Thursday, June 29, 2006

to clarify / on being catholic

Here is the issue, with regard both to the dioceses seeking Alternative Primatial Oversight, as well (for example) with the letter from Bp. Louttit I posted below.

Recently, Bishop Griswold said about the dioceses seeking APO, that such seeking is “consistent with their implicit intention of walking apart from the Episcopal Church.”

I would agree. But here's the crux of the matter: what happens when the Episcopal Church is determined to walk apart from the Anglican Communion? Is it obvious that every bishop and every diocese is obliged likewise to walk with ECUSA apart from the Communion, and apart from the overwhelming majority of the rest of Christendom, in this matter?

The principle I am working with: our allegiance is to the undivided, universal Church, the mystical body of Christ. We must therefore submit our judgment, not to the most immediate institutional expression of the Church within which we find ourselves, but to the broadest institutional expression, the one most in accord with the whole Church. ("Catholic" / "kata holos" / "in accord with the whole.") When, therefore, ECUSA is at odds with the Communion, our allegiance must be to the Communion. When the Communion is at odds with the judgment of the undivided and Universal Church, our allegiance must be to the latter.

Another germane point, made by Father Thorpus in the comments on Bp. Louttit's letter (below) is that theologically we believe in three (major) orders: bishops, priests, and deacons. The fundamental, sacramental units constituting the One Church are jurisdictions under the oversight of bishops (i.e. dioceses), themselves constituted by parishes, etc. Bishops are the chief pastors of their dioceses. And the One Church is governed by the collegium of bishops. The rest (archdeacons, archbishops, primates, metropolitans, monsignors, cardinals, etc.) are accretions instituted by man (as opposed to the orders of bishops, priests and deacons instituted by God himself) for practical reasons. I'm not saying that archdeacons, metropolitans and the rest are BAD, I'm just saying that they weren't instituted by God, like the threefold apostolic ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons. Exceptions, in terms of honor, are those sees with apostolical foundations, Rome being preeminent among them, as is attested by the fathers of the Undivided Church, East and West, of the first millennium. But those preeminences are preeminences of honor. This is a point on which Anglicans, historically, have disagreed with Roman Catholics.

I'm sort of rambling now. But I'm still stuck in Alabama with little else to do. The main point I want to make is this: our institutional allegiance is to the broadest doctrinal expression of the One Church. That's a big part of what it means to be a "catholic" Christian. And that's the mistake I believe Bp. Louttit is (and other ECUSA bishops are) making by saying that they themselves personally believe the catholic teaching on human sexuality, but they submit their judgment to the ECUSA episcopal collegium. They (especially as bishops) are not bound by the ECUSA episcopal collegium when it is at odds with the Catholic episcopal collegium, as it now is with regard to sexual moral doctrine (as well, by the way, as it is with regard to the doctrines of Apostolic Order, i.e. the priesting of women).


Johnny Awesomo said...

Fr. WB,
You have never been more correct. Your blog has been especially entertaining as of late.

Jody said...

Fr. WB, I posted something related to this question a while ago and thought you might be interested. Basically, I'm saying something simmilar to you, but I think the history of the Episcopal Church (as well as the liberal's own support for local option) demonstrates that Bishops are the key to authority--where they sit or don't sit determines what Church body they are in... they simply need to have the gumption to sit somewhere other than with the current House of Bishops.

Seppuku Kid said...

Both Thorpus' comment and your post make more sense to me now. Thank you both for the clarification. I still think that patience is the key, but I believe that I overestimated the importance of national bodies in the hierarchy of the church.

Francois said...

Don't rule out a compromise either. There appears to be plenty of issues of compromise in this dialetic.