Letter from America August 1999
IN THE “PHOTOS” SECTION of Douglas Gresham’s Lenten Lands is a picture of the author’s famous stepfather in brother “Warnie’s” study, deep in an armchair, wearing a smoking jacket, lost in some great tome or other, with a wall of well-worn books at his back. One could cut the academic atmosphere with a knife.
For those of us living “out in the Greenwood” of the Anglican continuum such scenes are among those ... loved long since and lost awhile. Ordinands in particular must find ways to prepare academically and spiritually for holy orders without benefit of ivy covered walls, paneled lecture halls and residential faculties. If they are to be able to articulate the faith once delivered, they will no longer (on the whole) find it taught in seminaries and theological colleges in the lands in which we have been forced to seek ‘separate maintenance’ from increasingly heterodox provinces of that ecclesial body of which, once upon a time, all provinces were both recognizably Anglican and fully in communion with each other.
Therefore we have sought to find a more excellent way – at least for our own circumstances.
Here in the USA (with Puerto Rico, Guatemala and Colombia) the Anglican Church in America (ACA) is the local component of the Traditional Anglican Communion(TAC). The ACA’s seven dioceses approximate a mere eight thousand strong in communicant numbers, among whom we find forty men at various stages of preparation at this time. They range in age from twenty four to fifty one years, with most in the “thirty-something” range. Only six are over fifty.
In Canada the TAC is represented by the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada (ACC-C), with one diocese for that vast territory, of which Robert Mercer, CR, is Bishop Ordinary. Among its forty or so congregations can be found a dozen men in training for ordination, ranging from a Junior College lecturer of twenty five years to a retired executive stock broker of sixty two.
In Australia there are two TAC provinces – the Anglican Catholic Church of Australia (ACC-A, Bp. John Hepworth) and the Church of Torres Strait (Bp. Gayai Hankin). The latter body has an almost entirely indigenous membership and a tradition of ordaining older men. Fifty years of pearl diving and faithful marriage often precede ten years as a priest. More recently young men are being received as Postulants, frequently from the ranks of the Order of St. Paul, a lay community of men and boys. One recently ordained priest is a champion rugby player. On the mainland younger men with a professional background are beginning to replace the “first generation” of retired clerics in the continuer ranks. An industrial engineer, a computer software expert, an oil company executive, a partner in an accounting firm and a social worker join a landscape gardener, a public servant and two taxi drivers. The ACC-A now operates two educational facilities.
Numerically the largest TAC province is the Anglican Church of India (Bp. Samuel Prakash, Metropolitan). In each of the (once and former) Anglican Dioceses which has been restored to date in that land – Delhi, Lucknow, Travancore and Cochin, Andhra Pradesh (Nandyal) and Chotanagpur – several men are in preparation. Plans are moving forward for an Anglican College in Chotanagpur. Canon Reginald Martin, a veteran Anglican, travels the length and breadth of the sub-continent to assist the seven bishops in training the candidates.
In Africa nine men are in training in the Anglican Church of South Africa (Traditional Rite), while in Zambia the newest TAC province just forming under the leadership of Dean Pierre Dil has several men in training in Fr. Dil’s Makeni Ecumenical Centre.
Even in England and Ireland, where the TAC is thinnest on the ground, there are several men in preparation for ordination. In sum, for the roughly one hundred fifty thousand members of the TAC spread around the globe, we find some one hundred (equally dispersed) men diligently working to respond to a vocation to holy orders. What do they study, and how are we to ‘deliver’ to them the materials they require?
The TAC College of Bishops has agreed on a reasonably standardized, basic curriculum which allows as well for some local adaptation to accommodate such matters as variations in the Book(s) of Common Prayer, differing relationships between Church and State, and the like. The curriculum pretends to nothing grand or new-fangled – indeed, quite deliberately to the contrary. The courses in Holy Scripture are a familiar package from the opening general surveys of Old and New Testaments, the Pentateuch and Prophets course, a course on the Synoptic Gospels, and another on the Fourth Gospel, to specific courses in the Pauline and Johannine corpora.
To the obvious general survey of Church History are added separate, more detailed courses on the Early Church, the Reformation and the Church in England. Basic courses in Apologetics, Systematic Theology and Moral Theology are augmented by others in Early Christian Doctrine (Patristics), the Creeds and the Anglican Approach to Theology.
The ‘liturgical cluster’ provides a course on general principles plus one on the Book of Common Prayer and the Anglican Tradition, along with a practicum. Ascetics includes a course on the Life of Prayer plus another on Priestly Formation. Additional modules are included in homiletics (including practicum), Christian Education and Canon Law. Candidates’ progress is monitored in most cases by examinations (or sometimes papers) administered by diocesan examining chaplains.
Nothing revolutionary in all this; there isn’t meant to be. We have found it necessary, however, to become just a bit more avant garde when it comes to the matter of ‘delivering’ this package to the student. In many cases we rely on traditional texts, mailing copies from place to place where (as in most cases) they are out of print. (The list of authors includes such famous names as Harton, Wand, Hoskyns and Davey, Kelly, Marmion, Moss, Klein, Dix, Farrer, Richardson, Bicknell and Kirk.) But in the general absence of such luxuries as classrooms with resident students and professors, a rather more “far-flung” approach is often required.
Video tapes have been and are being produced, containing in most instances twenty four lectures to a course, taught by scholars such as Dr. Allen Ross and Fr. Rod Whitacre of Trinity Episcopal Seminary (Scripture), Dr. Peter Toon (Creeds), and Fr. David Ousley of St. James Episcopal Church, Philadelphia (Ascetics). Video tapes are now in active use for the Old and New Testament surveys, the Creeds, the Pentateuch and Prophets, Systematic Theology, the Life of Prayer, and the Synoptic Gospels. A generous donor in the United States has provided funds designated to have some tapes taught by English scholars produced in the UK, which funds are being spent under the auspices and with the advice of Forward in Faith. The first-fruits of this international endeavor is a course in Systematic Theology. All tapes exist in both the PAL (British) and NTSC (American) television formats in order to be playable in any country. Here in the USA, each ACA Diocese maintains what amounts to a “lending library” of video tapes, sending them out to ordinands for study, who then return them back to “central” to be used by others.
The Eastern Diocese of the ACA is taking technology a step further. It now has, and has successfully employed, a video phone network set-up, utilizing a small camera mounted atop the ordinand’s television set and a dedicated telephone line to “tie the group together.” This relatively new technique allows a single lecturer with a dispersed group of students at remote locations to see and hear one another, and to carry on a discussion – all in ‘real time’ – via telephone and video. Even as this form of ‘networking’ is being perfected, those involved are working on a more advanced and interactive technology using computers, for future improvements to our ‘delivery’ system.
All this relatively hi-tec stuff is augmented by regional learning centers where students can be gathered from time to time for personalized instruction, group discussion, common prayer, and guidance by senior instructors and priests. In the USA, such centers now exist in Los Angeles, California, Charlottesville, Virginia, and Denison, Texas, with others in early stages of development. Ongoing supervision of ordinands’ Spiritual progress is accomplished and monitored through the use of a ‘mentor’ close at hand.
And when all that we can do – in our straitened circumstances – has been done, what then? To what will these men look forward following ordination? You may be sure that there will emerge very few stipendiary curates awaiting the day when a handsome parish with a vicarage and a fine living will be looking for a rector. Less than one percent of ‘continuer’ ordinands will have so rosy a future to contemplate.
A young attorney from Payola, Kansas may land up assisting (uncompensated) a growing congregation in nearby Kansas City. The long-time Director of the Prayer Book Society in Canada, a barrister at law both in Canada and in England, will be ordained soon by Bp. Mercer and become assistant curate of a growing congregation in Raleigh, North Carolina (USA). A native South Carolinian (with Phi Beta Kappa honors) now living in Virginia and doing post-doctoral studies in molecular parasitology may have to try to establish a new congregation in a small, rural community. A Vice-President for Commercial Lending at a large, national bank functions as an assistant curate. A junior executive of a large department store is assistant to a priest (formerly of London and an FiF stalwart) with four growing congregations in Vancouver, BC (Canada).
It is a scene to bring tears (but will they be of sorrow or joy?) to the eyes of Mr. Trollope's John Bold. If the road to ordination is bumpier now, for us, than it was “in better times,” the road beyond is even more so. Even so, the men are coming forward, we are striving to train them as best we can, and the life and work of the Church go on.
We in the Traditional Anglican Communion are very well aware indeed that we are by no means alone in our efforts to preserve and proclaim the Faith. Surely those walking parallel paths to ours face the same or similar problems. Perhaps – with respect in particular to this matter of ordinand training – the time may not be far off when we can sit down together to “compare notes.” Wouldn't it be interesting, perhaps even useful, to arrange for those working with ordinands within the TAC to meet with others laboring elsewhere but in the same corner of the vineyard? Should it turn out that some of us are able to come in from the Greenwood – under a ‘safe conduct’ per Lambeth Resolution IV/ii perchance? – to visit the Christ Our Future event next year, then perhaps such an opportunity might present itself.
Louis Falk is Primate of the Traditional Anglican Communion and Archbishop of the Anglican Church of America.
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