Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Episcopalian Mess: The Catholics (mostly) get it...

The problem, however, is not homosexual clergy. The problem is ecclesiology. The much vaunted "via media" that Anglicans pride themselves on has hit a fork in the road. If it had not been the issue of homosexuality it would have been another issue. They need to make a decision that is binding on the whole church, but they have no mechanism for doing so. They need a Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, as it were, but they very idea seems so un-British. Or, they need to decide that the Baptists and Congregationalists were right all these years, that the local church alone should guide its own destiny and that thoughts of a universal communion are delusional.

The statements coming from the Episcopal Church’s General Convention were purposely not inflammatory, but they did pass a resolution that dug in on their position. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to the other Primates of the Anglican Communion, assuring them that the new resolution affirming gays was no news at all. But for conservatives the Rubicon was already crossed. They want a guarantee of orthodoxy and the Anglican church, as a whole, cannot provide it.
Read it all here.
Hat tip to T-19 (they are still having major problems with their main website)

Obviously I don't see an imperative need for a CDF or the Pope. But Anglicanism has a major problem. They claim to be a "branch" of the church catholic spoken of in the creeds. And yet they have repudiated the methods employed by the Church to keep order and prevent schism/heresy. Can anyone imagine Rowan Williams calling for an OEcumenical Council to deal with this mess?

The Anglican Communion is alas just a loose confederation of Protestant churches with the exception of the Episcopal Church. That once mighty mainline church has been reduced to being a liberal social club whose theology (to the extent there is any) could best be described as liturgical Unitarianism.

Someone please explain to me very slowly so I can understand it... why are we still accepting Episcopalian baptisms as "close enough" for the purposes of economia among converts?


orrologion said...

As odd as it may sound, the canons don't base the validity of schismatic/heretical baptism on the faith held by the group - they are all, by nature, deficient.

Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council (Constantinople, 381 A.D.) reads thus:

"On how heretics are to be received
As for heretics who convert to Orthodoxy and join the portion of the saved, we receive them in accordance with the following procedure and custom: We receive Arians, and Macedonians, and Sabbatians, and Novatians who call themselves Catharoi and Aristeroi, and Tessareskaidekatitæ otherwise known as Tetraditæ, and Apollinarists, when they submit written statements, and anathematize every heresy that does not believe as the holy, catholic, and Apostolic Church of God believes, and are first sealed with holy Myron on the forehead, and the eyes, and the nose, and the mouth, and the ears; and in sealing them we say: “Seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Eunomians, on the other hand, who are baptized with one immersion, and Montanists who in this [City] are called Phrygians, and Sabellians who teach the son-fatherhood [of Christ], and who do other evil things as well; and all other heresies (for there are many hereabout, especially those hailing from the region of the Galatians), all of them that wish to join Orthodoxy we receive as pagans. And on the first day we make them Christians; on the second, catechumens. Then on the third day we exorcise them with the threefold blowing into their face and ears. And then we catechize them, and oblige them to spend sufficient time in the church and to listen to the Scriptures. And then we baptize them."

So, Arians, Macedonians, Sabbatians, Novatians and Apollinarists" are received by chrismation while "Eunomians, on the other hand, who are baptized with one immersion", Montanists, Sabellians "and all other heresies" are baptized. At some point far sooner than has been exercised, economia is simply being lax and giving the wrong impression (to the convert and to others). Perhaps we wouldn't have such high levels of apostasy - and yes, they are high - if we didn't make it so easy to get in in the first place - and if we made them spend time to really understand what Orthodoxy as a whole teaches rather than just the flavor of Orthodoxy preferred by their local priest.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Thanks for that. Have you read Archimandrite Ambrosius (Pagodin)'s excellent essay on this subject? I am not absolutely opposed to receiving by economia. But I totally agree that it has gotten way out of hand.

Back when the Russian Church adopted the guidelines currently used by the OCA and unofficially by the Greek Archdiocese and AOANA, the mainline denominations were unambiguously Trinitarian Christians. That is clearly not the case with many of them any longer. It is past time to rethink our commitment to disciplinary guidelines drawn up in the 19th century. The world and the sects they were meant to address have changed dramatically.

Yours in ICXC

James the Thickheaded said...

Anglicanism has simply reverted to the state in which it lay before the Oxford Movement: Lattitudinarians rule the roost. I think William Tighe put it right that the ecclesiology of TEC is basically congregationalist while the theology was (emphasis on was) trinitarian....its a different trinity now... but it's still trinitarian. Further problems seem to stem from lack of formation... a problem some would suggest that in a far different way seems to underlie at least in part our own Antiochian issues.

IF you'll forgive me, one of the better things about the Anglican chuches lay in the almost whimsical Monty Pythonish humor... who else would refer almost aptly to their head as a "primate"? And I think it's fair to say that when an Anglican takes his faith seriously these days... he goes elsewhere.

Been there, done that.

William Tighe said...

Ugh, what loathsome comments I found on the comment thread when I followed your link to the America article.

Oh, and I now see that that copy of the Hodges booklet that Rosemary Pugh was offering, and which I recommendd to you, has vanished. Did you buy it?

Visibilium said...

I'd imagine that the BCP is the reason for continuing the Russian reception method (chrismation).

Phil said...

It may be time to establish a date after which Episcopalian baptisms become suspect. Up until the late '60s-early '70s, they may still have been unambiguously valid. I would certainly think that, per Orrologion's post, Episcopalians would have been closer to the truth than Arians at that time. Today, Arians would unambiguously be more orthodox.

William Tighe said...

What Phil said. The only sensible dates would be January 1, 1977, the date at which the first women were "canonically ordained" to "the priesthood" in the Episcopal Church or (since some dioceses resisted the innovation) February 11, 1989, the date on which Barbara Harris was "consecrated" a "bishop" in TEC. As of that latter date, to be sure, the Arians (Donatists, Meletians, Novatianists etc.) were more relatively "orthodox" in their day than TEC, which after that date should rather be classified with the Marcionites and the Montanists. With the advent of a sodomite bishop in 2003, and the acceptance of SS in 2009, the classification category should perhaps shift to among the Carpocratians, the Ophites and the Sethites among the Gnostics.

James the Thickheaded said...

FWIW... I'd date it from the time of adoption of the new prayer book which I believe is 1979. You could perhaps also date it back to the first time the convention failed to vote in favor of supporting the Nicene Creed. I'm fuzzy on this at this point, but seem to recall it might be 1983. While I understand the matter of tying it to consecrations... and there's a very good case there, going with the documents might be a better route. TEC's ordinations have often been claimed as "spontaneous outpourings of the spirit" (the devil made me do it!) and reflect one congregation or diocese and not the whole. The documents and votes were at least the majority of the a ruling body. Surprisingly, I don't think the dates change all that much.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Dr. Tighe,
Thanks for the note. I did not buy it. My finances are strained right now, and like many Americans I have had to make some budget cuts. My reading material is coming from the public library or other free sources for the foreseeable future. Perhaps Annie bought it? And I just made the mistake of glancing at the comments over at the America website. I should have known better. Sigh. One wonders how such an excellent article got by the editors at that publication?

On your second post related to Phil's I think you are both right. I think anything after 1977 should not be accepted. Of course the Orthodox Church has a somewhat different approach to sacraments outside the Church than the Roman Catholic Church. Even when we accept a non-Orthodox baptism it is less a declaration of it's validity than of our ability to make it valid.

Yours very cordially,

Francis said...

Dr Tighe and John: no, it was me (Anglican priest and reader of several months' standing, though I don't think I've commented before). I did leave it a few days to see if anyone participating in the thread wanted to buy it, but then when they didn't I decided it probably had my name on it. (I hope no-one's put out about that!) Thanks for the recommendation, Dr Tighe.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Fr. Francis,
I am glad you got it. Drop me a line after you've read it and let me know what you think. Anything Dr. Tighe recommends in reading is usually a pretty good bet.

Yours in ICXC

William Tighe said...

Well, Fr. Francis, I'm glad you got it; I just reread my copy while giving a final examination in mid-May. You may be interested to know that Hodges (a professional academic Philosophy Professor and Orthodoxophile Anglican, associated loosely with C. S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers and that circle of apologists, and who lived from 1905 to 1976) wrote a number of good and winsome theological books, the best, IMO, being *The Pattern of Atonement* (1955), a very attractive and readable (101 pages) book on the Doctrine of Justification. Happily, there are lots of cheap (and I mean *cheap*) copies available online at Abebooks.com, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and the like.

It was only very recently that I realized, btw, that books listed on Amazon.com, Amazon.ca and Amazon.co.uk are not "cross-listed," and that one should check all three separately for one's wants before ordering from any one of them. Perhaps everyone else knows this, but it came as a disconcerting surprise to me.

Visibilium said...

I don't see any reason to require the Greek method just for Episcopals. My Diocese uses the Russian method for Anglicans, RCs, and most mainline Prots. I presume these decisions were made for good reasons. I give my clergy the benefit of the doubt in ambiguous situations.

Exactly what makes Episcopals less worthy of reception oeconomia than PCUSA or the Methodists? Schori? Robinson? I haven't heard that Schori or any of her minions have deviated from the BCP's baptismal ritual. And that's the crux of the issue. What's relevant is her adherence to Trinitarian water baptism. That's what mainline American Orthodoxy says, and I don't have a problem with it. If my jurisdiction used the Greek method for everyone, I wouldn't have a problem with that decision, either.

Frankly, I think it's more dangerous to use the Russian method for RCs. Too many of those converts carry over papalized thinking into Orthodoxy. We have enough of a problem dealing with the effects of the Russian Church's papal captivity without letting unwholesome influences in through the back door. I'm sure you'll disagree, but, hey, that's what makes a horse race.

Anonymous said...

Visibilium, I respectfully disagree with your idea about the danger of RC converts re-captivating the Orthodox: like a kind of velvet Ferrara-Florence. In my experience, and I speak from personal experience, RC converts are happier than most to jettison all their papalist baggage. Leaving Roman Catholicism is a big deal in a way that leaving Anglicanism or Episcopalianism probably isn't. It would be very hard to do if there were any lingering nostalgia.


Fr. David said...

My neighbor (a deaconess at the local Episcopal Cathedral) recently told me that she was involved in various committees looking at dispensing with the "outdated" doctrine of the Trinity. "Too sexist and irrelevant" she said. I asked what her bishop might think of such a proposal, "O, he's the one who formed the committees. Priests receiving Episcopalians beware -- this deaconess also told me that many Episcopalians no longer use traditional Trinitarian fomula when baptizing. Opting instead for some nonsense involving "Creator God, The Revealing God and the One who lives within us".
Fr. David
ROCOR (Western Rite)

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Fr. David,
Thank you for your comment. I have heard similar reports. It's not "official" yet. But the "make it up as you go along" approach to just about everything liturgical in TEC is fast becoming normative. In fact if not yet theory, The Episcopal Church is no longer Christian.


Visibilium said...

Fr. David,

Is an alternative liturgical text in circulation? If so, I'll get it forwarded to the Bishop.