A message from Bishop Damien Mead on the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity

The Nicene Creed, which we recite at almost every Mass, declares the Church to be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.

In our Epistle reading at Mass today tells us that the Church of the New Testament was definitely one: “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Ephesians. 4:4-5). St Paul linked this primitive unity to the Church’s common celebration and sharing in the Mass. “For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:17). Jesus had promised at the outset that ” … and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” (John 10:16). Of course it follows that this “one bread” should be the same, and understood and recognised to be the same among all believers for this unification to be complete.

The Church of the apostles was holy. When we say that, we mean among other things that it had the all-holy God himself as author. We do not mean that all of its members have ceased to be sinners and have themselves become all-holy. On the contrary, the Church from the beginning, on her human side, has been composed of sinners: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15). The Church was founded for no other reason than to continue Christ’s redemptive and sanctifying work with them in the world.

One of the attributes of the “holiness” as applied to the Church, is that the Church from the beginning has been graced with the means to help make holy the sinners who are found in her ranks. The Church has been given the sacraments along with the word precisely in order to be able to help make sinners holy.

The third great historic mark of the one true Church was that this Church was Catholic. “Catholic” means “universal.” It refers as much to the fullness of the faith which it possesses as it does to the undeniable extension in both time and space which has characterised it virtually from the beginning.

At the very beginning, of course, it was no doubt difficult to see how the “little flock” (Luke 12:32) of which the Church then consisted could by any stretch of the imagination qualify as “universal.” Still, just as all life begins with a group of cells, which in term become the whole human being, so the Church already contained the universality that would quickly begin to manifest itself.

It is not without significance that the Holy Spirit came down upon the Church at Pentecost at a time when “there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven” (Acts 2:5). It was to them that the Holy Spirit temporarily enabled the apostles to speak in the languages of all these various nations — a powerful sign that the Church was destined for all men everywhere, represented at that first Pentecost in Jerusalem by those of many nations who had come there from afar. Many accepted the faith then and there and presumably began forthwith carrying “the Catholic Church” back to the four corners of the earth.

Finally, the Church that issued from the commission of Christ to the apostles was necessarily apostolic. Christ founded the Church upon the apostles and in no other way: “Have I not chosen you twelve?” he asked them (John 6:70). The apostles of all people understood perfectly well that they did not set themselves up in their own little community, as we sometimes today see “independent churches” set up even those who have the external trappings of which suggest they believe what we do about the Church. The New Testament teaches, ” And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God” (Heb. 5:4).

Nothing is clearer, then, that the Church started out as “apostolic.” The question is whether the apostles had the power and authority to pass on to others what they had received from Christ. We have already seen that they very definitely did have this power and authority; the New Testament evidence is clear about that. Indeed there are already references in the New Testament to the appointment of bishops by the apostles, as well as to the appointment of further bishops by them (Titus 1:5-9).

What Church, if any, descends in an unbroken line from the apostles of Jesus Christ (and also, not incidentally, possesses the other essential notes of the true Church of which the creed speaks)? Any entity or body claiming to be the Church of Christ must be able to demonstrate its apostolicity by demonstrating an organic link with the original apostles on whom Christ manifestly established his Church.

The Anglican Catholic Church does not claim to be THE One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. But bearing as we do the Four Marks of THE Church do believe ourselves to be PART of this Church which Jesus Christ founded on the apostles and which has come down to us from them. If we do not, how can we pretend that we take anything seriously that Christ said and taught?

He said nothing more solemnly than these words, “He that heareth you heareth me;” (Luke 10:16). in which he declared that the apostles and their successors would speak for him in the serious business of gathering in and sanctifying his people and leading them toward the salvation he offers. Jesus intended that the fullness of his grace should come to his people in a Church that, from the beginning, was what the creed still calls it today: One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.

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A message from Bishop Damien Mead for the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

In Christian theology, charity — or love (agäpé) — is the greatest of the three theological virtues (Faith and Hope being the other two). As I have said so many time s before the English Word “Love” sometime fails to fully convey our intention. The Love we mean here is in the sense of an unlimited loving kindness towards all others, is held to be the ultimate perfection of the human spirit, because it is said to both glorify and reflect the nature of God.

This Love is, we are told of the Three the greatest because it is also eternal. Faith and Hope point to the eternal but Faith will one day no longer be necessary, and Hope will be fulfilled fully. Love is endless.

Cultivating the Christian virtues of faith, hope, love, wisdom, temperance, joy, courage, faithfulness, peace, is achieved in relationship with God (and the circumstances he brings into our lives) and others.

By their very nature Christian virtues are relational; they cannot be learned in a vacuum. We learn to trust God deeper by joyfully going through the trials of life; wisdom by dealing with difficult people, courage by facing dangerous circumstances and people, faithfulness by constancy in promise keeping, patience by restraining anger and despair, and humility by serving others.

God has called us both into his body and to be salt and light in the world; he has called us into an interesting set of relationships which he uses and will always use to enable us to grow.

With God all things are possible.

Do we really believe this and what should we really understand it to mean? In the Gospels Jesus is quoted a number of times saying a variation of this “With God all things are possible”. But wherever ‘all things’ is mentioned concerning man, a qualifier of belief is added. “And, all things, whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.” (Matthew 21:22) “….All things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23)

The ‘all things’ is limited to only those items that can be believed. Jesus is saying, “If you can believe it, then it is possible.” The limitation is on our believing. Over-and-over again, the Gospels communicate a simple concept – There are no limitations with God, and the limitations that man received in the Fall are neutralised by his faith in God.

In effect, faith in the ‘God of no limitations’ takes away the limitations of man. This is not elevating man, it is elevating the blessing of God upon man. The source of the power is not man but rather faith in God – “If you can believe it, it will happen.” God is saying, “I have no limitations, if you can believe in me, I can do it.”

I have met people who have beaten themselves up because they feel they have lacked sufficient faith — and that therefore this is why a particular thing hasn’t happened. Someone hasn’t been healed or they haven’t gained or achieved something. But this isn’t what we are talking about.

There are no inconsistencies in God, no fallibility, no contradictions. We are told in St Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians today that his earnest prayer for all those who are following Christ is to have us strengthened by the Holy Spirit in the inner man. That Christ may thereby dwell in our hearts by faith and that we may be rooted and grounded in love so that we can “comprehend what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height: and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.”

Jesus did not say, “It is possible to believe for all things,” but rather, He said, “All things that are believed are possible.” There is a huge difference between the two wordings. The inclusiveness is determined not by a definition of ‘all things’, but rather on the extent of our possible faith. This makes sense if you understand that faith in God is based solely on items granted to us by His word. The ‘all things’ are determined by the ‘things’ promised in His word.

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When is an Anglican Catholic not an Anglican Catholic?

I once got into a spat on a Facebook Site called “Anglican Catholics” since the owner was clearly not what would be regarded as an Anglican Catholic: his beliefs were certainly askew from what could properly be called Catholic. His response was “my friend, you do not own the term Anglican Catholic.” Eventually, I left the group as I realised that I would be banging my head against a brick wall when the Catacombs of Priscilla came up yet again.

I believe that we are clear what we mean by both Anglican as an adjective and Catholic as a noun. I am of course assuming that if one calls oneself a Catholic, then one is necessarily Christian and therefore affirms Christian doctrine. The question one now needs to answer is whether the doctrine that is called Christian Doctrine can be anything other than Catholic.

Here, we can open the door to all kinds of polemics, accusations, anathemas, and behaviour that is not consonant with the love that Christ bids us show. There is a difference between one’s identity and one’s practice otherwise we would all fall into the Pelagian trap. A man can be a Christian, but if he confesses that Our Lady was not a virgin, then it would be perfectly reasonable to infer that he is not a very good Christian measured up against the Canon of Doctrine, just like a Benedictine monk is one by his profession of his vows, not by his keeping of The Rule.

I believe it right to say that the Catholic Faith is the correct expression of Christian Doctrine. This necessarily means that people who don’t agree with me, I believe, are wrong and therefore deficient in some way in their beliefs. As long as we are talking about actual doctrine and not pious opinion, this seems quite justifiable. Yet, I still cannot say that these folk are not Christian unless there is some profound revelation of this. I can certainly describe actions as not being Christian – murder, adultery, et c – but these can be, and indeed have been, committed by Christians!

What if a Christian stands up and denounces Christ Our Lord? Well, then I do have reason to believe that they’re not really Christian. There’s evidence for it. Criminals have confessed on their deathbeds, the Penitent Thief finds Paradise, but if Christian Identity is in the heart and not in the actions, then the one who denounces Christ is simply not Christian. Human beings are not permitted to know the secrets of the heart. We may only gather evidence from actions. It is clear, then, why St Paul in concordance with Our Lord’s teaching urges us not to enter into judgment on anyone’s identity, but to judge the actions that they perform as something separate and part of the fallible human nature.

Does that mean we get to say who is an Anglican Catholic? I think the same principle applies. Anglican Catholics are indeed just as good at not behaving like an Anglican Catholic as Christians are good at not behaving like Christians. This means that we do need to live our lives in such a way that we could be convicted of being what we say we are on the strength of evidence. Acting like an Anglican Catholic does mean acting like a Christian first. How might we then continue?

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Hope for the future

It has long been my intention to contribute more to this blog and I know that Fr Chadwick also would like contributions to what we had envisioned as being an organ for Anglican Catholics to publish thoughts, news and doctrinal discussions in an atmosphere of robust academic conversation.

I have recently blogged on O Cuniculi about my perceived conflicts between the Book of Common Prayer as a lex credendi and the Oecumenical Councils. There are members of the Anglican Catholic Church who hold to the Articles of Religion and those who don’t, and I have known this tension to become volatile between those who hold either view as strongly as to raise it to the level of dogma.

If there are any Anglican Catholic Clergy willing to help bring this blog back from the dead, it would be lovely to hear from them!

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Constructive Hiatus

I have had some enquiries about the future of this blog.

It is impossible to say too much at this time, but I have had correspondence with our Metropolitan, Archbishop Mark Haverland and my own diocesan, Bishop Damien Mead. For this blog to be a work of our Church as opposed to a personal blog, it needs a team of clergy and lay persons to write articles. I have found support and encouragement from Archbishop Haverland and Bishop Mead and we are writing around.

The blog needs a very definite purpose, which would in first place be educational and reasonably high-brow. I am determined to free this blog from any harshness, polemics and negativity, especially between “Anglo-Catholics” and “Classical Anglicans”. Instead, I would like to promote serious reflection on the official positions of the Anglican Catholic Church and issues that concern Catholicism and Anglicanism in general. I would also like culture and social doctrine to enter the picture.

When I am sure of my team in addition to the support and encouragement from our Hierarchy, I could imagine this blog getting off to a new start, perhaps a little before Christmas.

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I’ve been pondering on whether to write this, given the furore I appear to have been causing of late. I’ve decided to breach the hiatus slightly in the light of Fr. Chadwick’s update in order to reinforce good confraternity and happier relations with other Christians.

I wrote  An Alternative to the Church of England in order to demonstrate that the Anglican Catholic church is just that: an alternative. I did not mention any other alternatives for the very simple reason that I know too little about them and cannot speak of them with any degree of authority or knowledge: I simply felt it best to keep quiet, especially on a blog devoted to the ACC. If anyone has taken offence at that, I willingly and sincerely apologise. It is not my intention to offend, but it is my intention to promote the Church to which I belong and love to bits, warts’n’all. I am also aware of the warts!

I do willingly concede the existence of other alternatives to the CofE and it is really for them to give an account of themselves so that the honest enquirer can make a decision with a fully-informed and encouraged conscience. If this blog should return to activity, I will try to ensure that I do better.

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A Few Words

Revision as of 3rd August 2013, Invention of St Stephen.

I have had some sincere and cordial correspondence with Fr Stephen Smuts by private e-mails. I have decided to remove the posts he found offensive. I count on him to do the same thing. Reconciliation is our duty and the one things that gives meaning to life and faith in our fellow human beings.

* * *

I have been reflecting how this blog should be used. It seems obvious that if this blog bears the logo of the Anglican Catholic Church, then it is de facto an official blog, even if our Bishops have not given it that status. That brings a lot of responsibility, and I have tried to take care not to confuse this blog with my personal blog As the sun in its orb. This is not designed to be a personal blog.

This separation doesn’t seem to be very clear, and I do not wish to bring the ACC as a whole into any polemics. If any of our bishops or priests engage in polemics of their own, then they engage only their own moral responsibility. I meant this blog to be something positive. We need new life and new contributors to raise the “prophetic” and theological level.

I therefore place this blog – of my own initiative – into a state of hiatus. My Bishop has said that he considers this decision to be the right thing. Previous posts and comments continue to be available. Until I find a reason for its revival, readers are referred to the following three personal blogs which do not engage our Church.

I wish you all a good and restful summer, here in the Northern Hemisphere, and respite from the cold in the Southern.

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