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Christians in the Roman Army: Countering the Pacifist Narrative

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What's Wrong With The World: Dispatches From The 10th Crusade



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

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

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

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

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

Priestesses in Plano, Robert Hart

Priestesses in the Church?, C.S. Lewis

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

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Women Priests?, Eric Mascall

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                  Theme Music:  Healey Willan - Missa brevis No. 2 in F Minor


James K.A. Smith: Tradition For Innovation

"We cannot hope to restore the world if we are constantly reinventing the church, says a Calvin College philosophy professor."

Read the article here.  a couple of snippets:

Evangelicalism in North America today is a vibrant and lively affair, abuzz with innovation and activity. Across the United States and Canada, evangelicals are stepping forward as never before to help restore a broken world.

At the same time, in keeping with their historic entrepreneurial spirit, evangelicals are constantly creating and spinning off new and different ways of doing church.

Often overlapping, these two trends at first glance might seem to emerge from the same innovative spirit, two complementary and intertwined developments, working together for the good of the church.

In fact, however, these are not complementary trends but competing trajectories, at odds with one another. However unintended it might be, the latter works inevitably to undermine the former. In short, we cannot hope to restore the world if we are constantly reinventing the church; the hard work of innovation requires grounding in a tradition. . . .

If the church is going to send out “restorers” who engage culture for the common good, we need to recover and remember the rich imaginative practices of historic Christian worship that carry the unique story of the gospel.

Consider just a few of the many ways in which the liturgical tradition nurtures and replenishes the imagination: 

• Kneeling in confession and voicing “the things we have done and the things we have left undone …” tangibly and viscerally impresses upon us the brokenness of our world and humbles our own pretensions;

• Pledging allegiance in the Creed is a political act -- a reminder that we are citizens of a coming kingdom, curtailing our temptation to overidentify with any configuration of the earthly city;

• The rite of baptism, where the congregation vows to help raise a child alongside the parents, is just the liturgical formation we need to be a people who can support those raising children with intellectual disabilities or other special needs;

• Sitting at the Lord’s Table with the risen King, where all are invited to eat, is a tactile reminder of the just, abundant world that God longs for.

In these and countless other ways, the liturgical tradition orients our imagination to kingdom come, priming us for the innovative, restorative work of culture making. In order to foster a Christian imagination, we don’t need to invent; we need to remember.

Of course, whether or not our culture can be "restored" remains to be seen.  I for one am skeptical, and hold more to the notion that we are to hunker down and await the "New Benedict":

It is always dangerous to draw too precise parallels between one historical period and another; and among the most misleading of such parallels are those which have been drawn between our own age in Europe and North America and the epoch in which the Roman empire declined into the Dark Ages. Nonetheless certain parallels there are. A crucial turning point in that earlier history occurred when men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead -- often not recognizing fully what they were doing -- was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained so that both morality and civility might survive the coming ages of barbarism and darkness. If my account of our moral condition is correct, we ought also to conclude that for some time now we too have reached that turning point. What matters at this stage is the construction of local forms of community within which civility and the intellectual and moral life can be sustained through the new dark ages which are already upon us. And if the tradition of the virtues was able to survive the horrors of the last dark ages, we are not entirely without grounds for hope. This time however the barbarians are not waiting beyond the frontiers; they have been governing us for quite some time. And it is our lack of consciousness of this that constitutes part of our predicament. We are waiting not for a Godot, but for another -- doubtless very different -- St. Benedict.  (Alasdair MacIntyre)

A related issue is this:  will Evangelicals ever come to a sense of realism about their overall importance in the big scheme of things, and learn to bow to Tradition?  I expect this sort of response from the "redeem-the-culture" Evangelicals who might agree with Smith's argument:  "Yeah.  Liturgy.  Great idea.  Let's create one."


The Elizabethan Settlement and the Catholicity of Anglicanism

Over at The Anglican Diaspora recently, several forum members discussed the merits of the Elizabethan Settlement.  One member there who posts under the handle of "manciple" wrote the following:

Given that this English form of Christianity has now become globalized, even spreading to places which were never part of the British Empire, I would suggest that the Elizabethan Settlement may have been more successful than anyone in the 16th century could possibly have envisaged.

Even as late as the 19th century it was argued that the C. of E. shouldn't send out missionaries as Anglicanism couldn't possibly take root outside of England.

I have to say I agree. While on one level the Anglican Church is a “national” and even “ethnic” church much like the Orthodox churches, the Anglican Church continued to be, even after its reforms, the Church Catholic, and as the Church Catholic not simply the property of Englishmen.  The argument of the English Reformers (and of Good Queen Bess herself) was that the Reformed Catholic Church of England was simply the old Catholic Church of the Church Fathers, shorn of many of its unbiblical medieval accretions.  What we believe as Anglicans can be believed, and is believed, by Africans, Indians, Latin Americans and other non-white folks. What we believe is simply the one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith without Roman hegemony or Orthodox parochialism. But with the Orthodox and against Rome, however, we believe, as I’ve said, that the Catholic faith is incarnated ecclesially as specific national churches, and so there is a sense in which the original Anglican church is the native church of the Anglo-Saxon peoples and the British Empire. And yet there is another sense in which "Anglican" has nothing to do with Englishness, and that is the fact that it is merely the Catholic, which is to say the universal, faith.


One Man Anglican Militia

Here's a blog entry from Fr. John at Anglican Catholic Priest about a young man who stands guard with his .308 AK-style underfolder outside of an Anglican Catholic Church mission in the Diocese of Lahore.  Here (from a recent issue of the Trinitarian, the ACC's official newspaper) the Rt. Rev. Brian Iverach, Episcopal Visitor to the Diocese of Lahore, salutes another person apparently holding the same weapon who stands guard there at the same mission church. 

I'm always happy to see such manifestations of "Muscular Christianity", especially in the face of Islamic oppression.  I am neither a pacifist nor a believer in dispensational otherworldliness, both of which have no room in their thinking for Christian resistance.  The struggle in Lahore, like in other places around the world, is simply a continuation of the war started by Muslim imperialists back in the 7th century, to which the Crusades were but a defensive response

May God bless that little Anglican church in Pakistan, as well as the church everywhere in the Islamic world.   And God bless our missionaries there.


The Lord is my shepherd (Psalm 23) - Chant: C.H. Stewart


Anglican Chant: Psalm 104:1-23 from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer 

By the Bramdean School Chapel Choir, courtesy of Dr. Westbury's YouTube channel:

Psalm 104. Benedic, anima mea

PRAISE the Lord, O my soul : O Lord my God, thou art become exceeding glorious; thou art clothed with majesty and honour.
2. Thou deckest thyself with light as it were with a garment : and spreadest out the heavens like a curtain.
3. Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters : and maketh the clouds his chariot, and walketh upon the wings of the wind.
4. He maketh his angels spirits : and his ministers a flaming fire.
5. He laid the foundations of the earth : that it never should move at any time.
6. Thou coveredst it with the deep like as with a garment : the waters stand in the hills.
7. At thy rebuke they flee : at the voice of thy thunder they are afraid.
8. They go up as high as the hills, and down to the valleys beneath : even unto the place which thou hast appointed for them.
9. Thou hast set them their bounds which they shall not pass : neither turn again to cover the earth.
10. He sendeth the springs into the rivers : which run among the hills.
11. All beasts of the field drink thereof : and the wild asses quench their thirst.
12. Beside them shall the fowls of the air have their habitation : and sing among the branches.
13. He watereth the hills from above : the earth is filled with the fruit of thy works.
14. He bringeth forth grass for the cattle : and green herb for the service of men;
15. That he may bring food out of the earth, and wine that maketh glad the heart of man : and oil to make him a cheerful countenance, and bread to strengthen man's heart.
16. The trees of the Lord also are full of sap : even the cedars of Libanus which he hath planted;
17. Wherein the birds make their nests : and the fir-trees are a dwelling for the stork.
18. The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats : and so are the stony rocks for the conies.
19. He appointed the moon for certain seasons : and the sun knoweth his going down.
20. Thou makest darkness that it may be night : wherein all the beasts of the forest do move.
21. The lions roaring after their prey : do seek their meat from God.
22. The sun ariseth, and they get them away together : and lay them down in their dens.
23. Man goeth forth to his work, and to his labour : until the evening.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost;

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.


Martin Thornton: Christian Proficiency

This entry marks the beginning of what will be many such entries on the topic of Anglican spiritual life.  I say "spiritual life" rather than "spirituality", as the latter term too often these days smacks of the "democratization of mysticism", which I treat below.  Christianity isn't a "spirituality", but it is to be marked by a "spiritual life", or more precisely, a life in the Spirit, which we call "holiness" or "sanctification."

Thorton's book was instrumental in the renewal of my own spiritual life some time ago, and I heartily recommend it to all, Anglicans and non-Anglicans, though it was written for the former.  Here's a book review:

Christian Proficiency

By Martin Thornton. Cowley Publications.  Pp. 201.  ISBN 093638462X

First published in 1959, Martin Thornton's Christian Proficiency must be regarded as a classic of Anglican spirituality.  Unlike many earlier manuals on the spiritual life which were written for "professional" theologians and spiritual directors, this book was written for the ordinary Christian.   Thornton, who died in 1986, did not believe that the pursuit of proficiency in the spiritual life is a matter of self-improvement or self-realization.  Nevertheless, the preface asserts that in this book he was writing for the "faithful laity".  He wrote other books (Pastoral Theology: A Reorientation, Spiritual Direction) for clergy, but this book is an attempt to provide the laity with a theological and practical introduction to essential principles of the spiritual life.

As the author himself readily acknowledges, "proficiency" is not a term that readily comes to mind when one thinks of the spiritual life.  Nevertheless, it is the term used by medieval writers on spirituality to distinguish those who are no longer beginners but who have not yet attained to perfection.  The "Proficient" is best described as one who has an adult relationship with God.  The book sets out to describe what this level of spirituality looks like and how one might achieve it--with the help of a capable spiritual director.  Although many of his illustrations are drawn from English sports, like cricket, which are a bit of a mystery to most American readers, Thornton's comparison of the spiritual life to athletic training puts the subject into both biblical and practical modern context.  St. Paul is the first to use this analogy and the Greek word for athletic practice or discipline is askesis, the root of our word "ascetic", meaning one who practices serious spiritual discipline.

From this it will quickly be inferred that Thornton has little interest in spiritualities which are based on emotion, enthusiasm, or other rarified states of mind or spirit.  There is a legitimate place for what might be described as mystical experience.  The emotions of ordinary Christians are a significant part of their spiritual lives.  But neither is at the heart of Christian proficiency, which is characterized by order and balance grounded in what Thornton unapologetically describes as a "system".  Heightened emotion and enthusiasm cannot be sustained indefinitely.  For some people, interest in the spiritual life may begin in an experience which is emotionally charged and, for many, the ongoing practice of the spiritual life may have moments of a deeply felt assurance, or of a sense of inner peace, or possibly even more profoundly mystical moments.  However, Thornton is concerned with what happens in the large gaps between such experiences, and with the spiritual lives of those who may never experience such heights of spiritual exaltation.  His approach is objective--not cold or indifferent, but practical.  He is, above all else, a pastor, and he is concerned, once again, with ordinary Christians and how they may become efficient in their essential work as members of the Body of Christ.

Christian Proficiency is a singularly Anglican approach to the spiritual life.  The essentials of the system, as Thornton describes it, are found in the Book of Common Prayer, in the threefold practice of Eucharist, Daily Office, and private prayer.  He provides a theological rationale and traces his understanding of this system back to its theological roots and the experience and teaching of the great spiritual writers of the Church, particularly those who figure in the development of English spirituality.  From the beginning, he makes it clear that the spiritual life is the life not of individual Christians but of the Body of Christ, of which each of us is a member, dependent upon and responsible to the whole.  The purpose of this work is not merely the salvation of the individual, but the incorporation of the whole world into Christ.  The accomplishment of so great a task is not dependent upon us alone, but it does require us to be efficient.


The Democratization of Mysticism

Some astute observations from Ross Douthat on how mysticism can and has gone awry:

In a sense, Americans seem to have done with mysticism what we’ve done with every other kind of human experience: We’ve democratized it, diversified it, and taken it mass market. No previous society has offered seekers so many different ways to chase after nirvana, so many different paths to unity with God or Gaia or Whomever. A would-be mystic can attend a Pentecostal healing service one day and a class on Buddhism the next, dabble in Kabbalah in February and experiment with crystals in March, practice yoga every morning and spend weekends at an Eastern Orthodox retreat center. Sufi prayer techniques, Eucharistic adoration, peyote, tantric sex — name your preferred path to spiritual epiphany, and it’s probably on the table.

This democratization has been in many ways a blessing. Our horizons have been broadened, our religious resources have expanded, and we’ve even recovered spiritual practices that seemed to have died out long ago. The unexpected revival of glossolalia (speaking in tongues, that is), the oldest and strangest form of Christian worship, remains one of the more remarkable stories of 20th-century religion.

And yet (Luke Timothy) Johnson may be right that something important is being lost as well. By making mysticism more democratic, we’ve also made it more bourgeois, more comfortable, and more dilettantish. It’s become something we pursue as a complement to an upwardly mobile existence, rather than a radical alternative to the ladder of success. Going to yoga classes isn’t the same thing as becoming a yogi; spending a week in a retreat center doesn’t make me Thomas Merton or Thérèse of Lisieux. Our kind of mysticism is more likely to be a pleasant hobby than a transformative vocation.

What’s more, it’s possible that our horizons have become too broad, and that real spiritual breakthroughs require a kind of narrowing — the decision to pick a path and stick with it, rather than hopscotching around in search of a synthesis that “works for me.” The great mystics of the past were often committed to a particular tradition and community, and bound by the rules (and often the physical confines) of a specific religious institution. Without these kind of strictures and commitments, Johnson argues, mysticism drifts easily into a kind of solipsism: “Kabbalism apart from Torah-observance is playacting; Sufism disconnected from Shariah is vague theosophy; and Christian mysticism that finds no center in the Eucharist or the Passion of Christ drifts into a form of self-grooming.”

Is Christianity a "mystical" religion? Some say yes, others say no. I'm inclined to agree somewhat with the latter. One searches the New Testament in vain for any kind of mystical system such as set forth even by Christianity's official "mystics" (e.g., Evelyn Underhill). One finds instead the dramatic, death-undoing culmination of a salvation history that began with the divine call of Abraham back around 2100 B.C. It is a history, as Douthat suggests, rooted in immanent things such as the Eucharist and the Passion of Christ, and not so much in the process of "purgation, illumination and union." This is not to say that there isn't a proper mystical expression of the Christian faith, but to the extent that a mysticism is neither trinitarian nor christocentric, it defaults naturally to pagan mysticism. C.S. Lewis compared the proper Christian mysticism to being in the right boat and setting sail with the right tools:

Discovering spirituality is like discovering you are in a boat. Mysticism is like pushing off from the dock. Since many leave safe mooring and perish in the waves, this is not to be done in a cavalier fashion - even though it can be exciting to push off into the deep.

The issue is not of whether we should push off, for Christians must do so as well if they intend to get anywhere (and that is what boats are for), but rather of where you are going...The Christian casts off from this world as well, but with clear intent to where he is headed, with the best of maps, circumspectly, deliberately.

The Christian Mystic arrives, against all dangers and odds. Thus we launch out with fear and trembling, but trust that He who commanded us to do so can calm the waves, and see us through to His real, safe port.

That is to say, if our navigation system isn't correct, or if we don't have "the best of maps" (Holy Scripture and Tradition), our mysticism is worthless, even dangerous. Christians have set sail for the "heavenly Jerusalem", not the "heavenly Athens" or the "heavenly Mecca" or the "heavenly Lhasa," and sometimes even Christian mystics haven't been as clear as they need to be about this.


Peter Toon: Evangelical and Catholic

H/T Will at Prydain:

It is possible to be evangelical and effectively to disown Christ. It is possible to be catholic-minded and effectively to betray Christ. This is possible, and this in fact happens, because either a system of doctrines or a system of ritual becomes primary in Christian experience. Even as Marxists are committed to an ideology, so religious people may be committed to an ideology – a system of beliefs – in such a way that this system is their basic interest and primary commitment. The personal relationship to Jesus Christ is thereby eclipsed or made ineffectual. Much the same applies to an excessive commitment to ritualism and ceremonial. Here persons are so involved with the apparatus, structure, and functioning of things that they miss the divine Reality behind the appearances. There is little possibility, therefore, for a dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ because a false barrier exists to prevent such a relationship.

To say this is not to say that commitment to the Gospel and commitment to Catholicity are wrong. It is to say, rather, that both only take on their true meaning and function when they are in the right relationship to Jesus Christ; or, put another way, when the Christian, who is in a right relationship to Jesus Christ, knows how each of them should function in his experience and faith. There must always be the primacy of Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Without him there is no Gospel and without him there is no Catholicity. The Gospel exists and is proclaimed because he not only rose from the dead but ascended into heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand, from where he sent the Holy Spirit to be his representative on earth. He is the Lord of the Church; it is he who not only guides and rules the Church but who also gives the Church spiritual life. He is the One who provides the gifts of the Spirit to all believers, according to the wisdom of God. He is the One who is present at, and in, every sacrament. It is Christ who presides at the Holy Communion and gives the food of his own crucified and now glorified body; it is Christ who acts in every baptismal service giving his Spirit to the one who is baptized and making that person a member of his spiritual body, the Church…

On the one side, Jesus Christ is seen as tremendously active in the creation of the Gospel and the foundation of the Church; yet he is dismissed as basically ‘inactive’ throughout the centuries until the birth of Protestantism in the sixteenth century (or even to the birth of modern denominations in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries). On the other side, Christ is seen as active throughout history guiding the Church from the first through to the present century, but he is not wholly recognized as the One who created the Gospel and is ever concerned to renew the Church by the Gospel. These two sides are the two extremes of the pendulum and in what they positively affirm they are right. Of course Christ created the Gospel: of course Christ ruled and rules the Church. What we do not want is merely one swing of the pendulum in one direction or the other. We want the whole movement of the pendulum swinging in both directions and covering all space between each extreme; we want to be committed to the Evangel and to Catholicity. We want the Christ who created the Gospel as well as the same Christ who has ruled and rules the Church today.


O God Our Help In Ages Past


Sunlight Through Incense

St. Mary's Anglican Catholic Church, Denver, CO


The Augustinian Legacy in the English Catholic Church: Thomas Bradwardine

Thomas Bradwardine, born c. 1290, was the briefly the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1349 before the plague took his life.  He is known as one of the English Church's greatest philosophical clergymen.  An Augustinian, he defended predestinarianism against the "New Pelagianism" that was becoming widespread in the church of that day (one of the contributing factors to the Protestant Reformation two centuries later).   From Book Rags

(Bradwardine's) masterpiece . . .  is a voluminous theological and philosophical work, De causa Dei contra Pelagium, divided into three books (1344). It originates from lectures he had given in Oxford and London and, more radically, from a deep spiritual change he had experienced in his youth: "When I was applying myself to philosophy … Pelagius's opinion seemed to me nearer to truth.… But afterwards (I was not yet a theological student) … I thought I saw from afar the grace of God preceeding all merits in time and in nature, in the same way that in all movements He is the first Mover." (bk. I, ch. 35, p. 308). This conversion induced Bradwardine to fight for God's cause against "the new Pelagians, " a group of post-ockhamists theologians that included Richard Fitzralph, Adam Wodeham, and Robert Holcot. 

To these thinkers the issues of chief concern were grace and merit, future contingents, prescience, and predestination. On the first point, Bradwardine, as an ardent Augustinian, strongly reasserts that grace is a mere gift, not a retribution: in no way man can merit it, and, moreover, without God's special help man cannot act right. 

Concerning future contingents, the new Pelagians' opinion stressed the contrast between the necessity—that is, the fixity—of the past and the contingency of the future. This view could hardly be reconciled with the idea of an immutable and truthful God: If God or a prophet were to reveal a future event, is it possible that it would not happen? If it is possible, then God can deceive and lie. Countering this opinion, which he had first rejected in his question, De futuris contingentibus, Bradwardine closely examines the notions of contingency and necessity; he argues they are founded on the power of the will. Aristotle wrote, "What is, necessarly is, when it is. (De interpretation, ch. 9). But Duns Scotus observed that when man wills A at time t, he has the power not to will A, not only before or after t, but also at time t. Therefore a kind of necessity, the "consequent" necessity of present, is compatible with contingency. Regarding God, Bradwardine extends this conclusion to all times: For God, past, present, and future are equally contingent and equally necessary. Consequently He can undo any past event (in an improper meaning of undo), not because He could alter it (this would be a contradiction), but because at each instant of time He is yet freely willing the past event. In this way, there is no longer antinomy between the necessity of the prophecy and the contingency of the future event. 

The same argument about contingent causality clears up the most famous tenet of Bradwardine's teaching, the assertion of "antecedent necessity": Since God's will is the first cause of everything and cannot be thwarted, everything happens by necessity in relation to His will. That is the proper definition of theological determinism. But again, according to Bradwardine, when man is willing something, though his act is determined by God, he does not lose the power to do the opposite act at the same time. So it seems there is in Bradwardine's doctrine an original attempt to conciliate God's predetermination and human freedom of will.

As in other parts of Catholic Europe, Augustinianism in England (here for instance in the person of Bradwardine) stood in opposition to the "New Pelagianism" that, like its condemned forebear, was deemed by many in the Church to be a threat to the Gospel, as various forms of resultant legalism and moralism consequently threatened to take its place.   Moreover, as the Roman Catholic scholar (and Augustinian) George Tavard documented in his book Justification: An Ecumenical Study, this medieval incarnation of Augustinian theology would later give rise -- quite naturally -- to the doctrine of justification by faith alone, principally in the work of the Augustinian monk Martin Luther but eventually in the Church of England as well.  Thus Bradwardine was an immediate predecessor to the English Reformation, though that Reformation came about mainly through continental influences.

Though Alister McGrath compellingly argues in his magisteral work Iustitia Dei that Luther's doctrine was a "theological novum", one may argue, as evidenced in these quotes,  that it was always implicit in Augustine *despite* the fact that he had what McGrath calls a "transformational concept of justification."

Not so our father Abraham. This passage of scripture is meant to draw our attention to the difference. We confess that the holy patriarch was pleasing to God; this is what our faith affirms about him. So true is it that we can declare and be certain that he did have grounds for pride before God, and this is what the apostle tells us. It is quite certain, he says, and we know it for sure, that Abraham has grounds for pride before God. But if he had been justified by works, he would have had grounds for pride, but not before God. However, since we know he does have grounds for pride before God, it follows that he was not justified on the basis of works. So if Abraham was not justified by works, how was he justified?” The apostle goes on to tell us how: What does scripture say? (that is, about how Abraham was justified). Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness (Rom. 4:3; Gen. 15:6). Abraham, then, was justified by faith. Paul and James do not contradict each other: good works follow justification. 

3. Now when you hear this statement, that justification comes not from works, but by faith, remember the abyss of which I spoke earlier. You see that Abraham was justified not by what he did, but by his faith: all right then, so I can do whatever I like, because even though I have no good works to show, but simply believe in God, that is reckoned to me as righteousness? Anyone who has said this and has decided on it as a policy has already fallen in and sunk; anyone who is still considering it and hesitating is in mortal danger. But God’s scripture, truly understood, not only safeguards an endangered person, but even hauls up a drowned one from the deep. My advice is, on the face of it, a contradiction of what the apostle says; what I have to say about Abraham is what we find in the letter of another apostle, who set out to correct people who had misunderstood Paul. James in his letter opposed those who would not act rightly but relied on faith alone; and so he reminded them of the good works of this same Abraham whose faith was commended by Paul. The two apostles are not contradicting each other. James dwells on an action performed by Abraham that we all know about: he offered his son to God as a sacrifice. That is a great work, but it proceeded from faith. I have nothing but praise for the superstructure of action, but I see the foundation of faith; I admire the good work as a fruit, but I recognize that it springs from the root of faith. If Abraham had done it without right faith it would have profited him nothing, however noble the work was. On the other hand, if Abraham had been so complacent in his faith that, on hearing God’s command to offer his son as a sacrificial victim, he had said to himself, “No, I won’t. But I believe that God will set me free, even if I ignore his orders,” his faith would have been a dead faith because it did not issue in right action, and it would have remained a barren, dried-up root that never produced fruit. (John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., WSA, Part 3, Vol. 15, trans. Maria Boulding, O.S.B., Expositions of the Psalms 1-32, Exposition 2 of Psalm 31, 2-4 (Hyde Park: New City Press, 2000), pp. 364-365.)

When someone believes in him who justifies the impious, that faith is reckoned as justice to the believer, as David too declares that person blessed whom God has accepted and endowed with righteousness, independently of any righteous actions (Rom 4:5-6). What righteousness is this? The righteousness of faith, preceded by no good works, but with good works as its consequence. (Exposition 2 of Psalm 31, 6-7.)

Justification is obtained by faith. ... By the law we fear God, by faith we hope in God. But to those who fear punishment grace is hidden; laboring under this fear, the soul by faith flees to the mercy of God, that He may give what He commands.  (The Spirit and the Letter.)

How should the law be upheld if not by righteousness? By a righteousness, moreover, which is of faith, for what could not be fulfilled through the law is fulfilled through faith.  (On Romans)

. . . the apostle Paul says that a man can be justified without works - preceding works.  For, having been justified by faith, how can he in turn do anything but what is righteous, although, when earlier he did nothing righteous, he attained justification of faith, not the merit of good works, but by the grace of God, which cannot now be barren in him when he does good works through love?  But, should he depart this life soon after having believed, the justification remains with him, since he attains justification by grace rather than good works, and not because of any subsequent good works, because he is not allowed to continue in this life.  Hence it is clear that the apostle's claim, "For we consider a man to be justified by faith without works" [Rom. 3:28], must not be understood in such a way that we may say a man who has received faith and continues to live is righteous, even though he lead a wicked life. (De Div. Quest (76:1), FC 70:194)

I am sometimes dismayed when I hear or read some Anglo-Catholics/Papalists who, laboring under dubious notions about free will, express opposition to great medieval Catholics such as St. Augustine and Thomas Bradwardine (and against predestination in general).  When I encounter these arguments, I get the sense that their advocates confuse anti-Augustinianism or anti-predestinarianism with the Catholic Faith, when in fact these positions are mere theologoumena.   These brothers relentlessly excoriate the "Calvinism" that supposedly spawned such "heresies" as predestination, unconditional election, justification by faith, etc. when these "heresies" were held in either seminal or mature form by great Catholic theologians who antedated John Calvin and the Protestant Reformation by hundreds of years.

I am dismayed, however, not simply because they have distorted the facts, but more importantly because their position arguably puts them at odds with the Gospel of grace.  Pelagianism was condemned by the universal Church and Semipelagianism was condemned in the Western Church for a reason; they were deemed to be corrosive of biblical soteriology.

Now, to be sure, Bradwardine like St. Augustine before him was not a solifidian, and nor will I defend any solifidianism that logically terminates in antinomianism.  I follow St. Paul, and not certain Lutherans, in this regard.  But the good Archbishop's Augustinian theology arguably does terminate (as Tavard argues) in Article XI, and this due principally to the objective nature of God's salvific provision.  What's more, as even the presumably "Arminian" Anglo-Catholic theologian J.B. Mozley said, it is in the Augustinian theology, and not in Pelagius' kind of voluntarism, that we find a safeguard for the Christian Faith.


Cymen's Conversion

Clodesuida, a peaceful heart to you now.

I am well; I have seen our terrible gods come down

To beg the crumbs which fall from our sins, their only

Means of life. This evening you and I

Can walk under the trees and be ourselves

Together, knowing that this wild day has gone

For good. Where is the Briton? You still think

You must be afraid and see in him

The seed of a storm. But I have heard

Word of his God, and felt our lonely flesh

Welcome to creation. The fearful silence

Became the silence of great sympathy,

The quiet of God and man in the mutual word.

And never again need we sacrifice, on and on

And on, greedy of gods' goodwill

But always uncertain; for sacrifice

Can only perfectly be made by God

And sacrifice has so been made, by God

To God in the body of God with man,

On a tree set up at the four crossing roads

On earth, heaven, time, and eternity

Which meet upon that cross. I have heard this;

And while we listened, with our eyes half-shut

Facing the late sun, above the shoulder

Of the speaking man I saw the cross-road tree,

The love of God hung on the motes and beams

Of light. . . .

(From "Thor, With Angels," a play by Christopher Fry)


"Eastern Right": Rod Dreher on Orthodoxy and Political Conservatism

When I opened the June issue of The American Conservative (TAC) last night, I was greeted by this article from Rod Dreher.  The following comment from the article stood out to me in light of the combox discussion that recently took place here at OJC  ("For Evangelicals and Others Considering Eastern Orthodoxy",  hereinafter "Considering Orthodoxy"):

On a practical level, any conservative who believes he can escape the challenges of modern America by hiding in an Orthodox parish is deluded. All three major branches of Orthodoxy in America have suffered major leadership scandals in recent years. And while Orthodox theology does not face the radical revisionism that has swept over Western churches in the past decades, there are nevertheless personalities and forces within American Orthodoxy pushing for liberalization on the homosexual question. And in some parishes—including St. Nicholas OCA Cathedral in Washington, D.C.—they are winning victories.

Dreher therefore corroborates what both Fr. Gregory Jensen and I have experienced in the Orthodox Church, as I set forth in "Considering Orthodoxy",  which is the increasing "Episcopalianization" of that communion.  If that weren't enough, several individuals commenting at Dreher's TAC article have also experienced it, and at least one person commenting there is an Orthodox Episcopalianizer.   The two individuals commenting at my "Considering Orthodoxy" article, Fr. John Morris and an "Orthodox Christian" who represents himself as a recently minted deacon, protested loudly about the liberalism charge, but here is yet one more witness to its reality in the Orthodox Church.  I reiterate, therefore, my caveat emptor to Evangelicals (who tend to be politically and culturally conservative) and other traditionalists considering Orthodoxy.

Here are some quotable quotes from the combox discussion at TAC (where, by the way, Fr. Morris carries forth his desperate apology):

As to Americans going to Russian or other Orthodox churches, I would have thought that men deserving of the name would stay and fight for what is theirs. Not slink off to someone else’s church, except under the sort of conditions that led to so many Protestants coming to this country in the first place. Until such conditions obtain here the rubric should be “I’ll take my stand” rather than “I’ll stand over there instead”.


Interesting piece, although, I think the bishops census of only 800,000 Eastern Orthodox adherents in the USA seems off by several million… And, more importantly, aside from the admittedly compelling, ancient beauty of its churches and liturgies, there can only be a tiny minority of Orthodox adherents or converts who experience or understand the church and its teachings at the level discussed in this piece. One wonders where the author and some of those commenting here are plugging into Orthodoxy. It cannot be solely from their experiences attending services or bible classess, can it?

Having grown up in a large Catholic enclave, and judging from what we constantly see going on in the headlines, on contraception, gays and gay marriage, abortion, sexuality in general, etc., I’ve always experienced the Orthodox church to be relatively liberal and non-doctrinaire, particularly when compared to Catholicism and many other US Christian denominations. I know Orthodoxy has largely conservative, unchanging views on all of these “values” issues, which do not substantively differ from those flowing from Catholic or Evangelical doctrine, but Orthodoxy does not seem to spend much energy on any of it, at least not here in the US. It has always felt more like “don’t ask, don’t tell”, its all good, do the best you can with your personal circumstances, God is with you just the same.

And, we’ll never see any Orthodox clergyman in the US refusing an Orthodox politician Communion because the politician commits to enforcing the laws of the land even if they may conflict with his personal views or the teachings of his church. We’re also not very likely to see any Orthodox clergyman suing the government…


Four years ago I resigned as the Rector of an Episcopal Church, left a decade long priesthood, renounced my orders, and along with the rest of my family became Eastern Orthodox. The particular jurisdiction that we became a part of was the Orthodox Church in America. I was sent by my Archbishop to an Orthodox Seminary in Pennsylvania for a year.

My family gave up a great deal so that we could become Orthodox, and we didn’t expect to be congratulated for that, but didn’t expect the cold reception that we got from many quarters either. We were ready to embrace Orthodoxy wholeheartedly, but never really felt like we were embraced back. The Sacraments that I had administered during my ten years of priestly ministry in the Episcopal Church were repeatedly characterized as being without any validity for the people I served. But, despite the arrogance, we found the OCA to be every bit as dysfunctional an institution, in it’s own way, as is the Episcopal Church. There seemed to be a disconnect between the sublime theology of the Church Fathers and our actual experience in the OCA. The reality we found in the OCA as an institution included an ethnocentric insularity and xenophobia among a great many ethnic Russians; anti-Semitism; a latent fundamentalism among a great many of the converts; shocking corruption and abuse of power in the hierarchy; and a good deal of hateful anti-Americanism among immigrant priests and monks, and even some American ones, that caused some members of my family to struggle with their faith in ways that they never had to do while we remained Anglican. That is perhaps the most pertinent reason that we decided to return to the Anglican Communion. But still it was a gut wrenching decision to make.

I was drawn to the Orthodox Faith because of it’s faithfulness to the ancient understandings of the Faith. My theology is very heavily informed by the theology of the Orthodox Church. I understand sin as bondage and sickness rather than as transgression. As a result, I have an Orthodox transformative understanding of salvation rather than a judicial one, meaning that the real object of salvation is God effecting an inner change in us. Again, the model of atonement I have is an Orthodox one of recapitulation, rather than appeasement. In other words, the need for the atonement was not to satisfy a need God had for punishment, but rather to recreate in us the image of God that we had lost, and to free us from the bondage of sin. I also share with the Orthodox church the focus on theosis – our participation in the divine life which changes us into the likeness of Christ. In that sense I see salvation not as a one time act, but as a growing relationship with God. I also am certain that the Orthodox church is right in their understanding of original sin, not as inherited guilt, but as our inheriting the consequences of living in a sinful world.

There is nothing keeping me from believing as I do and being Anglican. The Orthodox Church is however, at least as I have encountered it in the OCA, very defensive and aggressively anti-Western whenever talking about differences that exist between the two, no matter how small, no matter how long ago. I’m sorry but I’m simply not interested in nursing some old grudge about the Fourth Crusade, or about Eastern-Rite Roman Catholicism in the Ukraine. The Eastern Orthodox can be very enthusiastic grudge-holders.

I found that I needed to return to the Anglican Communion because I am culturally a Western Christian, and I see more clearly now than I did two years ago that the Western culture I was raised in is an inseparable part of who I am. It cannot be set aside without setting aside some things basic to who I am. Some might say, “What profit is there in saving your culture only to lose your soul?” However, I think that would be a false dichotomy. As I look around at the mostly eastern European congregations that are gathered in any Orthodox Church during the Divine Liturgy, I see that it is most often said at least partly in Slavonic, Greek or some other eastern language. It is obvious to me that, for those congregations, their ethnic identity and their being Christian are practically co-terminus. And perhaps that is not entirely a bad thing. The Christian Faith is fundamentally incarnational, and thus it naturally incarnates itself in a culture — be it Russian, or Greek, — or American, or British, or Chinese, or whatever.

I do not now belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church because I am not culturally Eastern, and I am unwilling and unable to live my life as a pretend Russian, or a pretend Greek. The faults of the Western Churches are the faults of Western culture. Eastern Orthodox Churches suffer from the faults of Eastern cultures. In the words of John Henry Newman, ”the Nation drags down its Church to its own level.”

Simply put, I was born and raised in the West so I am a Western Christian, I don’t think that I have any real option to be anything other than that. I have returned to trying to live out the ancient faith as best I can in the place in which I was raised and live. The Eastern Orthodox world, despite the things that it has to commend it, nevertheless has it’s own profound problems and I don’t think that running to it is the answer to what is wrong in the Western Church.

That last comment was, of course, particularly apropros.  Though I don't agree with every sentiment expressed therein, he got to the nub of it in his comments about Orthodox anti-Westernism.  If you convert to Eastern Orthodoxy, prepare to check your execrable Westernism at the door and to embrace the Eastern Orthodox ( = Byzantine) "phronema."


Classical Anglicanism As "Reformed Catholicism" or Catholicism Perfected

A claim that will no doubt annoy my Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox readers to no end, but that's our story and we're sticking to it.  A comment from an Anglican blog discussion puts the matter concisely.  (Emphases mine):

The genius of the Protestant Reformation is the recognition that, during the Middle Ages, "ecclesial creep" in both the Western and Eastern portions of the Church had for all practical intents and purposes replaced Old-Law works righteousness with a new works righteousness based on the respective "New Law" of the West (the Penance-Merits-Purgation-Indulgences doctrinal phalanx) and of the East (the imposition of the Monastic Typicon upon the laity).

Furthermore, . . . the formularies of classical Anglicanism did a better job of retaining the wheat of the orthodox catholicism of the ancient Church while jettisoning the chaff of innovative medieval accretion than did any other segment of the Reformation. This is why Anglicanism can, perhaps uniquely, lay equal claim to the appellations Protestant and Catholic and affirm both without any sense of inconsistency or incoherence. Indeed, strictly speaking, in proper understanding of each term, to truly be one, you must be both.

To truly be one, you must be both.  To be truly Catholic, you must be Reformed.  To be truly Reformed (or Protestant), you must be Catholic.  The cry of the Reformation, Ad Fontes! ("To The Sources!") was not merely an appeal to recover apostolic and prophetic sources as set forth in Holy Scripture, but to recover the patristic (pre-medieval) sources as well.  It is our contention that classical Anglicanism, which means the the theology of the English Reformation as modified by the great divines of the Elizabethan and Caroline eras, did the best job of returning to biblical and patristic sources.  Conversely, we hold that both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches have departed from biblical and patristic Christianity in signficant ways.

So we call all Christians -- including erring Anglicans (you Pentecostals, Puritans and Papalists know who you are ;)) -- back to the sources.  "Evangelical" and "Catholic" are not mutually exclusive positions.


Fr. Robert Hart on the "Odd Couple" (Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy)

Originally posted in 2008 at


Article XIX:Of the Church.

THE visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure word of God is preached and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same. As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch have erred: so also the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith.

Once again this week I was subjected to the oft repeated claim that only two churches have any integrity, validity, catholic standing, and all that. Against the backdrop of current news that highlights the "realignment" within the Anglican Communion-those other Anglicans who don't always share our convictions-the following was in an e-mail from a long time friend:

"The only two churches that have enough past to be taken seriously in the future do not show the slightest interest in any such realignment."

This friend long ago became a member of the Orthodox Church, and his sentence is about those exclusive and unique (?) institutions we may call the Two One True Churches. That is, the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church (with its other Catholic churches under the Pope). Indeed, we love and honor both of them, which is more than they usually say for each other. In our ecclesiology there is room for them both as part of the Church in its fullness, unlike the respective ecclesiology of each of them concerning the other (let alone everybody else). If the Two One True Churches were no longer twain but one, then they might have some credibility to their exclusivist claim. Their mutual exclusion still bears witness to the fact that they too have erred at different times, and have yet to work out their differences.

Nonetheless, I cannot blame these churches for the fact that many of their members have a wrongheaded notion of Anglicanism. They confuse Anglicanism with the "Anglican Communion," and along with us they notice it suffers from a corrupted polity and heretical doctrines. Like us, they have no desire to be part of that structure, or to be contaminated by its errors. Therefore, I contributed my own thoughts to the e-mail stream:

"It is almost impossible to find traces of Anglicanism in the Anglican Communion. The mantle was discarded and taken up just over thirty years ago. The best the Anglican Communion can come up with is the GAFCON statement; but we (in the Continuum) still abide by The Affirmation of St. Louis (1977), which merely asserted Traditional Christianity.

"It is my experience with conservative Episcopalians and with realigned Anglicans (of the sort who mistake Stand Firm for something Anglican) that even the most 'conservative' of them (or even the most 'orthodox' by their standard) do not recognize quotations of, or allusions to, classic Anglican formularies. They think the Articles are Calvinism (which the Calvinists of the time did not, hence their consistent opposition), they think Baptismal Regeneration is debatable, they think Apostolic Succession is optional, etc. These things are debatable in the large world of ecumenical Christian relations, but they are settled matters in Anglican formularies, leaving no room for that kind of 'comprehensiveness.' I have even found self-proclaimed Anglicans who are surprised to hear that Anglicanism has always defined itself as both Catholic and Protestant (which means these folks have absolutely no understanding whatsoever of the patrimony they claim for themselves). Frankly, these 'conservatives' have no roots at all.

"How can they understand the Anglican mind if they draw a complete blank when I remind them that the sacraments of baptism and communion 'are generally necessary to salvation' (Catechism, and Offices of Instruction)? Or, if they argue against the priestly power to absolve sins (the Ordinal-rather explicit about that I might add)? I have seen other examples, and they are astonishing. The treatment of women's 'ordination' as as a 'secondary issue' requires treating at least one sacrament 'generally necessary to salvation' as secondary.

"The result of this rootless 'conservatism' is that much of what I write on The Continuum blog is designed to convert Anglicans to Anglicanism"

Nonetheless, I can put up with only so much, especially from friends. To say that only the Two One True Churches "have enough past to be taken seriously in the future," is simply wrong. First of all, what is required to be taken seriously is fidelity to the true doctrine of Christ as revealed in Scripture, and as taught and defended in the Tradition, and the Sacraments. The first part of Article XIX makes this clear by defining the Visible Church as "a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure word of God is preached and the sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same." Indeed, what else is there?

what gives credibility is simple continuity of an institution recognized by a distinctive name, then to call ourselves Anglicans, especially as Anglicans of the Continuing Church, is unimpressive. This gives us only a brief time in which we can look back on a past of our own. That weakness coupled with smaller numbers than the Two One Trues, must provide a constant source of amusement to them. They are so ancient, and so big. We are so young and, compared to their millions upon millions, so small. They know that when we finally "get it," we will take their advice: "When you get to the fork in the road, take it." Somehow, the purity of the word of God preached in our churches, and the sacraments no matter how duly administered, only makes it easier for them to deride us. Just who do we think we are? At least the many Protestant denominations out there don't think of themselves as really Catholic, at least not like the great big Odd Couple of east and west (don't forget to fill out your Form 1054 by April 15th).

First of all, to meet the Odd Couple on its own terms, the Church of England is ancient, and our Anglican Patrimony, in terms of a claim to a past, beats the Russian Orthodox Church hands down. After the ancient Celtic Church of the Britons (which was established in the First Century) worked out a mutual polity with the Church of the Angles (English) at the Council of Whitby (664 AD), they formed into one Ecclesia Anglicana at the Council of Hertford (673 AD). But, is even that claim to the past, impressive as it is, what matters most?

We hold to our Article XIX. Regarding the Visible Church, other than the genuine ministry of God's word and sacraments, what do we need in order to be part of the Body of Christ? These two things, God's word and the sacraments, in a congregation of faithful Christians, contain all the antiquity necessary in every meaningful way, of the whole Church. We have the past that truly matters: Our church was not born in the 7th century, and certainly not in the 16th century. It was born on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came on the Apostles and other disciples that had gathered in the upper room, and were at that moment in the temple at prayer. Our Church was born in Jerusalem that very day, and it spread out from there to many nations.


Archbishop Peter Robinson (UECNA): Commitment - Integrity - Evangelism


Just over a week ago I (Peter Robinson, Archbishop of the United Episcopal Church North America) spoke at the end of Synod dinner for the Anglican Catholic Church's Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic States at the invitation of Bishop Lerow, their Episcopal Visitor. The address was not recorded, neither was I speaking from notes, but this blog post is an attempt to reproduce something of that talk.

As some of you will know, I am something of a railway enthusiast, and in particular for Irish Narrow Gauge railways. These were latterly owned by the Irish National Transport company C.I.E.. Don't worry, I am not going to talk to you about railways, but about a different C-I-E, one that the church needs to follow in order to grow. The CIE of this talk is


because without these qualities a church has little chance of sustaining itself, let alone growing.

The first aspect I want to look at is Commitment.

The first quality one should look for in a church is commitment. Not commitment to the denomination, a particular worship style, or program, but to Christ. In order to grow a Church must be Christ centered, and the reason for the decline of so many mainline denominations in the USA has been their failure to retain a clear and unequivocable commitment to Christ. Jesus tells His disciples that he is "the way, the truth and the life" and we, as baptized Christian need to live as though we believe that to be utterly true. Our salvation comes not through performing works of the Law, or propitiating an angry deity but from faith in Christ. Therefore Christ has to be at the center of our lives, at the heart of everything that we do, both as a Church and as individuals.

The faith to which are committed as Anglicans is revealed in the Scriptures - both Old and New Testament - taught by the ancient Fathers, and defined by the seven Ecumenical Councils of the Church. That faith ultimately is nothing less than God's revelation of Himself to humanity. However, these ancient Fathers and Councils are not independent authorities to Scripture, but expositors of God's Holy Word. We now live some two thousand years after Christ, and we are far removed from the original cultural context of the Gospel. Yet what His Word tells us is what we need to teach, what we need to live by, and what we need to pass on to the next generation.

This desire to learn, live and pass on the faith should be at the center of our lives as Christians, because whatever denominational label we carry, we need to first and foremost carry the name of Christian. We are born again of water and the Holy Ghost in baptism, and that effects a change in the character of our souls; and we have, as it were the mark of Christ upon us. In confirmation we affirm that commitment that was made in our name at our baptism - we renounce the Devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the word, profess our faith, and commit ourselves to be soldiers and servants of Christ, and, through His grace alone, to work against sin, and for the Kingdom of God. We are strengthened for that task through the Scriptures, the Sacraments, Prayer, and Good Works; and we should keep our eyes fixed upon Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.

As Anglicans we also need to pursue the integrity of our tradition.

There was a time back in the eighteenth century when the Anglican clergy were the stupor mundi - the wonder of the world for their learning. Berkeley gets its name from the great eighteenth century Anglo-Irish philosopher-bishop, George Berkeley of Cloyne, whose form of Positivism was very influential in Anglican circles in the mid-1700s. I very much doubt he would approve of the philosophy taught in his name sake city today, and that bankruptcy of our academic tradition is something that has negatively affected the Anglican Church in this country! John Kaye, who was Bishop of Lincoln in the 1820s and 30s got his bishopric in part for producing the standard English translation and a critical edition of the works of St Justin Martyr. This seems to me a far better reason for being made a bishop than being able to tick all the right PC boxes, which seems to be what gets you to the top in so many denominations today.

What I am trying to say is that the integrity of the Anglican tradition lies upon good scholarship. Back in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries scholars honestly endeavored to discover the traditions of the Early Church in belief and Worship. The Anglican Reformation, although influenced by Luther, Melancthon, Bucer, Calvin, and others, always looked beyond the contemporary reform movements back to the Early Church, the Church of the first seven centuries. This influenced its liturgy and organisation, as well as helping to drive the scholarly tradition that was so much part of the old Anglicanism.

We also have to be aware that after 450 years our church has a tradition and an integrity of its own. I find too many Anglicans are a bit too self-conscious about their Anglicanism and look over their shoulders at what the Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, or the "Methobapticostals" are up to. This seems to me foolishness - especially in view of what I have said about the Church needing to look unto Christ as the author and finisher of the Faith. Anglicans are Catholic without being Roman; Reformed without being Puritan; and Evangelical without falling for the semi-Pelagianism of Revivalism. Our safe place, our identity very largely derives from a doctrinal commitment to the faith of the Church as revealed by Christ and explained by the Ancient Fathers and Councils, and the 'worshiping form' given to that theological commitment by the Book of Common Prayer.

There is a major need today, especially when so many new Anglicans, and even new Anglican priests have come from other traditions to educate them thoroughly. Every diocese and ever parish needs to have programs of education not just for those entering Holy Orders, but also for lay readers and for the laity themselves. In order to propagate the Gospel, we need, as a church, an active and educated laity.

This talk of Education brings me to my 'E' - Evangelism.

Anglicans, like some Presbyterians, have a reputation for being God's frozen chosen. Evangelism is usually something that Anglicans know they should be doing, and have a guilty conscience about, but when it comes to doing anything - zip, nada, nothing! Well, perhaps an advertisement in the paper on Christmas and Easter. The was a time when we got away with this quite well - brand name and the fact that we were decent and none too demanding carried us along nicely, as evidenced by the year on year growth of the 1920s, 30s 40s, and 50s. The old Episcopal Church peaked in 1963 with a membership of 3.4 million. Since then, there has been considerable shrinkage. I believe the current number is somewhere around 2.6 million and falling, and of those about 850,000 gets themselves through the door with reasonable regularity on a Sunday. The fact of the matter is that no-one has to go to Church anymore - Walmart is open! A large element in the media, and in political life look down on those with a traditional Christian faith as being narrow, bigoted, and backwards. There are very, very few positive images of Christians on TV, and the cultural Left in this country seems to be engaged in a Kulturkampf against the Church. Yet despite all this preaching from the TV of a new humanity, which does not need the old moral restraints, man's basic problems of how to be at peace with God and with himself still remain. The moral battleground today is marriage, which the secular progressive wish to reinterpret away from its tradition ends of the procreation of children, the avoidance of sin, and the mutual help and society of a man and a woman such as is laid down in Scripture beginning with Genesis into some sort of a free for all based on the concept that only erotic love is important. I am taking bets on whether it will be a Unitarian or an Episcopalian minister that performs the first human-animal marriage. What is evident is that most of the mainstream church's have ducked out of maintaining traditional doctrine, tradition morality, and evangelism, and in many respects have co-opted themselves as handmaids of the new Paganism.

If I were to ask you which is the largest province of the Anglican Communion I am sure that many of you would answer England. Up until a few years ago that would have been correct. With 26,000,000 baptized (most of whom never darken the doors) the Church of England was the biggest Church in the Anglican Communion. However, they have been surpassed - can anyone tell me who by?

(voice off - Nigeria)

That's right - Nigeria. The last time I checked there were 26.4 million Nigerian Anglicans, against 25.8 million English, and what is more to the point most of those Nigerian Anglicans are in church on a Sunday, not down the English version of Lowe's or Home Depot. Why is the Church in Nigeria - or for that matter Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, or Rwanda - so successful? They have the commitment to Christ, and the Integrity that I spoke of earlier. And besides this they Evangelize. American Episcopalians and Anglicans have a bad habit of saying that evangelism is the clergy's function - but it is not. IT IS EVERY CHRISTIAN'S RESPONSIBILITY. Every member of the Church needs to be an Evangelist. Everyone of us has to have that commitment, that desire to bring folks into the Church. That way our churches will grow and more importantly more people will be committed to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

One thing we need to realize is that the mission field is no longer Africa, India, Korea, but here. The mission field starts two inches outside of that door. American Christianity is widespread right now, but it is not very deep; hence the success of the non-denominational mega-church with its feel good worship and soundbite preaching. American Evangelical Christianity is ripe for a collapse, and who will succeed it - Islam? Socialism - that great secular religion? Or will the old churches come back again?

The whole church needs to commit to outreach and Evangelism in the new American Mission field. The best news of all though is that it does not involve you preaching on street corners, or dishing out tracts, or knocking on the doors of strangers. We simply need to take to heart something that the Bishops of the Anglican Church of Nigeria say is the foundation of their growth. It involves a very simple commitment that every member of the Church bring one new person to church each year, and then mentor them for three years - 1 + 1 + 3. Imagine what that could do in your parish 30 become 60, then 120, then you have to start thinking about planting a new Church. We need that sort of growth not just to grow but to survive and become a living and vital force, preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ in this country.

That brings me back to my C - I - E.

We need to be, as Continuing Anglicans

Committed to Christ; be faithful to our Anglican Integrity; and Evangelize. If we commit ourselves to be this, and do this, then the Church will grow, and Christ will be Glorified.

A Bit of Anglican Sacred Space at the Foot of the Ozarks

St. Matthew's Anglican Church (UECNA), Rogers, AR, where I attended Mass this morning.  (My wife and I are here in NW AR visiting relatives.)  A wonderful bunch of people led by a wonderful priest, Fr. Jerry Ellington.  May God continue to bless Continuing Anglicanism in Northwest Arkansas through this parish.


Metropolitan Jonah Addresses the ACNA Assembly

Metropolitan Jonah is the presiding hierarch of the Orthodox Church in America, the outpost of English-speaking Slavic Orthodoxy in the United States.  His Beatitude has been an ecumenical advisor to the newly-formed Anglican Church in North America, delivering a speech to the ACNA at its first general assembly in 2009, and again last week at its second general assembly in Ridgecrest, NC.  The text of his address can be read here at Virtue Online (VO).

There is a substantial contingent of Orthodox Christians who comment in the VO comboxes, especially when the subject is Eastern Orthodoxy or when, as here, one of their leaders is given the spotlight.  Typically, however, what they have to say annoys me a tad, as it is commonly characterized by the triumphalism and parochialism for which the Orthodox  have unfortunately become legendary.  Sometimes that triumphalism and parochialism is veiled by a well-meant ecumenical bonhomie on their part, but in my estimation it is always thinly veiled.  Maybe this is because I spent 13 years in the Orthodox Church and know the mindset well, and am therefore aware of convert-fishing when it occurs .  Anyway, here's a section from His Beatitude's address that elicted a response from me, which I post in its entirety below:

I would remind you that the root and foundation of the Church of England is not "Roman" but rather, the broader Orthodox Catholicism that prevailed until the Roman Church began massive changes in the Second Millennium. The English Church was a local Orthodox Catholic Church in communion with Rome and the rest of the Churches for most of the first millennium. Part of the English, and even continental, Reformation was intended to bring the Church back to its original roots, free from the changes that occurred during the isolation of the Western Church in the Dark Ages and Middle Ages. The Orthodox see the Reformation as having gone awry, and reinforced the very elements that made the Western Churches' theological positions idiosyncratic, thus isolating it even more from Orthodoxy.

My hope is that we can roll this back. You have the opportunity to return your Church to its original heritage, and thus actualize the rich inheritance of English Orthodox Catholicism, in communion with its root tradition. This means the overcoming of generations of schism, a schism which was forced on the English Church, and then a perpetual state of schism for itself and the churches established by it in its colonies and missions. This needs to be healed.

The ecumenical hope is to overcome the schisms of the West, so that the English and Roman Churches can again take their place within the communion of the One Orthodox Catholic Church. You have an immense role and opportunity within this. Removing the filioque is not simply a nice gesture of ecumenical solidarity; it is, rather, an affirmation of the ancient faith of the Undivided Church.

And my response in the combox:

Having re-read the text of Met. Jonah's address to the recent ACNA assembly, I am compelled to make an additional comment or two. I do so as one who spent 13 years in the Orthodox Church before he found his true Catholic home in Traditional Anglicanism.

There is a subtle insinuation in His Beatitude's address that, prior to the Roman power grab, English Catholics were part of the "Orthodox Catholic Church" (emphasis on upper case "O"). Nothing is said about the fact that the term "Orthodoxy" has long meant *Eastern* Orthodoxy, with all the cultural, liturgical and theological baggage that goes with it. But English Catholics were never "Orthodox" in that sense. They weren't -- and aren't -- cultural Easterners, they never prayed the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, and their theology was formed by Western influences, especially by the Latin tradition, which modern Eastern Orthodox spokesmen routinely excoriate.

Moreover, the bishops of the English Catholic Church were of course *English* bishops who prayed a Western Rite. If English Catholicism is to be restored in the Anglican Churches, then English Bishops -- not bishops of the AOCA, or the OCA, or the GOA, or the ROCOR -- will govern our churches. An English parish praying the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom -- or the so-called Liturgy of St. Tikhon for that matter -- under an Orthodox bishop from the East is not an "English Catholic" Church at all, but an "Orthodox" Church in England. A foreign transplant, in other words.

Having spent the time that I did in the Eastern Orthodox Church, I know enough about the mentality there to know that His Beatitude and his supporters here are not so much interested in a restoration of English Catholicism as they are in fishing for converts. Those who do not have the experience that people like me have need merely read between the lines of everything that is being said here by the Orthodox: they aren't interested in Anglicanism; they're interested in "Making America (and the rest of the West) Orthodox", to cite the title of a book written by convert to Eastern Orthodoxy Fr. Peter Gillquist.

As for the Reformation, I take notice of the fact that Met. Jonah said, "The Orthodox see the Reformation as having gone awry, and reinforced the very elements that made the Western Churches' theological positions idiosyncratic, thus isolating it even more from Orthodoxy." But, as one Lutheran critic notes, "the Orthodox tend to make no distinction between a snake-handling Pentecostal and a confessional Lutheran, thereby only displaying their ignorance of the heritage of the Christian West after the Reformation." We see this same tendency, I think, in Met. Jonah's statement here. Unfortunately, he doesn't distinguish the English Reformation from the Continental Reformation(s), but rather lumps them all together as one "Reformation", and indeed as one that went "awry."

Not for His Beatitude, apparently, is the fact that the English Reformation was the most conservative and Catholic of them all, so much so that the Anglican Church was able to take a dramatic Catholic turn a mere 200 or so years later in the form of the Oxford Movement, whose influence is still felt greatly in Anglicanism today.

More importantly, however, to write off the Reformation -- and especially the English Reformation -- is to write off the intent of a church to get back in touch with its *apostolic (which is to say biblical) and patristic roots*. As Fr. Wells implies above, this is something the Orthodox Church could stand to do itself. This is because the Orthodox Church suffers from the same essential soteriological pathology that afflicts Rome, which, as one astute analyst puts it, is this:

"The genius of the Protestant Reformation is the recognition that, during the Middle Ages, "ecclesial creep" in both the Western and Eastern portions of the Church had for all practical intents and purposes replaced Old-Law works righteousness with a new works righteousness based on the respective "New Law" of the West (the Penance-Merits-Purgation-Indulgences doctrinal phalanx) and of the East (the imposition of the Monastic Typicon upon the laity).

Furthermore, . . . the formularies of classical Anglicanism did a better job of retaining the wheat of the orthodox catholicism of the ancient Church while jettisoning the chaff of innovative medieval accretion than did any other segment of the Reformation. This is why Anglicanism can, perhaps uniquely, lay equal claim to the appellations Protestant and Catholic and affirm both without any sense of inconsistency or incoherence. Indeed, strictly speaking, in proper understanding of each term, to truly be one, you must be both."

No, Your Beatitude, along with our native bishops, our Western liturgy and our distinctive theological tradition, we will keep our conservative Reformation, holding with the Early Church Fathers that every church teaching and practice which stands in opposition to the Bible is subject to reform. My experience in the Orthodox Church leads me to conclude that Orthodoxy is not the slightest bit interested in reform of this nature. More's the pity.

See my article here at OJC, For Evangelicals and Others Considering Eastern Orthodoxy.


How To Become A Christian

A statement from a former metropolitan of the Anglican Catholic Church, M. Dean Stephens:

Just What is Faith in Christ, Anyway?

A message from the Most Rev. M. Dean Stephens, Metropolitan of the Anglican Catholic Church and Archbishop Ordinary of the Diocese of New Orleans, reprinted from The Trinitarian,
Volume XV, No. 1, February, 1996.

If I were to ask you, "Do you have faith in Christ," how would you answer? Some of you would answer in the affirmative with a resounding "yes". Others might answer, "I'm not sure that I have any faith." Still others would respond by saying, "Is it possible to know if one has faith in Christ? What is faith anyway?"

The question about faith in Christ is of the utmost importance because the Bible says that, "Nor is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved" [Acts 4:12]. God has appointed one man, the man Christ Jesus in whom we must be saved. There is no other name or revelation that God has given mankind which will save us from the judgment to come or give life full meaning now. But what a glorious name, the name of our Lord Jesus!

Gabriel, the Angel of the Annunciation, told the Virgin Mary that the child to be conceived in her womb by the Holy Spirit was to be called Jesus, which means -- "God is Help," or more succinctly, "Captain of our Salvation." Jesus is the beginning and the end of our salvation. He is, in himself, the guarantee that we shall be saved if we believe in Him. Romans 10:9 tells us, "That if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved."

But you say: "What does it mean ïto have faith,to believe? That’s a question that many have wrestled with. When, as a young teenager, I heard that I was to believe in Christ to be saved, I questioned in my own heart as to whether I had faith to believe in Christ as Saviour. Was my faith strong enough to save me? Was it real faith?

The word "believe" in today's language has changed and does not fully convey its full meaning of "trust" as it did a century or two ago. To "believe" actually means "to commit oneself to, to trust, cling to, or rely on." Today, in this latter part of the 20th century, you may "believe" something to be true, but not necessarily act upon that belief. Let me give you two simple examples.

We all know that if a person stands in the middle of a busy highway that he will be hit by oncoming traffic if he doesnÍt move. We all believe that to be a true statement of fact. However, the person may not act upon that belief and remove himself from harm. In that case, we all know what will happen. It is possible to believe something to be true but yet not act upon its truth.

A second example is of a person who is sick and will die if the right medicine isn't administered. If that medicine is available, the patient may "believe" that the medicine will save, him, but he must also act and take the medicine to be healed. You see, there has to be an act of the will to decide to take the medicine. The same holds true in the spiritual realm. The "medicine of salvation" has been provided in the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We can be saved if we respond in faith to Christ's invitation to believe on Him.

Some years ago, the story was told of a missionary who was translating the Bible into the language of a certain tribe. He couldn't seem to find just the right word to describe what it means to "believe" on Christ. One day, as he was struggling to translate John 3:16, a man appeared at this door to talk about this new faith with the missionary. As they talked, the missionary asked his new convert what he thought was the best way to translate the word "believe" into his own language. The man thought for a moment and said: "I think the best way to describe the word "believe" would be to say, "to sit down." Puzzled, the missionary asked him to explain. He replied, "you are sitting on a chair. Therefore, you must believe the chair will hold you." The missionary translator caught his meaning and quickly translated John 3:16 as follows: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever sits down on (believes on) Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Isn't that the true meaning of faith, to place the weight of our soul's eternal destiny upon Christ? In other words, true faith relies upon the promise of Christ that He will save us if we entrust our soul to Him. Just as a drowning man needs to entrust himself to the lifeguard to be rescued, so we too must lie still in the arms of Christ, not trying to save ourselves, but trusting Him to do the work of saving us.

Dear reader, have you entrusted your soul's eternal destiny to the Lord Jesus Christ? I said above that it is possible to believe something is true, but not act upon it. It is the same with our eternal salvation. Many believe in their minds that Jesus is Lord but do not act upon that belief. There must come a time, in each of our lives when we make the decision to ask the Lord to save us and take Christ into our lives. Have you done that? Why not do it now and pray the following prayer with faith:

Lord Jesus, I have sinned and have not lived my life for you and I ask you to come into my heart and forgive my sins. I believe that you died on the cross to save me and I ask you to make me your child. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus! I believe your promise that if I would trust in you that you would save me. I now commit my life to you. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for hearing my prayer. Amen.

If you meant that prayer from the bottom of your heart, God has heard you. Jesus said: "The one who comes to me I will by no means cast out" [John 6:37]. In other words, if you come to Christ, He will not turn you away. He must keep His word for God cannot lie. You can be assured that our Lord will keep His word and cleanse you from every sin and make you His child.

Having taken this step, the step of following Christ, don't try to do it alone. Come and join us. . .  (in the church), where the strength of fellowship with others will help sustain you in your new faith.

If you have not been baptized, speak to the priest about it. Jesus said: "He who believes and is baptized shall be saved" [Mark 16:16]. If you are a church member but have been lax in following Christ, renew your baptismal vows today and enter into that personal relationship with Him.

What Is The Gospel?



Consecration of Damien Mead as the Bishop of the Anglican Catholic Church's (ACC) Diocese of the United Kingdom, and consecration of the Anglican Church of the Epiphany (ACC) by The Rt. Rev. Denver Presley Hutchens, retired Bishop Ordinary of the Diocese of New Orleans and presently Episcopal Visitor and Vicar Capitular to the Diocese of the Holy Trinity.