Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Christian Episcopal Churches represent a particular and peculiar tradition within the wider Catholic Church. And by the word "peculiar" I do not mean "strange" or "odd", but rather "unusual" or "atypical" - perhaps even "unique". So much division has hurt the Body of Christ, not just historically, but also in our own time. The One Holy Catholic Church of God is not just divided East from West, Greek from Latin, but Roman from Anglican, Greek from Russian, Lutheran from Calvinist, Evangelical from Reformed, Presbyterian from Congregationalist, Methodist from Baptist, and myriad other schisms, branchings off, and breakings away which have torn the seamless robe of Our Blessed Saviour. And today, since the Great Falling Away that began in earnest after the ending of the Second World War, in many instances simply orthodox Christian from heterodox Schismatic.
Many parts of the Church have fallen away from Christian orthodoxy, and it is difficult to discern exactly what it is that they actually are. If we define orthodoxy as adhering to and believing in the inerrant inspiration of the Holy Bible, the truth and authority of the three Catholic Creeds and the Dogmatic Definitions of the undisputed Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church, and the necessity of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion for eternal salvation as the bare minimum, then we find ourselves increasingly by ourselves. We can look to Rome, Constantinople, and Moscow for fellowship and refuge; but Canterbury and most of the divisions of modern Protestantism are lost to us. We can longer enjoy fellowship and share Communion with many who, not so very long ago, were counted as our brethren. Now, in many situations, we cannot even pray with them.
When the Christian Episcopal Churches took their stand back in the last decade of the last century, we stood virtually alone. The Anglican Catholic Churches had already withdrawn from the confusions and commotions of a disintegrating Communion which had doctrinally lost its way; and their experience gave them a different focus and history from us; but their tradition and their faith were the same as ours, and we today enjoy full communion and fellowship one with another. And for that, may God be praised.
Where we are different from all the other Anglican jurisdictions is that, since we remained right up until we absolutely could remain no longer, we were heirs of the work of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission. And having accepted all the declarations and elucidations of the Commission, we were also able to accept the 1983 Code of Canon Law of the Latin Church to guide and fulfill our own Canon Law, and to accept the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church promulgated by Pope John Paul the Second as the official summary of true Catholic teaching following the Second Council of the Vatican. And when we accepted the Code of Canon Law and the Catechism, we did so with the provision that they were subject to the 1562 Articles of Religion and 1662 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England insofar as those two great Anglican statements were received in their "plain and grammatical sense" and as they are rightly interpreted in the light of the Faith, Order, Doctrine, and Discipline of the one undivided Catholic and Apostolic Church.
In other words, the Christian Episcopal Churches were founded upon the fundamental beliefs and principles held by the great theologians of the Anglican Religious Settlement, the learned Caroline Divines, the Bishops of the Restoration, the faithful Non-Jurors, and the erudite and earnest Tractarians of the Oxford Movement who stood fast for Catholic Truth when their Church was in grave danger of falling away. And the position we took, and will always take, is that which the Reverend John Keble, the holy initiator of the Oxford Movement, once famously said: "If the Church of England were to fail, it would be found in my parish."
And that could be taken as the call and challenge of the Christian Episcopal Churches. We believe that during the crisis of the Reformation which divided, confused, and broke the unity of the Church of God, the Church of England - and together with her the ancient Episcopal Church of Scotland - were miraculously preserved by Divine Providence from falling away from the essential truths and order of the Catholic and Apostolic Church. And unhampered by the wars and mutual persecutions that raged on the continent of Europe in the name of religion, she was able quietly and diligently to translate the Word of God and the Divine Liturgy of the Church into the English language at its highest point, cleanse the old English Church from abuse and superstition, set right the sacred ordinances of the Christian Religion, and establish a pure and primitive Catholic doctrine agreeable to the Holy Bible and the witness of the Fathers of the early Church and the Ecumenical Councils that defended and established their sacred teaching.
And so it is that, though small and relatively unnoticed, the Christian Episcopal Churches are a safe haven for the faithful in the midst of the turbulence and tribulation of our time. We have the Word of God and the fullness of the Catholic Faith; we have the wholeness of the Catholic Religion in the Sacraments, an untainted Threefold Ministry, and undisputed Apostolic Succession of Bishops. We stand foursquare with our Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox brethren on matters of morality, especially in regard to the sanctity of human life, Christian marriage and family life; and we preserve whole and intact our precious Anglican heritage of liturgy, music, scholarship, and erudite theology. God has provided for us a place to stand, and an environment in which to live and grow in personal holiness and corporate love. Ours is a great blessing, and a precious gift from God.
But we need to be worthy of that gift, by being faithful to our calling. We need to be like the Centurion in today's Gospel. We must put all of our faith, our trust, and our obedient hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to be humble as he was, and just as believing. What has been given to us will only be as useful to us, and to others, as we allow God to work in us to bring us finally to perfection. We are taught that to whom much is given, from them much is expected. And with all that we have been given, God expects much from us.
Let us be ever thankful to the Lord for what He has brought us to, and given us. He must love us very much to have given us what He has, and that in such abundance. Let us strive never to fail Our Lord; and whenever the opportunity appropriately arises to share with others the great bounty which we have received from Him, let us do it with humility, graciousness, and holy joy.
With prayers for God to bless and keep us all, I am
Yours sincerely in Christ Jesus,
+ Robert David: Richmond.