Some of the Traditional Anglican Communion leadership, while struggling with its identity as Anglicans, have chosen to be part of the “Coetibus” by their journey to Rome, thus landing their faithful in utter confusion. Their actions have caused some of their flock to wonder if they have been deceived all along under the garb of ‘Anglicanism’ while their leaders, in truth, were aspiring to be part of Rome. Thi mean they must surrender their Anglican Orders; this simply undermines the validity and veracity of the service that Anglicans orders have rendered through the caring of souls as deacons, priests and bishops through the centuries.
If many of the clergy and faithful wanted to join Rome, they had an option in the sixties, when the Episcopal Church embraced revisionism and the Anglican Communion showed signs of laxity in their theology and praxis. Needless to say that there are many who have cherry picked along the way compromising orthodoxy and continuing to mislead their faithful, by embracing everything that the Episcopal Church stands for minus homosexuality. On the contrary many Anglicans wanted to be faithful as their Anglican/Episcopal Church once used to be, gathered together at the Affirmation of St. Louis,(which was attended by many of my brother bishops) and we have continued our journey in the service of our faithful as Anglicans.
It becomes pertinent for every faithful Anglican to ask ourselves the questions that Charles Gore, the Anglican Bishop and Theologian asked in the early part of 19th century when Anglicanism was still unadulterated.
I believe, with a conviction the strength of which I could hardly express, that it is the vocation of the English Church to realise and to offer to mankind a Catholicism which is Scriptural, and represents the whole of Scripture: which is historical, and can know itself free in face of historical and critical science; which is rational and constitutional in its claim of authority, free at once from lawlessness and imperialism. That the English Church for her many sins will need the purification of much discipline and suffering before she can in any adequate measure realize her vocation, cannot be doubted. There will be trials calculated to test the loyalty of the staunchest hearts: but only through such trials is any great vocation realized. And those who continue with the Church of England in her temptations have surely appointed to them a position and a work of privilege and fruitfulness in the kingdom of Christ.(From “Roman Catholic Claims”)
Bishop Charles Gore’s testimony to the sound ‘Catholicity’ of Anglicanism brings up these relevant questions once again: Do we as Anglicans lack the Catholicity that can be only found in Rome and Is this journey really necessary? Is it not time to stand up as real Anglicans?
While Continuing Anglicanism over the three decades has become an alternative to the plague of revisionism, our late Bishop Michael Wright examines the responsibility of Continuing Anglicanism to stand up for the Anglican values and not be a spectator to the theological and moral erudition nor compromising orthodoxy.
THE SWORD SHALL NEVER DEPART FROM YOUR HOUSE
A sequel to “Is Your Journey Really Necessary?” A Study in a Failure of Continuing
Anglicanism by the late Rt. Rev. Michael M. Wright, provided by Mrs. Pam Wright.
The November editorial ‘Is your journey really necessary?’ raised the question whether the Roman Church was truly Catholic. Inevitably this provoked comment. in reply to one such comment I wrote the original version of this study, but now feel the subject requires fuller treatment.
1. A REPLY: In reply to the claim that the Roman Church is not truly Catholic it has been pointed out that clas¬sical Anglicanism never went so far as this. The following is an example of this reaction: “… by distinguishing between fun¬damental and non-fundamental doctrines, a number of the Caroline Divines contended that while Rome had erred doctrinally, its errors did not touch the ecumenical Creeds or the basic nature of the Church in such a way to ‘un-Church ‘it.”
2. ANOTHER POSSIBILITY: This quotation suggests another possibility – that the Roman and Anglican Churches share an understanding of the basic nature or model of the Church which both call ‘Catholic’ – and this regardless of the repudiation of papal supremacy by Anglicans. Is there then a Western model of the Church which is distinct from the model of the Catholic Church as understood universally by the undivided Church of the first Christian millennium?
3. THE ‘COMMON MIND’ OF THE CHURCH: For many folk in the West the Catholic character of the Church has to do with the Seven Sacraments, the Creeds, the Three-fold Ministry, the Seven Councils; and devotion to Our Lady. All these ‘marks’ of Catholic faith have their origin in the common mind’ of the Church- its corporate understanding of the scriptural revelation as fulfilled in the incarnate ministry of Christ.
4. THE MIND OF CHRIST EXPRESSED: Put very simply: since Christ is one, His Catholic Church, since it is His Body, must also be one . So, likewise, it possesses a ‘common mind’, – the mind of Christ who, by the Spirit, is present in every part and member of His Body. This ‘com¬mon mind’ in Christ is confirmed and preserved through the consultative ‘councilor, character of the Catholic Church. It is through ‘conciliar’ activity that the Holy Tradition, the mind of Christ as recognised and expressed in the Church, has been built up under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in faithfulness to the scriptural revelation. his conciliar activity is present at every level of the Church, local, regional, and in exceptional circumstances, universal – the Seven Ecumenical Councils
5. A ‘DIFFERENT MIND’: To repudiate the decisions of an Ecumenical Council is therefore to have a ‘different mind’ from that of the Catholic Church and implies a departure from the fellowship of the Catholic Church into heresy. Restora¬tion to the fellowship of the Church requires the renunciation of error and the acceptance of the ‘common mind; of the Church. The undivided Catholic Church developed different methods of reception depending on the gravity of the differences involved.
6. THE ‘BRANCH THEORY’: The Anglo-Catholic revival within Anglicanism made popular the ‘branch theory’ of the Church’s unity. This theory regards the Roman, Orthodox, and Anglican Churches as branches of the same Catholic tree. This tree has long been uprooted and split in half by what appears to most Anglicans to be an obscure and nearly forgotten episode in the history of the Church.
7. A DIVISIVE ACTION: ln the Eleventh Century Rome repudiated unilaterally its recognition of a Council (Constantinople 879-880), which for the preceding century and more it had recognised, along with the other four patriarchates, as the authentic Eighth Ecumenical Council. The Council had expressed the ‘common mind’ of the Catholic Church on the illicitness of additions to the Creed. Rome went still further and rehabilitated as the Eighth Council an earlier council which had been condemned by all as false. This was the point at which Western Christendom as a whole abandoned the Catholic model of the Church -ceased, in other words, to be Catholic.
8. THE DELEGATION OF AUTHORITY: This action was taken on the supposition that the Bishop of Rome had a special authority for ‘binding and loosing’ over the whole Church – including the power to withdraw recognition of an Ecumenical Council. This authority, so the claim went, was inherent in the person of the Roman Pontiff as successor to the Apostle Peter because Christ had delegated authority over His Church specifically and uniquely to Peter and his succes-sors. This claim was completely self-justifying. If the pope declared that this was the true interpretation of Scripture and Tradition, his was the supreme authority which legitimised that interpretation.
9. A WESTERN MODEL: The Western model which emerges from this claim is of a Church which is an agency legitimised through the specific commission given to Peter and his successors, an institution uniquely authorised to preach the faith and administer the sacraments. Christ is pres-ent in such a Church indirectly through those who minister to the faithful. Historically speaking, this is the kind of Church which emerged from the Eleventh Century within Western Christendom, provoking the later crisis of the Reformation. The role of the Roman pope was rejected by the Reformers, but the Western model of the Church as the agent of Christ persisted among the Churches with their origins in Western Christendom.
10. THE CATHOLIC MODEL: With this model, which is that of the undivided Catholic Church, Christ is Himself the Church and the Church is Christ, for the Church is His Body. His presence with His Body is direct, all pervasive, and, in this world, sacramental. The Church administers sacraments because it is itself sac¬ramental – it is both distinguishable and inseparable from Christ. Since the Church is the Body of Christ its members have differing roles which integrate with and serve the whole. The role and function of the bishop is not the same as that of the priest, the deacon, or the lay member, but all make a coordinated contribution to the func¬tioning and growth of the Body. Hence it is the responsibility of the bishops to take council for the preservation of the ‘common mind’ of the Church. Conciliarity is built into the very existence of the Church.
11. DEALING WITH DIVERGENCE: Sufficient has now been said to draw a clear distinction between the two models. With the Catholic Model the Church as the Body of
Christ is central and fundamental to the whole – it is the Gospel. With the Western Model the Church is subordinate being the agency authorised to promote the Gospel. This difference is reflected in the way in which divergence is seen and dealt with. The Catholic model, because it relies totally upon the Holy Spirit abiding constantly in its midst, can resolve potential conflicts by conciliar action. With this model the resolution of differences may appear untidy and time-consuming, but a solution can emerge in the end. A modern example is the restoration of unity between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia.
12. DIVERGENCE AND THE WEST: The Western model, because it is an agency, relies of necessity upon an institutional focus of authority. This remains so whether the central authority takes the forms of papal supremacy or some other form of ecclesiastical government. With this model a divergence is a challenge to authority, resolution of such conflict is reduced either to discussion leading to a negotiated settlement and compromise of principle (Ecumenism) or con-tinuing separation and exclusiveness based on denying to all others ‘the fullness of Catholic existence”.
13. A SNTHESIS OF THE MODELS?. Any attempt to synthesize the two models will result in the following absurdity. Christ, who the Church,(Catholic model) subordinates himself as the Church (Western model) to an authority which He, as Christ, has already delegated to another. He subordinates Himself to Himself. What this means is that the action of the Roman Church in the Eleventh Century is the actual historical point of division brought about by the adoption of a divergent model of the Church.. The Western Reformation is no more than and inevitable consequence of this fundamental divide.
14. CONTINUING ANGLICANS: In spite of separation from the official Anglican Communion, the Continuing Anglican Churches persist in maintaining the Western Model of the Church- as is demonstrated by their behaviour. Some Churches are content to cooperated with one another by ‘sinking their differences”, others persist in remaining aloof over issues of ‘churchmanship’ and administrative control.
15. THE AFFIRMATION OF ST. LOUIS: In this situation the Affirmation of St. Louis poses a radical solution by opening a door upon the authentic Catholic model of the Church. The Affirmation does this by setting at the head of its Principles of Doctrine the definition of the Church as “the manifestation of Christ in and to the world’, and ‘ the Body of Christ at work in the world’. After this it sets out the ‘marks’ of the Church as enshrined in the Holy Tradition.(It is significant that the late Perry Laukhuff, one of the two main drafters of the Affirmation, was able to quote the Eastern Orthodox quarterly review, Doxa as calling the Affirmation ‘an amazing document’ and one that is very close to and Orthodox Confession of Faith.”)
16. THE RECEPTION OF THE AFFIRMATION: It is obvious from the behaviour even of these Continuing Churches which claim to endorse the Affirmation that they mostly fail to understand its potential. They continue to treat the Church as an institution rather than the sacramental pres¬ence of Christ. The most probable explanation for this failure is that for the Church, in spite of fine words, remains and agency of Christ, a secondary feature of the Faith.
17. THE CHOICE: Nevertheless there has to be a choice made. The Continuing Anglican movement has nothing else to offer than the Affirmation’s restored Catholic model of the Church, but what it has is more than sufficient. If it rejects this heritage the consequences are dire, there lies ahead a perpetuation of petty debilitating strife – the inevitable consequence of persisting with the Western model of the Church. One is reminded of the prophecy of Nathan addressed to King David as consequence of his contriving the death Uriah,” the sword shall never depart from your house.”