Who We Are - Principles of Our Identity.
Fr. Sanderson's article from the February 2009 parish newsletter.
From the Rector's Desk...
Well, my January newsletter article (written last December) was a little reflection on what the New Year might bring. Now that we have actually crossed the threshold, our ponderings and musings can take on a more specific shape.
In the brief but eventful time since the year began, we have welcomed our Bishop for his first "official" visit, confirmed or received a dozen new members, and elected new parish officers at the annual meeting. And following those elections, the staff, clergy and new and returning vestry members had the opportunity to go on our annual Retreat at Kanuga Conference Center. Apart from the temperature (it was 5 degrees on Friday night) and the power outage (all our room assignments were switched at the last moment because only one building had a generator) it was a remarkably productive time! New members were assigned to committees. Much thought was put into restructuring some of our committees to make them more efficient and less burdensome. The usual conversations were had about repairs and budgets. We had ample time for prayer, Eucharist, fellowship and community building. But the overwhelming challenge was, and continues to be, How do we better articulate our message so that more people are blessed by Church of the Holy Communion? In other words, we do not want to be Charleston's best kept secret, we want to be known as Charleston's best-known treasure!
As I reflect on that, it seems that it might be helpful to state again some of the bedrock principles that are the patrimony of Anglo-Catholicism. We cannot with enthusiasm share the good news of our faith without knowing what that faith is. And so, here are a few thoughts. They are by no means exhaustive. Just a place to begin the conversation...
Worship defines us. The Eucharist is the source and summit of our Life in Christ, wrote Pope John Paul II. This could easily be the "motto" for Church of the Holy Communion. In the liturgy, we meet Christ. It is here that the Word of God comes alive. It is here that the community gathers to be nourished as the Body of Christ and prepared for mission. There is no greater privilege and obligation of the Catholic Christian than regular participation in the Holy Mass.
The Incarnation requires action. We believe that God the infinite took on frail human flesh in order that, having been made like us in all respects save for sin, Christ could sympathize with our human condition and redeem us through his mediating work on the Cross. If God cared enough about the material world to become "one" with it, then we too must be concerned with this world. We cannot be so "heavenly" minded that we are no "earthly" good. The concerns for health, food, clothing, and education of the poorest of the poor are also our concerns.
Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. This is sometimes known as the scandal of particularity. With all humility, we stand before the world and boldly proclaim that without Jesus, no single person could ever be made worthy to share eternity with God. While respecting both the rights and dignity of people of every other religion, as well as those of no religion, we nonetheless are unwavering in our insistence that Jesus is the full and final revelation of God. Having said this, who God chooses to save is his business. Our business is to have a passion to make Christ known to all who do not know him. The bottom line is that Catholic Christians utterly reject the notion that all religions are equal, or that truth is relative. As former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey once put it, It is not arrogant to say to the Muslim, the Jew or the Hindu that Christ has something offer him... but there are arrogant ways in which to do it. Speaking the Truth in love should always be our goal.
Truth, like God, does not evolve or change. While it is true that we as human beings grow and expand our intellectual horizons, God's basic truth is immutable. We believe that through the Scriptures and the Sacred Tradition of the Catholic Church, he has revealed His will for us. In a culture that is confused and conflicted about human relations, medical ethics, war, peace, and the dignity of human life, we believe that the Church can and should speak with clarity. In doing so, Jesus should always be our model. He was both conservative and liberal. He was conservative in that he backed down not an iota from the Law. But he liberally applied mercy and forgiveness to those who fell short of the Law's requirements. And lest there be any doubt, that includes all of us.
Our religion is the Catholic Religion. The fact that the Christian Church is divided is a sin. It was not the will of Christ that there should be "denominations". He prayed fervently that they all may be One. The heart of Christ was grieved when the Western and Eastern Churches were divided in the 11th Century. And that grief was magnified ten-fold at the Protestant Reformation of the 16th Century. Doubtless, we have a heritage that is both Western Catholic and Anglican. But every Anglo-Catholic has always known that we are in someway orphaned children, seeking our way back to that original unity for which Our Lord prayed. When the Church of England was separated from the rest of Western Catholicism, it was impoverished. That is why 19th Century Anglo-Catholics (during the time our parish was founded) came more and more to believe that, at any point where the English Reformation had deviated from Catholic Truth, the English Church was in error. That is why men liked Edward Pusey and John Keble (and Anthony Toomer Porter and Samuel C. W. Fleming) spent their entire lives attempting to restore the fullness of the Faith. And in these sad days when both the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion at large have no cohesive dogma or doctrine of their own, no one should be shocked when Anglo-Catholics hearken back to what has been believed everywhere, by all Christian, at all times. Let me be very clear: We thank God for every soul who proclaims the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior. We do not intend to rebuke, condemn, or ridicule any who seek to make Jesus known. Any who call upon the name of Christ are our brothers and sisters... and that includes everyone from Seacoast to Siam! But we also want the fullness of that ancient Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is not to be found exclusively in 16th Century Confessional Documents, Articles of Religion, Books of Common Prayer, or even in the Bible itself, but rather in an outward and visible community entrusted with the stewardship of all the riches of Christ. That is the Church we are trying to be. That is the pilgrimage we are on. That is the journey by which we wish to become Charleston's best known treasure!