1 John 5:4-5 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
It has been over a month since I resigned from St. Peter and St. Paul Anglican, and so much has happened in that time! But maybe I should begin in the beginning; don’t worry, I’m not going to start with early childhood memories, just the beginning of the events that led me to this point, as I think the progression is important.
I spent over a decade in Wichita Falls, at the Church of the Good Shepherd. Though there were trials, we became a close knit family, a family that I still keep up with regularly, even after nearly three years of absence. I must admit, it has been through my mind, a couple of times, why did I leave? It all goes back to my sermon on the “Big Box of Change”. (I will post in podcast section)
I always knew that my sermons came through the Holy Spirit, as many times I would preach and the words that came were not my own. But sometimes sermons come that are meant for me, maybe more than to those to whom I’m preaching. I had for years, since the split from the Episcopal Church, had to wonder about God’s plan for Anglicanism. It is simply a troubled denomination, and I say this not to throw aspersions upon that which I just left, but stating a fact that I think anyone who is honest will admit. The Anglican Church is fighting (literally) to find it’s identity. Several years ago, I saw the writing on the wall, the ACNA (Anglican Church of North America) was heading towards protestantism, and to my dismay, I saw many laity applauding the move. Do I think Anglicanism is full of heretics? Absolutely not. They are for the most part Bible believing Christians. And here is the hard part. If I, a priest, pastoring Bible believing Christians, and celebrating a sacramental ministry; should I have any care about the greater Anglican Communion? Why should I care what a lot of crazy bishops are doing on the east coast?
The Anglican Communion could more properly be called a cooperation. Communion is sacramental, and yes, complicated enough to write lengthy books in order to define it, but for brevity sake, shared communion is the readily interchangeable clergy from one diocese to another, sacraments that can be shared between dioceses. It is well known that the Anglican diocese of Pittsburgh will not hire anyone from the Diocese of Fort Worth, and certainly the Diocese of Fort Worth will not accept a woman priestess from Pittsburgh. There is an acknowledgement of a “broken communion” within the ACNA. So from the beginning of the ACNA, it was not a communion, it was a cooperation with one another for insurance reasons, and to prove that we have made a successful stand against what is the heresy of The Episcopal Church. (TEC) We needed the numbers lest we would be called just another continuing church, part of the alphabet soup that most laity don’t even know exists. So we cooperate, we have meetings, and those who are Anglo-Catholics are marginalized. Bishops all remain quiet while their dioceses are drained of good men so that the ACNA might seem strong and vibrant. So there is no Anglican Communion, at best it is the “Anglican Broken Communion”, at worst it is a “co-op”, one put together for appearances and financial security.
So our one foundation in Anglicanism is not Jesus Christ, it is secular business; a communion of shared 401K and insurance. This is not a firm foundation on which to build a beacon of Christ to the masses.
But as for me, I was in my own little cocoon, a wonderfully Catholic Church (CGS) in a nice little town at the door step of west Texas. In the winter it snowed more often that the big city to it’s south and in the summer we had a nice lake to fish in, in the fall we had high school football, in the spring dry clear weather; I was comfortable. But God was not, at least not with me. Comfort is a difficult theological discussion, as it has been my experience that when we get comfortable, we get lax in our religious responsibilities. On the other hand, when we are not comfortable, whether by disease or poverty, we are quite persistent in prayer and our religious obligations. God began to introduce change into my life with the big box of change, just as in the sermon (I will post it via podcast) I gave at Good Shepherd. God laid the box on my doorstep, I picked it up, brought the box in the house and quickly put it in the closet. I could not change! I had a mortgage and kids in school. I had a beautiful church and great people within. But I knew what was in the box, I was simply too afraid to open it.
A year passed, and along came a surprise, St. Peter and St. Paul became open. This was a church that I had some history with, my wife was confirmed there. Fr. Hightower was a priest I enjoyed and went to for advise from time to time. This was also a parish closer to my family in Fort Worth. But with all this, I still decided not to enter the search. It was not until several priests and the bishop recommended that I enter the search, that I decided maybe this was the change God had in the box. (still had not opened it, but surely this was the content!) You see, in Wichita Falls I could not play much of a role in the diocese, I was removed by 120 miles and in a relatively small church. Being the rector of one of the biggest would give me a voice; maybe God has called me to help fix the “so called” Anglican Communion and help right the diocese in the process. Looking back, this idea was absurd, (not to mention prideful) and recent history proved that clearly.
Firstly, the thought that clergy would listen to me simply because I was a rector of a large place was, again, absurd. The clergy of the diocese, with few exceptions, are either comfortable protestants or simply too afraid or too comfortable to rock the boat. Secondly, there is the issue of the management of the church. At Good Shepherd, and the three missions I pastored before that, people would question and yes even complain about my leadership. I worked on these concerns with a pastoral approach, and usually in these issues we could find middle ground. But it wasn’t until StP2 that people actually started working against me. What I found, through conversation with other clergy, this is more the rule than the exception. There is always fighting in the Anglican Church. The only time it stops is in spirts of growth (rare, but in StP2, 1995-2005) or long term rectors that simply wield the power to quiet the opposition.
As I first entered St. Stephen Catholic here in Weatherford, I saw, to my surprise, my cousin. She also was shocked at my attendance, and afterwards we spoke. She said that even though she was a cradle Episcopalian and made the transition to ACNA, she was just tired of the constant fighting. This was as much of a reassurance from God as I could get.
Anglicanism has what I consider a crucial and fatal fault, there is no leadership. In the early days the king and queen provided the leadership, a practice that was and is debatable but the leadership was there. Without leadership, Anglicanism has turned it’s back on the sacraments, and nobody in purple wants to hear this fact, much less work to fix it. It is my belief that Anglicanism will be a two sacrament church very soon, as is proven by the infamous words in the Anglican catechism, “Other rites and institutions commonly called sacraments include confirmation, absolution, ordination, marriage, and anointing of the sick. These are sometimes called the sacraments of the Church”. Many in the Anglican Church did not know that their marriage was not sacramental, but simply a rite, an agreement entered by two people. Ordination is simply commissioning, confession heard but not truly absolved, confirmation held simply to welcome a 14 year old into the church, anointing simply oil seared on the forehead. All these “so called” sacraments nothing but window dressing with nothing behind them. Once we wrap our minds around this reality we can instantly see the true peril that is to come in boldly removing sacraments from the life of the Church. Once the “sometimes called” sacraments are jettisoned, the Eucharist and baptism will soon after become services, taking out all sacramental language completely. There will be the occasional Oxford movement priest in small isolated churches, but they will stand alone; and alone is not Christianity. Anglicanism simply can’t overcome the worldly pride of their leadership, as God calls for humility.
So it is time to come home. Whether we like to admit it or not, we all come from what in the modern world is known as Roman Catholicism. A place where the sacraments will always be celebrated, and disagreements are remedied by a holy magisterium, placed here by God to care for His Church. We can put down our political handbooks and cease to worry about what “those bishops” are doing on the east coast. We can now simply worship. Amen.