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VICTORIA, BC: Anglo-Catholic Leader Rejects Papal Ordinariate Offer

VICTORIA, BC: Anglo-Catholic Leader Rejects Papal Ordinariate Offer
Anglicanorum coetibus means the end of being Anglican, says ACA Presiding Bishop

By David W. Virtue in Victoria, BC
June 1, 2011

If traditionalist Anglicans accept Rome's offer of the Anglican coetibus in order to enter the Roman Catholic Church, they will cease to be Anglican. "The way is open for all who seek that path. There are no barriers. It would be more honest for those so inclined to simply walk into the nearest Roman Catholic Church and begin a process of conversion," said the Rt. Rev. Brian Marsh, Presiding Bishop of the Anglican Church in America.

Addressing the Congress of Traditionalist Anglicans meeting here, Marsh stated that for Anglicans the path is clear. "We are Anglican because God has called us to this place. While we certainly pray for the unity of God's church, (see John 17), true unity is spiritual not political.

"God's people are truly unified when they can affirm, as Jesus did, that God the Father and Jesus are one. That is all He asked. No less a theologian than Richard Hooker wrote that God's church is one when all affirm that God the Father and God the Son are indeed one. That is unity. That is unity with an Anglican emphasis. That is unity with a Christian emphasis.

"Where then is the gift of Anglicanorum coetibus? It is here. It means a 'group of Anglicans' or 'a gathering of Anglicans.' Well here we are. We have come together to celebrate our particular journey as the Anglican Continuum. We are bound together in a common heritage. We are bound by a fierce devotion to Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer. It is our way and God has called us here.

"Our history has included many attempts to draw us all together. There have been trial mergers, inter-communion arrangements and schemes of absorption that fill our improbable story. There has been a fair amount of sheep stealing and empire building. The cast of characters has included the saintly prelate and the thief, the godly bishop and the criminal. What a story. One wonders how we could possibly survived thirty-five years. God has allowed it to happen."

Apostolic Constitution

Marsh explained that traditionalist Anglicans might have gone their merry way except for the gift of the Anglicanorum Coetibus that arrived 18 months ago. "It has been called a great gift. And it is. It is a great gift to the Anglican world because it has asked us to look at ourselves and to decide, with God's help, whether we are truly Anglican or not. Anglicanorum coetibus has demanded that we consider whether the Anglican world is worth preserving - or whether it might be better folded into the welcoming arms of the Roman Catholic Church. Which will it be? What makes us Anglican? Can we define Anglicanism with the Scholastic specificity that might define the Roman Catholic Church? Search as we might, it is simply not there. We are not a confessional faith. We resist being pinned down, wriggling on a wall. We like the mysteries that exist in the theological cracks; the mysteries of which only God knows the answers. There is no ready formula; Anglicanism is not an 'easy' branch of Christianity."

Marsh noted that Anglicanism does have guidelines. "Scripture is primary. Then we would add the Creeds, the 39 Articles of Religion and we accept the old saw of 'Scripture, Traditional and Reason' that is part of it. The Book of Common Prayer is a better guide still. It is saturated with Scripture. Thomas Cranmer saw to that. As E.W. Benson, the Archbishop of Canterbury said in 1890: "Read your Bible and your Prayer Book. We are convinced that our Prayer Book is the true interpreter of Holy Scripture."

Anglican theologian, Henry R. McAdoo added, "In other words, liturgy with its declared doctrinal content is part of the air breathed by the worshipping and serving community" of Anglicans.

"As Continuing Anglicans we also have the Affirmation of St. Louis and we have the Articles of Religion. We could add more documents such as Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral which attempted to define (however broadly) the essence of Anglicanism." Marsh believes Anglicanism cannot be pinned down with Scholastic particularity. "It is elusive. It is a little like jazz. The Anglican way - the way of our hearts and minds - leads us to God; gently, often mysteriously, and for those who pick up the mantle of true Anglicanism - fiercely and relentlessly. God has called us to be Anglicans."

Traditional Anglican Communion

The Presiding Bishop said the 2007 Portsmouth, England, meeting of the Traditional Anglican Communion (of which the ACA is the American branch) known as the "Portsmouth Petition" -- petitioning corporate union with the Holy See -- is misunderstood.

Marsh stated that several statements in the petition for inter-communion would have meant full, visible communion with absorption.

"There was that oft-quoted statement about the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church being the most complete statement of Catholic faith and that 'we aspire to teach it.' Aspiring to teach something does not mean that it is embraced fully and completely.

"Several months after Anglicanorum coetibus was published, many of us received a form letter from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. Those of us who received that letter also received official copies of The Apostolic constitution as well as the Complementary Norms and an additional commentary. These documents were regarded as a 'definitive' response by the Holy See. This definitive response referenced the catechism as the central document around which reunion with Rome could come to pass. There was no mention of Scripture, the Book of Common Prayer or other Anglican documents. The way and manner of Anglicanism was ignored, misunderstood or misrepresented by those who drafter these documents," continued Marsh.

"We are Anglicans and our path is very clear."

Marsh acknowledged that there might be a dozen Continuing Anglican jurisdictions that exist in separation and in limited contact with each other. "Are they dry bones in the valley, scattered and alone? Shall these dry bones live? Only God Knows. The scattered tribes of Israel also lived in isolation. They too existed without mutual cooperation. The question Ezekiel asked is as pertinent today as it was when it was written - can we pull together? Can we share our gifts? Can we help each other? It is only through love that we recognize, offer and receive our mutual gifts. Can these bones live?"


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