Friday, October 31, 2014

NEW POLL FINDS EVANGELICALS' FAVORITE HERESIES

On tuesday of this week (October 28th) Christianity Today magazine published an important article on  its website titled: "New Poll Finds Evangelicals’ Favorite Heresies. Survey finds many American evangelicals hold unorthodox views on the Trinity, salvation, and other doctrines."

The article reports on a recent survey of Evangelical Christians and has a margin of error of only 1.8%.  The growing lack of orthodoxy among self-identified Evangelicals is alarming. For instance, 24% believe that the Book of Mormon is or may be a revelation from God. About 25 years ago I was involved in outreach to Mormons with the Gospel. At the time, a major Baptist ministry to Mormons was reporting the tragic fact that about 200 Baptists per week were becoming Mormons. I remember being shocked by that statistic, but with the Evangelical Christian population in America totaling about 60 million people, and with 24% of them believing that the Book of Mormon is or may be a revelation from God, it is not surprising. The Mormons have about 15 million potential Evangelical converts to proselytize. Few of these 15 million Evangelicals have ever read the Book of Mormon or investigated the claims made for it, but that doesn't seem to matter to them.

While 96% of Evangelical Christians say that they believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, their answers to subsequent questions in the survey demonstrate that a large majority are not really Trinitarians at all. 27% of Evangelicals - more than one in four — are Arians, believing that Jesus is a creature; while 31% believe that the Father is more Divine than the Son. Therefore, 58% of Evangelicals hold heterodox beliefs about Jesus. But it gets even worse...

Only 42% of Evangelicals believe that the Holy Spirit is a person. 58% believe that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force rather than a person, and 18% believe that the Holy Spirit is less Divine than the Father. That means 76% of Evangelicals - more than three out of every four — hold heterodox beliefs about the Holy Spirit.

How can so many Evangelicals hold beliefs that so clearly contradict the ancient Creeds you ask? In the survey, 70% of Evangelicals said that the Creeds have no place in their personal discipleship. No place! The Survey also found that 2/3rds of Evangelicals are Pelagians. Pelagianism has been called the most condemned heresy in Church history. But then, only slightly over half of Evangelicals saw any value in Church history at all. As far as the authority of the Church is concerned, 90% of Evangelicals believe that the Church has no authority to declare someone not a Christian. In other words, 90% of them believe that the Church has no authority to protect the flock or to correct those who stray far from Christian orthodoxy through church disciple. 

Here is the link to the article on the Christianity Today website:

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2014/october-web-only/new-poll-finds-evangelicals-favorite-heresies.html?paging=off

The Protestant Reformation abolished one pope, but through the Protestant errors of Sola Scriptura and Private Interpretation of Scripture has made millions of Evangelical Christians into personal popes. This has led to what I call a "Book of Judges Theology"  —  "In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6). 

Like in the days of the Judges, this way of thinking has led to disaster. The disaster has been both ecclesial and theological. Accepting no real authority outside of "what I believe" or "what I think" the Bible says has left Protestants divided into some 30,000 denominations in the 500 year history of Protestantism, plus uncountable numbers of independent, nondenominational and interdenominational churches, with five new denominations being formed every week. This is ecclesiastical chaos.

The theological fruit has become equally bad, with Evangelicals first rejecting the Holy Eucharist and the Sacraments, and now as the survey in Christianity Today demonstrates, even the historic Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity, with 58% of contemporary Evangelicals holding heterodox beliefs about Jesus, and 76% holding heterodox beliefs about the Holy Spirit.  According to the Survey, 76% of Evangelicals are no longer really Trinitarians.

At Holy Cross Orthodox Church our mission is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him, and the fullness of the Apostolic Faith to those who do. That means we have a mission to the unevangelized and the unchurched, but also to self-professed Christians who do not hold to the fullness of the Apostolic Faith whether they have subtracted from it or added to it. This latest survey of Evangelical Christians reminds us that as Orthodox Christians we have a lot of work to do...  

It does matter what Church you belong to. It really does.

1. Jesus built His Church Himself (Matt: 16:18). Therefore the Church Christ built must have an unbroken history going back 2,000 years.

2. Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church (Matt. 16:18). Therefore the Church He founded nearly 2,000 years ago is still His Church today. No Teacher, Theologian, Reformer or "Prophet" is authorized to start a new Church. Any Church that is a split, a splinter, a severed branch, or a new denomination cannot be the Church of Christ.

3. Jesus commands us to "hear the church" (Matt. 18:17). He gave the Church the authority to bind and loose (Matt. 18:18). Yes, he gave the Church authority that Christians must accept. Jesus went so far as to say, "but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican" (Matt. 18:17).

4. We are to "earnestly contend for the Faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). Therefore, no novel 16th century (or later) Confession of Faith or doctrinal statement has any authority.

5. We have the assurance that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church "into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come" (John 16:13). Holy Tradition is nothing less than the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church.

6. There is a vast amount of difference between the Church founded by Jesus Christ and the denominations started by men — even by men with the best of intentions. The Apostle Paul writes, "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4:4-5). Note how often the word "one" is used.

Nearly a millennium after our forefathers were separated from the Orthodox Christian Church in AD 1066, by the Norman Conquest of England, we have finally been restored to unity. The original goal of the English Reformation was to restore the Faith and Order of the Undivided Church. Sadly, over the centuries most Anglicans have lost sight of that goal and began to see themselves as merely another denomination and to adopt a faulty "Book of Judges Theology" doing what was right in their own eyes. At Holy Cross parish we have been given a great grace. For us, the English Reformation has finally been completed. We have returned to the Faith and Order of the Undivided Church, and we are now in full sacramental communion and visible unity with the 300 million-member Orthodox Church as a Western Rite parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. We are finally back home again. We have a lot to be thankful for, and a lot to do. The door to the Orthodox Church is wide open and the welcome mat is out. Let us each strive to share the grace that has been entrusted to us that through our witness and ministry many others in the West may be reunited with the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ. God loves everyone. Let's invite them to come home to "the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of truth" (I Tim. 3:15).

+ + +

My parish has heard me speak about the Orthodox Study Bible from the pulpit. The New Testament of the Orthodox Study Bible is the New King James Version (NKJV) while the Old Testament is translated from the Septuagint. The Septuagint is some 1,200 years older than the Hebrew text found in nearly all English Bibles today and is very, very important. The Old Testament of the Orthodox Study Bible includes the Deuterocanonical Books, and the entire Bible contains commentary from the Fathers of the Church.

Ancient Faith Press has the Orthodox Study Bible in hardcover on sale right now at a great price. The regular price for this Bible is $49.95, but you can buy it for only $34.97. If you spend at least $75.00 with Ancient Faith Press you will even receive free shipping! Why not buy one for yourself and order extras for Christmas presents. What better gift can you give on Christmas than the Holy Scriptures? Here is the link:

http://store.ancientfaith.com/orthodox-study-bible-complete-hardcover/

Friday, October 24, 2014

HAYRACK RIDE, BONFIRE AND POTLUCK: Saturday, October 25th

Dear friends in Christ,

Tomorrow, Saturday, October 25th, is our annual Hayrack Ride, Bonfire and Potluck at Santa's Woods. The fun begins at 5:30 PM. All of the family and friends of Holy Cross parish are invited to participate, and everyone is encouraged to invite their own family and friends. No advance reservations are needed. We always have a great time with plenty of good food.

This is not a parish fundraiser. We simply charge what Santa's Woods charges us: $9.00 for ages 13 and up; $6.00 for ages 5 to 12; with children under 5 free. You can pay our Treasurer Tari C. when you arrive. Santa's Woods then collects their fees from the church.

Everyone is asked to bring food to share potluck style. If you haven't already signed-up to bring something in particular just bring something that would go well at a fall bonfire and potluck. The more food, the more fun!

The forecast is for beautiful fall weather on Saturday: Mostly sunny and pleasant, with a high of 76 degrees. We couldn't ask for better weather!

Santa's Woods is located at 3764 Hwy 133, Blair, Nebraska (between Omaha and Blair on Blair High Road). From Omaha take I-680 North to the Irvington Exit. Turn left on Blair High Road (Hwy 133) and travel towards Blair. Santa's Woods will be on your right. There is a large sign by the highway. You can't miss it!

Please be sure  to arrive by 5:30 PM. When you get to Santa's Woods just follow the signs to the location reserved for Holy Cross. The evening begins with a hayrack ride through a working farm, and then we will return to a roaring fire in a  private area reserved for our use. There will be picnic tables and electrical outlets for crock pots and coffee pots. Food is always in abundance. This an event that everyone looks forward to. You will have a great time. Kids will have a blast. As the song says, "The more we get together the happier we'll be!"

The Christian life is the good life at Holy Cross Orthodox Church. I hope to see you on Saturday at Santa's Woods!

blessings,

Father+

V. Rev. Victor E. Novak
Rector
HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
www.holycrossomaha.net
Rectory: (402) 687-9458
Church:  (402) 573-6558

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH JESUS CHRIST?

Popular Orthodox Christian author and pastor Fr. Anthony Coniaris writes, “The question is often asked by evangelical Protestant Christians, ‘Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Savior?’ This is a very Orthodox question... Without such a personal acceptance of Christ and commitment to Him, one cannot be an Orthodox Christian.” (1)

Fr. Anthony Coniaris teaches us that, “Salvation for Orthodox Christians involves a relationship — a personal relationship with Jesus who is the door to the Trinity. This relationship takes place in the Church. Relationships, we know, are fragile. They have their ups and downs. We need to work on them constantly... If faith is a personal relationship with Christ, what are some of the factors involved in such a relationship? If you are a spouse or a parent, you know what they are. They involve saying, ‘I love you. I appreciate you. I love to be in your presence. I give myself to you totally. I am sorry I hurt you. Forgive me...’ In other words, we have to work hard on a relationship to keep it alive, vibrant, growing, and in constant good repair. So it is with our relationship with Jesus.” (2)

Orthodox theologian Fr. Alexander Schmemann writes, “in its essence, Christian faith is a personal encounter with Christ, an acceptance not of this or that teaching or dogma about Christ, but Christ Himself. In other terms, Christianity is extremely personal. This in no way implies that it is individualistic, for all believers encounter, recognize and love exactly the one and the same Christ. But Christ addresses Himself to each person, so that each faith is at the same time unique.” (3)

Fr. Anthony Coniaris says, “For Orthodox Christians, religion is a relationship with God in the Person of Jesus. It is on this personal relationship to Jesus that the happiness and the purposefulness of life depends. And it shall be on the basis of this relationship to Christ that our eternal destiny will be decided. Jesus is the door... What kind of relationship do we have with Jesus? Is it a relationship that is kept alive through faith, prayer, the sacraments and obedience to His commandments? Or is it a relationship that has died through sin and indifference?” (4) 

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk reminds us of just how personal the Christian faith really is. He says that every Christian can say, “For my sake God created the world. For me He became man in Christ. For me He suffered on the cross. For me He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.”

In both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism a theologian is someone who studies philosophy and systematic theology to know about God and earns advanced degrees in these areas of study. In Orthodox Christianity a theologian is someone who truly prays and experiences God personally, as well as studies theology. Orthodox priest Fr. Anthony Coniaris writes, “theology is understood less in terms of intellectual understanding and more on a level of personal experience. We Orthodox learn our theology not just from books but more especially from the liturgy, from prayer, from hysychia (silence), and from the Jesus prayer.” (5) 

Bishop Kallistos Ware wrote in his forward to Romanian Orthodox theologian Fr. Dumitru Staniloae’s English translation of Orthodox Dogmatic Theology: The Experience of God (HCO Press, 1979): “Theology, talking about God presupposes a personal relationship. It presupposes faith and ascetic purification, the quest for continual prayer, the thirst for sanctity; the true theologians are the saints... The only genuine theology is that summed up by Evagrios of Pontos in a phrase which Fr. Dumitru likes to quote: ‘If you are a theologian you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian.'”

Fr. John Beck says, “All those spiritual giants who are venerated as Fathers of the Church in fact base their theology on knowledge of God acquired not by rational speculation but by personal living experience.” (6)

In Orthodoxy the age of the Fathers is not past but present. In Orthodoxy there is no looking back to a lost Golden Age of “the Undivided Church” because Orthodox Christians do not believe that the Church can be divided. Churches and churchmen can fall away into heresy or schism, but the Church cannot be divided. Tradition, according to Orthodox theologian Vladimir Lossky is living, it is “the life of the Holy Spirit in the Church.” It is not a dead corpus of facts for historians and theologians to dig up from the past and argue about. Jaroslav Pelikan, perhaps the greatest Lutheran theologian and Luther expert of the 20th century, and a convert to the Orthodox Church, put is this way: “Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”

In his book, The Orthodox Way, Bishop Kallistos Ware writes, “Tradition is far more than a set of abstract principles — it is a life, a personal encounter with Christ in the Holy Spirit. Tradition is not only kept by the Church - it lives in the Church. It is the Life of the Holy Spirit in the Church... it is not static but dynamic, not dead acceptance of the past but a living experience of the Holy Spirit in the present.”

There is no dry Ivory Tower theology in Orthodoxy and Orthodox theologians are not mere academics.  Orthodox theologians are clergy and lay people, men and women, of deep prayer with intimate personal relationships with Christ and who do not merely know about God, but know Him personally. That is why there cannot be liberal or even unbelieving “theologians” in the Orthodox Church as there are in the Roman Catholic and Protestant West.

Fr. Alexander Schmemann taught, “We cannot have trust in someone whom we only know superficially. We must know this someone, we must have created a relationship with him. In the end it is necessary to love this someone in order to have confidence in him... Our knowledge of God comes not from books, nor is it the result of reflection. To arrive at a knowledge of God, it is necessary to cultivate a relationship with Him... God is known through an immediate relationship, and it is this which we must seek.” (7)

Bishop Kallistos Ware writes, “Because of the Comforter’s (the Holy Spirit’s) presence in our heart, we do not simply know Christ at fourth or fifth hand, as a distant figure from long ago, about whom we possess factual information through written records; but we know Him directly here and now, in the present, as our personal Savior and our Friend. With the Apostle Thomas we can affirm, ‘My Lord and my God’ (Jn. 20:28). We do not merely say, ‘Christ died,’ but ‘Christ died for me.’ We do not merely say, ‘Christ rose,’ but ‘Christ is risen!’ He lives now, for me and in me. This relationship with Jesus is precisely the work of the Holy Spirit.” (8)

This may sound much like what is heard in many evangelical churches today, but there is a profound difference. Fr. Anthony Coniaris writes, “Evangelicals have so separated the personal from the communal that finding a church after coming to Christ is often a mere afterthought or appendage to what is seen as able to stand by itself: one’s personal, private, individualistic ‘relationship with Jesus.’ However, to emphasize a new birth without corresponding emphasis on the Church is like an obstetrician who goes to great lengths to help the infant come forth from the womb, only to place it on the sidewalk with the exhortation that it go and find food. The newborn needs its mother: the Church. The Orthodox Church, as did the early Christians, does not separate the personal from the communal. We do not confuse ‘personal’ and ‘individual.’ Our personal relationship with Jesus is anchored on our communal relationship to the Church as the nurturing and soul-sustaining Body of Christ.” (9)

It is not a choice between a personal relationship with Jesus Christ or a corporate relationship with Him through the Church. Our relationship with Jesus is personal, but it cannot be individualistic.  It is both personal and communal: a personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and incorporation into the Church which is the Body of which Christ is the head.  It is not either/or, but both.

Orthodox theologian Fr. John Meyendorff reminds us that Church membership is not enough. He writes, “What makes a Christian a Christian is this personal commitment to Christ. One’s formal belonging to the church through Baptism and the sacramental participation remains a mere potential if the individual commitment does not take place.” (10) 

Fr. Anthony Coniaris says: “if it’s not personal it’s not real.” And the Holy Scriptures tell us, “And the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47). The personal and the ecclesial go together.

So, how do we develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in His Church? “The big question is HOW? How does one experience God in life? The answer is through the commitment and surrender of one’s life to Jesus, by speaking to Him each day in prayer, by turning to Him for guidance and strength, by reading daily His personal love letter, the Holy Bible, by praying for and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, by receiving Him in the Holy Eucharist.” (11)

Like any personal relationship, developing and sustaining a personal relationship with Jesus Christ takes time and effort.  As Fr. Anthony Coniaris has said, “Relationships, we know, are fragile. They have their ups and downs. We need to work on them constantly...” So, how do we begin?

First, invite Christ into your heart through prayer. Praying the beautiful prayer to Jesus of St. Dimitrii of Rostov, a 17th century Russian Orthodox saint, is a good way to begin:

Come, my Light, and illumine my darkness.
Come, my Life, and revive me from death.
Come, my Physician, and heal my wounds.
Come, Flame of divine love, 
and burn up the thorns of my misdeeds, 
kindling my heart with the flame of Thy love.
Come, my God, sit upon the throne of my heart
and reign there.
For Thou alone art my God and my Lord. Amen.

Second, read the article Introducing the New Testament Church, by Fr. Victor Novak. You can obtain it at no cost directly from Fr. Victor: venovak@hughes.net .

Third, if you are an Orthodox Christian talk with your priest. Ask him for spiritual direction, for help in developing a personal prayer life and in more fruitfully participating in the sacramental and communal life of the church. 

If you are not yet an Orthodox Christian, talk with an Orthodox priest. Tell him that you want to be received into the Church and to live a life of serious discipleship.

Finally, prayerfully read the book GOD AND YOU: PERSON TO PERSON. Developing a Daily Personal Relationship with Jesus, by Fr. Anthony Coniaris. This easy to read and understand 160 page book can be purchased from Light and Life Publishing: www.light-n-life.com , (952) 925-3888. This is one of those rare books that can change your life. If you are going to read only one spiritual book this year make it this one! Fr. Stanley Harakas of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary said, “My advice — put it at the top of your reading list.”


1. GOD AND YOU: PERSON TO PERSON. Developing a Daily Personal Relationship with Jesus, by Fr. Anthony Coniaris, Light and Life Publishing Company, C. 1995, p. 88.
2. Ibid, Coniaris, p. 19.
3. Celebration of Faith, Volume 1, by Fr. Alexander Schmemann, SVS Press.
4. Ibid, Coniaris, p. 27.
5. Ibid, Coniaris, p. 34.
6. Cited in Coniaris, p. 112.
7. Cited in Coniaris, p. 39.
8. The Orthodox Way, by Kallistos Ware, SVS Press, 1979.
9. Ibid, Coniaris, p. 41.
10. Cited in Coniaris, p. 88).
11. Ibid, Coniaris, p. 39.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

FR. VICTOR NOVAK TO CELEBRATE THIRTY YEARS OF MINISTRY ON SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 28TH

On Sunday, September 28th, I will celebrate thirty years in the ordained ministry. Thirty years! Time has flown by, but God has blessed my wife and I, and our ministry together, in so many ways. On Sunday, September 28th, we will celebrate a Solemn Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM in thanksgiving, followed by a catered luncheon in the parish hall.

Holy Cross Orthodox Church is located at 7545 Main Street, in the Ralston suburb of Omaha, Nebraska. We are a Western Rite parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), and were received into the Orthodox Church from the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) in June of 2013.  

For more information call (402) 573-6558, e-mail me at venovak@hughes.net, or visit our parish website: www.holycrossomaha.net. There is no charge for the luncheon. Holy Cross Orthodox Church warmly invites all the friends of the parish and the general public to attend.

Holy Cross is a faithful, friendly, active and welcoming parish. I hope that you will join Matushka Cheri and I to celebrate our thirty years of Christian ministry together, and  in prayer that the next thirty years of ministry will be blessed and fruitful. I’ll be looking forward to seeing you at the Holy Eucharist on Sunday, September 28th, at 10:00 AM, and at the catered luncheon following the Liturgy. God bless!

Friday, September 19, 2014

UPCOMING EVENTS AT HOLY CROSS PARISH

SUMMER CHURCH PICNIC
Sunday, September 21st

This coming Sunday, September 21st, is our annual SUMMER CHURCH PICNIC!!! This is always a wonderful event with plenty of delicious food and fun for everyone. The forecast is for beautiful weather: mostly sunny, with temperatures in the low 70s. It will be a great day!

PLEASE NOTE that Services will begin one half hour earlier on Sunday, September 21st. Matins (Morning Prayer) will be at 9:00 AM, followed by the Holy Eucharist at 9:30 AM. Our Service schedule will return to normal the following week. 

We will leave for Halleck Park in Papillion immediately after the Liturgy, where we have a covered pavilion reserved for our use until 2:00 PM. Halleck Park is only a short drive from the church, and our Women's Group president, Tari C., will have directions to the park for you on Sunday. Those unsure of the route can caravan.

Meat for grilling will be provided and we already have expert grillers who have volunteered to do the cooking! Everyone is asked to bring a covered dish or two and/or a drink to share potluck-style. Feel free to invite family and friends. As always the event is free and a good time will be had by all. See you at the picnic on Sunday!

FR. VICTOR NOVAK TO CELEBRATE THIRTY YEARS IN MINISTRY
Sunday, September 28th 

On Sunday, September 28th, I will be celebrating thirty years in the ordained ministry. I can hardly believe that three decades have sped by! We will be combining the celebration of our parish feast day, the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, and the thirtieth anniversary of my ordination, on September 28th. As the day approaches, this anniversary has come to mean a lot to me and I hope that you will plan to be at church on Sunday, September 28th, to celebrate the day with me. The day will begin with Matins (Morning Prayer) at 9:30 AM, followed by a Solemn celebration of the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist at 10:00 AM, with a catered luncheon in the parish hall following the Liturgy. There will be no charge for the luncheon. Come and join me in giving thanks to God for thirty years of Christian service and in prayer that the next thirty years of ministry will be blessed and fruitful. Thank you!

ADULT CHRISTIAN EDUCATION RESUMES
Sunday, October 5th

Adult Christian Education class will resume on Sunday, October 5th, at 9:00 AM. The class will be on apologetics. With the news full of opposition to Christianity and persecution against Christians, this is a class that you will not want to miss. I'll be looking forward to seeing you there.

FALL HAYRACK RIDE, BONFIRE AND POTLUCK
Saturday, October 25th

Our annual Fall Hayrack Ride, Bonfire and Potluck will be held on Saturday, October 25th, at Santa's Woods. Please plan to arrive no later than 5:30 PM. Santa's Woods is a working farm and the hayrack ride will carry us through newly harvested fields where we will have an opportunity to see the wildlife. After the ride we will be taken to a secluded site where a roaring fire will be awaiting us. There will be picnic tables and electrical outlets for coffee and crock pots. This is not a parish fund-raiser, but there will be a nominal cost to cover what we are charged by Santa's Woods. I'll get you more information as it becomes available. Please be sure to invite family and friends to this annual fun event. They will have a great time.

The Christian life is indeed the Good Life at Holy Cross Orthodox Church. We are a faithful, friendly and active church, and we have a place for you!


V. Rev. Victor E. Novak
Rector
HOLY CROSS ORTHODOX CHURCH
7545 Main Street
Ralston, Nebraska 68127
www.holycrossomaha.net
Rectory: (402) 687-9458
Church:  (402) 573-6558

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

PARISH WEBSITE UPDATE

Dear friends in Christ,

The website of Holy Cross parish has been updated with even more helpful information, and I invite you to visit it. I want to especially direct your attention to the Sidebar where you will find a Letter To An Inquirer. I hope that the other texts found on the Sidebar and throughout the website will be interesting to you as well. The Sidebar also contains a Recommended Reading List. These books will bless you and deepen your spiritual life. I know, because that is what they have done and continue to do for me. 

On our website you will find a link to Fr. Novak’s Blog. On Father Novak’s Blog you will find theological writings, and updates on the life and ministry of Holy Cross parish. My latest post is my take on recent events in Anglicanism titled, Nunc Quo Vadis? - Where Goest Thou Now?

The slideshow on the Photo Gallery page of our website shows the interior of our church, our congregation at worship, the visit of Bishop George of Mayfield (ROCOR) in May of this year and the ordination of our longtime lay reader as an ordained reader.

The News page of our website will update you on upcoming events. 

Holy Cross is a Western Rite parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR). Holy Cross parish was received into the Orthodox Church from the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) in June of 2013. Twenty years ago Anglicans made up the second largest number of converts to the Orthodox Church. Today, they may well be the largest. The reception of so many Catholic Anglicans into the Orthodox Church is the fulfillment of the Vision Glorious of the Oxford Movement and has been a tremendous blessing to us. Large numbers of former Anglican clergy are now serving as Orthodox priests, and at least three ROCOR bishops are converts: two from Anglicanism and one from Roman Catholicism. All in all, about one third of the Orthodox clergy in the United States are converts.

Our parish website address is: www.holycrossomaha.net. I hope that you will visit it.

Wishing you every grace and blessing,

Fr. Victor Novak+
Rector

Friday, August 15, 2014

NUNC QUO VADIS?

I was ordained to the Anglican ministry in 1984, and will have served in the ordained ministry for thirty years this year. My parish and I were received into the Orthodox Church in June of 2013, and I am now an Orthodox priest, so recent events in the Anglican world no longer impact me personally. However, I have spent much of my life in the Anglican ministry and I continue to have interest in and sympathy for traditional Anglican clergy and laity. I have been repeatedly asked my take on the decision of the Church of England to approve women bishops, on the present state of GAFCON, Anglo-Catholicism, the Anglican Continuum, and the election of Foley Beach as primate of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), so I have decided to write this article. In it I plan not only to discuss the current situation, but to answer the more important question - Nunc quo vadis?


NUNC QUO VADIS?
“Where Goest Thou Now?”
By Fr. Victor Novak


ENGLAND APPROVES WOMEN BISHOPS

On July 14, 2014 the Church of England voted overwhelmingly to approve the consecration of women bishops with the full support of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. It was a tragic decision to be sure, but one everyone expected.

After the vote, British Journalist Damian Thompson wrote in The Spectator, “From the moment the General Synod voted for women priests in 1992, it was inevitable that it would also vote for women bishops. Conservative evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics engineered a delay of 21 years, but I doubt they’ll be shocked by today’s decision. Some traditionalists have even been arguing that, although they were still opposed to the measure on principle, another ‘no’ vote would be a disaster for the Church of England. That strikes me as hopelessly muddled thinking, but remember that these are the people who brought you the Alice-in-Wonderland notion of ‘flying bishops’.”

The General Synod also approved the use of a Baptismal Rite in which Satan is no longer renounced or even mentioned. It appears that Anglicanism has become so broad that one can now become a baptized Anglican without renouncing the devil. 

In addition, the General Synod voted to make the use of vestments optional, even when celebrating the Eucharist. 

Earlier this year the Church of England had allowed the blessing of same-sex couples, but stopped short of authorizing same-sex marriages, - although same-sex marriages are already taking place in Anglican churches in England. What really is the difference though? Both practices bless actions that the Sacred Scriptures call sin.

On July 14th, Anglican Ink reported, “The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey of Clifton has “dropped his long-standing opposition to assisted suicide and now believed euthanasia was compatible with Christian morality.”


If all of this were not enough, on August 2nd, in an article titled 'Islam is reviving British values', says former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, The UK’s Independent reported, “Islam is rejuvenating ‘British values’, the former Archbishop of Canterbury has claimed while lambasting sections of the press for presenting Muslims as ‘un-British’. Rowan Williams was giving a speech at the annual Living Islam Festival in Lincolnshire on Friday, discussing what British values were and how Muslims could affect them.” The article continued, “While still Archbishop of Canterbury in 2008, he sparked a row by saying the use of sharia in some aspects of British law was ‘unavoidable’.”

NATIONAL APOSTASY

On July 14, 1833, the Rev. John Keble delivered his famous sermon warning about an impending National Apostasy, which sparked what has come to be known as the Oxford Movement and the Catholic Revival. Unfortunately, like the revival in King Hezekiah’s day, it did not last. The Catholic Revival reached its high water mark more than half a century ago and then began a steady decline which eventually turned into an all but complete collapse. On July 14, 2014, one hundred and eighty one years to the day from the delivery of John Keble’s famous sermon, the National Apostasy became complete with the overwhelming vote to consecrate women bishops.  On that day the Church of England broke its last connection with Catholic Christianity. National Apostasy indeed.

The day after the vote approving women bishops Dr. Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world wrote, “There is a very real sense in which Monday’s vote was inevitable. Once the church had decided to ordain women as priests, the elevation of women to bishop was only a matter of time. But the Church of England explicitly claims apostolic succession back to the earliest years of the church, traced through bishops. That is why virtually every major media outlet in Britain acknowledged, at least, that the vote reversed 2,000 years of Christian tradition. They also tended to note that the vote came after 20 years of controversy. Evidently, 2,000 of years of tradition was no match for 20 years of controversy.”

THE CATHOLIC RESISTANCE 

And what of the Anglo-Catholic resistance? With the departure of so many of its clergy and laity to Orthodoxy or the Ordinariate in recent years, there was very little resistance left. In fact, the remaining Anglo-Catholics are coming to resemble “Affirming Catholics” more than anything else. The line between Affirming Catholicism and what remains of Anglo-Catholicism has become so blurred that the two parties are becoming indistinguishable. Affirming Catholics support or tolerate women’s ordination, are indifferent to sound theology, and liberal on morality, but love the liturgical trappings of Anglo-Catholicism.

Following the vote to approve women bishops, English journalist Damian Thompson reported in The Spectator, “I can understand why many Anglo-Catholics – especially those in gay partnerships – will find it easier to stay put. I just wish they’d ditch the pretense of being Roman Catholics in all but name. Last week I saw their leader, Bishop Jonathan Baker of Fulham, swanning down Notting Hill Gate in a bright pink Roman soutane [cassock]. I bet Jorge Bergoglio [now Pope Francis] never wore such a garment in the streets of Buenos Aires. And it did make me think that, these days, Anglo-Catholicism is mostly about dressing up.”

I was struck by Damian Thompson’s remark: “And it did make me think that, these days, Anglo-Catholicism is mostly about dressing up.” 

What was the response of Forward in Faith North America (FIFNA) to all of this? In the wake of the Church of England’s decision to consecrate women bishops FIFNA issued a formal statement. The Statement was issued by The Rt. Rev. Keith L. Ackerman, President, The Rt. Rev. William H. Ilgenfritz, Vice President, The Rev. Lawrence Bausch, Vice President and Dr. Michael W. Howell, Executive Director. 

The Statement said, “In the light of recent events within the Church of England, and reports regarding Forward in Faith (U.K.), the officers of Forward in Faith North America (FiFNA) hereby issues the following statement. First, it is with deep sorrow that FiFNA acknowledges the vote by the General Synod of the Church of England to proceed with the ‘consecration’ of women to the episcopate. This action heightens the level of difficulty for Anglicans during this period of reception, by placing more barriers before those who are seeking to live under and promote the historic priesthood and episcopate.” 

The leaders of what remains of Anglo-Catholicism in North America are still talking about “this period of reception.” Period of reception??? The vote was overwhelming. It is over. The Church of England has cut its last tie with Catholic Order. So what does this decision mean to Anglo-Catholics according to Bishops Ackerman and Ilgenfritz? “This action heightens the level of difficulty for Anglicans during this period of reception.” Level of difficulty? Is that all?

Sadly, the FIFNA Statement gets even worse. The Statement continues, “However, we are encouraged that this most unfortunate decision, has been accompanied by provisions enabling Catholic Anglicans to remain in the Church of England with integrity, and the Church of England’s stated commitment to enable them to flourish within its life and structures.” 

According to FIFNA, the decision of the national Church of England to approve women bishops and break its last tie to Catholic Order is not National Apostasy, but merely an “unfortunate decision.” But not to worry, the decision “has been accompanied by provisions enabling Catholic Anglicans to remain in the Church of England with integrity, and the Church of England’s stated commitment to enable them to flourish within its life and structures.” Integrity? Flourish? I could hardly believe my eyes. Do they really expect anyone to believe this? 

Anglo-”Catholics” in the Church of England, the Anglican Church in North America, Forward in Faith, and throughout the Anglican Communion remain in communion with invalidly ordained women clergy and with their openly heretical supporters, even if they call it “impaired” communion, whatever that means. This reflects a complete indifference to sound doctrine. 

On July 15th, Dr. Albert Mohler wrote, “Writing about the age of John Milton, the British author A. N. Wilson once tried to explain to modern secular readers that there had once been a time when bishops of the Church of England were titanic figures of conviction who were ready to stand against the culture. ‘It needs an act of supreme historical imagination to be able to recapture an atmosphere in which Anglican bishops might be taken seriously,’ he wrote, ‘still more, one in which  they might be thought threatening.’”

As Damian Thompson wrote, “these days, Anglo-Catholicism is mostly about dressing up.”

THE ORTHODOX RESPONSE

So much for the “Anglo-Catholic” response. What was the Orthodox response? On July 18, 2014, The Russian Orthodox Church issued an official statement:

“At the session that took place on the 14th of July 2014, the General Synod of the Church of England made a decision allowing women to serve as bishops. The Communication Service of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations is authorized to make the following statement in this regard:

“The Russian Orthodox Church has been alarmed and disappointed to learn about the decision of the Church of England to admit women to the episcopate, since the centuries-old relationships between our two Churches had shown possibilities for the Orthodox to recognize the existence of apostolic succession in Anglicanism. As far back as the 19th century, the Anglicans, members of the Eastern Church Association, sought ‘mutual recognition’ of orders between the Orthodox and the Anglican Churches and believed that ‘both Churches preserved the apostolic continuity and true faith in the Saviour and should accept each other in the full communion of prayers and sacraments.’

“The decision to ordain women, which the Church of England took in 1992, damaged the relationships between our Churches, and the introduction of female bishops has eliminated even a theoretical possibility for the Orthodox to recognize the existence of apostolic succession in the Anglican hierarchy.”

The Orthodox response was crystal clear: “the introduction of female bishops has eliminated even a theoretical possibility for the Orthodox to recognize the existence of apostolic succession in the Anglican hierarchy.”

THE ROMAN RESPONSE

On July 19, 2014 The Rt. Rev. Mgr. Keith Newton, Ordinary of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham issued this Press Release: 

“For many in the Church of England this will be a very happy day. Having agreed to permit women priests in 1992, the Church of England's decision today to allow women bishops is the next logical step. What is undeniable is that both developments make harder the position of those within the Church of England who still long for corporate unity with the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.”

The Press Release continued, “On 6 September the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham is holding a Called To Be One exploration day, which is aimed at making the Ordinariate more widely known and understood and reaching those whom God may be calling to join it...  All who are interested - whether because they are considering their future or just because they would like to see more of what we are and what we do are warmly invited to attend.”

The Roman response was also clear. With even the theoretical possibility of reunion eliminated, the Ordinariate rather than reunion is the Roman solution. 

WHERE HAVE ALL OF THE ANGLO-CATHOLICS GONE?

There really isn’t an Anglo-Catholic Movement anymore, and there hasn’t been for a long time. The Anglo-Catholic party has been hemorrhaging for a generation.

Since 1992, there has been a movement of Anglican clergy and laity in the United Kingdom to the Orthodox Church. While most have simply been received into the Orthodox Church individually, an organized movement called Pilgrimage to Orthodoxy came into being in the wake of the 1992 decision of the Church of England to ordain priestesses. The clergy and laity of Pilgrimage to Orthodoxy wanted to remain together as a body, and they were received and organized in their own deanery. 

The Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland reports, “The establishment of the Antiochian Orthodox Deanery in the United Kingdom in 1995 was arguably a miracle of divine grace... Most from these initial groups becoming Orthodox were communities of ex-Anglicans with their priests who had withdrawn from the Church of England on matters of principle (the increasing liberalization of its doctrinal base and the ordination of women amongst many issues).

“The love of Orthodoxy by these groups both preceded and informed this disenchantment such that by 1993 they were convinced that in order to be authentically Orthodox they must actually become Orthodox.”  

Many former Anglican clergy are now serving in the Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom. Initially they entered the Eastern Rite, but recently the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) has authorized the establishment of Western Rite communities as well. Had the Western Rite been available in the United Kingdom in the 1990s, the movement would have undoubtedly been even greater.

There have been similar movements to Orthodoxy from Anglicanism in other lands as well, including the United States. The movement of Anglicans to Orthodoxy began in earnest in the United States after the decision of the Episcopal Church USA to ordain women priests in 1976. In 1993, it was reported, “In a recent study, Anglicans were the second largest group of converts to the Orthodox Church in America. Numerous new congregations have been formed by former Anglicans in the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese, an archdiocese in which over half the clergy are converts, many of them former Anglicans” (Anglican - Orthodox Pilgrimage, 1993, Conciliar Press, p. 5).

So many Anglicans are now becoming Orthodox that Anglicans may now be the largest group of converts to the Orthodox Church. In 1993, over half of the clergy of the Antiochian Archdiocese were converts. Today converts make up about 70% of its clergy. While the Orthodox Church in North America was established by immigrants from Russia, Eastern Europe, Greece and the Middle East, it is no longer an ethnic Church. All jurisdictions in America have large and growing numbers of American converts, many of them former Anglicans. One third of the membership of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese is made up of converts, and the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) has large numbers of converts, including whole parishes. Of the four ROCOR bishops that I have interacted with in the past two years three have been converts, - two from Anglicanism and one from Roman Catholicism.

Rome has also benefited from the Anglo-Catholic exodus. On August 1st, English journalist Ruth Gledhill reported in The Tablet, “Up to one in 10 [British Roman] Catholic priests are former Church of England clergy, according to new figures.

“‘Professor Linda Woodhead, a sociologist of religion at Lancaster University and organizer of the Westminster Faith Debates, worked with the Catholic bishops' vocations director Fr Christopher Jamison OSB to establish that 389 Catholic priests are former Anglican priests, including 87 priests in the Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham”

The article continued, “Professor Woodhead told The Tablet that the Church of England clergy represented in these figures began to leave their original Church from 1994, when the first women were ordained priests... She estimates that about 250 clergy ‘went across’ between 1994 and 2000, with a further 52 from 2001, and then the Ordinariate clergy on top of that.”

WHAT ABOUT THE ANGLICAN CHURCH IN NORTH AMERICA?

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is simply not a Catholic Church. It is not a Catholic Church today, and has never been a Catholic Church. “But it’s headed in the right direction” someone may say; but that is not correct. The truth is that the ACNA is an Evangelical Protestant denomination, and a Protestant denomination simply cannot evolve into a Catholic Church.

Catholic Anglicans have always believed that the Anglican Church is the ancient Church of the British Isles, not only antedating the Protestant Reformation, but antedating the arrival of St. Augustine of Canterbury and his Italian mission in England in AD 597. 

Protestant Anglicans believe in something quite different. They believe that the Anglican Church is a creature of the Protestant Reformation, and that it came into being in the 16th century as the state church of England.

What is the position of the Anglican Church in North America? The bishops of the ACNA, meeting in Conclave earlier this year, unanimously elected Bishop Foley Beach to be the Archbishop and primate of the Anglican Church in North America. As primate, Archbishop Beach is the face of and spokesman for the Church. Since he was elected unanimously, his views are the views of the Church.

A visit to the website of Holy Cross Anglican Church in Georgia, Archbishop Foley Beach’s cathedral church and the church that he founded and is rector of, reveals his ecclesiology and theology. 

Under the heading, What is Anglican?,  the website says, “The Anglican Church began as the state church of England.” 

Decades ago a Roman Catholic priest said to me: “The Anglican Church was founded on the ____ [a part of the reproductive anatomy] of Henry VIII.” I responded that if I believed that to be true I could not be part of such a Church. However, I made it clear that I did not believe that what he said was correct and that I did not (then) know any Anglican who did. We firmly believed that the Anglican Church was the ancient Church of the British Isles. Unfortunately, times have changed. 

Is the ACNA a Catholic Church or a Protestant denomination? What does its primate, Archbishop Foley Beach believe? Under the heading, What To Expect on his church’s website, it says very clearly: “We are an Evangelical Church in the Protestant Tradition.” 

Someone may say, “but he is against women’s ordination, so he must be a Catholic.” Unfortunately, that is wrong on two counts. 

First, Archbishop Beach is not against women’s ordination. He is simply against ordaining women to the presbyterate. He does purport to ordain women to the diaconate, and he has a female deacon on staff at his cathedral church. The truth is that the diaconate is part of the priesthood and the ordination of women deacons is as contrary to Catholic Order as the ordination of women to the presbyterate and episcopate. The Scriptural requirements for all three offices are the same, and neither the Orthodox Catholic Church, nor the Roman Church ordain women to any of the minor orders let alone to the diaconate. 

Second, although Archbishop Beach may be personally opposed to women priests, he has no plans to take any action. In an exclusive interview with the new primate on June 25, 2014, Anglican journalist David Virtue asked, “On the issue of women’s ordination, I gather you are opposed to it. Therefore will you continue the ‘period of reception’ we are now in or demand a moratorium or bring the issue up for discussion and voting in a future ACNA House of Bishops conference?”

Archbishop Foley Beach responded, “Let me answer this from three different aspects. First, from the College of Bishops perspective, it would be wrong for me to usurp or undermine a process which all of us have agreed to follow. We have a study underway which has all voices a part of the discussion. When this study is completed, it will be presented to the GAFCON theological Committee for their input, and sent back to the College. At that time, the College will discuss, pray, and decide what is best for good order in the Church on this issue. Second, from a personal perspective, yes, you are correct – I do not ordain women to the priesthood. But I came into the ACNA knowing that other dioceses do ordain women. But now I am in a new position; I am the Archbishop of all the clergy in the church – including the women clergy. I will treat them with respect and honor, and I hope they will do the same with me – even though we are in different places on this issue. We are Christians, and people should be able to see how we love one another, even though we disagree on this issue. Third, this presenting issue is going to be with us for a while as the Anglican Communion and even our GAFCON brothers and sisters hold different positions.”

What is the new primate’s position on sacramental theology? You will be hard pressed to find anything substantial about the sacraments on his church’s website, but what you do find can only be described as Zwinglian. This is how the sacrament of Holy Communion is described on Archbishop Foley Beach’s church website under the heading What To Expect - More Info:

“At most of our services, we celebrate Holy Communion, and if you are a baptized Christian you are welcome to receive the bread and wine. You may take the bread and then drink from the common cup, or you may dip the bread into the wine (called "intinction").” 

“If you are a baptized Christian you are welcome to receive the bread and wine.” No mention of Real Presence, and no counsel about proper preparation, and no wonder since it is just “bread and wine”! If you prefer “you may dip the bread into the wine.” Just bread and wine. The words bread and wine are given in lower case, they are not even capitalized. There is nothing Catholic about this. It is indeed nothing more than the common practice of “an Evangelical Church in the Protestant tradition” and this Evangelical Protestant view is widespread throughout the Anglican Church in North America.

Sadly, many “Anglo-Catholics” in the ACNA will simply ignore these facts or try to explain them away, and will continue “merrily on high” - high church ritual without Catholic substance in “an Evangelical Church in the Protestant tradition.”

As English journalist Damian Thompson put it, “these days, Anglo-Catholicism is mostly about dressing up.” 

GAFCON

When GAFCON was organized many Catholic Anglicans were given new hope that matters might yet be set right in the Anglican Communion. Many Anglicans dared to hope that a New Reformation and a Realignment was taking place. They hoped that liberalism would yet be defeated, Catholic Order restored, conciliar government inaugurated, the Catholic Movement revived, and ecumenical breakthroughs take place. They hoped that either the Canterbury Communion would be reformed or that a division  would take place and that there would be a realignment of the GAFCON provinces under a new orthodox primus inter paras, perhaps in Africa. 

Archbishop Peter Akinola, primate of Nigeria, was elected first president of the GAFCON Primates Council. No one really knew much about the far off Anglican Church of Nigeria, but what was known was that it was the largest province of the Anglican Communion, that it did not ordain women, and that it opposed the moral drift in the Church of England. Catholic Anglicans were told that while the province was low church, it was essentially orthodox.

Unfortunately, the hopes for GAFCON quickly began to fade. Soon Archbishop Peter Akinola retired and Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone succeeded him as president of the Primates Council. Archbishop Akinola did not ordain women, but Archbishop Venables ordained them to the diaconate. GAFCON was already moving in the wrong direction. 

Archbishop Venables then retired and he was succeeded as president of the GAFCON Primates Council by Archbishop Eliud Wabukala of Kenya. Archbishop Wabukala is the current president of the GAFON Primates Council. The province of Kenya has hundreds of ordained women clergy, including ten canons, and has had priestesses nominated but not yet elected to the episcopate.

According to a July 22, 2014 report from Anglican Ink, “Archbishop Eliud Wabukala has written to the bishops of the Anglican Church of Kenya asking that they approve amendments to the language of the church’s constitution erasing any doubts that women priests are eligible for election to the episcopate.

“The Archbishop’s remarks come in the aftermath of the vote by General Synod last week to permit the consecration of women bishops – a move supported by the Kenyan Church.

“In 1980 the ACK amended its constitution to permit women priests and the first were ordained in 1990. Women priests have stood for election as bishops in recent years in the Dioceses of Mumias and Kirinyaga, and one clergy woman is expected to stand for election as Bishop in Embu later this year. There are approximately 300 women clergy in the ACK including 10 canons and the church’s provincial secretary, Rosemary Mbogo.”

The Church of Uganda, one of the leading supposedly “orthodox” provinces of the Global South, also applauded the decision of the Church of England to approve women bishops. The Primate of Uganda, the Most Rev. Stanley Ntagali, Archbishop of Kampala, released a Statement welcoming the vote by the General Synod of the Church of England to allow for the appointment of women bishops. The Statement released on July 16, 2014 said:

“The canons (laws) of the Church of Uganda indicate that anyone who is ordained is eligible to be elected as a Bishop. ‘We do not have a problem with women becoming bishops in the Church of Uganda or elsewhere,’ said Archbishop Stanley Ntagali.”

The Statement released by Archbishop Ntagali went on to discuss the position of the Church of Uganda regarding women’s ordination:

“‘In Uganda, we have women priests and Archdeacons, and many of them work for the church in various capacities,’ said Archbishop Stanley. ‘We have ordained women since the 1980’s, so we have qualified women who could be elected Bishop.’”

Since the retirement of Archbishop Peter Akinola, the Nigerian Church has also been moving in the wrong direction. Akinola’s successor, Archbishop Nicholas Okoh, endorsed the ordination of women to the diaconate in the Church of Nigeria in 2010, and the Nigerian Church now has women deacons. 

Only six out of thirty-eight provinces of the Anglican Communion do not ordain women, to major Orders and all these provinces are small. When former ACNA Archbishop Robert Duncan recommended submitting the question of the ordination of women to the GAFCON Theological Committee after the ACNA Task Force completes its work, he had to know that many of the GAFCON provinces ordain women and that those that did not yet ordain women remained in full sacramental communion with those that do. Therefore, there was no danger that GAFCON would side with those opposing the ordination of women in the ACNA and ban the practice.

The Statement released by the Church of Uganda on July 16th, in the wake of the decision of the Church of England to approve women bishops continued: 

“As a GAFCON Province, we support the 2013 Nairobi Communique that said, ‘We affirm the ministries of women and their vital contribution to the life of the church.’  The Nairobi Communique also said, ‘We recognize that we have differing views over the roles of men and women in church leadership’. The Church of Uganda is one of the Provinces that believes the ordination of women is Biblical and whose canons permit the consecration of women as Bishops in the Church.”

Catholic Anglicans need to understand that GAFCON is not opposed to the ordination of women, and that even opposition to the ordination of women does not necessarily make a Church or a clergyman Catholic. Many conservative protestants oppose women’s ordination for “headship” reasons. A good example of this is America’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention. The Southern Baptists are conservative and do not ordain women, but they are not Catholics.

The truth is that GAFCON and the Global South are essentially Evangelical Protestant provinces. ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach was only being honest when he said on his church’s website, “We are an Evangelical church in the Protestant tradition.”

THE ST. LOUIS CONTINUUM

The continuing Anglican movement began with great hopes in 1977, at the St. Louis Church Congress. At that Congress the original Anglican Church in North America was organized and the election of its first bishop, Fr. James O. Mote was announced. Unfortunately, the newborn ACNA saw its first schism only a year later at its inaugural synod in Dallas, Texas. Out of the Dallas Synod came two competing groups which would become the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) and the Anglican Province of Christ the King (APCK). That first split signaled the future of the continuum. Split after split ensued as the continuing Anglican movement continued to divide and jurisdictions multiply.  

A good history of the St. Louis Continuum is found in the book Divided We Stand, A History of the Continuing Anglican Movement, by Douglas Bess (Tractarian Press, 2002). Divided We Stand is a 314 page heartbreaking history of of the movement from its beginning through 2001, chronicling its infighting, power struggles, and schisms.

The year 2002, was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the St. Louis Church Congress, and the years following that anniversary have seen continuing squabbling and divisions in the movement. The March 2014, edition of the Anglican Way (formerly Mandate), the magazine of the Prayer Book Society, reported that “traditional Anglican parishes in North America belong to at least 45 separate jurisdictions, which may advertise only scant intercommunion arrangements... the ever changing landscape of churches of the Anglican continuum makes tracking via the Internet the most up-to-date, if not necessarily the most reliable means of locating active 1928 and 1962 BCP parishes in North America.” 

These “45 separate jurisdictions” are little different from separate denominations. The already discredited branch theory could now be called the splinter theory. Every bishop consecrated in these groups claims to be a bishop in the “one, holy catholic and apostolic church,” but such a claim can only fit with the Evangelical Protestant notion of an invisible Church. 

The largest jurisdiction of the St. Louis Continuum in the United States is the Anglican Catholic Church, and the ACC has less than 5,000 members in this country. Even the Affirmation of St. Louis, an historic Catholic Anglican document affirming seven Sacraments and seven Oecumenical Councils no longer carries much weight as the Anglican Catholic Church is in full communion with the United Episcopal Church, theologically a polar opposite of the ACC.

The St. Louis Continuum began with greats hopes in 1977, and with predictions of a membership of one million within a year. The first division took place after the inaugural synod of the Church in 1978, and its history of episcopal infighting and schism has continued ever since. Neither the Orthodox Church nor Rome are in serious dialogue with any of these groups. It seems that the destiny of the continuing Anglican movement is to either fade away like the Non-Jurors of old and become little more than a footnote in Church history, or to lose all credibility and to become viewed as vagantes like the so-called “Old Catholics” in America.

NUNC QUO VADIS? - Where Goest Thou Now?

For a thousand years there was essentially one Christian Church. As the Church grew it developed into five regional patriarchates for administrative purposes: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem.

In the year 1054, Rome having unilaterally and without Catholic consent changed the Creed written by the first two Oecumenical Councils,  tried to enforce its novel claim that its Patriarch was the universal head of the Church by imposing this change in the Creed on the whole Church. The attempt failed and resulted in the Great Schism.

The Roman Patriarchate became separated from the rest of the Church in 1054, and eventually became known as the Roman Catholic Church. The other four Patriarchates continued on unchanged as the Orthodox (correct doctrine/correct worship) or Orthodox Catholic Church.

The Church in the British Isles sided with the four Patriarchates against the innovations of Rome in 1054. This led to the Norman Invasion in 1066. The Norman Invasion was promoted on the continent as a crusade to bring back an erring Church to Rome. King Harold, the last Saxon king, died in battle in October of 1066, and many Orthodox Christians in the West venerate him as a Passion Bearer for laying down his crown and life to defend Orthodox England from those who would change the Faith.

England was conquered, all but one of the English bishops were replaced by Normans, and ecclesia anglicana was forced to submit to Rome. In 1534, the English Reformation began. The English Reformation was much different than that on the continent. No new Church was created, and the Reformation was led by the bishops themselves with the goal of restoring the Faith of the undivided Church.

A laudable goal indeed, but a very difficult one to achieve. England had been separated from the Orthodox Church for some four and a half centuries, and had no real contact with the East. Loud voices were coming from the continent: from Wittenburg, Zurich and Geneva, and these voices had influence.

The English Reformation that began in 1534, was not confined to the 16th century.  It was continued by the Caroline Divines of the 17th century, and was furthered by the Oxford Movement of the 19th and 20th centuries. In 1611, dialogue began with the Orthodox Church. With hostile Roman Catholic powers located between the British Isles and the East, dialogue was slow and difficult, but by the 19th century relations between the two churches had become close and warm. In the 1930s three major Anglican-Orthodox Theological Conferences were held with very encouraging results.

Catholic Anglicans had never viewed their Church as a denomination, but as a branch separated from the whole by the accidents of history (the Norman Invasion). Many believed that their Church held in the West the position that the Orthodox Church held in the East, and represented, at least in an as yet imperfect form, Western Orthodoxy. 

Archbishop of Canterbury Geoffrey Fisher famously said, “We have no doctrine of our own. We only possess the Catholic doctrine of the Catholic Church enshrined in the Catholic Creeds, and these creeds we hold without addition or diminution.”

Another famous Anglican bishop, the Rt. Rev. Frank Weston, bishop of Zanzibar said in 1923, “We now stand for the Catholic Faith common to East and West... We stand or fall with Christ’s Church, catholic and apostolic. And we wait patiently till the Holy Father and the Orthodox Patriarchs recognize us as of their own stock. We are not a party: we are those in the Anglican Communion who refuse to be limited by party rules and party creeds. Our appeal is to the Catholic Creed, to Catholic worship and Catholic practice.” 

The “Catholic Faith common to East and West.” This is the Faith of the Undivided Church: the Orthodox Faith.

Because Catholic Anglicans saw themselves as separated from the whole by the accidents of history, and were waiting patiently until “the Orthodox Patriarchs recognize us as of their own stock,” they believed that the worst they could be charged with was being in material schism. As separated Orthodox Catholics, Catholic Anglicans saw their Church as a bridge Church which when reunited with the rest of the Orthodox Church would be a bridge for Western peoples to be reunited with the Orthodox Catholic Church. 

Anglicanism was never to have been seen as a denomination. In 1989, at a Conference of Cathedral Deans, the 102nd Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie said, “our vocation as Anglicans was to put ourselves out of business.” In other words, the goal was to have the Anglican part become reunited with the whole and to cease being a separate Church. The Affirmation of St. Louis says much the same thing. In two places it calls for the Anglican continuum to reunite with the wider Catholic Church that shares the same theological principles (Seven Oecumenical Councils, etc.). Forming a new denomination was not the vision of the St. Louis Church Congress.

Dom Anselm Hughes, Prior of Nashdom Abbey from 1935 to 1945, wrote: “The first and most urgent matter to deal with is loyalty. Now in the Creed which in its Apostolic version is accepted by all members of the Church, either directly or vicariously, at their baptism; in the Creed which in its Nicene form they recite at every Sunday or feast-day Mass; they pledge their faith in the One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church. This is their first and largest loyalty, and those of whom we have been speaking as the Catholics within the Church of England consist of those to whom this allegiance comes always and instinctively first, and for whom all other loyalties, to the Church of England or to the Anglican Communion, are to rank subservient to this over-riding, all embracing, loyalty to the One Holy Church... The Catholic, with his immediate preference for that which is his birthright, the tradition of the historic Church of earlier centuries and of wider dissemination, knows that anything brought in at the Reformation which touches upon doctrine, or tends in unessential matters to favor some Lutheran, Calvinist, Zwinglian, Presbyterian, Anabaptist, or other type of protestantism, is sui generis wrong and false, or at least gravely suspect and without a shred of claim upon his loyalty... The Catholic Church is something larger than the Church of England: it is much wider and much older: its extension both in time and space is immeasurably greater. The Tractarians were well aware not only of this truth, which was heavily obscured in their time, but also of its central and fundamental importance for their mission. Wisely, soundly and effectively they quoted the Vincentian Canon, Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus.”

COMING HOME

There is now no longer any hope of corporate reunion. Orthodox bishops will still meet with their Anglican counterparts over tea from time to time because they are gentleman, but I fear that some Anglicans will use these photo-ops to hold out false hopes for corporate reunion that will only serve to keep Christians divided. It is important for Anglicans to remember the official Statement issued by the Orthodox on July 18th: “the introduction of female bishops has eliminated even a theoretical possibility for the Orthodox to recognize the existence of apostolic succession in the Anglican hierarchy.”

Nunc quo vadis? Where goest thou now? The door is wide open for Orthodox-minded Anglican laity, clergy, religious and congregations to heal the breach caused by the Norman Invasion in 1066, fulfill the Vision Glorious of the Oxford Movement, and come home. Two decades ago Anglicans made up the second largest group of converts to the Orthodox Church. Today they may well make up the largest group. There are large numbers of former Anglican clergy now serving as Orthodox clergy. There are opportunities in both the Eastern and Western Rites of the Orthodox Church, and clergy, laity and congregations have entered both. I have interacted with four Russian Orthodox bishops in the past two years and three of the four have been converts: two from Anglicanism and one from Roman Catholicism.

Orthodoxy in the United States is increasingly an American Church. A full 70% of the clergy of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese are converts. One third of the membership of the Greek Orthodox Church here are converts. Many members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russian in the United States are converts, including clergy, whole congregations and at least three bishops. The same can be said of the other jurisdictions; and all canonical jurisdictions now belong to the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in North America. 

Is the Orthodox Church a home for all Anglicans? Archbishop Kallistos Ware writes, “There are individual Anglicans whose faith is virtually indistinguishable from that of an Orthodox, but there are others within the Anglican Communion...  (The Orthodox Church, by Timothy Ware; Penguin, C. 1993; p. 321). Archbishop Kallistos was speaking of the comprehensiveness of Anglicanism which held people of widely differing theological views together in one body. Historically it was the Liturgy that united Anglicans and kept the comprehensiveness from becoming too broad, but with the abandonment of the traditional liturgies all restraint has been removed.  

In Orthodoxy the Faith of the undivided Church is not merely one of the permissible options. It is simply De Fide. There is no doctrinal “comprehensiveness” in Orthodoxy, no “via media,” only “the faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).  Speaking of the Anglican-Russian Orthodox Theological Conference in Moscow in 1956, Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey reported that the Orthodox said in effect, “The Tradition is a concrete fact. There it is in its totality. Do you Anglicans accept it or do you reject it?” As St. Mark of Ephesus said, “There can be no compromise in matters of the Orthodox Faith.” The Orthodox Church is a home for Anglicans “whose faith is virtually indistinguishable from that of an Orthodox,” or who are ready to embrace the fullness of the Orthodox Faith.

While the Orthodox Faith remains the same everywhere and is not subject to compromise or change, there is plenty of room for different cultures and different rites. St. John the Wonderworker of San Francisco (d. 1966), a strong supporter of the revival of Western Orthodoxy, said: “Never, never, never let anyone tell you that in order to be Orthodox, you must be Eastern. The West was fully Orthodox for a thousand years...”

Anglicanism at its best can take us to the door of Orthodoxy, but that is as far as it can take us. We cannot form our own independent Church. To really be Orthodox, we must be part of the Orthodox Church. There is and can only be “One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church,” and history proves that the Orthodox Catholic Church is that One Church.  Anglicanism can indeed take us to the door of Orthodoxy, and it has taken thousands to that door, but we must walk through the door and become members of the Orthodox Church as our fore-bearers in the Faith were until the Norman Conquest.

I had always considered myself a Western Orthodox Christian as an Anglican, but I came to see that you really cannot be Orthodox without being a member of the Orthodox Church. Anglicans like to talk about the undivided Church, but the Orthodox know that the Church cannot be divided. Churches and churchmen can fall away into schism or heresy, but the Church is indivisible. The branches of the Church are not separated ecclesial bodies, but the various autocephalous Orthodox Churches.

My parish and I were received into the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR) in June 2013. Concerns about the administration of the Western Rite Vicariate led to the closing of the Vicariate in July of 2013, leaving Holy Cross parish in an uncertain situation for some time. However, the Western Rite has been fully reorganized directly under Metropolitan Hilarion who has been wonderful to work with and very pastoral. Metropolitan Hilarion, who will celebrate thirty years in the episcopate this year, is the First Hierarch (Primate) of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia and has been a supporter of the concept of Western Rite Orthodoxy since he was a youth growing up in Canada. 

We have already had an episcopal visit from Bishop George of Mayfield who presided from the throne at a Service of Evensong at Holy Cross parish and ordained a Reader for us. In July, I had the opportunity to spend two days with Metropolitan Jonah who is transferring to ROCOR. I was able to serve Vespers with him, to concelebrate the Eucharistic Liturgy with him, and to talk with him. A former Episcopalian himself, he is committed to reaching out to Orthodox-minded Anglicans and wants to visit Omaha.

I am very happy to have been ordained an Orthodox priest. I have grown spiritually, as has my congregation, and my heart and mind have been enlightened and renewed. I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit was with us while we were Anglicans, and I saw many manifestations of the grace of God. Like Israel in the wilderness, we were being led to the Promised Land where our true home lies. As Anglicans we could never get closer than Mount Nebo, but entering the Orthodox Church was  like leaving a desert, crossing over Jordan and entering into a land flowing with spiritual milk and honey. We are home, we are happy, and we are not looking back.

In the past, Catholic Anglicans could only be charged with being in material schism because we were separated from the Orthodox Church by an accident of history, and because we were waiting patiently until, in Bishop Frank Weston’s words, “the Orthodox Patriarchs recognize us as of their own stock.” That day has come. The doors are now wide open and the Welcome mat is out. For Catholic Anglicans to continue to remain separate would no longer be material schism, but formal schism - a great sin because it is done willingly and knowingly. This may be why God is no longer blessing Catholic Anglicans in the Canterbury Communion, GAFCON or the St. Louis Continuum. God can no more bless formal schism than He can bless any other sin.

Alexis Khomiakov was a great 19th century Orthodox theologian and has been described as a Doctor of the Church. He wrote, “We [the Orthodox] are unchanged, we are the same as we were in the eighth century. Oh that you [Western Christians] would only consent to be again what you were once, when we were both united in faith and communion!”

If you are ready to “consent to be again what you were once” and to embrace the fullness of the Faith of the undivided Church without addition or diminution, I am ready to help you. The Western Rite is secure, functions directly under the leadership of Metropolitan Hilarion, and is free to flourish. The door is wide open, the Welcome mat is out, and there is nothing to fear. Now it is up to you. Nunc quo vadis? I can be reached by e-mail at: venovak@hughes.net or by phone at: (402) 573-6558. May God bless you!