the Anglican Communion, the Lambeth Conference, since its inception in 1867, has served as the ultimate symbol of unity and communion within the Canterbury-centred structure. Exclusion from Lambeth is tantamount to exclusion from the Anglican Communion as a legally-constructed and organised body. Bishops of the Church of England in South Africa, beginning with Bishop Colenso, Bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church and its derivative bodies, and Bishops of the Continuing Churches have never been invited to Lambeth. The Bishops of AMiA and CANA now share the same distinction. Whatever claims may be made to the contrary, it is now quite clear that neither the AMiA nor CANA can legitimately claim to be full constituent members of the Anglican Communion in full communio with Cantaur. For all intents and purposes, AMiA and CANA have become the very thing they assert themselves not to be, an evangelical and charismatic 'continuing' church.

The ACC and the UECNA


On Ascension Day, May 17, 2007, The Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) and the United Episcopal Church (UECNA) entered into a communion agreement. Archbishop Stephen Reber of the UECNA and Archbishop Mark Haverland of the ACC signed the agreement at Saint Stephen's Pro-Cathedral, Athens, Georgia to restore or reaffirm the state of communio in sacris between the churches. This agreement came into immediate effect, though it still needs to be ratified by the ACC Provincial Synod and the UECNA Convention.“This comes at a time when Anglicanism in the USA is at a crossroads, when people are looking for firm ground to stand on and a place to belong,” said Bishop Leo Michael of the UECNA, who was present at the meeting along with Bishop Presley Hutchens of the ACC. The four Bishops celebrated Ascension Day with a noon Eucharist after signing the agreement. “We recognize in each other the presence of the essentials of the Christian Faith, Catholic Order, Apostolic Succession, Anglican worship, and Christian morals,” said Archbishop Mark Haverland.

The 1977 Congress of St. Louis, thanks to the efforts of the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen (FCC), was an answer from faithful Episcopalians and Anglicans, both laity and clergy, to the exigencies of changes wrought by the then Episcopal Church USA. Their ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate and the doctrinally controversial 1979 Book of Common Prayer necessitated the birth of the Continuing Church. The churches were determined to “continue in the Catholic Faith, Apostolic Order, Orthodox Worship and Evangelical Witness of the traditional Anglican Church, doing all things necessary for the continuance of the same.” Thirty faithful years later, impelled by the commonness of origin and the common participation in the one holy catholic and apostolic church, the ACC and the UECNA have come forth with a pastoral provision.

The effect of the agreement will be to make explicit the somewhat doubtful continuation of the communion that many believe has always persisted between the two churches, both of which stem from the Denver consecrations of bishops in January 1978. Members of both churches will be welcomed at the altars of both bodies, and the clergy of both will be available for baptisms, funerals, and marriages as needed. Each church has agreed to consult carefully with the other in all matters affecting the other, including episcopal acts and ecumenical relations with other bodies and churches.

“This agreement constitutes an important movement towards restoring the unity of the Continuing Church, which stems from the Congress of Saint Louis and the Denver consecrations," said Archbishop Mark Haverland. “It is the contention of both that this Continuing Church subsists in the ACC, the UEC, and the Anglican Province of Christ the King. The organic unity of these three Churches remains our first and most urgent ecumenical task.” Both the churches pledge to work towards full organic union in a patient, unhurried manner, meanwhile respecting inessential differences and the other church's internal integrity. “His church is trustworthy, not because it depends upon men, but because it depends upon Him who endowed it with power and who is ever present in its council called in His name” said Archbishop Stephen Reber of the UECNA.

Editor's note - the UECNA, as of this writing, has never forfeited its intercommunion agreement with the Anglican Province of America (APA), although communio in sacris between the APA and UECNA has never been formally approved by the Provincial Synod of the APA and the General Convention of the UECNA. It has explicitly existed on a practical level for several years. Does this mean that the APA and the UEC are in communion and the ACC and UEC are in communion but the APA and the ACC are not in communion? Odd indeed, but such a situation obtained in Eastern Orthodoxy for most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, in which Moscow and Constantinople were in communion with each other but Constantinople was not in communion with Patriarchate of Bulgaria, although Moscow was. There is a clear precedent for such bilateral but incomplete communion of Apostolic Churches. The development noted above is unquestionably a step in the right direction.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What is 'Anglican orthodoxy?'

I enthusiastically recommend a new essay at All Too Common on the question of what actually defines and constitutes 'Anglican orthodoxy.' This appellation, now proudly owned by a multiplicity of Anglican groups and organisations of vastly differing theologies and practices, is bandied about today with such imprecision and generality that it is, one could certainly submit, a phrase or war-cry that means so many different things at once that it no longer means anything at all. Andy's essay deserves a careful reading.

My response is as follows:

Thank you for your astute and precisely-correct essay, which targets and high-lights the real central point at stake in the continuing dissolution of the Anglican Communion. Anglican Catholics have said from the beginning of the post-2003 controversy that, like the issue of homosexuality in the Church, the purported ordination of women is a 'salvation issue.' Many Global South leaders have used this phrase in reference to militant and unrepentant homosexualism, and so they should. Certainly a life in a state of mortal sin, unrepentant and unconverted, jeopardises salvation and the state of grace. But the loss of valid priesthood and valid sacraments because of the ordination of women equally jeopardises salvation because without the priesthood and sacraments there is no sacramental assurance, no covenantal means of grace, no guarantee of grace and salvation. As a wise priest once said to me on this subject, 'a male practising homosexual priest can repent, but a priestess cannot change her sex.' It is essential that Catholics re-focus the issue at hand on that which is essential to the life of Holy Church, the divinely-instituted means of grace given to us by Our Lord and the Apostles in the ministerial priesthood. Thank you again!

Or as Saint Ignatius of Antioch would proclaim to us today as he did in the second century: no Bishop, no Church! By extension this means, succinctly, no valid episcopate, no valid priesthood, no valid Eucharist, no Church, no means of grace, no salvation. Or as Saint Cyprian and Saint Augustine would say: Extra ecclesiam non salus est. Our Blessed Saviour in His infinite love for all men purchased an Universal Church for our salvation by the Blood of His Cross. The Seven Holy Sacraments are His legacy bequeathed to us, the treasury of His fathomless grace and merit, the New and Everlasting Covenant, and it is our bounden duty and service to receive His divine Mysteries in faith and to commend them to the generations to come unimpaired and unaltered. This, my dear friends, can be the only meaning of the phrase 'Anglican orthodoxy.'

Monday, May 07, 2007

Archbishop Haverland on REC Orders

In a previous post some weeks back I shared with readers an article in The Trinitarian, the official publication of the Anglican Catholic Church, written by Archbishop Mark Haverland. In the article in question the Archbishop criticises the Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas and the sacramental relationship of the Anglican Province of America to the Reformed Episcopal Church. I wish to offer a correction: I have been informed that I initially misrepresented his position. Nowhere in the article does he assert the invalidity of REC Orders. Rather he asserts that the official and binding position of the Anglican Communion, in the days of its orthodoxy, was that REC Orders should not be recognized.

I completely concur with the assessment that the objective fact of valid episcopal orders does not in and of itself automatically justify ecclesial recognition of those bodies which possess said orders. Resolution 54 of the 1958 Lambeth Conference takes precisely this position regarding episcopi vagantes, as it states 'it cannot recognise the Churches of such "episcopi vagantes" as properly constituted Churches, or recognise the orders of their ministers'. The distinction between validity and recognition rightly exists and should be operative in the discipline of any Church that calls itself Catholic. The APA has very happily and correctly progressed to recognise the REC's sacramental order on the basis of official pronouncements of Anglican Communion entities, although the Lambeth Conferences themselves have not given such recognition yet; it is certainly within the purview of any Church to decide for itself which other Churches and Orders it will or will not recognise, as Dr CB Moss so eloquently points out in his works.

Thank you!

Dr Beckwith: Catholicism as the Great Tradition

Philorthodox today celebrates the return of a prominent and gifted theologian and philosopher to the Sacraments of Mother Church: as has been now widely published in the blogosphere, Dr Francis J. Beckwith, former president of the Evangelical Theological Society, has been restored to the Roman Rite after a long hiatus.

Here is a marvellous and theologically crisp and precise quote from Dr Beckwith -

'There is a conversation in ETS that must take place, a conversation about the relationship between Evangelicalism and what is called the “Great Tradition,” a tradition from which all Christians can trace their spiritual and ecclesiastical paternity... At the suggestion of a dear friend, I began reading the Early Church Fathers as well as some of the more sophisticated works on justification by Catholic authors. I became convinced that the Early Church is more Catholic than Protestant and that the Catholic view of justification, correctly understood, is biblically and historically defensible. Even though I also believe that the Reformed view is biblically and historically defensible, I think the Catholic view has more explanatory power to account for both all the biblical texts on justification as well as the church’s historical understanding of salvation prior to the Reformation all the way back to the ancient church of the first few centuries. Moreover, much of what I have taken for granted as a Protestant—e.g., the catholic creeds, the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, the Christian understanding of man, and the canon of Scripture—is the result of a Church that made judgments about these matters and on which non-Catholics, including Evangelicals, have declared and grounded their Christian orthodoxy in a world hostile to it. Given these considerations, I thought it wise for me to err on the side of the Church with historical and theological continuity with the first generations of Christians that followed Christ’s Apostles.'

In this beautiful synopsis of catholic theology and ecclesiology, there is not one mention of that crucible on which the historic Apostolic Churches have been divided, the Papal Claims. The definition of the Traditio Apostolorum supplied by Dr Beckwith is one that all Anglican Catholicism eagerly and vehemently endorses and applies to herself. The distinctives of the papal system, the dogmatic pronouncements of Vatican Council I, papal infallibility and papal universal jurisdiction, do not enter into the initial description of re-discovery of the Faith provided by Dr Beckwith. I do not doubt that he would freely reaffirm his belief in papalism, which is, after all, the sine qua non of communion with the See of Rome, but quite interestingly such a credo is excluded from his introductory apologia for his return to Catholic communion. More interestingly perhaps is the fact that the basis of his reversion to the Church (properly termed) is a conviction regarding the unique authority of the Holy Catholic Church as the Ark of Safety and Truth, the divinely-guided and Spirit-possessed Body of Christ, which through Apostolic Succession of doctrine and ministry authentically guards, protects, teaches, transmits and interprets the Gospel. In his blog entry, at least, Dr Beckwith could pass for an orthodox Anglican!

In sum, Dr Beckwith's profession of faith articulated in his article is a faith in the Church of the Great Tradition, of the whole Church possessed of ancient Christian orthodoxy, what Saint Vincent of Lerins describes as universality, antiquity and consent. What matters is the Church of the Apostles, the Church of the Fathers, the Church of the Ecumenical Councils and Creeds. That Church thrives today and receives as her inheritance from the Lord the Holy Scriptures and Apostolic Creeds and the Holy Sacraments and Apostolic Order. Such a stand corresponds exactly with the Catholic Faith as received by and practised in the Anglican Tradition. I rejoice with Dr Beckwith as we all pray for him and his family. His good words echo concepts found in a favourite description of the Catholic Faith of the Anglican Church written many years ago by our old friend Dr NP Williams:

'The doctrine of the Great Church, as it stood on the eve of 1054, includes, first of all, the main fabric of Trinitarian and Christological dogma, including, of course, the beliefs in our Lord's virginal Birth, bodily Resurrection, and Ascension into Heaven; the presuppositions of Christian soteriology known as the doctrines of the Fall and Original Sin; belief in Christ's Atoning Death as objectively bringing within our reach that salvation which we could never have earned for ourselves; the doctrines of the Sacraments as the means of grace, of the Real Presence and the Eucharistic Sacrifice; of the grace of Orders and the necessity of the episcopal succession from the Apostles; of the Church's absolving power in Penance; of Confirmation and Unction; of the Communion of Saints; and of the last things, Heaven and Hell, and the intermediate state, and the Last Judgement.'

-1920 Anglo-Catholic Congress

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