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An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Only one question remains

Conservative Anglicans form breakaway church

What took you so long? They had a "respected" bishop deny the Resurrection and other primary tenets of the Christian faith go undisciplined and you needed an active gay one getting ordained to finally give up? I know, I know...straw that broke the camel's back...but in my mind denial of the Resurrection was rather sufficient.

In any event...a raise my glass to them. And also....shhhh...I invite them over.

...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 12:23 PM [+]


What took you so long?

That is indeed the question. It is a much more interesting question than it appears on the surface.

You are right to note that a "respected" bishop has denied the central doctrines of the Christian faith with impunity, but you neglect (out of politeness, I am sure) to note that (a) many bishops and other clergy (not just one) have denied the faith, and (b) the first such apostate bishop denied the faith and went unpunished over forty years ago.

The answer to What took you so long? has its roots in the intentional theological ambiguity that is at the heart of Anglicanism. The original purpose of that ambiguity was to accomodate both Catholic-minded and Protestant-minded folks in a moderately-reformed national Church. But the Episcopal "progressives" have exploited that ambiguity to stretch the Church's theological boundaries beyond all recognition.

What "took them so long" was (in part) was a reluctance to tighten up the Church's theological discipline for fear that it would take away the Church's ability to comprehend both the Catholic-minded and the Protestant-minded among them. Any theological discipline that was specific enough to "get tough" on the progressives would also be specific enough to resolve the Catholic/Protestant ambiguity.

And so, in the event, it has proved. Even a cursory examination of the theological content of the "Jerusalem Declaration" produced by the conservative Anglicans shows that it means that "Anglo-Catholics need not apply." This was probably inevitable, given that the "conservative" side of the current Anglican crisis is heavily evangelical rather than Anglo-Catholic. Which, in turn, is due to the fact that most classic Anglo-Catholics (like myself) left the Episcopal Church decades ago over the issue of women's ordination.

So by all means "raise your glass" to them; I raise mine as well. And invite them over, as well, but don't expect too many of them to come over to stay. Most of the Episcopalians who are theologically and temperamentally inclined to swim the Bosporus have already done so.

By Blogger Chris Jones, at 3:12 PM  


There are many excuses (not actual good reasons) for why these fragments (also known as the Anglican Continuum) have been crumbling off one at a time for the past 50 years.

The first and biggest reason is that Anglicanism itself started off as a fragment of a fragment. It broke off from Roman Catholicism, which itself had broken off from Holy Orthodoxy. So, if we still insist on calling the result a "church," we're already at odds with Orthodox ecclesiology.

Next, the break with Rome was such that Archbishop Cranmer tried to reconstitute what he thought of as original catholic, apostolic Christianity. Of course, his vision was constrained by non-Orthodox elements such as judicial atonement, Lutheran justification, Calvinistic predestination, and the filioque, with a smattering of Orthodox mysticism shoehorned in between all these. In fact, one even finds in classical Anglicanism some appreciation for the ancient view of theosis. Therefore, what you really have is the rather forced juxtaposition of components that are unlike at best and mutually contradictory at worst. The forced juxtaposition was made official by the Elizabethan Settlement.

This mixture of Protestant Evangelical, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox ingredients actually explains the continual oscillation within Anglicanism. One of them predominated during different periods, depending on who had the bully pulpit at the time. The predominance of one element tended to alienate those who were more committed to a different element, and so the whole thing was designed to shake itself to pieces.

When the Church of England managed to export itself to the colonies via Scottish bishops conferring apostolic succession on colonial clergy, it was only a matter of time (less than 200 years) until the dubious American genius for pluralism reshaped the Anglican ethos yet again. And sure enough, with the rise of political and theological liberalism, you had an American Episcopalian bishop (Bp. Pike) denying the Trinity in the 1960's, but not being disciplined. Spong's denial of the bodily resurrection of Christ was hardly the first instance of foundational dogmatic heresy.

The Continuum, then, has always appealed to a set of core beliefs that were non-Orthodox in the first place. I suppose one could say that even this non-Orthodox core was/is better than whatever Spong advocated. However, it is "better" only in the sense that cancer is better than blowing your brains out: It doesn't kill you as quickly, but in both cases, there are ways that seem good to a man, but the end thereof is death nonetheless.

The wackiness of American denominationalism is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in the Reformed Episcopal Church, in which I served as a priest for 10 years. The REC was founded in 1873 by Bp. Cummins of Kentucky as a protest against what he saw as Anglo-Catholic high-church excesses in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA. His main objections were against infant baptism, paedocommunion, and the necessity of the historic episcopate. Thus, the REC altered the ordinal to downplay the necessity and dignity of apostolic succession, and it altered the 39 Articles of the Church of England such that it denied the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and embraced premillienial dispensational eschatology.

Just before I left the REC (peacefully but very painfully) for Orthodoxy, I had been working with some fellow clergy to restore the historic Cranmerian ordinal and relegate the REC's weird 35 Articles to the historical dustbin. This endeavor was successful, and as I was on my way out the door toward Orthodoxy, the REC had become recognized as one of the last bastions of historic, classical Anglicanism: Closed communion, infant baptism, paedocommunion, Nicene eschatology, and the highest view of sacramental realism and episcopal dignity that one can hold while still remaining Protestant (in the sense of non-papal, sola scriptura, liturgical Evangelicalism). My point here is that the REC (which is actually dying) has now become, for what it's worth, almost the diametric opposite of what it was originally founded to be. Ain't denominationalism cool? Not only that, but the old struggles continue in diocese and general assembly: The REC "traditionalists" still form a potent rear-guard against closed communion, real wine in the Eucharist, paedobaptism/paedocommunion, and so on. These unfortunate people are essentially Baptists with a liturgy --- a liturgy, I might add, that they apparently have never really heard.

Bottom line: Anglicanism, and its American form, Episcopalianism, has always borne within itself the seeds of its own destruction. It has never been able to decide whether it wants to be Protestant or Catholic, and even when it decides that it wants to be more Catholic (at least during some era), it doesn't know what Catholicism really is, being too Roman in that regard. And I'm talking now about the most principled, well-intentioned (yet tragically misguided) Anglicans/Episcopalians. Throw in the liberal and/or post-modern agenda, add a dash of political maneuvering over old church buildings on large lots, and the mess is not hard to understand at all.

Gary Patrick

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:48 PM  


As a former Anglican, I appreciate the comments here. There are many ways of viewing this - and obviously many opinions! I tend to see it as a case of the church being unable to transcend culture, a problem that has deep roots in English history. It's interesting to observe that the "conservative" and "liberal" Episcopal dioceses in this country are essentially the same "red and blue" pattern as the political map - and this is somewhat true internationally as well.

When studying for ordination in the '70s, I discovered strands of Anglicanism that communicated with Orthodoxy, and consistently found agreement with Eastern theology. But the nearest Orthodox parishes were in a city 4 hours away and none worshiped in English. It is clear now that a hope some of us held that the Anglican Church become the English-speaking Orthodox is but a distant memory.

I only urge charity, and care about referencing Anglicans too broadly. There are countless Anglican bishops, clergy and faithful laity who are attempting to follow Christ in a difficult situation. Some will lose their lives. I have met them not only in the US and UK, but in Africa and Asia. There are heroes there.

But I, too, am finally, joyfully, at home in the Orthodox Church. - James, Portland

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:48 PM  


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