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! 

Friday, August 1, 2014

LETTER TO AN INQUIRER

Dear __________,

Thank you for your e-mail inquiring about Holy Cross parish and the Orthodox Church. You seem to be a genuine seeker so I am not surprised that you have visited a lot of different churches over the past few years. I remember many years ago I read a tract from Campus Crusade for Christ called The Four Spiritual Laws. The tract sought to lead people to make a decision for Christ and then directed them to find a Bible-believing church. But how does a new believer, I asked myself, know if a church is in fact Bible-believing? How do even mature believers know? Each of the now more than 30,000 disagreeing, competing and often internally conflicted denominations, and every one of the vast number of non-denominational, interdenominational and independent churches, all profess to go by the Bible. Even pseudo-Christian groups like the Jehovah's Witnesses claim to go by the Bible; and the Mormons make the same claim at least "as far as it is accurately translated."

So how does one find the correct Church? Our Lord established His Church during His earthly ministry (Matt. 16:18), promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matt. 16:18), commanded His followers to "hear the church" (Matt. 18:17), and sent the Holy Spirit to lead it into all truth (John 16:13). “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:47). The Church Christ founded "continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine ['the faith once delivered unto the saints' (Jude 3)] and fellowship, and in breaking of bread [the Holy Eucharist] and in prayers" (Acts 2:42). 

For the first thousand years of Christianity there was essentially one Church. Whether you were a Christian in Jerusalem, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, the continent of Europe, or all the way West to the British Isles, you belonged to the same Church. As the Church grew it developed into five Patriarchates or regional centers for administrative purposes: Rome; Constantinople, the New Rome; Alexandria in Egypt; Antioch, where the disciples were first called Christians; and Jerusalem. History records that the Gospel was brought to Britain by St. Joseph of Arimathea directly from Jerusalem in AD 37, and St. Aristobulus of whom St. Paul writes in the New Testament (Rom. 16:10) later became the first bishop there.

In 1054 there was a tragic division in the Church. The Patriarchate of Rome changed the Nicene Creed and used that change to enforce a novel claim of its bishop to be the head of the Church. This attempt failed and Rome found itself separate from the other four Patriarchates, and thus the Roman Church began a separate existence eventually becoming known as the Roman Catholic Church. The other four Patriarchates continued on unchanged and unchanging, as the Orthodox (correct doctrine/correct worship) Catholic Church. 

After making the innovations that caused the schism in 1054, Rome continued to change the Faith. Over time they added purgatory and indulgences among other novel doctrines and practices, leading to an explosion called the Protestant Reformation in 1517.  For a thousand years there was essentially one Church, for the next four and a half centuries there were two: the Orthodox Church consisting of four of the original five Patriarchates, and the separated Roman Church. 

Then in 1517, Martin Luther, a Roman priest in Germany, began the "Reformation" which shattered the Roman Church like a hammer blow hitting a glass window. Five hundred years later there are an estimated 30,000 "denominations" in the West, with five new ones being formed every week, plus uncountable numbers of non-denominational, interdenominational and independent churches. The Protestant revolt eliminated one pope, but through the novel Protestant doctrines of Sola Scriptura and the Private Interpretation of the Holy Scriptures made every Protestant a pope. These autogenetic groups were not started by or authorized by Christ, and even with the best of intentions they are merely human inventions and organizations. Besides this denominational chaos in the West, there is the 300 million-member Orthodox Catholic Church.

At the time of the Great Schism in 1054, the Church in the British Isles sided with the four Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem against the innovations of Rome. That is what led to the Norman invasion of England in 1066. England was conquered by the Normans, all but one of the English bishops were replaced by Normans, and the English Church (ecclesia anglicana) was subjected to papal domination by force of arms. 

In 1534, the English Reformation began. The English Reformation was very different from what happened on the Continent. Rather than being a revolt against the Church, it was an effort led by the bishops of the English Church (ecclesia anglicana: the Anglican Church) to reform the Church and restore the beliefs and practices of the undivided Church. For more information on this you can go to our parish website (www.holycrossomaha.net). There, you will find an article on the Sidebar called Orthodox Anglicanism and Christian Reunion: The Time Is Now

Unfortunately, over the centuries many Anglicans have lost sight of this goal and came to see their Church as essentially a denomination. With the loss of understanding that the Anglican Church was merely a separated branch of the whole, seeking to restore the beliefs and practices of the undivided Church, Anglicanism lost its way theologically, morally and ecclesialogically, making corporate reunion impossible. However, beginning in the latter part of the 20th century  large numbers of Orthodox-minded Anglicans have been reunited with the Orthodox Church from which their forefathers in the Faith were torn away in 1066, by the Norman Conquest. At first they joined Eastern Rite parishes or even established a few, but in recent years the Western Rite has been restored and there are now dozens of Western Orthodox parishes like Holy Cross. 

Christ founded His Church during His earthly ministry, To be the Church Christ founded a Church has to be almost 2,000 years old. That eliminates some 29,998 denominations out of an estimated 30,000 in existence today, and leaves only two candidates: the Orthodox Catholic Church (four of the five original patriarchates) and the Roman Catholic Church (one of the original patriarchates). A study of history quickly reveals which of these two candidates changed the Faith in 1054, leading to the Great Schism, continued to innovate in doctrine leading to the explosion of 1517, and continues to innovate (immaculate conception, 1854; papal infallibility, 1870, etc.) in doctrine and practice to this very day.

Another way to look at it is this: Take your Bible and look at the churches in the New Testament. What Church are the New Testament churches part of today? Nazarene, Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Vineyard, Roman Catholic? Some other denomination? The indigenous Christians in Jerusalem are Orthodox. The indigenous Christians in Antioch "where they were first called Christians" are Orthodox. The Christians of Cyprus and Crete are Orthodox. The Christians of Asia Minor are Orthodox. The Christians of Corinth, Athens and other Greek cities where the Apostle Paul founded churches and to whom he wrote epistles are all Orthodox. All of these churches are, and always have been, Orthodox. The only church spoken of in the entire New Testament that is not Orthodox today is Rome, and Rome was fully Orthodox for a thousand years before falling away into schism in 1054. Rome was Orthodox for longer than she has been separated from Orthodoxy.

Our Lord Jesus Christ established one Church. All of the others are man-made denominations, or as in the case of Rome, a schism. A human foundation means a human organization, and a human organization means a human and therefore a changing Faith. I do not say this to judge the sincerity of their members, belittle their personal faith, denigrate the good work that they may do, or to imply that God does not love these precious souls. It is merely an undeniable fact of history. The good news is that vast numbers of these sincere and Divinely beloved believers from virtually every Western Christian tradition have, by the grace of God, found their way home to the Orthodox Church, — and more are coming home every day.

The original Church that Christ established cannot fall away into apostasy and need recreating by a Reformer, theologian, teacher or prophet, because Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would lead His Church into all truth and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. We have His word on it. The only question is, do we trust Him?

You cannot found a church "on the Bible" because the Church preceded the New Testament. The canon of the New Testament was not finally set until the end of the fourth century. If the Church became apostate after the death of the last apostle or at the time of Constantine, as many Protestants like to claim, then you cannot trust the New Testament that an apostate Church gave us long after the death of Constantine. The truth is though, that without the Orthodox Church the 30,000 competing denominations of today would not even have a common New Testament! 

The Orthodox Church is not just another denomination whose doctrinal statement, programs and worship style can be reviewed and compared in the consumer oriented Christian culture of the West today. It is the one, original Church founded by our Lord Jesus Christ as history clear demonstrates. 

The Orthodox Church is a visible, living organism of which Christ is the head, and its members are His body. It has an unchanging deposit of Faith, a divinely instituted ministry in Apostolic Succession, authority ("hear the church"), and Sacraments that are objective means of grace. The spiritual life of the Orthodox Church today continues to accurately reflect the spiritual life of the earliest Church found in Acts 2:42. 

The Church is both Divine and human, and the human element is fully human. The Church is a hospital for sinners and not a country club for saints. Orthodox Christians, both lay and clerical, are not perfect, and there will always be problems in the Church. To think that the true Church must be sinless is to misunderstand the nature of the Church. Sanctification is a lifelong processes, and sometimes it is two steps forward and one step back. Sometimes the lives of Christians look like chicken tracks, apparently moving in all directions, but as St. Augustine reminds us, “God writes straight with crooked lines.” The Church is made up of both wheat and tares. The good news is though that through grace even a tare can become a new creation and end up as wheat! Christ never gives up on anyone and neither does His Church.

The Orthodox Church isn't somewhere you go to worship because you agree with its doctrinal positions, or because it has good programs, a likable pastor or you like the Liturgy. All of these are important, but not good enough. The Orthodox Church is the Mystical Body of Christ which was founded personally by Him nearly 2,000 years ago, in which we are called to be members (Acts 2:47). 

The Orthodox Church is a Eucharistic community. The Holy Eucharist is the center and summit of our spirituality. It is Christ in our midst in a real and objective way. To really understand Orthodox Christianity you have to experience it. If you want to know where Jesus dwells I can only say, "Come and see" (John 1:39).  

I have written you this long letter because I think you are sincere and serious. You say that you are attracted to the Orthodox Church, but are concerned about personal and cultural issues. Many Western people have successfully transitioned to the Eastern Rite, culture and traditions which have dominated the Orthodox Church since Rome fell away in 1054. People do it every day. However, the Orthodox Church is not just an Eastern Church, it is the Orthodox Catholic Church, and maintains unity in diversity. You don’t have to adopt a new culture to be Orthodox. With the resurgence of Western Orthodoxy your cultural concerns are not serious issues. At Holy Cross parish we are fully Orthodox in Faith and a canonical parish of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, in full union with the 300 million-member Orthodox Church worldwide, while at the same time we are thoroughly Western in culture, worship and patrimony. St. John the Wonderworker of San Francisco (d. 1966) 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...” 

There are Western Orthodox parishes, ministries and monasteries throughout North America, in Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and on the continent of Europe, and our numbers are growing. In addition to the Eastern Rite, Orthodox Christians worship according to the Roman Rite (Liturgy of St. Gregory the Great), the English Rite (Liturgy of St. Tikhon), and the Gallican Rite (Liturgy of St. Germanus of Paris). In June of 2014, a Vietnamese Anglican congregation in San Diego was received into the Orthodox Church and is now a Vietnamese Orthodox parish. The Orthodox Church is the Catholic Church and is made up of people of all races, nations and cultures. There are Orthodox Christians on every continent of the earth. The door to the Orthodox Church is wide open and everyone is welcome!  

At Holy Cross Orthodox Church we celebrate the Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist every Sunday at 10:00 AM, with fellowship and refreshments in our parish hall after the Liturgy, and a potluck luncheon on the last Sunday of every month. Other Services and activities are as announced. You can visit our parish website (www.holycrossomaha.net) for more information. We are a faithful, friendly, active and welcoming congregation, and we have a place for you. I hope to see you on Sunday!

Wishing you every grace and blessing,

Fr. Victor+