Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Why Orthodox Anglicans are Catholic Christians

 I am very thankful to Fr. Victor Novak for pointing out an excellent essay by Bishop Jack L. Iker of the Diocese of Fort Worth, which I have taken the liberty of excerpting here, since it addresses the important question of whether orthodox Anglicans are just members of a denomination or something much, much more.
I invite us all to look beyond the surface level of our Anglican identity, with its temptation to denominationalism, and go back to our heritage as catholic Christians....  [W]e are a fellowship within, or a branch, of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, maintaining and propagating the faith and order of the historic Church throughout the ages.

This means that we are not members of a sectarian, Protestant denomination, but of the Catholic Church.  Remember, the Church of England, which came to be known as Anglican, existed before the Reformation and traces its roots back to the Patristic age of the early Christian Church.  This same Church, which predated the arrival of Augustine and his missionaries from Rome in the sixth century, is continuous with the Church of England that emerged from the sixteenth century Reformation. Reformed, yes, but not a new denomination; the Church of England still maintained the sacraments, creeds and holy orders of the undivided church of the early centuries, before the Great Schism of West and East in 1054.

Knowing this, Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher famously said, “We have no doctrine of our own.  We only possess the Catholic doctrine of the Catholic Church enshrined in the Catholic Creeds, and these creeds we hold without addition or diminution.  We stand firm on that rock.”  And to that we might add that Anglicanism has no Scriptures of its own, no sacraments of its own, no holy orders of its own – just those of the Catholic Church that we have received. Fisher was right, as Anglicans we have no faith of our own.

Like the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church, orthodox Anglicans uphold the historic faith and order of the undivided Church.  We are nothing more nor less than Catholic Christians, seeking to be faithful to the teaching of the early Church Fathers and the great Ecumenical Councils of the first centuries of Christian witness.  With St. Vincent of Lerins, we affirm that the Catholic faith is that which has been believed “everywhere, always, and by all.”  Wherever you find departures from this given faith and received order, you will find sectarianism, heresy and error.

With this in mind, we understand that the divided and fractured nature of Anglicanism today has been caused by heretical innovations and departures from the Church’s historic faith and practice.  Two Provinces are specially to blame – the Anglican Church of Canada and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA.  It is our Christian duty to speak out and stand against the errors advocated by these Provinces because they lead others into falsehood and away from salvation.  All this to say nothing of the fact that deviations from the historic teaching of the Church have led to a serious state of brokenness and impaired Communion throughout Anglicanism.

In the Diocese of Fort Worth we stand against that.  Our commitment as an orthodox Anglican diocese is to the faith and order of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  We seek to do nothing other than maintain and propagate the faith once delivered to the saints, which is rooted in Holy Scriptures and one with the Apostolic Teaching of the ancient church.

Far from having joined a “different denomination,” we have remained faithful to the witness of the Catholic Church of the ages.  With our Lord Jesus Christ, we too pray for an end to our divisions and for a restoration of visible unity of Catholic Christians, both East and West.
You can read the original article here.


Small Farmer in The City said...

I suspect that the Church of Rome would have some reservations with the proposition that Orthodox Anglicans are Catholic Christians...true?

Robert S. Munday said...

Yes, that is true, but therein lies a significant disagreement with which Anglicans and Roman Catholics must deal. There are orthodox Anglicans who have reservations as to whether members of the Church of Rome are, in fact, Catholic Christians. For example, consider these writings from the eminent Anglo-Catholic, Bishop Charles Chapman Grafton, such as his work, entitled: The Three Religions: Protestantism, Romanism and Catholicism, as well as the whole of his work, Christian and Catholic, especially, Part III, "Catholic Not Roman."

Jay said...

What is the status of the Anglican/Orthodox dialogue (I'm speaking of the dialogue started at Nashotah House, not any remaining dialogues between TEC and Orthodox churches), particularly now than Metropolitan Jonah has been forced to resign? He seemed to be the leader of the movement on the Orthodox side to get dioceses like Ft Worth to become Western Rite Orthodox.

Robert S. Munday said...

Metropolitan Alfeyev Hilarion from Russia is due to receive an honorary doctorate from Nashotah House in October, and the relationship between Nashotah House and St. Vladimir's Seminary remains strong.

Metropolitan Jonah was very much involved with and supportive of the OCA's dialogue with the ACNA. How that dialogue progresses will depend largely on who is chosen to be Jonah's successor. So we will have to pray and wait and see what happens.

George William Pursley said...

Bob, I'm interested in attending future conferences at Nashotah or at St. Vlad's like the one in 09. Are those now held every year? And where does one find a listing of activities and materials?
Bill Pursley+
PS: I hope all is well with you. Hope to see you in Charleston in January.