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TRADITIONAL ANGLICAN CHURCHES

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ANGLICAN BLOGS AND WEB SITES

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A Living Text

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Throne and Altar

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WOMEN'S ORDINATION TO THE PRIESTHOOD

A Defense of the Doctrine of the Eternal Subordination of the Son  (Yes, this is about women's ordination.)

An (Extended) Short History of the Diaconate

Essays on the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood from the Episcopal Diocese of Ft. Worth

Faith and Gender: Five Aspects of Man, blog of Fr. William Mouser, International Council for Gender Studies

Father is Head at the Table: Male Eucharistic Headship and Primary Spiritual Leadership, Ray Sutton

FIFNA Bishops Stand Firm Against Ordination of Women

God, Gender and the Pastoral Office, S.M. Hutchens

God, Sex and Gender, Gavin Ashenden

Homo Hierarchicus and Ecclesial Order, Brian Horne

How Ordaining Women Harms Ministry to Men, C.R. Wiley

Let's Stop Making Women Presbyters, J.I. Packer

Liturgy and Interchangeable Sexes, Peter J. Leithart

Male-Only Ordination is Natural: Why the Church is a Model of Reality, Steven Wedgeworth

Ordaining Women as Deacons: A Reappraisal of the Anglican Mission in America's Policy, John Rodgers

Priestesses in Plano, Robert Hart

Priestesses in the Church?, C.S. Lewis

Priesthood and Masculinity, Stephen DeYoung

Reasons for Questioning Women’s Ordination in the Light of Scripture, Rodney Whitacre

Streams of the River: Articles Outlining the Arguments Against the Ordination of Women to the Priesthood ,

Traditional Anglican Resources

William Witt's Articles on Women's Ordination (Old Jamestown Church archive)

Women Priests?, Eric Mascall

Women and the Priesthood, Catholic Answers

Women Priests: History & Theology, Patrick Reardon

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Monday
Jul202015

"PhD Anglicanism" and the Anglican Disease

As some readers may have noticed,  on Friday evening I took down an article I posted entitled “Anatomy of an Unfriending” regarding a spat I had with Trinity School for Ministry theology professor William Witt over a comment I made on his Facebook page, to wit, that women's ordination to the priesthood is an "uncatholic monstrosity".  I came to the conclusion that my comment, which concerned the role that Anglican “academic theologians” (Witt’s term) played in foisting women’s ordination on Anglican churches and how this only further complicated the problem of Anglican identity, was over the top rhetorically.  I privately apologized to Dr. Witt for the tone of my remark and took down my blog post.  After explaining to me privately and at his Facebook page his distaste for online theological debate, he subsequently re-friended me.  

As I explained to Dr. Witt, however, while I felt I must apologize for the sarcastic tone of my remark, I cannot and never will apologize for its content.   Implicit in that qualification is my belief that Witt and other “conservative” Anglican theologians who defend women’s ordination are guilty not only of muddying further the question of Anglican identity but of departing from Catholic faith and practice.  Anglicans claim to be Catholics, “Reformed” Catholics, yes, but Catholic enough to desire communion with or at least acknowledgment from Rome and Orthodoxy as a “branch” of the Catholic Church, analogous in certain respects to the Old Catholics, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, and the various provinces of Eastern Orthodox miscellany. 

Well, let me revise that a bit.  That has been the stated desire of many classical Anglicans and Anglo-Catholics for a long time.  There is another version of Anglicanism, however, that has been throwing caution – along with Catholic faith and practice - to the wind for quite some time.  I’m speaking, of course, of the liberal Protestant party in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, which was first hatched in the backwaters of infidelity that came to be associated with “Oxbridge” learning and later in other Western academies.  In the early 20th century, Orthodox-Anglican relations were so good that a number of major Orthodox jurisdictions had affirmed the validity of Anglican orders and certain of them gave economic sanction to Orthodox believers receiving Holy Communion from Anglican priests if an Orthodox priest was not available.  That dialogue imploded when the Church of England, the Protestant Episcopal Church USA, and other provinces in the Anglican Communion began ordaining women.  This in spite of ample warning from Orthodox notables such as Fr. Alexander Schmemann.  

When the churches of the Anglican Realignment, many of which were rightly termed “neo-Anglican” because of the several ways in which they departed from classical Anglicanism, began forming at the turn of the millennium, a number of Evangelical Anglican theologians and clergymen (and women) brought the deal-killing theology and practice of women’s ordination with them into the Realignment, though the theology was tweaked in an attempt to baptize it as a “conservative ” construct.  These folks relied in no small part on the exegetical and theological work of Evangelicals such as Gilbert Bilizekian, Berkeley and Alvera Mickelsen, Millard Erickson, and Doug and Rebecca Groothuis.  A number of them are affiliated with  Christians for Biblical Equality, an organization dedicated to egalitarian hermeneutics (and thus women’s ordination). 

Dr. Witt is a prominent defender of women’s ordination to the priesthood in the Anglican Realignment.    Judging by a comment he made in the aforementioned Facebook discussion, he also gives "PhD Anglicanism" very high marks:

Perhaps this just reflects the difference between PhD Anglicanism and the home-grown variety. . . . I sometimes get the feeling that people I encounter on Facebook are still fighting battles that have long been forgotten about in academic theology.

It was that drippingly condescending remark that prompted my sarcastic comment about “academic theology” and it’s relationship to the “uncatholic monstrosity” of women’s ordination, but let’s overlook its condescending tone and focus rather on its substance.  What Dr. Witt is saying here, in essence, is that what ultimately matters for the church is what takes place in the rarified realm of the theological academy, that is to say, in the crania of the brahmins of “PhD Anglicanism.”  That, my friends, has historically been, as it is now in our time,  the heart of what I will call the “Anglican Disease”.

The Anglican Disease, as I mentioned previously, was incubated in the great centers of learning associated with the Church of England.  The Disease later spread to other Anglican centers of higher learning in the West.  It began in the 17th and 18th centuries when Anglican academic theologians began flirting with Enlightenment philosophies, theological and political, and later with the theories of higher criticism and other destructive theories associated with the rise of liberal Protestantism, and then finally with the kind of theological radicalism we see throughout the Anglican Communion in the Northern hemisphere and Oceania today. (For an excellent presentation on how Anglican Latitudinarianism morphed very naturally into Anglican radicalism, see Aidan Nichols’ The Panther and the Hind: A Theological History of Anglicanism.  I give a brief review here.)

The Anglican Disease’s main symptom is seen in the proposition that the Anglican academe knows better than the historic and contemporary college of Catholic bishops about what’s good for the Church.  That is a complete reversal of the ecclesiology of the past, to which classical Anglicanism is supposed to hold, which is that it is the consensus of a group of Catholic bishops known as the “Church Fathers” and certain councils of bishops, primarily those deemed “Ecumenical”, that determine what is good for the Church, not the late untethered-from-orthodoxy invention known as the “theological academy".  That the Anglican Disease has taken a heavy toll on the Anglican Communion is evident.  Many Anglicans have concluded that it is better to leave the diseased body and start afresh with new, undiseased bodies that are dedicated once again to the apostolic and Catholic faith expressed in the Creed, the teachings of the Church Fathers, and Anglicanism’s historic formularies, the 39 Articles of Religion, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.

Alas, we still find evidence of the Anglican Disease even in some of these new bodies: “Perhaps this just reflects the difference between PhD Anglicanism and the home-grown variety. . . .  I sometimes get the feeling that people I encounter on Facebook are still fighting battles that have long been forgotten about in academic theology.”  Being a “conservative” is no guarantee that one is immune to the Disease.  It is entirely possible for "conservatives" to depart from the Faith.  This is one reason I’m so thrilled about the existence The Center for Pastor Theologians.   Their idea is to return the task of theologizing to pastors, an idea that is consonant with the way the Catholic Church did theology up until modern times.  Not to say that the there is no role whatsoever for the academic theologian, or that obscurantism should be the order of the day, but rather that the goal of theology for orthodox believers is to foster the well-being of the Church, not the reputations and careers of academic theologians, whose “learned” views are all too often out of accord with the faith and practice of the Catholic Church.  Exhibit A: the “conservative” exegetical and theological case for women’s ordination to the priesthood.

I can think of no better example than the support of William Witt and other Anglican academic theologians for this uncatholic monstrosity.  Dr. Witt recently preached a sermon at a service where two of his students, a married couple, were both ordained to the diaconate.  The couple "will be ordained as priests"  in the near future.  In the course of his  sermon Witt remarked, "I do not have time to give an entire lecture on the theology of ordination. . . ."

Indeed, because for Anglican "latcon" proponents of women's ordination to the priesthood the development of that particular "theology of ordination" has proved to be yeomen's work, as I explained to a defender of Witt's pro-WO stance here:

His (Witt's) is a tall order. Nary a word in the Bible in support of WO, and 2,000 years of tradition and the changeless stances of Rome and Orthodoxy to overcome, but by golly let's change Catholic order by employing an argument that just so happens to have originated in the Anglican church about the time feminism began making inroads. He certainly deserves an "A" for effort.

Sorry, Dr. Witt, but an "uncatholic monstrosity" is what it is at the end of the day.  It is the practice of women’s ordination in the Anglican Communion, and now in the Anglican Realignment, that has in essence shut down ecumenical relations with the Church of Rome and the Orthodox Churches of the East.  These, our Catholic brothers and sisters with whom we say we desire communion, believe as I do that women’s ordination is in fact a monstrous departure from Catholic faith and order.  So do most classical Anglicans and Anglo-Catholics in ACNA, AMiA, and the Continuing Churches, and that’s why at the recent International Catholic Congress of Anglicans in Fort Worth a strong message was delivered in certain statements to all the “academic theologians” and non-theologians in ACNA who support women’s ordination.  If these statements are any indication, Witt and those desirous of maintaining Realignment Anglican unity can't be too happy, because the statements not only reflect EXACTLY what I've been saying to him and other defenders of WO in ACNA for some time now about how the practice of women’s ordination is viewed by many orthodox Anglicans, but the logic of those statements could also imply a separation down the road.  Say, when the ACNA Task Force on Holy Orders issues its final report, perhaps as soon as this January.  You would think that Dr. Witt, whose sentiments expressed in this Facebook discussion express the hope for keeping us all together, wouldn't be so dead set on alienating classical Anglicans and Anglo-Catholics.  But maybe it’s that in the final analysis neither Dr. Witt nor all the other supporters of “biblical equality” in ACNA care about Catholic order.  (See also An Exchange Between William Witt and Me on Women's Ordination.)

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