Blog Template Theology of the Body: The Anglican Use Conference '08: A Sad Prelude

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Anglican Use Conference '08: A Sad Prelude

The Pastoral Provision for the Anglican Use was established in the 1980's under Pope John Paul II. The Vatican forsaw a tidal wave of rapid moral decline in Anglicanism and its various manifestations, and determined to provide an easy way for former Episcopalians to convert. The Provision allows local bishops to authorize the beautiful Anglican liturgies in the Catholic worship of their parishes, and even to ordain men, who- as former Episcopalian pastors- are already married.

There are several developments this summer which evidence the sort of Episcopalian moral and doctrinal decadence that the Church's Pastoral Provision hopes to address. Both are described by Episcopalians.

The first, from my inbox this morning, describes the decision of the Anglican General Synod to ordain
women bishops. A well known commentator writes this morning as follows:

"I know that +Winchester, +Durham, +York, and +Canterbury did all they could and are now on silent running. What a mess. No one saw this coming. +Stanton is pretty down. It is unclear where this leaves things. For those of us trying to decide about the future, it seems like stepping on an ice floe that is melting. Your anglican rite gains a certain currency..."

Secondly, Anglican Mark Haverland has issued the following synopsis of a conclave in the evangelical arm of Anglicanism lately known as the GAFCON; these, interestingly, are the folks who maintain Catholic morals while denying Catholic sacramentality:


A number of self-described traditional Anglicans from around the globe,
including many bishops and archbishops from the ‘global South’ bodies of the official Anglican Communion, recently met in Jerusalem at a meeting called GAFCON. This meeting was called largely in response to the refusal of the Episcopal Church in the U.S. and of the Anglican Church of Canada to heed earlier calls to rein in innovations concerning matters of sexual morality, including notably the ordination and consecration of self-proclaimed and practicing homosexuals and the blessing of ‘same sex unions’.

GAFCON produced a now widely published statement which does not address the
innovations that led to the formation of our own Continuing Church in 1976-8: namely the ‘ordination of women’, a new and radical Prayer Book, and a pro-abortion policy. Concerning GAFCON and its statement, I have several observations, which I believe are widely shared in the Anglican Catholic Church and, indeed, by most Continuing Churchmen. For that reason I make bold to write in the first person plural in what follows.

1. On the immediate issues that led to the GAFCON conference, we stand with GAFCON and its statement. That is, the ACC believes and teaches what Scripture and the universal Church have always taught everywhere concerning human sexuality. We would only note that GAFCON fails to address the problem of divorce and remarriage, which antedates the present crisis concerning homosexuality, and which in many ways prepared the ground for the more recent aberration.

2. The GAFCON statement, by its silence concerning the ordination of women to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate, implies that this earlier aberration is tolerable, if not desirable, and is at worst a much less serious departure from the universal practice of the orthodox and catholic Church than is homosexuality. This silence and its implications are profoundly mistaken. The ordination of women and homosexuality both flow from a confusion concerning both sexual roles and also the place of sexual identity in Church and Christian life. Furthermore, pretending to ordain women to Holy Orders requires a rejection of clear Biblical teaching and of the unbroken practice of the Catholic and Orthodox Church. The ordination of women is in effect a claim by official Anglican bodies to authority over the deposit of the Faith. The ordination of women assumes a falsehood: that Anglicans have authority to alter the doctrine and practice of the central Tradition of Christendom, which is represented by the consensus of the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and all older Anglican Churches. Such a claim, once made, can be pressed into service to justify any further innovation or aberration in doctrine or morals. No one should be surprised that Churches which began to ordain women in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, began to legitimize homosexual conduct in the 1990s and in the first decade of the 21st century.

3. GAFCON asserts and appeals for support to formularies which have a notable Anglican pedigree: namely the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, the three Creeds, and the first four Ecumenical Councils. No one can or should deny the authority of these formularies. However, these same formularies received formal assent from the same Anglican bodies that since the 1970s have abandoned orthodox and catholic doctrine as noted above. Many Anglican bodies traditionally cultivated a kind of studied doctrinal ambiguity which combined material toleration of grave theological errors with formal acceptance of traditional creeds and formulas. Therefore, the Continuing Churches wisely have fixed our doctrinal stance firmly in the Affirmation of Saint Louis. The Affirmation, confirmed by the Constitution and Canons of the Anglican Catholic Church, explicitly positions the ACC within the great central Tradition of Christendom, represented by the consensus of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and of the teaching of the Undivided Church of the first millennium. Since the studied ambiguities of some traditional Anglicans permitted the grave errors of recent years to arise, it is no longer enough to recapitulate compromise positions and formulas. A clearer, more explicitly catholic and orthodox stance is demanded by the times. GAFCON’s statement, therefore, is far inferior to the Affirmation and in the long run will not stand up to the winds of error blowing in our world. I would note also that the Affirmation is not a confession or a new statement of belief, but rather affirms the authority of the great central Tradition of Christendom.

Haverland thus speaks for the moral branch of modern Episcopalianism, which finds its identity in the rejection of the sacraments. On the other hand, the General Synod has denied both. The conclusion should not be surprising. Deep down, we've all known all along that it is impossible to be Catholic apart from the Church. All in all, the most incoherent part of Haverland's synopsis states: "If both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches reject something that some Anglicans believe, then that something probably is false, particularly if it concerns a matter of importance." Huh?

I am feeling particularly jealous for the time, souls, and ministry of my friends who are tied up in this nonsense. And, I am grateful for the upcoming celebration of the Anglican Use which may remind them of a strong and sure way in to the Catholic life that they have been seeking all along with such fortitude. This summer's Anglican Use conference offers more to my Episcopalian friends than a merely generous invitation for them to join us; this summer's conference is part of the Church's continuing affirmation to Episcopalians that the Catholic Church has great need of them.