Mind in the Heart

Exploring an Orthodox Christian Worldview

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Location: Madison, AL

I am a former Anglican Priest (REC) who has recently converted to the Orthodox Church.

Monday, December 11, 2006

This Blog is Moving

I am moving this blog to wordpress because I can organize my posts and do somethings that I am not able to do on blogger. So the new blog address for Mind in the Heart is http://josephpatterson.wordpress.com/ .

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Fr. John Whiteford's blog

Another good Orthodox blog is Fr. John Whiteford's blog. Fr. John has written a very good critique of sola scriptura. Click on the title above to go to Fr. John's blog and click here to read his article on solascriptura .

Saint Ambrose, Bishop of Mediolanum (Milan)

"This great holy father of the Orthodox Church was of eminent birth. His father was the imperial deputy of Gaul and Spain and was a pagan by faith, but his mother was a Christian. While he was still in the cradle, a swarm of bees settled on him, poured honey onto his lips, and flew away. And while still a child, he extended his hand and spoke prophetically: ``Kiss it, for I will be a bishop.'' After his father's death, the emperor appointed him as his representative in the province of Liguria, of which Milan was the chief city. When the bishop of Milan died, a great dispute arose between the Orthodox Christians and the Arian heretics concerning the election of a new bishop. Ambrose entered the church to maintain order, this being his duty. At that moment, a child at its mother's bosom exclaimed: ``Ambrose for bishop!'' All the people took this as the voice of God, and unanimously elected Ambrose as their bishop, contrary to his will. Ambrose was baptized, passed through all the necessary ranks and was consecrated to the episcopacy, all within a week. As bishop, Ambrose strengthened the Orthodox Faith, suppressed the heretics, adorned churches, spread the Faith among the pagans, wrote many instructive books, and served as an example of a true Christian and a true Christian shepherd. He composed the famous hymn ``We Praise Thee, O God.'' This glorious hierarch, whom men visited from distant lands for his wisdom and sweetness of words, was very restrained, diligent and vigilant. He slept very little, labored and prayed constantly, and fasted every day except Saturday and Sunday. Therefore, God allowed him to witness many of His miracles and to perform miracles himself. He discovered the relics of the Holy Martyrs Protasius, Gervasius, Nazarius and Celsus (October 14). Meek toward lesser men, he was fearless before the great. He reproached Empress Justina as a heretic, cursed Maximus the tyrant and murderer, and forbade Emperor Theodosius to enter a church until he had repented of his sin. He also refused to meet with Eugenius, the tyrannical and self-styled emperor. God granted this man, so pleasing to Him, such grace that he even raised the dead, drove out demons from men, healed the sick of every infirmity, and foresaw the future. Ambrose died peacefully on the morning of Pascha in the year 397."- Prologue of Ohrid

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker

This glorious saint, celebrated even today throughout the entire world, was the only son of his eminent and wealthy parents, Theophanes and Nona, citizens of the city of Patara in Lycia. Since he was the only son bestowed on them by God, the parents returned the gift to God by dedicating their son to Him. St. Nicholas learned of the spiritual life from his uncle Nicholas, Bishop of Patara, and was tonsured a monk in the Monastery of New Zion founded by his uncle. Following the death of his parents, Nicholas distributed all his inherited goods to the poor, not keeping anything for himself. As a priest in Patara, he was known for his charity, even though he carefully concealed his charitable works, fulfilling the words of the Lord: Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth (Matthew 6:3). When he gave himself over to solitude and silence, thinking to live that way until his death, a voice from on high came to him: "Nicholas, for your ascetic labor, work among the people, if thou desirest to be crowne.'' Immediately after that, by God's wondrous providence, he was chosen archbishop of the city of Myra in Lycia. Merciful, wise and fearless, Nicholas was a true shepherd to his flock. During the persecution of Christians under Diocletian and Maximian, he was cast into prison, but even there he instructed the people in the Law of God. He was present at the First Ecumenical Council of Nicaea [325] and, out of great zeal for the truth, struck the heretic Arius with his hand. For this act he was removed from the Council and from his archiepiscopal duties, until the Lord Christ Himself and the Most-holy Theotokos appeared to several of the chief hierarchs and revealed their approval of Nicholas. A defender of God's truth, this wonderful saint was ever bold as a defender of justice among the people. On two occasions, he saved three men from an undeserved sentence of death. Merciful, truthful, and a lover of justice, he walked among the people as an angel of God. Even during his lifetime, the people considered him a saint and invoked his aid in difficulties and in distress. He appeared both in dreams and in person to those who called upon him, and he helped them easily and speedily, whether close at hand or far away. A light shone from his face as it did from the face of Moses, and he, by his presence alone, brought comfort, peace and good will among men. In old age he became ill for a short time and entered into the rest of the Lord, after a life full of labor and very fruitful toil, to rejoice eternally in the Kingdom of Heaven, continuing to help the faithful on earth by his miracles and to glorify his God. He entered into rest on December 6, 343. In truth you were revealed to your flock as a rule of faith,an image of humility and a teacher of abstinence;your humility exalted you;your poverty enriched you. Hierarch Father Nicholas, entreat Christ our God that our souls may be saved. You revealed yourself, O saint, in Myra as a priest,For you fulfilled the Gospel of ChristBy giving up your soul for your people,And saving the innocent from death.Therefore you are blessed as one become wise in the grace of God.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What do the Orthodox mean by Catholic?

As an Anglican I defined Catholic as universal. When I came across the Orthodox definition of Catholic as fullness it transformed the way I looked at the church. If Catholic means fullness then it is impossible for a church to be both Catholic and schismatic as the Anglican Branch theory holds. The following is from Fr. Thomas Hopko's series 'The Orthodox Faith". Catholic Church -"The Church is also catholic because of its relation to God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The word catholic means full, complete, whole, with nothing lacking. God alone is full and total reality; in God alone is there nothing lacking. Sometimes the catholicity of the Church is understood in terms of the Church's universality throughout time and space. While it is true that the Church is universal -- for all men at all times and in all places -- this universality is not the real meaning of the term "catholic" when it is used to define the Church. The term "catholic" as originally used to define the Church (as early as the first decades of the second century) was a definition of quality rather than quantity. Calling the Church catholic means to define how it is, namely, full and complete, all-embracing, and with nothing lacking. Even before the Church was spread over the world, it was defined as catholic. The original Jerusalem Church of the apostles, or the early city-churches of Antioch, Ephesus, Corinth, or Rome, were catholic. These churches were catholic -- as is each and every Orthodox church today -- because nothing essential was lacking for them to be the genuine Church of Christ. God Himself is fully revealed and present in each church through Christ and the Holy Spirit, acting in the local community of believers with its apostolic doctrine, ministry (hierarchy), and sacraments, thus requiring nothing to be added to it in order for it to participate fully in the Kingdom of God. To believe in the Church as catholic, therefore, is to express the conviction that the fullness of God is present in the Church and that nothing of the "abundant life" that Christ gives to the world in the Spirit is lacking to it (Jn 10:10). It is to confess exactly that the Church is indeed "the fullness of him who fills all in all" (Eph 1:23; also Col 2:10). "

Monday, December 04, 2006

Saint John Damascene

John was first the chief minister to Caliph Abdul-Malik and later a monk in the Monastery of St. Sava the Sanctified. Because of his ardent defense of the veneration of icons during the reign of the iconoclastic Emperor Leo the Isaurian, John was maligned by the emperor to the Caliph, who cut off his right hand. John fell down in prayer before the icon of the Most-holy Theotokos, and his hand was rejoined and miraculously healed. Seeing this miracle the Caliph repented, but John no longer desired to remain with him as a nobleman. Instead, he withdrew to a monastery, where, from the beginning, he was a model to the monks in humility, obedience and all the prescribed rules of monastic asceticism. John composed the Funeral Hymns and compiled the Octoechos (The Book of Eight Tones), the Irmologion, the Menologion and the Paschal Canon, and he wrote many theological works of inspiration and profundity. A great monk, hymnographer, theologian and soldier for the truth of Christ, Damascene is numbered among the great Fathers of the Church. He entered peacefully into rest in about the year 776 at the age of 104.- The Prologue of Ohrid You can read St. John Damascene's work An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith by clicking on this link .

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Energetic Procession

Photius Jones and Perry Robinson's blog is back up after several months of being revamped. This blog is not for the weak minded. Both of these bloggers are up and coming Orthodox scholars. Check Energetic Procession out by clicking the above title.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Saint Philaret the Almsgiver

"Philaret was from the village of Amnia in Paphlagonia. Early in life, Philaret was a very wealthy man, but by distributing abundant alms to the poor he himself became extremely poor. However, he was not afraid of poverty, and, not heeding the complaints of his wife and children, he continued his charitable works with hope in God, Who said: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7). Once, while he was plowing in the field, a man came to him and complained that one of his oxen had died in the harness and that he was unable to plow with only one ox. Philaret then unharnessed one of his oxen and gave it to him. He even gave his remaining horse to a man who was summoned to go to war. He gave away the calf of his last cow, and when he saw how the cow pined for her missing calf, and the calf for the cow, he called the man and gave him the cow too. And thus the aged Philaret was left without food in an empty house. But he prayed to God and placed his hope in Him. And God did not abandon the righteous one to be put to shame in his hope. At that time the Empress Irene reigned with her young son, Constantine. According to the custom of that time, the empress sent men throughout the whole empire to seek the best and most distinguished maiden to whom she could wed her son, the emperor. By God's providence, these men happened to stay overnight in Philaret's house, and they saw his most beautiful and modest granddaughter Maria, the daughter of his daughter Hypatia, and took her to Constantinople. The emperor was well pleased with her, married her, and moved Philaret and all his family to the capital, giving him great honors and riches. Philaret did not become proud as a result of this unexpected good fortune, but, thankful to God, he continued to perform good works even more than he had before, and thus he continued until his death. At the age of ninety he summoned his children, blessed them, and instructed them to cleave to God and to God's law, and with his clairvoyant spirit he prophesied to all of them how they would live out this life, as once had Jacob. After that he went to the Rodolfia Monastery and gave up his soul to God. At his death his face shone like the sun, and after his death an unusual, sweet fragrance came forth from his body and miracles took place at his relics. This righteous man entered into rest in the year 797. His wife, Theosevia, and all his children and grandchildren lived a God-pleasing life and reposed in the Lord."- The Prologue of Ohrid

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Anglican Branch Theory Part 3

Rome and Orthodoxy recognize that the visible expression of catholicity is eucharistic fellowship. If you don't share eucharistic fellowship, then how can you be in communion? If Anglicanism is catholic and Rome and Orthodoxy refuse to recognize Anglican catholicity then Rome and Orthodoxy are schismatic and not catholic which would leave Anglicanism as the exclusive catholic church which is something she has never claimed. The branch theory claims that the church is in schism but can the catholic church be in schism? Can Christ be divided? The branch theory really is Gnostic in the sense that the theory denies that the church is visibly one as Christ is visibly one. This visible oneness is experienced in the eucharistic fellowship of the one Catholic church. The fact that this visible oneness is not expressed in the branch theory troubled me as an Anglican. I was teaching my parish that we were catholic and yet I had a hard time understanding how that was without explaining it in a Gnostic way. Also, not all Anglicans hold to the branch theory and many evangelical Anglicans still hold that Rome and Orthodoxy practice idolatry and even hold heretical beliefs because of Rome and Orthodoxy's denial of the sola's of the reformation. After considering all of this I concluded that Anglicanism does not have a definition of catholicity but many definitions of catholicity. I started to ask what do we mean when we confess that the church is one and catholic in the Nicene Creed? What did the Fathers of the Nicene Creed mean when they said that the church was One and Catholic? I don't think they meant anything like the Anglican schismatic theories of catholicity. These questions and the lack of Anglican answers really troubled my soul. Orthodoxy understands the Catholic church to be visibly one which seemed to be more consistent with the intent of what is expressed in the Nicene Creed.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Another Orthodox Blog

I have recently discovered another good Orthodox blog by an Orthodox priest. His recent post on the Pope's visit with the Ecumenical Patriarch is very interesting. Click on the title above to go to the blog "Second Terrace".

A Must Read

I think one of the best things to read on the net is Fr. Stephen Freeman's blog. His most recent blog post is exactly what I have been thinking about recently. Fr. Stephen says, "Thus, the best advice you can give someone with regard to the Orthodox faith is: “Go to Church.” It is the Church that St. Paul calls the “Pillar and Ground of the Truth.” The internet is a wonderful tool. It can even function to give us the Scriptures electronically. Blogs can be nice. But none of them are the Church. Here you may read and by God’s grace good things will happen. But blogs will not give you the Body and Blood of Christ. Blogs cannot anoint you. Go to Church. Say your prayers. Remember God. And remember to pray for bloggers. " Read more of his recent post by clicking the title above.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The Anglican Branch Theory Part 2

The branch theory is one Anglican attempt at explaining how the Anglican Church is Catholic. (There are other views but they would deny the office of Bishop as part of the essence of catholicity.) This theory kept me in the Anglican Church for years because it was important to me that I was linked to the Church of Jesus Christ and His apostles in a visible way. I also thought it was great that the Anglican definition included Rome and Orthodoxy even though Rome and Orthodoxy excluded all of the other branches. One problem that I encountered when trying to work out this theory was that it simply does not work. The Roman Catholic Church bases her catholicity on the papacy. If a church is in communion with the Pope of Rome then that church is considered Catholic. The Orthodox Church claims that the churches must hold to the fullness of the faith and must be in communion with the Patriarchs in order to be Catholic. According to Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism has added to the apostolic faith and has broken communion with the other patriarchs and is not catholic. A church can have a line of apostolic success from the apostles and still not be Catholic because she would lack apostolic fellowship and faith. So Rome and Orthodoxy claim to be the exclusive Catholic church and they have different criteria for determining who is and who is not Catholic. Rome and Orthodoxy hold that these criteria are essentials of the Catholic faith. The branch theory claims that the criterion for catholicity is simply a faithful apostolic line of succession. According to this theory, since Anglicanism, Orthodoxy and Rome all share apostolic succession then all three make up the one Catholic Church. The Anglican definition is just as exclusive as the Roman Catholic and Orthodox ones. The Anglican criteria exclude Rome’s and Orthodoxy’s essentials of catholicity for her own. When Anglicans, Orthodox, and Rome confess the Nicene Creed during the liturgy they are not confessing the same thing since they do not mean the same thing when they confess Catholic. The Universalist claims to include all religions but really excludes all religions by their denial of the essentials of all religions such as Christianity’s claim that Jesus Christ is the exclusive way of salvation. I came to see the Anglican claim of an inclusive catholicity to be similar to the Universalist claim to include all religions. The problem is that the Anglican Church excludes the Roman Catholic and Orthodox essentials in order to be able to include them. This fact hit me while confessing the Nicene Creed one Sunday morning. Part 3 to come next.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Definition of the Branch Theory

…the theory that, though the Church may have fallen into schism within itself and its several provinces or groups of provinces be out of communion with each other, each may yet be a branch of the one Church of Christ, provided that it continues to hold the faith of the original undivided Church and to maintain the Apostolic Succession of its bishops. Such, it is contended by many Anglican theologians, is the condition of the Church at the present time, there being now three main branches, the Roman, the Eastern, and the Anglican Communions… From the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church

The Anglican Branch Theory

"The visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same." (Article 19 "Of the Church")
The 39 Articles of Religion are held by some Anglicans as containing the boundaries of Anglican theology. Some Anglican theologians have argued that the 39 Articles do not have binding authority and that some of the articles are even contrary to the apostolic faith. As an Anglican priest, I always struggled with the apparent vagueness of the 39 Articles. Article 19 quoted above is one such article. The article basically defines the visable church is where "the pure Word is preached" and "as one that administers the sacraments according to Christ's ordinance". Some have said that the "pure Word" includes the doctrine of justification by faith only (article 11) which would exclude the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches from being part of the visible church. Others have said that the "pure Word" simply means the Nicene creed which immediately brings to mind the controversy of the filiouque clause (article 5). Some have said that the article refers to the sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion as the sacraments that define the church as opposed to the 7 sacraments that the council of Trent articulates. Other Anglican commentators on the 39 Articles have said that the 19th article implies Bishops as being necessary for valid sacraments. If this is what the article means then it would exclude the validity of most Protestant sacraments because they do not have an apostolic succession of the episcopate but many Anglicans are just unwilling to affirm that. So the 19th article can include all Protestant churches and exclude Rome and Orthodoxy or it could include Rome and Orthodoxy as sharers in apostolic succession and exclude most Protestant churches. The latter does not seem to fit with the historical context of the 39 Articles since the 39 Articles seem to be in part a response to Roman Catholic errors. In the 19th century the Oxford movement began to explain the catholic church in terms of a tree with branches.They said apostolic succession is what allows a church to claim catholicity. So the three branches on the catholic tree are the Anglican Church, the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. The Anglicans believe apostolic succession to be an episcopal form of government with a proven line of succession from the apostles to present day bishops. I had learned about this theory in seminary but I never grasped the meaning of it until I read Vernon Staley's book The Catholic Religion. I wanted to be catholic without excluing Rome and Orthodoxy so I thought it was a good way to explain how the Anglican Church is catholic and yet lacks unity with the other two branches. I was comfortable with this theory for a while until one day in the middle of the liturgy it hit me that the church was one which means undivided, yet the branch theory holds that the church is divided. It later occured to me that the branch theory of the church cannot be found as a way the historic apostolic church understood catholicity so that would make the branch theory not catholic but merely a creation of the Oxford Movement. I next want to explore next how the branch theory became unworkable for me.

The Entry into the Temple of the Most-holy Theotokos

When the Most-holy Virgin Mary reached the age of three, her holy parents Joachim and Anna took her from Nazareth to Jerusalem to dedicate her to the service of God according to their earlier promise. It was a three-day journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem but, traveling to do a God-pleasing work, this journey was not difficult for them. Many kinsmen of Joachim and Anna gathered in Jerusalem to take part in this event, at which the invisible angels of God were also present. Leading the procession into the Temple were virgins with lighted tapers in their hands, then the Most-holy Virgin, led on one side by her father and on the other side by her mother. The virgin was clad in vesture of royal magnificence and adornments as was befitting the ``King's daughter, the Bride of God'' (Psalm 45:13-15). Following them were many kinsmen and friends, all with lighted tapers. Fifteen steps led up to the Temple. Joachim and Anna lifted the Virgin onto the first step, then she ran quickly to the top herself, where she was met by the High Priest Zacharias, who was to be the father of St. John the Forerunner. Taking her by the hand, he led her not only into the Temple, but into the ``Holy of Holies,'' the holiest of holy places, into which no one but the high priest ever entered, and only once each year, at that. St. Theophylact of Ohrid says that Zacharias ``was outside himself and possessed by God'' when he led the Virgin into the holiest place in the Temple, beyond the second curtain-otherwise, his action could not be explained. Mary's parents then offered sacrifice to God according to the Law, received the priest's blessing and returned home. The Most-holy Virgin remained in the Temple and dwelt there for nine full years. While her parents were alive, they visited her often, especially Righteous Anna. When God called her parents from this world, the Most-holy Virgin was left an orphan and did not wish to leave the Temple until death or to enter into marriage. As that would have been against the Law and custom of Israel, she was given to St. Joseph, her kinsman in Nazareth, after reaching the age of twelve. Under the acceptable role of one betrothed, she could live in virginity and thus fulfill her desire and formally satisfy the Law, for it was then unknown in Israel for maidens to vow virginity to the end of their lives. The Most-holy Virgin Mary was the first of such life-vowed virgins, of the thousands and thousands of virgin men and women who would follow her in the Church of Christ.- The Prologue of Ohrid

Thursday, November 16, 2006

An Anglican Seminary, Bp. Grafton and St. Tikhon

I will post some of my thoughts concerning the "Anglican Branch Theory" next week. One of my favorite American Anglican bishops was Bp. Charles Grafton who was very good friends with St. Tikhon. Bp. Grafton was very sympathetic to the Orthodox Church and her teachings. The following link is to a very good article on St. Tikhon's visit to Nashota House in the early 1900's. http://anglicanhistory.org/orthodoxy/hatfield.pdf

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

St. Gregory Palamas

"Gregory's father was an eminent official at the court of Emperor Andronicus II Palaeologus. The gifted Gregory, completing his secular studies, did not want to enter the service of the imperial court, but withdrew to the Holy Mountain and was tonsured a monk. He lived a life of asceticism in the Monastery of Vatopedi and the Great Lavra. He led the struggle against the heretic Barlaam and finally defeated him. He was consecrated as Metropolitan of Thessalonica in the year 1347. He is glorified as an ascetic, a theologian, a hierarch and a miracle-worker. The Most-holy Theotokos, St. John the Theologian, St. Demetrius, St. Anthony the Great, St. John Chrysostom and angels of God appeared to him at different times. He governed the Church in Thessalonica for thirteen years, of which he spent one year in slavery under the Saracens in Asia. He entered peacefully into rest in the year 1360, and took up his habitation in the Kingdom of Christ. His relics repose in Thessalonica, where a beautiful church is dedicated to him."- The Prologue from Ohrid

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi is Latin for the law of prayer is the law of belief or paraphrased your prayer forms your belief. This idea was hammered home to me in seminary. It is probably the most important thing that I took away from my seminary education. I wanted my beliefs to be formed through my praying of the Anglican liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer (BCP). Many of the prayers have roots in the ancient liturgies with a few Protestant revisions made by the prayerbook's compiler Thomas Cranmer. The prayerbook struggles in a few places it is intentionally vague but the overall ethos that one gains from praying daily praying the prayers in the BCP is a very ancient one. If one prays these prayers often, I believe it will form in them with a very Benedictine ethos. As many of you know St. Benedict's Rule is rooted in the tradition of the Desert Fathers. So the closest thing in Anglicanism to Orthodoxy is her liturgy. The Anglican liturgy formed my beliefs and ethos more than any theological book ever did. It was through my daily praying of the BCP that prepared my very being for a conversion to Orthodoxy. It was often during my praying of the liturgy that theological doctrines would become clear to me. One day during Holy Communion at Holy Cross we were confessing the Nicene Creed when it hit me that the church is "one and catholic". What did we mean that the Catholic church is one? I had thought about this before but all of the sudden in the middle of the liturgy it hit me that my branch theory understanding of this is problematic. In my next post I want to explore the "Anglican branch theory" and what I, as an Anglican, believed about how the one church is catholic.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

An Excellent Read

I have been reading this biography of over 1000 pages in my free time. I had no idea that Fr. Seraphim was such an intellectual. Also, this biography has many good pictures of Fr. Seraphim and those who influenced him. "This epic biography of Hieromonk Seraphim Rose tells the unique story of a man who, having grown up in a typical American home in southern California, became one of the greatest teachers of Orthodox Christianity in our times, loved and revered throughout Russia and Eastern Europe. Quoting at length from his letters, journals, manuscripts, recorded lectures and published writings, this book traces Fr. Seraphim’s intense search for truth and his philosophical development, setting forth his message and offering a glimpse into the soul of a man who lived, even while on this earth, in the otherworldly Kingdom of God".

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Quotation from Fr. Seraphim Rose

"Orthodoxy is better than Bach!"- Fr. Seraphim Rose

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Orthodox Ecclesiology

I think the best Orthodox blog is Fr. Stephen Freeman's "Glory to God for All Things". His recent post on the "Pillar and Ground of Truth" is a good one. Also read his piece on St. Isaac of Syria. Well, just read his whole blog. http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2006/11/02/the-pillar-and-ground-of-truth/

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Lutheran Pastor to Convert to Orthodoxy

Lutheran pastor John Fenton shares a statement of resignation on his blog "Conversi ad Dominum". It is a painful process to give up your parish ministry and your career so please pray for pastor Fenton and his family as they travel along the difficult but joyful path to Orthodoxy. Click title above to read his blog.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Dreaded Declaration of Principles

I always struggled with the Reformed Episcopal Church's founding document called the "Declaration of Principles". This document was put forth by the founders of the REC as a document that would protect the church from Anglo-catholic errors and it was not to be changed. However, all the things that this document denied, we taught and practiced. I never even mentioned these founding "Declaration of Principles" to Holy Cross parish in Alpine because I knew they were contrary to what we believed as Biblical and catholic truth. I always felt pulled between the true Apostolic faith and what the REC had as a founding document. This was another instance where the beliefs of the parish were not rooted in the church but instead were dependant on the priest. This is an awful position for a parish and a priest to be in. So I began to think, Holy Cross could stay in the REC and continue to be contrary to the REC's foundational beliefs or join the Orthodox church where we would share a common foundation.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Plurality of Anglican Theology

One theologian that explains the theological history of Anglican theology really well is Aidan Nichols who has written, "The theology of the English Reformers was built on both Lutheran and Calvinist foundations, yet it was never systematically either Lutheran or Calvinist. Partly from conviction but mostly from political necessity their theology was poured into an institutional mould which retained large elements of a Catholic structure. As a result, when, in the reign of Elizabeth, a reflective Anglican consciousness emerges, it sees itself not as a straightforward continuation of the Continental Reformation, but as a 'via media.' The history of Anglican pluralism derives from the intrinsic difficulty of defining such a via media, and from the resultant need to leave wide open a wide latitude in the construing of doctrine. Thus the via media idea, intended as a unifiying force for Anglicanism, tended to be disintegrating in practice. It could be used in a classically Protestant direction or in a Catholic direction; or yet again in a Latitudinarian direction—on the grounds that where so much is unclear, little should be insisted on. Again, Anglicans may despair of via media and take refuge either in Anglo-Catholicism [giving it a much larger keel of Tradition for a heaving ship- PMB] or in the idea of Western [Eastern?] Orthodoxy, in each case accepting that the supreme norm for Anglican faith and practice should be provided from outside Anglicanism—either from Rome or Constantinople. Finally, Anglicans may choose to regard the incoherences (yet riches) of their own Church as simply a microcosm of those of Christianity world-wide. In this case they will argue that Anglicanism has no distinctive contribution to make to the coming Great Church [an Anglican ecumenical and eschatological idea of the Church—PMB]: its destiny is to disappear, its triumph will be its dissolution."- From The Panther and the Hind by Aidan Nichols p. xix-xx.

Considering Western Rite Orthodoxy

Our desire at Holy Cross Anglican Church (REC) was to build a church that would be around until the second coming of Jesus Christ. We were convinced theologically that ancient, Biblical Christianity was sacramental at her core and we wanted to pass on to our children and the town of Alpine, TX a sacramental worldview. As I began to think about the future of Holy Cross and what exactly I was doing there, it occurred to me that this sacramental worldview could be shattered by the next priest that came to Holy Cross after me since Anglicanism is not sacramental at her core. The Anglican church allows room for both sacramental and non-sacramental theologies to exist side by side within the same church. For example, there are priests or ministers that understand Holy Communion to be a mere symbol, like J.C. Ryle, and others who understand it to be the very body and blood of Christ like Edward Pusey. Ryle and Pusey hold two theologies that are totally the opposite of each other and yet they are both Anglican theologians. I began to see that within the Anglican world there was no way to guarantee a continuation of a sacramental worldview because of the plurality of theologies within Anglicanism which has always been part of the character of Anglican theology from the beginning. About this time I remembered hearing about the Orthodox Church allowing the use of the Western Rite. Western-rite Orthodox Churches use the liturgy of St. Tikhon which is basically the Anglican liturgy (BCP) without the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed and a stronger wording that expresses the change of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. Since Orthodoxy is sacramental at her core and the Antiochian Orthodox church allows for the use of the same Anglican liturgy that we used every Sunday with good improvements, then I started thinking that this might be a more stable place for us to build a church that extends into the future for our children and their children. I also noticed that in our present Anglican situation that the sacramental worldview depended on the priest being sacramental and not the church. In other words, the foundation of each parish in Anglicanism seemed to be the priest and not the church. In Orthodoxy you have a sacramental worldview because the church at her core is sacramental. So I approached two leaders on our church council (Vestry) about looking into the possibilities of Holy Cross moving to the more consistent sacramental place of Orthodox Christianity. There are more reasons that I had for considering Orthodoxy that I will share in later posts.