Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Stepping down, stepping across

Fr. Samuel Edwards has just made this article available to all. It is so heartfelt that I felt the need to share it with each of you here. What a remarkable man.

The Feast of Saint John the Evangelist
December 27, AD2010

Dear Family, Parishioners, Colleagues, and Friends in Christ,

Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

It was through the late Father Homer Rogers (d. 1980) of Saint Francis Church in Dallas that I was introduced to the idea that ultimately all love songs are about the soul’s quest for the vision of God in his Bride, the Church. In my case, the example of that genre that seems most applicable is “Bless the Broken Road,” best known through its performance by the country-crossover group Rascal Flatts. It reads,

I set out on a narrow way, many years ago
Hoping I would find true love along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two
Wiped my brow and kept pushing through
I couldn't see how every sign pointed straight to you

Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

I think about the years I spent, just passing through
I'd like to have the time I lost, and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You've been there, you understand
It's all part of a grander plan that is coming true

Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were like northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you
But now I'm just rolling home into my lover's arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you

( – Bobby C. Boyd, Jeff Hannah and Marcus Hummon,

There is an old Yiddish saying that translates, “Man plans: God laughs.” The journey that is life only rarely progresses according to the plan of the pilgrim. Instead, it is full of unexpected turns and vistas unlooked for, since it is directed by Another. Mine is no exception. As recently as two years ago, I had not thought that I would come to this moment, but now that it has arrived, it seems to me that all that has gone before has led directly to it.


As some of you already know, as some of you have been suspecting, as some of you have feared, as some of you have hoped, and perhaps as most of you until this moment have not been told, I shall be stepping down as Vicar of Saint Peter’s Anglican Church in Waynesville at the end of this month in order to prepare for coming into full communion with the Catholic Church. None of my congregation will be following me on this path: instead, Saint Peter’s will continue as an Anglican mission, still in the Anglican Church of America, but under the care of the Anglican Province of America until the finalization of a formal concordat between these two jurisdictions. A smooth transition of administration is already under way. My final celebration of the Eucharist at Saint Peter’s will take place, God willing, at 7 p.m. on December 29th. (This is the Feast of Saint Thomas of Canterbury, a saint for whom I have always held a special regard: Indeed, my first offering of the Mass as a newly-ordained priest on May 16th, 1980 was a votive of Saint Thomas.)

It is my preference and my hope to be able to make the impending transition through the special structure – called an “ordinariate’ – which was provided for Anglicans by Pope Benedict XVI last year to enable those of us who will to enter the Catholic Church and to bring along with us those elements of our liturgical, theological, and pastoral heritage that are in conformity with the Church’s teaching. It is intended to be a means whereby these gifts may be contributed to the rich variety encompassed by that vast Communion, which (though most are not aware of the fact) consists of two dozen distinct ritual Churches united with Rome and with one another. However, the Ordinariate – the “bridge across the Tiber,” as some have called it – is only one means of accomplishing the end – the “how,” which is provisional, as contrasted with the “that,” which is settled. With or without an Ordinariate, the decision as to my course is firm. The only thing that I have not decided is whether to apply for ordination: On that matter, “my soul in silence waits.”

Having said all that, I still suspect that most of you are less interested in the “how” and the “that” than in the “why” of the matter, so it is mostly to that question that I will address myself.

When it comes to the question of entering into full communion, most people who are not Catholic – and, no doubt, some who are – tend to focus on what the newcomer has to (or what they fancy he has to) leave behind and not to notice what he gets to take with him. With that in mind, let me begin by saying that my taking this step cannot fairly be characterized as the rejection of anything that is good, or true, or beautiful in my Christian heritage and past history, whether personal or ecclesiastical. Instead, it involves my carrying it into what I have come to recognize as the one arena on this earth in which, by the grace of God, each and all of these blessings may most surely be moved toward the perfection that they will attain in heaven. To be sure, there will be baggage that I will have to leave behind on the platform, but that will be nothing that I ought to miss very much, if at all. If I had to – God being my helper – I’d leave it all behind but that does not seem to be required, especially on the terms offered by that kind and gentle soul who now occupies Peter’s Throne. Even if such a sacrifice were required, it would still be worth it to me in order to move closer to the heart of the “Great Belonging” of which we all in Christ are members.


My motto for this journey could be, “In my beginning is my end.” It has been, and remains, a pilgrimage from a Great into a Greater Belonging. Like Tennyson’s Ulysses, “I am a part of all that I have met,” and it is a part of me.

I was baptized into the Great Belonging of Christ’s body in the Methodist Church, but that act did not make me a Methodist, but a catholic Christian. This is true in the case of all baptisms administered with water “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” (Methodism claims nothing less; the Catholic Church entirely agrees, for while she teaches that the Church of Jesus Christ “subsists” visibly and most fully in that body whose bishops are in full communion with one another and with the Bishop of Rome, she does not thereby deny the reality of the Christian identity and commitment of those who are outside those limits, but instead invites them inside: “All my fresh springs are in thee.”)

As a young man, in order to remain, and more perfectly be, Methodist, I became an Anglican by confirmation in the Episcopal Church. Since I had learned that, so long as John and Charles Wesley lived, they refused to countenance the separation of their movement from the Church of England, I believed I was simply doing what they would have wanted.

As a middle-aged man, following years of “fighting the long defeat” of apostolic Christianity in the Episcopal Church and the official Anglican Communion and concluding that there was no lasting desire or intention in them to allow the survival, let alone the extension, of the catholic faith within them, I entered the Continuing Anglican movement in order to continue to be an Anglican.

My combined experience within both the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Continuum has finally led me to the same conclusion so many of my friends, mentors, and colleagues reached long before I did, which is that nothing good about the Anglican Way ultimately can survive if it remains cut off from its fount and origin. The past four and one-half centuries of organic disunion have demonstrated to my own satisfaction that apart from its union with the main trunk, the Anglican branch of the Christian tree –finest and most humane product of the Reformation though it is – can only either (1) rot from the heart out, until merely the bark is left to give it shape until it is fragmented by external pressure, or (2) become fossilized, in which case it may be more solid but no less subject to fragmentation.


Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” Experiments succeed whether they prove or disprove their hypothesis. So far as I can see, the Anglican experiment has succeeded in that it has disproved the hypothesis that catholic faith and practice can endure indefinitely apart from visible communion with that See of which Peter and Paul were co-founders.

This is coupled with the realization that – notwithstanding all the faults and sins of its members and even of its leaders (which it acknowledges) – for the last hundred years and more (while one by one the churches of the Reformation have succumbed, through surrender to or by retreat in the face of the spirit of the age) there has been in the world but one Christian communion which has consistently and proactively stood for divine truth and the dignity of man against every idolatrous tyranny which destroys and degrades him. This perception finds confirmation in the prophetic ministries of Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI, and – and with more besides – it has made clear to me beyond a reasonable doubt my own call into full communion with the Catholic Church.


I want it to be clearly understood that however much those things I have come to perceive as shortcomings in what I have passed through have propelled me along this path, of far greater importance to me is the fact that I have been drawn on by the fullness and the splendor of truth confessed by the Catholic Church. Of course, I am fully aware that such a statement might lead many to ask, “You mean, you really believe all that stuff?!”

If by “all that stuff,” the questioner means the authoritative teaching contained in The Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992), the short answer is, “Yes, I do.” Do I comprehend every detail? No, at least not yet, but since faith is first a gift of God leading to and enabling a free decision to trust the Gift-giver, I am not required fully to understand in order to give full assent. Indeed, it is through my willing assent that I may hope at length to understand.

That the journey won’t end with this step is certain, because none of our journeys ends on this earth. There is a final step. In his time, at his command and in order to attain the final end for which I was made, the Lord Jesus Christ will summon me from this Militant to the Expectant portion of his Church, there to strive until all is subsumed into the Church Triumphant – the Greatest Belonging of all. And in that end will be my true beginning. T. S. Eliot says it well:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

– Four Quartets: “Little Gidding,” V.

Although this is all I feel led say on the subject at the moment (and, Lord knows, it is a lot), please don’t refrain from asking for clarification if you need it. And keep me in your prayers, whatever you do, as you shall be in mine. So shall we all at length find ourselves together “landed safe on Canaan’s side.” Then, after such sorrow, what joy, what light, what glory!
In Christ our Lord and our God,

Samuel L. Edwards

Waynesville, North Carolina
Eve of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception through
the Feast of Saint John the Evangelist
December 7-27, 2010

About Fr. Sam Edwards
Fr. Samuel L. Edwards is a native of Waynesville, North Carolina and recently has returned there. A graduate of Brevard College, The American University (Washington, DC), and Nashotah House Seminary (Wisconsin), he has served churches in north central Texas, southern Maryland and central Alabama. He also served for seven years as the Executive Director of Forward in Faith, North America, then the largest organization of traditional Anglicans in The Episcopal Church, during which he traveled and spoke widely, both in the United States and abroad. After 29 years in The Episcopal Church (23 of them as a member of the clergy), he became part of the Continuing Anglican movement in 2002. Presently he is a member of the Anglican Church in America’s Diocese of the Eastern United States and serves as Vicar of Saint Peter’s Church in Waynesville. Fr. Edwards’ ministry has a strong focus on teaching. He is the author of numerous articles on religious, social, historical and political topics, both in church publications and secular newspapers. He has also written two books (neither published as yet) – Constitution and Institution on the renewal of ecclesiology (the doctrine about the Church) and The Pondering Heart: A Rosary for all Christians. He is also engaged in a long and intermittent project of organizing his instructional material into another book with the working title, Faith and Life: Basics of Christian Teaching and Practice. At this writing, Fr. Edwards is a contender for a seat in the North Carolina General Assembly’s House of Representatives in the General Election of 2010. Fr. Edwards and his wife, Kay, have been married for over 30 years. They have two adopted children. David, the elder, is a Private in the North Carolina Army National Guard, currently serving in Iraq. Rachel, the younger, lives with her husband in Waynesville.

Friday, December 10, 2010

TAC Primate announced Clergy applications to Rome

The Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion has announced that more than 150 of the group's clergy are actively seeking to reunite with the Catholic Church under Pope Benedict XVI's Anglican Ordinariate proposal.

“This is a moment to reflect on the prophetic wisdom of Pope Benedict,” wrote Primate John Hepworth, who heads up a group of 15 traditional Anglican provinces around the world. “It is a moment to thank him for his daring trust that Anglicans would respond. It is a time to intensify our prayers for him.”

In his pastoral statement, he noted some “exquisite difficulties” that had previously slowed implementation of “Anglicanorum Coetibus,” the Pope's November 2009 apostolic constitution which allows Anglican groups to petition the Holy See for large-scale reunion. However, the primate reported feeling “much more at ease with the implementation process” one year later.

In 1992, the local churches of the Traditional Anglican Communion separated from the global Anglican Communion, primarily over the issue of female ordination. Primate Hepworth indicated in his letter that the subsequent direction of the mainstream Anglican Communion had borne out their decision to separate, as well as many traditional Anglican clergy and bishops' decision to seek full communion with Rome.

Traditional Anglican Communion bishops in two countries – Canada and the United States – have already joined in preparations for reunion, about which Primate Hepworth said announcements would “soon be forthcoming.” In the United States, 51 priests and five bishops of the communion are seeking to join the ordinariate, along with three bishops and 43 of their clergy in Canada.

“In our own Communion,” he continued, “four further Provinces have already passed resolutions seeking the formation of an Ordinariate.”

These include England, where 24 Traditional Anglican Communion clergy “have indicated their firm intention to seek ordination and membership of the English Ordinariate.” Five bishops of the Church of England also announced in November that they were leaving the Church of England to join the country's first ordinariate, or jurisdiction.

Many Anglican groups' own ordination rites, like those of the mainstream Anglican Communion, are not recognized as valid, meaning that these groups' clergy must be ordained to serve as Catholic priests.

Bishop Robert Mercer, a retired Anglican bishop now belonging to the English branch of the Traditional Anglican Communion, announced his intention to join the English Ordinariate along with the other five departing Anglican leaders. Although many of the departing Anglican bishops can only serve as priests in the ordinariates, they may be able to maintain leadership roles.

In Primate Hepworth's country of Australia, at least 28 priests and three bishops intend to become Catholic under the terms of the apostolic constitution. One bishop in Puerto Rico and another in Central America have also requested the formation of Anglican ordinariates in these regions.

“I have been assured that Episcopal Delegates for a number of further regions will be named,” the primate announced, explaining that he would be visiting Japan, Latin America, India and Africa to discuss reunion with bishops and clergy there.

Not all of the clergy and laypersons of the traditional communion, which encompasses 15 provinces throughout the world, are currently planning to become Catholic through the ordinariate system. However, Primate Hepworth affirmed in his letter that full communion with the Catholic Church “is a matter of policy for the College of Bishops (of the Traditional Anglican Communion), as is the acceptance of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”

Nevertheless, he called for charity to prevail between those clergy and laypersons who would be seeking to become Catholic in the immediate future, and those who would not. “It is of utmost importance that those who are ready now should hold those who are not yet ready in the deepest bonds of prayer and Christian closeness. And vice versa.”