Skip to comments.The Rev. Charles Erlandson: "We have met the enemy...and he is us."
Posted on 06/28/2005 10:38:26 PM PDT by sionnsar
The Rev. Charles Erlandson: "We have met the enemy...and he is us."
Via email, I received the following message that I believe is by the Rev. Charles Erlandson of St. Chrysostom REC in Hot Springs, Arkansas--and I think it is something that needs to be heard:
With all apologies to the late Walt Kelly, who wrote the Pogo comic strip: "We have met the enemy . . . and he is us."This is something we truly need to consider in building for the future after ECUSA has either come to repentance or has degenerated further due to the lack of that repentance. Certainly we need to be working towards an Anglicanism that is both evangelical and catholic, and I believe that in order to be part of the catholic church of the Church Fathers, we will have to take the position held by that church on the issue of women's ordination. Likewise, though I have much respect for the Diocese of Sydney, lay presidency at the Eucharist is a divisive idea that should be abandoned in the interest of the unity of faithful Anglicans everywhere. Anglicans who seek to be faithful to their heritage, to the Lord, and to the Church Catholic are going to have to work together, worship together, and pray together for the unity that comes only from the Truth. I pray that the union of the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America will show the way for all of us to come together in an orthodox province in North America.
I share in others' concerns about the animosity or disunity we orthodox Anglicans can manifest. Just last night I preached a farewell sermon to All Saints Anglican Fellowship in Hot Springs Village, a group that came out of ECUSA and whom I have been serving for 18 months (they recently has made a decision for the AMIA.) My entire mission was to bring the message of love, reconciliation, and unity and to try and hold that group together until they all made a common decision for a particular Anglican jurisdiction. The lesson I preached from was Acts 20 and Paul's farewell to the Ephesian elders, and my message was unity and the need to take heed to the flock. That group, and others, have had to deal not just with the turmoil of leaving ECUSA but also with negotiating a difficult unity among those who consider themselves orthodox Anglicans.
Academically, the Ph.D. that some of you know I have tearfully been on for 4 1/2 years, through more twists and turns than a roller coaster, has come down to the following question I am examining: "Does orthodox Anglicanism have a coherent identity?" Academically, my conclusion is still very much in doubt. But one of the things I have predicated my thesis upon is what I like to call the L-Bomb. That is, what if Someone dropped a liberal bomb and eradicated the liberals from Anglicanism: what obstacles would orthodox Anglicans still face? There are many, on many different levels. But one of the most difficult of all is the suspicion, competition, and dissension we have towards each other.
In the nineteenth century, even as the teratogenic monster of liberalism was being born, Evangelicals and Tractarians (later Ritualists) spent their ammunition on themselves. Though Newman rightly saw liberalism as the real problem, his dynamic doctrine of development (which I believe was a result of the fundamentalism he never lost, always looking for the non-existent perfect church) paved the way for a breach in the Anglican consensus that had existed until that time. Though there were moments of truce, Evangelicals and Catholics failed to deal with the real enemy, choosing instead to see themselves as enemies. Both were losers, since the Liberal Catholicism represented by Griswold and many others became dominant in Western Anglicanism by the end of the nineteenth century and naturally led to what we have all witnessed today.
Brothers and sisters, I believe with my whole heart that Anglicanism still has a historic mission to be a catalyst for Christian unity. Furthermore, I believe this is a truly historic moment to enact that mission. However, once the common enemy of liberalism is vanquished (God willing), or at least marginalized, what will hold us together?
We all have a lot to answer for, and I believe that our only hope lies in complete obedience to our mission as the Body of Christ to be one, holy, catholic, and apostolic - 4 marks that are ultimately inseparable.
To be one, we must recognize the ultimate reality that there is only 1 Body of Christ, however many external divisions we have. Disunity comes not only from differences of opinions but also from impure and unholy hearts that desire what they desire above what the Lord or the greater Church desire, and so it is that to preserve unity we must also be holy and blameless before the Lord and each other.
Even if we improved our love for each other, it is essential that humbly re-evaluate what it means to be catholic and apostolic. The goal of the majority of Anglican Reformers and leaders from 1549 to 1689 (the defining eriod of modern Anglicanism) was nothing more or less than to restore catholic Christianity, faithfully maintaining the patristic consensus and excising medieval Roman errors. However, I am not convinced that all those who call themselves orthodox Anglicans are very interested in the Catholic part of our identity. It is not just the recent innovation of homosexual bishops that threatens the unity of the church and her Catholic identity: during the past few decades many other innovations have been either enacted or suggested.
I know I will catch a lot of heat for bringing this up, especially in a post whose focus is unity, but I believe that the ordination of women to the priesthood is profoundly divisive because it is contrary to what Christians - East and West, Catholics and Protestants, Anglicans and Free Church, High Church Anglicans and Low Church Anglicans - have always held until about the 1970s. With some saying that the parish is the fundamental unit of Anglicanism (and not the diocese and bishop, as the ancient church held), others advocating lay presidency, and still others (both in the U.S. and U.K.) jettisoning any last remaining vestiges of the ancient liturgy, maybe the unwillingness to submit to any standard other than our own version of Anglicanism and biblical interpretation is not just the exclusive domain of Liberals but a source of disunity we must all humbly be willing to consider and repent of.
ANglicans need a Magisterium. The problem, as the good Rev says, is we don't trust each other enough to put someone or any particular group in the Magisterial chair.
And that's just the authentic, charitable part. What about clerics into the power equation? How many 'dioceses' exist because a bishop just wanted to go his own way, regardless of doctrine or liturgy? It is a great and glad thing to consider, the possibility of reunion, but I think that a good number of orthodox and/or conservative Anglicans and Anglo-Catholics have very burned fingers for what in retrospect does not necessarily appear to be sufficiently substantive doctrinal reason.
Maybe we just need to harp on the Sacrament of Reconciliation: confessing our sins against each other would at least be a start on candid relations, if not cordial ones.