Monday, June 30, 2008

More on GAFCON

The GAFCON (Global Anglican Future Conference) wrapped up on Sunday, June 29. Their final statement, which can be viewed here, leaves little doubt that the Anglican Communion as we have known it is no longer, at least as far as the Global South bishops are concerned. Patrick Archibold at Creative Minority Report attempts to throw them a lifeline. Would that they would consider grabbing hold:
Note to our friends the Anglicans, what you are proposing to do is an awful lot of work. What with setting up your own provinces, appointing new leadership, and not to mention all political headaches that will come along with this. I have a suggestion. Save yourselves all that trouble. If you want to belong to a church that does not condone "a variety of sexual preferences and immoral behaviour as a universal human right. It claims God’s blessing for same-sex unions over against the biblical teaching on holy matrimony." If you want to get away from all that but maintain some sort of unity (perhaps with, say..., the apostles?), why not just join the Catholic Church. Hey, we even let you use your Anglican prayer books and everything. It is quite the bargain.

C'mon guys, cross the Tiber. The water is fine. Save yourself all that trouble. You won't regret it.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Year of St. Paul

For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.

The First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians 1:21

St. Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles, has been a presence in my own life from the start. I was brought up in an Episcopal parish that bears his name, so he has always been an intriguing figure to me. Last September, my husband and I had the privilege of visiting the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls during the Anglican Use Society pilgrimage to Rome. The picture to the left is of his sculpture in front of the basilica. Following the usual practice, he is depicted with the instrument of his martyrdom, a sword. I have included below several photos of the interior taken by my husband.

The very name of this blog owes a debt to St. Paul. As I said in my Welcome entry, the"folly" I mean is the sort described by St. Paul. He preached the gospel of Christ knowing full well that he would be denounced as a fool by many of those who heard him. He perservered because he knew that "the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men." What a great saint he was, and how far I fall short of his example most of the time.

To get to the point of this post--tomorrow is the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul. Not to slight St. Peter, the first Vicar of Christ and one of the Church's greatest saints. But this day also commences the Year of St. Paul, as declared by Pope Benedict XVI on the same date last year. (See the full story on Zenit.) Why 2008? Because it is thought by the Church to be the 2000th year since the birth of St. Paul.

The following excerpt from the Vatican's statement describes the "ecumenical dimension" intended by the Holy Father, something very near and dear to my convert heart:
'The Apostle of the Gentiles, who dedicated himself to the spreading of the good news to all peoples, spent himself for the unity and harmony of all Christians,' the Pope said.

'May he guide us and protect us in this bimillenary celebration,' he added, 'helping us to advance in the humble and sincere search for the full unity of all the members of the mystical body of Christ.'
I would appreciate hearing from those of you who have been, in the Pope's words, "inspired by [Paul] and his teaching," either through association with an institution bearing his name or in some other way. Comments are welcome.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

More to Celebrate

Today, June 22, is the Feast Day of Sts. Thomas More and John Fisher. Since St. Thomas is my and my husband's patron saint, we consider this a sort of de facto holy day of obligation for us, even when it doesn't fall on a Sunday. More and Fisher were, of course, among the scant few at the highest levels of civil and church hierarchy who stood up to King Henry VIII and refused to sign the Oath of Supremacy declaring Henry Supreme Head of the Church in England. They paid with their lives. Fisher was beheaded on Tower Hill on June 22, 1535. More shared his fate two weeks later, on July 6. Both were canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935.

It is perhaps somewhat ironic that their feast day caps off a week in which the fault lines in the Anglican Communion, the hodgepodge of ecclesiastical communities that form the remnant of what was once the Church of England, have been particularly evident. (See Thursday's blog entry, Anglican Confusion.) Then again, perhaps it is not so ironic. To me it is all too painfully evident that the current Anglican chaos is the logical outcome of the rebellion against the Church initiated by Henry VIII. Henry distorted scriptural truth to serve his own ends. It should come as no surprise that false Anglican shepherds and their fellow travelers continue to do so, especially when they perpetuate the notion that Truth is subjective and, therefore, unknowable. The result of this distortion of Truth is also predictable--moral and spiritual confusion.

The participants at GAFCON (the Global Anglican Future Conference) believe they are called to challenge such distortions and to encourage orthodox Anglicans who reject that version of things. They see the current situation as a "fork in the road," and the implication is that they envision a separate institutional path for orthodox Anglicans. In fact, this is already the case.

My heart goes out to them. I believe they truly desire to do God's will and that they have gone about this process in a spirit of restraint and humility. I certainly understand their desire to separate themselves from a manifestly apostate institution. But further schism will not ultimately solve the problem. It will only beget further schism and a further watering down of their credibility in the world. It has happened in ECUSA--first in 1870 with the formation of the Reformed Episcopal Church and with increasing frequency since the 1970's.

Not that I am expecting this situation to turn around. The news from GAFCON is certainly not encouraging. Here again is a quote from the conclusion of the statement of Conference participants, "The Way, the Truth and the Life":
We see a parallel between contemporary events and events in England in the sixteenth century. Then, the Catholic Church in England was faced with the choice of aligning itself with either Rome or Geneva. But, when forced to decide its identity, it sought to distinguish itself from both the practices of the Papacy and the excesses it associated with the more radical reformers. Now, after five centuries, a new fork in the road is appearing....
I take a somewhat different view of the situation in the sixteenth century. Not only the practices of the Catholic Church were at stake. Henry--and Cranmer and Elizabeth I, for that matter--also sought to separation from the institutional Church because it was politically expedient to do so. Furthermore, it was not simply a matter of choosing between two equally valid allegiances. Geneva was a schism from Rome. So, in the final analysis, was the Church of England.

There is another way, and I don't mean forming a separate Anglican entity. I mean returning home--to the Church that was and still is the one established by Christ and entrusted to his Apostles. And by "the Church," I mean the Church that St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher gave their lives for. It will continue to happen, but not primarily, I think, on an institutional level--with the possible exception of parishes that might seek reconciliation with the Catholic Church through the Pastoral Provision. It will continue, I hope and pray, at the individual level.

St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher,
Pray for us.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Anglican Confusion

There has been much in the news lately about so-called homosexual “marriage.” On May 15 a panel of four judges in California declared unconstitutional the California law restricting marriage to one man and one woman, leading to a flood of marriage license applications in the state in recent days. While that news was still sinking in, the Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire, Gene Robinson, made good on his stated intention to become a “June bride” when he entered into a civil union on June 10.

Then this week: On Saturday, June 14, the Telegraph reported that two ordained Church of England priests (a word I am tempted to put in quotes, but I’ve done enough of that already) in London had their existing civil union blessed on May 31 by a colleague in a ceremony that the Bp. of Winchester described – appropriately – as a wedding “in all but name.” Judging from the actual liturgy used, it looks an awful lot like my own wedding (performed in an Episcopal Church); they even used one of the same hymns, “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty,” and the same Gospel reading. (To view a PDF file of the wedding program, click here.) The Rev. Martin Dudley officiated at the ceremony for The Rev. Peter Cowell and the Rev. Dr. David Lord at St. Bartholomew the Great Church, Smithfield in the City of London, where Rev. Dudley is the rector. See the original article from the Telegraph online. On Tuesday, June 17, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York released a joint statement that comes about as close as Church of England bishops ever get to issuing a reprimand. Here is an excerpt:

Those clergy who disagree with the Church's teaching are at liberty to seek to persuade others within the Church of the reasons why they believe, in the light of Scripture, tradition and reason that it should be changed. But they are not at liberty simply to disregard it. (Emphasis mine)

They also noted in their statement that this matter is the subject of an investigation by the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, in whose diocese the ceremony took place. Yesterday (Wednesday, June 18) the Diocese of London released letters from Bishop Chartres to congregations in the diocese and to Rev. Dudley. Both letters are posted here. The congregations letter is a fairly standard move-along-nothing-to-see-here/this-is-merely-a-distraction-from-our-real-work sort of thing.

(How he writes this stuff with a straight face is beyond me.) An excerpt:

So much good work is being done both nationally and internationally by the Church as it seeks in the spirit of Jesus Christ to address some of the global issues of peace, justice and poverty that confront the peoples of the world. It would be a tragedy if this episode were to distract us from the big agenda.

The letter to Rev. Dudley is a tad more pointed. It expresses shock – shock! – that more than two weeks after the fact Rev. Dudley has yet to contact him directly, and for an event that has been in the works since November of 2007. The central issue according to Bp. Chartres is not civil unions, nor is it homosexual practice. Both seem to be non-issues for him. (He stresses that “homophobia is not tolerated in the Diocese of London.”) The central issue is the canonical authority of the bishop. He quotes the portion of the Canterbury/York statement excerpted above and accused Dudley of treating his parish as his “a personal fiefdom.” In my opinion, it comes off as a protracted whine. Bp. Chartres’ pride is wounded because Rev. Dudley did this in the open rather than keeping it under his hat in a more discreet “private ceremony.”

It is difficult to see how an event of this size (300 people) and consequence could have completely escaped the bishop’s notice. In other words, it seems reasonable to conclude that Mr. Dudley’s principle sin, according to Bp. Chartres, was failing to keep his bishop apprised of the wedding details.

While the response from Lambeth Palace & York Minster is stronger than I would have expected, given the recent history of dithering in the C of E, I am certain that it will all come to nothing in the end. Oh, Mr. Dudley may face some sort of mild disciplinary action from his Bishop, but I am willing to bet that he will not be forced to resign from holy orders. Although I no longer have a dog in this fight, as they say, this is hard to watch. My husband and I still have Anglican friends, after all, including a C of E vicar – in the Diocese of London. I have watched the Anglican Communion and its constituent organizations, like ECUSA, slide more and more rapidly into apostasy over the past few decades, and I feel for my brothers and sisters who still endure the false shepherds of the Anglican Communion.

UPDATE: Latest news from GAFCON – The Telegraph reports today on the release of a document drawn up by participants in the lead-up to next week’s meeting in Jerusalem, entitled, “The Way, the Truth and the Light.” The (somewhat lengthy) PDF document can be viewed here.

Perhaps the recent flood of apostasy will finally convince orthodox Anglicans that the chances of reform from within are about zero. That seems to be the consensus among GAFCON participants, although their solution is not what I would have hoped. Here is a particularly discouraging excerpt:

We see a parallel between contemporary events and events in England in the sixteenth century. Then, the Catholic Church in England was faced with the choice of aligning itself with either Rome or Geneva. But, when forced to decide its identity, it sought to distinguish itself from both the practices of the Papacy and the excesses it associated with the more radical reformers. Now, after five centuries, a new fork in the road is appearing…. (Emphasis mine)

Argh. In other words, schism was a good thing then, and further schism is the only solution we have now. They are half right. The Anglican Communion is not going to reform itself, so further association with the Communion is futile. But schism only breeds further schism, as it has for five centuries. I pray that this current mess with induce at least some orthodox Anglicans to do what my husband and I did – to investigate thoroughly and honestly the claims of the REAL Catholic Church.

Original Telegraph story:

Follow up story from the Telegraph:

Side-by-side of liturgy used in ceremony & traditional wedding liturgy:

Ceremony program (PDF):

Letters from Bp. Chartres to London congregations and Rev. Dudley:

GAFCON statement, “The Way, the Truth and the Light” (lengthy document):

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Catholic Thing

Today I came across a great new website, The Catholic Thing, launched on June 2 by the Faith & Reason Institute (FRI). A “hat tip,” I believe, is in order – to Jeff Miller at The Curt Jester. I have added the new site to my list of Favorite Links, to the right.

According to an introductory essay by FRI President Robert Royal, the site will feature an original column each day by one of an impressive line-up of writers, including Michael Novak, Ralph McInerny, Hadley Arkes, Michael Uhlmann, Mary Eberstadt, Austin Ruse, George Marlin, and William Saunders.

These are among the outstanding Catholic thinkers/writers out there, and I can attest that the writing certainly lives up to Dr. Royal’s assertion that “[W]e expect that you will not find anything quite like the quality, experience, and accessibility of The Catholic Thing.”