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Orthodox Anglicans close ranks to preserve faith
Orthodox Anglicans this year were exhorted to cross diocesan geographical boundaries and break Anglican taboos to protect persecuted orthodox minorities. Evangelical and Anglo-Catholics met at the Passionist Fathers' Monastery in Glen Osmond (Archdiocese of Adelaide) for the biennial national conference of Forward in Faith Australia over the Australia Day weekend.
From 25-27 April, lay leaders, clergy and bishops gathered to consolidate the Forward in Faith mission for the foreseeable future. These Anglicans, sidelined by local synods and ignored by liberal bishops, were told in no uncertain terms that their vocation was to be "their brothers' keeper."
Fr Bill Atwood, leader of USA-based "Ekklesia" and Bishop John Broadhurst of Fulham, the National Chairman of Forward in Faith UK, were the international speakers. On a world scale, the new alliance of orthodox Anglican primates and bishops throughout the world-wide Anglican Communion signals that we are about to turn a corner in historic Anglicanism.
The message was quite simple: Forward in Faith Anglicans in a national church hierarchy based on "Provincial autonomy," must be prepared to be "their brothers' keeper," in the event of persecution for the "faith once delivered." Where local bishops and their dioceses make decisions (regarding everything from sexual ethics to sacramental liturgy) without regard for the international communion, orthodoxy on the local level is in danger of being sacrificed completely.
Bishop Broadhurst went as far as to say that when a diocesan bishop is squeezing out traditionalist parishes, turning away orthodox vocations, forcing liberal priests (or priestesses) upon parishes without their consent and preaching doctrine contrary to the universal tenets of Christian orthodoxy, that diocese "is without a bishop."
The aim of Forward in Faith is to forge a "Guaranteed Ecclesial Structure in which we can pass the Faith on to our children and grandchildren." Of course, it became clear among many at this year's conference that the aims of Forward in Faith throughout the world are a smaller echo of a far greater enterprise - proclamation of the Gospel to the whole world.
Sydney Archdiocese now has more Anglicans than the rest of the Australian Church put together. Consequently, they are also the wealthiest. But as Archbishop Peter Jensen will tell you, their wealth does not reside in church property or trusts, but in their faith in God's written Word, the Bible. Theirs is a Reformed understanding that the holy Scriptures constitute the tangible communication of God's plan of salvation to the heart of every believer; a view that is being eroded in many mainstream Protestant churches.
They remain completely orthodox on the historic person of Jesus Christ and reject outright women priests and any leverage to homosexual "union." The other thing that attracts Anglo-Catholics to our Sydney brethren is that like us, the liberals hate them. The animosity shown by high-profile pro-woman-priest Anglicans towards Sydney is bitter and jealous.
Whatever other differences Sydney style Evangelicals have with Anglo-Catholics, the fact is that in the current war for capital "T" truth over heresy, we have an honourable friend in Dr Peter Jensen.
Those of us in the younger age bracket, in training or newly ordained, take the long-term view that we must work with Sydney for the sake of the Gospel, without losing our integrity in the process.
Major strides towards the reunification of God's people into one ecclesial structure have been made by Pope John Paul II. The official documents reflecting the theological dialogue between Evangelical and Roman Catholic theologians are evidence of that fact. But the wider unity of Western Christians is only one step towards the goal of our Lord, "That they might be one as you and I are one."
That high priestly prayer of Jesus Christ the night before he was betrayed will only find fulfillment when the "two lungs of Christianity," the East and the West, find full communion. For orthodox Anglicans, it is unthinkable that our blessed Lord's prayer might not be answered in the fullness of time. But even then we know that the final consummation of that plan is incomplete. Until the Scriptural insights and Evangelical witness of Christians such as Sydney Anglicans meet the vibrant Christo-centric sacramentalism of Eastern Orthodoxy, and these two meet the theological inheritance of the Western Catholic Church, the world will not "see that we are one and believe."
The final goal of Forward in Faith is the conversion of the whole world. The liberal agenda is hardly fought and bitterly protected, but it is also dying. Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic Christians who believe in the Gospel continue to stem the tide by fostering vocations and growing the Church Catholic.
Orthodox Christians of all traditions are being summoned to a call which orthodox theological students around this country are already participating in: to foster a unifying mission of the Gospel amongst all who believe the revealed truth about Jesus Christ.
This means loosening the knot of Anglicanism for the sake of lifting high the cross - a ministry that the present Holy Father has led without fear because our choice is life, not death. We have a Gospel to proclaim, and we will uphold all our brothers and sisters in Christ who continue to do likewise, because we are going Forward in Faith.
Nigel Zimmerman is currently in priestly formation for the Anglican Diocese of the Murray and completing a Master's Degree in Theological Studies.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 16 No 6 (July 2003), p. 9
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