No, not that kind of slug. I mean pugilists. I mean dukin’ it out. I mean fisticuffs. I mean thrust and counter thrust. I mean bitter warfare.
An insider at The Falls Church reports to me that Bishop Peter Lee, the Episcopal Bishop of Virginia, has “inhibited” the clergy of the Falls Church and the other parishes that voted to disaffiliate from the Episcopal Church–even including at least one priest who disagreed with the disaffiliation and desired to remain under Bishop Lee’s authority.
The action is described here: “Inhibition” is the act whereby a Bishop commands a priest not to perform priestly duties. It is expected to be followed by “deposing” the priest 6 months later. This act of inhibition in itself is not likely to change much at any of these churches. However, it is a painful thing for these priests who have devoted themselves to renewal and reform in the Episcopal Church, and now are formally censured by it. Most of them had requested instead that Bishop Lee “transfer” them to the jurisdiction of Bishop Martyn Minns in the “Convocation of Anglicans in North America” (CANA), under the Anglican Church of Nigeria. That is what Bishop Lee would have done if this were a friendly situation, but he considers them rebels and considers CANA to be improper and seditious.
Bishop Lee has previously declared the rebel churches “abandoned” and refuses to recognize the Vestries (lay councils) of these congregations any more. The Falls Church leaders expect that very soon–perhaps as early as next week–Bishop Lee will appoint Vestry Committees in their place, prompting disputes about who the Real Vestry of the parish really is.
Nobody envies the faithful believers at Falls Church and Truro Church. They’re just trying to stand up for the faith once delivered to the saints. They believe the Bible, they believe the basic universal moral code of humanity, they believe in the family and all that is good and healthy and God given. Faithful Catholics are on their side.
The exteme situation in the Anglican Communion, however, forces us to ask some probing questions about the Catholic Church’s real relationship with the established Anglican power structures. We have homosexualists in the Catholic Church too, but consider what happens in the Catholic Church: first of all, the basic teaching of the Catholic Church is authoritatively orthodox and traditional. This provides a rock for ordinary Catholics as well as the bishops to stand on. Secondly, when a Catholic priest or sister openly contradicts church teaching they are disciplined. The case of Sister Jeanine Grammick is an example. Yes, the discipline doesn’t always work, and charges that Catholic seminaries are ‘pink’ and the Catholic priesthood is dominated by homosexuals continue to resound. Faced with this, the Catholic Church’s effort is to do something about it, try to clean up the seminaries, weed out the homosexual elements and straighten things out.
The Anglican Church, on the other hand, seems to glory in the gay ecclesiastical subculture. They consecrate as bishop a man who left his wife and children to live with his boyfriend, they push for ‘same sex marriage’ and Bishop Peter Lee doesn’t discipline homosexuals, but the faithful people of Falls Church and Truro Church who respectfully ask to leave his oversight for a pastor who upholds the old time religion.
Much more can be said about the pickle the Anglicans have got themselves into, but my main ponder is to ask how and why the Catholic Church authorities can have any sort of ‘ecumenical dialogue’ with the established Anglican Churches at all. The two churches are now at such extreme variance on a whole range of crucial issues that there is really no connecting point. Catholic-Anglican dialogue must now be like two people trying to play tennis with each other on adjacent courts.
What point of connection do Catholics have with mainstream Anglicanism? It can be argued that we still share faith in Christ and our common baptism. Do we? Mainstream Anglicans are working as diligently as possible (under the pressure from the feminists) to remove all language about God that is ‘masculine’. As a result the Trinitarian formula of ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit’ is increasingly rare. An Anglican baptism without that formula is not a valid baptism is it? Do we even share faith in Christ? How does one define ‘faith in Christ’? If a church’s teaching is so far from the gospel as to be unrecognizable, can it be said to be ‘faith in Christ’? Anglican Bishops and theologians have for a long time formally denied all the cardinal doctrines of the faith: the bodily resurrection, the Virgin Birth, the inspiration of Scripture, the Incarnation. In what way, therefore is their ‘faith in Christ’ Christian?
Mormons, Moonies, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims all have ‘faith in Christ’, of a sort, and when it comes to morality and belief in the Bible these groups probably have a more traditional ‘faith in Christ’ than the typical radical Episcopalian.
The battleground of Falls Church reveals larger issues, and Catholics would do well to pay attention to what is really going on so that no more time will be wasted in ‘dialogue’ with a church that is now so far from the truth as to be unrecognizably Christian. At the same time, Catholics should be aware that within the Anglican Communion there are still many faithful people who agonize over the state of their Church. They deserve better. They deserve a true Christian home.
They are our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and we must pray for them as they battle for the faith.