Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanks Giving Message

Dearly beloved faithful in Christ,

With Thanksgiving Day approaching, we would like to take the time to evaluate the true essence of the holiday. We found it appropriate to quote from the "Proclamation of Thanksgiving" issued by President Abraham Lincoln on October 3, 1863. With the issuance of this letter, Thanksgiving Day was proclaimed as a national holiday in the United States of America.

". . . No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union . . ."

Proclamation of Thanksgiving*

Washington, D.C.

October 3, 1863

Therefore, it is our duty as members of the Anglican Church in America , continuing to faithfully follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and as law-abiding citizens of the United States of America to forever remember the true spirit of Thanksgiving: being thankful and praising the Lord not once a year but always. "I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell all thy wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in thee, I will sing praise to thy name, O Most High" (Psalms 9:1-3).



Rev. Bobby C. Hall, SSM

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Chicken and the Egg

The following article was posted by Christian Champbell on his Anglo-Catholic Blog. It is exceedingly well thought out and well worth sharing again here.


The Chicken and the Egg

Since the announcement of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus, from progressive and traditionalist Catholics alike, concerns have been raised about the commitment of Anglicans who may avail themselves of the Holy Father’s offer and the thoroughness of the “conversions” they will undergo.

The liberals seem concerned that an influx of supposedly “conservative” Anglicans will further undermine their progressive vision of the modern Church and the fading ’spirit of Vatican II’. A recent editorial in The Tablet even suggested that incoming Anglicans must dispense with their outmoded beliefs on the priesthood, liturgy, and devotion to the Blessed Virgin in order to be received into the Catholic Church. For these liberals, Anglicans must be assimilated into the modernist ideal and leave the baggage of traditional piety and belief behind.

Traditionalist Catholics fear that Anglicans may be motivated more by what they are running away from than what (or rather Whom) they are running towards. Do these Anglicans truly submit in every last detail to the Magisterium as expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Do they really accept the primacy and infallibility of the Pope and the recent Marian dogmas? Do they not have mental reservations? How dare they maintain that the Anglican patrimony has treasures to offer to the larger Catholic Church? They speak of being ‘united but not absorbed’. They must abandon their pretensions! They must convert!

As for the hand-wringing of the progressive Catholics, I hate to break it to The Tablet, but we’re coming in and you can pry our antiquated prayer books, missals, and rosaries from our cold dead fingers. We’ll continue to na├»vely believe in the Real Presence and all those fairy tales in the Bible, we’ll bow when the processional cross passes by, genuflect at the Incarnatus est, use incense, and say ‘and with thy spirit’ — and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it! Rather, it is the concern of the so-called “traditionalist” or “conservative” Catholics that “former Anglicans” will only convert with reservations that I desire presently to address.

I do not presume to speak for Anglicans in other places and in other circumstances. Certainly, the implosion of the Church of England, for example, creates certain pressures. Faithful Anglo-Catholics are being systematically marginalized and forced out of the Established Church and they must look to other arrangements. Does this impel some of them to seek entry into the Roman Catholic Church as a sort of fallback position and without the full acceptance of the significance of this move? Perhaps. But I can only speak to my experience in one corner of the American Continuing Church.

From its foundation, the Traditional Anglican Communion has been dedicated to entering into full sacramental communion with the Roman Catholic Church. In the adoption of this goal, the TAC was not being particularly innovative; it was simply seeking to pick up where the official Canterbury-based Anglican Communion had left off. The general trajectory of the Anglican Communion throughout the twentieth century was towards unity with the Roman Church, and this goal seemed tantalizingly close in the period immediately following the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. It was only the radical innovation of women’s ordination (and the concomitant deviations in historic Christian faith and praxis) in some provinces of the Anglican Communion that lead to the breakdown of the ARCIC process and the prevention of that long-desired restoration of communion between Rome and Canterbury. As the Continuing Church had preserved our traditional Anglican faith and practice, so too did the TAC adopt the ecumenical agenda which had been put on hiatus by the troubles in “official” Anglicanism.

While I have have only had the privilege of being a member of the Continuing Church for several years now (though born and raised in the Episcopal Church), it is clear to me that this mission of unity with the Roman Catholic Church had been assimilated — at least in some vague way — into the identity of my parish (the diocesan cathedral) long before my arrival. From its inception thirty years ago, the parish has had, like many others in the largely Anglo-Catholic Continuum, a decidedly “high church” bent and has enjoyed the leadership of solid Anglo-Catholic clergy. The diocesan bishop (and long-time rector) is a strong Catholic and has never been afraid to teach the Faith. The notion that communio in sacris with the Catholic Church was the aspiration of our church was generally understood.

This is not to say that the traditional Anglican fault lines between Catholics and protestants were absent in the parish (and to some small degree they are still present). Our people come from a variety of backgrounds — many were raised Episcopalian (of all varieties of churchmanship), some grew up in the Roman Catholic Church, and not a few come to us from various protestant traditions. All were drawn to our profession of the historic Christian Faith and to the sublime beauty of the Anglican tradition by which we live it out.

Those of our folks that left the Episcopal Church often did so at great personal cost. They left the churches in which they were raised, where their parents are buried, where their children were christened. The pastors that the Episcopal Church had set over them betrayed them to the Enemy and they were forced out into the Wilderness. While they were thankful to have found a parish home, their willingness to meekly follow their bishop and clergy had often been sorely tested by their painful experiences. Those from the various protestant sects were new to the Catholic Faith and obviously had no tradition of forming their consciences in accordance with the teaching of the Church. Our clergy and their collaborators, with pastoral sensitivity and common sense, met each individual where they were. Without ever denying the fundamental truths of the Catholic Faith and working from within the limited framework of the Anglican tradition, they endeavored, by stages, to instill in our people a genuine sensus Catholicus. And this process remains ongoing.

But herein lies the problem: the Anglican tradition is indeed a limited framework and its ultimate shortcoming is a lack of authority. The hierarchy of the Traditional Anglican Communion have long been committed to reunion with Rome. It is well known that in 2007, the bishops of the TAC solemnly signed the Catechism of the Catholic Church, sending the landmark letter to Rome requesting corporate reunion with the Holy See. Our bishops have proposed the Catechism as “the most perfect expression of the Catholic faith in the world today,” a Faith which they “aspire to hold and teach.” But how effectively can the bishops and their clergy teach the fullness of the Catholic Faith in our communities?

Thankfully in our Continuing Church, we are not officially burdened with the acceptance of certain unfortunate and imperfect formularies from the Anglican tradition such as the XXXIX Articles of Faith. We are bound only by the 1928 American Book of Common Prayer (with the attached Ordinal) and informed by Holy Scriptures, the (first) Seven Ecumenical Councils, and Holy Tradition (though notably professing “that all Anglican statements of faith and liturgical formulae must be interpreted in accordance with them”). Appeal is made to the “ancient catholic bishops and doctors” and presumably thus to the “Undivided Church” of the first millennium. Obviously, on a number of issues, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is at odds both with certain traditional Anglican formulae and, for example, the Orthodox Church’s understanding on a number of key points.

So here we arrive at the Chicken and the Egg. Ours is an episcopal church; our bishops claim the right to teach and govern, it is true, and our people are respectful of that prerogative. But that authority is mitigated — vitiated — by the the lack of an ultimate authority in our ecclesiology. Where the errors or excesses of our past must needs be corrected and brought into conformity with Catholic teaching as expressed in the Catechism, how is this to be accomplished? While any bishop or priest may teach a point of Catholic doctrine, when it is disputed by historic Anglican formularies or otherwise contested in our tradition, the individual layperson often feels that he has justification to resort to private judgment. How can our bishops — and derivatively our other clergy — appeal to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church whilst we are divorced from the unity of that Church?

In our parish, the doctrines of the invocation of the saints, prayer for the Dead, Purgatory, the Real Presence in terms of Transubstantiation, the prerogatives of Our Lady, and other Catholic doctrines disputed — or even explicitly condemned — by historic Anglican formularies are taught to the people. In the past few years, with the expectation of serious developments in our relationship with the Catholic Church on the horizon, great emphasis has been placed on preparing our people — always respectful of the limitations of our current framework and with a mind to meet our folks where they are to be found — to accept the fullness of all Catholic doctrine.

As we receive the gracious invitation of our Holy Father in the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus in our parish, our people have a great devotion to the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Sacrament of the Altar, they are bidden to pray for the Holy Souls in the Intermediate State, our liturgy is replete with intercessory prayer to the saints, at Mass the celebrant prays for the Holy Father in an expression of (as yet imperfect) communion, the Holy Rosary is recited publicly in the church, and we have much of the fullness of Catholic life. Finally, there is a belief that the focus of unity in the Universal Church is to be found in the Successor of St. Peter, though some are yet unsure as to how this will be attained.

We have arrived at this moment as a community. Our pastors have done their utmost to teach the Catholic Faith and their labors have born great fruit already. Is there further yet to go? Most definitely. But we will only make it to our destination — in our integrity — with the shepherds of our small flock leading the way. It seems (to me at least) that there are not a few traditionalist Catholics that fail to appreciate the importance of the corporate dimension of this reunion. (Thankfully, the Holy Father does!) It is all well and good to insist upon catechesis and individual conversion and absolute conformity to the teaching of Holy Mother Church, but how is this to be accomplished?

I do not wish to be misunderstood, for I do not hold that it is a desirable thing that an individual enter the communion of the Catholic Church with mental reservations or culpably ignorant as to the teachings of the Church. I simply desire to point out that it is impossible to expect that, unless they become the definitive teaching of our communities by virtue of a final and absolute appeal to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, certain doctrines will not be fully assimilated and appreciated by our people. And we can not claim this Magisterium without communion.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A New Perspective

Many years ago following the signing of the Affirmation of St Louis, a large number of the continuing Anglican Jurisdictions fragmented into to many Churches. During this period, Arch Bishop Louis Falk, Primate of the Anglican Church in America (ACA), who also served as Arch Bishop of the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) for a number of years was instrumental in opening contact with the Holy See. Arch Bishop Falk quickly saw the necessity of opening dialogue with Rome with the goal of coming into full communion with them, but not being absorbed by the Roman Church. The initial contact with the Holy See was made by Arch Bishop Falk on a trip to Rome over 13 years ago. This type of dialogue with Rome has been a continuing effort by many clergy in the Anglican Church from 1534 following the Church of England’s initial break with the Holy See, however due to various political and ecclesiastical roadblocks it has waxed and waned over the years. From that initial contact by Arch Bishop Falk this dialogue had been quietly on going and was continued later by Arch Bishop Hepworth, through numerous contacts involving high ranking members of the Roman Catholic Clergy

The final approach to Rome was made when the College of Bishops of the TAC met in Plenary Session in Portsmouth, England, in the first week of October 2007. The Bishops and Vicars-General unanimously agreed to the text of a letter to the See of Rome seeking full, corporate, sacramental union. The letter was signed solemnly by all the College and entrusted to the Primate and two bishops chosen by the College to be presented to the Holy See. The letter was cordially received at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Primate of the TAC had agreed that no member of the College would give interviews until the Holy See has considered the letter and responded.

One may ask at this moment in time why this movement toward Rome? At the most theological level it was the ordination of women to the priesthood and the episcopate, with its consequent undermining of sacramental certainty and the classical Anglican understanding both of authority and the given-ness of the Faith. More recently the growing ambivalence towards authentic Christian sacramental and iconographic teaching on gender and sexuality, upon which the ordination of women depends, has given rise to the homosexual crisis which threatens to blow the world wide Anglican Communion apart.

As to the current press; the Holy See has responded and most favorably. However numerous articles fail to make clear the status of this announcement. First of all those members of the Anglican Communion who choose to take part in this momentous undertaking will be received in full communion with Rome yet as a complete and separate rite, a so called “uniate” church. These are ritual churches "sui iuris" - in other words, are churches with their own rites, cultures and canon law. And although, as Archbishop Hepworth has pointed out in a previous statement, "most of these rites are descended from ancient churches that have never been part of the Roman or Western rite". There are some twenty-eight of these churches, and they appoint their own bishops by the synodical processes, and since they are in communion with Rome they routinely inform the Bishop of Rome of their actions.

It is evident that the Holy Father has extended to the fractured Anglican Communion a unique rallying point containing a method allowing us to return to our rich sacramental and liturgical heritage which has been abandoned by numerous Anglican jurisdictions worldwide.

What does this all mean? First of all, we know that we will not be converting to Roman Catholicism or otherwise be absorbed. Rather the Apostolic Constitution provides the canonical vehicle for full communion with the Roman Catholic Church while at the same time retaining our Anglican liturgy, spirituality, patrimony and ability to function suri juris. Additionally, we will retain our autonomy in that the Constitution creates Anglican Ordinariates that will exist parallel to the existing dioceses of the Roman Catholic Church. As such, we will have complete autonomy from the local Roman Catholic Diocese. That being said then it is evident, contrary to some press statements, we will not become” Roman Catholics “but as we have always been, Anglicans within our own distinct Church with our very own, Deacons Priest, and Bishops.

There is much work to be done on the parish, diocese, and national level before we will see the fruits of our labour. I am sure that much give and take will occur between both churches before a truly common ground is reached. However the ultimate goal is the bringing together Christ’s Church on Earth. Pray my brothers and sisters that our efforts will be fruitful.


Rev. Dr. Bobby C. Hall, SSM