Saturday, March 04, 2006

Bp. Grafton on Orthodox-Anglican Reunion

Bp. Charles C. Grafton of Fond du Lac.

As certain Continuing Anglicans continue to indulge the fancy that discussions with Rome will somehow result in their being allowed to maintain Anglican traditions without absorption into the Papacy, they may want to heed the words of their heroes, Bp. Charles C. Grafton of Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. He, a lifelong Anglo-Catholic, experienced the bitter disappointment of watching similar dreams of unity with Rome dissolve, and he wrote:

But while this is so, there are brightening prospects in the East. Thither, it would seem, God's providence is directing us. The venerable orthodox Russian and Greek Church is turning to us with friendly expressions of interest. She says, "We do not ask you, as Rome does, to 'submit' we only ask, 'Do you hold the same Catholic faith we have inherited from the Fathers?' If you do this, we are brothers." When we consider that the East has been but little affected by the schoolmen, and had not to pass through the convulsions of a Reformation, and has for nine hundred years borne consistent witness for the faith once delivered, and against Roman errors, Anglicans should be willing to free themselves from their prejudices and somewhat self-conceit, and listen to her kindly words.

The Church, indwelt by Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit, is a living organism, and we may trust the Voice of God speaking through her before she was rent into Eastern and Western divisions. The Voice of God speaking to the churches is not confined, as some Anglicans seem to think, to any particular centuries. But in the seven Ecumenical councils we have the Voice of the Spirit and in the seven holy mysteries, the means of grace.

The question presenting the most difficulty has to do with the Filioque. There is no difference in belief between the Anglican communion and the venerable East on the doctrine of the Filioque, but without Ecumenical consent it has no right to be in the Creed.

May God inspire the wise men of the Church to solve the difficulty. Each church in the case of restored intercommunion would retain its own independent government and liturgy. Anglicans and Easterns must be content with agreement in the ancient faith,--not in the uniformity of its outward expression. While the faith is unchangeable, the Church, as the bride of Christ, has been led to follow her Lord's life, and sometimes has been more absorbed in devotion to His incarnation, sometimes to His passion. The faith abides from age to age; but ceremonies and practices of devotion are the fresh outcome of the Church's love. The East and the West have their own ceremonial traditions, and the differences existing should not hinder the restoration of Christian recognition and fellowship.

Bp. Grafton is not necessarily a hero of mine; he did not respect the Russian Church when it took in Fr. Joseph Rene Vilatte (after Vilatte abandoned Utrecht and Grafton but before he abandoned us and the "Jacobites"). Nor do I agree with all he had to say. But he had been down this road before, and his words above may prove a guidepost for Anglo-Catholics on the journey today.


Blogger James the Thickheaded said...


Yep combination of TAC and Rome seems a stretch and the more likely succesful combination of TAC with Orthodoxy....just not on the radar screen.

I wouldn't be too hard on Grafton. He brought anglocatholicism to America, and as the inspiring light of the APCK, he would be seen as one of the guides to the Prayerbook catholicism...where I've found some refuge these past months from doctrinal drift. I've read his books and there is some "dated" but unequivocal antipathy for Rome.

As for me, my difficulty with both the Continuum and WRV is the age old question of "Where is the church?". The tenuousness of both the Continuum and the WRV seem real, especially in the case of the later where there are only 20 US parishes and a minimal promotional budget. Hope this changes...but for the moment, it's hard to argue the benefits of one relative to the other....just not cut and dried.

So in some respects, anglocatholicism seems a step-child no matter whether housed in ECUSA, Roman Catholic Anglican Use, Western Rite Orthodox, or even the Continuum. I'm still wrestling with this. Anglican Use isn't a local option - nor a particularly permanent one unless they get a seminary. APCK has a seminary...and presumably WRO does? ECUSA seems openly hostile at the moment. This leaves WR Othodoxy and APCK/ACC Continuing churches. For the moment, the much larger Continuum offers those of us anglican at least a familiar worship. The WRO I am just learning about...but seems higher church and less familiar relative to my APCK parish - and icons...well, I'm not all there yet. Both my experiences at APCK and WRO are mission sized and suffer from obscurity. Can't explain either of these casually without "Huh? What?"
The next two or three years could be very significant to the Continuum either in terms of what devolves in the wider Anglican world....or for the matter Sherlock Holmes referred to as "the dog that didn't bark".

In the end, I'd love to see something evolve that would do Peter Gilsey's move one better and have the whole Continuum come into communion with the Orthodox. But that's a pipe dream, too.

12:24 PM  
Blogger eulogos said...

James-I usually read your comments on T19. As a Catholic former Episcopalian I would of course love to see you and yours as Catholics. I agree that the question is "Where is the Church?"

But I do have to say that looking at Western Rite Orthodoxy and saying, how can they be the church, they have only 20 parishes, is not quite thinking straight about this. You wouldn't be joining Western Rite Orthodoxy, you would be joining Orthodoxy. Just as in joining an Anglican Use parish you wouldn't be joining the Anglican Use, you would be joining the Catholic Church.

As for how you would explain it to others...does that really matter?

What matters is "Where is the Church?"

I am incredibly drawn by Orthodox worship..and from reading the two Western Rite liturgies it seems as if they are doing "our" rites beautifully and appropriately as well. And icons...what bothers you about them? Don't you worship in Anglican churches with crucifixes and stations of the cross? Catholics don't worship statues and Orthodox don't worship icons inasmuch as icons are pictures painted on wood; we both worship God who is made present through the image. Catholic theology is careful to say that we offer a lesser form of worship, or reverence,(dulia) to the saints and if it is a statue or icon of a saint it is the saint and not the wood and paint that we reverence.
I don't really know how the Orthodox speak theologically of icons and I am sure someone will write of this in their language, but I don't think I am wrong to say that icons make more concrete the idea you have heard in the BCP liturgy that God has "compassed us round with such a cloud of witnesses." As for myself I made friends with even the lifesized pastel plaster statues of the saints in the church where I became a Catholic, stopped seeing them as in poor taste and saw them as that "cloud of witnesses." Icons have the advantage that they are often beautiful. When I have the privilege of worshipping with the Orthodox I kiss icons with the best of them and feel a complete rightness to it. I feel sure that whether you become Catholic or Orthodox, such practices will soon become a second nature and a joy to you.

Not to offend our hosts here I hope but just to witness to what I believe, I feel that the Catholic church has gone on acting the way the church did before the split, holding councils, confronting heresies, issuing the occasional anaethema, defining doctrines, making moral pronouncements. One prominent Orthodox popular spokesperson wrote to me that there is no authority in Orthodoxy which could decide for all of Orthodoxy to reunite with Catholicism, on whatever terms, and that the Orthodox people would have to look at Catholicism and see themselves. It seems to me that having no authority which could make such a decision is simply not like "The Church", not how we saw it act through its first thousand years.

On the other hand, we Catholics have to feel the validity of the point this person was making in her comments to me; that right now the reality in Catholic parishes isn't such that the Orthodox people could look at it and "see themselves." We have a magisterium which can state unambiguously for instance that contraception is wrong...but it is well known that the vast majority of Catholics don't obey it. I think it is nevertheless important that we do have this teaching office which can say what is, and what is not, the teaching of the church. But some people will feel that what they encounter when they actually go to church is the more significant reality.

God bless you and guide you in your journey.
Susan Peterson

4:04 PM  
Blogger James the Thickheaded said...


This post is ancient history by now. I am sorry I left town and did not see it before. Thanks so very much for your kind note and comments. Very constructive.


1:45 PM  

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