Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Anglican Communion or Surprised Once in a Blue Moon

Anyone who cares will have read that the Anglican Communion has disciplined the Episcopal Church of the United States of America (ECUSA) for changing their canons and doctrine on allowing homosexuals to be married and having their marriages blessed by the Episcopal Church. Frankly, nobody saw this coming.  The ECUSA has failed to even offer any statement on this as of yet, which is a show of being taken off guard.  For those who are not aware of the backstory:

The Anglican Communion has slowly been falling apart.  Much, but not all, of the controversy revolves around the official branch of the Anglican Church in the United States openly allowed active homosexuals to be clergy, then married homosexuals to be clergy, then allowing priests to be the celebrants of "gay weddings". The major branch of Anglicanism that were crying fowl were the African Anglican bishops.  The African bishops even attempted to form a Continuing Anglican branch in the United States, called the Anglican Mission in the Americas (AMiA), aimed at re-evangelizing American Anglicans. So, with the U.S. showing no sign of discretion to uphold classic Christian teaching on sexuality, the Anglican Bishops have been apprehensive to participate in Anglican gatherings alongside the ECUSA.  They even refused to attend the tradition Lambeth Conference, to which Archbishop Welby (Archbishop of Canterbury) cancelled in order to allow time for healing and dialogue first.  Now a conference was scheduled for the Communion to discuss the disagreements amongst themselves.  Every major commentator was expecting this to be the last meeting the African bishops would attend before declaring themselves out of the Anglican Communion.  Except, by a surprise turn of events, the Communion recognized that the ECUSA has finally gone too far and has now sought to discipline the U.S. Church.

I really expected Canterbury would rather watch Africa leave than attempt to touch the United States. While Africa has the numbers, America has the money.  The ECUSA has a history and major influence in the communion, one that appeared to many to be untouchable.  I have to say, I am impressed Welby allowed it.  It seems that England tries to not have opinions about anything regarding the communion as a whole. Yesterday, I had a chance to listen to the BBC4 Sunday episode. To discuss the conference, they had two evangelical Anglican clergyman on, Stephen Ruttle and Andrew Atherstone, to discuss the mediation needed in this discussion. Their opinions seemed to be the standard of the rest of progressive religious diologue, that we can continue to exist in a state of disagreement and not "resort to hatred of each other". Unfortunately, that doesn't take the issues at hand very seriously and acknowledge why the African bishops are so angry.  It was seemingly telling of how things were to go.

Now that this is done, what might happen?  I highly anticipate the response from the ECUSA will be nothing but golden.  Some have wondered if this will lead to the Anglican Church of North America (ACNA) to be recognized by the Communion. Don't hold your breathe.  That is likely never going to happen. Again, even though the ECUSA was disciplined in this way, they will NOT allow the Communion to recognize anyone but them as the official branch in the United States. Canterbury is not going to risk a schism (afterall, isn't that why they resorted to disciplining ECUSA in the first place?) and cause further frustration than they feel necessary. Plus, it isn't their M.O.  Canterbury will continue to "dialogue" with those who want to do what they want anyways while everything falls apart around them.  Be honest, the Communion is dead already. Continuing Anglican bodies, like the Communion will grow smaller and smaller, until they need to rethink their existence altogether.  Many serious Anglicans, in their desire to find tradition while avoiding Rome, have jumped out of Anglicanism completely, while the ones who care about their traditions have gone to Rome. Continuing Anglicans would do well to consider Rome.  All the beautiful traditions of Canterbury are now in Rome thanks to the formation of the Anglican Ordinariate in the Catholic Church. If these beautiful traditions are really worth keeping, would you join Rome to keep them?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Why the Papacy Made me Catholic

I wanted to reflect on two men who had significant influence in my becoming a Catholic: St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
As a kid growing up, I had a healthy exposure to religion growing up. From reading bible stories with my Jehovah's Witness grandparents, to going to Antigua, Guatemala every year during Holy Week to watch the processions in the street and see the decorative depictions of Christ's journey to the cross. I didn't get fully ingrained into the technical understanding of either religion until much later. I didn't understand the difference between Catholics and JW's, nor any other sect that branched from the Church. Even when I became an evangelical Christian, I didn't know that all Christians were not under the Pope. I remember seeing pictures of the smiling charismatic Saint, John Paul II. I could not help but think to myself in my earliest days of seeing this Bishop of Rome in white: "wow, what a great man".  The man radiated holiness, even just through pictures of him. It wasn't a conservative or liberal or any political connection based off of his pontificate, it was just that glow of holiness.

The day I found out that Protestants do not consider the Pope their leader in the faith, I was quite disappointed. I remember asking "why not?", and getting slight frustrated responses after more questioning. Why wasn't this holy man someone we followed as a leader designated by Christ? Even though Protestants argue that the Petrine office instituted by Christ in the scriptures is actually not so, I didn't buy it. I wrote it off as relative. "Oh well, these folks didn't like the Pope so they decided to do something about it. That doesn't mean Catholics are wrong to interpret scripture like they do". That thought was the beginning of the dangerous path I started to walk on. I stayed an evangelical nonetheless for awhile longer, because I figured it didn't matter much anyways. 

Years later when John Paul II died, I remember seeing the election of Benedict XVI and I remember being disappointed. He didn't have that presence John Paul II had. The media was not kind on Benedict either, so as an outsider I was not taking in fair treatment of the new Pontiff. The memory of John Paul stuck with me though. If this holy man was Catholic, and you couldn't tell me even as a Protestant that he was not,then maybe Catholicism is not so erroneous. It wasn't until my induction into the world of Anglicanism that I really learned about Ratzinger's (Benedict's) contribution to theological and liturgical matters. Over time I realized what a treasure the Catholic Church had received (and how I was slightly jealous). These Catholics have one of the best living scriptural theologians alive today, writing books about the Historical Jesus even as Pope, and here we Protestants are saying the Catholic Church doesn't care about the bible. 

Upon my entry into the Catholic Church, it was surreal being exposed to this world of looking at your leaders from within instead of without. Immediately I began to discover some major gaffes in John Paul's pontificate. Then I noticed how Benedict  was picking up the pieces. Benedict had given us Anglicanorum Coetibus and Summorum Pontificum.  Both of those decrees make Benedict, likely, the best Pope in my lifetime. I had realized that it was St. John Paul II who invited me in, and Benedict XVI helped me feel welcome in the Church. I feel that both these Popes will go down in history as a duo. After all, much of the good that came from John Paul was from Ratzinger's. Much of the good in Benedict, was begun by John Paul. Both of these men will always be heroes to me. I am indebted to them both. 

A Year of Benedictine Discernment

Yesterday, I participated in a ceremony at my parish to begin a year of discernment to become an Oblate of the Order of St. Benedict.  As I mentioned in an earlier an post, this is through the St. Benet Biscop chapter at St. John's Abbey in Minnesota.  This bunch of candidates are mostly members of the Ordinariate.  A few of the candidates are in other states are Anglicans.  A couple notable candidates in this chapter right now are Monsignor Steenson (Former Ordinary of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter) and Fr. Jack Barker (Pictured to the right, historian of the Ordinariate). This is a very unique situation as most of the Oblates in this chapter will not be near their designated Abbey.  Yet, the goal of such a thing is to have a group of Oblates, in community, who are attached to Benedictine Spirituality and can exercise that spirituality through the lens of the Anglican Patrimony.  Some people. nontheless, will continue to ask: why Benedictine?

As the newly elected Bishop Steven Lopes made note of in a talk about the Anglican Patrimony, it arises out of a sense of English Benedictine Monasticism.  The prayer book spirituality of Anglicanism is a direct byproduct of the Rule of St. Benedict, and inherited by the gifts given by the medieval monks in England.  In the Rule, the highest work of the Monk is the Opus Dei.  In context, this is to pray the Divine Office in union with Holy Mother Church.  Rules #8-20 deal with the the way monks are to pray the offices daily.  As a Catholic, our highest form of prayer is the Holy Mass.  Using the Rule according to St. Benedict, the highest prayer below the Mass is the daily hours of prayer, what we call today the Liturgy of the Hours. When the Church of England severed ties with Rome, Archbishop Cranmer was authorized to eventually organize a prayer book that would unite the whole country behind one Church (under the Crown). He formulated a prayer book that was similar to the different rites in England, and in English tongue, that would pray through the Psalms everyday at Matins and Vespers.  While the monks of the day prayed 8 offices a day, Anglicanism shortened the office to twice a day for both laymen and clergy.  The people were already influenced by the daily offices in their spiritual lives, as they could go to the monasteries to listen to the monks chant the offices.  Of course, not many laypeople spoke Latin.  They could still marvel at the beauty of monastic chant.  When Cranmer introduced his Book of Common Prayer, the concept was not foreign to the Englishmen.

St. Benedict, making his monks dedicate themselves to daily prayer in the Church's liturgical fashion also makes his disciples stay in tuned with the liturgical seasons as well.  One of the biggest impacts of my time as an Anglican is first being introduced to the Church Kalendar.  I had discovered the world of Epiphany, Advent, Lent, Christmastime (YOU MEAN CHRISTMAS LASTS MORE THAN ONE DAY!?).  The Church Kalendar is filled with feasts, celebrations, days of victory for the Church, days of penance and fasting.  This exists in Anglicanism, but the monks brought all this to England.  Music is a big part of Anglican worship.  It was the Benedictine Monks who introduced hymnody in the liturgical worship of England.  The Rule of Benedict also instructs the monks to be generous and hospitable. The Monks were to welcome a stranger to their monastery as if they were welcoming Jesus Christ himself.

The history of Benedictine Monasticism is filled with beauty.  It is deeply connected to the Anglican Patrimony.  As I am in love with both, it only makes sense to live my life influenced by both.  I also feel that implimenting the Rule into my life as an Oblate can only help me to grow as a Christian; it can push me to be better.  I cannot do of my own will and power, but through Our Lord and King.