"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Friday, June 30, 2006

And Then There Were Six

It has been a big day for news in the continuing saga of "realignment" within North American Anglicanism. The strategy of TEC's national headquarters has become more clear. Both Bishop Schori and Rev. Jan Nunley have tipped their hand that, should an orthodox bishop, Standing Committee and duly-called Diocesan Convention decide to "leave" the national Episcopal Church, the new Presiding Bishop will consider declaring that orthodox see vacant and call a new "diocesan convention" composed of representatives of the Schori-loyal rump that remains (no matter how small that rump might be--in some dioceses I will bet it is less than 20%) to elect a new, revisionist bishop to litigate for the diocese's property under the Dennis Canon.

Meanwhile, the diocese of Springfield, Illinois has become the sixth diocese to seek alternative primatial oversight. In a Pastoral Letter Bishop Beckwith has told his flock that a resolution of their Standing Committee has empowered him “to intentionally and deliberately explore avenues” for an alternative primatial relationship. He also says: I believe the future for faithful, orthodox Anglicans currently in ECUSA hasn't been brighter for a long time. I believe a new structure will emerge in the USA which will be in full communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury and the other 37 Anglican Provinces, and of which you and I would be proud to be members. I am committed to doing everything in my power to assist in that Godly effort.

Read the entire story in this article from The Living Church.

PB-elect Schori on NPR

For anyone who doubts that the newly elected Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church is a dedicated partisan of the left in the present crisis, take a look at the quotes from her interview yesterday with Diane Rehm on NPR. And remember, she was almost certainly trying to be "diplomatic" during her turn in the national spotlight. Some highlights:

On dioceses threatening to “leave the church”:
The diocese as an entity is a creature of General Convention and unless and until General Convention gives consent for them to leave it simply represents the departure of a few individuals. RWF translation: Even if a bishop, standing committee, and duly-called diocesan covention vote to leave the Episcopal Church, I can simply declare the see and standing committee vacant, call a new diocesan convention made up of the Schori-loyal rump that remains behind (no matter how small), and have the new loyalist bishop I consecrate litigate for all the property in the diocese under the Dennis Canon.

On gay and lesbian people in the life of the Episcopal Church:
We have been ordaining gay persons in this church for years and years … in recent years they have been able to be open about their sexual orientation and honest about that -- I don’t see any retreat from that among deacons and priests … I think we will experience at least a pause in the consecration of bishops who are openly gay and that makes me very sad because I believe that God equally calls people of both sexual orientations to leadership in this church. I firmly believe that gay and lesbian Christians bless us all by their presence and that we need to continue to work at finding a way to include them in all aspects of the community’s life.

On General Convention’s response to the Windsor Report in B033: It is the Episcopal Church’s response at the current moment – I don’t think it represents a final response -- it opens the door to the next stage of conversation. I think many of us were disappointed that it came to that. My sense was that it was the most we were going to be able to manage at that late hour in the convention … convention makes policy, it doesn’t rule on matter of doctrine, and those policies are routinely reversed and revised every three years. I think it is a pause – I do not see it as slamming the door – I think it is an unfortunate way of inviting us into the next chapter of the conversation.

On the blessing of same-sex relationships: When a priest agrees to preside at the wedding of a heterosexual couple that priest uses his or her best judgment that this couple is capable of a sacramental relationship. The priest is never “certain” of that -- but the priest lives in hope that that is a real possibility – and then the couple themselves act as ministers of the sacrament -- the priest is only there to pronounce the blessing. And I think that thinking about it in that way may help us all to see the possibility for any couple to enter into a faithful, life-long relationship.

"Scorched Earth" Talk from National Headquarters

In an article from the Episcopal New Service on the appeal by five dioceses for "alternative primatial oversight," the Rev. Jan Nunley, a spokesperson for the Episcopal Church, has said openly what has long been hinted at from 815: if a diocese tries to "leave" the Episcopal Church, the national headquarters may claim that those who have "left" forfeited their diocese in favor of the Schori-loyal rump that stays behind. Here are Nunley's words:

Dioceses and congregations, however, do not officially "leave" the Episcopal Church simply because leaders or any number of members depart, said the Rev. Jan Nunley, deputy for Communication at the Episcopal Church Center in New York. "Parishes are created by dioceses and dioceses are created by action of the General Convention," she said. "People are free to leave," but congregations and dioceses continue within church structures. Nunley confirmed that the Episcopal Church's elected leadership may, if necessary, declare a diocese vacant, and that in such a case the Presiding Bishop would call for the election of a new diocesan bishop, among other actions.

In recent weeks we are hearing talk of an "amicable divorce" from the orthodox side in the present dispute. And it is increasingly difficult to see how a single body can long endure. But national headquarters apparently will not countenance a friendly parting. In a diocese like mine, I doubt that half a dozen parishes would chose to remain in communion with Presiding Bishop-elect Schori rather than Bishop Iker and our Standing Comittee (if push comes to shove in the future), but according to Rev. Nunley that tiny minority would be entitled to every Prayer Book, parish building and bank account between Arlington and Brownwood! Lord, have mercy.

And in case you doubt the venom this business will engender, check out the intemperate version of 815's "scorched earth" scheme quoted from the bishops and deputies listserv by Ruth Gledhill of The Times of London here. There the unnamed writer is quoted as saying, "
I certainly hope that in San Joachin, South Carolina, Pittsburgh and Fort Worth people are preparing Diocesan Conventions to replace those who are leaving. Whomever has the authority should declare those Sees vacant and support local folks as they re-organize. This same organizing should begin now in every other Diocese that has withdrawn it's accession to the Canons and Constitution."

Let us hope Christian charity prevails in the end. How can anyone on either side believe that the Kingdom will be built up by a series of bitter lawsuits over property?

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Are More Big Parishes Pulling Out of the National Episcopal Church?

A few days ago we saw what may be the largest parish in the Episcopal Church, Christ Church, Plano, Texas, announce its intention to leave the national denomination. Today The Washington Times reported that two more "Mega" parishes (by Episcopal standards) in Virginia have done the same. Truro and the Falls Church, however apparently have not made such a decision yet.

But the Rev. Martyn Minns, rector of Truro Church, Fairfax, was just elected a bishop by the Anglican province of Nigeria to oversee the Nigerian Convocation in the United States. The new Nigerian missionary effort is being coordinated with the Anglican Communion Network, so they are not to be in competition.

Rev. Minns, in his announcement of his new position with the Nigerian church, had this to say about The Washington Times story saying that his parish was pulling out of ECUSA: "By the way, don’t believe everything you read in the newspapers. Thursday’s headline in The Washington Times was terribly wrong. The Truro congregation has not gone through its discernment process and so no decision has been made about our future plans. We are struggling to find a way to remain faithful Anglicans during these turbulent times in the Episcopal Church."

The Falls Church also says The Washington Times has jumped the gun. On their web site they say today:
"The Washington Times has reported that our church has informed our Bishop that we are leaving the Diocese of Virginia and leaving the Episcopal Church. This certainly is not true and misrepresents where we are as a congregation. It is true that we think an extended period of study, prayer, and deliberation about how we are to respond to the serious rift in our denomination is wise and we are hoping to engage in such a time this fall."

UPDATE: Bishop Lee of Virginia is not pleased. In a statement published on the diocesan web site he says of the Rev. Martyn Minns election as a bishop of the Nigerian chruch:
The election of the Rev. Martyn Minns as a Bishop of the Church of Nigeria with oversight of the Convocation of Anglicans in North America is an affront to the traditional, orthodox understanding of Anglican Provincial Autonomy. Archbishop Akinola acknowledges as much in his letter to Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. How that situation resolves itself remains to be seen. However, the request by Archbishop Akinola that Martyn be allowed to continue as rector of an Episcopal congregation while also serving as a Nigerian Bishop seems to me, at this point, to be impossible. I raised this issue with Martyn when he and I spoke yesterday.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

More Dioceses Apply For Alternative Primatial Oversight

More dioceses have applied for "alternative primatial oversight," joining the diocese of Fort Worth in their appeal. Read the statements issued Wednesday by the bishops and standing committees of Pittsburgh, South Carolina, and San Joaquin (Cal.).

UPDATE: Make that FIVE DIOCESES as of Friday, June 29th. Central Florida has now also appealed to the Archbishop for "alternative primatial oversight."

The Archbishop of Canterbury's Letter to the Communion

The Archbishop of Canterbury wrote to Anglicans around the world yesterday. I still haven't had a chance to digest it all myself, but the general reception among orthodox Anglicans in North America seems to be positive. You can read it, and a huge number of comments, here on TitusOneNine.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Curious Letter from Christ Church, Plano

The huge parish (by Episcopal standards) of Christ Church, Plano, in the diocese of Dallas has issued an interesting letter today. I am not sure exactly what it means, but their rector, the Rev. David Roseberry, says in part:

As the vestry of Christ Church, we declare our intention to disassociate from ECUSA as soon as possible. We are thankful for the shepherd role of the Right Rev. James Stanton and his standing in the Anglican Communion, and we regard him as our apostolic leader.

We assure the clergy, staff and congregation of Christ Church that throughout this process we will continue to worship, teach, pray and study as we have in the past with renewed and vibrant commitment to the mission of Christ Church.

Over the next few weeks we will explore the ways that this separation will be best realized. Both the vestry and I will keep you informed and updated as needed, and you can be assured of our prayer and definite actions. We likewise would request your patience and prayers. But rest assured that our church is Anglican now… and will always be within the great historic family of the Anglican Communion.

You should know that our bishop is aware of our decision and is very supportive. As we move forward together I ask for your prayers, support and blessing on the work ahead of us.

Read the entire letter from Christ Church here.

So the good people of Christ Church are very soon to "disassociate" from ECUSA, but they seem to have the blessing of Bishop Stanton of Dallas for this action and continue to regard him as their "apostolic leader." So what does all this mean? It seems they are "Anglican," but not ECUSA, yet are still under the pastoral guidance of a bishop who remains part of ECUSA (for the present, at any rate). Very interesting times are ahead for all of us, clearly.

Bishop Iker's Interview with "Stand Firm"

Video of Bishop Iker's interview with Stand Firm shortly after the close of business at GenCon06 last week may be found here. It is refreshing to hear from an Anglican bishop who speaks plainly enough to be understood, isn't it?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Mass Grave of Ancient Roman Christians?

I somehow missed this fascinating news from Rome last month. Approximately 1000 well-preserved skeletons have been found in the catacombs of Rome, which some scholars believe may have belonged to ancient Roman Christians. Read the story here. Hat tip to the Waffling Anglican for pointing out this amazing news!

Finally, Our Local Paper Gets It Right

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram has finally run a story on the present crisis in ECUSA and my diocese's appeal for alternative primatial oversight that gets the story right. Here is a highlight:

Bishop Jack Iker plans to keep his Fort Worth Diocese within the Episcopal Church, U.S.A., despite his unprecedented plea this week to the Archbishop of Canterbury to provide him and the 24-county diocese with a leader other than Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Shori.

Whether both goals can be accomplished remains a mystery, a diocesan spokeswoman said. "There's never been a diocese try this," spokeswoman Suzanne Gill said after a stormy Episcopal General Convention in which Shori, a strong supporter of gay and lesbian clergy, became the church's first female presiding bishop-elect. "We are asking the Archbishop of Canterbury if it's possible. We don't know what steps have to be worked out."

The Diocese of Fort Worth's Standing Committee, its main governing body between diocesan conventions, unanimously voted to ask Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for "alternative primatial leadership" after Shori's election during the General Convention, which ended Wednesday in Columbus, Ohio.

"We are not leaving the church," said the Rev. Christopher Cantrell, rector of the Church of the Holy Apostles in Fort Worth and a member of the committee. ...We are asking for alternative leadership because of the new presiding bishop-elect has clearly indicated she is fully committed to gay and lesbian clergy."

You can read the entire story here.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Bishop Duncan's Pastoral Letter After GenCon06

The Anglican Communion Network's Moderator, Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh, has issued an interesting pastoral letter. The most important paragraphs are below:

Even before the close of Convention, Network and Windsor bishops began disassociating themselves from the inadequate Windsor resolution, and thus far one Network diocese has formally requested alternative primatial oversight.

More initiatives are underway. Pastoral and apostolic care has been promised without regard to geography. All I can tell you is that the shape of this care will depend on a very near-range international meeting. Other actions will follow upon continuing conversations with those at the highest levels of the Anglican Communion. Over the course of the month of July, many of the things we have longed for will, I believe, come to pass or be clearly in view for all.

The Anglican Communion Network has never been more united. We are gaining strength, both domestically and internationally. This is the time for biblically orthodox Anglicans to hang together, supporting one another in solidarity, in prayer and with expectancy.

Read the entire letter here. (Emphasis added above.) As commentators on other blogs have noted, we have heard some of this kind of talk before and little has actually happened. We shall see if things are different this time. Unless something concrete is done soon, I doubt this promised action ever will occur.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

ACN Bishops Respond


We, the undersigned, Bishops of the Episcopal Church make the following statement:

In the wake of the action by this House granting consent to the consecration of Canon V. Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, many of us in this House made an appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates of the Anglican Communion "to intervene in the pastoral emergency that has overtaken us." That appeal was heard and the Archbishop called for an extraordinary meeting of the Primates on 15–16 October, 2003.

The Primates spoke forthrightly and unanimously about the consequences that would ensue across the Communion in the event that the consecration went forward, warning that it would "tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level." They also called for the formation, under a mandate given by the Archbishop, of the Lambeth Commission on Communion. This General Convention has now given its response to the recommendations of the work of that Commission, known as the Windsor Report.

Now, once again, we find the need to speak candidly. The responses which the Convention has given to the clear and simple requests of the Lambeth Commission, the clear and simple requests indeed of the Anglican Communion, are clearly and simply inadequate. We reaffirm our conviction that the Windsor Report provides the way forward for the entire Anglican Communion, the ecumenical relationships of the Communion, and the common life of a faithful Episcopal Church. Further, we have agreed to submit ourselves to the Windsor Report's requirements, both in what it teaches and in the discipline it enjoins. We have not changed in our commitment.

Sadly, because of statements made by members of this House at this Convention, we must question whether this General Convention is misleading the rest of the Communion by giving a false perception that they intend actually to comply with the recommendations of the Windsor Report. We therefore disassociate ourselves from those acts of this Convention that do not fully comply with the Windsor Report.

It is our intention not only to point to the inadequacies of the General Convention's responses, but to declare to our brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the Communion that we continue as The Episcopal Church in this country who uphold and propagate the historic faith and order we have come to know through the Anglican heritage of apostolic teaching and biblical faith; who desire to be fully a constituent member of the Anglican Communion; and who are ready to embrace and live under the Windsor Report without equivocation.

Accordingly, we repudiate the actions of the General Convention of 2003 which have breached the bonds of affection within the Communion. We bishops have committed to withhold consents for any persons living in same gender relationships who may be put forward for consecration as a bishop of the Church. And we have refused to grant authority for the blessing of sexual relationships outside Christian Marriage in our jurisdictions. We intend to go forward in the Communion confidently and unreservedly.

Our chief concern now is to fulfill our charge as bishops of the Church of God in the Anglican tradition to "guard the faith, unity and discipline" of the Church. Pastoral care and apostolic teaching must not only be given to our own dioceses, but to all the faithful in this country who seek apostolic oversight and support. We will take counsel together to fulfill our service on behalf of faithful Anglicans in this country, both clergy and laity, and to proclaim the Gospel and build up the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we seek the support of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Primates and Bishops of the Anglican Communion as we do so.


The Rt. Rev. Keith Lynn Ackerman, Diocese of Quincy
The Rt. Rev. James M. Adams Jr., Diocese of Western Kansas
The Rt. Rev. Peter H. Beckwith, Diocese of Springfield
The Rt. Rev. Robert Wm. Duncan, Diocese of Pittsburgh
The Rt. Rev. Daniel W. Herzog, Diocese of Albany
The Rt. Rev. Jack L. Iker, DD, Diocese of Fort Worth
The Rt. Rev. Edward L. Salmon, Jr., Diocese of South Carolina*
The Rt. Rev. John-David Schofield, Diocese of San Joaquin
The Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton, Diocese of Dallas*
The Rt. Rev. Henry W. Scriven, Diocese of Pittsburgh
The Rt. Rev. William J. Skilton, Diocese of South Carolina
The Rt. Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison, Retired
The Rt. Rev. William J. Cox, Retired
The Rt. Rev. Alex D. Dickson, Retired

Wednesday, June 21, 2006
* Drafters of the original statement

Bishop Iker Seeks Clarity From Newpaper

A letter to a writer for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram from Bishop Iker was posted on the diocesan web site today. It provides some clarity about what "alternative primatial oversight" may mean. The text reads:

Bishop Iker has sent the following message to reporter David Michael Cohen:

Your article "Diocese Votes to Leave Church" is seriously in error. The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has made no such decision. That decision could only be made by the Annual Convention of the Diocese which meets in November.

We have asked for the alternative oversight and pastoral care of an orthodox primate of the Anglican Communion, but this is a pastoral arrangement, not a legal one, and the request has been made in full accord with official church procedures.

Our Diocese is still a full member of The Episcopal Church, and I would appreciate a retraction and correction in the Fort Worth Star Telegram. You have misinformed your readers.

Thank you.
The Rt. Rev. Jack Leo Iker

UPDATE: The Star-Telegram still doesn't get it!

Bishop Iker's efforts to get a proper retraction and clarification from the newspaper that published the erroneous story did not get the results he wanted. In their "correction" there is not one word about the important distinction between "legal" and "pastoral" oversight the bishop highlighted in his letter. Here is what came out in the little-noticed "corrections and clarifications" section of the paper in response to Bishop Iker's letter:

The Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth is seeking to align itself with an Anglican primate other than the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States. The proposed shift was mischaracterized Wednesday in the headline for an article about the diocese.

Video of Network Bishops' News Conference

The video of today's brief press conference by three Anglican Communion Network bishops (Bishops Iker of Fort Worth, Duncan of Pittsburgh, and Schofield of San Joaquin, California) makes for very interesting and informative viewing. Bishop Iker appears at length in Parts 2 and 3. The video may be found here on TitusOneNine. (Thanks to All Too Common for the photo.)

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Diocese of Fort Worth Responds

In response to yesterday's election of Katharine Jefferts Schori as the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the diocese of Fort Worth has issued a statement by Bishop Iker and a request by the Standing Committee of the diocese for "alternative primatial oversight." I am not exactly sure what this "alternative primatial oversight" might mean in practice. Would it essentially shift our diocese out of ECUSA into another province of the world-wide Anglican Communion? Or is it something less than this? Or more (whatever that might be!)? We shall see. Please pray for us, brothers and sisters.

Meanwhile, this piece by Ruth Gledhill (religion corrrespondent of The Times of London) offers an interesting perspective on the Fort Worth appeal. She has also authored an Op-Ed piece that calls for the Archbishop of Canterbury to grant this requested alternative oversight.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Subgroups within Anglo-Catholicism

Haligweorc has called our attention to an interesting analysis over at The Patristic Anglican. It provides a sort of "Field Guide for Anglo-Catholic Spotters," in the form of a break-down of the different varieties of Catholic-leaning Anglicans. Take a look.

While no doubt there is something in each entry with which one could quibble, I would pretty clearly fall into the "Prayer Book Catholic" (or "reformed Catholic") category as defined on that blog. (This runs contrary to my tendency to refer to myself as an "evangelical Catholic," but I am not a staunchly Peter Toon sort.) The Patristic Anglican's description seems to imply that folks like me are a dying breed. Perhaps so. That would explain what I have observed recently in the diocese of Fort Worth. The younger priests coming out of Nashotah House who serve in our diocese do seem to be either "Tridentine Catholics" or (especially) "Anglo-Papalists." I must be a bit of a throwback! Perhaps this explains why several of our recently ordained priests have been tempted to cross the Tiber, while I still have significant reservations. Clearly I am behind the times. Oh well. I am quite used to feeling like an ancient fly preserved in amber. One more instance is not all that troubling! ;-)

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Second Floor "Dress Out" Is Under Way!

The completion of the first phase of the second floor of the Upper School building at St. Vincent's Cathedral School has begun! These pictures reflect the astonishing progress of the first day's work. Amazing. Simply amazing. Just click on the picture to view a larger image.

Despite the heavy equipment outside, everything has to carried up the stairwell the old-fashioned way.
The walls you see above were put up in less than seven hours of work. There was nothing at all on this floor at 8AM this morning.
This is the view looking west on the second floor by about 3PM on the first day of work. Nice job, guys!

All the photos above were taken by my father, R.D. Foster.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Father P on the Anglican Use Conference

Readers of this blog may be interested in a couple of reports from a recent conference in the Northeast on the Roman Catholic Anglican Use. The most complete and well-presented report is from Father Peregrinator of Canterbury Tales. The Pontificator also has a report on the conference. But be warned, Anglo-Catholics who are hoping for the formation of a "uniate" Anglican rite in communion with Rome in the near future will not find the remarks of Fr. Stetson reported by these bloggers to be very encouraging. According to Fr. Stetson, it will never come to pass.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

I Always Knew That I Followed in the Footsteps of Homer

You Are Homer Simpson

You're just an ordinary, all-American working Joe...

With a special fondness for pork rinds and donuts.

You will be remembered for: your little "isms" and philosophies on life

Your life philosophy: "Weaseling out of things is important to learn. It's what separates us from the animals ... except the weasel."

The Simpsons Personality Test

Hat tip to Ma Beck at Ward Wide Web for this amusing diversion. I can't say this was a total surprise. Now, if I can only find some doughnuts around here! ... Hmmm. Doughnuts.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Another One Takes the Plunge

Well, it has happened again--for the second time in three months. Another faithful priest has left the Episcopal diocese of Fort Worth and "swam the Tiber." Father Taylor Marshall, the author of the Canterbury Tales blog as "Father Pereginator", has renounced his orders in the Episcopal diocese of Fort Worth and was received into the Roman Catholic Church a couple of weeks ago. His "brief apologia" may be found here.

I most certainly wish Mr. Marshall and his family well on this next stage in their spiritual journey. May God bless them richly.

I suppose it will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I do not find Marshall's apologia to be terribly persuasive. It is essentially the same problem I had with Jeff Moore's statements of earlier this year. This is what Marshall says about the key issue, in my mind:

I don't need to make any fancy argument for the authority of Rome. It is simply that Christ instituted St Peter to bind and loose on earth (the earth denoting universal jurisdiction) and that this office is protected by the Holy Spirit so that the Church will never be led into error in the realm of Faith and Morals. The buck stops with Peter and with his successors in Rome - all the way up to the present Pope, His Holiness Benedict XVI. This charism for truth is not based on the moral superiority of the popes or their intellectual astuteness. It is based in the power of the Holy Spirit fulfilling the promise of Christ.

There is pretty much no statement in this paragraph that I do not take at least some exception with, based upon my rather extensive study of Scripture and the Fathers of the Church on this question. Where does Father P get the conclusion that the office of St. Peter is "protected by the Holy spirit so that the Church will never be led into error in the realms of Faith and Morals"? He seems to take it as self-evident, but I have serious questions as to whether St. Peter himself was protected from such error, based upon Gal 2:11-14 (which is infallible Holy Scripture, as I am sure Fr P would agree). And if Peter himself could err, then I can see no reason to believe that his successors in Rome alone (as opposed to Antioch, for example, which also can trace its ancient lineage of bishops back to the era of Petrine evangelism) would be so protected.

Fr P's claim to universal jurisdiction and the protection of infallibility for the bishops of Rome is further complicated by the fact that there is no surviving evidence that the first several centuries of Roman bishops claimed such rights and abilities over the entire Church. And when they did get around to it, the earliest claims to a special Roman primacy typically relied upon their status as guardians of the relics of SS Peter and Paul and the impeccably consistent orthodoxy of their doctrine rather than what became the classic "proof text" inscribed around the base of the dome of St. Peter's. And while the ancient councils of the universal Church unquestionably recognized the primacy of honor of Rome, I am unaware that the Eastern primates ever recognized either the universal jurisdiction or infallibility of their brother in Rome. In short, the opinions of the ancient bishops of Rome were deeply respected by the Greek-speaking Church (as the Tome of Leo's reception at Chalcedon indicates), but the Roman popes had no special authority over Alexandria, Antioch or Constantinople--and never have. The logic of Fr P's argument seems to indicate that the entire Eastern Church failed to understand the Lord's clear instructions for the monarchial government of the Church, thereby disregarding the protecting hand of the Holy Spirit over the unique Petrine office by never submitting to jurisdiction of the bishops of Rome. So despite the protection of the Holy Spirit, the unity of Christ's Church on earth was fatally compromised before Constantine even proclaimed toleration for the Church! Pardon me if I am a bit skeptical.

Like Fr P, I believe the Holy Spirit protects the Church. The decrees of ecumenical councils (i.e., the seven that all of the Patriarchal sees have participated in and are recognized by Chalcedonian Christians in both East and West) are, I believe, infallible. But I am unconvinced that this infallibility abides solely in the Roman Pontiff and in councils he alone has convened (if he chooses to call a council rather than acting on his own to declare a dogma). This doctrine is, I presently believe, a medieval development that took place solely in the Latin-speaking West. It has only been endorsed by councils of those bishops that remained in communion with Rome after the Great Schism and did not separate from it in the sixteenth century (e.g., Vatican I). And since IMO Roman jurisdictional primacy and infallibility is a medieval development that was unknown to the ancient Church, I would need to be convinced (a la Newman) that doctrine develops over time in ways that might not have been at all clear to the ancients themselves, even if these later developments were somehow always there in nuce (rather like the buried ancient acorn that becomes the mighty oak of modern Roman dogma).

Again, I eagerly await an informed reflection from my friends who are former Anglicans on these points. For me to be convinced, I will need a thoughtful dialogue on Roman primacy of jurisdiction and infallibility based upon historical evidence and/or clear rational argument, and not merely the "Jesus said it; I believe it; that settles it" approach one sometimes encounters. I promise to listen carefully.

My sincere best wishes to Fr P and his family, and to all of my many Roman Catholic friends. As I hope you know, I agree with you as to 98% of the content of the deposit of Faith. And I deeply long for the day, I hope not too far off, when we will be reunited in one visible Body. There are encouraging signs of Roman/Orthodox rapprochement, and I suspect that any agreement that the leaders of the Eastern Orthodox Churches could reach with the Roman Pontiff on these contested issues is probably one I could endorse as well. Pope Benedict seems to be just the man to accomplish this reconciliation. May God bless him in his crucial ministry. Let us pray for the happy day when we all will be one, even as Christ and the Father are one.

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