Thursday, July 13, 2006

Reflections 2006

The following article was penned by The Rev. Dr. Deuel Smith of St. Patrick's Church in Hurst, TX. It is so complete and so to the point that it was felt that all should have a opportunity to read it. In visiting with Fr. Smith we were graciously given permission to reprint the article.


Over a brief but crucial period of time, a final settlement of major issues occurred in the life of the Anglican Communion and what is now officially called The Episcopal Church (TEC). This "definitive moment" spanned ten all too-brief days in June in Columbus, Ohio. Through actions taken and actions postponed, the 75th General Convention of TEC has brought an end to the worldwide Anglican Communion of Churches and has declared once and for all the complete autonomy and independence of TEC. TEC will "walk apart" from the vast majority of the Anglican Communion and will irreparably split the Communion into traditional/orthodox and liberal/revisionist factions.

The liberal/revisionist faction will encompass England, Ireland, Scotland, Canada, the United States, most of Australia, South Africa, and Central America – representing a minority of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The raditional/orthodox faction will encompass some "faithful remnants" in the United States, Australia, Canada and England, most of New Zealand, South America, Africa, and Asia - representing the vast majority of Anglicans worldwide.

No longer "Anglican" in ethos or philosophy (in the sense of practicing a Reformed Catholic faith in the Anglican tradition), the "New" Anglican Church is no longer a valid branch of Christ's One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. The still-emerging "Traditional" Anglican Church will perhaps be unified in purpose but will be split along evangelical-charismatic and Anglican-Catholic lines without common worship or "prayer". No longer will "communion with the See of Canterbury" be the sole criteria for those churches to be considered validly "Anglican".

This leads one to define what being an "Anglican" truly means. There is no simple answer, but here are some guidelines that may prove helpful:

As a branch of Christ's One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, Anglicans practice an ancient and unchanging faith founded on the belief that Jesus the Christ is the Incarnate Word of God, that the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the written word of God and that the apostolic witness ("tradition") is the proclaimed word of God. That foundation continues to be unchangeable and unshakeable regardless of the tempest and storms battering against it.

During the Reformation, the Church in England emerged as a unique institution. It retained its Catholic heritage as expressed in the Creeds and decisions of the General Councils of the undivided Church, in its ancient liturgy and sacraments, in Apostolic Succession and the threefold order of ministry of bishops, priests and deacons. The Church in England emerged as the 'middle way' between the extremes of both Protestantism and Catholicism. The Church in England reformed itself by removing many nonessentials in the practice of faith that arose in the Medieval Church, and by returning to the practices of the earliest Christians. First and foremost is an insistence upon the authority of the Holy Scriptures to be the rule and guide to Christian faith and practice.

What became known as the Church of England underwent its formative period during the reign of Elizabeth I. Members of the Church of England entered the American colonies during the 16th and 17th centuries, and became the "official" or established Church in many of those colonies. Following the Revolution, Anglicans in America established an autonomous branch of the Church which was officially known as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, (PECUSA).

Over the course of the last thirty or so years the Episcopal Church abandoned most of the traditional, historic Anglican faith and practice that emerged at the Reformation. Many faithful Anglicans in the United States opposed the innovations of the Episcopal Church and sought to preserve their traditional Anglican identity.

A meeting of faithful Episcopal clergy and laity was held in Mobile, Alabama in 1968 - from this meeting the 'American Episcopal Church' emerged. In 1977, a Congress of Concerned Churchmen was held in St. Louis, Missouri faithful Anglicans from Canada and the United States were in attendance. The Congress issued 'The Affirmation of St. Louis' which affirmed as unalterable the received Faith and Tradition of the Church: the Holy Scripture, the Church's ancient and universal Creeds, teachings of the Early Church Fathers, decisions of the General Councils of the undivided Church, and the historic Apostolic Ministry of male bishops, priests and deacons descended in unbroken succession from the first Apostles.

Several groups of traditional Anglicans emerged in Canada and the United States following the meeting in St. Louis. The "continuing Anglican" movement in Canada prospered while the movement in the United States was not able to attain complete unity and separated into several different "jurisdictions”.

The "continuing Anglican church movement" in the United States, treated with disdain by most "Episcopalians", continues to be thoroughly grounded in the Holy Scriptures. These orthodox Anglicans believe that the Apostles', Nicene and Athanasian Creeds sufficiently express the faith of the Church and are to be understood by all as they were written. Orthodox Anglicans support the teachings of the Early Church Fathers and decisions of Church Councils of the undivided Church.

Ethics and morality practiced among Anglicans are expected to follow the teaching that 'every Christian is obligated to form his conscience by the divine Moral Law of the Mind of Christ as revealed in Holy Scriptures, and by the teachings and Tradition of the Church' (The Affirmation of St. Louis).

Orthodox Anglicans come to church not to receive something, but to give worship and praise to God.

Orthodox Anglicans worship and pray using the traditional Book of Common Prayer as their liturgical guide. The principal act of Christian worship for Anglicans is the Holy Eucharist, also called the Mass, the Holy Communion, the Lord's Supper and the Divine Liturgy, .which together with Daily Morning and Evening Prayer constitute the regular services of public worship. Anglicans believe in the 'real presence' of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Any who believe in traditional, orthodox Anglican teachings and practices, as evidenced by Confirmation at the hands of a Bishop in valid Apostolic Succession, are allowed to receive Holy Communion - for this reason, traditional, orthodox Anglican churches are not considered to be "open communion" churches as are nearly all "Episcopal" and other so-called "Anglican" churches.

Orthodox Anglicans believe that the Sacraments are 'objective and effective signs of the continued presence and saving activity of Christ our Lord among his people, and his covenanted means for conveying His Grace' (The Affirmation of St. Louis). The two Gospel Sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Eucharist are considered to be 'generally necessary to salvation'. Five other sacramental rites, in their Biblical sense, are also termed 'sacraments': Confirmation, Penance, Unction, Marriage, and Holy Orders.

Any who hold to teachings and innovations antithetical to those espoused by traditional, orthodox Anglicans are rightly called "apostates or heretics", but not "Anglicans". We must continue to pray for the salvation of our once fellow "Anglicans" who have placed their mortal souls in jeopardy by following after false teachers and heretics in The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion. May Almighty God in His infinite Goodness forgive them their sins and grant them eternal salvation. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Fr. D+ -July 2006