Friday, August 7, 2015

Bringing ICCA back to California

There has been considerable interest here in last month’s International Catholic Congress of Anglicans. In the past week, I’ve given brief summary presentations on the ICCA to two groups in the San Diego deanery of the Diocese of Western Anglicans. Saturday’s was to (mainly) laity hosted by Fr. Lawrence Bausch of Holy Trinity (at his Lutheran-owned sanctuary) — the new president of Forward in Faith North America (FiFNA).

Thursday’s presentation was before the deanery’s steering committee (all the clergy and a few laity). This latter (slightly longer) presentation is posted to Google.
The report is mainly a summary of my earlier posts to this blog, including the 350 attendees — among them 24 US bishops. I tried to summarize the major themes of the congress, focusing on the undivided Catholic church, and conciliarity among Anglicans and between Anglicans and other Christians. (I also mentioned how much I enjoyed the opportunity to enjoy corporate worship over the four days of the conference).

Seminary Education

I highlighted two topics of particular interest. One was the on the future of theological education. On Thursday morning, there was an official session featuring the head of Nashotah, Trinity and Cranmer (REC’s Dallas seminary) seminaries. At an (unofficial) Tuesday night session, the head of Nashotah outlined its vision while seeking financial support from attendees.

As Fr. Bausch pointed out Saturday, as the seminary goes, so goes the church. The leftward drift of the ECUSA seminaries anticipated the subsequent drift of the national church. In other words, as the seminaries turned out poorly trained (or intentionally corrupted) clergy, those clergy went out and shifted the thinking of the broader church.

In my opinion, the need for properly trained clergy seems even more urgent in today’s context. This is not the established church of 19th century England, or even the 20th century ECUSA that brought a disproportionate share of American senators and presidents. Today, fewer laity (or even clergy) were raised in Anglicanism, and many laity (unlike any time in US history) grew up without prior knowledge of (or even exposure to) the church. Against errors of poorly trained clergy, the natural balance provided by experienced vestry and other laity will be absent in many parishes.

While the seminaries of the Continuum are directly under control of local bishops, the ACNA’s two favored seminaries have alumni and other ongoing ties to TEC. Although drift by these seminaries seems unlikely, in 1950 none of us could have anticipated what would happen in the next 50 years at GTU, Seabury Western, CDSP and other TEC seminaries.

The LCMS faced these same issues in the 1970s: in the Seminex crisis of 1974, it stood firm for doctrinal consistency over the protests of faculty (and media) seeking greater freedom to depart from the denomination’s teachings.The LCMS today continues to enjoy the benefits of its resolute stand 40 years ago.

Church Planting

The other topic of special interest was about church planting. An official session Wednesday afternoon by Fr. Chris Culpepper and Fr. Lee Nelson talked about why Anglo-Catholics need to plant churches. At an unofficial session on Monday, these two and others talked about what FiFNA and other groups can do to support church planting.

In the next few weeks, I hope to post more news on this latter topic.

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