Thursday, September 17, 2015

Anglicanism Collapses -- Officially

Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, meet in November 2010
Photo: Richard Pohle

Five years ago today, Pope Benedict XVI met with Archbishop Rowan Williams for evening prayer at Westminster Abbey in London. The meeting was more than ecumenical. Benedict was also on a pastoral mission to the Catholic bishops of the UK. He urged them, no commanded them, to accept with welcome the Anglicans entering the Catholic Church through the personal ordinariates he would soon create. Five years later, yesterday, Archbishop William's successor (Justin Welby), officially announced what is effectively the end of the worldwide Anglican Communion as we know it. Internal divisions over doctrinal matters have made any kind of cohesive religious union impossible on any kind of substantial doctrinal level. Instead, Archbishop Welby has summonsed all of the Anglican primates of the world together (whether officially united with Canterbury or not) to discuss the possibility of forming a 'new communion', based on lesser doctrinal standards. What he proposes is effectively a loose federation, or affiliation, that is united more by history than by concrete doctrinal or moral standards. In effect, what he is proposing is little more than an ecumenical umbrella, not far off from the Worldwide Council of Churches. Yet there is something much more profound in Archbishop Welby's proposal. It is a tacit admission of what many of us have known for years. Anglicanism, as we know it, is gone. It's over. The Anglican Communion has been shattered and cannot be repaired.

The Anglican Communion WAS an international association of churches consisting of the Church of England and of national and regional Anglican churches in full communion with it. Up until now, the status of 'full communion' meant that there was mutual agreement on essential doctrines, and that full participation in the sacramental life of each church was available to all Anglicans therein...

The Communion was formed as a result of the British Empire, in which England's form of Protestantism (which was very catholic in appearance) was spread throughout all of the regions of the world controlled or occupied by Britain at one time or another. In this way, Anglicanism contributed greatly to the evangelism of the new world and the third world. Worldwide, the Anglican Communion boasts of a membership of approximately 80 million, but this number is disputed among those who claim that actual membership is artificially inflated in liberal provinces like the United States. Each province of the Communion is governed by an archbishop called a 'primate', and generally speaking, each province is part of this Communion by virtue of its communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury of the Church of England.

Here a footnote should be added. Legally speaking, the 'head' of the Church of England is the British monarch (today that's Queen Elizabeth II), but that being said, the Archbishop of Canterbury has always served as its spiritual director. In contrast, the monarchy has no role over the other provinces of the Anglican Communion. It is limited to the Church of England alone.

Over the years a threefold division (or rift) developed within the Anglican Communion, which eventually resulted in its fracture and now the current state of official collapse. In the developed world, the trajectory of the Communion was clearly high church Anglo-Catholic, meaning it became more Catholic in appearance and doctrine. While as in the developing world, Anglicanism took on a more Evangelical (Protestant-like) character. This division was a minor one at first, because it reflected style more than doctrine or moral practice. However, in the latter half of the 20th century, a much more serious division erupted. We could say it all began with the 1930 Lambeth Conference, in which artificial contraception was approved by the hierarchy of the Communion. However, the effects of this would not be seen for some forty years. By the late 1960s, through the 1970s, the wave of Modernism, which had been sweeping the religious world, hit the Anglican provinces in North America hard. This created a trend within the Anglican Communion throughout the developed world. The Episcopal Church in the United States led the way with innovations such as; revisions to liturgy, ordination of women to clergy, consecration of female bishops, acceptance of abortion and feminism, acceptance of homosexuality, ordination of open homosexuals as clergy, consecration of open homosexuals as bishops, acceptance of same-sex 'marriage', etc. Naturally, this caused the second rift, effectively dividing the Communion into three parts. The Evangelical Anglicans, the largest branch of Anglicanism in Africa, Asia and South America, now constituted one division. Meanwhile, traditional high church Anglicanism in the developed world was divided between Anglo-Catholics (those who held to traditional Catholic beliefs on morality) and Liberals (those who held to Modernist views on religion and morality). Liturgically speaking, there was often little to distinguish between the two. Practically speaking however, they couldn't be further apart.

The divisions became most evident by the 1998 Lambeth Conference, and many within the Anglican Communion (myself included) saw at that point the proverbial 'writing on the wall'. (By 2000 I had left The Episcopal Church USA to join the Catholic Church). By 2003, The Episcopal Church USA consecrated its first openly homosexual bishop. The action resulted in the largest exodus from The Anglican Communion since the American Revolution in 1776 - 1783. Other Anglican jurisdictions had already pealed away decades prior, but the homosexual consecration of 2003 resulted in the largest division ever. While some Anglicans converted to Catholicism, Orthodoxy or Lutheranism, a good number of them formed their own province called the Anglican Church in North America, which encompassed disaffected Episcopalians and Anglicans from the United States and Canada. The 2008 Lambeth Conference was a disaster, in which the Evangelical-style Anglicans from the developing world decided to boycott and held their own conference in Jerusalem, called the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON). With no resolution in sight, and the situation continuing to deteriorate, the 2018 Lambeth Conference was cancelled by Archbishop Welby in 2014. Yesterday, September 16, 2015, Archbishop Welby announced that a special meeting will be held in January of 2017, which will discuss the creation of a new kind of 'communion', that will be considerably less doctrinal in nature, and more historical in character. In effect, the death certificate of the Anglican Communion has just been issued. It's official now.

The demise of Anglicanism, as we know it, has been a long time coming. In a way, it's been a lot like watching a horrific train wreck in slow motion. It is however, logical.

What precipitated this was the issue of authority, or more specifically, the lack thereof. Within Anglicanism there existed no authority structure that could correct errant provinces whenever they threatened the unity of the Anglican Communion. In effect, the Anglicans lacked a pope. Former Archbishop Rowan Williams made this analysis during this term in office, and actually made the suggestion that the Anglican Communion consider adopting something like this, giving the Archbishop of Canterbury's office the authority to do just that. The idea was quietly dismissed by the rest of the Communion. What Williams was recommending was effectively an Anglican papacy, and most Anglicans had no desire to reinvent the wheel this way. Even if Williams' idea had been accepted, and implemented, it is still debatable if it would have worked. A powerful Archbishop of Canterbury might have been able to stall the eventual collapse of the Anglican Communion, but probably couldn't have prevented it. There is, after all, the whole issue of apostolic succession, which some might dispute.

Without real apostolic authority, Christianity crumbles. Many Protestant denominations have discovered this over the centuries, and many more will discover it over the remainder of this century. Evangelicals, of all stripes, boast in the Bible as their only authority. This claim tends to work for a short while, and sometimes results in phenomenal growth, but that growth is short lived, and quickly fades away in subsequent generations. Lack of apostolic authority gives rise to schisms which demolish Christian unity. The Evangelical Anglicans (GAFCON) will soon discover this for themselves, probably within about 20 years or less, unless they find a way to tap back into the Catholic notion of apostolic succession and authority.

Among those Anglicans that left the Anglican provinces of the UK, US, Canada and Australia; a small contingency understood this. They understood that Anglicanism's problems began long before the Modernist wave of the late 20th century, and long before the Lambeth Conference of 1930. They understood that Anglicanism's real problems began in the 16th century, under King Henry VIII and his daughter Queen Elizabeth I. It was the Church of England's schism with the Pope of Rome that set it up for failure. So in a very real sense, the whole Anglican Communion was built on a foundation of sinking sand. It was only a matter of time before it would collapse.

These few Anglicans in America forged out on their own, and petitioned Rome for full reunification under the apostolic authority of the pope. In 1980, Saint John Paul II granted this, creating the Anglican Use - Pastoral Provision in the United States. The Anglican Use of the Roman Rite became a prototype for the Personal Ordinariates that Pope Benedict XVI set up in 2011 and 2012, following the publication of their apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus in 2009. In this, Pope Benedict XVI created jurisdictions within the Catholic Church, allowing the Anglican Patrimony to grow and flourish indefinitely, under the doctrinal and moral protection of the papacy, that will prevent heretical or schismatic prelates from ever tearing them apart. Now with the death of the Anglican Communion having been officially pronounced, it should be apparent to anyone with eyes to see, that the future of the Anglican Patrimony lies squarely within the Roman Catholic Church.

There is nothing this proposed new Anglican affiliation can protect any more. What Archbishop Welby is putting forward is a way for Anglicans to still say they're together, sort of, but only by a common historical background. Whatever doctrinal ties this new affiliation might propose will have to be extremely limited, and really no more significant than the doctrinal ties we see in other ecumenical forums, such as the World Council of Churches. The provinces of the former Anglican Communion will never be able to agree on moral issues again. Indeed, if anything can be agreed upon at all, the end result will be Anglican provinces that overlap each other, and Anglicans can pick and choose what type of Anglican they want to be, by picking and choosing what overlapping province to affiliate with. Such competing provinces, with no doctrinal or moral unity, will create an affiliation that really doesn't mean much in a practical sense. In fact, the only affiliation that will really matter, to the average layperson, will be the affiliation one has with one's local parish and denomination. Because you see, that is exactly what Archbishop Welby has proposed -- multiple denominations under a common 'Anglican' umbrella. There is no way the Anglican Patrimony can be preserved internationally under these circumstances. Perhaps local provinces (denominations) will be able to preserve some elements of the Anglican Patrimony, on a local level, but any kind of a meaningful international Anglican ethos will be gone. In a very real sense, it already is. Distant history may very well record that the man who saved the Anglican Patrimony for future generations was none other than a Catholic pope -- Benedict XVI.



Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

Catholicism for Protestants

Please share this story. Social media links provided below for your convenience... 

Thursday, September 03, 2015

Religious Persecution Comes to America

The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer
by Jean-Léon Gérôme (1883). Roman Colosseum.

September 3, 2015 is a date that will live in infamy. It is the date that religious liberty died in America.

Today, Kim Davis, a county clerk in Rowan County Kentucky was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses after demands by homosexuals that she issue marriage licenses to them for a same-sex 'marriage'. Her lawyer stated she would not stand in the way of the county issuing marriage licenses without her name and signature on the document, however, current Kentucky law does not allow for that. Davis is an Apostolic Christian, which is a Trinitarian Pentecostal denomination, and she is a member of the Democratic Party. She was elected to the office of county clerk in 2014, defeating Republican candidate John Cox.

U.S. District Court Judge David Bunning (who was raised Roman Catholic) found Davis to be in contempt of court, and said: 'Her good-faith belief is simply not a viable defence.' According to USA Today, Bunning's mother said her son does not agree with same-sex marriage, but does believe in upholding the law.

All of this is the result of the Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges, which was decided on June 26th of this year, making same-sex 'marriage' the law of the land in all 50 of the United States of America, and U.S. territories. The decision effectively nullifies dozens of state constitutional amendments and laws prohibiting the practice. The overreach by the nation's highest court has created a situation wherein American votes no longer matter, and states no longer have the right to govern themselves on such issues. When it comes to moral issues such as abortion and same-sex 'marriage', the United States Supreme Court has claimed absolute authority with accountability to no one. The result today is America's first martyr for the cause of Christian beliefs on marriage and family. More are expected to follow, perhaps dozens or hundreds more in the months and years ahead, as Davis' courageous act will undoubtedly spur other Christians to stand up for their religious beliefs across the country.

The case presents serious legal ramifications across the country. For example, under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, both public and private employers have a legal obligation to exempt religious employees from general work rules, so long as this doesn't create an 'undue hardship', meaning more than a modest cost on the employer. Now admittedly, elected officials are excluded from Title VII. However, Kentucky, like many other states, has a state Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) statute that requires government agencies to exempt religious objectors from general work rules, unless denying the exemption is the only way of compelling government interest. The federal government also has a RFRA, which may apply to federal court orders issued to state elected officials.

So the bizarre little twist to this story is that it may be both the federal and state governments that are in violation of the law here, not Clerk Kim Davis.

These laws explicitly deny the 'if you don't want to do the job, than you should quit' premise. That by definition is bigotry, according to the Civil Rights Act and the RFRA.

The employer is required by law to make reasonable accommodations provided it is not a burdensome cost to the employer. Providing a means for marriage licenses to be issued, without a county clerk's signature, would be no cost at all. Because all it takes is an executive order, or legislation, to change the  license process. Cost to government is $0.00. It's nothing more than a little one-time inconvenience to some lawmakers and a governor.

Now let me give my own spiritual and moral analysis of this situation. Both Clerk Kim Davis and Judge David Bunning are put into a very precarious situation, wherein thanks to the Supreme Court taking on the role of 'god on earth' when in comes to moral issues, these two public servants must now be forced to choose between whom they will serve. Will they serve the God in Heaven, or will they serve the 'god on earth'. Clerk Kim Davis, a Pentecostal, has chosen to serve the God in Heaven. While Judge David Bunning, presumably a Catholic, has chosen to serve the god on earth. Both public servants, raised Christian, are now caught in a very serious game of having to chose between the real God, and the government that wants to play god. Judge Bunning has made his decision. He has chosen to serve the man-made 'god on earth' called the United States Supreme Court. While Clerk Davis has chosen to serve the real God in Heaven. Whatever 'god' Judge Bunning claims to follow is irrelevant at this point, because his actions speak louder than words, and at this moment in time, the moment of truth for both public servants, Clerk Kim Davis (a Pentecostal) is more of a Catholic than Judge David Bunning will ever be. So I proudly call Kim Davis my sister in Christ, and martyr for the faith, in spite of her apparent character flaws and turbulent marital history. As for Judge Bunning, so long as he serves the state as his 'god', I cannot call him a Christian or a brother. Sorry Judge, there were other legal avenues you could have taken, and you didn't. You instead decided to serve the Supreme Court as your 'god'.

So there you have it in a nutshell. Today, we have just entered a new age in America's history. It is the age of Christian martyrdom. History will record Clerk Kim Davis as the first, and many more will follow. In time we will see Catholic priests and bishops locked up for their faith too, and I have no doubt that many of the judges who sentence them (like Judge David Bunning) will be those who were raised Catholic themselves. That is the truly tragic thing about all of this. It was a supposed 'Catholic' who was the swing vote in Obergefell v. Hodges, that overthrew the American democratic process and made our states into mere vassals of the federal court system. The truly sad irony in all of this, is that the American bishops' failure to catechise, and exercise ecclesiastical discipline on moral issues in this country, will soon result in their imprisonment by the very people they were supposed to correct. Their own spiritual 'children' will soon sign their jail sentences. Do you doubt it? Do you think that Judge David Bunning would have it any other way? Today, they are jailing Christian clerks for refusing to issue marriage licenses. Tomorrow, they will jail Christian ministers for refusing to sign them.

As a Catholic I am scandalised by all of this. I am ashamed of the American bishops for their laxity over the last 40 years that has brought us to this point. Not enough stood up for the faith and put down the heretics that assailed it from inside the Church. Perhaps if we had seen some actual discipline from more of them, some real leadership, and fearless zeal for the truth, things might have turned out differently. Alas, the post-conciliar generation of bishops is coming to a close now, and this is the legacy they leave behind for us. I pray that God will embolden some of our younger Catholic bishops to stand up and do the right thing, and send us more who will do the same. They can't come soon enough.

Now as an American I am disgusted by all of this, and I am so ashamed of my federal government that I cannot put down words to accurately convey my emotions. So long as Christians are jailed for simply following their religious consciences, the primary purpose of the United States of America has become null and void. The whole reason for being an American is irrelevant now. For centuries, we Americans have prided ourselves on the religious liberty we have in this country. That is no more.

I have lost all respect for this generation of leaders in Washington DC. The politicians and judges there have disgraced the military service of my father, who put his life on the line to save this miserable government they created. They have also disgraced the military service of all my ancestors who did the same. They are not deserving of my family's tears, sweat and blood. My family deserves better than the government they have created to rule over us. My father deserves better. The same goes for the families of all military veterans. They deserve better than the government they serve.

To Washington DC, all three branches of government, and especially the politicians and judges who play 'god', I say this. You don't deserve us! We deserve better than you. America is more than the tyrannical government you've created. Our states will outlive you. America will outlast you. Our families will go on, but someday this monster of a government you've created will fall. It will collapse under the weight of the tyranny you've created. When that day happens, and if I am alive to see it, I won't shed a tear for it -- not even one.

There are those who hold out hope for Washington DC, and still believe it can be saved, turned around, and redeemed from all of its iniquity. If only we can put the right people in charge, or change the system somehow. I say I hope they're right, but I'm not going to hold my breath. For now, the only political process I support is that which strips Washington DC of power. I want a Convention of States, implemented by Article V of the United States Constitution, which will take powers away from Washington DC. In elections, I will focus more on state politicians, rather than federal, and I will support those who are willing and eager to disobey Washington DC on every federal mandate that comes down from 'Olympus'. In every political project I shall undertake from now on, the peaceful and democratic dismantling of Washington DC will be my goal. So help me God.



Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

Catholicism for Protestants

Please share this story. Social media links provided below for your convenience...