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“Loyal to a church that has passed away”

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

These were the words of the DDO to whom I was sent when exploring my vocation to the priesthood in the CofE. These words with which my vocation was rejected have stuck with me. I wanted to be ordained, but I always knew that wanting to be ordained was not enough and so I resigned myself to wanting something I couldn’t have and stuck it out. When the CofE and I parted company I joined the ACC, and I joined it not because I wanted to be ordained, but because I believed in the principles on which the ACC stands. I was quite content in being the clumsy server in my new parish, however my vocation was discerned and here I am bearing a large burden with a little confraternity of priests.
 
I mention this because I came across this little comment on Fr Little’s blog.

I was a member of the ACC. All I experienced were a bunch of people who wanted to do things the same way they had been for 50 years. Or turn the church into a version of the RCC. Very little about how to reach new people for Christ. Just more of the same.
 
What do I hear in this comment? I hear something very similar to the now-retired DDO that convinced me that the CofE priesthood wasn’t for me – and for whose decision I am deeply grateful. He was about getting new people into the Church.
 
Of course, I am not belittling the need for outreach and evangelism but my problem lies with what we are inviting people into. This is the mistake that the CofE has made: it has become trendy like a dad dressing like a teenager in order to deepen the relationship with his children only to find out that he has pushed them away by embarrassing them. Of course, the Church should invite people to discover their salvation, but that salvation needs to be lived not just read about in the pages of Holy Scripture.
 
I have to sympathise with this commentator. I wouldn’t want to be part of a bunch of people who wanted to do things the same way they had been for 50 years. I find myself part of a bunch of people who want to do things the same way that they have been done in England since time immemorial. This is because we are part of a timeless Church: our worship needs to reach out across Time as well as Space. We need to be authentic to our roots that encompass our Scripture and the Tradition that interpret it. The only thing we can present is a Faith that is two thousand years old.
 
If the worship of the ACC looks superficially like that of the RCC then that is to be expected. We are hewn out of the same rock. Indeed, the CofE has a common heritage with the RCC, and we in the ACC have a common heritage with the CofE. Fr Little’s commentator seems to be one of those Protestants who believe Rome can do no good without realising that he has Rome to thank for the fact that he believes at all, especially if he is of a predominantly Western heritage. Somehow, I doubt that he is of an Eastern Orthodox persuasion given his predisposition to the “new”. That’s his choice and may God enrich him within it!
 
However, he has left a church that regards fashion with a distinct suspicion and rightly so. The evidence is quite damning in that Churches that have gone with the new in pursuit of new Christians have reported a marked decline at a rate faster than many more conservative churches.
 
As for ACNA, well, I believe it to be well intentioned. However, we’ve been there before and know that we need to get ourselves in line with orthodox doctrine – something that ACNA has yet to do. Fr Little and I belong to churches that have fought all this fight before and know where we stand. This is why both our jurisdictions are stable and, in fact growing. The reason is that we seek to present the World with the Faith once delivered to the Saints. That will necessarily look old fashioned and liturgically high because we see in our liturgy the necessity of excellence in order to bring to God whatever worship we believe that we are doing. That seems less like passing away and more like still being here!
 
The commentator left us because he refused to see this which means that either his parish weren’t doing things correctly with God at the centre of the Liturgy, or that God has drawn him to see things differently in which case we would like to see how he demonstrates that from Scripture, Tradition and Reason, or he is mistaken in his understanding. Whatever is correct, it is appropriate for us to pray that he – and we – may always be guided into the ways of God’s truth. One thing we do know, God does not contradict Himself, something that certain ecclesial bodies seem to have forgotten!

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