Saturday, January 25, 2014

Like Samuel conjured by the Witch of Endor, I find myself annoyed at the disruption of my rest. I waved to the Reformed as I was hauled to the cemetery back on Reformation Day.  Wasn’t that enough?
But today I see that Anglo Catholic luminaries are gathered to observe one of their Feasts. Who can remain unimpressed?  Sure, the Reformed have Calvin and his voluminous writings and control over a municipal government, but the ACs sport “Charles I, King of England, Ireland and Scotland; and of France and Jerusalem,,, by whose death the Catholic Faith of the Anglican Communion was preserved from Puritan intentions.”  Here looms a figure like Allan Haley, quoting Chesterton to preserve Stand Firm from the “intentions” (let the reader understand, or at least infer) of Kennedy and Ould,  So I must abandon my cozy Broad Church grave for the moment and shamble along, undead and brain-craving, to wave at this High Church moment.

I have a strange affection for the ACs (yes, yes, lots of ACs are known for strange affections).  I was seminarized or whatever the verb should be at General in NYC, which was not the flagship AC seminary but certainly leaned that way, liturgically, during my stay.  I visited many of the New York churches but had a special fondness for St. Mary The Virgin, Times Square.  I even took part in a conference there on the Sesquicentennial of the Oxford Movement, culminating in a vested-up procession through Times Square.  I remember a pleasant young woman asking my classmate (and now a TEC Bishop) John Bauerschmidt, “What are you all doing?”, to which John gave a perfectly AC reply, “It probably isn’t something that will make sense to you.”

But that’s just seminarian dabbling.  My second parish after ordination was St. Nicholas’ Church, Encino, at the time THE AC parish of the Diocese of Los Angeles.  Much of St. Nick’s identity was shaped by the fellow lauded in this article, which is so AC you won’t be able to understand a word.  As it should be.
For two years - two wonderful years, during which I grew much as a priest and met and married my wife - I celebrated facing the altar, offering the liturgy from the Anglican Missal.  (Hmm, seems I’ll soon have new friends in the cemetery.  Kennedy fell over when I mentioned “Oxford Sesquicentennial” and Ould clutched his chest at “Anglican Missal.”  Grab a bag o’ brains and join me, lads).  To this day, the posture of the priest facing the altar, leading COMMON PRAYER to God, still makes more sense to me than the chasubled picnic host at the community gathering.

Ah, but there’s one of those AC conundrums.  Facing the altar is ancient, and ACs like that… but Rome says “face the picnickers,” and that makes ACs stand up and salute genuflect.

One reason I’m a Broad Church Zombie and not a true AC is that they just can’t answer that question of, “Why not go to Rome?”  Some give reasons, and form newer and truer “Continuing” jurisdictions; others say, “Hello, Newman” and go to the Ordinariate.

Another reason I’m not truly AC is the high proportion of wingnuts in the AC ranks, especially if you delve into the clergy cohort.  Strong AC parishes are only one Rector search away from the madman who will undo decades of good work put in by a genuinely saintly High Churchman.  Neurotic aesthetes, antiquarians, and even atheists lurk under every thurible.  One of the most rousing speakers at that Oxford

Movement commemoration in the 80s was Richard Holloway.  He gave a fiery oration against all the stuff we type fiery posts against here at SF, then went off to Scotland to be a Primate ... and avowed atheist.  That is just SO AC.

One AC leader - I apologize for having lost my recollection of which one, which is a real problem for Zombies - anyway, one of them wrote in The Anglican Digest something like, “Anglo Catholics won the forms of the Episcopal Church, but not its heart.”  That was a wonderfully honest and massively tragic insight.  Indeed, we got all the vestments, incense, “Eucharistically centered” this ‘n’ that and all of the lovely externals, but the theological rot only spread.  So that’s another reason I could never be true AC.

But let me say a few kind things as I drag along (this Zombie walking is interminable… heh heh “interminable”... is that a synonym for “undead”?  heh heh).  I mean a few kind things about the ACs, things I respect.

One of the stereotypes that ACs blew up for me was that High Church Anglicans can’t preach.  I mean, you have awful preachers in every part of the church, but there was that idea that ACs just “did liturgy” and were so fussy about it that the Word was neglected.  Let me say that I’ve heard many fine sermons from ACs.  In fact, some of them get to the point quicker and better than other preachers, because the sermon is a part of the liturgy and not the humongous centerpiece of the service.  Good AC preachers, attentive to the liturgical seasons, often bring out “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) in ways that make some of the Reformed sound like broken records (speaking of things in the grave).  And I was pleasantly surprised by the receptivity of AC laity to good preaching… sure, there were the eccentrics at coffee hour who wanted me to know that the sermon wasn’t really necessary as long as we had the sacrament, and for whom the message of the cross was secondary to genuflecting at the proper angle to the third candlestick, but on the whole preaching that used liturgy to help exposit the Word was quite well received.

Another thing I admire about ACs - the healthy ones, at least - is that they are solid in their convictions.  Given all kinds of evidence that their wing of the church is dying off, and with all the screaming about how they need to change who they are to suit the times, ACs understand themselves to be “delivering what they received from the Lord” and stick with it.  They see the church as saved by Christ and are not prone to see themselves as the saviors of the church.

You know what, this King Charles the Martyr thing is way down in Texas.  I will never get there in time walking like a Zombie, and my hitchhiking efforts are not working.  Guess I’ll end this and head back to my Broad Church tomb.  What shall I sing to make the walk feel quicker?  Ah, how about “Ye Who Own the Faith of Jesus”? It’s really all about Mary, after all.

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