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May 7, 2009

How Much Agreement Do We Need?

Recently, I received a communication from a priest who left the Anglican Church of Canada in one of the earlier exoduses of traditionalists. My response follows.

Dear Canon Birch,

Thank you for your response to my article “Why I Remain An Anglican.”

I am not a theologian; nor am I a church historian. But, in the deepest part of my being, it makes sense to me to draw a distinction between beliefs I hold to be essential to Christian faith and therefore unchanging and traditions of church practice that I view as open to refinement as history evolves.

I believe absolutely in the incarnate revelation of God in Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus died, rose again, ascended into heaven and poured out God’s “spirit on all flesh.” (Joel 2:28) I believe that the Christian vision of God as Trinity is a divinely revealed and deeply true mystery of the nature of God. I believe Scripture is the revealed word of God and that it “containeth all things necessary to salvation.” (Articles of Religion VI, BCP)

I find it impossible however to convince myself that Jesus mandated a male only priesthood for all human history, or a celibate priesthood, or the infallible authority of the Pope, in spite of the fact that these beliefs have been held by Christian tradition as that which should be passed on “umimpaired to our posterity,” and continue to be held by the majority of Christians today. This may make me a hopeless heretic in your eyes, but surely not a heretic on the level of someone who would deny the divinity of Christ, or call into question the reality of his resurrection.

I understand God to be One who says, “See, I am making all things new,” (Revelation 21:5). I believe God’s Spirit “blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes,” (John 3:8) and that we are challenged to provide “fresh wineskins” into which the “new wine” of God’s Spirit can be poured. (Matthew 9:17)

I am deeply saddened that my willingness to embrace “fresh wineskins” makes some faithful devout Christians believe they can no longer worship with me. I may be wrong, but I have never seen any document that convinces me that any bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada ever “excommunicated” anyone due to disagreement over issues relating to church polity. Any person is absolutely welcome to share the bread and wine at the Lord’s table in the church where I serve. I am convinced there is enough upon which we are “agreed” to make it possible for us to “walk together.” (Amos 3:3) and still each “act according to our conscience.”

I honour and respect your years of faithful ministry in Christ’s Church. I regret the hurt you have felt from the Anglican Church of Canada and agree absolutely, as you suggest, that “loving one another" might indeed “do some good.” I pray you may always find a warm welcome if you should ever find yourself moved to re-connect with the Anglican Church of Canada. But in the meantime, I am glad you “have found such a joy and freedom, being able to know” yourself “in Communion with the Church throughout the ages of the Christian Faith.” I pray the day may come when you may be able to view me as included in that community of Faith.

God’s blessing,



Anonymous said...

this response would make more sense if we could read the orginal letter

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last post - it would help to see the orginal letter to put Christophers rsponse in context.

Christopher said...

I thought when I posted it, and still think, that my response stands on its own. I posted it because it makes a point I think is important.