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Anglo-Catholic Clergy Hankering for Orthodoxy Beware: The Orthodox Western Rite Is Neither Orthodox nor Western nor English nor Permanent (Part III of a Response to Father Mark Rowe)  

As promised, my third response to the remainder Fr. Mark Rowe’s Journey to Orthodox article “So That God Would Give You To Us."  Fr. Rowe’s argument is italicized:

I remember remarking at the male monastery at a beautiful icon of the Theotokos that they had on one of the walls which was as big as a mural. The colors and detail of the icon were striking, and I really loved it. They were selling copies of this icon in the gift store, but at the time I didn’t have the money to purchase one, but had made a mental note to myself to order one at a later time and have it shipped. As the day came to a close, and we all began to get back into our vehicles to leave, Fr. Thomas and a young Priest-monk asked me to come over where they were standing, which was behind the corner of the building.

The young Priest-monk handed me an 8×10 copy of the icon I loved so much, and something to me I would never forget:

As time went by, I was sure of my purpose, but the parish wasn’t ready to submit to Orthodoxy. Sometime after my monastery experience, Fr. Thomas Joseph was elevated to become an Archmandrite and then was elected and consecrated Bishop. After being in the Tampa parish six (6) years, I moved on to help another parish that had no priest for a couple of years. I still knew and believed that Orthodoxy was the way, but it seemed as if I was having trouble submitting myself. I also attended a local Russian Orthodox parish from time to time, and really loved the spirituality and fellowship I found there. Due to a new job, I relocated and I then started another mission parish in Sarasota, Florida.

In 2010, I had been in the third church split since being an Anglican. It was clear to me that not only did I now have answers to those questions the young Priest-monk asked me some years ago, but they required me to take action. Anglicanism was a good learning experience for me, and I am not sorry that I was part of it. I made many friends and learned a lot about ministry. I had been in ordained ministry as an Anglican for fifteen (15) years.

In my previous blog article I demonstrated why there are in fact answers to the four questions that somehow stumped Fr. Rowe.  It’s simply astounding that an Anglican priest of 15 years wouldn’t know what these answers are.  What I want to highlight here, however, is the fact that Fr. Rowe apparently continued to function as an Anglican priest after he had converted to Orthodoxy, meaning that every time he celebrated Holy Communion he did so not believing that he was confecting a valid sacrament, and this because “the parish wasn’t ready to submit to Orthodoxy.” This is because the Orthodox churches do not recognize the validity of Anglican orders and hence Anglican sacraments. Fr. Rowe apparently continued on as an Anglican priest for a several years, believing “Orthodoxy was the way”, and by logical extension, that the sacrament of the altar he was pretending to confect was in fact not so.   

This is all very curious. One would think that if a clergyman was in fact converted to Orthodoxy then he should immediately inform his bishop and stop functioning as an Anglican priest.  We in the Orthodox Anglican Church recently lost a priest to ROCOR’s Western Rite Vicariate.  At our last Clericus this priest informed our Presiding Bishop that he was going to the WRO, but not before he celebrated Holy Communion at the gathering of clergy.  Now, I will admit that we all have feet of clay, but standing at an altar and pretending to consecrate the elements of bread and wine for the benefit of the faithful while not believing that one is actually confecting a valid sacrament is just a jaw-dropping example of spiritual irresponsibility.  These priests should have immediately stopped serving at Anglican altars when they converted to Orthodoxy in their minds and hearts.

Unless, that is, they really did believe that they were confecting valid sacraments – which prompts the question of why they then felt it necessary to leave Anglicanism.  But Fr. Rowe admitted that he “had no answers” to the four questions posed by the Orthodox monk.  O, hard condition!  Well, let me move on.

For me, it was time to come full-circle. It was time to come home. I began a dialogue with the ROCOR Western Rite, and after much prayer and consideration, I felt this was the place God was leading me. I also knew of several other clergy who had the same feelings I did, and so I informed them about my plans, and they were also interested. We then made our applications to the ROCOR Western Rite Vicariate, which were accepted and blessed by Metropolitan Hilarion, and ordination dates were set for the three of us to be received and ordained to the sacred priesthood.

Note here all the emotive language.  “It was time to ‘come home’” (a now very tired Orthodox cliché); Fr. Rowe “felt” that this was where God was leading him; several other clergy had the same “feelings.”  I’m reminded here of a recent humorous article, Law professor has students 'cluck like a chicken' to combat 'feeling' over thinking.  It's clear that not a whole lot of hard thinking was transpiring here.

We sent in our letter to the College of Bishops and told them of our intent to become Orthodox. An excerpt of this letter is below:

“We are thankful for the opportunities you have provided for us. In entering Orthodoxy, we do not seek to repudiate our Anglican tradition- in fact we wish to embrace it in its fullest sense. Historically, the Ancient Church in England was Orthodox. The current vision of the HCC-AR as a via media between Catholicism and Protestantism is not the historical tradition we wish to preserve. The identity crisis and fracturing of the Continuing Church continues to this day. Thank God, we will no longer have to define who we are by who we are not.

We believe that the Continuing Church was indeed a lifeboat for the faithful. It has, in our opinion, served its purpose and run its course. The present question is whether and/or what it is intended to continue? With the advent of the Pastoral Provision and Roman Ordinariate as well as the Western Rite in Orthodoxy, it became clear to us that there was no need to remain on the lifeboat, when we could paddle home to the mother ship. In our case, we believe unequivocally that mother ship is the Orthodox Church- the Ark of Salvation.

Continuing Anglicans, Anglo-Catholics, by whatever way we wish to identify ourselves- we believe that historically, these are just shades of Western Orthodoxy. We can practice our faith and worship style and tradition alongside 300 million Orthodox worldwide. This is 300 million members as opposed to 300 members. We can be part of the Church that is still producing Saints. We also believe that Christ is pleased when His faithful seek unity. We see no reason not to seek spiritual and organic unity with the Ancient Church. “

Well, the text of this letter is such a bird’s nest of confusion that it’s hard to know where to begin.  First of all, as I and others have demonstrated, the “Ancient Church in England” was not Orthodox.  Second, had these clergy been willing to give Continuing Anglicanism some time, they would have been internal witnesses to the recent concordat signed by the ACC, APA, ACA and DHC.  There is every reason now to believe that the Continuum will continue to unify and also draw clergy and laity from the ACNA and other jurisdictions in the Anglican Realignment.  Third, the existence of large numbers is no proof of catholicity.  If it were, then the Roman communion would be the place to go.  Both Anglicans and Orthodox adhere essentially to a eucharistic ecclesiology.  In other words, if you : a) have a bishop in valid apostolic succession who b) teaches the apostolic and catholic faith, you have a Catholic church.  The catholicity of the Continuing Anglican churches is, accordingly, indisputable.  And last, if Fr. Rowe and his clergy associates’ move to Orthodoxy resulted in “organic unity with the Ancient Church”, then in effect they became part of what we Anglicans jokingly refer to as the Two One True Churches, for the catholicity of Rome is also indisputable.  This is why Roman and Orthodox apologists are always debating the question of which of the Two One True Churches is the “Onenest and Truest, while we Continuing Anglicans look on with amusement over why neither of True One True Churches can’t get their heads around the Branch Fact.   (Yes, that's *fact*, not theory.)

 The responses sent by two (2) of the Anglican Bishops made us realize even more that we were doing the best thing for our spirituality and salvation. We knew we were on the righteous path and that the goal was near. We were waiting with anticipation and excitement for the days to pass and to finally arrive at our destination of Holy Orthodoxy .

Well, those words are notorious for their lack of specificity.  Were the two bishops supportive of their move or not supportive?  It would have been nice to know which.  If the former, then those bishops were arguably derelict in their duty.  If the latter, then Fr. Rowe’s readers should have been entitled to the substance of their response.

By God’s grace I am now an Orthodox Priest. I have come home. By the grace of God, I have been able to share this journey with others and bring them with me. I now have the proper answers to those questions asked of me years ago in a simple Orthodox monastery. I cannot tell you how fulfilling and exciting this journey has been. The only regret I have is trying to figure out why I waited so long. Maybe it was to bring the three other priests with me? Only God knows.

 I suspect I also need to look up a certain Priest-monk and tell him the news…

 If you are reading this article and contemplating Orthodoxy, I would ask you to answer the same questions I was asked.

 Be honest.

 Come home.

“Be honest?”  By “honest”, does Fr. Rowe mean we really can’t answer his four questions?  In fact, we have.  When he appeals to “honesty”, how does that give with pretending to confect the sacrament at an Anglican altar when one does not believe that Anglican orders and Anglican sacraments are valid?  “Come home?” Come home to what?  To an “Orthodox” Western Rite that probably won’t be around much longer?  How “honest” is a bait-and-switch” operation like this, if that what is ultimately turns out to be?  Did Fr. Rowe become an Orthodox priest “by God’s grace”, or simply because his education in Anglican studies was lacking and because he fell for the “romantic” draw of Orthodoxy, "feeling" his way towards it as so many converts have to this lesser of the True One True Churches?  I just bet that when Fr. Rowe was “called” to Holy Orders in Anglicanism he believed at the time that he did so “by God’s grace.”  When he converted to Orthodoxy, however, he had to conclude that becoming an Anglican priest instead of an Orthodox priest was a mistake, and therefore “God’s grace” wasn’t responsible at all.  If, however, he does maintain that men become Anglican clergy “by God’s grace”, then how is it their orders and the sacrament they confect not valid?  Once again, O, hard condition!

To any and all Anglo-Catholic clergy reading this series of blog articles who “feel” that they are being led “by God’s grace” into the Orthodox ministry:  think, don’t “feel”.  If you do, and if you better acquaint yourself than Fr. Rowe and his convert colleagues did with the facts concerning the validity of Anglican orders and thus the validity of its sacraments, you will find without doubt that you are already home.

Part I of my response to Fr. Rowe can be read here, Part II here.  The final article can be read here

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« Anglo-Catholic Clergy Hankering for Orthodoxy Beware: The Orthodox Western Rite Is Neither Orthodox nor Western nor English nor Permanent (Part IV of a Response to Father Mark Rowe) | Main | Anglo-Catholic Clergy Hankering for Orthodoxy Beware: The Orthodox Western Rite Is Neither Orthodox nor Western nor English nor Permanent (Part II of a Response to Father Mark Rowe) »