Dodging the Important Questions on Priests and the Holy Communion

Chris Findley’s piece (Why) Are Priests and the Liturgy Necessary for Holy Communion? is an interesting exploration of the topic, but it’s also (for me at least) an illustration of some of the weaknesses of the way Anglicans “do theology.”  Perhaps it’s too much to ask in one internet piece (which need to be brief and to the point) but I’d like to point out some of the things that Findley manages to dodge in his presentation.

Why are Priests Really Necessary?

We’ll start with the central question of the piece.  He responds as follows:

The short answer is because the charge of conducting the sacraments is an apostolic charge for the care of the Church.

That leaves the serious questions unanswered.  We know that Our Lord himself instituted the Holy Communion and Paul is a witness that this was continued in the New Testament church, and Findley underscores that.  Although, as Findley notes, the institution was done with the disciples (soon to be apostles, Judas excepted,) does this really restrict its celebration to the priests? Citing the 2019 Book of Common Prayer expresses the way Anglicans are supposed to understand the role without really justifying it.

The problem is that there isn’t a unity in Anglicanism either on whether their bishops are successors to the Apostles or whether their priestly role in the Eucharist is a sacrificing one.  You can get Anglicans to blow their stack (and I have) for suggesting that Anglican bishops are successors to the Apostles, and my guess is that Findley would rather avoid that kind of unpleasantness.  Those who object to the successor idea generally tie the issue of successors to the issue of the role of the priest.  But there’s no reason to do this.  In fact, the whole idea of a sacrificing priesthood–one which is borrowed from Roman Catholicism–is patently unBiblical, as I noted here.  But again you can get into trouble in some circles for saying that.

Why Do We Have a Liturgy?

One would think that anyone who would “join up” with an Anglican church would accept the liturgy as a given, but that’s not always the case these days.  I think the simple answer to this question is “why not?”  In other words, why is it superior for some person in skinny jeans (to say nothing of the cheap polyester suits we had to endure in the 1970’s) to get up and ad-lib it to celebrate the sacred mysteries?  The advantage of the liturgy is that it insures (if the liturgy is properly constructed) that all of the theological and penitential bases are covered.  The liturgy should express what the Holy Communion is all about and how one should prepare oneself to receive it.  Some emphasize the aesthetic superiority of liturgical worship, but focusing on that at the expense of theological integrity is a big reason the Anglican/Episcopal world is in the mess it’s in these days.

Why Is It a Sacrament?

In the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, a sacrament is defined as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace.”  The whole concept of sacramental theology is controversial in some circles, who believe that grace is infused (if they use that terminology) only when someone received Christ by faith.  The Baptists and others like them have traditionally referred to those things that Anglicans call sacraments as ordinances, just to underscore the difference.  (Why, in a Reformed context, people who are absolutely elected and persevere need any kind of additional grace is another issue.)  However, I think that sacramental theology is justified provided that the necessary preparatory prerequisites are fulfilled, and I’ve discussed this both relating to Baptism and the Holy Communion.  Whether the church has the authority to dispense this is another subject that Findley asserts without really showing whether it’s true or not, but that again is tied up with the nature of the church and the apostolic succession.

What is the Holy Communion?

This is the biggest dodge of all; Findley concentrates on the effect of the Eucharist at the expense of its nature.  I’ll not bore everyone with my thoughts on this subject; Anglicanism has been all over the map on this subject, it is still the subject of extensive (and sometimes heated) debate.  Like the apostolic succession, the nature of the Eucharist brings up too much unpleasantness.  Another interesting topic which, Lord willing, I plan to take up down the road is the relationship of the faith of the church to the nature of the Eucharist.  But that, people, is another post.




Maybe We Missed the Messiah After All

An interesting account from A.H.M Jones’ classic The Later Roman Empire, 284-602: a social, economic and administrative survey:

We possess a curious contemporary document. Jacob, a Palestinian Jew who arrived at Carthage in 634, was seized and forcefully baptised under a recent law of Heraclius. Pondering the Scriptures in prison he came to the same conclusion as the elder of the Jews at Sycaminon, and by his arguments persuaded the other Jews of Carthage that Jesus must have been the Messiah. Justus, another Palestinian Jew who arrived at Carthage at this juncture, upbraided him as a renegade, but Jacob asked him: ‘What do you think of the state of Romania? Does it stand as from the beginning, or has it been diminished?’ Justus replied dubiously: ‘Even if it has been somewhat diminished, we hope that it will rise again, because the Christ must come first, while the fourth beast, that is Romania, stands.’ But Jacob convinced him: ‘We see the nations believing in Christ and the fourth beast fallen and being torn in pieces by the nations, that the ten horns may prevail, and Hermolaus Satan, the Little Horn, may come.’

Justus added the convincing proof: the Little Horn had come. ‘My brother Abraham has written to me from Caesarea that a false prophet has appeared among the Saracens. “For when the candidatus Sergius was killed by the Saracens,” says Abraham, “I was at Caesarea, and I went by boat to Sycaminum; and they said, ‘the candidatus has been killed’, and we Jews had great joy. And they say that a prophet has appeared coming up with the Saracens and proclaims the coming of the anointed, the Christ who cometh. And when I Abraham came to Sycaminum, I went to the elder, a very learned man, and said to him: ‘What do you say, Rabbi, about the prophet who has appeared with the Saracens?’ And he groaned loudly and said: ‘He is false, for surely the prophets do not come with sword and chariot. Verily the troubles of today are works of confusion, and I fear lest the Christ who came first, whom the Christians worship, was himself he that was sent by God, and we shall receive Hermolaus instead of him. For Isaiah said that we Jews have hearts that have gone astray and been hardened, until all the earth be desolate. But go, Abraham, and enquire about the prophet that has appeared.’ And I Abraham made inquiry and learned from those that had met him, that you find nothing true in the so-called prophet, save shedding the blood of men; for he says that he holds the keys of paradise, which is untrue.” ‘ (Vol. 1, pp. 316-7)

The prophet who appeared with the Saracens was, of course, Mohammad; these were the beginning of the Islamic conquests of the Middle East and North Africa.

The ANCA’s Liturgical Calendar for 2019-20

The ANCA’s 2019 Book of Common Prayer is just starting its first full liturgical year, and the ACNA has thoughtfully put out this guide to same for this year.  You can download the Sunday, Holy Day, and Commemoration Lectionary, Year A ~ 2019–2020: The Anglican Church in North America, The Book of Common Prayer (2019) here.


A few comments are in order:

  • The ANCA opted for a three-year lectionary, denoted “A,” “B” and “C” in the same manner as the Roman Catholics do.  It’s also worth nothing that the ACNA’s “Year A” and the RCC’s “Year A” are the same, even though the readings are different.
  • I always loved Anglican/Episcopal calendars with the vestment colours in them, but I wish that the ACNA would lose the use of blue during Advent in place of purple.  Blue is the colour of the Lodge; purple did fine for Advent until recently.
  • They have included readings from “The Apocrypha,” which should raise some eyebrows here and there.
  • I’ll save my cranky thoughts on the period between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday for a later post.  I think that RCC, TEC and ACNA have botched this.

Gavin Ashenden Swims the Tiber

Yes, he does:

An internationally renowned Anglican bishop and former chaplain to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is leaving the Anglican Church to become a Catholic.

Bishop Gavin Ashenden will be received into full communion by Shrewsbury’s Bp. Mark Davies on the fourth Sunday of Advent at Shrewsbury Cathedral, England.

From the standpoint of the online Anglican-Episcopal world, this is probably the most significant “Tiber swimming” since Greg Griffith did so five years ago.  That led in part to Stand Firm in Faith’s disappearance from the internet, something that is only now coming back.  What George Conger and Kevin Kallsen plan to do with their Anglicans Unscripted series now that Gavin has left the Anglican world remains to be seen.

My own opinion–and it comes from someone who did the same thing many years ago–is that I can’t think of a worse time to do this than now, with the current Occupant in Rome.  Although Gavin’s sentiment that “I came to realize that only the Catholic Church, with the weight of the Magisterium, had the ecclesial integrity, theological maturity and spiritual potency to defend the Faith, renew society and save souls in the fullness of faith” resonates, the actualities of the Church–especially in the West–have made each Papal transition a nail-biter, and now we’re at the point where at least a good part of Roman Catholicism is entering a wilderness all too familiar to those of us who started out in a Main Line denomination.

No matter what, my prayers are with him and his family.

Update: now we have some of the answer re Anglicans Unscripted:

Tory Baucum: Another Loose Cannon Goes Overboard

It seems that I gravitate towards following the “loose cannons” on the Anglican warship.  In the past those included David Moyer (who ultimately did the right thing,) John Hepworth, Chuck Murphy, and later Tory Baucum, Truro Anglican’s rector until this happened:

The Rev. Dr. Tory Baucum, rector of Truro Anglican Church since 2007 has resigned, renouncing his orders in the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). He will be received into the Roman Catholic Church in 2020.

A fact-finding investigation will examine a number of grievances alleged in the treatment of Truro staff and congregants by Baucum.

“In the ‘me-too’ environment we find ourselves in, we want to be clear that none of the grievances alleged are sexual in nature. The grievances presented include numerous and broad complaints from staff about workplace mistreatment, and questionable treatment of congregants,” said a church spokesman.

I think we’ve got another case of “ego inflatable to any size,” but I think I should explain my interest in this subject.  It comes primarily from working at the denominational level.

Like so many Christian “traditions,” people in the church I’m a part of now were taught to reverence their clergy, and in many cases ascribe qualities to them which are the stuff of hagiography but not reality.  Don’t get me wrong, we had and have many fine men and women in ministry who work sacrificially to pastor their flocks or conduct other ministries.  But we also have those who, leaving behind Our Lord’s call to servant leadership, prefer to lord over the Gentiles.  This is flatly contrary to what Jesus came to teach and charge his ministers–and laity–to live.

Unfortunately–and this is especially true in times of ecclesiastical upheaval–it’s easy for those who do lord over the Gentiles to rise to prominence.  That tendency is true across the liberal/conservative divide and in the many “traditions” we have.  It’s at the core of many of the falls we see in ministry these days.  The Anglican/Episcopal world is not immune to this, much of its own past propaganda notwithstanding.

At this point I am not sure whether Baucum will enter the Ordinariate or be laicized like David Moyer.  Either way, that brings up something else: the main attraction of Roman Catholicism these days is that of authority, although the current Occupant of St. Peter’s see is the loosest cannon of all!  It makes sense that one who wants to “lord over the Gentiles” would gravitate towards the RCC, although unless you are much higher up than Baucum will be you’ll learn humility pretty quickly.

The best system is one where the laity, the people of God and the church themselves, are able to counterweight their clergy in a reasonable fashion.  It looks like that’s what happened at Truro and now Baucum will have to find a place–if it’s out there–to exercise his lordship somewhere else.

When God Threw His Wallet on the Table —

One of the many “characters” in Vulcan’s long (144 year) history was Jesse H. Perry, Vulcan’s senior field service representative right up until his sudden death. As I mention elsewhere, it took a very special kind of person to do what Jess did. Construction is a high risk activity, and that’s especially true with offshore […]

via When God Threw His Wallet on the Table —

Here’s a Bookmarked, Easy-to-Navigate PDF of the ACNA’s New Catechism — Anglican Pastor

As the Anglican Church in North America just recently announced, the PDF of the new “Approved” edition of the Catechism is now available. Crossway will be publishing this edition of To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism in early 2020. You can pre-order a copy on Amazon here (affiliate link). I’ve added bookmarks to the…

via Here’s a Bookmarked, Easy-to-Navigate PDF of the ACNA’s New Catechism — Anglican Pastor