XXII PROVINCIAL SYNOD

Original Province     Anglican Catholic Church

Atlanta, Georgia.   October 4-6, 2017

Metropolitan’s Charge to Synod

Psalm 95, verses 10 & 11 – Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their hearts, for they have not known my ways; unto whom I sware in my wrath, that they should not enter into my rest. 

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

A Roman Catholic theologian of my acquaintance once said of the late Father Andrew Greeley, for whom my acquaintance did not have a high regard, that Andrew Greeley never had an unpublished thought.  I am not quite that bad, but some of you at least will know at least something about my pet peeves and theological opinions.  One of them is my dislike for the use of the American confection called the Venite, exultemus, in substitution for Psalm 95.  Psalm 95 is the canticle used in the pre-Reformation office of Mattins and is used in every Anglican Prayer Book save the American.  But in addition to its firm place in tradition, there are several reasons to prefer Psalm 95 to the alternative.  For one thing, Psalm 95 is an actual psalm, while the other is not.  For another, chapters 3 and 4 of the Epistle to the Hebrews contain an extensive meditation upon Psalm 95, which is particularly pertinent to morning prayers and daily self-examination.

Perhaps most importantly, however, my text from this psalm, with its reference to Israel’s forty years in the wilderness contains one of those rich themes which weave together several layers of the Old Testament with both our Lord’s life and gospel and also the history and calendar of the Church.  In addition to the forty years of the Exodus, we have Psalm 95’s reflection upon that and then Hebrews’ recapitulation of that reflection.  We might add the forty years of the reigns of David and Solomon, the forty days of Noah’s flood and of Elijah’s journey to Sinai, our Lord’s forty day fast, the forty days of his Resurrection appearance, and the annual Lenten fast.  Of course we know that forty is a conventional biblical figure for ‘many’, for a long period, and, in the case of forty years, for a full generation.  But a surprising number of these examples of biblical and ecclesiastical forties – in fact all of them apart from the forty days between Easter and the Ascension – involve periods of testing and trial, penitence, and even punishment.  Forty is ‘the day of temptation in the wilderness’, when man usually errs in his heart and grieves and proves and provokes the Lord.

Now consider that we gather today on the fortieth anniversary of the Congress of Saint Louis.  I will return to this very notable coincidence in a few moments.

My Charge to you this year is in many ways colored by the fulfilment and completion of developments that my recent Charges have outlined.  In recent years I have noted the increasing cordiality and cooperation that have bound us in the Anglican Catholic Church to the Anglican Church in America, the Anglican Province in America, and the Diocese of the Holy Cross.  Bishops Grundorf, Hewett, Marsh, and I first met as a group in 2012 at Saint Alban’s in Oviedo, Florida.  Thereafter we have met again in person most years and more recently have had a monthly conference telephone call.

In recent years the Ecumenical Relations Department has recommended after careful study that our Church recognize the certain validity of the orders and episcopal acts of those three other Churches.  The College of Bishops has acted upon that departmental recommendation.  This acceptance removed one major obstacle to the progress we will make and celebrate this week.  Furthermore, contacts amongst our Churches are not limited to leadership.  In the past five years contacts among our bishops, clergy, synods, and parishes have multiplied in number and grown in friendliness.  As we look this year to formalize and extend these developments, I do not think anyone believes that the Metropolitan or a small group is imposing something on our Church.  Rather an organic and widely based development is being recognized and ratified.

This week our Provincial Synod is meeting at the same time and under the same roof as the highest level of meetings of the ACA, APA, and DHC.  Our College of Bishops this week already has approved the establishment of full communion with those three Churches, and recommends that this Synod ratify our actions symbolically by accepting the Ecumenical Relations Department report.

As I have said recently in The TRINITARIAN, this happy development is not a panacea.   It will not make dysfunctional parishes suddenly successful or inadequate priests competent.  Failure can be pooled and extended.  But the reality is that the certain trumpet of Continuing Anglican witness has been muted by our past divisions.  Too often efforts have been wastefully duplicated, rival parishes have weakened each other, and unscrupulous persons have evaded reasonable control or discipline by jurisdiction-hopping.  All four of our Churches have some strong parishes, able bishops, effective parish priests, and resources, and in many cases our strengths should prove to be complementary and mutually reinforcing.  It is my hope and my expectation that growing unity will encourage growth in a synergistic fashion.

Now let me return to the fortieth anniversary of the Congress of Saint Louis.  The tremendous hope and enthusiasm which marked the Congress led to a sad history of division, squabbling, and confusion.  We do not need to rehearse the reasons, nor do we need to parcel out blame.  There were many good people, much sincere effort, and – yes – much solid and lasting achievement.  But we decidedly failed to rebuild an attractive, compelling, successful, and united Continuing Church.  Our potential too often was squandered.  It’s as if the children of Israel, after crossing the Red Sea, had deposed Moses, split into half a dozen parties, headed in half a dozen directions, none of which carefully heeded the pillar of fire or the cloud of smoke.  Yet somehow we have found our way to more or less the same destination, now convinced that either we must grow more and more together or wither apart.

I would like to assure you that in the last year, as the leaders of our four Churches have had monthly conversation, we have operated by consensus.  On a number of occasions issues have arisen which could have ended our cooperation or might at least have blunted the degree of our agreement.  On such occasions we have always decided to move forward together, adopting the position that was necessary to permit such unity.  This approach has not meant the compromise of essential principles, but rather the opposite.  Nothing essential has been sacrificed, and all of us have agreed that the Affirmation of Saint Louis, imperfect though it may be, sets the essential parameters for our agreement and cooperation.  That is, we returned to our initial position before the splitting and fussing began.  To return to my image of the Exodus, it is as if we agreed that the Ten Commandments will do after all and then decided to resume our journey together.

The result will be, as I keep saying, a Church that will be big enough that we probably will find that it includes some people we don’t like.  We can have a Church that includes only people we like very much, but it will be miniscule.  Our goal should be a Church with some people we don’t much care for.  Nonetheless, as I have worked with Bishops Grundorf, Hewett, and Marsh, I have found that they are easy enough to work with and pleasant enough to be with.  Most of their priests are much like most of our priests, and Sunday morning and parish life in most of their parishes are much like Sunday morning and parish life in most of our parishes.

I do not mean to indulge in the kind of impiety that trashes everything done by our predecessors.  There were reasons why we have not all been together in recent decades, and I think that our unity now will be stronger because some of our divisions did produce some positive things, or at least did flow from some necessary causes.  I think we have established the principle that the Continuing Church should not have a kind of mini-pope, but should be governed by a true college of bishops, with bishops reasonably limited by law, synod, and metropolitan, and with the metropolitan and later primate limited by law, synods, and an episcopal college.  I think we have shed people who really long to bathe in the Tiber or the Bosphorus, as well as people truly uncomfortable with the clear and correct insistence in the Affirmation on seven Councils and seven sacraments.   I hope and believe we are coming to agree that the Affirmation’s call for tripartite synods at every level of Church life is sound.  And, let’s be frank, we have shed some ecclesiastical adventurers and bad apples, and are better for it.  I am sure other things were intended by God as he let us fuss and split and fight.  But it is better now that we agree and move forward together.

As we look to the future, I believe and pray that this process of growing communion and unity will continue and will move towards institutional, organic unity.  I even hope for such movement sooner rather than later.  I also believe and pray that a united Continuing Church, centered in our four Churches, will become a magnet that can attract folk in smaller Continuing bodies, as well as folk who at present are in rather confused neo-Anglican groups such as ACNA.  It is noteworthy that we should have with us this week an Anglo-Catholic diocesan bishop from ACNA, representatives of the Polish National Catholic Church, and bishops and clergy from the Episcopal Missionary Church, the Charismatic Episcopal Church, and other bodies that feel some kinship with us.  Many of these contacts are new and are the fruit of larger numbers and wider relationships.

We have this year relatively little canonical legislation to bring forward.  It is my hope that we can move through our necessary business relatively quickly, and so will have more time to enjoy fellowship with each other and with our fellow Continuing Anglicans.  I will anticipate tomorrow by saying that our banquet speaker, Father George Clendenin, was one of the organizers of St. Louis and one of the drafters of the Affirmation.  His presence is a tangible and personal connection between the maturing Continuing Church and its first days.

Finally, allow me to conclude this Charge by thanking a few people.  I am grateful to Deborah Weaver, whose organizational skills and attention to detail have handled a multitude of problems for me and for us all and have saved us a great deal of money.  Provincial Synods have always been in the black since we handed their organization over to Debbie.  I would also like to thank all of those who have made contributions for the travel costs of our overseas clergy:  in particular I note generous gifts from the Diocese of the Mid-Atlantic States; Father Neil and Sharon Edlin; Mr. John Ward; and Christ Church, Metairie.  I am grateful to Mrs. Willis Longyear and Mrs. William Garbee, who once again have hospitably welcomed our bishops and overseas guests before the opening of Synod.  And, finally, I am grateful to Father Athanaelos from my procathedral and other clergy and people of Saint Barnabas’, Dunwoody, Saint Hilda’s, Atlanta, Our Redeemer, Marietta, Saint Stephen’s, Athens, and Saint Francis’, Gainesville, who have provided volunteers to assist with many tasks associated with the Joint Synods this week.

I do hope this will be for all of us a happy and inspiring week.  God bless you.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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