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Episcopalianism in the USA – cause for optimism in next decade?
The Prayer Book Society [1928 BCP] ^
| The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon
Posted on 09/23/2005 6:45:23 PM PDT by sionnsar
Are the centripetal forces going to overcome the centrifugal ones?
Apart from the endless variety of types of Baptists, probably no type of church exists in the USA is so many different forms and manifestations as the Episcopal or the Anglican. And this is the more remarkable since there are probably 20 million Baptists present in churches on Sundays whereas there is only about one million Anglicans!
Let us first consider the forces which prize apart Episcopalians/Anglicans in the USA and then turn to consider what forces do and can unite them. But first let us set the scene.
The Episcopal Church of the USA (ECUSA) is a divided house, where dioceses are not in communion with others dioceses, where parishes look for flying bishops rather than the local, canonical one, and where there is open warfare over doctrinal and ethical matters. Outside the ECUSA there are many different jurisdictions, affiliations and groups of churches. One goes back to the 19th century (the REC) and some go back to the civil rights struggle (e.g. SEC) while others go back to the walk-out of ECUSA in 1977 (e.g., the ACA, ACC, APCK). Then others are splits from the latter or new creations on similar principles to the latter. Yet others are evangelical and charismatic in style (e.g., AMiA, and those parishes which are independently linked to overseas bishops). Add to these groupings of Nigerian churches, Indian Churches and other ethnic associations, together with charismatic Episcopal churches that have arisen independently and you have a real assortment! And there are others also, a new one each month or so.
Here are some of the Centrifugal forces at work dividing those who inside or outside the ECUSA desire to be orthodox and genuinely Anglican as biblical, Reformed Catholics.
- The presence of real heresy and error within the Anglican Way in the USA.
- The tendency amongst too many to major on minors and to cherish minors so that the essentials are not in focus sufficiently.
- The tendency for certain human beings to want to run their own show and empire and thereby to cherish division for providing a source of empire. See for example, the vast amount of bishops, many of whom have flocks that are very small, but they seem to cherish titles and uniforms.
- The vastness and the culture of the USA which supports individualism, selfish autonomy, variety and competition, novelty and innovation, and so on.
- The problem that once an organization or jurisdiction has been set up then it has a life of its own and it is easier to keep it going then to shut it down or unite it with another or others.
- Major differences in style of worship, from 1950s anglo-catholicism with much ceremonial, to 1990s style generic charismatic expressions of music and dress.
- Use of different Rites for services, ranging from Rite II of the 1979 prayer book, via Indian and Nigerian prayer books, to the Anglican Missal, and with no agreement on what is the Formulary of the Anglican Way.
- Different attitudes as to the way to regard and treat the official ECUSA is it to be treated as reformable or as apostate and lost?
- Different attitudes to the See of Canterbury and to the Anglican Communion and whether or not they are truly orthodox in faith and morals?
- Possible unity with Rome parts of the Continuing Anglican movement (anglo-catholic) are seeking to be accepted under the pastoral direction of the Church of Rome while others see this as a betrayal of the whole Anglican Way.
- Different approaches to church discipline, especially to the marriage of divorcees in church and the ordaining & consecrating of divorcees, or those married to divorcees.
- Different views and doctrines of the ministry and deployment of women in the churches.
Different canon law.
- Not a few believe that competition and variety is a good thing and that there is no problem for God or for man with a divided and confused Anglican phenomenon in the USA. It is truly Americanized by its division and competitive character!
AND SO ON!
Now here are some of the Centripetal forces present in the Anglican and Episcopalian phenomenon in the USA.
- All the participants speak and use English.
- All value in varying degrees the Anglican tradition of worship, doctrine and discipline.
- All seem pleased or grateful to be known as Anglican or Episcopalian in contrast to being Presbyterian or Lutheran or whatever.
- All recognize that the Anglican witness in the USA was in earlier times a united one, the PECUSA even survived the civil war.
- All believe that Jesus Christ prayed that his Church should be one (John 17) and that all the metaphors used by the apostles of the Church presuppose that it should be a unity.
- All agree that doctrinal and liturgical integrity are important.
- All accept that there has to be a basic moral code for the life of the churches, a code that is derived from Holy Scripture and one that points to maturity and holiness of faith.
- A few people here and there, a few organizations here and there, and a few churches here and there, are definitely taking every opportunity to unite in activity and discussion Episcopalians/Anglicans from different streams. They see themselves as doing what many more ought also to be doing now and also as the first-fruits of a harvest yet to be.
What is very obvious to the observer, as well as to the student of Anglican affairs, is that the centrifugal forces seem to be more powerful than the centripetal ones and that the tendency to pull apart is more evident that a tendency to pull together.
If one takes the New Testament seriously, one must believe that Christians are to be united in Word and Sacrament, in worship and fellowship, in doctrine and in morals. And especially if they are of the same kith and kin called Anglican. Therefore, one must believe that the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, is supportive of genuine centripetal forces that move to unite believers in the one Christ and one Faith.
What else can be done to assist, as it were, this work of the Holy Spirit, and for us all to be co-workers together with God in this enterprise of unity for Christs sake?
I suggest that it would be beneficial for all the forms of Anglicanism in the USA that claim to be orthodox to accept, as a discipline and as a sweet offering to the Lord our God for say a decade, the use of the historic Anglican Rites for worship that is the Rites of the 1662 BCP (or its modern equivalents) and to use them either in the original traditional English or in a dignified form of contemporary English (yet to be produced). Of course there would be local ceremonial and local specialities and emphases in each parish (with music and vestments and the like) but this proposal to be effective requires all parishes to use this One Rite, or else its power to unite would not be available everywhere.
The Anglican Way from 1549 through to the 1970s was glued together in a unity with comprehensiveness of churchmanship by the use of the one BCP used in 150 or so local editions around the world. To recapture this unity through One Rite seems to be the only way immediately available of beginning to unite the schisms and divisiveness within the bruised Anglican Way in the USA.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)
TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
[IMHO, and I cannot provide any substantive basis for this, we are likely to see a gradual reunification of the larger North American Anglican churches -- the REC & APA are undergoing it now, the ACA and APCK perhaps in the future; though the TAC moves towards Rome, if rebuffed it may move into the fold. There were some nasty politics back in the 70s that lead to the current divisions. The tiny splinters will probably fizzle out. Just my guess, though. --sionnsar]
posted on 09/23/2005 6:45:23 PM PDT
To: ahadams2; Fractal Trader; Zero Sum; anselmcantuar; Agrarian; coffeecup; Paridel; keilimon; ...
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Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15
posted on 09/23/2005 6:46:09 PM PDT
(†trad-anglican.faithweb.com† || (To Libs:) You are failing to celebrate MY diversity! || Iran Azadi)
Then there are the Laestidians.
posted on 09/23/2005 6:54:09 PM PDT
(/ hey coach do I gotta' put in that "/sarcasm " thing again?)
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