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The Connecticut Gestapo Strikes [ref: Crystal Ball]
Pontifications ^ | 7/16/2005 | Al Kimel

Posted on 07/16/2005 7:23:17 AM PDT by sionnsar

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[The following was posted on his blog during the time betwee Arlin's passing and the Traditional Anglican ping list being taken up again. Here it is. --sionnsar]

Crystal Ball

If anything, the present theological crisis is forcing clarity upon us. For that, I suppose, we should be grateful. The Anglican muddle is no longer a viable Anglican option. We may wax nostaligic about the good ole days when the Episcopal Church was “a refuge of moderation, openness, inclusiveness, thoughtfulness and faithfulness”; but the good ole days are long gone and not to be recovered. I suspect they never existed anyway.

I believe that we only have three real futures now before us.

Our first possible future: We can join the revisionist party (in both senses of the word). This means embracing a liberal Protestant hermeneutic that places the “religious” experience of the individual–let’s call it “continuing revelation”—at the heart of our theological reflection. All other authorities, whether Scripture or tradition, are ultimately subordinated to what the Spirit of God is telling us today. If we are affirming-catholic minded, we might also stipulate a place for communal judgment and discernment, though as Griswold and company have made clear, submission to communal discernment is a local affair indeed.

The boundaries of revisionist Anglicanism are fluid, flexible, supple, porous—except when it comes to political and social issues. Revisionists may have profound intellectual doubts about a transcendent deity, the unique Incarnation of the eternal Son of God, the resurrection of Jesus, and a trustworthy written witness to divine revelation; but they have no doubts whatsoever about abortion rights, homosexual marriages, identifying deity in female terms, the evils of American military power, and the moral necessity of never permitting a congregation to leave the institutional church with its assets. Beneath the veneer of inclusivity and tolerance, there lies the cobra that will defend its political territory at all costs and will expend all its energy and wealth to extend that territory. Revisionist Anglicanism is neo-gnostic, ideological, illiberal, ruthless, and antagonistic to all forms of dogmatic Christianity. Neuhaus’s Law is amply confirmed in the common life of every revisionist diocese: “Where orthodoxy is optional, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.”

The large majority of ECUSA bishops have decided to hang their pointy hats on the revisionist future. This includes all those who voted against the election of Gene Robinson but who have decided to make peace with the majority position (our so-called “moderates”). Precisely because neo-gnosticism is the default religiosity of contemporary American culture—and of the Episcopal Church—the refusal to take a firm stand against heresy must inevitably mean the adoption of heresy. We get gently swept along, and eventually we find ourselves in a warm, quiet, tranquilizing pond we do not recognize but which is oh so very pleasant. How much nicer it is not having to be constantly swimming against the current. Slowly we become aware of our previous closed-mindedness. Our prior insensitivity horrifies us. How could we have been so intolerant? Before we know it, the process is complete. We have become Episcopal pod people.

Our second possible future: We can fully embrace an evangelical, free-church identity which just happens to include bishops. Anglican evangelicals explicitly uphold the claims of historic divine revelation. They share a common commitment to the central assertions of the Nicene Creed, but are fluid on most everything else. Certainly evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics are light years apart on sacramental efficacy; and when it comes to questions of church order, evangelicals are willing to radically adapt ecclesial structures to historical and geographical conditions–as evidenced, for example, by the eagerness to adopt nongeographical episcopal oversight and to move toward lay eucharistic presidency. On moral issues, evangelicals are, like most American Protestants, all over the place—except when it comes to sexuality. They believe that the Scriptures are clear and definitive on sexual morality.

But one has to wonder about evangelicalism’s ability to withstand the corrosive acids of modernity. Last week a friend of mine shared that he believed that evangelicalism and revisionism are flip-sides of the same coin. An unsettling thought. At first glance it seems ridiculous. Evangelicals affirm the infallible authority of Holy Scripture; revisionists subordinate Scripture to the continuing revelation of God in human experience. They are in two different ball parks altogether—yet … they are united in the act of “private judgment.” Scripture has to be interpreted. Its plain meaning, for us today, is not always perspicuous. Ultimately only the Spirit can lead us into a correct understanding of the biblical witness. Only the Spirit can show us which parts of the Scripture speak directly and authoritatively to us today and which parts are culturally conditioned and limited. The Spirit did after all lead us into a new understanding of the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate. Perhaps, just perhaps, he may eventually lead us into a new and deeper understanding of human sexuality. Let’s give our favorite gnostic Affirming Catholic his due. +Grizzie really and truly believes that homosexual unions are authorized by a “right” reading of the Bible. Apart from an authoritative tradition and magisterium (of some sort), how can any form of evangelicalism rationally maintain the orthodox faith against the revisionist-biblical attack. As I asked back in early April, Who will defend Scripture?

Evangelicals are at peace with American denominationalism. Their attachment to Anglicanism is basically a matter of preference and style. It’s the rare evangelical who would agree with the Anglo-Catholic that the historic episcopate belongs to the esse of the Church. Perhaps they find themselves attracted to the liturgy, adapted, of course, for praise music. Perhaps they find themselves attracted to Anglicanism’s connection to historic tradition, purified, of course, of all medieval and Roman corruptions. Perhaps their minds and hearts have been captured by the three-streams vision of Anglicanism, a vision first articulated, I believe, by Michael Harper way back in the seventies—Anglicanism as a creative synthesis of the catholic, evangelical, and charismatic streams of Christian faith and life. It’s an enchanting dream. It promises a way to transcend past denominational differences. Here is a future worth the investment of our lives. But it shares the same critical weakness of Langmead Casserley’s earlier proposal of a future Anglicanism as a “union and fusion of the out and out Evangelicals and the out and out Anglo-Catholics.” Both visions flow from, and are deformed by, the 16th century Reformation experience. Neither are grounded in historical ecclesial realities; neither are rooted in a living tradition of faith. Both are attempts to invent a “church” that has never existed and thus to provide intellectual justification for Anglicanism’s continued existence. Both are unreal, fantastical, utopian. I am reminded of John Henry Newman’s admission in 1837 that his presentation of an Anglican via media

was purely imaginative: “Protestantism and Popery are real religions; no one can doubt about them; they have furnished the mould in which nations have been cast: but the Via Media, viewed as an integral system, has never had existence except on paper.”

The decision of the evangelical to remain within the Episcopal Church is finally a pragmatic decision. Perhaps he might decide to follow Ephraim Radner’s counsel to stay within the present structures in witness to the crucifying love of our Lord—evangelicalism’s inherent congregationalism certainly permits such a course—but I suspect that he will not heed this counsel, at least not for long. Evangelical tolerance of heretical bishops and priests has its limits (thank God!). Most importantly, evangelicalism thrives on mission and the creation of new congregations. It has long been noted that Protestantism breeds division and sectarianism. What perhaps has been overlooked in all of this is the evangelical thrill of starting new congregations. There’s nothing quite like experiencing the new life of a new church. When a church is spiritually alive, when the large majority of church members are excited about their faith and are committed to discipleship and mission, when Bible studies are packed, when the congregation sings the hymns with gusto and enthusiasm … well … all I can say, speaking as a pastor, is that church actually becomes a blessing instead of a burden. And practically speaking, “liveliness” and commitment is easier to generate in a new congregation than in one that’s been around for decades. As one evangelical bishop recently told me, “It’s easier to give birth than to raise the dead.” The problem, though, is that first-generation churches eventually become humdrum, culturally-accomodated third-generation churches—and we end up right back where we are now. Ultimately, evangelicalism lives by the revolution that initially created it and which it must ever seek to replicate.

We can expect evangelical Anglicanism to forge even deeper bonds with non-Episcopal evangelical denominations and ministries in the years ahead. We already invite all the baptized to the Episcopal altar. The next logical step is to publicly acknowledge the absence of decisive evangelical reasons why Episcopalians should not be free, if invited, to share in the Lord’s Supper of any Protestant (orthodox) congregation. After all, the Holy Spirit is not bound to ecclesiastical, man-made boundaries and rules …

What of the future of typical Episcopal churchmanship in the decades ahead? As Bill Witt recently commented:

I am being patient, and waiting with baited breath for your third installment, but so far I do not recognize your possible futures as likely possibilities for any of the parishes I have attended in the twenty odd years I have been an Episcopalian. And I have lived in four dioceses. Nor do I recognize it as a likely future for the ten to fifteen clergy (and their congregations) I meet with once a month at our local Northeast SEAD gathering. We?ve been meeting for five years. Nor have I seen it in my yearly pilgrimages to the Holy City where SEAD(ACI) holds its annual conferences. (I just can?t imagine Ephraim Radner being slain in the Spirit. Perhaps a lack of imagination on my part.) What I do see is a lot of traditional Anglicans, more happy with George Herbert than John Calvin, with more affinities to Richard Hooker than John Henry Newman, who are committed to the preservation of an historic reforming catholicism grounded in scripture, the creeds, the Daily Office, and Prayer Book worship.

Sadly, and tragically, I do not foresee a viable orthodox future in the Episcopal Church for the individuals and parishes Dr. Witt identifies. Within twenty years the priests to whom he refers will have retired or died. They will not be replaced by like-minded priests. When parochial vacancies arise, the bishop and clergy-deployment officer will be and are quick to insinuate themselves into the call process and manipulate it to a satisfactory conclusion. All it takes is the institution of one “moderate” rector, someone portrayed as capable of bringing “the parish together,” and what had once been an orthodox congregation quickly finds itself surrendering to the new “orthodoxy.” We have seen this happen all too often over the past twenty years, to the grief and anguish of faithful parish priests who have watched their life’s work destroyed in a matter months. Several years ago Bishop Edward Salmon shared with me his conviction that it is almost impossible in the long run for traditional congregations in revisionist dioceses to maintain their traditional identities. It is difficult to long stand against the combined power of episcopate and culture. Parishes invariably choose to identify themselves with the bishop and wider diocese.

Revisionist bishops are not sending their postulants to Nashotah House and Trinity, the last two orthodox seminaries, nor are they ordaining anyone who does not pass their ideological litmus tests.

On a diocesan level, it is questionable how long the various Network dioceses will be able to maintain their opposition to current ECUSA policies. Every orthodox diocese is only one episcopal election away from disaster. Certainly it is doubtful that the House of Bishops and Standing Committees will approve the election of someone with strong traditional, much less catholic, convictions. Will the Network dioceses be willing to proceed with the consecration of an elected priest without the requisite canonical approvals, perhaps with support from Africa? A few might (Fort Worth? Pittsburgh? South Carolina?); but I’d wager that most will not. The Network is a fragile coalition. Howe and Herzog, for example, have publicly stated that they will never lead their dioceses out of ECUSA. I suspect that over the course of the next year we are going to learn that most Episcopalians really do not care whether we belong to the Anglican Communion or not.

Perhaps it is the very virtues of classical Anglicanism that ill-serve us at this time. The typical Episcopal congregation has tended to embody “English” values of moderation, rationality, openness, sobriety, and respect for institutional authority. These values can make for gracious communities; but they also tend to discourage the passion and conviction necessary to effectively maintain counter-cultural, counter-diocesan Christian identity. Few ordinary Episcopal congregations are willing to clearly define themselves over against their bishops. Even fewer are willing to renounce their property and assets and start all over.

But what about the church of George Herbert and John Donne? Will it disappear? Tragically, the church of Herbert and Donne disappeared the moment Anglicans abandoned the elegant, hieratic prose of Thomas Cranmer. Surely what was unclear to us in the late seventies is now clear today: Classical Anglicanism is embodied in, and mediated by, the liturgies and prayers descended, directly or indirectly, from the pen of Cranmer. To be “Anglican” simply is to be a Christian who has been formed by the Great Litany, the General Confession, the Prayer of Humble Access, and the psalms of Coverdale. It is within this Prayer Book discourse that Donne and Herbert, Hooker, Andrewes and Taylor all have their place and significance. Once we moved to a contemporary idiom, classical Anglicanism was lost forever and a new Anglicanism was created.

The style of the new Anglicanism continues to attract aesthetically-inclined members of the new class. The Episcopal liturgy continues to be celebrated with grace and loveliness. Choirs ensure that Anglican chant is not lost. The Daily Offices are said. The poetry of Donne and Herbert are quoted in our pulpits. And snippets of Richard Hooker are read, and misread, by clergy eager to demonstrate the intellectual superiority of Anglicanism over against fundamentalist alternatives. I do not expect these churches to flourish; but I certainly do expect them to secure a boutique niche within their respective religious markets.

This is the present and future church of Herbert and Donne–a church of liturgy, the arts, Prayer Book spirituality, and an encompassing message of God’s inclusive love–but also a church with a theological difference. It is an Anglicanism that fudges the boundaries of orthodoxy and heresy, an Anglicanism that reflects the multi-cultural ideology of first-world culture. Traditional orthodox conviction will only be tolerated as private opinion, as orthodox parish priests around the country are now discovering. It is this future, the future of revisionist Anglicanism, that will be the future of those traditional Episcopal congregations now struggling to preserve a “historic reforming catholicism.” It’s oh so very easy to move from “historic reforming catholicism” to “revisionist reforming catholicism.” The externals remain the same. One hardly notices the difference …

Our third possible future: Hmmm … is there a third future? Surely there must be a possible catholic future to go along with our revisionist and evangelical futures. I suppose it all depends on how one defines catholic. Quite frankly, I do not any longer know what it means to be a “catholic” Anglican. Everyone claims the title yet with no agreement on its significance and implications. There are decisive differences between catholicism as understood by Newman, Pusey, and Hall and catholicism as understood by Hooker, the Caroline Divines, F. D. Maurice, and William Temple. Some of these differences are noted by David Curry in his article The Recovery of Reformed Catholicism. There are even greater differences when Thomas Cranmer, John Jewel, Charles Simeon, and J. C. Ryle are brought into the mix. Reformed catholicism? Take your pick.

For four hundred and fifty years, Anglicanism has been a religion in search of an identity. In his book The Anglican Spirit

Michael Ramsey concludes that what distinguishes us from all other churches is not doctrine but vocation. To be Anglican is live out in history and culture the appeal to Scripture, tradition, and reason. Twenty-five years later, standing in the midst of the ruins, Ramsey’s vision of a special Anglican vocation no longer convinces. A more realistic and accurate assessment is given by Aidan Nichols: Anglicanism is three distinct and irreconcilable churches that just happen, through accidental circumstances, to be cohabiting in the same house.

Is there a catholic future? Perhaps the question might be better put, What is going to happen to those congregations that identify themselves as Anglo-Catholic?

If these congregations remain in communion with ECUSA, then they will undoubtedly be absorbed by the revisionist future that I outlined in my previous articles. They will accomodate. They will becoming Affirming Catholics. This accomodation began after ECUSA’s decision to ordain women to the priesthood. A few priests and congregations left the Episcopal Church, either joining Catholicism and Orthodoxy or starting new continuing Anglican churches. Those Anglo-Catholics who remained either embraced the ordination of women as a work of the Spirit within the catholicity of the Church or retreated into their parishes and threw up the barricades. But the barricades have proven vulnerable and porous. One by one, traditional Anglo-Catholic congregations have succumbed to the ECUSA spirit. As a vital ecclesial reality, Anglo-Catholicism is but a shadow of its former self.

If there is a viable catholic Anglican future, then that future must lie either with the continuing churches or with the creation of an Anglican Uniate Church, a church in communion with Rome that would maintain “much of the best of the Anglican inheritance but within a Catholic ecclesiological framework.” Is an Anglican Uniate Church even a possibility? Private discussions have been going on for a number of years. I know that ecumenical Catholics, who have worked so long for full reconciliation between Rome and Canterbury, have opposed the creation of a uniate Anglican body. In light of Anglicanism’s continued disintegration, perhaps their objections will no longer seem as compelling. Whether these discussions will ever bear fruit is anyone’s guess. The obstacles are manifest. Let us pray they are not insurmountable.

What about the Continuing Anglican churches? Here I must allow others to opine, because my acquaintance with these churches is minimal. Perhaps Fr Hart, Dr Tighe, and others can tell us more about these various groups and their history.

I know that the Continuing Anglican churches have been life-savers for many. But with all due respect to my Continuing Anglican brethren, I cannot imagine these churches as representing a viable future for Anglo-Catholic faith. Here I must move from prognostication to pontification. Continuing Anglicanism is sectarian, pure and simple; and that sectarianism violates the deepest ecclesial convictions of Anglo-Catholicism. The continuing churches enjoy all the advantages of a sect, namely, the ability to define and maintain a clear identity, but they are loners. With whom are they in communion? They aren’t even all in communion with themselves.

St Augustine tells of a confrontation with a Donatist bishop who was boasting of the catholicity of his church. Augustine challenged him to produce valid letters that would demonstrate his communion with the ancient sees around the world, which of course he could not provide. Catholicity is not absolutely proven by numbers and worldwide dispersion, as our Orthodox brethren are quick to argue, yet it cannot be divorced from communion with churches that are undoubtedly catholic. It does matter with whom we are communion. It does matter whether we are in communion with Rome or Constantinople or Antioch or … even Canterbury. Securus judicat orbis terrarum. We cannot create a catholic church by sitting down and creating a list of what we think a true church should be. That is what the sects do. Nor is catholicity established merely by securing valid ministerial orders, as if authenticity is guaranteed by pedigree. Catholicity is given by communion with the Church catholic.

However one might assess the “Anglicanism” of the continuing churches, their catholicity is very much in question. One cannot be “catholic” simply by claiming to be such. This observation does not in any way question the sincerity and devotion of Continuing Anglicans; but if these bodies wish to be catholic, then they need to be born again through communion with the two historic communions that are indubitably catholic. Until such time, they will remain Protestant sects, no matter how catholic their doctrine and liturgy. I believe this also applies to all the churches of the Anglican Communion.

Ultimately, therefore, the only future I envision for faithful Anglo-Catholicism is conversion to Rome or Constantinople. If God is good, he will raise up a uniate church in communion with the Bishop of Rome, which would allow entire congregations to remain intact and would provide a way for the Anglican heritage to be preserved as a living catholic reality. Some parishes might choose the way of Western Rite Orthodoxy. But ultimately, I am convinced that conversion to Catholicism or Orthodoxy is now a moral and spiritual imperative for all catholic Anglicans. Whatever our justifications in the past may have been for remaining separate from Rome and Constantinople, they have been demolished by the developments in worldwide Anglicanism over the past fifty years. I finally agree with the judgment of Richard John Neuhaus: “Orthodoxy and catholicity can be underwritten only by Orthodoxy and Catholicism.”

1 posted on 07/16/2005 7:23:18 AM PDT by sionnsar
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To: ahadams2; anselmcantuar; Agrarian; coffeecup; Paridel; keilimon; Hermann the Cherusker; ...
Traditional Anglican ping, continued in memory of its founder Arlin Adams.

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Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 07/16/2005 7:24:51 AM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || Kyoto: Split Atoms, not Wood)
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