16th Provincial Synod (2005)

Grand Rapids, Michigan. October 26, 2005

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

'I am optimistic about our Church.' With those ringing words the then Bishop John Thayer Cahoon, Jr., encouraged us years ago at the beginning of a Provincial Synod when we had many worldly reasons to be discouraged and pessimistic. I repeat those words today when we have much more cause to be optimistic.

We may repeat Bishop Cahoon's reasons for optimism, which still apply to us today. The Anglican Catholic Church continues to enjoy the great strengths of our Anglican patrimony. We have the Authorized Version of the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. Together these are not only compelling literary and cultural monuments, but also provide us with an almost uniquely well-balanced spirituality. In some Christian bodies the Bible is loosed from tradition and from the praying Church. Of these bodies the great Richard Hooker wrote:

When they and their Bibles were alone together, what strange fantastical opinion soever at any time entered into their heads, their use was to think the Spirit taught it them. (Laws, Preface, VTII.7)

The Prayer Book in contrast provides an anchor, an objective interpretative lens, and a prayerful setting for traditional and orthodox interpretation of Scripture. In other Christian bodies the sacraments have been loosed from Scripture and its constant fertilizing influence. Scripture is neglected and the jewel of the Eucharist is pried loose from its golden setting in a round of offices centered on the systematic reading of Psalms and Scripture. But for us the sacraments are truly Scripture so prayed and read and presented as to be a large part of the sacramental form through which God pours forth his grace into our world. In short, our tradition has an almost perfect balance of Bible and sacrament. When we add to the Bible as presented in and with the Prayer Book our Anglican patrimony of architecture, music, literature, and spirituality, we have formidable strengths indeed.

Of course there are others who have to a greater or lesser degree also preserved the integrity of the Anglican patrimony. But Bishop Cahoon reminded us in Norfolk and elsewhere that the Anglican Catholic Church was - and I believe remains - unique among the Churches and ecclesial bodies that flowed from the Congress of Saint Louis in that we have always had a truly lawful and collegial Church government. We are a Church of law which is capable of calling even a metropolitan or bishop to account for lawless behavior. And we are Church with a College of Bishops which has never been a mere creature of a single leader or of a dominating person or two.

Psalm cxxxiii, verse 3 reads, Jerusalem is built as a city that is at unity in itself. If we may assume for ourselves the figure of Jerusalem, then we are today more than ever, I think, built as a city that is at unity in itself. Of course there are differences of opinion amongst us. None of these, however, seems to trouble our fundamental unity or internal peace. We differ about the amount of resources that it is prudent for our First World Churches to send to our poorer brethren. We differ in secondary and tertiary matters of rite and ceremony. We have debated the advisability of authorizing the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. We have debated the wisdom of omitting the filioque clause. None of these matters is fundamental, and I cannot conceive of us ever proceeding in a manner that did not carry with it a strong consensus approaching unanimity. We will either tolerate inessential differences of opinion, or we will wait until God brings us to a united mind and a common understanding. On all essential matters where agreement is necessary, our formularies already are clear and unambiguous. On all others, we pursue consensus and respect differences and tender consciences. And so our Church as it at unity in itself.

It is from this position of internal unity and harmony that we turn to the wider Jerusalem that lies outside our door. One of the blessings of our tradition is that no sane Anglican could ever imagine that the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church was or is strictly coterminous with the old Canterbury Communion in the days of its relative orthodoxy or with the Anglican Catholic Church today. The very idea is laughable. Therefore, we have always known that the pursuit of unity in the Church will involve others not like us, and that in turn requires of us humility. We know in the memorable words of Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher that we have no Faith of our own, but only that of the undivided Church. We may say with Michael Ramsey that the fact of the continuing witness of the great Orthodox Churches renders the more exclusive forms of Roman claims simply implausible. Likewise the massive fact of the great Roman Church renders the triumphalist claims of some Orthodox similarly implausible. Our own Church stands as at least a small witness to the importance of consensus as a sign of Catholicity. Jerusalem, indeed, is built as a city that is at unity itself. Jerusalem is united, and where consensus is absent, Jerusalem is not yet perfectly discerned. Insofar as we participate in the essence that Rome and Orthodoxy share with one another, we are both catholic and orthodox and are at one with the heart of our Lord. Insofar as Rome and Orthodoxy differ, we are at liberty in a sadly divided Christian world, but in that very division find another justification for our own tradition that makes our separate existence tolerable and even necessary for now.

Against such optimistic observations the obvious objection is that we are sectarian. That is, some say, we are pursuing a kind of perfectionism that reduces us to a minuscule remnant. Therefore, the argument goes, we should surrender some of our scruples and hurry onto the Barque of Peter or swim the Bosphorus. Others argue that we should merge quickly with other so-called Continuing Anglicans or with the more conservative elements of the old Anglican Communion so as to reconstitute ourselves as a more plausible entity, as a kind of much reduced traditionalist new Anglican Communion. To these arguments I answer with this simple assertion: We may not do any of these things. Any Anglican who can be a Roman Catholic or an Eastern Orthodox ought to become such immediately. There is no reason to go through what we have to go through if one can in good conscience be a Roman or an Easterner. But we cannot, for good reasons.

As for quickly merging with others in a way that compromises some of our principles, that way lies death. The only justification for continuing Anglicanism is its integrity, and that integrity is guaranteed by our firm determination, expressed clearly in the Affirmation of Saint Louis and our Fundamental Declaration, to situate ourselves irrevocably within the central Tradition of Christendom. All Anglican formularies are understood by the Affirmation and by our Church through the lens of the central Tradition. That Tradition is found in the Fathers and the Seven Councils and in the consensus of East and West, both ancient and modem and living still. In this light, the central problem of ECUS A is not Gene Robinson or an error concerning any particular matter. Rather the central problem with ECUS A is a decision, decades old, that the central Tradition of Christendom is at the disposal of a Church convention. It is not. The Affirmation and our ACC formularies firmly, decisively, and forever reject doctrinal ambiguity, comprehensiveness, or the attempt to make our

peculiarities a decisive hermeneutical principle. We are NOT Anglicans first and Christians or Catholics second. We ARE members of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church first, and Anglicans second. We will vigorously pursue unity with all others who share this central belief. No unity is possible with those who do not share it.

This view is not sectarian. On the contrary, it is the direct opposite of sectarianism. For we have abandoned all sectarian, provincial ideas that separate us from the central consensus of the Tradition of the great Churches. We take seriously, and systematically are implementing in our Church life, Archbishop Fisher's assertion: we have no faith of our own.

And so, our ecclesial home is built as a city that is at unity in itself and that is profoundly and essentially open to unity with all of those who share our love for and devotion to the great and central Tradition of Christendom. Where from this starting point God will lead us, only time will tell. In the meanwhile, we rejoice in our peace, unity, and internal harmony. And we rest content in the knowledge that the great catastrophe suffered by late 20* Anglicanism has brought us this one, great, priceless blessing: we are explicitly and self-consciously and irrevocably at one with the central Tradition of the Church. Thanks be to God.

Glory be to the Undivided Trinity. Glory be to Jesus Christ on his throne of glory in heaven and in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar. Peace be to the Holy Churches of God. May God forgive us our sins, which are many and great. May God give us true humility and unshaken fidelity and great love. May God bring our Church to glorious days and may he bring us to unity with all his holy people.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.