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An Anglo-Catholic future in the Episcopal Church

An Anglo-Catholic future in the Episcopal Church

Derek Olsen reflects on what an Anglo-Catholic future looks like in the Episcopal Church.

He notes that a prominent Anglo-Catholic parish, St. Paul’s K Street in Washington, DC, “has gone through a process of discernment and is welcoming women clergy to their altar as well as same-sex blessings.” While cheered by this development, he says that more is needed.

He writes:

If the catholic movement wants to be a relevant force in the church, if it wants to be listened to, to have its arguments taken seriously, and actually have an impact upon the decisions made by the Episcopal Church going forward, I believe that we need to both enact and communicate broadly three basic principles in our local parishes and beyond:

1) that openly gay and lesbian people are full and welcome members of our communities and should exercise their ministries among us,

2) that women are full and welcome members of our communities and should exercise their ministries among us, and

3) that children are full and welcome members of our communities and should exercise their ministries among us.

Now—I’m well aware that there are those who identify as catholic Anglicans who will take issue with 1 and 2 in light of what has been said above and identify them as changes of doctrine rather than discipline. I disgree and have written about both explaining my reasons in the past. Rather than get stuck rehashing arguments about 1—as the church is wont to do—I’d rather focus on 2 and 3.

The irony, as I see it, is that many of the catholic parishes that I know personally that do the best with 1 fail on 2 and 3.

Posted by Andrew Gerns

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Randall Stewart

Ditto, David.

David Murray

The best that the Anglican tradition provides is that there is room. The story of St Paul K street is a wonderful example of what can occur when everyone is willing to listen. People who have attended it can tell that it is indeed Anglo-Catholic, but also that it has decided to remain true to that tradition of via media which truly marks us as members of a historic faith called Anglican. Hardly perfect, and hardly set in stone.

I see all three of these as what will be written about in the future. Right along with all those marriages of Henry VIII…
And as far as marriage; the actual founder of the Anglican tradition had a number of them… So, really it does depend on individuals to make the choice of either (here in the USA) the Episcopal Church or some other choice….

For me – I choose to remain within the living, growing tradition of the Episcopal Church, and also to see my own faith influenced by the Anglo-Catholic tradition. It is, for me, a tradition that is alive, and able to see in the world.

Philip Snyder

If you abandon the catholic faith, then you abandon the title “Anglo Catholic.”

The catholic faith is determined by the Vincentian Canon – that which has been believed everywhere, at all times and by all. For two thousand years, the Church catholic taught that the moral laws of the Holy Scriptures were binding all all Christians. She taught that Marriage was the union of one man and one woman. This is being abandoned to satisfy the desires of a secular society.

When the Church does make decisions properly, it does so out of the Holy Scriptures. The heretics of old (Arius, Nestor, Sebelius, etc.) all made their arguments from Holy Scripture. Those that set for the catholic Faith also made their arguments from within Holy Scripture.

Where, in Holy Scripture, is the argument for blessing same sex unions? Where is the argument for gay marriage from Holy Scripture?

To say that you are for blessing same sex unions is to deny that you are an Anglo Catholic. You can call yourself one, but that does not make you one.

Harry M. Merryman


It seems to me that *in practice,* there isn’t—nor likely ever has been—“One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” Thus, appealing to this concept or, for that matter the Vincentian Canon, isn’t very persuasive.

Beyond that, you recently lamented to me that others’ have reviled you for your views. Reading your post (above), might I suggest that your views would be more charitably received were they more charitably offered? As you can see, Geoff experienced your original post as accusing him of being “dishonest” in identifying himself as an Anglo Catholic. Is that what you intended?

I’m just speculating, but the tone of your post seems bound to invite defensiveness and enmity. Instead of a respectful interrogatory or speaking about what you believe, many of your sentences begin with an accusatory “you” followed by some negative judgment. “You seem to think;” “You do not believe;” “Your ecclesiology is insufficiently high;” “You do not have a high view.” In trying to put myself in the place of one who was on the receiving end of these statements, I might be tempted to respond in kind (i.e., in an attacking, accusatory, or disdainful manner), with sarcasm, or simply to ignore you.

Philip Snyder

Goeff – if you accept the blessing of same sex unions and ordination of men or women engaged in sex outside of marriage or that marriage is anything but one man and one woman, then you do NOT have a “high” view of the Church. You seem to think that the Church is something that can be fundamentally changed by an individual bishop or diocese or province. You do not believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church because you are not willing to submit your beliefs to what the Church Catholic believes and has always believed.

Your Ecclessiology is insufficiently “high” to be “Anglo-Catholic.” It is very low indeed. The Church is the Body of Christ and, as such, is subject to the same Christological heresies as the Person of Christ. Your Ecclessiology is very adoptionistic – If you think you can change the nature of the Church on a vote by orders, you see the human side of the Church, but not the divine side. I do not own the term “Anglo-Catholic” it is not the same as “smells and bells.” It means having a high view of the Church and being closer to Rome in your sacramental theology and trust in the teaching authority of Church Catholic (the universal Church).

David Murray

As someone with in parts, a very long family tree (as in parts covering over a thousand years). I know from the records of this heritage that the church has altered marriage to suit itself as well as these figures of Western culture. At times it was the push of the church to end an marriage. True – these had reasons (or lack thereof), but clearly views do alter with changing times.

Besides, the preferred model in the Christian Bible was not to be married at all, and no, I do not mean to have a life of a loose person.

I agreed with Mr. McLarney on the meaning of an Anglo-Catholic. However, regardless of what any of us time, time shall show the way of the church. And it is key that the church can speak to persons living their day-to-day lives. As for myself, I believe that is best done among them with the high purpose of faith.

Geoff McLarney

I am sorry Philip finds my self-description as an Anglo-Catholic to be dishonest. It would never have occurred to me to call myself anything as someone who believes in the nine “high” points set out by Fr John Alexander SSC in his “What Is Anglo-Catholicism” – a high view of God, of Creation, of the Incarnation, of the Atonement, of the Church, of the communion of saints, of the sacraments, of Holy Orders, and of Anglicanism. Now that I know that Philip has trademarked the term, I shall endeavour to respect it.

TJ McMahon

In the past, the answer to “is the Pope Catholic?” was “yes,” even for non-Papist Anglo Catholics. Apparently, if one accepts the above, the answer, from the point of view of these “affirming catholics” (as defined by Frank Griswold) of the Episcopal Church, is “no.” Is the definition of “Catholic” to be one of liturgical form, rather than theological substance?

Christopher Donald

Is it what Catholic really means, or what you want Catholic to mean …

A cynical reading of the author’s post could read:

You must change your definition of marriage, role of women in the priesthood, and the atmosphere of the mass, and then certainly there is room for an Anglo Catholic in the transformed Episcopal church.

It is a shame on both sides that the great big tent that was the Anglican Communion that embraced a variety of traditions has broken down …

Leslie Scoopmire

One CAN be Anglo-Catholic and be supportive of the gifts and ministry of all persons. Just remember what “Catholic” really means.

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