Fr. J. Scott Newman's insightful comments on this article which originally appeared on March 31, 2011, were deleted at Kendall Harmon's blog, as were mine. The neo-Anglicans like Matt Kennedy and Sarah Hey represent, in the words of Archbishop Haverland, "the slow lane to modernist mush." They refuse to entertain comments at Stand Firm that question the dangerous innovation of women priests. The Episcopal bishops are schismatic and the denomination remains unrepentant from its involvement in Spiritualism. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the confused Rowan Williams, is ineffectual in leading the worldwide Anglican Communion. Anglicans face a crisis of authority that will either burn them up or ignite a great renewal.
|Female bishops in the Anglican circus|
Impressions of the New American Anglicanism
By Alice C. Linsley
I hesitate to write on this subject because I’m no longer in the Anglican Communion. However, what I write has been on my mind and heart for some time and I hope that it will be received as helpful criticism. I recognize that these are critical days for Anglicans in North America and I don't wish either to offend or to stir trouble. I hope that this might encourage continued conversation about Anglican identity.
I worship each Sunday with other former Anglicans who have found their way to Orthodoxy and we discuss our impressions of what seems to be happening in Anglicanism in this country.
American Anglicanism: Another Form of Evangelicalism
One impression is that considerable sections of the new American Anglicanism constitute another form of evangelicalism, which typically tilts toward cultural norms such as contemporary music, streamlined liturgies, leniency toward divorce and remarriage, and interpretation of Scripture through a mainly Protestant lens.
It must seem so to most African Anglicans, who like the Nigerians, tend to be evangelical and far more sacramental than is often realized. The Nigerian bishops are orthodox on questions of human sexuality. They are serious about being “Lambeth Quadralateral Evangelicals” and they hold to the mainstream catholic understanding of Church, sacraments, and the male priesthood. Now there’s a godly balance!
The New ACNA Must Not Calcify
There is also an impression, supported anecdotally, that this movement might be calcifying. This can happen when a group wraps itself in a protective cloak and breathes its own stale air. Might this be happening with Anglicanism in America?
Here are some signs that it may be so:
Young clergy are not generally encouraged to pursue Truth for its own sake. The Truth is presented in the form of a realigned Anglicanism with an evangelical flavor, in which Church tradition on women priests is regarded as adiaphoron. Women were leaders in the early church, but none are recorded as presiding at the Agape meal. A church must screen candidates, but what happens to candidates who are opposed to the ordination of women and see this as an obstacle to the Church’s mission to proclaim Jesus Christ in Truth? Certainly, Truth must always be pursued by Christ’s followers if we are to avoid becoming a stagnant community.
There is lack of clarity about the priesthood in American Anglicanism. Do Anglicans have presbyters (elders) or do they have priests? Both elders and priests are mentioned in the Bible. Some of the elders were of priestly lines, others were not. What are we to make of this?
Does the Church’s priesthood come as an organic continuation of the priesthood that is traced back to Abraham’s ruler-priest ancestors or does it emerge as a new institution according to the doctrine of apostolic succession? Were the Apostles of the priestly lines? Very likely, but this is not verified. Anthropological study of the priesthood, using the Bible as my primarily source of information, reveals that not all priests actually sacrificed in the temple. Men and women and sons and daughters in the priestly families served many functions and were traditionally leaders or rulers among their people.
While the Apostles from priestly families haven't been definitively identified, the Bible tells us that there were ruler-priests among the early converts: Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. The Greek word for Arimathea has a rough breathing mark ( ῾ ) which indicates aspiration or an initial H sound. Consequently, Joseph was of "Harimathea." Here we see the Har that has ancient associations with the Horite priesthood of Abraham’s people. Harun is the Arabic equivalent of Aaron. (Arabic is much older than Hebrew.) Hari-Mathea may indicate a priest of the line of Matthew, and therefore a kinsman of Joseph who married Mary. According to Mark 15:43, Joseph was an "honorable counselor” who was awaiting the kingdom of God. Joseph, who is mentioned in all four gospels (Matthew: 27:57-60; Mark 15:43-46; Luke 23:50-55; John 19:38-42), was a voting member of the Sanhedrin. He, like Nicodemus, was a ruler-priest.
If Joseph of Arimathea is the ruler-priest who brought Christianity to England, as Tradition holds, then Anglicans should regard the ruler-priest pattern as an essential aspect of Anglicanism.
Ignorance and Confusion about Church Tradition
Many of the new Anglican clergy are Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail and lack deep understanding of Anglicanism. Some have done all their formal training outside of the Anglican tradition. So it is that questions about the Virgin Mary as “the Woman” of Gen. 3:15 are sometimes dismissed as “Anglo-Catholic.” This actually happened at a conference! When did Anglican clergy become dismissive of the Incarnation and the Virgin Mary’s role in fulfilling God’s promise?
The new clergy of the Anglican realignment appear to have a shallow understanding of the relation of Scripture and Holy Tradition. This will pose an obstacle in conversation with Roman Catholics and Orthodox, Anglicanism two best friends in its continued struggle to uphold church discipline. A friend attended an 8-week seminar lead by a new Anglican priest who didn’t want to address questions. He only wanted to give the approved evangelical answers. My friend confided: “Holy Tradition and the Ancient Faith were summarily dismissed by an ad hominem. After years of listening to priests of varying quality, very few of them have as much to say as they think they do. I think they need to tread carefully and listen and learn, starting with the ancients, but they can't get their egos out of the way to recognize that.”
There is the problem of former Episcopalians who, like myself, never could find a high church orthodox parish. Here in Kentucky the choices are either the Episcopal churches (hopelessly revisionist) or “happy clappy” low church congregations. Bishop John Rodgers famously said "the real difference in the Church today isn't between those who are high-church and those who are low-church, but between those who believe Jesus' tomb is really empty and those who don't." That may be the most important difference, but it doesn’t mean the difference between high church Anglican worship and evangelical Anglican worship doesn’t matter. It matters because of the inextricable linkage of prayer and belief. It matters very much to me that there isn’t a single catholic Anglican parish in my state.
A friend expressed my sentiments well in these words: “What the Episcopal Church has become and what its replacement is just breaks my heart and challenges my soul.” He is a mature and intelligent person with a profound understanding of the nature of the priesthood. While exploring the priestly vocation, he looked into different divinity schools, but received a “severely negative reaction” when he expressed to his Anglican priest his preference for Harvard over Trinity School for Ministry. At Harvard the circle of discussion is wider, his career options less limited, and given the wide range of viewpoints, nobody thinks it strange that he should select Harvard over a seminary that trains women to be priests contrary to the tradition of the Church Fathers.
Another friend is helping her struggling AMIA parish through a clergy search process. She reports that the list of candidates is small and dismal. She wonders why her bishop won’t approve a retired ECUSA priest who already worships with them. He is theologically sound and experienced. Could it be that the ECUSA label is enough to block his approval? That happens when a church becomes so sensitive to past problems that it can’t embrace the newness of each day.
Anglicanism in America is at a critical place historically. It needs to find balance between Evangelicalism and Catholicism; and between Scripture and Holy Tradition. It needs to settle the issue of women’s ordination, which means struggling to understand the origins of the priesthood and to shape priestly ministry according to that divine ordinance. And it must restore the undivided Trinity as the central focus of worship.
Planting churches and inviting people to commit their lives to Jesus Christ is a very good thing, but a calcified church won’t hold people. They will want to move to a deeper understanding of the Son of God and the mystery of the Trinity. They will want to see Him in the sacraments and in the life of the Body. They will want clergy who aren’t afraid of Truth regardless of where it is found, and they will want to breathe fresh air.
Some Promising Signs
One promising sign is the cooperation between Trinity and Nashotah House. The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Munday in a VOL interview said: “One thing that gives our two schools a close affinity is that I was a faculty member and associate dean at Trinity for 15 years before coming to Nashotah House as Dean. Father Doug McGlynn, our Seminary Sub-Dean at Nashotah House, taught on Trinity's faculty as well. Fr. Arnold Klukas, our professor of Liturgy and Spirituality has taught at Trinity also. So we have lots of ties and friendships between the faculties of the two schools.
We have hosted Trinity's entire faculty for a visit at Nashotah House, and our faculty looks forward to reciprocating with a visit to Trinity in the future. There is a warm fellowship and collegiality between the members of both faculties, and we are often involved with the same mission agencies, speak at the same conferences, and cooperate in all sorts of ways.”
There are signs of sharing between evangelicals and the traditionally Anglo-Catholic dioceses of Fort Worth, San Joachin and Quincy, including a recent A.M.I.A. ordination by Bishop "Doc" Loomis in Peoria. When Bishop Alberto Morales of the Diocese of Quincy heard that AMIA wanted to start a church plant in his see city, he encouraged them. He recognizes that AMIA is culturally different to Anglo-Catholicism, and capable of reaching people for the Lord who might not be attracted to the more formal Anglican worship. Bishop Alberto generously offered St Andrew's Peoria, his largest Anglo-Catholic church for the ordination. Bishop "Doc" Loomis preached and presided at the ordination of his newest clergyman. Bishop Alberto celebrated a Pontifical Mass "the Quincy way" with smells and bells to delight the hearts of the high churched. Bishop Alberto had intended simply to sit in quire, but his participation with Bishop Loomis set the tone for the kind of cooperation that will enable Anglicanism in America to further the cause of the Kingdom of God.
Related reading: Bishop Doc Loomis Responds; Consensus that Women Priests Must Be Addressed; Modernist-Traditionalist Divide in Anglicanism; God as Male Priest; What's Lost When Women Serve as Priests?; Why Women Were Never Priests; Ideologies Opposed to Holy Tradition