Archive for August 4th, 2007

Dr. Cheryl White: The Windsor Report and the Primate’s Communiqué: A Path to Resolution for All of Us

Legitimacy has always mattered to Anglicans. The
Church of England came into being because rulers and
churchmen of the sixteenth century diligently sought
ways to remain historically catholic (and therefore tethered
visibly to the apostolic church) amid times of inevitable
change and reform. Such an outcome required profound
commitment to a process, both intellectual and ecclesiastical,
that laid the foundational cornerstones of future Anglicanism.
Time and time again throughout Anglican history, the growing
Communion has sought to reform itself through processes of
consultation and discipline, when necessary, to cast off
opposing extremist views and thereby maintain its famous
broad middle ground. It is just such a process that has always
historically maintained the Communion in its rather unique
position as representing a true and legitimate expression of
the ancient faith once delivered to the saints. As this writer
has noted on many previous occasions in this forum and
others, we have the unique distinction in Christendom as
being both catholic and reformed. Given the bloodshed and
human strife of a Reformation that yielded Protestantism, that
is no small accomplishment.
In these current days fraught with anguish, controversy and
conflict, our collective fatigue and frustration has manifested
itself in a variety of actions against each other and the broader
Communion. I have certainly been guilty myself of strong
emotion and rhetoric directed at practice and polity of The
Episcopal Church that I absolutely believe to be wrong. It is
fair and accurate to say that no matter what one’s “position”
might be – using inadequate labels such as liberal, conservative,
orthodox, revisionist, etc. – there have been errors on
each side. When acting against the Gospel, no matter how we
attempt to justify our actions, we are wrong. It doesn’t
matter what the “other side” did. It doesn’t matter if “they did
it first.” This is precisely what the Windsor Report cautions
against and is indeed the main reason our diocesan reconciliation
initiative currently underway is so vitally important.
The event that provoked our most recent crisis in Anglican
history, the consecration of Gene Robinson in 2003,
set in motion once again an Anglican process that is
endeavoring still to forge a solution for the Communion – one
that will keep our historical integrity intact and at the same
time remain true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, seeking again
the application of Holy Scripture, Tradition and Reason. This
process has taken nearly four long years now, and many of us
have already felt the need to leave and find church homes
elsewhere. Many of us have threatened to leave out of
frustration but remain because we believe in what the Anglican
Communion offers. I personally count myself among this
latter number because I know at the deepest level of my being
that our expression of Christianity is beautifully unique and
worth whatever process will secure its legitimacy for the
future. Recently, this process has yielded what might be the
most important modern document in the life of the unity of
the Communion – the Windsor Report.
The Windsor Report calls upon all of us in the Communion to
certain expectations while the broader process comes to
completion. At our most recent Diocesan Convention, we
labored to pass resolutions that affirmed to the world that we
not only accepted, but fully complied with Windsor – as it was
delivered to us. That means that we committed ourselves, to
each other and to God, that we would be faithful to this
process. The Windsor Report calls upon us to stop actions that
are painful to others and further threaten
our unity – and that call applies to those
on both sides of the issue. The process
really does matter, for it will ultimately
yield a renewed Anglicanism that indisputably
will reflect God’s perfect will for our
body.
Some in our pews have already left for
other traditions, unwilling or spiritually unable
to wait out the process. Those of us
who remain must remember that
Anglicanism requires the completion of this
process now set in motion and not act
rashly to further damage the efforts of the
broader Church and cause more injury to
each other. Why not just leave, some ask?
Why not forge an alliance with some alternative
See other than Canterbury? Who
needs Canterbury and why? All of these
questions require an answer, for Anglicans
do not just “leave.” We have not ever chosen
the easy and quick resolution to crisis
simply because it was more efficient.
Let’s assume legitimacy had never mattered
to us. If being able to lay claim to the
one holy catholic and apostolic church had
not mattered to Henry VIII, it wouldn’t
have taken him six years to complete the
historic break with Rome. Further, the
break would not have come in such way
that preserved the visible elements of ancient
catholicity that distinguishes our Anglican
tradition today. If Elizabeth I had
not cared for the importance of the via
media, she could have persecuted Puritans
and forced them from England entirely,
instead of involving them in a process that
eventually purged both opposing extremes
of Puritans and Roman Catholics.
The Windsor Report and the most recent
communiqué from the Primates offer
us the only viable process of resolution that
is consistent with our history, heritage and
identity. Furthermore, we as a diocese have
committed ourselves to the Windsor process
– collectively as one body as we met
in Alexandria last October.
I realize that there are some who might
accuse me of putting my institutional and
process-oriented ecclesiology before Christ
Himself. Nothing can be further from my
personal truth. I know that the ancient
faith is available to us today through the
Apostolic Succession and the great historic
venues where it was once planted – including
the historic See of Canterbury. The
human institution that is Christ’s holy
Church offers us tangible, visible and continuing
proof of His Incarnation, thereby
making it worthy of our most sincere efforts
to maintain its structural integrity.
I do not, at this juncture, see that communion
with Canterbury is something that is
optional or disposable. The process we
began together has not yet come to its conclusion.
Yet if you read many of the Internet
blogs and heed the voices of some among
us, the See of Canterbury has not acted
quickly enough, rightly enough, radically
enough, fill-in-your-own indictment here
– and therefore, they have judged, must be
no longer relevant to Christ or His Church
Catholic and Apostolic. I make this point
only to say that there are, I suspect, a number
of us who do not see communion with
Canterbury as simply a fond thing, nice to
have, but completely expendable when inconvenient
to our personal timelines.
Rather, for some of us, communion with
Canterbury is an ancient tether to the faith
that should be preserved (albeit not at any
cost). In the words of the Act of Supremacy
of 1534 that gave Henry VIII the authority
as Supreme Head of the Church of England,
this should apply to our relationship
with Canterbury so far as the law of
Christ allows.
I do not advocate Communion for
communion’s sake, or unity for unity’s sake
– but communion and unity for Christ’s
sake under the banner of His Passion that
says it all. Salvation is the reason the
Church exists – the Church is nothing if
not proof that Christ still lives, especially
in those oldest repositories of the faith
passed down from the Apostles.
I will always choose Christ over all else,
including the Communion with the See of
Canterbury. However, I am also reluctant
to place my trust in divisive acts by even
the best-intentioned Christians. Provincehopping
and border-crossing while invoking
the Gospel of Christ yet simultaneously
withdrawing obedience to the process of a
properly convened gathering of the Church
authority – seems counter-productive and
sends many mixed messages that are hurtful
to unity at this crucial time.
The justification that has been offered
for such actions reveals a double-edged
sword. For example, if we attempt to argue
that someone is a bishop of the Anglican
Church because he is properly consecrated
by any constituent province of the
global communion – then what difference
would it make if the Anglican Communion
were to boot ECUSA out tomorrow?
It would make no difference! The divisive
bishops on the liberal side of ECUSA
could go, in theory, to another province
outside the United States and simply be
consecrated there. Any re-definition of
Anglican identity without the legitimacy of
the process now in place could result in
only perpetuating a crisis that we claim to
want quickly solved. Solution means adherence
to Windsor and the Primates
Communiqué calling for cessation of divisive
and hurtful actions!
We cannot see the future nor know what
might wait at the end of this path, but we
can surely know that God is in control of
our destiny. With that in mind, we must
either fully commit ourselves to the road
before us or leave historic Anglicanism behind.
It makes no sense to claim to be
Anglican but simultaneously reject its validly
instituted process of resolving our global
crisis – and that’s a history lesson for
all of us.
—Cheryl H. White, Ph.D. is a professor of
history at Louisiana State University in
Shreveport and is chair of the Diocesan
Commission on Christian Education.

Dr. Cheryl White: The Anglican Communion – Bonds of Affection and Unity Through History

All of us who have followed the events of the recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States have been affected by its outcome regardless of where we stand individually on the divisive issues that dominated this most recent gathering of our church. It is apparent to all that our future together or apart depends directly upon the voices and decisions of the other worldwide churches bound to us in the Anglican Communion. There has perhaps never been a better time in history for us to review and affirm our understanding of this Communion-why it’s important- and the lofty nature of what is now truly at stake.
The Anglican Communion is, in the great history of the Church Catholic, a relatively modern idea. Its origins are with the sixteenth-century break with Rome carried out by King Henry VIII. While the Reformation swept across the continent of Europe, England was not simply caught up in the common tide of new ideas that characterized the age; indeed England was uniquely different in the manner in which it approached the very nature of the Church Catholic and Apostolic. Rather than destroying or eliminating the historic bonds of Christian unity (what can be referred to as catholicity), the Church of England sought diligently to affirm those visible and comprehensive elements that had held Christians together for fifteen centuries. Elements that include the Sacraments, the historic liturgy, and the office of the episcopacy (the bishop). The last of these is especially important because it is the very basis of our claim to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church as we profess in the Nicene Creed.
Through the lineage of bishops down through the centuries, the Church of England was and is able to claim a unique and very special legitimacy that can only be conferred by history. This was of paramount importance to English reformers, who sought to preserve the best of the ancient faith and purge that which was corrupt The Church of England emerged at the end of the sixteenth century as both catholic and reformed, and has always seen itself not as a new church of the Reformation, but rather as a renewed continuation of ancient Christianity. One of the anchor points of the emerging Church of England was the authority of Holy Scripture. As a reform spirited movement, the Anglican identity has always held this at its very foundation and cornerstone.
Due to the rapid expansion of the Church of England throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, either from missionary zeal of Anglicans or the imperialism of the British government, affiliated churches were planted, quite literally, all over the world. Africa, Asia, the Americas, India everywhere Britain went, the Church of England followed and brought this unique catholic and reformed tradition. At first, all of these colonial churches were under the direct authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury. That organizational hierarchy began to change, however, with the advance of history. After the American Revolutionary War, for instance, the American church found it quite necessary to break formally with a church whose Supreme Governor was (and remains to be) the English monarch. Therefore, in this country, new dioceses were formed under a separate province, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. The same scenario is basically true for most of the thirty-nine Anglican provinces around the world today. In time, all over the world, national groups began to pass church regulations independent of England and enjoyed a great deal of autonomy. So why then do we claim to be in communion with each other? Several elements have been crucial to this unity we’ve always enjoyed. First and foremost, we have always been bound by a shared understanding that Holy Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation. In addition, we are united through the episcopal structure as well as the historic tradition we all share. Also, there is of course the Book of Common Prayer that binds us together in uniform worship. More important is the understanding that in addition to our traditions, Anglicans share in the historic and ancient faith of the apostles, first delivered to the saints. All of this uniquely sets apart churches of the Anglican Communion from other Protestants around the world, but these are the very instruments that bind us together in our common tradition.
With the expansion of Anglicanism around the world, it became necessary to seek new instruments of unity that would be more binding in the authoritative sense. The first major expression of this idea was the establishment of the Lambeth Conference, first convened in 1867. One of the resolutions of this conference was the “Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1888.” While the original intent of this document was to discuss reunion with the other apostolic churches Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, it had the unexpected effect of really providing a stronger Anglican identity, something that Church of England remnants around the world could cling to as a foundation. The four principles of that historic resolution include that Holy Scripture contains all things necessary for salvation; the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed are proper summations of the Christian faith; the two Sacraments ordained by Christ are Baptism and the Holy Eucharist; and an affirmation of the historic Episcopate, locally adapted to serve the needs of the local churches. So although there is no international organization with supreme authority, like the Pope in Rome for Roman Catholics, there are nevertheless important tethers that historically have always linked us together.
In 2003, the Episcopal Church USA strained the bonds of affection with the rest of the Communion by agreeing to the consecration of an openly practicing homosexual bishop in the diocese of New Hampshire. The majority of the Anglican Communion objected to this practice, based on the belief that Holy Scripture forbids such behavior. The consecration by the American church was seen as a unilateral move made without regard for the remainder of the communion.
Many primates of the church deemed it completely unacceptable. In 2004 following the Robinson consecration, the Anglican Communion produced a document known as the Windsor Report, which called upon the American church to repent of its action at the 2003 General Convention and to stop the practice of ordaining and consecrating openly homosexual persons. In addition, the Episcopal Church was asked to stop the blessings of same-sex unions. This is why so much attention at the 2006 General Convention was, focused on the critical and much awaited response of the American church to the demands of the Windsor Report. The Archbishop of Canterbury as well as several other primates of the Anglican Communion have said that the Episcopal Church did not address the Windsor Report in its fullness, and indeed, has fallen short of meeting the repentance and cessation of actions that was expressed within it. This development brings us to where we are now and sadly, it seems unlikely that the Episcopal Church will survive intact as one body, remaining in communion with the rest of the Anglican world. Exactly how such a break or realignment will occur remains very much in question as the Communion develops a formal response now to the American church.
The Archbishop of Canterbury functions as the spiritual head of the Anglican Communion. While it can be said of him that he has no supreme authority over the Communion, this is only true in the positive sense. When thought of another way, he has much more authority than is generally implied. He is truly the primary point of unity, for no church can legitimately claim to be part of the Anglican Communion unless it is in communion with his See of Canterbury. The aforementioned Lambeth Conference is held roughly every ten years and the primates of the various Anglican churches around the world attend, but only at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1971, the Anglican Consultative Council was created and meets every two years, with clergy and laity representing the thirty-nine provinces of the Anglican Communion. These various international bodies are the vehicle for discussion and persuasion where consensus is sought on various matters of doctrine and discipline within the greater Communion. While it is historically unprecedented for any church to ever be “expelled” or “excommunicated,” such action could conceivably occur if the See of Canterbury refused to be in full communion with a particular affiliated jurisdiction. This would not likely be a unilateral action on the part of the Archbishop, however. Rather, the very nature of the Communion dictates whatever action occurs will be the result of a thoughtful and deliberative consensus.
The most important question facing us today is the relevance and importance of our continued state of communion with worldwide Anglicanism. Upon it hinges our history and tradition, our legitimacy as claimants to the unbroken apostolic faith first delivered to saints and martyrs. Choosing to walk apart from historic Anglicanism means walking away from a distinguished and remarkable tradition of reformed catholicity that is unparalleled in the history of Christianity. So why does the Anglican Communion matter? It is a special identity that makes us heirs to an impressive heritage.
None of this is meant to suggest that other Protestant churches are somehow less “Christian” because they chose to abolish the office of bishop, the Sacraments, or the historic liturgy. It is meant to suggest communion with the ancient See of Canterbury in England plants us firmly and unquestionably amidst the rich and wonderful tradition that was laid at the time of the Apostles. Our close brothers in this are the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, both of which continue in that same apostolic tradition through the preservation of a consecrated episcopacy. Our bishops are all bishops within the catholic and apostolic Church, not just within the Episcopal Church or even the Anglican Communion. Our branches extend even much further than Canterbury. In this way what we do and say impacts not only our brothers in the Anglican Communion, but the ecumenical relationships we enjoy with both Rome and the East.
The future is most uncertain for us now as a united church in America. The lines have truly been drawn, and it is virtually impossible to imagine that we will continue as we are. While Anglicanism has historically sought diverse extremes with regard to practice and worship, there is no “middle ground” on this most fundamental issue. This cannot be likened, as many people suggest, to just another historic “tension” that Anglican diversity will absorb. For upon the current question rests the very basis of the Christian faith and the authority of Holy Scripture. For those sitting in the pews and wondering to what extent the Anglican Communion matters to us in the Episcopal Church, hopefully we will all appreciate and embrace our very special place in the history of Christendom, and contemplate fully the implications of walking a path that leads away.

Reconciliation Meeting in Shreveport

Had a wonderful meeting in Shreveport today, following the same reconciliation format. Had about 120 people, which is not bad considering a number of parishes in the Shreveport convocation are between rectors. These gatherings are making a difference in the Diocese. I think, perhaps, that our Diocese was in a place where reconciliation could still happen, even though similar efforts have failed on the national church level. I’m looking forward to Lafayette. I’m not so much looking forward to the meeting in Alexandria, mostly because I’ll be speaking to my home crowd. I wish some one else would give my talk so that it would be more believable. Prophet in your own hometown…that old thing.

One thing that did happen today is when the Holy Spirit revealed something very obvious to me; we’ll see how it plays out. Another thing that happened today to me was that I was drawn into intense prayer in tongues before I gave my talk. In Monroe and Lake Charles, I have to honestly admit I did not feel comfortable giving the talk. How to encapsulate the Primates Communique, the Draft Covenant, and the reasons behind it all into thirty minutes is the question that plagued me. However, the Monroe presentation was better than the Lake Charles presentation, so I knew this could get better. However, I didn’t re-write anything for the Shreveport meeting, but I did endeavor to be in a different place spiritually when I gave it. Frankly, I knew I had to be in a different place, because the past two times after spending the morning focusing on Jesus Christ and the ministry of reconciliation that is ours I was the guy dropping a big anvil into the middle of room. Much like giving the Obstacles To Grace talk in the middle of a Cursillo weekend. For those not familiar with Cursillo, it would be like someone reciting Dante’s Inferno during announcement time at the Easter Vigil service. Or, maybe, Purgatorio. So much of what you say is colored by where you are spiritually, even when saying the very same words. In any event, the team commented that today’s talk was the best one given so far. It also fit in 30 minutes, which is a miracle.

The other thing that came to my attention is that I have not, as of yet, on this blog, brought to the attention of my readers one of the great theological treasures of our Diocese, Dr. Cheryl White. She has a Ph.D in Church History and History of Dogmatic Theology from North West University, in conjunction with Greenwich School of Theology, in the United Kingdom. So, she knows a little bit about Anglicanism and writes regularly for the Diocesan Newspaper, the Alive.

In any event, in one of those I’ll really need to get to this when I can regarding the blog, I had often thought “hey, I need to email Cheryl and get her to send me her stuff so I can post it on my blog.” She recently wrote an important and very good piece for the Alive this month, and now Alive is online so I thought, hey, I can cut and paste. That and another piece by Cheryl will be the next posts on the blog. However, the Diocesan website (and I am sorry I missed this) also has her eight part series on Our Anglican Heritage, and another piece in HTML format. So, below are the links to the Our Anglican Heritage series.

Part One.

Part Two.

Part Three.

Part Four.

Part Five.

Part Six. (A really great piece about the 39 articles.)

Part Seven.

Part Eight.