I ran into someone last week that I used to work with 17 years ago, around the time I first started attending Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, then a Traditional Anglican Communion parish in Ottawa. It is now a Catholic parish of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.
Since we last met, my friend has become active in the Anglican Network in Canada, the Canadian diocese of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), groups that broke away from the official Anglican and Episcopal Churches in Canada and the United States but still affiliated through GAFCON with the Canterbury Communion.
In conversation, I was taken back to the days when, as part of the Anglican diaspora, I would often come across the phrase “orthodox Anglicanism” yet notice there were still big differences on what that meant in terms of sacramental theology, the Prayer Book, liturgy and interpretation of Sacred Scripture. We at Annunciation were considered “nose bleed” Anglo-Catholics, because we were so high church with our smells and bells, cassocks, male priests and liturgy. We had broken with the Anglican Church of Canada over the ordination of women in the late 1970s. ANiC formed when the authority of Scripture was challenged over same-sex blessings. They include Anglo-Catholics but are generally more low church, and evangelical in character.
Just now, I was just prompted to visit David Virtue’s Virtueonline, and sure enough, the tagline for it is “The Voice of Global Orthodox Anglicanism.”
I remember in the run-up to our coming into the Catholic Church, a retired priest and academic who decided he could not continue with us waved the red Canadian 1962 Book of Common Prayer open to the 39 Articles during our coffee hour and thundered these Articles represented the orthodox Anglicanism we were abandoning.
A few years ago, I attended the ANiC Synod that was held here in Ottawa and even wrote a story about it for Catholic papers. I loved being there. What a joyful group of people with a palpable love of Jesus Christ! Here’s a little excerpt of the story I wrote:
Now a province of the Anglican Church in North America (ANCA), ANiC’s roots are in the Anglican “Essentials” movement that began in the 1990s. ANiC formed officially in 2005 and began offering episcopal leadership in 2007 under Bishop Donald Harvey, who sought Primatial jurisdiction under Anglican Primate of the Southern Cone, Archbishop Gregory Venables, who is now Bishop of Argentina.
On Nov. 6, the new primate of the Anglican Church in North America, Archbishop Foley Beach, installed Bishop Charlie Masters as Diocesan bishop. Masters succeeds Bishop Harvey as the founding moderator of the ecclesial body. Venables was present for the installation as were 13 other bishops from ANCA and ANiC.
One of Canada’s foremost Christian apologists, J.I. Packer, 88, a member of ANiC, spoke on the importance of ongoing catechesis for all ages “to maintain orthodoxy in our midst.” ANiC has produced a catechism that was five years in the making.
Catechesis must be regular, i.e. “we keep doing it,” he said. “Things will not be too good if this is neglected.”
Without ongoing catechesis, which has been overlooked in the past 100 years, the denomination has been “invaded by liberal theologians who encourage as many different theologies as there are persons to think them,” Packer said. It also kept clergy from evangelistic and Biblical ministry because they “were not able to offer cogent catechizing through a tried and tested method of spreading God’s Gospel message in Christ.”
The result has been that so many Anglican brothers and sisters are confused about their faith, thinking that “what you believe is not important,” it’s only important how you behave, he said.
“They do not love the Lord,” he said. “They really are not Christian. What can we do about it?”
“I’m an evangelist for catechism,” Packer said, noting everyone needs catechesis for “strength, stability, clarity and punch!”
“I believe in a Christianity that has punch!” he said. “The milk and water prospect of gentle Christianity is not what’s necessary.”
The other day, I arrived at a lecture I planned on attending just as people were leaving and who should I run into but the new pastor of one of Ottawa’s ANiC parishes St. Peter and St. George and his wife, Fr. Brent and Karen Stiller. We had a great conversation and I expressed my hope we could build bridges with them. Some of our young people already socialize with their young people and our priest Fr. Doug Hayman once served at St. George’s, the name of St. Peter and St. Paul’s when it was still in the Anglican Church of Canada.
Well, the other day my old friend sent me an invitation to Fr. Stiller’s induction service on Sunday night, so I think I will go and celebrate with them.
I believe there can be great fruit in the pursuit of orthodox Anglicanism—even if people mean different things when they use those words. And for us in the Anglicanorum Coetibus Society, there is relevance for the Catholics among us, because what is it about our Anglican/ English Catholic patrimony that remains a “treasure to be shared” with the wider Church.
Back in the days when I was a member of a seeker-friendly Baptist Church, I began searching for an Apostolic faith. I was initially drawn to this church because I was not required to sign on the dotted line as believing any creed. My personal relationship with Jesus and believer’s baptism was enough for membership. I’m grateful for their ministry because their approach—very Pope Francis-ish before there was a Pope Francis—gently met me where I was and accompanied to a deeper, more orthodox Christian faith. As I discovered how important believing sound doctrine is in living a victorious Christian life, the more my desire for finding that Apostolic faith grew.
Desiring an Apostolic faith—one like that which was passed on by the eyewitnesses of Jesus Christ—led me first into the Traditional Anglican Communion and ultimately into the Catholic Church.
So, desiring orthodox Anglicanism—may that longing, too, can become a vehicle for ever deeper conversion to Jesus Christ and towards Christian unity, the kind only the Holy Spirit can bring.