Thursday, July 10, 2014

Ecclesiology, Continuing, and "Realigning"

The issues facing North American Anglicans are many and difficult ones at that. If one looks at the history of the American Episcopal Church from the 1960's to the present, it can only be marked by schism and division. At the beginning of this period, there was really only one group not connected with the Episcopal Church, and that is the Reformed Episcopal Church. One of the earliest groups to secede from the Church was the Anglican Orthodox Church. The two issues that caused the first wave of schisms was the 1979 Prayer Book and the ordination of women. From this group, the "Continuing Movement" was born, I put this in quotations because I doubt the intent was to "continue" Anglicanism. The Continuing Movement splintered internally almost before it began between differing factions with different goals. The division did not end there, as the reader is well aware. The decision of the 2003 General Convention to elect an openly homosexual man (against its own Church's teaching) to the office of Bishop for New Hampshire has sparked the recent schism from the Church. These groups left and joined various other Anglican provinces ("the Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this Realm of England"?). These came together to be called the Common Cause Partnership and later the Anglican Church in North America. The goals of the realignment as it has come to be called are confusing and hard to discern. Some of them want to be in communion with Canterbury and either replace or be an officially-sanctioned alternative to the Episcopal Church. Other groups do not want to be in communion with Canterbury, but what they want from that point on is difficult to understand. Some seem to want a sort of alternative Communion to be established around the GAFCON primates.

This is the generally accepted history of alternative Anglican movements in the US and Canada, which can be divided into three groups broadly: the REC, the Continuum, and the Realignment. There are some cases, such as Dees' Anglican Orthodox Church which do not generally fit into any of the categories neatly. Additionally, the REC has essentially abandoned its own principles in the past decade or so and should probably really be considered part of the Realignment now. But for the sake of those in the REC who do wish to preserve its original intents, I will consider it a separate movement within Anglicanism. Now, the issue becomes more complicated with the Continuum because this can be divided into two sub-groupings: the "Continuing" Churches and the Continuing Churches. You might think it clever my use of the apostrophe here but I do wish to make a valid distinction with them. The Churches in the Continuum that I classify as "Continuing" are those that go by the name of "Continuing" but in no measurable sense do they "continue" Anglicanism, by their own admission. These are the Churches that adhere to the St. Louis Affirmation as authoritative over the Anglican Formularies. They wish to impose a revisionist catholic understanding of Anglicanism through the Continuum movement. A good example of this group is the Anglican Catholic Church. The latter group, the Continuing Churches, are those that intend and do (to some extent) continue Anglicanism. In this sense, they do their best to preserve the Anglicanism that has been abandoned by the mainline churches. A good example of this is the United Episcopal Church in North America (or the Church of England, Continuing across the pond).

These distinctions are important (at least to me) because they reveal fundamentally different goals. All of these points relate to ecclesiology (that which no one seems to have nowadays). I will be posting later more fully on ecclesiology and the "national church principle" but the crux of the matter is that to be Anglican means to be in communion with England. These groups that intend to replace the Anglican tradition in the US are not viable options for me (that means the Realignment and "Continuing" Churches). These have as their goal ultimately the redefinition of Anglicanism, in some extent. This is where the Continuing group comes in. Sometimes the Anglican provinces in our respective lands do wander astray. In this case, some of our people cannot reconcile staying with the national body in good conscience. In these cases, the Continuing group can be a refuge for those people, with the ultimate goal of rejoining the national body in due course.

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