There is a telling comment by Anglican theologian Ephraim Radner. He finally admits that those who wish to follow the historic Christian faith are not welcome in ECUSA. So that’s news?
Anyway, Fr.Al Kimmel has a good post in reply with a good stream of comments about the future for orthodox Anglicans.
I know many individual Anglicans, both clergy and laity, are looking at their options. There are really only four: A. Stay within the Anglican Church and try to be faithful B. create or join some other Anglican ecclesial structure C. Come over to the Catholic Chuch D. become Eastern Orthodox.
As someone who was an Anglican for fifteen years, I think I understand the objections Anglicans have to coming over the the Catholic Church. I would like to outline them, and then answer them. I hope this may spark discussion. Tell me if I left something out.
1.The Catholic Church is authoritarian and monolithic and demands ‘blind obedience.’
ECUSA is not authoritarian? The more I hear of the Schori regime or Bishop Lee’s behavior it seems that Catholics do not have the monopoly on authoritarianism. The present authority of the Catholic Church is benign in comparison. You either have the dictatorship of relativism or the historic authority of the Catholic Church. Some Catholics may follow blindly, but this is not what the Church expects. Instead the Church calls for voluntary, informed and inspired obedience to the proper authority God has established.
2. Catholics are liberal too.
Its true we have radicals in the Catholic Church, but the difference is that they do not have the ultimate control, and cannot because the Church is hierarchical and not democratic. Furthermore, if the radicals are in teaching positions, or in leadership positions, if they go too far they will be disciplined as much as is possible. Liberals you will have with you always, and they have their contribution to make (even if we passionately disagree with them) in the Catholic Church both extremes are included, but both extremes are restrained from predominance.
3. Catholic worship is awful
That’s true. We don’t have the same wonderful buildings, music and liturgy as the Anglicans. If you have eyes to see it, this is actually part of our strength. The Catholic Church is not a sect of educated, tasteful, middle class white people. We have peasants. We have folk religion. We have charismatics. We have radicals. We have conservatives. It’s a universal church remember? And yes, we all quarrel like a big family. But we stay together. Learning to like (or at least endure) a liturgy or a priest you don’t like might just be good for you–like learning to get on with a brother or sister you don’t like.
If you’re an Anglican priest, musician, artist or architect, think of the contribution you could make by becoming a Catholic. We need you to help in the reform of the reform, and the sooner you come across and help us the better. Staying on one side tut-tutting about how awful we are won’t help. Starting your own church isn’t going to help us. Are you going to stay in the Anglican Church just for stained glass windows and fine music, incense and the best parties? Come come, it won’t do. You’re better than that, and you know the church is bigger than that.
4. Catholics don’t evangelize
We do, but we evangelize in different ways than Evangelicals do. Evangelicals rightly proclaim the gospel, but are often weak on what they perceive as ‘social gospel’. Catholicism is more incarnational. We not only want to share the doctrines of the faith, and call people to an encounter with Christ, but we also want to show the compassion of Christ by building schools, hospitals, ministering to the dying etc. Catholic evangelization is holistic in this way.
But again, we need you. We admit that we could do evanglization better. If more Evangelicals took the step into the Catholic faith, think how much more effective our evangelization would be.
5. There are Catholic doctrines I don’t agree with.
First of all, have you studied what Catholics really believe, rather than relying on what you think we believe? If so, great, if not, get on with it. Decide if you disagree with what we really believe before you dismiss us.
Second, what is it that you don’t believe. If you honestly don’t believe it, fine. But perhaps what you perceive as ‘not believing’ is not doubt or lack of faith, but simply and inablility (or unwillingness) to submit your own beliefs to the faith of the Church. If you disagree with Catholic teaching could it be that you are wrong? If you can entertain that idea, could you take the step of re-considering Catholic teaching?
Third, perhaps you are imposing Evangelical or Protestant types of ‘believing’ onto Catholicism. Evangelicals demand real understanding and real ‘heart belief’ for total assent to be there. Catholics are not quite so demanding. We simply expect assent. If there is a sticking point and a person is ready to accept every other part of Catholic teaching–especially the Church’s authority, then it is okay to say, “Well, if the Church teaches it, I accept it.” We believe that a simple act of the will in this respect is sufficient, and that the true seeker, the truly spiritual person will grow into a deeper love and appreciation of the particular doctrine that they have had trouble with. Have you not experienced this in your marriage? You said, ‘I do’ unreservedly, and then over the years you learned the depth and power and beauty and difficulty of that act of the will.
6. I will have to give up my ministry.
Perhaps so. You may go through a time in the wilderness. You may have to give up your home, your position, our income and your friends. Did you think obedience was going to be easy? Where’s your faith? God will provide. Do you want to minister for all the right reasons? If so, God will give you a new ministry in the Catholic faith that is far richer and fuller than you can now imagine. Go for it!
7. I will lose my family and friends
That’s part of the deal isn’t it? ‘Unless a man hate his father and mother’ and all that…
The other half of that promise is that you will make new friends and familly at a depth that you do not now know is possible.
Furthermore, you don’t know what your example of obedience and faith will do for other people. In my experience one person’s honest conversion brings many of their friends and family into the church as well. Do what is right and the rest will follow.
8. In the end it doesn’t really matter does it?
If you don’t think it matters why did you ask that question? Of course it matters. It matters very much because God wants you to come further up and further in. Perhaps the crisis in the Anglican Church is just what you needed to open your eyes and enable you to take the next step.
9. Surely all that matters is how much we love Jesus?
Of course but how do you know that it is actually Jesus that you are loving? Where does one find Jesus and how do you know? Where does one find the fullness of the Body of Christ? Once you are a Catholic you will see that the other Christian groups may follow Jesus, but they may be following the pipe dreams of their particular prophet, or they may be following the invention of a group of political activists or they may be following a figment of the imagination of some theologian with way out ideas about the end times, or they may simply be following a tasteful religion or an emotional religion or an intellectual religioin that makes them feel fine, feel happy or feel smart. All of these are pale imitations of the real, resurrected Body of Christ, and the fullness of that Body–in all its reality is found in the Catholic Church.
10. I really think Anglicanism is the answer. It’s the best we can do for now.
A very interesting post. Thank you for writing it.
Thanks, Father, for your post. Although each of the reasons you listed deserved a full post of their own, you have made a concisely compact summary with all the issues listed.Perhaps the Holy Spirit is using this as a teaching moment, to teach the Church as a whole about the necessity of the monarchical episcopate and the hierarchical Church united under the Successor of Peter who has jurisdictional authority. Without effective jurisdiction and an amorphous concept of primatial authority, historic Catholic Christianiy, which persisted at least in form in the Anglican Church, is now evaporating like the morning mists when the Sun rises. It took almost 500 years, but it did happen.I sincerely hope that Anglicans and sincere seekers who read your post will reconsider their decision to remain in the Anglican Church and prayerfully think about returning home to Catholic Christianity.
There was a good post at Intentional Disciples recently about the Coming Home Network and supporting those making the jump (you were mentioned, Fr. D).http://blog.siena.org/2007/03/price-of-coming-home.html
Well stated. Thanks.
“Learning to like (or at least endure) a liturgy or a priest you don’t like might just be good for you–like learning to get on with a brother or sister you don’t like”I really, really have to take exception to this. “Enduring” bad liturgy is hardly a good example to throw out to people who should consider becoming Catholic.The Catholic Church has always proposed that institutional unity is what unites Catholics, now matter how bad things get. Sorry, that won’t work anymore. As they say, the second largest denomination in the U.S. is lapsed Catholics, at around 15 million people. The clinical, detached concept of mere “assent” to Catholic doctrine will never reach the hearts of people who are used to having a deeply relational union with Christ. We have to do better.
Catholics do evangelize. Go join your local Legion of Mary praesidium and go out knocking on doors for 2 hours every week. This is true evangelization. The Legion of Mary is the biggest lay organization in the world.One thing evangelicals don’t have is a true understanding of the interior life. There are no St John of the Cross’ or St Teresa of Avila’s in Anglicanism. Nor do you have any “Imitation of Christ” or “Introduction to the Devout Life”. No “Three Ages of the Interior Life” in Anglicanism.
I had to laugh at this:”Its true we have radicals in the Catholic Church, but the difference is that they do not have the ultimate control, and cannot because the Church is hierarchical and not democratic. Furthermore, if the radicals are in teaching positions, or in leadership positions, if they go too far they will be disciplined as much as is possible. Liberals you will have with you always, and they have their contribution to make (even if we passionately disagree with them) in the Catholic Church both extremes are included, but both extremes are restrained from predominance.”Bwahahaha! I’m surprised that as a Catholic you could write any of this with a straight press. It isn’t true that our Church isn’t dominated by liberals: it certainly is, especially in the USA. And it’s DEFINITELY not true that Liberals in leadership are disciplined as much as they can be. Ha! What planet are you living on?
*Correction*That should read: “I’m surprised that as a Catholic you could write any of this with a straight FACE.”Oh, and for documentation (as if it were needed):http://www.riteofsodomy.com
“There are Catholic doctrines I don’t agree with or believe in”Well, this of course is a problem with non-Catholics and Catholics alike. And in such cases, perhaps we should step back and not place so much primacy on what we believe, and focus instead on what is truth. Agreement and belief do not equal truth; agreement and belief do not cause truth. Either Catholicism is true or it is not true, regardless of our agreement or belief. And if one can be humble enough to realize that we are not the final arbiter of truth, if we can spit out the fruit of the tree, then it is easier to “accept” the teachings of the Catholic Church.Act as if you believe (take it on faith), assume for the sake of argument that it is true, then understanding will come, and then agreement and belief will become unavoidable. But put yourself before the truth, then you will never find it, the truth will always be behind you.
The Catholic Church has always proposed that institutional unity is what unites Catholics, now matter how bad things get. No, at least not in the sense that you seem to mean. The Church has always proposed that it is the Holy Spirit, who is Love and Truth, that unites Catholics no matter how bad things get. It is the Holy Spirit that allows us to be in communion, not only with people in the pew across the aisle, but people on the other side of the world, not to mention people who have gone before us and are now with the Father. Mere human beings and structures limited to the human element could never do that. It is not mere “institutional unity,” but an institution united and guided by the Holy Spirit that unites us.
I am well aware of the role of the Holy Spirit as the source of unity in the Catholic Church. Jesus also gave us another measure, “by their fruits you will know them.”The widespread dissent of many Catholics in the U.S., lay and clerical, is pretty good evidence that they are not listening to the Holy Spirit. Also please note the high rate of recidivism of many converts to the Church.
ericg, I distinguish between ‘liberals’ and ‘radicals’. Perhaps you read too quickly to pick this up. I would define Liberals as faithful Catholics who interpret the faith differently from conservatives. Liberals are part of the Catholic church. Fight with ’em if you want, dispute and argue, but they’re part of the deal. Radicals, however, are extremists (on either end of the spectrum) who openly dissent from church teaching.
With the anticipated motu propio, the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) should be considered an option for those thinking about becoming Catholic. The TLM may be the liturgical setting many seek.
Fr LongeneckerYou said “Tell me if I left something out.”It is not so much that you have “left something out,” as that you have not understood the full depth of (at least) one of the objections.”There are Catholic doctrines I don’t agree with.”That isn’t really the best way to put it. It isn’t that there are some isolated Catholic doctrines among many that non-Catholics don’t agree with; it’s that non-Catholics reject the core doctrine of Catholicism: the supremacy of the Pope. That is the doctrine that makes Catholicism what it is. Almost all other doctrines you might think of as distinctively Catholic can be found outside of the Roman Catholic Church: the Real Presence and baptismal regeneration are found in Eastern Orthodoxy and Lutheranism; the threefold apostolic ministry is found in Eastern Orthodoxy and Anglicanism; the veneration of saints and icons can be found in Eastern Orthodoxy and among the non-Chalcedonians. Only Papal supremacy is truly a Catholic distinctive.And of course, Papal supremacy is the basis on which all other purportedly distinctive Catholic doctrines are to be held as true. Once you have convinced a non-Catholic of Papal supremacy, assent to any other doctrines with which they might have difficulty will eventually follow. But if you convince a non-Catholic of every other Catholic doctrine (Real Presence, the Immaculate Conception, the treasury of merits, the veneration of saints, or whatever), but fail to convince him or her of Papal supremacy, you have achieved nothing. For if he reconsiders or begins to doubt his reasons for believing in the individual doctrines, his faith in them will falter.And I have to say that your reply to this objection, even in the shallow manner that you have expressed the objection, falls short. You write as if the non-Catholic can object to Catholic teaching only if he or she has not thought it through. I do not think that this gives non-Catholics the credit they deserve for examining the evidence, whether from Scripture and Tradition or from history, for and against the notion of Papal supremacy. It seems to me that the evidence both for and against is such that a decision to assent to Papal supremacy is, at the end of the day, a matter of faith rather than of reason alone.
Chris, thank you for going directly to the point. A blog post in necessarily concise and insufficient for such weighty topics. My assumption in my few words was that the enquirer had, indeed, got to the point where he agreed with at least the premise of papal authority, but was getting stuck on, say, the Immaculate Conception. Given that he accepted papal authority–as you point out–the IC should not be a problem.I fully respect that non-Catholics may have researched our beliefs about the papacy fully, and come up not believing. I hope they have read some of the real cracker books that defend the papacy like Steve Rea’s ‘On This Rock’, however, even after a tour de force like that, they may still not be convinced.That being said, when faced with the claims of the papacy, the serious enquirer must ask himself the question–“What are the options?”The choice seems stark to me: the Bible needs an infallible interpretive authority. Without it we are in total relativism with every man with his Bible and his opinion. If this is so, then every man’s opinion may be just as valid as the next man’s. Therefore we have only to choose which pope we prefer. Once we are there, we had better started collecting resumes, and from my hunting it seems that B16 has the best one.
Father,The choice seems stark to me: the Bible needs an infallible interpretive authority.I should put the matter differently: all Christians are responsible for handing on the tradition that we have received from the Apostles, neither adding anything nor taking anything away; and all Christians are responsible for holding one another to account for our fidelity to that tradition. While it is true that, within that universal responsibility, the bishops have the particular responsibility and charism to teach the faith, that fundamental and universal responsibility to guard the deposit cannot ultimately be delegated to a particular hierarch. When a particular shepherd (even he who presides at Rome) has added to the deposit of faith, it is our right and duty to call him to account.But then, that is why I am not a Roman Catholic. I do agree, however, that Benedict XVI has an impressive resume.
Father:I say you’re still naive as hell if you believe that “radicals” do not have control of the Church, are not highly placed in the Holy See, and that the Church makes any effort at all to discipline “radicals” when they show up. You forget that the vast majority of pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia, pro-homosexual marriage, pro-human cloning, and pro-embryonic stem cell research Catholic politicians are in full communion with the Church and enjoy all the benefits of Church membership.And the same goes for the vast majority of Catholic dissidents, from Richard McBrien and Dam Maguire to Luke Timothy Johnson and Cardinal Mahoney.Please, don’t insult our intelligences.
Chris, the Catechism teaches that the infallible authority is Christ, and that he grants a measure of his infallibility to his church, and that this infallibility is handled by the pope and bishops and articulated specifically by the pope. The teaching therefore includes your caveats and is more subtle than just ‘the pope says so…’In theory your ‘each Christian is responsible’ is, I suppose, a beautiful idea, but without the infallible authority it only leads to relativism. My recent post quoting Newman sheds light on this issue.ericg: your anger and aggression soil your argument.
To return to what prompted this thread, the current leadership problems among Anglicans seems to me an argument for the need for papal authority.
Lacking an interpretive authority for your post, I can then have it mean anything I want.Ahh, the hermeneutic of despair. . ..Is this really a good thing for Catholic apologetics and evangelism?
Anon, happily, the posts on my blog are not the same as Sacred Scripture, so you are free to make them mean whatever you want, and then drift into despair!
Thomas, There is no such problem with the Orthodox and they do not submit to papal authority. Your argument is entirely faulty. Sorry to be harsh. But that is the best that can be said of it. It does not reflect reality.In reality, the problem is Western culture and there is a spirited effort on all fronts in all denominations to chase certain excesses from their bodies. The Episcopal Church has become the warning by the grace of God for everyone else, most especially for the worldwide Anglican communion. This sort of a purge does not come without a high cost. But nothing really worth while is ever without cost. If one ignores the global reality of the Anglican communion, then it seems that Anglicanism has fallen to worldly corruption. But the fact, get it, fact, is that the majority of the bishops in our worlwide body are holding the line….without the assistence of the Pope.This thing is so far from being played out that the smug I told you so’s are ridiculously premature.
Father Longenecker, I have to admit that the more contact I have with the Roman church, the more grateful I am that I am an Anglican. Especially when I see efforts by so-called “converts” like yourself (as if you werent really a Christian before)I can see why you left Anglicanism since I dont think I have ever seen anyone so blind to what it actually is. You were a priest in our communion? I honestly have trouble believing that. I have seen you claim that Anglicanism is confined to England and that once you became a Roman Catholic, you suddenly became part of a worldwide communion. Now you argue that we Anglicans need to rid ourselves of our attachments to empty things like better music and great parties. I frankly couldnt be more insulted. But its not something I havent heard from Catholics before, to the extent that those who don’t harbor this attitude seem to be a rarity. As you stare down your nose on us from the heights of the right Church, I receive true spiritual food indeed every time I walk into my beloved little parish. My personal healing is but one testimony of many, not the least of which are the many gay people who have been received into our church and have experienced true help and reformation of life in our communion. We have also nurtured some of the greatest Christian writers known today. Wilberforce took substance from our branch of the church and outlawed slavery. We have been blessed with many martyrs for the Gospel.None of this would be possible in a empty church more devoted to good cocktail parties and hanging out with the right set than to Christ. None of it would be possible without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I believe that God loves our communion of the Church and that he has blessed us with trouble, so that with his help, we might arrive at a definitive answer to many of the issues that dog modern Western life. We are fighting because we are getting this stuff out in the open. The final resolution is getting closer by the day. This I believe will be the ultimate answer to the arrogance of the Roman church. A little humility among her people will do her good. My prayers look forward to that day. Real unity will be closer at that time.
“Wilberforce took substance from our branch of the church and outlawed slavery.”Um Peggy, wherever Christianity thrived, slavery was on the slippery slope from the time of Pentecost. From that time individual Slave Owners began repudiating slave ownership as incompatible with the Gospel message. It was the teaching of John Calvin that enabled slavery to make a comeback in the New World. The Elect and the Damned and a vengeful God and all those ideas that flowed from Calvinism crossed back and infected Catholicism where they lurked under the name Jansenism – and it was declared heretical.
Peggy, thank you for a correction from a Christian sister. If what I have written comes across as arrogant, then I apologize.Of course there are many good Christian brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church and many good clergy who have not ‘bowed the knee to Baal.’ It is in realizing this that those of us who were Anglicans mourn for a church we love and respect.Several of us on this thread are converts from Anglicanism. (We use the word converts as short hand. By this we mean ‘baptized Christians who have been received into full communion with the Catholci Church) If there is anger or bitterness in our tone, it is because we have seen the havoc reaked not only a church we loved and served, but also for the souls that have been damaged by the unfaithfulness of the leadership.Individuals and individual parishes and individual parish priests–many are faithful. Our criticism is for the leadership, and our prayers and support are for the faithful within the Anglican Church who are in such anquish.Why do you blame us if we attempt to share the relief, joy and fulfillment we have found in becoming Catholics? If you saw a wounded and hurting brother and believed you had the poultice that would heal and restore him to joy, wouldn’t you wish to share it with him?This is all we are attempting to do, and if we make mistakes in our zeal and offend in our enthusiasm, we offer our humble apologies.
EricG, if you think the liberals/radicals are running the Catholic Church, have you seen much of the Episcopal Church recently?Sure, the Catholic Church has plenty of wackos. Some are in high places. But the tools for reform (papacy, Magisterium, basic commitment to Scripture and Tradition) are still in place, and the Church has survived worse. (The fourth century comes to mind.)In the Episcopal Church, by contrast, the whole institutional apparatus is dominated by a sort of neo-Unitarianism (but with better liturgy). The tools for reform have been thrown overboard.That—unless I mistake him—is what Fr. Dwight was driving at. Not that Catholicism has an unspotted track record WRT church discipline, but rather that if you think Catholicism is bad, hey, pal, you ain’t seen nothing yet!Peace,–Peter
Fr Longenecker, :Of course there are many good Christian brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church and many good clergy who have not ‘bowed the knee to Baal.’:Individuals and individual parishes and individual parish priests–many are faithful. Our criticism is for the leadership, and our prayers and support are for the faithful within the Anglican Church who are in such anquish.In reply, I would refer you to my post addressed to Thomas. You do not seem to understand my point. It isnt isolated individuals that are still faithful. It is also the majority of Anglican bishops worldwide who are also being faithful. The body is for the most part strong. We faithful lay Anglicans are neither isolated nor my any means a dying minority. We happen to be surrounded here in the American province and in some other places. But the cavalry are coming and there are way more of them then there are of our beseigers.Its all a matter of perspective. Loss of perspective leads to loss of hope, leads to giving up on the Anglican communion leads to latching on to the nearest attractive alternative, leads to intellectual justification of same. I happen to have kept my perspective. (I’m not bragging here. Its so entirely by lucky chance.) I see the Eastern Orthodox functioning just fine without a Roman ecclesiology. I can see that the Anglican model worked remarkably well until a part of this body, very recently, turned some of what is good about this body into an idol and forsook everything that had once given us balance and health. Once balance is once again restored, by the majority in this communion, a wiser and stronger body will result from all of this. Finally to address some of your other points. You apologize for coming across as arrogant. But this is not the worst of what I am seeing here. You reduce the difference between my branch of the church and yours to nothing except superficialities. In spite of your protestations of respect, I find this an incredibly disrepectful not to mention, misinformed attitude to have especially when I have taken some trouble in an earlier post to demonstrate the substance that is found in this communion where it is found to be healthy. The Spirit is found alive and well, working through this part of the body even now. This can be proven by all those being restored by being a part of it. An empty failed body could not do so. Lastly, I find a large problem with your arguments for the Roman church. In effect you argue the following. 1. The problems of the Anglican communion prove that it is a failure. Anglicans should despair of its flaws and be willing to abandon, as so much dross, what is good and special about it. 2. The problems of the Roman Church are insignificant. Anglicans should ignore these problems and instead focus on what is good about the Roman Church. It seems to me that the result of individual Anglicans leaving for Rome is the dissipation of what makes Anglicanism good. Drop by drop, the warmth, the fellowship, the sobriety, the moderation and much much more is just washed away in the tide. It has no effect on what is not so good about Rome. If I am ever reunited with Rome, I will go with my communion as a body and for that to happen Rome will truly welcome what we have to contribute in a true spirit of reformation and charity. The giving will have to be mutual. Nothing less than mutual self giving can effect reunion. Standing imperiously on a high horse, expecting the whole world to eventually give up and bend a knee will NEVER acheive anything but continuing division. Of everything that proves to me that the Roman church is no more the true Church than any other claimant, the latter attitude is by far the worst in my opinion. A church expecting everyone else to just surrender to it has no real Christian humility because it is unwilling to pay a real cost for re-union. To the extent that any church is like this, it is also just as fundamentally flawed. What I admire about the Anglican communion is that in its true form it possesses a greater humility and charity than any other Christian body that I know of without giving up anything which is either true or necessary. My communion will prove its strength and firmness as well as its give and charity in due time once this crisis is resolved. I have no doubt about it. Its substantial goodness will overcome its weaknesses.
Peggy, if you and your priest and congregation wish to come into communion with the Catholic Church and feel valued for what you have to offer, please consider the pastoral provision and the Anglican Use option.In these ways Rome has said 1. We honor and value the Anglican tradition 2. You may keep your form of worship and prayer with small modifications to make it conform to Catholic doctrine 3. Your married priests may be ordained to serve your congregation.I believe these generous options cover all your requests. If you would like to learn more about this be in touch with the St Thomas More Society. This is an episcopal congregation in Pennsylvania who have done just that.If you do not make contact, or seek to learn more about this option which the Catholic Church offers to you in full generosity of spirit, then we must conclude that you are just full of indignation and anger towards the Catholic Church.Finally, you are right that we should not focus on superficial issues like matters of taste or good parties. If you pay attenetion to the full corpus of my writings you will see that I have spent most of my time on the core issue of authority in the Church: the quesion of ‘where do you get your answers’? I suggest you focus on this issue as well in your quest for truth.You may be interested to read my book ‘The Path to Rome’ in which many Anglican priests discuss why they took the step to the Catholic Church. It is anything by superficial.
Peggy, Rather than reply to your post to me, I’d like to reply to your last post which, in my opinion, Dwight didn’t really address.I will grant you that, worldwide, the Anglican Communion is as healthier than it has been for years. If one does not see the current US problems as symtomatic of a broader problem with the whole Anglican ecclesiology, then my viewpoint doesn’t make much sense.Your viewpoint is, I think, much the same as my wife’s, who has become a part of a local AMiA church plant whereas I am, on this Easter Vigil, entering into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. So I very much feel the issues, on a personal basis, as MaryAlice and I groan as we try to understand one another’s viewpoints, which is not easy.Grace be with you, thomas
Is the Anglican Church ‘healthy’ elsewhere in the world? Without a doubt, but I did not address this issue, because the health (or not) of an ecclesial body is not the essential question.The essential question is, where is the fullness of the Christian faith? Where is the Body of Christ in all it’s fullness?
Leaving aside the question of whether the health of an ecclesial body is essential, or how healthy any particular ecclesial body may be, how might one roughly quantify the health of an organization? Somewhat more generally, what is meant by an organization’s vitality? To the extent that any organization can be thought of as a living organism, how does one conceptualize that vitality? One of the difficulties of discussing ecclesiology is “Everyone has their own and there is nothing to discuss” (David Bentley Hart said something along those lines to me once when I said I was looking forward to reading what he had to say about ecclesiology). The above question is an attempt to make an end run around that problem.One useful attribute of living organisms, that seems to scale well as complexity increases, is their being composed not of parts, which can be disassembled and rebuilt, but of interdependant organs (recursively). While it would, of course, take much more than a short blog posting to defend the view, I think that using the interdependant organ “measure” of vitality, the Catholic Church has more vitality than any other ecclesiastical body and that, getting back to the topic at hand, this same measure shows (along with current US Episcopal/Anglican Communion issues) a crucial problem with Anglican ecclesiology.
Fr. Longnecker – I’m not sure I understand you’re point 3. On the one hand, you imply Anglicans need to put aside their snobbishness with regard to liturgy. On the other, you ask them to help with the “reform of the reform.” Which is it – enjoy the proletarian glory of Roman Catholic liturgy, or help correct it? And, if the latter, aren’t you conceding the point?I might also ask how Orthodoxy, Church of the Slav masses, has maintained the beauty of its liturgy. Is it in spite of its members?
QA: Good questions.I don’t expect people to put aside their desire for fine worship, nor do I suggest that we should abandon the campaign to improve Catholic worship. I’m simply making the point that the lamentable state of much Catholic liturgy is not reason enough (on its own) to either stay out of the Catholic Church or leave it.I would also make the point that while Catholic liturgy often is execrable, it is more often simple, unadorned and straightforward. Most Catholic Masses are not actually full of abuses. They may not be a solemn high liturgy with all the bells and smells, but neither are they clown masses.How does the EO maintain the beauty of their liturgy? I guess by never changing. I would ask though, how well such an unchanging liturgy travels? Is it as adaptable as it needs to be in a truly universal church? I doubt it.
In all this debate I’m reminded of what novelist Walker Percy admitted to another novelist convert, that “The Catholic Church is a very messy outfit”. As a Catholic I completely agree and can add that only the Catholic knows what it’s like to be Catholic. After Percy’s conversion he was sometimes queried by journos as to why he was a Catholic. He said that to those sorts of smart mouthed questions he invariably replied in kind by saying, “what else is there?”In all sincerity I feel I can say (above) what must come across as both glib and flippant. Well I must tell you nearly all of my numerous In Laws were raised Anglican and so perforce I have attended many Anglican liturgies e.g. funerals, baptisms, weddings etc etc over the last 35 years. On only a couple of occasions have I felt that what I witnessed could have been Catholic in character.Going back 35 years ago (not long after my marriage) my wife and I took a retired couple (previously humanities high school teachers) out for a drive one afternoon. They were both Catholic converts. In his early fifties, realising he needed salvation Ben took himself off to the local Vicar and asked what he must do to save his soul. The vicar sat puffing on his pipe and said that he could do a number of things such as start coming to Church. Ben felt letdown so next approached a Catholic Priest with the same question and the response was “you must start praying, you must start attending mass & the Eucharist, you must confess your sins, you must help those in need, you must etc etc etc. Ben said the Priest told him exactly what he needed to hear – the essential things and that only Catholicism provided them.Please understand I have no desire to belittle Anglican worship which I have for a number of years thought that at the very least it kept we Catholics honest. Sadly that hope seems to be withering away.Pax
Father,The Byzantine liturgy, and the Orthodox faith which it conveys, “travels” just fine, thank you. The liturgy is offered every Sunday in Greek, Arabic, Slavonic, Romanian, Finnish, English, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Hebrew, Indonesian, Aleut, French, and more. I am not convinced that a liturgy or a Church need to be “adaptable” in order to be “truly universal”. The first requirement is not adaptability, but fidelity to the faith once delivered to the saints. “Catholic”, after all, does not mean “universal”, but “according to the whole”, which means having the fulness of the faith. When things are added or changed for the sake of adaptability, that fidelity and that fulness are at risk.I’m not trying to convert you to Orthodoxy. There is a serious case to be made for Catholicism over Orthodoxy (not a case I find persuasive, but a case that must be taken seriously); but the whole Newman school of “development” is a very weak reed. It is far from being Catholicism’s best argument. The fact is that Newman himself never engaged the fact of, and the significance of, the Orthodox Church; and to make the Newman scheme work requires making a caricature of Orthodoxy to avoid dealing with the reality of it.Your picture of Orthodoxy as a “sectarian” group which is “not adaptable” and “doesn’t travel well” is just such a caricature. The Orthodoxy which you describe certainly would not be worthy of being regarded as a communion of “true particular Churches” as your own Church authoritatively regards them.
Thank you for your comment Chris. It is clear that you know more about E.Orthodoxy than I do. Thanks for your contribution!I meant that E.Orthodoxy was sectarian according to Newman’s criteria. That it is broken into many different cultural expressions and independent jurisdictions according to national loyalties and that thism makes it ‘sectarian’. That it holds to the wholeness of the ancient apostolic faith is without question.However, this takes us back to Newman’s observation. According to this observation a church may retain unity of doctrine (which the Orthodox have) but without an agreed infallible authority they must lose unity of form (which the Orthodox have).Please do not misunderstand me. I am simply observing what must be clear according to the facts, and according to Newman’s observation. I am not making a value judgment on the E Orthodox.Neither am I saying that Newman’s observation is watertight. One may say that losing unity of form doesn’t matter, but what I don’t think we can say is that the E.Orthodox have maintained unity of form.However, I may be wrong. If the Eastern Orthodox have maintained unity of form, where is their agreed focus of unity? Who has the authority to call a council among the Eastern Orthodox? Who speaks for all the Eastern Orthodox with a unified voice? This is what would be required for unity of form to exist.
If the Eastern Orthodox have maintained unity of form, where is their agreed focus of unity? Who has the authority to call a council among the Eastern Orthodox? Who speaks for all the Eastern Orthodox with a unified voice? This is what would be required for unity of form to exist.“Unity of form” in the manner in which you are speaking of it is, indeed, quite unclear in the Orthodox Church. But I do not believe that it is the fundamental of sound ecclesiology that you (and Newman) are making of it. It is true that now, the Papacy provides that “unity of form” in the Roman Catholic Church. It is the Pope who is the “agreed focus of unity”; who has the authority to convoke an ecumenical council; and who “speaks for all” with one voice.But it was not always so, and it is anachronistic to read that “unity of form” back into earlier ages of the Church. If, for example, the Pope had the authority in the fourth through the eighth centuries to convoke ecumenical councils, he certainly did not exercise it. The councils of that era were convoked by the Emperor, not the Pope. And, St Augustine’s causa finita est notwithstanding, the pronouncements of the Pope were not always regarded as the final word. The polity of the Church in the patristic period was not nearly so tidy, nor as Papally-centered, as the Roman Catholic Church is today. It was, in fact, much more like the untidy, and lacking in “unity of form,” polity of the Eastern Orthodox Church today.Yet the patristic Church was just as authentically Catholic and Apostolic, even though it lacked that “unity of form” which you seem to regard as a sine qua non. What the Church of St Athanasius and St John Chrysostom’s time could not boast, we ought not to require of a Church today.
Chris, thank you for your reply. You have articulated a basic difference between the ecclesiology of East and West. Better church historians than I would be able to argue point by point on the implicit primacy of the Bishop of Rome in the apostolic age, and how Rome was continually appealed to as the arbiter in disputes. I realize the Eastern Orthodox read the history differently.Rome was ‘first among equals’. It seems the Catholics wish to emphasize the ‘first’ and orthodox the ‘equals.’The main difference is an acceptance (or not) of valid development in the Church. If the same unity of form the Catholic Church enjoys today was not (in its exact form) present in the apostolic age we have no proble. We expect the Church to develop and change. The problem is for any ecclesial body not to have the capability to change. So different churches will hearken back to a certain time in church history that they take as their model. The question then arises, why should any particular age be the correct one on which to model the church?
Fr Longenecker, I wish I had time to reply to you point by point but I do not.However, I have to say a few things before I leave this discussion. (I hope that you will not insist on having the last word after I am no longer participating.)1. First you talk as if good litugy is not all that important, then you expect me to be impressed by the charity and generosity of the Roman church for allowing Anglican use, married clergy etc. As far as I am concerned this is nothing more than a carrot offered in exchange for capitulation on all substantial issues. For the true Anglican, liturgy and theology are of a whole. It is the farthest thing from a pretty show. Rather it arises from the spirit and mind of Anglicanism. In the litugy, we do our theology. To replace that identity with a new heart and mind is exactly to reduce Anglican liturgy to something akin to cake icing. A frill, an extra, as good as any other. Anglican liturgy is so very good because we do consider it so important, so integral a part of the full Christian life. It should be beautiful because it is such an essential expression of our unity as Christians. Is worship of God in community not very important? I cant imagine how it could not be. You talk as if we make too much of something that doesnt really matter. But it is actually as important as anything else that we do as Christians. I can see why you became a Roman. Its like I said. You were never much of an Anglican to begin with. It is after all possible to have learning without understanding. Just as it is possible to be able to prove just about any theory if one is selective in your facts. Degree and length of study are no immunity against being wrong or missing the point. I am convinced by your reply that you do not understand what I mean by Anglican generosity and charity if you think that some external cosmetic reforms fit the bill. Unfortunately, I dont think that I could explain it to you without having to start from square one. 2. You claim that if I am not impressed by Anglican use parishes, then I must have personal issues with the Roman church. This is an argument? I am once again offended. I cant help it. What do you know about me? Just briefly, I will tell you the one thing that you need to know. I am an Anglican convert of four years. Before I became an Anglican, I knew that what I call radical Protestantism could no longer be for me. I knew too much to be content with it any longer. So I investigated Anglicanism, Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism with an open and eager mind and in spite of the troubles of the American EC, I saw a difference in Anglicanism that I did not see in the other two communions. It is something that gives me great hope for the whole church and is just too precious to abandon until such time as it is properly incorporated as a substanytial reform in a reunited Church. But not only did I see substantial value ie truth, humility, and generosity, warmth, virtue, sobriety and moderation in this tradition, but I was unconvinced by any of the arguments for the other two. It seemed more than obvious to me that converts to these traditions started out on the wrong foot in their reasoning ,in many ways, making their final conclusions unsound. I have heard it all and none of it impresses me. From a wide and objective historical perspective there is no body that can claim to be the true or fullest version of the church nor can any of the big three be said to be inferior to any of the others. Therefore one further thing about Anglicanism struck me as impressive. It is its willingness to admit the above and to find a place in its body for at least some of the substantial contributions of all the other bodies. In practice in my own parish, you will see this expressed in the prayers that we say for all three heads of the different bodies and in the icons on the walls, the stations of the cross, our Shrine to our Lady of Walsingham, Eucharistic Adoration at Lent, Corporate Rosary and a book store (temporarily closed) that at one time sold books by authors from all the great Christian traditions. Unity and order are derived from finding the sweet middle between all of these and in primary faithfulness to our own heritage. It works and it works well. It is beautiful in that through it we are constantly formed as Christians and brought into close contact with God through a variety of wholesome means. You would never find this anywhere else. It seems to me one of the keys to reunion of all the bodies that the others lack and I will be danged if I ever turn my back on a tradition broad enough to manage it. Our parish may not be common but it is nonetheless thoroughly Anglican in spirit. Whatsmore, we belong to a body that doesnt just talk about reunion, it has most closely approached it through actually living it out. In spite of our disagreements, nonetheless different (orthodox) points of view live together peacefully and with respect as one body and one family. This is part of what I mean when i use the term health. It is not measured in growth or dominance. It is health in the sense of living up to a life giving standard and being able to convey health on its members. To me true health ultimately indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit. There is no real health apart from God. I simply cannot see how God would lend his presence to any lesser body if there was body in this world that reprensented the fullness of the Christian faith. But he very much is fully present in many, if not all, Christian bodies besides the Roman church. His full presence is proved in the redeemed lives of those who belong to those bodies. In each, the fullness of the Christian life in communion with God is to be found. This is especially true of the big Three.
Finally, I want to reply to the story about the difference between the EC priest and the Roman priest. One bad priest does not make a rule. This would have NEVER happened in my parish where we not only have the fullness of worship but also the fullness of catholic and orthodox teaching. We are a praying, confessing church. Our foundation is the fundamentals and from those fundamentals arises the substance of our liturgy.I find it beyond ironic and misinformed that anyone would accuse the Anglican communion of neglecting Scripture and catholic fundamentals in favor of some empty devotion to a pretty worship experience. Devotion to the fundamental is our entire life and our liturgy is filled with beauty because of that, because its impossible to neglect worship in a church that truly values the fundamentals. Sure, there are those who do go through the motions. There are bad churches all over. But our whole reason for being as a body is to maintain a balance in all the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Like I said above, it is a whole cloth for us. If we dont have those fundamentals, then liturgy does become mere empty beauty. We love both too much to allow that to happen. We cannot possibly do without one or the other. In defense of that EC priest though, I suggest that he may have been misunderstood. For Anglicans, the fullness of the Christian faith in all its fundamentals and particulars is found in the liturgy. It is how we live these things most fully. We pray, we confess, we have all the things that the Roman priest spoke of in the story in its best highest. form. While most Anglican priests would say the same thing the Roman priest said, they would insist that going to church was the best way to go about doing all of them. I frankly dont see any difference here if the true pictures of each church are compared honestly and fairly. Now i am outta here. God bless.
Well! As they would say on Broadway–“What a dame!” :-)Thanks for your spirited contribution Peggy, and God bless you on your journey!
Chris Jones: “First among equals” is a Byzantine term, not a Biblical or patristic one. The concept (much less the term) never appears in the Bible, where office always entails real authority. The milieu of Jesus and the Apostles was thoroughoy Jewish, not (anachronistically) Byzantine. The idea of a mere primacy of honor (sans real authority) would never have crossed the minds of Our Lord and His disciples. I’ve read recently that Biblical scholars versed in Hebraic thought confirm this: The “first among equals” /”primacy of honor” paradigm is essentially non-Jewish and would have been incomprehensible to Jesus’ contemporaries. It is also anachronistic: It arose centuries later–from the Byzantine imperial court, not from the NT milieu of Jesus and His followers.There is so much more that could be said about this–about the relevance of Isaiah 22 to Matthew 16 and so on–but a combox cannot do justice to the full force of the arguments. Nor am I even remotely equal to the task, opinionated ignoramus that I am. :)God bless,DianeP.S. Fathyer Longenecker, I saw you on The Journey Home some years ago. You rock!