Friday, November 30, 2012

Women Bishops and Anglican Identity

The turmoil in the Church of England and the wider Anglican Communion over the ordination of women as priests and bishops reflects a widening gulf between different views of Anglican identity. Who are we? A sovereign “denomination” able to determine faith and order by majority voting in local and national synods? Or part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church yearning for visible unity with the whole, and accepting the constraint in matters of faith and order that such a self-understanding places on us? 

It seems logical, given the certainty of our traditional formularies on this point, that when a church of the Anglican Communion decides to “go it alone” as far as ordination is concerned, the very least it is morally obliged to do is make proper jurisdictional provision for those loyal Anglicans who - in all conscience and along with the wider Catholic Church - cannot at this time affirm with certainty the resulting orders and sacraments. That’s really what the debate going on in England at the present time is all about. 

Two years ago - in Advent 2010 - the Rt Rev’d Jack Iker, Bishop of Fort Worth, reflected on the issue of who we are as Anglicans. Here is what he said:

I invite us all to look beyond the surface level of our Anglican identity, with its temptation to denominationalism, and go back to our heritage as catholic Christians. In those . . . constitutional provisions that I quoted in the previous article, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA, the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, and the Diocese of Fort Worth, all declare that we are a fellowship within, or a branch, of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, maintaining and propagating the faith and order of the historic Church throughout the ages.

This means that we are not members of a sectarian, Protestant denomination, but of the Catholic Church. Remember, the Church of England, which came to be known as Anglican, existed before the Reformation and traces its roots back to the Patristic age of the early Christian Church. This same Church, which predated the arrival of Augustine and his missionaries from Rome in the sixth century, is continuous with the Church of England that emerged from the sixteenth century Reformation. Reformed, yes, but not a new denomination; the Church of England still maintained the sacraments, creeds and holy orders of the undivided church of the early centuries, before the Great Schism of West and East in 1054.

Knowing this, Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher famously said, “We have no doctrine of our own. We only possess the Catholic doctrine of the Catholic Church enshrined in the Catholic Creeds, and these creeds we hold without addition or diminution. We stand firm on that rock.” And to that we might add that Anglicanism has no Scriptures of its own, no sacraments of its own, no holy orders of its own – just those of the Catholic Church that we have received. Fisher was right, as Anglicans we have no faith of our own.

Like the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, orthodox Anglicans uphold the historic faith and order of the undivided Church. We are nothing more nor less than Catholic Christians, seeking to be faithful to the teaching of the early Church Fathers and the great Ecumenical Councils of the first centuries of Christian witness. With St. Vincent of Lerins, we affirm that the Catholic faith is that which has been believed “everywhere, always, and by all.” Wherever you find departures from this given faith and received order, you will find sectarianism, heresy and error.

With this in mind, we understand that the divided and fractured nature of Anglicanism today has been caused by heretical innovations and departures from the Church’s historic faith and practice. 

. . . deviations from the historic teaching of the Church have led to a serious state of brokenness and impaired Communion throughout Anglicanism.

In the Diocese of Fort Worth we stand against that. Our commitment as an orthodox Anglican diocese is to the faith and order of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We seek to do nothing other than maintain and propagate the faith once delivered to the saints, which is rooted in Holy Scriptures and one with the Apostolic Teaching of the ancient Church.

Go HERE for the entirety of Bishop Iker's article.


Post a Comment