Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Pop Quiz! Who started the Episcopal Church?
If you said Henry the VIII, you better read Dean Sam Candler's piece at the Daily Episcopalian!
Click HERE to read it all
A comprehensive solution
By Sam Candler
In times of controversy in the Episcopal Church, and even in times of relative calm, someone inevitably makes the accusation or the slight joke that Henry VIII (and his search for a suitable wife) started the Episcopal Church. Thus, I require all my confirmation classes and any audience who hears my presentations on the history and theology of Anglican Christianity to repeat the same line: Henry VIII did not start the Anglican Church (or the Episcopal Church.)
You pass the class if you can say that simple sentence. You pass with honors if you can state who actually did found the Episcopal Church: Jesus Christ founded the Episcopal Church. The Episcopal Church, developed from the Church of England, and an integral member of the Anglican Communion of Churches, is part of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church of Jesus Christ.
That church, started by Jesus Christ, has included inevitable conflict. Even the beautiful first century Christian community involved conflict, which we can read about clearly in The Book of Acts (see Acts 15:2). One of the great apostles, St. Peter, was opposed to his face by the other great missionary apostle, St. Paul (see Galatians 2:11). From then on, every Christian community has lived through conflict. Sometimes that conflict was minor, and sometimes it has been major (see The Great Schism of 1054).
The Anglican tradition of Christianity, evolving as it did far from Rome and the more established centers of western civilization, has always seen its share of conflict and debate. Usually, that conflict has emerged from competing sources of authority. Who, or what, is the final authority in the Anglican Church? From the fifth century onwards, ecclesiastical authority rotated from the Archbishop of Canterbury, to whomever the reigning monarch might be, to the Roman Pope; after the Reformation, that revolving locus of authority included the common people themselves.
Consider the first Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Augustine (of Canterbury, not of Hippo), who landed at Canterbury in 597 AD. He was the first official Roman missionary bishop in what we now call England; but a Celtic form of Christianity, centered around local abbots and monasteries, was already present. St. Patrick had already returned to Ireland; St. David had evangelized Wales; and the great St. Columba had already founded Iona in the north country. One of the early English synods, held at Whitby in 664, was convened over a concern for authority; would the established Church follow Roman or Celtic Christian customs? They chose Rome at that time.
Thus, the question of authority was settled for a season, but not for all time....
Read the rest HERE