Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Politics of Fear

I am often asked, "Why is the Continuum such a mess of different jurisdictions?" I think in the final analysis the situation is was created by two differing understandings of what it means to be a 'Continuer' and it is perpetuated by the 'politics of fear.'

As I have written about the two different approahes before I won't bore you with a reprise other than to say that the initial divisions grew out of the suspicions that grew up between the "Middle to High Church" and Anglo-Catholic factions, and could have been avoided with better leadership. The Continuing Church became divided for much the same reasons that the Vikings never built an Empire. We had leaders, but, in the case of three of the original four, leaders who pulled in different directions. This led to the creation of the UECNA, APCK and ACC. The first tends towards a 'business as usual' interpretation of the Affirmation of St Louis within the context of a predominate "middle of the road" churchmanship . The Anglican Province of Christ the King has a similar tendancy, but within the context of a more Anglo-Catholic tradition coming from its founderers many of whom were associated with the American Church Union. The Anglican Catholic Church bridges the two in terms of worship tradition, but underwent an extensive revision of its Constitution and Canons which closed a lot of legal, jurisdictional and procedural loopholes, but left other matters, such as the status of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, studeously vague. All of this backroom work was done in the context of a church which was trying to establish congregations, acquire property, and establish a diocesan structure. To my mind, much of the work on the Canons (as opposed to the Constitution)could and should have been postponed until the church had achieved a measure of organisation stability. With hindsight (which as the song says 'is always 20-20) it seems to me that there was some significant misdirection of effort in the period 1979-1984 which may, and I stress, may have helped divide the Continuum. (I should perhaps add at this point, just so that you are all absolutely clear on this, that I have absolutely no animus against the ACC, especially as presently constituted. I was ordained in the ACC and only left because the Bishop of the Diocese in which I served had a high peculiar interpretation of the ACC Constitution and Canons.)

Having arrived at the point where the Continuum was divided, then the 'politics of fear' very largely took over. Although attempts at reconciliate were made, ultimately, what took over, and continues to divide the Anglican Continuum is what one might call "the fear of the other fellow." This is the down side of the sort of self-reliance that the Continuum has bred, and it tends to stop all attempts at union with negotiation sooner or later.

As a whole, the Continuum needs to get away from the 'politics of fear', and it will only do so if the bishops of the UECNA, APCK, and ACC meet on a regular basis. Unfortunately, that is not happening, and I think it is time that the bishops took note that, on the whole, the laity move between parishes in the different jurisdictions quite happily. They only note only that St. B's is a bit higher or lower, or a bit bigger or smaller, than St A's where they normally worship. Anecdotally, quite a few of the laity don't know which group their parish is in without looking it up. They are 'Anglicans' - they know who their bishop is and that is about it.

The paranoia about "the other fellow" seems to be largely a clergy thing. Though in all fairness I should perhaps note that there have been enough 'inter-jurisdictional incidents' for this paranoia to have some basis in fact. However, we need to forgive and forget, and in some cases a few well chosen words of apology would not go amiss either.

For the Continuum to survive into its third and fourth generations we to achieve a jurisdictional unity which reflects our unity of faith. That is the great task - after Mission and the Re-evangelisation of America - that faces us in the next ten years.


  1. Dear Peter,

    Thanks for another very thoughtful piece.
    your observation that the laity move comfortably between jurisdictions really is both confirmation that further unity is possible (and imperative!) and an indication of where the real hindrance lies.

    Keep pressing for unity! There really is reason for hope!

    God bless you.


  2. And they say we Southerners are hung up on the Lost Cause...

  3. For us to be able to do what is necessary it would seem very necessary to put away our personal quirks and concentrate on the core essence of Anglicanism. Following the example of the Scot's Church, I believe that should be doing the best and most loyal job possible of doing the prayer book services as the prayer book taken as a whole intends and concentrating on the unfinished business of being the Church most faithful in teaching and practice to the Church of the first five centuries.

    I am sure that there are many quibbles to be made about the view of either Andrewes Canon or that of St. Vincent of Lerins, but it would do us all well to make a positive guide of both

    On the other hand, having been there at the creation, I think it has to be realized that many found themselves unable to place themselves under the jurisdiction of two of the three founding bishops in the Chambers' succession because of issue of morality. Then it was equally clear that they also rejected classical Anglicanism for what can only be described as either "partisan Anglo-Catholicism" or Anglo-papalism with themselves as the pope or Archbishop Lefebre. And for far too long every trust given was too soon betrayed.

  4. Bishop:

    You make an excellent point that they laity consider themselves only to be "Anglican" and could care less about the jurisdiction. I know that to be true from some of our members who winter in the south, attend an Anglican Church there, and don't even know the jurisdiction it belongs to, nor could they remember the name of our jurisdiction to tell the people there.

  5. What is truly important to the laity is the use of the 1928 BCP. This is why most laity left ECUSA - to be able to continue to use the 1928 BCP.

    Sadly, though, most of the continuing churches are guilty of false advertising when they claim to use the 1928 BCP. Instead, they use the Anglican Missal with all its additions, which totally change the character of the Holy Communion.

    Are there really any continuing churches left who use the 1928 BCP? Does the UECNA use the 1928 BCP without the Anglican Missal?

  6. B. Peter...
    Someone needs to lead and set the agenda for the others to respond to. Lead on, brother... Lead on.


  7. As far as I am aware all but one parish and one mission in the UECNA are BCP. The two 'oddities' - I hope they will forgive me for calling them that - came to use from other jurisdictions with the Missal already in use and accepted by the laity.

    However, I have to reiterate that the Missals have no official standing in the UECNA. Our official liturgical resources are the 1928 BCP, supplemented by "The Book of Offices" 1940, "Lesser Feasts and Fasts" 1963, and the Scottish "Lent and Holy Week" (1967)

  8. Regarding the 1928 BCP, our church uses it "religiously" every Sunday for Communion service. And, every once in a while we deviate and use the 1662 BCP service, as we have a few English transplants.

  9. Bishop Robinson:

    Thanks for the information and your reply.

    Though I live about 60 miles from the nearest UECNA, this is something I am praying about and considering.

    It would be good to really worship from the 1928 BCP again.