Forward In Faith 2012 Assembly
By Auburn Faber Traycik
BELLEVILLE, IL - For the bishops, priests, and laypersons at the 24th annual assembly of Forward in Faith, North America (FiFNA) here July 11-13, it was – more decidedly than ever before – not about where they’ve been, but about where they’re going.
Meeting again at Our Lady of the Snows, this year’s FiFNA assembly/family reunion focused much more on mission and the positive teaching of the catholic faith than on legislation and resolutions.
But it was more than that. The “despondency” that one participant said had dogged the Anglo-Catholic organization not so many years ago seemed in Belleville to have been eclipsed by a “new confidence” about FiFNA’s vocation - including about the need to begin (re)presenting the case for historic holy order among the minority of its allies who remain unpersuaded on the matter.
In short, FiFNA is on the move, in good spirits and in good Spirit, so to speak.
THE FIRST HINT of significant change was how little mention there was in Belleville of the Episcopal Church (TEC), wherein FiFNA long labored to defend and uphold orthodox faith and order. This, despite the fact that TEC’s General Convention was winding up in Indianapolis at the same time, having pushed TEC further into the pansexual/revisionist abyss.
There is small wonder in this, though, for the old image some had of FiFNA as a persecuted minority hanging on in TEC is no longer apt. The Rt. Rev. Keith Ackerman, re-elected FiFNA’s president in Belleville, estimates that about 90 percent of the organization’s members are now out of TEC, most of them having become part of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), either via one of the three FIF-aligned dioceses that departed TEC for ACNA (Fort Worth, Quincy, and San Joaquin), or by joining the Missionary Diocese of All Saints (MDAS), a non-geographical jurisdiction for orthodox Anglicans within ACNA. The ACNA itself, the emergent “new province” formed by a coalition of Evangelical and Catholic Anglicans, is recognized and supported by leaders representing most of the Anglican Communion via the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans (FCA), albeit not formally (so far) by Canterbury. According to its website, the ACNA links some 100,000 Anglicans in nearly 1,000 North American congregations and 21 dioceses.
“To a large extent, Anglo-Catholics lost the battle in TEC and now can spend more time winning the world for Christ,” said Ackerman, the Texas-based former Episcopal Bishop of Quincy.
And those at Belleville appeared ready to think and act ambitiously in that regard, as well as in their own (Anglican) context, having been inspired, it seemed, by a renewed sense of what they haveto bring to the Church - “the historic faith without alteration or abridgement,” as Ackerman put it. They were encouraged, too, by signs of growth and healthy change (e.g., 20 to 25 percent of assembly participants this year were attending for the first time), and by the particular opportunities and resources that God appears to be placing before FiF and especially MDAS (on which more later).
ONE EXAMPLE of thinking outside the old FiFNA box came from Canon Kevin Donlon during a session in which he contrasted the officially-described structure of the Anglican Communion with its current internal reality, i.e., the shadow web of often-conflicting and mutable “spheres of activity” now extant within it. Donlon suggested that FiFNA might have a role to play in alleviating, through the application of catholic principles, the incredible disarray caused by the impact of liberal forces on a communion with an inadequate system of authority and accountability (the Windsor and Anglican covenant efforts having utterly failed to do the job). Such an endeavor would be apropos, as well, to Ackerman’s declaration of this coming year as the Year of the Church (ecclesiology) in FiFNA.
Likewise, there seemed to be a convergence between FiFNA’s president and three visiting allies from England - Fr. Francis Gardom, Canon Arthur Middleton, and Canon Geoffrey Neal, all of them aligned with FiF-UK and the Anglican Association - about the need for another ambitious effort: A new Oxford Movement, and particularly another Tractarian Movement to provide new and reprinted publications needed at this time. Canon Middleton has in fact authored a work published by the Association, A New Oxford Movement, from which Bishop Ackerman quoted in his presidential address to the assembly. The bishop and his wife also have been attempting to make helpful materials available through their acquisition of The Parish Press. Ackerman believes that Anglo-Catholicism must become a movement rather than a party, and that Evangelicals are needed in that movement. The orthodox faith, “the riches that have been entrusted to us,” must be shared with another generation, he said.
And as earlier indicated, FiFNA took an important first step toward resolving remaining differences in the ACNA over women’s ordination – a step that risks raising tensions in the conservative coalition, albeit in the interest of bringing all within it into full communion and in line with the Universal Church. In one of just a few resolutions put forward by FiFNA’s Council and approved by the assembly, the organization called on the ACNA College of Bishops to agree to “a voluntary moratorium on any further ordinations of women to the priesthood until a comprehensive theological inquiry is undertaken and completed on the question of the ordination of women as it relates to the wider question of the nature of faith and order (ecclesiology).”
To be sure, ACNA (as well as the FCA) has already agreed on the need for the study, it having been widely acknowledged that TEC never properly or thoroughly examined the idea of ordaining women as priests and bishops before approving the innovation in 1976. In addition, Bishop Ackerman confirmed that ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan had been consulted in advance about the “courteously written” resolution, so it will come as no surprise.
The reaction to the resolution within ACNA and FCA at large remains to be seen, however. On paper, the odds on the ordination issue seem weighted in favor of apostolic order. The majority of North American bishops and jurisdictions in or associated with ACNA do not ordain women. Neither do most if not all of those bodies with which ACNA is currently in dialogue (e.g., the Orthodox Church in America (OCA); Polish National Catholic Church; and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod). Still, backers of female ordination in ACNA, many of them tenacious in their support, probably hold disproportionate sway in the new province because Archbishop Duncan, an Evangelical who ordained women after becoming bishop of the TEC Diocese of Pittsburgh (most of which followed him into the ACNA), sympathizes with their position. But Duncan has also given some mixed signals on the ordination issue. He reportedly told FiFNA last year, for example, that the orthodox stand on holy order is in the ascendancy (apparently meaning among conservative Anglicans; it is already upheld by the majority of Christians worldwide). However he decides to handle FiFNA’s request, though, Duncan will likely enjoy considerable deference from members of his flock on both sides of ordination issue, chiefly in recognition of the fact that there probably would not even be an ACNA had it not been for Duncan’s leadership and vision.
The Rt. Rev. Paul Hewett, an FIF Council Adjunct, was one who sees FiFNA’S call as one sign of the “new confidence” taking hold in the organization. “The courteous thing is to ask them for a moratorium, to be clear about our own goals,” he maintained.
Hewett leads the Diocese of the Holy Cross (DHC) and a coalition of extramural orthodox Anglican bodies called the Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas (FACA), which is a “ministry partner” of ACNA. Representing a total of some 450 parishes, FACA members include the DHC, Reformed Episcopal Church, Anglican Province of America, Anglican Church in America, Episcopal Missionary Church and Anglican Mission in America. (The REC is also a member jurisdiction within ACNA.)
“The phase we seem to be entering is one of new confidence, of having found our voice, or learning to speak with one voice on issues that are before us,” said Hewett, who has been attending FiFNA legislative assemblies since 2003. “We are on the offensive, not the defensive, any longer.”
IN ONE OF THE FEW MENTIONS of TEC made at the assembly, a second resolution adopted in Belleville voiced gratitude for the leadership of the nine Episcopal bishops reportedly facing charges for formally expressing opinions at odds with the national church’s in the latter’s legal bids to claim the assets of the ex-TEC Dioceses of Quincy and Fort Worth.
In two other resolutions approved, FiFNA 1) expressed gratitude and appreciation for Metropolitan Jonah – the first church leader to seek ecumenical dialogue with ACNA – who is stepping down as head of OCA (though the ACNA-OCA talks will continue); and 2) voiced support for FIF-UK and the Anglican Association, as a final decision on women bishops – and whether or not any provisions will be made for those opposed – looms in the Church of England. The resolution thanked the two organizations for the contributions they have made in several areas, such as “holding together,” in part by the publications they have produced, “those who seek to safeguard the Faith once revealed from the depredations of those who are seeking (knowingly or otherwise) to modify it beyond recognition.”
MDAS: Good News
Delivering the most encouraging report during the assembly was the Rt. Rev. William Ilgenfritz, the Pennsylvania-based Bishop of the Missionary Diocese of All Saints. MDAS is still a young, modestly-sized jurisdiction, albeit one that is not only growing, but seems to have been blessed with special resources enabling it to offer the sort of ministries and outreach that one might associate with a larger and more well-established diocese.
Bishop Ilgenfritz, who recently left parish ministry to devote full time and attention to his clergy and people, reported that MDAS is both receiving and planting churches. It presently has “some 30 congregations worshipping in 18 states from Maine to Colorado and Washington to Florida,” and expects further growth by early fall.
“Our non-parochial outreach ministries are growing nationally and internationally,” and “currently number 13,” he went on. “Our clergy are ministering in hospice programs, homeless shelters and correctional facilities. Most of these ministries are the fruit of the good work being done in our Missionaries of St. John Convocation (MSJ)” under the oversight of an MDAS Assistant Bishop, Fred Fick.
The diocese is also “building important relationships beyond North America,” the bishop added. “Forward in Africa, MSJ, continues to provide teaching missions primarily in East Africa, and we have entered into a companion relationship with Bishop Alex Barroso in Venezuela.’
MDAS presently has two men enrolled in seminary. One of them, Val Finnell, holds a master’s degree in public health, and is a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, a medical doctor, and now an ordained deacon.
“About a year ago, Deacon Val began our newest outreach, known as Anglican Health Ministries” to “train local parishes to engage in holistic community development work,” Ilgenfritz reported. “The model chosen for this is based on community health evangelism which has been popular with Anglicans abroad for 30 years, particularly in the Church of Uganda.” It was “adapted for North American settings and … renamed Neighborhood Transformation. This is a parish-based ministry that focuses on moving the poor from relief, to betterment, and finally to development. Assets, rather than needs, are inventoried and people are networked to solve their own problems. As this is happening, relationships are formed, communities are galvanized, and the gospel is shared.” AHM held its first Neighborhood Transformation instruction for local trainers in March at Christ Our Savior Anglican Church in Torrance, California. “More training will be offered in the future to Anglican parishes throughout America,” Ilgenfritz said.
AHM has also partnered with Medical Mission Adventures to bring a mobile health clinic to Southern California residents with inadequate or no insurance. “Dr. Finnell served as consultant for administrative issues and the clinic hopes to open its doors in Los Angeles this summer,” the bishop noted. As well, he said, the Appalachian Mission Initiative, a regional Anglican Mission in America ministry, wants to partner with AHM to explore mobile clinic ministry and community development work throughout the Appalachian region.
Inviting prayers and support for MDAS (www.themdas.org.), llgenfritz thanked FiFNA for bringing the diocese into being, and promised that “MDAS will continue to uphold the faith and order of the Undivided Church regardless of the possible consequences.”
Ackerman later named the bishop, clergy and people of MDAS collectively as this year’s recipient of the President’s Award. He also announced a new honor established by FiFNA’s Council at his request, the St. Stephen’s Award for Distinguished Service and Ministry, and its first recipient. Intended to go to “a man filled with the Holy Spirit,” that being a description of St. Stephen, Ackerman gave the award to 96-year-old Joseph Warren of Chicago, “a man who year after year comes to our assembly, and talks about his love of the Lord.” Remarkably, Warren has been faithfully attending meetings of Anglo-Catholics since the mid-20th century.
ASKED ABOUT TOTAL MEMBERSHIP in FiFNA, Treasurer Karl Sharp said that the organization has around 1,800 individual members (persons who have signed FiFNA’s declaration), but that that does not include congregations in MDAS or in ex-TEC dioceses affiliated with FiFNA (though some 70 parishes within or outside of those dioceses have established their own memberships). With all that in mind, Bishop Ackerman estimated that FiFNA sympathizers total around 5,000. The assembly in Belleville drew about 130 persons, a better-than-average turnout in comparison to past assemblies.
While the Year of the Church is starting in FiFNA, the theme over the past year, and therefore of the three teaching sessions at the assembly, was the Eucharist.
The Rev. Lawrence D. Bausch, SSC, gave a talk on “The Sacraments: God’s Gift to the Church” that was laced with quotes from the former Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) and Eric Mascall.
Bausch said in (small) part that: “We believe that our purpose and nature in being created is to be in a covenant relationship with God…The Trinity assures us we are created out of love for love. Creation fulfills its purpose as we respond faithfully…Worship is how we bring creation before the Father.” Once we rebelled, though, he said, “that complete offering of ourselves back to God [became impossible]. We don’t worship perfectly because we have broken the covenant.” It is Christ and his sacrifice that changes all this, however.
Bausch quoted Mascall, for example, as having written: “How are we imperfect sinful creatures living here on earth to make the offering which we owe to God? The answer is amazingly simple, but almost incredible in the manifestation which it gives of the condescension of God. It is that Christ unites our human nature to his, so that we may be able to offer his offering, or rather, that he may be able to offer it through and in us.”
In his teaching on “Christ in the Eucharist,” helpfully accompanied by a power point presentation, the Rt. Rev. Ray Sutton of the REC demonstrated the breadth of support for belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist that exists in Scripture, the language of the Undivided Church and early Church Fathers, and among Anglican divines.
Most persuasive are Christ’s own words at the Last Supper as recorded in Scripture, “This is my body…This is my blood.”
“’Is’ means ‘is’ – Christ says He is really present” in the consecrated bread and wine, Sutton commented. “’Is’ means more than a symbol” or “memory.” The “really present Christ becomes Food for our Transformation” and makes us “one with Him.”
He identified Theodore (c. 350-428) as having set forth the doctrine of the Real Presence: “At first it is laid upon the altar as a mere bread and wine mixed with water,” Theodore wrote, “but by the coming of the Holy Spirit it is transformed into body and blood, and thus it is changed into the power of a spiritual and immortal nourishment.”
Among Anglican divines quoted by Sutton was the sometime Bishop of Coventry, John Overall (1559-1619). In additional notes to the Book of Common Prayer, Overall wrote: “It is confessed by all Divines, that upon the words of the Consecration, the Body and Blood of Christ is really and substantially present, and so exhibited and given to all that receive it, and all this not after a physical and sensual, but after an heavenly and incomprehensible manner.”
As part of more thorough comments on the topic of “The Eucharist as the Source and Center of Christian Life,” former Quincy Bishop Donald J. Parsons pointed to a reminder inherent in the Eucharist that: “Our commonwealth is in heaven. That is where we come from and that is where we are going back. Are there times you feel you’re living in a strange world? You may be remembering where you were [to begin with]. We come from somewhere else and we’re going somewhere else.”
Rowan Williams And The Next ABC
A question and answer period featuring all of the assembly’s key speakers proved to be one of the more lively sessions at Belleville.
Asked who would be a good candidate to succeed Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury, Fr. Gardom said it should be someone “who has the courage and presence to stand up for what is right and firmly resist pressure groups that seek to introduce novelties.” That is difficult, he said, as pressure groups do what their name implies and can turn a particular candidate into a punching bag. “We want a punching bag who punches back,” he remarked.
Canon Middleton said he heard that the Church of England’s House of Bishops had actually circulated an application for the job. He said he wouldn’t recommend anyone who actually filled out the application and sent it in.
Canon Neal spotlighted the fact that the English General Synod has in recent times begun to overrule the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and House of Bishops, most notably inresponse to attempts by the prelates to include some provisions for traditionalists in legislation that would permit women to be consecrated as bishops (just as the C of E had done more generously in a special Act of Synod after female priests were approved in 1992). While a minority of Synod members might have resisted those attempts because they wanted to see more generous provisions for those theologically opposed, Neal maintained that that minority along with the majority that wants no provisions at all have undermined the metropolitical and episcopal authority of the archbishops and House of Bishops, respectively. The Synod is due to vote on the female bishops’ legislation in November.
Canon Middleton said that “the best Archbishop of Canterbury we never had was John Habgood,” the former Archbishop of York who, though supportive of women’s ordination, was a main mover behind the ’93 Act of Synod which provided special “flying bishops” (provincial episcopal visitors) for parishes opposed to female priests. He said that the trouble with the General Synod now is that, as one writer asserted, it is “full of people concerned with their own political ends.” These orders of ministry are not seen as a charism given by God but as levels of career promotion, Middleton remarked.
Asked how they would assess the impact on the Anglican Communion of Rowan Williams’ term as Archbishop of Canterbury, Fr. Gardom noted that Williams often speaks in terms that people find difficult to understand or agree on. The Archbishop, he contended, thinks that truth is arrived at by synthesis – the Hegelian process of thesis, antithesis, followed by synthesis. “Theological truth is not arrived at this way because it is revealed by God,” he said.
Bishop Ackerman agreed that that approach does not work in the realm of truth. The antithesis of the thesis “Jesus is Lord,” he noted, is “Jesus is not Lord.” Thus, the synthesis of that is “Jesus is occasionally Lord”!
Bishop Sutton commented that “There are pastors and there are academicians. I think what you find in Rowan Williams is one who is an academic first and a pastor second.” In academics it is common to take a yes and no, or sic et non, position, he noted. But applying that in the Anglican context had “thrown the Communion [into a downward] spiral,” Sutton asserted. Williams set the Windsor process in motion “and didn’t follow up on it. That devastated the Communion.”
Canon Neal, however, said he thought that Williams is also “the victim of the system in which he was placed. I think he is a godly man who tries to live as a pastor and friend. But I think the situation was created by the institutions in which he was placed…Soften your heart a little for the man, but harden your heart toward the institutions,” he urged. Later, Neal contended that the synodical system, which he noted is not found in Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism, not only renders the bishop impotent, it develops into a party system whereby the church moves forward by marginalizing a minority. “I’m one of those people,” he said, “who think the synodical system has been the beginning of all the problems.”