Saturday, January 28, 2017

39 years of Continuing Anglicanism

On this day in 1977 was the consecration of the four former ECUSA priests as the founding bishops of the Continuing Anglican movement in Denver. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but it changed American — and global — Anglicanism forever.

Fast forward 39 years. The Anglo-Catholics who stayed behind in ECUSA would have to admit the ones who left were right about how ECUSA would turn out. Those who joined ACNA on or after 2009 have now separated from ECUSA (most at great cost), and they have a liturgy that’s more like the 1928 in substance even if it’s more like Rite II in language.

But instead of a single jurisdiction — they chose the name “Anglican Church of North America” — the Continuing movement fractured again and again: the lesson of 500 years of Protestantism seems to be that once you’ve done schism – placing your own personal theological convictions over ecclesial authority — it’s easy to keep doing so. The issues that divided the Continuing churches seemed to be authority and a desire to keep purple shirt, rather than actual doctrine.

The one piece of good news is that four of the alphabet soup are having a joint synod in October. The synod will bring together (at least for a week) the Anglican Church in America, Anglican Catholic Church, the Anglican Province of America, and the Diocese of the Holy Cross. As a Californian, I’d like to see the Anglican Province of Christ the King participate, but it’s been in turmoil since the resignation and death of its founder, Bp. Robert Morse — one of the Denver four.

Today's Newest Clergy

Clergy at end of Saturday’s ordination service
Source: Diocese of the Holy Trinity Twitter feed
Today I attended an ordination for a former classmate of mine, the newest clergy member in the Anglican Catholic Church. Sean Patrick Michael Cochran became be a bivocational deacon, the first deacon for St. Mary Magdalene in Orange, California, assisting its rector, Fr. Neil Edlin. In honor of Deacon Cochran’s heritage, at the recessional we sang all seven verses of “I bind unto myself today” (H40: 268) while the organist played preludes and postludes on Irish melodies by Charles Villiers Stanford.

The consecrations were done by Bp. Stephen Scarlett, whose see is at the Denver cathedral that was the home of Bp. James Mote; Scarlett was consecrated in 2013 by Bp. Mark Haverland (today the head of the ACC), who in 1998 was consecrated by Mote. (Today’s service was in the pro-cathedral in Newport Beach, Calif. where Scarlett spends most of his Sundays).

After Bp. Scarlett read the opening part of the 1928 BCP ordination service, he noted that the prayer book had assumed a stable church. Left unsaid was that the nature of belief, the role of the church, and the role of the Episcopal (or Anglican) church is fundamentally different than 90 years ago.

Instead, he argued, each deacon — like others in the church — needs to be a missionary. He listed three specific ways:
  1. Christian witness. The customary evangelical conception is that witness is going to tell a non-believer. However, today’s Anglican cleric needs to model a deeper spiritual life of prayer that will potentially transform the life of those who find it. “As we grow in our spiritual life, that is our witness ...and evangelism is inviting others into that life of prayer"
  2. Seeking out the lost sheep. Again, we think of seeking the sheep as being those who wandered off — or never set foot in the church; but, Scarlett argued, the lost may already be in the pews, but alienated. Implicitly referencing Mark 2:17, he cited Jesus’ admonition that the physician has come to heal the sick; the clergy need to look inside and outside the church to find new avenues to reach the lost.
  3. Discerning one’s own spiritual gifts. Even if two people have the same order, they have differing gifts (1 Corr. 12). To be effective, clergy and laity need to honestly understand their talents so they can apply them to support the mission of the church.

The music and liturgy were great, but too often Anglo-Catholic churches are organized as museums to historic worship rather than something relevant to potential members. I hope that the path laid out by Bp. Scarlett will be effective in growing the church. Even in places where it doesn’t give us more Christians, it should give us stronger Christians — strengthening the faith of the Remnant that we have in the pews — which certainly has to be numbered among our goals even this is less exciting than attracting more “butts in seats.”

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