Saturday, May 05, 2007

My Roman Fantasy

In a recent post about the perduring Anglican drama, I closed with a throwaway comment about wishing I could will into existence some reconfigured relationship between the churches of the Anglican inheritance and the Apostolic See of Rome. Much to my amazed amusement and amused amazement, a handful of commenters and bloggers ran with that statement as if it had some substantive connection to what came before it, and some really frenetic speculation ensued.

There was, in fact, no connection. It was random firing.

Yet, outside the present sturm und drang of whatever my fellow Episcopalian dissidents are plotting and hatching, the idea of some kind of corporate rapprochement with Rome is one that a certain stratum of Anglicans--the stratum in which I reside, apparently--is not going to let loose of. Over the years, I've had more than a few friends and acquaintances make (what used to be called) their "submission" to Rome. The very reason I'm in the parish position I hold is because my predecessor swam the Tiber (and is now a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Stockton, with a wife and six kids!). Yet, I have to admit, that whenever I hear of one of these individual conversions, part of me dies inside, because this sort of thing can only forestall the day when there is an opportunity for Anglicans en masse to be restored to communion with the Patriarch of the West, which is (or should be, in my view) the normative state of affairs.

If I could write my own scenario for this, here's what it would be: An Anglican Rite Church, in communion with Rome, but not part of the ecclesial structure of the Latin Rite. This would be in every way analogous and parallel to the relationship of the several non-Latin Rites of the Catholic Church--e.g. the Maronite (Lebanese), the Melkite (Greek), the Ruthenian (Russian) and the Ukranian (in Ukraine, obviously, and also quite numerous in the Canadian prairie). These jurisdictions geographically overlap the diocesan structure of their Latin Rite (the "mainstream" of Roman Catholicism) cousins in areas where both are present, with no formal ties. They maintain their own liturgy and ecclesial culture, their own codes of canon law and disciplinary regulations. Married clergy are commonplace in most or all of these churches.

The Anglican Rite of my dreams would, of course, have a doctrinal and moral foundation that would be consistent with the teaching of the Roman Church, though not necessarily identical with it in tone, emphasis, and articulation. For instance, it would have its own catechism. Its liturgical life would be based on the broad tradition of the Book of Common Prayer, of course. Its ethos would be comprehensive of all the streams of Anglicanism--not just the Anglo-Catholic wing sliced off and grafted onto the Roman trunk. Rather, the spiritual eclecticism of Anglican piety--music, devotional practice, etc.--would be one of its hallmarks.

To be a little more pragmatic and less fantastical for one paragraph: Clergy, of course, would be allowed to marry, though it is difficult to contemplate that this would be extended to the episcopate, given the number centuries that have elapsed since married men have served as bishops in either the east or the west, save in those churches reconfigured at the time of the Reformation. Given the present position of the See of Rome, it is also surpassingly difficult to imagine that women could be allowed to serve in Holy Orders, though it is perhaps slightly less unimaginable that there could be some iteration or permutation of diaconal ministry that would be open to women.

Now, in my wildest dreams, this whole arrangement would come about as part of a covenant that would include the entire Anglican Communion, with the Archbishop of Canterbury being granted the status of Patriarch in the Catholic Church. But just remembering a word like "Sydney" reminds me how utterly insane such a hope would be. In fact, it could only be a wish, never a hope, and Christians are people of hope.

So, what I suspect is the best my Catholic heart might hope for is that, emerging from the debris of the atomized Anglicanism that looms so darkly across our path--though I pray daily against it--an Anglican Rite (or something like it by another name) could be created that would enable significant numbers--even including whole parishes and even dioceses--to make the Romeward journey together, rather than as a mere aggregation of individuals, and all the while, then, maintaining a sense of Anglican culture and continuity with the inheritance not only of Alban and Cuthbert and Bede and Julian and Anselm and Becket, but also with Hooker and Donne and Herbert and the Wesleys and Simeon and Wilberforce--and, for that matter, Gore and Maurice and Temple.

We don't want to sit down by the Tiber and weep as on alien soil, pipe organs in our hands, so to speak, hearing cries of "Sing us one of your Choral Evensongs!" We want to stay in our native land, only to be fully attached once again to the living, pulsing, messily dynamic Body of the Catholic Church--fully, unambiguously, joyfully, without the sort of asterisks and qualifiers ("We're Catholic, just not Roman Catholic") that we've had to exist with since the Elizabethan Settlement.

Of course, speaking as a priest who considers himself already to be a Catholic priest--no asterisks--the process would be greatly lubricated if Rome could find a way to receive me as a priest, rather than purport to make me one for the first time. It is presently unthinkable for me to do or say anything that could be construed as denying what I know I have been for nearly 18 years--that the sacraments over which I have presided are anything less or other than what they were intended to be, which is nothing less or other than what the Catholic Church intends them to be. They haven't come to this point yet in the exercise of the Pastoral Provision (the process that allows married former Anglican clergy to be ordained as Latin Rite priests). But I have boundless regard for Roman creativity--where they have a will, they always find a way. Even if it were a very quiet, private, overtly conditional re-ordination, that would do the trick.

Like I said, this is a fantasy--and, when I dare let it be so, a hope. If a hope is more solid than a wish, it is less solid than an expectation. In any case, I suspect no harm can be done by putting these thoughts into cyberspace, trusting that God, in His own providence, might take and bless and break and give them somehow for the glory of His Name, the benefit of His Church, and life of the world.


Bobby J. Kennedy said...

I am very intrigued by your postulations here. If, hypothetically, and according to “hope,” such an arrangement would ever be extended to Anglicans by the Roman See, would the Anglican Rite be morphed into full blown Roman Catholicism over a period of time or would it likely perpetually reside alongside Rome as an Anglican Rite Church?

I have several friends who were part of the Maronite Church. One has converted to Orthodoxy and the other two usually either attend Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or even Protestant churches. I may ask them more about the Maronite arrangement with Rome as it does peak my curiosity.

Thanks for posting these thoughts.

Anonymous said...

It is with great interest that I read your posting of "MY ROMAN FANTASY." I suggest that you and your readers take note of what I have sent to several conservative Episcopal bishops concerning the situation. Truly being part of the ancient, true and "One Holy Apostolic Catholic Church" is one thing, but to sell ones beliefs and values for merely recognition is another. There is a better way!

Rev. Dr. Marcus Leland Brown
1068 South Seventh Avenue #106, Avenal, California 93204 (559) 386-1770

20 April 2007

Dear Bishop:

Greetings and Prayers for Blessings in the name of Maran Eshoo M’Shika(Our Lord Jesus Christ)!

By way of introduction, I am a missionary priest, former diosecan official and national committee member of the Assyrian Church of the East (The Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East), and one of only a dozen American (caucasian) clergy ever ordained in this ancient part of Eastern Christianity, who are also the last bastion of the Aramaic language of our Lord Jesus Christ. My bishop is Mar Aprim Khamis, Phoenix, Arizona (fomerly the bishop of Bashra, Iraq) and we are under the leadership of His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, Catholicos-Patriarch of the East, (former bishop of Tehran, Iran, now in exile in Chicago, Illinois), the 120th successor to the Apostolic See of Seleucia-Ctesiphon (Bagdad, Iraq).

It has been with great interest that I have watched the events within the Anglican Communion. Unfortunately, the results of various meetings have not seemed to produce the hoped for results, especially in The Episcopal Church, and even the recent primates meeting of the Anglican Communion that was just held in Tanzania.

In my study of Christian Churches, especially those that are apostolic in nature, it has revealed that the Assyrian Church and the Anglican Church, previous to the ordination of women and liberal issues that is, were the most alike in their traditions and liturgical celebrations. During World War I, and thereafter, our two Churches had many interactions, especially in the Middle East. Cordial relations continued until the ordination of women, and even our current Catholicos-Patriarch, Mar Dinkha IV, was enthroned at an Anglican Monastery in London, due to various hostile conflicts, even then, in the Middle East in 1976.

I have been in contact with various bishops and clergy within our Assyrian Church, concerning the Episcopal Church situation and it’s conservative members dilemma, due to the myriad of issues that have come about and they are indeed open to the idea of an "Anglican Rite" within our Church.

I have also read a number of articles sent to me from Episcopal clergy, publications or the internet, concerning the talk of not only Anglican-Roman dialogue for full-communion, but others that relate to Episcopal clergy and congregations going to the Roman Catholic Church or Eastern Orthodoxy. It is a grave concern that the mega-structures of the Roman Catholic Church and/or the Eastern Orthodox Churches will merely cause a cessation of the particular gifting and ministry of the various clergy and congregations that are seeking to leave the Episcopal Church and these persons are probably not fully aware of the true consequences of such inclusions. On the other hand, the Assyrian Church is now so small in the Synod of Bishops, being just over a dozen world-wide, and the current Middle East issues, that dioceses, clergy and congregations will have a much bigger voice in their own destiny, as well as being able to embrace a theology that is so much closer to their own. Additionally, those that have experienced the Charismatic gifts would be allowed to do such, opposed to the Eastern Orthodox stand on this issue, or without adding schismatic and suspect, if not heretical, dogma thereto, concerning the Roman Church.

Episcopal bishops, priests and parishes coming to the Assyrian Church could open a door worldwide to other bishops, clergy and congregations of the Anglican Communion that are seeking a true Apostolic jurisdiction and conservative Christian Church, where they could continue ministry, within the proposed "Anglican Rite" within our ancient Church.

I am enclosing an edited letter to a colleague, which is indeed very rudimentary, but also very explanatory in nature concerning some of the differences concerning our Assyrian Church and the Roman Church. Parts of such may be beneficial to you and also to whomever you may wish to share such information. It is my belief that you should indeed share this information with your fellow conservative bishops, priests and congregations, especially before they take any drastic moves that would entangle them with the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Churches or Oriental Orthodox Churches.

It is my hope and prayer that the congregations under your pastoral care, as well as other conservative bishops and congregations in the Episcopal Church, are given a opportunity to view this material, and know that there is another way to preserve their faith, their dignity and continue in the ministry that was ordained by our Lord Jesus Christ.

For our part, in the Assyrian Church, we have been praying for a viable means to reach the American population with this pure and holy doctrine of Ancient Christianity. Yet, due to the ethnic prominence in the Assyrian Church, that has been difficult in the Americas. There are only two American (Caucasian) priests left in the entire Assyrian Church worldwide, including myself. An “Anglican Rite” within our Church, would indeed serve the needs of both, our Mother Church and the congregations that are received into this ancient Apostolic jurisdiction. There is so much potential here for the Kingdom of God, worldwide, and for mutual benefit, that I hope you will prayerfully consider this communique and share such with your fellow conservative colleagues and congregations.

I will also be glad to supply any documentation, information, source materials and items that may be deemed necessary concerning the Assyrian Church or myself, if so desired. "Allaha barach loc" (God bless you!)

I remain your servant in the love of Christ,

Rev. Fr. Marcus Brown, D.D., Ph.D., DAPA
Missionary Priest and Pastoral Psychologist


Dear Colleague: January 9, 2007

THE HOLY APOSTOLIC CATHOLIC ASSYRIAN CHURCH OF THE EAST, is part of the Original Christian Church that goes all the way back to Jesus Christ, Himself, and His disciples! Literally to 33 A.D. Not just some group that was came up in the last few years, decades, or even recent centuries, as Protestantism or various independent churches.

Yes, it is a Catholic Church, but not Roman, but older and therefore before the Roman Church, without the doctrines the Roman Church added to the Apostolic Christianity of the early centuries. There are only five major communions of Catholicism, including the Roman Church and its subordinates, and they (Rome) are only one of the five. They are; Rome {Roman Catholic}, Constantinople {Eastern Orthodox}, Alexandria {Oriental Orthodox} Jerusalem (primarily obsorbed) and Seleucia-Ctesiphon {Assyrian Church of the East}. And all legitimate Churches of Apostolic succession, and their dependent churches and/or jurisdictions, are in communion with one of these five ancient Sees of Christianity. Yet these primary jurisdictions do hold very different doctrines and dogmas. Our Church IS the original Church of Jesus Christ and His Apostles outside of Jerusalem, with the least amount of change from the beginning.

If you do not hold the same belief system about worship, how could you walk together? In this case scenario presented it would mean that your congregations were able to accept the formal worship of our liturgical church, church seasons, church calendar, church teachings, church tradition, our hierarchy, sacraments, saints, exclusion of women and homosexuals from ordained ministry, etc., as we continue to conform to Holy Scripture.

I know that you accept the teaching of the Word, the Gifts and Manifestations of the Spirit, the Fruits of the Spirit, the ministry of the Body, the Praise of the Believers and all the other primary aspects of the Bible. Unfortunately, the Orthodox Churches do not accept the Gifts and Manifestations of the Charismatic movement as authentic in nature. The Roman Church has allowed the Charismatic gifts, as you know, but unfortunately, they have also added a number of other doctrines that are not Apostolic in nature, which many Christians can not accept. To my knowledge, the Assyrian Church is the only Apostolic jurisdiction that holds pristine Apostolic doctrine and has accepted the manifestations of the Holy Spirit as a valid expression of the Christian Faith today also.

The theology of our Church is indeed very simple and pristine compared to most ancient churches and generally holds those teachings that were universally accepted as the doctrines of the Apostles and the first early Church councils. (There is also a book called "The Marganitha," {The Pearl}, written in 1250 AD, by Mar Odishoo, which is a brief summary of the main teachings of this early Christian Church.) As well as many volumes that have been penned before and after, naturally.

The Assyrian Church (The Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East) is the continuation of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and His Holy Apostles and their Disciples too, on and on, until the very present time. It is the first and original Christian Church established outside of the Roman Empire in 33 AD,. in the region known as Persia. It still holds the Apostolic teachings and continues to celebrate the liturgy in the original Aramaic tongue of the Lord Jesus and the Apostles, and is the last bastion of the language.

Now to a very brief explanation of the difference between the Assyrians and the Romans, which are both indeed Catholic (“Universal”) Churches. The Assyrian Church started in 33 AD as a Christian Church with services and all other aspects, in the open, and continued the teachings of Christ and the Apostles. The Roman Church did not come into the open (above ground) until approximately 249 AD and was the last of the five major branches. In time, due to the situation and status of Rome, it became a center and grew in political power. As it’s power grew so did it’s tendency to formulate new doctrine and try to impose such on other parts of the Christian Church. Power and politics are basically what caused the church splits in the early centuries of Christianity.

But our Church, “as I told you before, and I tell you again”- as St. Paul states- did NOT add such things as:

Papal Infallibility
Papal Supremacy
Dormition (Bodily Assumption of Mary)
Mary, Queen of Heaven
Mary, Co-Redemptrix
Mary, Mother of us all
Mandatory Confession
and a host of lesser know doctrines, too, including;
Closed Communion
Marriage only before ordination for Roman Permanent Deacons and Eastern Rite Deacons
Prohibition of remarriage of widower clergy (Roman Deacons and Eastern Rite Clergy)

Most all of the above doctrines of the ROMAN Catholic Church were added after 1,000 AD, and the Apostles knew nothing about them, at all!

I hope that gives you some insight as to the basic difference between the Assyrian Church of the East and the Roman Catholic Church.

May the blessing of the Lord be with you,

Rev. Dr. Marcus Brown
Missionary Priest and Pastoral Psychologist

1068 So. 7th Avenue #106
Avenal, California 93204

Anonymous said...

Dear Fr. Martins,

I appreciate both your posting, and your hopes expressed in it. May I enter a slight and historical demurral or two?

First, you wrote, "Clergy, of course, would be allowed to marry ..." I doubt that this will ever happen. You are no doubt aware of the discipline of the Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Churches: married men may be ordained to the diaconate and presbyterate, but bishops must be celibate; this was also the practice of some regions of the West before celibacy was imposed universally upon it in the 11th century (in other regions of the West, as in Rome itself since at least 385, cf. Pope Siricius' Epistle to Himerius, married men being ordained to the diaconate and presbyterate had to give an understanding to live continently with their wives after ordination). The one exception to all this was and is Dr. Marcus Brown's church, "The Holy Catholic Apostolic Assyrian Church of the East" whose discipline for well over a thousand years has been to allow deacons and priests to marry and remarry after ordination as well as before, although their bishops must be celibate. However, their own records reveal that before two successive synods altered their discipline in 484 and 496 to allow, and even mandate, the marriage (and to permit remarriage as well) of deacons, priests and bishops (celibacy became a requirement for bishops only several centuries later), all men had not only to pledge celibacy, but even men who had previously married (but were now widowed) were debarred from ordination. When the larger part of the Church of the East (now the Chaldean Catholic Church) united with Rome in the late 18th Century, Rome made it adopt the discipline of the other Eastern Churches -- that is, no marriage or remarriage after ordination for deacons and priests. I doubt that Rome would make an exception for Anglicans in this regard. (And, incidentally, isn't it a remarkable feature of Dr. Brown's screed that he nowhere so much as mentions that the Church of the East accepts only the first two Ecumenical Councils and regards Nestorius, who was condemned by the Third Council in 431, as an orthodox teacher?)


Anonymous said...


As to the ordination of women to the diaconate, I doubt that that will ever happen, either, in any church that is in communion with the Roman See. Rome has not (yet) authoritatively ruled out the ordination of women to the diaconate, as it has with the presbyterate and episcopate, but every indication is that "the Roman view" is that it is an equal impossibility. The "Western (Latin) position" has always been that deaconesses, where there were such in the West (and that in few places and after the Fifth Century -- and Rome itself never, ever, had deaconesses) are laywomen (or female religious), not "female deacons" and that same position was held by the Syriac and Mesopotamian churches, where deaconesses played a major role in the 3rd to 7th centuries. Only in the Byzantine tradition is it possible to argue that "the diaconate" has a female as well as a male form (but deaconesses in that tradition played no liturgical role); and Orthodox theologians and dogmatists have been themselves divided about whether "deaconesses" = "female deacons." (For all this, see *Deaconesses: An Historical Essay* by A. G. Martimort; San Francisco, 1986, 1996: Ignatius Press.)

As I wrote, I share your hopes, from "the other side of the Tiber," but I rather doubt if any form of "Anglican Comprehensiveness" will ever be embraced by Rome; and as for Anglican Orders, any acceptance of them by Rome will necessarily involve "the Dutch Touch" (as the Old Catholic/ Polish National Catholic participation in Anglican ordinations since 1932/1946 has been termed), but I am far from certain (as is the Anglican author of the phrase, who is a friend of mine) that "the Dutch Touch" will carry that much weight with Rome.

Anonymous said...

I have been a little delayed to express my response to Prof. William Tighe’s statements, due to recent hand surgery. But by God’s grace I am now able to address the following statement:

William Tighe wrote:
“And, incidentally, isn't it a remarkable feature of Dr. Brown's screed that he nowhere so much as mentions that the Church of the East accepts only the first two Ecumenical Councils and regards Nestorius, who was condemned by the Third Council in 431, as an orthodox teacher?”

Once again, I am amazed at certain educators that take materials, about a church in this instance, from other sources instead of prime sources being the source itself.

There was no reason to mention the Ecumenical Councils nor Nestorius. The Church of the East was not able to participate in a number of councils due to restrictions including, territorial wars and assassinations of delegates, etc. Additionally, the controversies were more political and linguistic than theological. If a reader was to compare “The Rudder” (The Epitome of the Seven Ecumenical Councils) and the Synods of the Assyrian Church of the East, a parallel would be obvious. One of the hierarch of the Assyrian Church made the statement that the Greek canons were considered and compared and most adopted,when they became available to the Assyrian Fathers.

The Assyrian Church of the East, has and still holds, classical Christological doctrine. One could list a number of books that refute the “Nestorian” appellation, but suffice it to say that the Roman Catholic Church would not have come into inter-communion with the Assyrian Church if it was not hold common Christology.
On November 11, 1994, The joint heads of the Roman Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, His Holiness, Pope John Paul II and His Holiness, Mar Dinkha IV signed a “Common Christological Document.” The Joint Committee for Theological Dialogue” which help create the documents signed by the patriarchs continued to meet annually since then also.

The Pontifical Council For Promoting Christian Unity in agreement with the
Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and the Congregation for the Oriental Churches
Secondly, the Catholic Church recognizes the Assyrian Church of the East as
a true particular Church, built upon orthodox faith and apostolic succession. The
Assyrian Church of the East has also preserved full Eucharistic faith in the presence of
our Lord under the species of bread and wine and in the sacrificial character of the
Eucharist. In the Assyrian Church of the East, though not in full communion with the
Catholic Church, are thus to be found “true sacraments, and above all, by apostolic
succession, the priesthood and the Eucharist” (U.R., n. 15). July 2001

The Synods of the Chaldean Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, came to their own common decrees, plans and initiatives concerning the future unity of these two parts of the ancient Church of the East and on August 15, 1997, signed these documents sending them on to their respective church patriarchs. On 29 November 1997, the patriarchs of the Assyrian Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church, after Joint Synodical Decrees, signed the decree which included initiatives to foster ecclesiastical unity.

Vatican City, July 2001, inter-communion was established between the Roman Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. One may simply look at any Roman Catholic monthly missal and see the preface which includes those that may receive the Eucharist, which includes members of the Assyrian Church of the East.

It is my hope that this information will allay any and all speculation and confusion brought about by limited knowledge of this part of the “One Holy, Apostolic and Catholic Church.”

Anonymous said...

In light of Mr. Kennedy's post about the Anglican Rite and the Maronite Church. "Roman Catholics in 'Anglican'; 'Maronite' or other clothing!" What's the difference then, other than the outer appearance?

I find it very curious that people are concerned with the outer aspects of how the worship service looks or resembles, when churches are united to Rome,yet do not seem very concerned about the the new morphed entity.

By the way, a jurisdiction usually has about 50 years to conform to Roman canon as they are assimilated.

Yet, where are those hungry for the Faith of the Apostles, as it was in the beginning, not the outward signs of acceptance, but the signs and wonders that followed the disciples?

Rev. Dr. Marcus Brown,
Sun City, CA 92586
(951) 246-1033

(New contact info as of 07/1/10);

as I am open to communication fro those interested in the Ancient Assyrian Church of the East.

Anonymous said...

In light of Mr. Kennedy's post about the Anglican Rite and the Maronite Church. "Roman Catholics in 'Anglican'; 'Maronite' or other clothing!" What's the difference then, other than the outer appearance?

I find it very curious that people are concerned with the outer aspects of how the worship service looks or resembles, when churches are united to Rome,yet do not seem very concerned about the the new morphed entity.

By the way, a jurisdiction usually has about 50 years to conform to Roman canon as they are assimilated.

Yet, where are those hungry for the Faith of the Apostles, as it was in the beginning, not the outward signs of acceptance, but the signs and wonders that followed the disciples?

Rev. Dr. Marcus Brown,
Sun City, CA 92586
(951) 246-1033

(New contact info as of 07/1/10);

as I am open to communication fro those interested in the Ancient Assyrian Church of the East.