2008 VISITS TO ENGLAND AND SWEDEN
by the Rt. Rev. Paul C. Hewett, SSC
The Forward in Faith/UK Assembly in London, 10-11 October
This year’s meetings took place in the context of “the year of St. Paul,” proclaimed in a most extraordinary way: Benedict XVI, representing Peter, and Bartholomew of Constantinople, representing Paul, met together in Rome to create a context for the re-evangelization of Europe.
An epic battle, the last battle, is now being fought in the United Kingdom, so that this re-evangelization might proceed, so that a remnant in the Church of England might be the Church in England, free in an orthodox province to live the Catholic Faith, and preach Christ crucified and risen.
The acrimony of those voting in General Synod last July to refuse any structural provision for Forward in Faith left grief and dismay in its wake. As Father David Houlding, SSC, pointed out in his address, there could be no place for FiF/UK if we follow the path of General Synod. “A code of practice will not do.” We must have an honoured place in the Church of England, “where we can live, flourish and grow.” Terminal care will not do. For now, Father Houlding said, we must keep calm and keep together, and keep our arguments theological and focused, and deepen our commitments with the universal Church. Be hopeful, be confident and fearless. There is ground to play for. In this last battle, we will fight to the last ditch
Bishop John Broadhurst cited Cardinal Kasper’s call for a new Oxford Movement. There are still things up for grabs as we seek mutually acceptable terms. But for us that means a jurisdiction or nothing. We cannot accept ghetto status. This is not the time to go, but to fight. The battle cry is “let us go, for God, the Gospel and the Catholic Faith.”
Father Geoffrey Kirk said “stay and fight” up to the last trench. Seize the initiative, go on the offensive, withhold money, be the Church in England. Live it, and in the end, if need be, take it by force.
Archbishop John Hepworth reported on the Roman Catholic initiative, and Bishop Keith Ackerman spoke of the realignment in the US, and urged us to focus on doctrine, and not let different “styles” get in the way. We need to network even more with the evangelicals. To that end, Hugh Pratt made a presentation on the GAFCON, the Global Anglican Futures Conference in Jerusalem last June, in which the three streams, catholic, evangelical and charismatic, could be seen together. The FiF Assembly then passed a resolution supporting and encouraging the GAFCON outcome in the global realignment of Anglicanism. In private conversations with Father Francis Gardom and Canon Geoffrey Neal, both of the Anglican Association, we reviewed the importance of this networking and the contacts with “Reform,” an evangelical group.
The Anglican Association is highlighting the significance of our Anglican patrimony, in response to Father Aidan Nichol’s request that we identify what makes us unique as Anglicans, and what gifts we offer the rest of the Body. Father Arthur Middleton, in the October 2008 New Directions, writes, “Let us avoid knee-jerk reactions of rushing into the arms of another Communion, or becoming a defeated and bedraggled remnant begging Rome for ecclesiastical asylum. Let us continue to stand firm in our Anglican orthodoxy against the modernism that is doing its worst to conform our Church to secularism. Let us reach out to our Evangelical brethren whose concern is for a biblical and historical Anglican orthodoxy, and then we will have the riches of our Anglican patrimony to bring into a reunited Church when liberalism has withered away. In this spirit we can take up the challenge of Cardinal Kasper and retrieve the riches which lie within our own household and retrieve the strength of the Church of the Fathers, a fresh recourse to the Apostolic Tradition in a new situation.” (p. 16)
Concluding remarks by Father Jonathan Baker were altogether inspiring, citing all that is positive, all that is going as it should, all that the Lord is doing in the midst of our ordeal. He quoted Tolkien’s commentary on the Lord of the Rings. Tolkien summed up his work in this phrase: “unexpected triumph through suffering endured.” That of course applies to us. God’s way is to bring triumph through apparent defeat. Without the victories of Judas Maccabeus there would be no chosen people among whom our Lord could come. Yet those victories hung by the thinnest of threads. In September 1940 the fate of the Christian West hung by the thin thread of the Battle of Britain. The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is the impossible possibility, the Father’s masterpiece, the truth which contains all truth.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank laymen in our Diocese who attended the Assembly, George Hillard of Christ Church, Pinehurst, North Carolina, and Gregory Tyler of St. Peter’s, Houston, Texas. Also attending from the United States were Bishop David Moyer of the Anglican Church in America and, as noted, Bishop Keith Ackerman.
The Sunday morning after the Assembly, Canon Geoffrey Neal and I concelebrated and made a presentation at St. Mary’s, Kettering. After some altogether refreshing days with the Neals in Carlton, I was put on a train to begin
A Visit to the Church in Sweden
During this Year of St. Paul and the call to re-evangelise Europe, it is fitting to quote St. Paul: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ…” (Philippians 1: 3-6)
The phrase, “Church in Sweden” is deliberate. The risen Lord, who holds the seven stars in his right hand, and walks in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks (Revelation 2: 1), speaks to the churches in a region, and does not confine Himself to a state church, such as the Church of Sweden, or the Church of England. He is working to restore His Church in these places.
One such place is St. Paul’s, Gothenburg. The “fellowship of the gospel” is palpable here, and the curate, Father Rolf Pettersson, introduced me to the other clergy and various people, at the evening Mass and Bible study following. St. Paul’s is a parish in the Church of Sweden that preaches, teaches and lives the Gospel, and has a very healthy membership, despite efforts of the State Church to restrict, marginalize or eliminate faithful Christian communities.
The next visit was to a koinonia, a parish, “outside the system” in the Mission Province, St. Stephen’s, Stockholm. The Vicar, Göran Beijer, is a bishop in the Mission Province, whose episcopate comes largely from the Lutheran Church in Kenya under Bishop Walter Obara. Bishop Göran and I concelebrated the Sunday Mass, and I spoke to the congregation afterwards about our ties with them in re-aligning Anglicanism. The Mission Province is growing and expanding into Finland, and keeps up very good ties with the faithful remnant in the Free Synod (those of like mind who are “in the system,” whose Episcopal Visitor is Bishop Bertil Gärtner, sometime Bishop of Gothenburg). Bishop Göran also visits us in America from time to time to “stir the pot.”
At the Alsike Kloster the next day, just north of Stockholm, I shared with Sisters Marianne, Karin and Ulla the news from GAFCON. They are in the Mission Province, and Sister Karin told the exciting news of her visit to Bishop Obara and his people in Kenya, to connect more solidly with them. The work they are doing is eminently worth supporting.
There was time for an evening with the Olofssons in nearby Rasbo, whence Father Folke retired as Vicar and a dean of the Free Synod. He is also a contributing editor of Touchstone Magazine, a docent of Uppsala University and the author of numerous articles and books of theology and poetry. “Iron sharpens iron” and one always leaves his home a better man.
Bishop Göran and I went together for two days with the Benedictines in Sala at the Östanbäck Kloster. We concelebrated at the Masses, and had time with the Abbot, Father Caesarius, to swap notes on the amazing developments of this past year in the great re-alignment. In Sweden, the high church, evangelical and charismatic strands are increasingly working together. Father Caesarius wanted me to know about the Lutheran Benedictines at St. Augustine’s, in Oxford, Michigan, where he has visited.
Looking back on two weeks of visiting with marvellous Christians and dear friends, all of whom are enduring hardships for the sake of the Kingdom, it is fitting to remember Tolkien’s phrase, “unexpected triumph through suffering endured.“ It is fitting to say with the Apostle, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,” and to encourage one another, that “he which hath began a good work in (us) will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ,” and to pray for one another using the magnificent words of our beloved Book of Common Prayer, “Lord, we beseech thee to keep thy household the Church in continual godliness; that through thy protection it may be free from all adversities, and devoutly given to serve thee in good works, to the glory of thy Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”