to the Synod of the Diocese of the Holy Cross
May 20, 2011, at St. Francis of Assisi, Spartanburg, SC
by the Rt. Rev. Paul C. Hewett, SSC
The Anglican Association again sends greetings through Canon Geoffrey Neal: “Please give our very best fraternal greetings to your Synod and ask for their prayers. We are working very hard to strengthen our witness and hope to learn more from the experience and suffering of our American brethren. For that reason we will be represented at the Forward in Faith Council and Assembly next month in Belleville, Illinois.” The Anglican Association is a think-tank in England which has given itself three tasks: promoting our patrimony, encouraging cooperation between evangelicals and catholics, and laying out what conciliar governance means for the Church.
We welcome today the Rt. Rev. Chandler Holder Jones, known affectionately by everyone as “Bishop Chad,” Rector of St. Barnabas, Dunwoody, GA and Suffragan Bishop of the Diocese of the Eastern US in the Anglican Province of America. He will be our Banquet Speaker this evening. We also welcome those clergy now licensed to serve in the Diocese: Father Jason Patterson, Rector of St. Andrew’s, Asheboro, NC, who will assisting us in Southern Pines, and Father Steven Lybrand in Phoenixville, PA, to assist at the Church of the Transfiguration. And we welcome as our honoured guest, Father James Hiles of St. Paul’s, Brockton, Massachusetts, who is hosting another big rally this All Saintstide.
Let us now remember before the throne of Grace our beloved clergy departed since the last Synod, William Alcuin Lewis, along with Bishop Stanton Patrick Archibold Murphy, SSC, Canon Craig Edward Young, SSC, Archdeacon Lee Herbert, and Deacon Dennis Allen Boan. May they go from strength to strength in the life of perfect service, in God’s heavenly Kingdom. Amen.
May we at this time thank our host parish, St. Francis of Assisi, Spartanburg, Bishop Timothy Farmer, their Rector, and the Anglican Church Women here, for their superb work putting this Synod together. We also owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who serves on our committees, boards, chaplaincies, ministries, and the ACW and Mother’s Union, and to everyone who took the time and spent the money to come to this holy Synod.
“And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: these things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name.” (Rev. 3: 7-8)
In October of 2009 I flew from Philadelphia to Sweden. At the University of Gothenberg, Fr. Rolf Petersson and I visited the Lutheran School of Theology. During Noon-day prayers in the Chapel, the lesson was Revelation 3: 7-13, a message to the angel of the church in Philadelphia. Dr. Bengt Birgersson gave a homily on this, and noticed that there was in the Chapel a messenger from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. So he asked me to say a few words. “I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it.”
God has opened a door for the great realignment taking place in the Anglican world, and throughout the entire Body. Our task as traditional, orthodox Anglicans is
(i) Always, to extend the Kingdom of God, and to cure souls.
(ii) Getting our act together. This means getting Anglican Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics together, on the same page, globally, with reforms such as conciliar governance: governing in accord with the patristic consensus. There are some 35 million Anglicans who claim to be Bible-believing, and our various provinces and jurisdictions are like ships that need to be in convoy together. One way we are getting our act together is through regional meetings of clergy from all the parishes of our persuasion. We have sponsored these in the Philadelphia metropolis, Colorado Springs, Spartanburg and Columbia. Numerous other clericuses have been started around the United States.
(iii) Cleaning up our act, agreeing to go forward only with what accords with the mind of Christ and the councils of the undivided Church. Pope John Paul the Great used to say, over and over again, “As we face the third millennium, we overcome the divisions of the second with the consensus of the first.” Everyone knows what the consensus of the first millennium is. Our task is to apply it throughout the Body. Our first witness as a Diocese was for biblical standards of marriage for our bishops, clergy and laity. That witness continues, and to it is added the witness for the apostolic ministry, and always, of course, for life, from womb to tomb...always to build a culture of life, a civilization of love.
The door is open for us to do these three things: extend the Kingdom, get our act together, and clean up our act. None of these things is easy, but we have the Holy Spirit to help us, and we have Jesus’ promise that no one can shut the open door before us. In our parishes we have known some hardships this year, with belt-tightening caused by the recession. If greater hardships lie ahead, let us remember St. Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 4: 16-17, “for which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” As we move toward a new spring-time for the Church, many of us are called to go through a dark night of the Church.
For the hardships that lie ahead, let us recall the suffering Russian Church of the last century. In Moscow, not many years ago, Fr. Dimitri Dudko used to preach to churches filled to overflowing. People would be outside, looking through windows, straining to hear what he had to say. One day, during Fr. Dimitri’s sermon, a layman suddenly shouted out, “Father, tell us, when will our trials end? When is the best time for the Church?” Father Dimitri , with his strongest, clearest voice, said, “Now! Now is the best time for the Church! While it is on the Cross!” What the Holy Spirit distills out of suffering is staggering…the greatest theology, spirituality, art, music, literature and poetry are distilled from suffering. Herbert Howells, one of the great composers and organists of 20th century England, and of the world, composed much of his brilliant and mystical work after his son died tragically at a young age. Music as majestic, staggering and brilliant as Howells flows from the theology, spirituality and aesthetic features of the Book of Common Prayer. Our Liturgy and the suffering of two world wars helped shape a host of great 20th century composers in England, so that the period is called the Second English Renaissance…one more indication that we are not fatally flawed, and we are not all washed up.
We may be tempted, during the past two generations of ferocious demonic attack upon the Anglican community, to say, “We are fatally flawed,” and, “We are all washed up.” That’s what God’s people said when they were taken captive in Babylon. God sent Ezekiel to prophesy to them. “You are not fatally flawed,” and, “You are not all washed up.” God said to Ezekiel, “These bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts. Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your graves, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37: 11-14)
God has given us a glorious vocation. As we get our act together, and clean up our act, He wants us to live out our vocation: to help the two lungs of the Church, the East and the West, breathe together again. We can help reveal the essential unity of the Body of Christ. We can do this because we have a foot in all the camps. Orthodox, Roman and Protestant are all in the marrow of our bones, in our spiritual genes. Professor H. Hodges called Anglicans “an outbreak of Orthodoxy in the West.” Added now to the influences of Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem and Moscow is our developing relationship with orthodox Lutherans in Scandinavia and in the Missouri Synod. The professor in Gothenberg who gave the homily on the open door for the Philadelphians, Dr. Bengt Birgersson, recently helped organized a ten day trip for confessional Lutheran leaders from Scandinavia to the two Missouri Synod seminaries, the International Center in St. Louis, Augustana College and various cultural sites. This ten day visit, of a Mission Province bishop and pastors, wives and lay leaders from Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark, totaling 38, opens up new possibilities for training, mission and cooperation, among orthodox Lutherans, and with Anglicans, both globally, and locally.
Regarding training, one of the outstanding things the Missouri Synod is doing is a thorough revival of traditional deaconesses. The Reformed Episcopal Church has also done that, and the two can become increasingly aware of each other. One of the tasks of the Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas, the Federation to which we belong, is to magnify the Office of Deaconess throughout the Anglican Church in North America, so that women are made more aware of the biblical ministries open to them.
Both the Missouri Synod and the Mission Province in Sweden have historic ties with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya, which inherited apostolic bishops from the Swedes many years ago, and recently bestowed the episcopate on the Mission Province. Now there are growing ties of fellowship and mission between Stockholm, Nairobi and St. Louis. This triangular network is increasingly connected with London, with Forward in Faith there, and with our Diocese, and with the Ecumenical Relations Task Force of the Anglican Church in North America, headed by Bishop Ray Sutton of the Reformed Episcopal Church.
All this new communication and rubbing shoulders takes place at the macro and the micro levels. The Lord helps each one of us to occasionally, and sometimes frequently, rub shoulders with Christians from Rome, Orthodoxy or Protestantism. As we get to know them, we inevitably share aspects of our patrimony, our unique heritage, with them. We are the inheritors of the Anglo-Saxon-Celtic tradition, distilled into the Book of Common Prayer. Our historic Prayer Books are a Benedictine regula for the whole of life, which gave England, the Commonwealth and the United States a unique emphasis on freedom and self-governance within the moral framework set by Holy Scripture and the councils of the undivided Church. And so a vital part of our common life is self-governance, autocephaly, just as it is for the Orthodox. This is part of the consensus of the first millennium.
Our Book of Common Prayer is Benedictine, with its emphasis on the Family of God and the Household of Faith. Our model for life in the body is the family of God, which our relatively small parishes make possible. The Roman model for the Church, especially since the time of St. Ignatius of Loyala, has been the Church as the army of God, the soldiers of Christ, the militia Christi. These are two sides of the same coin, and the whole Body needs both emphases, especially ours, at a time when family life is eroding.
“I have set before thee an open door.” We will be walking through that door as we extend the Kingdom and cure souls, as we get our act together as traditional, orthodox Anglicans around the world, and as we clean up our act, going forward with only what accords with the mind of Christ.
Here are some concrete steps we can take in the coming months, to walk through the door:
1. We could do with some growth in our Diocese, in total number of parishes. So let us work, pray and give for an increase in the size and holiness of our parishes, and for the planting of at least one new mission this year.
2. With marriage and family life in crisis in our culture, some of us may have an opportunity to set up pre-marriage conferences, with follow ups for young married couples.
3. We should look into the possibility of someday having a St. Michael’s Conference for youth in the southeastern United States.
4. As an evangelical witness, some of our parishes may consider having, or adding to the number, of their street processions, processing through their streets on a feast of title, or on Rogation Sunday, Whitsunday, Corpus Christi, or a feast of our Lady.
5. Two international meetings are coming up which have significance for traditional, orthodox Anglicans:
And now, commemorating our most holy, pure, most blessed and glorious Lady, Mother of God and ever-virgin Mary, let us commend ourselves and one another, and all our life, to Christ our God. Amen.
a. A Congress of Traditional Anglicans meets June 1 - 4 at St. Mark’s Church in Victoria, British Columbia. The Victoria Congress will bring together traditional Anglicans leaders from different parts of the world to work towards the renewal of “the Spirit of St. Louis,” encourage greater solidarity and unity among us and celebrate our Anglican tradition and heritage.
b. A “World Consultation on the Continuing Anglican Churches” meets at St. Paul’s, Brockton this All Saints’ Tide, November 3 - 5. Fr. Jim Hiles, who is hosting this, and is with us today, will be keeping us posted on this important event in the Boston area. The theme will be continuing Anglicanism: our history, our integrity, our ecumenical relations and our future.