Friday, June 23, 2006

Western Rite Orthodoxy: Our Plea

As the mainline churches continue to unravel and their faithful consider joining the Western Rite, I offer this guest editorial. Fr. Michael Trigg, Ph. D., wrote it as the conclusion to the pamphlet An Introduction to Western Rite Orthodoxy, which he edited. He dedicated this entry to the "great number of Western Christians who are identifying less with their denominational membership and more in terms of how their beliefs square with the traditional teachings of the Christian Faith." Again, his inspiring words and analysis are remarkably prescient for today:

Many traditional Christians now find themselves in denominations which are increasingly liberal in their doctrinal and moral theology and revisionist in their liturgical practices. Here, Christianity is often seen as a religion whose doctrines and practices are, to varying degrees, open to alteration depending on contemporary thought.

Believing, as many do, that the Christian Faith is a religion of objective and revealed truth which must remain unchanged, many of these traditional Christians are convinced that their conscience will be compromised by continuing membership in their respective denominations. Often feeling a sense of betrayal, these followers of Jesus Christ are increasingly seeking out others who believe as they do, in an expression of Christianity where there are basic doctrines which remain eternal and unchangeable.

A Church Rooted in Time

Americans have often been accused of having a very short and shallow sense of history. Sadly, many American Christians are no exception to this rule. The time has come for Christians to break out of this historical amnesia and rediscover the true roots of their spiritual heritage. If they do so, they will discover that Christianity is an historically based Faith revealed by the incarnate Son of God, who lived and died in time, and founded a Church which was to be His extension throughout human history. They will find that during the first thousand years of Christian history, this Church existed undivided, dating back to the Acts of the Apostles, and spanning all of the then-known world of both the East and the West.

This discovery alone might well be the start of a pilgrimage of the spirit and the intellect leading many Christians not to Rome or Canterbury, not to Geneva or Augsburg, but to Jerusalem and to the Church which found its origins there on the day of Pentecost, the Orthodox Church. That same Church continues today, faithful to the teachings of Christ and His Apostles, true to the early Councils of the Church and maintaining traditional doctrine and worship, unaffected by the revisions and reinterpretations of any age—including our own.

Reuniting East and West

As you have been reading in this booklet, a very significant development has occurred relatively recently within the Orthodox Church, as she has recalled the heritage of the Orthodox West before its great schism from the East in the eleventh century. That first millennium of Western Orthodoxy, with its saints and martyrs, its liturgy and theology, is once again entering Orthodox Christian consciousness.
From the first, attempts to restore Western culture and liturgy to Orthodoxy have been seen to have great potential for calling Western Christians back to the Church of their ancestors, healing the thousand-year-old break which tore the Christian West from its ancient roots in the Orthodox East.

Simply stated, this reunion has become the mission of Western Rite Orthodoxy. Its calling is to provide a vehicle by which those who seek to adopt the ancient Faith of the Apostles can do so within their own cultural and liturgical milieu. As such it should be seen not so much as an innovation as a restoration of Western Christians to their rightful place within Orthodox Christianity.

This being said, it is important to point out that Western Orthodoxy must never be seen simply as a device by which traditional Christians, disenchanted with their former denomination’s liberal theological and moral leanings, can find a safe harbor within the Orthodox Church while retaining favorite sectarian doctrinal positions. While the recognition of theological errors in one’s own denomination may be the beginning of a traditional Christian’s pilgrimage to Orthodoxy, the journey should and must end with the embracing of the fullness of the Faith.

Today, in America, the Orthodox Church is represented by various jurisdictions. In recent years, one of those jurisdictions, the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, has become the new spiritual home for many thousands of traditional Christians. This Archdiocese is under the Patriarchate of Antioch, one of the four great and ancient Patriarchal Churches of worldwide Orthodoxy.

Remembering that historical Orthodoxy has had many liturgical expressions in the past, and that most Western Christians are unfamiliar with Eastern forms of worship, the Archdiocese has authorized the use of Western Rite Liturgy. For many people who are seeking to return to the historical Church and yet wish to retain a Western manner of worship, this authorization has great appeal. Consequently, in various American cities, there are today a number of Orthodox congregations under the Archdiocese whose approved liturgy is that of the Western Rite.

A Time for Healing

For those who complete this journey to Orthodoxy, often there has been a realization that Orthodox Christianity has been something in which they have always believed, albeit outside the Church itself. Inasmuch as elements of Orthodoxy have remained to varying degrees within many Christian denominations, those who find their way home to the Faith are often pleasantly surprised to find there those beliefs which they have always held to be their own. More than one Western non-Orthodox thinker has been an excellent and articulate spokesman for the Orthodox Faith without being fully aware of it.

Our Lord prayed that His Church might be one. He promised that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it. Through the Holy Spirit, it was founded on that first Pentecost and we read about its early history in the Acts of the Apostles. This is the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and it was in Antioch that the disciples of Jesus were first called Christians.

Whenever Christians make the decision to become members of the ancient Church they participate actively in the healing of one small wound in the Body of Christ. By returning to the Church of the Apostles, they overcome a thousand years of division and confusion, error and ignorance. As people of a Western heritage, they rejoin the Church and Faith of their Fathers, the Orthodox Faith of Saint Patrick, Saint Benedict, Saint Augustine of Canterbury, and of so many other heroes and martyrs of the pre-schismatic Orthodox West.

A Journey Worth the Effort

While traditional Christians seeking to become Orthodox may have to make considerable sacrifices to do so, it is important to remember that the Orthodox Church has been called the Church of the Martyrs because its history abounds with the accounts of men and women who have been willing to make incredible sacrifices for the Truth of Christ.

Two parables in particular from Holy Scripture come to mind. One is that of the Buried Treasure. Jesus said, The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field (Matthew 13:44). The other parable is that of the Pearl of Great Price. Our Lord said, The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it (Matthew 13:45, 46).

The first man happened on to a great treasure quite by accident, while the latter man actively sought it. In both cases, however, their intelligent perception and proper sense of priorities caused them to recognize something of great value, and they disposed of whatever else they had to acquire the ultimate prize. This buried treasure, this pearl of great price, is Orthodox Christianity.

Our Plea

This booklet was specifically written for those who are seeking a truly traditional and scripturally based Christianity and wish to be a part of the restoration of Western people to their rightful place as members of the ancient Church. We invite you to consider the saving life offered by God through His Holy Orthodox Church. Twentieth-century Christianity, to be fully valid, must have unbroken links with first-century Christianity. Only in Orthodoxy can be found the apostolic continuity and the consistency of truth which has preserved this linkage.

We therefore encourage you to join countless others as they, too, begin their pilgrimage into God’s Kingdom by becoming one with His Holy Church. Come, join us in this new Reformation—by returning to the historic teachings of the Bible, the Church, and Holy Tradition. No sacrifice is too great to become a part of the Church which has, alone, preserved the fullness of that Faith delivered by Christ to His Apostles.

May God inspire you and encourage you as you begin your journey!

(Reproduced from:


My Track Record Quoting Lutherans: 2-0

After having gotten Pastor William Weedon in trouble by quoting him earlier, I may have inadvertently done the same for Fr. John Fenton. One of our fellow bloggers (an Anglican, I'm told) wrote a rejoinder to my recent post on Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi in a way that attributed some of my words (and others I didn't write) to Fr. Fenton. To clear the air, I posted this comment on his site:

A few points concerning your article are in order:

1. Fr. Fenton is not part of my blog, I explicitly noted I was quoting "his blog," which I link in the article and on my homepage.

2. Fr. Fenton does not "enjoy orders" in the "Eastern Orthodox Church"; in the portion of his blog I quoted he mentions being pastor of Zion Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Detroit, Michigan. I also link to Zion's page in that entry.

3. The Western Rite does not use St. John Chrysostom's liturgy at all, as that is Byzantine (Eastern) Rite. We celebrate the Liturgy of St. Gregory and the Liturgy of St. Tikhon.

4. The first quotation you attribute to Fr. Fenton was written by me.

5. Neither Pastor Fenton nor I claim anywhere in this post that the "Church should adhere strictly to the oldest litugies," nor that "liturgy should be unchanged." Both he and I state a church needs an enforced standard of lex orandi and a lex credendi that expresses its theology. The explicit message of both his post and mine is that one without the other will ultimately lead to the loss of both. The point seems self-evident from the examples cited in the post and many others. One would be wrong to celebrate a putatively "ancient liturgy" if it does not meet these standards and/or is not approved by one's hierarchy. And there are certain structures common to all ancient liturgies that one must retain to be a part of any recognizably historical Christian worship tradition (e.g., the Creed, the Sursum Corda, the Canon, etc.). To jettison all this in favor of a "praise and worship" multimedia fest, where one may never recite the Creed nor even partake of communion, calls into question whether this order of "worship" is fitting or embodies ecclesiastical "worship" at all. At a minimum, its content-free form hardly requires of its members any Christian orthodoxy (lex credendi) at all.

With these strawmen swept aside, I'm not sure if we disagree at all. If we do, I certainly respect your POV but I respectfully disagree. Thank you for dropping by the blog, and I hope you'll make a return trip.

OK, since you asked for it....

Here's a head shot of "Bishop" Teddy Roosevelt:

I thought it looked of dubious quality, but evidently some of you think it looks just -- Bully!


...And Carry a Big Stick

In looking over observations others have made about the interrelated nature of lex orandi and lex credendi, I daresay Fr. Fenton's friend missed one more necessary element to preserve the true faith in the Church: a hierarchy willing to enforce ecclesiastical guidelines. Having an established rule of faith and rule of prayer are necessary prerequisites, but if church authorities refuse to exercise discipline against those who regularly and habitually violate one, the other, or both, the guidelines are a fiction. That church will soon succumb to the new barbarians, whenever the heretics realize they need only sustain their assault to prevail.

Alas, the problems of most denominations have been imposed from the top-down; they rarely percolate from the bottom-up, and often their fiercest opponents are at the parish's grassroots. The Episcopalians proved this week they lack the hierarchy to impose anything approaching historical (lower case-o) orthodoxy. Other denominations have also forced their changes against the will of the people.

What liberation to find some denominations not only shun the secular zeitgeist but actively fight an ascetic struggle to pull farther away from the world still. There are still churches that believe in absolutes as strongly as the people in the pews do, that would allow them to put the energy they spend fighting their church into prayer and spiritual development. As one convert put it, "As a member of the Orthodox Church, I no longer defend the Church; She defends me." Until one can make the same statement, the slope will only get more slippery.

Lex Orandi And Lex Credendi: Double or Nothing

Many of the problems confronting The Episcopal Church are by no means confined to TEC. Chief among these are a lack of a settled theology and a somewhat elastic view of permissible worship. One finds these even in putatively conservative church bodies. Fr. John Fenton, a pastor in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, notes these maladies have broken out there -- and the two problems are related. Unless one has both a settled liturgical heritage and a defined faith, one will always be at danger of slipping into heresy. His blog offers this insightful quotation from a friend of his:

Lutheranism has a lex credendi (rule of faith) but no lex orandi (rule of
prayer). Anglicanism has a lex orandi (Book of Common Prayer), but no lex
(anything goes, doctrinally speaking). Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism have both a lex credendi (Tradition) and a lex orandi (the Liturgy).

...The liturgical and practical instability of Lutheranism flows out its reticence to define dogmatically its rule of worship in the way of a received "holy tradition." This is why Lutheran practice frequently comes unbuckled from Lutheran doctrine. It relies on paper subscription to a book without practical adherance [sic.] to any liturgical or practical norms.

As though to prove the point, our friend the Ochlophobist posted a story of High Church evangelical parish he attended. When he was there, though Protestant, the parish appreciated liturgy, especially the Book of Common Prayer; studied the Nicene Creed; celebrated weekly communion; and sang theologically meaningful hymns:

Things have changed. The praise & worship is now pop music of the sort played on "Christian" radio stations. The church has also gone charismatic. They have a woman who speaks in tongues during the service each week. If no one "interprets" this "prophecy" then the pastor provides an interpretation. Not a lot of talk about creeds anymore. The church has the same pastor and most of the core group of parishioners. They just decided to get slappy happy.

Why did this happen? Because it can. There is no tradition or authority to stop them...They are tossed about on the waves of emotional and spiritual frenzy. If it can happen, friends, sooner or later it will, no matter how good things once were.

A friend informed me of a similar situation in a TEC congregation that went charismatic by following the broad guidelines laid down by the 1979 BCP.

All one has to do to change the faith of millions is allow an innovation as a "permitted" exception. Within a few years, that exception will become the rule, and those adhering to the rule will be portrayed as retarding the church's progress. Fr. Fenton says it in another way:

Which is all a lengthy way of amending yet another lex coined by a former vicar of Zion: "Where historic liturgy is optional, historic faith will sooner or later be proscribed."
In other words Orthodoxy (right-belief) undergirds Orthodoxy (right-praise). The loveliest liturgy, drained of its theological content, will soon devolve into New Age psychoanalysis, weekly affirmations, political stump speeches, and invocations of the Mother Jesus. The most rigidly defined theology, without an equally suitable expression of faith, goes from being an intellectual exercise, to a relic, to an obstacle in short order. The faith becomes what fundies and fuddy-duddies use to prevent "the Spirit" from "doing a new act," usually one involving percussion, keyboards, and Power Point presentations.

This is a call to those who take solace in the notion, "At least my parish is on solid ground." In this environment, any such church is one new pastor, one generation away from charismania or warned-over secular humanism. The only safe ground is in a Church, built on the foundation of the Apostles, where their ancient liturgy upholds their true faith, and vice-versa. One will not long endure without the other.

(Hat tip: Fr. Fenton)


Vote Now

Vote for your favorite patristic theologian. One may quibble with the choice of candidates, but this is interesting.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Why Would an Episcopalian Become Orthodox?

Another guest editorial, this from the late Fr. Patrick McCauley, a former Episcopalian priest who converted to the Western Rite within Orthodoxy. He served the Orthodox Church of the Holy Apostles (now St. Peter’s) in Fort Worth, Texas, until his repose. Although written more than a decade ago, it reads as if it were produced yesterday:

When I first became an Episcopalian years ago, a friend facetiously told me that I had joined the best Church money could buy. In fact, another wag has observed that the Episcopal Church is the Cadillac of American Christianity and the Chivas Regal of Protestantism.

These attempts at humor, based on social and intellectual snobbery, have grown a bit stale in the ensuing years, as the stately and venerable American version of the Church of England has experienced widespread decline in numbers, theological conviction, and social and political influence. The Church once called the Republican Party at prayer has now become little more than a coalition of special interests and would probably be more accurately termed the 1988 Democratic Convention at prayer. With bishops who declare the Bible to be little more than the prejudices of a group of misogynist, homophobic males, the Apostle Paul to have been nothing but a frustrated homosexual, and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ to be nothing but the rattling of old bones, it is little wonder the Episcopal Church in the United States has lost over a million members since 1970. As if these profound theological insights were not enough, the American branch of Anglicanism now has liturgies for the marriage of two persons of the same gender, and she refuses to expect clergy to live morally pure lives.

This sad state of affairs has prompted many Episcopalians to seek a safe harbor outside the Anglican Communion in which to live out their faith. Not surprisingly, some have elected to leave the denomination for other, more conservative, Protestant groups. Still others have swum the Tiber for membership in the Roman Catholic Church. A few others have formed independent Episcopal congregations, and yet more have formed new Anglican Churches that are not in communion with either Canterbury or the Episcopal Church in the USA. Sadly, some have simply dropped their practice of the faith altogether.

Fortunately, however, an increasing number of Episcopalians have looked to the historic Church of Christ known as the Eastern Orthodox Church as a place of refuge. In fact, many Episcopalians, especially those who came out of Anglo-Catholic backgrounds, were taught the curious theory that the Church catholic exists in three historic branches: Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Eastern Orthodoxy.

Sharing a Common Faith

Old fashioned, traditional High-Church Episcopalians have long held a close affinity with Eastern Orthodoxy. In fact, the late Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey, said as long ago as the 1960s that Anglicans should be working toward union with Orthodoxy because of the commonality of faith. Other Anglicans have said that historic Anglicanism is simply a Western (meaning Western European) expression of Orthodoxy.

Several recent converts in my own parish have observed that Orthodoxy in no way is a denial of what they have always believed as catholics in the Anglican Church. Rather, say these good folk, Orthodoxy is simply a fuller, richer expression of the ancient faith of Jesus Christ. The same creeds, the same Scriptures, the same sacraments, and the same understanding of the apostolic ministry of deacons, priests, and bishops are all valued and affirmed as the foundations of the catholic faith in Orthodoxy, as in the traditional Episcopal Church of days gone by.

Forms of Worship

Even more fortuitous for Episcopalians who come out of the High-Church tradition are the liturgical expressions found in Orthodoxy. While the great majority of Orthodox Christians worship using some form of the Eastern or Byzantine Rite, a growing percentage of Orthodox Christians worship according to the Western Rite. The Rite of Saint Tikhon, used by many Western Rite Churches, is an approved adaptation of the eucharistic liturgy from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

At least two Orthodox jurisdictions, the Romanians [Russians, not Romanians -- BJ] and the Antiochians, have Western Rite congregations in the United States. The latter, in fact, has a growing Western-Rite Vicariate, which has provided a safe haven for former traditional Episcopalians. Western Rite congregations in the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America exist in California, Illinois, Texas, Florida, Nebraska, Colorado, and other states. As each year passes, more and more congregations of former Episcopalians are forming under the Orthodox banner of the Western Rite Vicariate.

A Church that Affirms the Gospel and is Willing to Say No

The Orthodox Church of God continues to proclaim the refreshing Good News that God through His Incarnate Son Jesus Christ is reconciling sinful men and women to Himself (II Corinthians 5:17–20). In so doing, she acknowledges that the new humanity created through Christ’s death and resurrection is the Bride of Christ, the Church. And it is in the Church that Christians by the mercy of God are to work out their salvation (Philippians 2:12) by regularity of worship, living lives of moral rectitude, sharing the Christian Gospel with unbelievers, building a Christian community, and extending a hand of help in the name of Christ to those in need.

All the while, Orthodox Christians, unlike their counterparts in the Episcopal Church as it now exists in many places in the United States, have the assurance of the leadership of bishops and priests who acknowledge the centrality of Holy Scripture, the divinely given Tradition of the apostles, and the need for clearly defined teaching and instruction for the faithful. Orthodox bishops, while not claiming for themselves individual infallibility, do indeed act in presenting the Christian message in clear, understandable terms. Moreover, Orthodox clergy, with the support of the entire Orthodox episcopate from the office of the Ecumenical Patriarch through the Patriarchates of each jurisdiction to local hierarchs, stand as one united witness to the unchanging faith of Jesus Christ.

In spite of the anti-authoritarian age in which we all live, Orthodox bishops, in other words, can and do say no, when necessary, to their people. This does not mean Orthodox bishops are capricious, arbitrary, or lacking in pastoral gifts. It does mean, on the other hand, that Orthodox hierarchs love those in their pastoral care enough, as does any good parent, to say no when a course of action, a lifestyle, or a pernicious belief would be harmful to the faithful.

Rediscovering Committment

Sociologist Robert N. Bellah and several colleagues, in Habits of the Heart, have noted that contemporary American culture places such an enormous value on individual freedom that many Americans find commitment to home, family, the nation, or even the Church to be marginal at best. In fact, Bellah, who is an Episcopal layman, says that most of us do a cost-benefits analysis of nearly every situation we confront. So, if a marriage, citizenship, or a relationship with employees or employers or friends costs more in terms of effort, time, and commitment than it produces, then many of us feel free to terminate the relationship.

This sort of individualism-gone-to-seed is destructive not only on an individual basis but for the nation as well. Unlimited human freedom, without parameters, is lethal. As a nation, we are now burying people, in fact, who declared that what they did in their bedrooms in the 1970s and 1980s was nobody else’s business. Tragic as the result of that mind-set is, Christian people need to look anew at the concept of freedom in Christ (Galatians 5:1–13).

For Christians, whose bodies and lives were purchased with the body and life of Jesus Christ, freedom has limits yet offers direction, guidance, and purpose to life. Orthodox Christianity offers reconciliation between God and man and between fellow human beings, and direction and purpose for living beyond the thrill of the moment, the vacuous chimera of materialism, hedonism, narcissism, and individualism. One may indeed be a thinking woman or man and still be a faithful catholic Christian within the ancient Church of Jesus Christ known as Eastern Orthodoxy.

(Reproduced from

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Corpus Christi Central

Our friend Huw has a large array of sermons, antiphons, hymns, propers, and meditations on his blog in honor of the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Here's an appropriate hymn he missed:

O Godhead hid, devoutly I adore Thee,
Who truly art within the forms before me;
To Thee my heart I bow with bended knee,
As failing quite in contemplating Thee.

Sight, touch, and taste in Thee are each deceived;
The ear alone most safely is believed:
I believe all the Son of God has spoken,
Than Truth's own word there is no truer token.

God only on the Cross lay hid from view;
But here lies hid at once the Manhood too:
And I, in both professing my belief,
Make the same prayer as the repentant thief.

Thy wounds, as Thomas saw, I do not see;
Yet Thee confess my Lord and God to be:
Make me believe Thee ever more and more;
In Thee my hope, in Thee my love to store.

O thou Memorial of our Lord's own dying!
O Bread that living art and vivifying!
Make ever Thou my soul on Thee to live;
Ever a taste of Heavenly sweetness give.

O loving Pelican! O Jesu, Lord!
Unclean I am, but cleanse me in Thy Blood;
Of which a single drop, for sinners spilt,
Is ransom for a world's entire guilt.

Jesu! Whom for the present veil'd I see,
What I so thirst for, O vouchsafe to me:
That I may see Thy countenance unfolding,
And may be blest Thy glory in beholding. Amen.

Thanks, Huw.


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Come Home

With this week's events at the Episcopal Church General Convention, this editorial by former ECUSA priest Fr. William Olnhausen seemed appropos. It originally appeared in the now defunct periodical Anglican Orthodox Pilgrim (Vol. 2, No. 1, Winter 1993) and is reproduced verbatim from

Editorial noteAlthough the Episcopal Synod of America (ESA) has changed its name to Forward in Faith—North America (FiFNA), and this new affiliation has reportedly re-invigorated many of its members, Fr. Olnhausen's comments certainly do still apply, as the organization is still very much the same

The 1989 convention which formed the Episcopal Synod of America was perhaps the last in a series of gatherings which raised the hopes of traditional Episcopalians. Here, it seemed to many, was an ecclesial structure, a kind of shadow province, which offered some chance either to hold traditional Anglicans together till the Episcopal Church turned around or else to lead them to a safe haven elsewhere. Six diocesan bishops, out of the 95 Episcopal dioceses, appeared to commit themselves to do whatever was necessary to maintain the traditional ministry of the Episcopal Church, and to cross diocesan lines (with or without the diocesan bishop's permission) in order to minister to traditional Episcopalians who so requested. The bishops who stepped out to form ESA are to be admired; they had been under almost unbearable personal pressure to conform to the PECUSA party line. They still have not sold out.

Nevertheless, three and a half years later, what has the Synod produced?

  1. One retired bishop who bravely ministered to one traditional parish in another diocese.
  2. An Episcopal Missionary Diocese headed by the same bishop, which established some new congregations and then, apparently in frustration, founded a new Episcopal Missionary Church, leaving the Episcopal Church and the Synod behind entirely.
  3. A small number of tracts and publications.
  4. No further movement toward a new province which can protect traditional Episcopalians.
  5. No perceptible influence on the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion, both of which continue down the path to destruction. Indeed, the decisions to ordain women in England, South Africa, and Australia appear to assure the victory of heterodox religion in the Anglican Communion.
  6. Most disturbing of all, ESA has produced no clear sense of direction. What does the Synod plan to do?

Our specific questions about the Episcopal Synod of America are three-fold:

1. What is the Synod's vision of the future? The handwriting has been on the wall since 1976. Where does Synod leadership plan to go when life in the Episcopal Church is no longer institutionally possible, as it will likely become? If there is some plan for the future, ESA has been remarkably successful in keeping it secret.

Some ESA folk clearly hoped to maintain a traditional Anglican province in communion with Canterbury. With that option now closed, will ESA join with other dissident Anglicans in the world to become yet another continuing Anglican denomination? This option is based on the assumption that traditional Anglicanism (without Canterbury) is viable. But will the real traditional Anglicanism please stand up and identify itself? Is traditional Anglicanism Anglo-Catholic? Evangelical? Liberal? High Church? Low Church? Broad Church? Isn't it precisely traditional Anglicanism's nebulous definition of itself which has led to the present chaos? Theologically and morally, Anglicanism has failed. It contained within itself the seeds of its own destruction. Are those who wish to return to the safety of Episcopalianism as it was in, say the 1950's prepared to endure its collapse again—twice in their lifetime? This is not the solution.

Will ESA go to Rome? But the Roman Church is as deeply disturbed as Anglicanism. Is the American Roman Church really interested in taking in conservatives? How many Episcopal parishes have found a genuine welcome there? Many old-fashioned Anglo-Catholics still long for the Roman Church as she once was in 19th century England—but have they taken a hard look at her as she is today, especially in America?

Or will ESA make the right choice and move towards Orthodoxy? We see each of these tendencies among various ESA folk. This is likely why the Synod is unable to move. We suspect, therefore, that ESA, despite its good intentions, is destined to become what Bishop Terwilliger warned of years ago: a splinter group that begets only more splinters. In any event, where there is no vision the people perish, and ESA has had a hard time retaining support without a clear vision of the future. In fact not to make a decision is to make a decision. Present ESA policy appears to be to hang on till the last traditional Anglican dies.

2. Why do ESA bishops not take the simple, obvious step of breaking Eucharistic fellowship with bishops who have consecrated or given consent to the consecration of female bishops, and also with bishops like John Spong who have publicly professed non-Christian doctrinal and moral principles?

To be in communion with heresy is to participate in it. Unity at the altar has always implied unity in the faith. To withdraw from communion would set boundaries, define terms, and require no complicated structural break for now. For ESA to remain in communion with those who are destroying the Episcopal Church's faith and order seems self-defeating and exceedingly non-traditional.

3. Why is ESA still even trying to remain within the Episcopal Church? By its actions, Anglicanism has rejected its Catholic identity and has forsaken the branch theory—neither of which were ever accepted by either Rome or Orthodoxy. The issues today all cut across Western denominational lines, and the old denominational structures no longer make sense. There is every evidence, judging from membership and attendance statistics, that God is destroying them. Why are traditional Christians clinging to the Episcopal Church? We former Anglicans who are now Orthodox would like to say to ESA and its beleaguered supporters: Come home!

How can the foreign, Eastern, ethnic Orthodox Church be a home for Anglicans, you ask? Let me tell you:

1. Orthodoxy is no more foreign than Lutheranism, Roman Catholicism, and, yes, even Anglicanism. Perhaps one of Anglicanism's difficulties in the United States has been precisely that it is English ethnic, planted on foreign soil. Have you ever considered that the Bible itself is an Eastern document? That doesn't seem to be a problem for Americans—although the Western presuppositions which Western Christians have imposed upon the Scriptures may help to explain their current state of confusion about the Bible. Furthermore, the Orthodox Church is not just ethnic but multi-ethnic. Indeed Orthodoxy is Greek, Russian, Arab. It is also American. In the United States, there is a rapidly developing American ethnic Orthodoxy, within which Americans can quickly feel at home.

There are many former Anglicans who are Orthodox. Within my own Antiochian Archdiocese, well over half the clergy are converts, and perhaps 20% of the total are former Anglicans. Just in the last four years, this Archdiocese has taken in Episcopal congregations (or portions thereof) in suburban Milwaukee, Denver, Boulder, Fort Worth, Concord (California), Omaha, and suburban Baltimore. But in the end the question is: which do you value more, your Anglican ethos or your faith? If you had to give up one, which would it be? Are you now sacrificing your Christian inheritance and that of your children and grandchildren for a mess of [English] pottage?

2. Anglicanism's roots are Orthodox. Many of us taught that early pre-Roman Catholic British (Celtic) Christianity was very much like modern Orthodoxy, Catholic but not Roman Catholic. That argument can scarcely be made today, but in the beginning it was true. St. Irenaeus of Lyons wrote that:

"…the Church, although scattered over the whole civilized world to the end of the earth, received from the apostles its faith…[and] carefully preserves it, as if living in one house. She believes these things [everywhere] alike, as if she had but one heart and one soul, and preaches them harmoniously, teaches them and hands them down, as if she had but one mouth. For the languages of the world are different, but the meaning of the [Christian] Tradition is the same. Neither do the churches that have been established in Germany believe otherwise, or hand down any other Tradition, nor those among the Iberians, nor those among the Celts, nor in Egypt, nor in Libya, nor those established in the middle parts of the world." (Against Heresies: Book I).

That Church which has always been united in the faith and remains so today, without addition or diminution, is the Orthodox Church. In the days before papal power and Western doctrinal innovation divided West from East, British Christians (the Celts) were part of the primitive Orthodox unity—for the British Church was united with the rest of Orthodoxy in the faith and in Eucharistic fellowship. I have discovered that all my early British heroes and heroines were Orthodox! The Orthodox Church in America today publishes a little booklet titled Saints of the British Isles. (Does the Episcopal Church have such a pamphlet?) The official calendar of the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America commemorates the likes of Joseph of Arimathaea, Alban, Columba, Aidan, Patrick, Brigid, David of Wales—and also Aristobulus, the first Bishop of Britain, whom the English have long forgotten, but the Eastern Orthodox still remember! In this context, does Orthodoxy seem like home? Indeed, it does.

3. Most important, Orthodoxy is the fulfillment of the highest Anglican ideals. Anglican Catholics sought to be patristic, emphasizing the continuity of the faith throughout history, loyal to the faith once delivered to the saints, neither adding to it nor subtracting from it. Anglican Evangelicals wished to be true to the Scriptures, Christ-centered, emphasizing personal devotion to the Lord. Classical Anglican liberals (as opposed to the authoritarian modernists now wielding power) wanted to avoid legalism and externally imposed authority, but rather to allow each person a free response to God. All these ideas are fulfilled in Orthodoxy—but brought together not in antithetical movements and parties, as Anglicans often did, but in genuine synthesis. Anglicanism failed not because its ideals were wrong, but because Anglicanism did not know how to recreate primitive Christian unity; because the Church cannot be recreated but can only re-entered; because Anglicanism was, in Bishop Terwilliger's words, not a church but a series of movements; because Anglicanism has been part of Western Christianity, blown this way and that by the winds of Roman Catholic and Protestant controversies, reactions and counter-reactions, reformations and counter-reformations. And now, as the Roman and Protestant systems are collapsing, classical Anglicanism is going under, too. But Anglican ideals are everyday reality in the Orthodox Church.

Let me speak of what I have seen in eight years of close association with Orthodoxy, after three and one half years as an Orthodox priest. Orthodoxy is genuinely united in the Catholic and Apostolic faith. I have yet to meet or hear of anyone in Orthodoxy who denies any article of the Creed. Orthodoxy is profoundly Scriptural. Orthodoxy is not only Christ-centered but Trinity centered, with deep personal devotion to Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What holds Orthodoxy together is not externally imposed authority but rather personal conviction and conversion. But the Orthodox have an aversion to ecclesiastical movements; there are no Catholic, Evangelical or liberal parties. In Orthodoxy the highest Anglican ideals are harmonized and exist not as warring factions, not just living together under one roof but married, united in worship, in theology, in prayer, in daily life.

Is the Orthodox Church the perfect church? Of course not. It is filled with sinners. It has many problems. But the faith is not one of them. Bishop Kallistos (formerly Timothy Ware, a convert from Anglicanism and author of The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way) writes that as the Western denominations progressively lose their grasp on the fundamentals of Christianity, more and more people must turn to the Orthodox Church to find simple Christianity.

As so we say again to traditional Anglicans: Come home to Orthodoxy! Why stay in Egypt when God offers you a land where you can be free? Why remain in a post-Christian denomination which has failed, where you are not welcome, when you could live in peace, propagate the faith, and leave a Christian heritage to your children? Why cling to the past, when you could bravely move into the future? God bless you for your faith, your courage, your hope and your intentions. Don't waste them.

Kate Schori: "Mother Jesus," "One Church Two Minds," Etc.

Katharine Schori, the new Presiding "Bishop" of ECUSA/TEC, has addressed the House of Delegates, where she invoked "Mother Jesus." (Way to calm the waters.) She added, "I am fully committed to the inclusion of gay and lesbian Christians in this church." Coming from a woman who supported the ordination of Gene Robinson to the episcopacy, the meaning should be clear.

An ECUSA member commented today: "Incidentally, they have had one hell of a thunderstorm in Columbus all morning."

Mme. Schori described the new dominion, which she has helped rend into pieces, as "One church - two minds." Which calls to mind several verses with a singular message:

  • "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." - St. James 1:4.
  • "Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded." - St. James 4:8
  • "And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand." - Jesus Christ (St. Mark 3:5).

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

ECUSA Rejects Gay Marriage Moratorium

It's official: ECUSA's General Convention has watered-down resolution enacting a moratorium (note: not a ban) on ordaining homosexuals as bishops. The final vote tallies:

Y44Y 38
N 53N 53
D 14D 18
TOTAL Yes 44TOTAL Yes 38

See your diocesan voting record here.
Don't expect massive repercussions, probably ever. According to the BBC:

The Communion will look to the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for a reaction. But it may not come quickly. Dr Williams has a committee of four wise advisers to consult, and they may consider the Episcopal Church’s failure to comply with what was demanded of it not sufficiently egregious to warrant immediate disciplinary action. What would it consist of anyway? Not inviting the Americans to the next Lambeth Conference in 2008 perhaps.

Anglicans can wring their hands and wait for their left-leaning Archbishop to discipline his flock for being as AffCath as he is. What if ECUSA had not elected a female bishop and some "serious" consequence were to follow its rejection of the Windsor Report? Then the traditional ECUSA faithful would be left with a church that accepts the ordination of homosexuals and women to the priesthood -- but not to the episcopacy. Somehow, ECUSA failed to bar anti-Christian pantheists from the episcopacy, as well.

Most observers agree it is unthinkable that the Archbishop of Canterbury will jettison ECUSA from the Anglican communion over this. A conservative Anglican's "best case scenario" is the creation of a recognized parallel structure alongside Schori's domain. Neither group would be in communion with one another but both would be in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and (apparently) everyone else in the communion (including members more liberal than ECUSA?).

The best the still-Christian Episcopalian can hope for is to forge a slightly less heretical church body without a defined theology, with major "tension" regarding other issues, which mandates a de facto recognition of womens ordination, and remains part of an international communion that has proven it has no mechanism or capacity for discipline -- even of unrepentant heretics. Abraham Lincoln had a cogent analysis of such compromises.

I sympathize with this person's plight. I know many who fought on for years in vain to preserve the church their forebears had founded, where Grandma donated the front pew and Uncle Alan donated the stained glass window. However well adorned, those chapels have become whitened sepulchres, and the faithful must now choose whether to preserve their ancestors' possession or their ancestors' Christian faith. Orthodox Christians have also had to make this decision, where the consequences of fealty were not social ostracism or the intelligentsia's scorn but the loss of property, freedom, and livelihood. Even without stained glass, beautiful buildings, or often priests, the babushkas kept their forefathers' faith alive. The fight against entrenched American heresy would not be as deadly, but it will require absolute dedication and struggle. In the end, if you endure, sacrifice, and prevail, you may - just may - end up in a church that allows you to believe the teachings of the Undivided Catholic Church. But it will not teach it to your children or grandchildren, or spare them a much harder fight against a more entrenched left-leaning leadership worsened by our ever-secularizing culture. It seems like a pitched battle to wage for so little return.

In opposing today's decision, Bishop Keith Ackerman of the Diocese of Quincy is invoking, “The Bible, the ecumenical councils, the Vincentian canons.” He is clearly out of line with Mme. Presiding Bishop. And with Rowan Williams. However, ECUSA's remaining Anglo-Catholics do not yet apppreciate they are also out-of-step with the charismental fundigelical womens ordination advocates of the Southern Hemisphere. Perhaps it may dawn on those invoking the ecumenical councils that they belong in the "Church of the Ecumenical Councils." (And I daresay they would feel more at home in Her Western Rite.)

Monday, June 19, 2006

ECUSA Head: Homosexuality a "Gift"

Surprised? ECUSA's new Presiding "Bishop," Katharine Schori, not only voted for the consecration of Gene Robinson, but she likens homosexuality to one of the gifts of the Spirit. Asked on CNN if homosexuality is a sin, she replied:

I don't believe so. I believe that God creates us with different gifts. Each one of us comes into this world with a different collection of things that challenge us and things that give us joy and allow us to bless the world around us. Some people come into this world with affections ordered toward other people of the same gender and some people come into this world with affections directed at people of the other gender.

One wonders if this is not the reason the Apostle Paul wrote, "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant" (I Cor. 12:1). Romans 12:6-8; Galatians 5:19-24; and Ephesians 4:8-19 are also instructive. Buggery isn't to be found.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

A Patriarch's Repose and an Objection Answered

I must confess, yesterday's blessed commemoration of the repose of HH Patriarch ALEXANDER III is one of the reasons I'm bemused when detractors bring up one shop-worn objection to the Western Rite: "Sure, the WRV is well-established now, but what will happen when Met. PHILIP retires"?

The Western Rite -- Deo gratias! -- has survived the translation of one metropolitan and three patriarchs...not to mention canonical dislocation following the Bolshevik Revolution, "episcopal marriages," the rise of ethnic jurisdictionalism, concentration camps, WWII, misunderstanding from Byzantine brethren, the imitation and venom of Western Rite Pseudodox, occasional calumnies from hierarchs, and so many other troubles. That, combined with our own sinful failings, makes its survival -- much less continued growth -- all but inexplicable. Despite all this, the Holy Synod of Antioch in Damascus has reaffirmed the Western Rite roughly every ten years since its implementation. Truly, this must be the work of God!

ECUSA: Now Literally a "Broad Church"

"Bishop" Katherine Schori: ECUSA's New Presiding Bishop

The First Church of Tolerance and Innovation (ECUSA) has elected Nevada priestess Katharine Schori as its prime alter Christus. According to Fox News:

The Episcopal Church on Sunday elected Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as the first female chief pastor of the denomination and the first female leader in the history of the world Anglican Communion...Only two other Anglican provinces — New Zealand and Canada — have female bishops, although a handful of other provinces allow women to serve in the post. Still, there are many Anglican leaders who believe women should not be priests. Schori was elected during the Episcopal General Convention, where delegates have been debating whether to appease Anglican leaders by agreeing to stop ordaining gay bishops — for now. In 2003, the Americans angered the Anglican world by electing the first openly gay bishop — V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

It added another dirty secret about the Church of Tolerance and Diversity:
Membership in the Episcopal Church, as in other mainline Protestant groups, has
been declining for years and has remained overwhelmingly white. More than a
quarter of the 2.3 million parishioners are age 65 or older.
One is instantly reminded of C.S. Lewis' words on "Priestesses in the Church":

I am tempted to say that the proposed arrangement would make us much more rational “but not near so much like a Church.”

...The sense in which [a woman] cannot represent God will perhaps be plainer if we look at the thing the other way round. Suppose the reformer stops saying that a good woman may be like God and begins saying that God is like a good woman. Suppose he says that we might just as well pray to “Our Mother which art in heaven” as to “Our Father”. Suppose he suggests that the Incarnation might just as well have taken a female as a male form, and the Second Person of the Trinity be as well called the Daughter as the Son. Suppose, finally, that the mystical marriage were reversed, that the Church were the Bridegroom and Christ the Bride. All this, as it seems to me, is involved in the claim that a woman can represent God as a priest does.

Now it is surely the case that if all these supposals were ever carried into effect we should be embarked on a different religion. Goddesses have, of course, been worshipped: many religions have had priestesses. But they are religions quite different in character from Christianity. Common sense, disregarding the discomfort, or even the horror, which the idea of turning all our theological language into the feminine gender arouses in most Christians, will ask “Why not? Since God is in fact not a biological being and has no sex, what can it matter whether we say He or She, Father or Mother, Son or Daughter?”

But Christians think that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. To say that it does not matter is to say either that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin, or else that, though inspired, it is quite arbitrary and unessential. And this is surely intolerable: or, if tolerable, it is an argument not in favour of Christian priestesses but against Christianity.

...The Church of England can remain a church only if she retains this opaque element [belief in revelation over "common sense"]. If we abandon that, if we retain only what can be justified by standards of prudence and convenience at the bar of enlightened common sense, then we exchange revelation for that old wraith Natural Religion.

...Only one wearing the masculine uniform can (provisionally, and till the Parousia) represent the Lord to the Church: for we are all, corporately and individually, feminine to Him. We men may often make very bad priests. That is because we are insufficiently masculine.

As if to demonstrate Lewis's prophetic insight, and that past is prologue, the head of the Coptic Church, Pope Shendoua III, wrote in his book on Homosexuality and the Ordination of Women:

After being ordained as bishops, it was still insufficient. Then, women began to ask the question: Is God a Man or a Woman? Of course gender is not found in Divinity. But they began to say: "Why do we say: `Our Father who art in Heaven?' Why do we not say `Our Mother?'" And this was a problem in many meetings of the World Council of Churches, and some tried to compromise and say `Our Parent who art in Heaven.' If we try to trace all the verses in which God is mentioned as Father in the Bible, we'll find so many! This suggestion means that we have to change the Bible! If we change the Bible, what will be said of us by other religions? They will say that this Book is not the Book of God; you are trying to make alterations, and these are not the words inspired by the Holy Spirit in the Holy Bible!

His words are simple, almost childlike, rather than the scholarly sophistry offered up by the (Ir)Religious Left. He concludes, "I think it is better for a woman to remain a woman, to work in services, and handle responsibilities which are more suitable for a woman."

Which is to say he, Lewis, and the whole of the Orthodox Church hold to the universal paradosis on the priesthood: that one must be a male to be ordained. This is not a matter of sexual discrimination, merely a recognition of the distinct roles God has bestowed upon each gender.

As much as my Byzantine brethren may deride the "simplistic" argument as a product of the "Western captivity of the Church," the Western requirement of "form, matter, and intention" is useful shorthand (though by no means exhaustive of the position of the Church, nor of the West). The proper matter for ordination is a baptized male Orthodox Christian. A woman, however holy, cannot be ordained a priest any more than beer and pizza can be consecrated as the Eucharist or taurobolium can substitute for baptism.

While the Episcopal Church USA has settled the matter of female ordination, in contravention of its own historical praxis, it now questions whether to suspend another heretical innovation "for now." Here, too, the battle is ultimately settled: ECUSA will do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, and ultimately it will expel and seize the property of those intransigents who dare oppose them. Against this background, Metropolitan PHILIP said two years ago: "Let me assure you, once again, that the Orthodox Church will never permit the ordination of women to the priesthood."