I came to the conclusion some years ago that "Anglicanism" was not primarily about doctrine or formularies, but about connection to and continuity with the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church as mediated through the Church of England. So it seemed foolish to me to identify with Anglicanism on this level while aligning myself with a church or movement that almost entirely identified Anglicanism with doctrine (39 Articles) and formularies (1662 BCP). ("Why I Migrated to The Episcopal Church," Entry: July 30, 2007)
At least one constructive thing has come out of the recent dialogue (charity compels me to call it such) between Fr. Al Kimel and myself. It has reminded me of my own words above. Indeed, it was Fr. Kimel himself who linked the article which contains the above quote to his most recent critque of my article "Personal Reflections on Why I Remain in TEC".
As I hinted in the "trailer" of a previous entry, Fr. Kimel has asked the wrong question, (or, perhaps better, an inadequate question) in the title of his article, "Is The Episcopal Church Truly a Catholic Church?" In so doing, he has unwittingly pigeon-holed himself into answering the question in terms of the relative orthodoxy of TEC's adherents, and thus comes across not as a Roman Catholic apologist debating the catholic claims of Anglicanism as much as he does a former Episcopalian displaying his disappointment and disenchantment with his former church's continuous flirtations with erroneous teaching (the pan-sexual agenda), or, in some cases, embracing of innovative positions (e.g., women's ordination). His arguments in this respect are not much different than those who have thrown their lot in with CANA or the AMiA, or the GAFCON movement for that matter.
Now, I'm not about to engage in a debate over or defend various recent actions of TEC. I should think that Fr. Kimel and I agree for the most part about these matters, and so these hardly need rehashing. My point, however, should not be missed: To argue against the catholicity of a particular church based on a point-in-time snapshot of the relative orthodoxy of its adherents, whether a majority or a significant tolerated minority, is to subject every church at every point in history (including one's own) to the same standard.
But does Fr. Kimel really want to go down that road? Does he really wish to uphold the relative orthodoxy of the adherents of Roman Catholicism throughout its long and less than exemplary history as the standard by which all others are judged catholic? Or is he claiming for Rome and its adherents an "abosulte orthodoxy and orthopraxy" by which all other catholic claimants are judged? (The recent comment from the Anglican Scotist about how Fr. Kimel wants "to make a clean, binary distinction in terms of esse sufficient to completely unchurch Episcopalians" is right on the money here.)
If that is the route Fr. Kimel would like to pursue, then perhaps we should begin our discussion with the sins of simony and nepotism, or the sale of grace through indulgences in the sixteenth century. Or perhaps we should bring the discussion into modern times, and talk about the "Ted Kennedys" and "Nancy Pelosis" of the world. Should we discuss the American Roman hierarchy's complicity in covering up the recent sex scandals and child molestations which some of her priests have perpetrated? I, for one, would rather not go down that road.
So, Fr. Kimel, let's not go there, because, unless one wishes to assume the foolish position of an absolute orthodoxy, there are no winners in such a contest. Instead, let's engage in a debate about the nature of catholicity itself. And I think a good place to begin would be with my quoted statement above. Show me how my "connection to" and "continuity with" the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church as mediated through the Church of England has been severed or interrupted by my remaining in The Episcopal Church.