Monday, August 12, 2013

Conversations about the Continuing Church

In recent days I've had some interesting, very revealing discussions with folk - laity and clergy - about the continuing church, and was able to clear up a major misconception about the Church for them.

This was the misconception: not everyone in a continuing Anglican parish is there for strictly theological reasons... because they are ultra conservative and highly informed churchmen who strongly adhere to the theology of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer and the King James Bible. For some reason these folk - both clergy and laity from other traditions - thought that was the case, but it is not. They were amazed to hear that continuing Anglican parishes are, for better or worse, just as diverse as every other church in the United States. My own parish is interracial and has people of all ages - newborns all the way up to retirees - each active and involved in their own way. The people have been drawn there, I have discovered, for all sorts of reasons: they like the little country "feel" of the place; they like the people; they like the rector; they like the hymns; they like the service; it is like how it was when they grew up, they like the theology; etc. In short, there is no single defining factor that seems to attract people to the church. In some ways I think the spectrum of theological beliefs runs the gamut, despite my best efforts to teach what the church teaches in a such way as to get them to believe it! Like folk in other traditions, many people that I have come across in the continuum have simply a basic knowledge of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, and some but much less knowledge of the Bible and theology. So anyone who thinks that continuing Church parishes are bodies dominated by conservative political or orthodox theological "groupthink" is just plain wrong. Our people are as diverse as the people in any other church out there.

The difference, however, between us and the larger, mainline churches is mainly our liturgy and, of course, related to that, the orthodox catholic teaching of the Tradition. The membership of the Episcopal Church, for example, also has diversity in belief. But their church also has diversity of teaching. We are different. The continuing Church is much closer to the Roman Catholic Church in this area, inasmuch as, like them, our membership may believe any number of things, but the teaching of the Church in specific theological areas is quite clear and is unequivocally taught and preached.


  1. Your statement seems extremely broad. Has me wondering if you're talking only about your specific jurisdiction (APA) or the entirety of Continuing Anglicanism in the USA? Please elaborate. For example, who is the "us" when you write, "The difference, however, between us and....?"

    In my experiences with CA parishes and parishioners over the years, seems like they break out across a spectrum mostly into two rather different types: low church/almost Reformed (e.g., accepting the 39 Articles, using the 1928 BCP) and high church/almost Roman Catholic (e.g., rejecting the 39 Articles or only "accepting" them as per Newman's tractarian position and using the American Missal).

    The CA parish in my area (ACA), which considered going into the RCC's Ordinariate, is definitely the latter, in both worship and as regards clergy. I couldn't even print the negative comments from their priest about the 39 Articles and when he celebrates "The Feast of the Assumption" this week, he'll be more RC than most RC churches in the area. The majority of CA churches I've worshipped at over the years seem more Anglo-Catholic than traditional Anglican. The other CA church I'm familiar with recently left CAism to become Orthodox. They, too, were more High Church.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I'm referring to the APA, though the same was true of the parish I was part of in seminary, which was in a different jurisdiction. and probably true of the other "Affirmation of St. Louis" jurisdictions too.

    The challenge of the priest has always been ministering to all of the people who come to the church from such different backgrounds and different motives!

  3. Fr Anderson, I agree with your point. What you write about your congregation is point-for-point quite true of mine. The diversity of our people is a sign of health and strength. While there are a few clergy around who fulminate against the 39 articles and try very hard to appear more "Kartholic" than Abp Lefebvre, these are not representative of our people. Nobody pays them much attention and they will all be gone in 1 or 2 decades at most.

    1. It will be interesting to see over the next few years what impact the RCC's Ordinariate will have on CAism in USA. So far seems more like an exodus mainly of clergy to them, with few buildings or entire congregations joining. This might significantly reduce the influence of the Anglo-Catholic wing of CAism. Though only time will tell. Will be interesting to see if one outcome is an increase in influence of High Church Anglicans who aren't slavishly RC in outlook. More like Laudians or Non-jurors than the Tractarians?

  4. Thank you for your comment, father. Rather than getting bitter about folk who don't tow the proverbial party line, I try to see the occasional disagreements that some of my people raise to certain biblical and moral teachings as an opportunity to continue teaching and forming them in the faith.

  5. Dear Father, I am amazed at your article. I agree that there is certainly theological diversity. But don't you think perhaps the binding thing is not theology but political homogeneity? Is this why continuing churches have the bad habit of talking about politics incessantly in church? Because there is little agreement theologically but there is a great deal of it politically?