VICTORIA,BC: Congress of Traditional Anglicans Gather to Ponder their Future
By David W. Virtue in Victoria, BC
June 1, 2011
They have come from as far away as Australia, New Zealand, England the West Indies, US, and, of course, Canada. They have gathered here as the leaders of the ancient orders of Anglicanism, true believers who have never wavered over which is the authentic Book of Common Prayer, the proper order of services and an all male priesthood. These Anglo-Catholics have been despised and rejected by the broader Anglican Communion. They live in self-imposed exile, small but faithful and proud.
Present are Archbishop Mark Haverland, Primate of the Anglican Catholic Church; Archbishop Eugene Provence, Primate of the Anglican Province of Christ the King (APCK); The Rt. Rev. Brian Marsh, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church in America; the Most Rev. Ted Casimes, Archbishop of the Christian Episcopal Church of the US; and Bishop Robert D. Redmile of the Christian Episcopal Church, Richmond, BC. Bishop Peter Robinson of the UECNA could not attend owing to a family illness.
The congress is being hosted by St Mark's Church and is being held June 1 - 4 at the historic St Anne's Chapel in Victoria. Traditional Anglicans from a wide spectrum of jurisdictions will take part in study groups and discussions.
Writing from South Africa, the Rt. Rev. Michael Gill, Bishop of Pretoria and Southern Africa Anglican Church, struck a chord when he said, "Far from being irrelevant, our Orthodox Anglican expression finds a deep resonance in the lives of many people, both young and old. It is often the almost perfect blend of Liturgical beauty and Evangelical zeal that is able to excite new believers and offer a fresh and deep Christian experience to them. A conference such as yours is a sure sign that Anglicanism in its pure form will not 'lie down and die'. We applaud your determination to continue in the faith of your fathers, and to build the Church of God wherever you may be found."
Many of those attending have come to lick their wounds and ponder their future. For the most part, the Congress of Traditional Anglicans meeting here in Victoria is intended for the mutual support and comfort of traditional Anglicans, for the re-stating of the "Anglican patrimony" and the reaffirmation of the "spirit" (not necessarily the letter) of the (1977) Congress of St Louis: the desire to uphold and maintain this distinct religious tradition to the glory of God and for the greater good of the Christian Church.
"This is not a legislative assembly. People who have come this week have been drawn by a need to be with one another. This is not intended as a 'political' event, except in so far as it is an interaction of people, all of whom are concerned for the future of this tradition which they espouse," explained Congress chairman Allan Singleton-Wood, an activist Anglo-Catholic layman, who organized the event.
It is a bold move that comes on the heels of what is viewed by these Anglo-Catholics as a divisive Ordinariate offered by Pope Benedict XVI to Anglo-Catholics who believe that the Anglican Communion no longer has a place for them.
The Pope's papal patrimony has caused division among them, dividing a number of their churches and priests, families and friends. To date, only the UK has seen a fully functioning Ordinariate. Neither the US nor Canada have yet been given the green light from Rome. Nonetheless, the process has begun. It has created mayhem, especially in the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (ACCC) as it watches "mentors" from Rome enter their parishes to instruct the faithful on how to become Roman Catholics while allowing them to retain some liturgical aspects of Anglicanism.
Those moves by Rome are not welcome here. For this group, Rome offers no sanctuary or solace from the ecclesiastical storms raging throughout the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church USA are viewed as downright apostate and heretical. Especially repugnant are the ordination of women to the priesthood and, more recently, the insidious rise of pansexuality that has seen an openly homogenital and lesbian bishop ordained to The Episcopal Church's highest ecclesiastical ranks. These recent moves have only served to confirm the worst suspicions of these Anglo-Catholics that leaving The Episcopal Church in 1977 was in fact correct.
Their own history has not been without struggle and dissension. The years since 1977 have seen much splintering with the formation of new groups, straining both their credibility and credulity. There has been rancor, factionalism, and Church politics of a divisive sort that has left many feeling lost and alone. At times, it has not been possible to keep up with all the politics and intrigue. There has been sheep stealing and splits among them and much more. Ecclesiastical blood still runs on the floor as formations are made, then lost, and formations made again.
The major groups represented here - The ACCC, the TAC of Canada, The APCK, the ACC - Original Province, the United Episcopal Church and Christian Episcopal churches in the US and Canada of the Continuing Movement, men who believe that they bear the true mantle of the Oxford Movement. There is no doubt in their minds that they wear the authentic ecclesiastical clothes of Anglicanism.
Fr. Stanley Sinclair, a co-convener of the Congress, says he has no desire other than to be a faithful watchman and steward of the mysteries of Christ, to help people lick their wounds, enjoy each other's fellowship, and hear again their "story" and its meaning. "Perhaps I am naïve to think that is what it will be indeed, but I hope not. Of course I pray that we can all get closer together, and work together for the common cause, but I have no plan by which this can be done, nor any desire to manipulate anyone towards that end. If someone wishes to introduce political intrigue and other melodramatic elements, I will be very sorry indeed."
At the same time, continues Fr. Sinclair, he is not utterly surprised by suspicions in this regard. "We are in a period of church history that has been so full of deceit and manipulation, intrigue and power struggle, that inevitably the thought arises that this is not what it seems to be. Only in this case, by design, it IS.
"If it leads to something more, of a positive nature, so much the better, but we have no agenda other than that which we have published: prayer, Eucharist, addresses, discussion and Christian fellowship," Sinclair concludes.
"My prayer is that the current 'difficulties' may be passed over in your Conference in the interests of a greater sense of our common aims and our common vocation as Anglican Christians," wrote Bishop Gill. The next few days will tell.
Allan Singleton-Wood, chairman of the congress, hopes this will be the way of the future: for traditionalists to get back to their roots and where all traditional Anglicans can be in communion once again.
Another meeting, aimed at further solidifying and expressing solidarity among traditional Anglicans, is planned for Boston in November.
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