Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bad Day for Church Councils

On this day, in 1215, the Fourth Lateran Council (the 12th "ecumenical council" for the West) began meeting. Canons presented to the Council included:
  • Canon 1. Exposition of the faith; of the dogma of the Trinity, and of Transubstantiation
That meant that for the first time there was an official, scientific definition that required allegiance, instead of a biblical statement of the great eucharistic mystery. From that point onward, the sacrament that was meant for the unity of the church became her most scandalous division.
  • Canon 3. Declared that heretics and schismatics were to be prosecuted as traitorous criminals under the civil law (i.e., torture and death).
This led to an abandonment of the pastoral call of the church to rescue those who fall into error.

  • Canon 4. An exhortation to the Greek churches to come under absolute subjection to Rome in all matters of discipline.
This broke the synodical model of government by a parity of bishops, elevating the Roman See to universal supremacy of jurisdiction.
  • Canon 5. Proclaimed papal primacy as established by divine will, and laid out the order of precedence of the patriarchal churches: after Rome, then Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.
Again - this is a move AWAY FROM catholic doctrine. Before this time, the patriarchal sees were considered equal, though Rome had a dignity of place and an official role in presidency. From this time on, the Bishop of Rome would claim unilateral power to make doctrine.
  • Canon 14. Requires celibacy on the part of the clergy
Again - a break with catholic order - the discipline of the Roman See, which held celibacy in highest regard, was made universally and immediately applicable. While it could be argued that centuries before this the episcopate had been reserved for celibate men, to make all Holy Orders celibate de officio instead of de potesta was an innovation on sacramental theology that is STILL wrecking havoc on the church and her unity.

Later canons of the same council prohibit Jews and Moslems from holding political office, and that they wear distinctive dress so as to be singled out for hardship.

Also, today in 1992, the General Synod of the Church of England voted to abandon catholic order and permit the ordination of women to the presbyterate. At the time, I was in high school. Having grown up pentecostal (which always allowed for women as pastors), I didn't see what the big deal was. In America, women had served as deacons, priests, and even bishops for years in the Episcopal Church. I now have a different view. (ooh...looks like someone somewhere is missing pieces of a white picket fence)

Whatever the cogency of the issue itself, the unilateral decision of a bishop in 1974 in America - and of a provincial synod in 1975 and subsequently - was a complete misuse of Authority and undermines the claim of the Anglican Communion to share a common ordained priesthood with the wider Catholic Church and destroyed the very raison d'etre which made it a viable alternative to submitting to the IV Lateran Council.

It undermined the witness to the fundamental claim that the Church of England was a part of the wider One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. The genius of Anglicanism has always been that she is a Reformed and Evangelical Catholic Church. She is obedient to the claims of Scripture, and conscientious adherence to the universal practice of the church from her earliest days. Both of these mitigate against changing the doctrine of the ministry - thus safegaurding the foundations of our catholic unity with brothers & sisters from whom we are jurisdictionally separated.

Although duty-bound to do nothing which would jeopardize further that Unity which Christ wills and for which we are all to work and pray, the Church of England acted in accord with her own desires and thus committed the same over-reaching errors that Rome did in the Lateran Council. By her one action that day she demonstrated her true belief about these things and not least proclaimed that a 'local' Synod had the right and authority to change even the matter of the Sacraments which previously she had affirmed she shared with the wider Catholic Church. In the haunting words of Newman: 'the spell has been broken.' She continues to undermine her witness to biblical fidelity and catholic continuity by over-reaching to ordain women to the episcopate. Rome has called off further talks aimed at unity, and thus the Anglicanorum Coetibus.

The way Forward is not capitulation to Rome, which abandons the robust biblical faith rediscovered with such vitality in the 16th century. Nor is it to capitulate to the culture's false conceptions of egalitarianism. Rather, the way Forward is in the Faith of the Apostles delivered once for all.

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