The Revd Andrew Bartus: The New Evangelism & the Ordinariates

3 08 2011

The Revd Andrew Bartus writes:

In the Red Chapel of Nashotah House there’s an icon of Bl. Jackson Kemper (many believe him to be a Saint!) which portrays him spreading out seeds from a bag that are actually little churches all across the land. He not only is known for founding Nashotah House, but a multitude of Episcopal parishes in the Catholic tradition all across the American mid-west. To say that Bishop Kemper would be devastated to see what’s happening to Anglo-Catholics in America – and around the world – today would be an understatement to say the least, but his missionary zeal is an integral part of our Anglican patrimony. It is a part of the Anglo-Catholic DNA, from New York’s Bishop Hobart, to Oxford’s Bl. John Henry Newman; to the Midwest’s Bishop Kemper and James DeKoven to California’s Fr. Neal Dodd (check out his IMDB page!). And we must not forget Bishop Charles Grafton, Frs. Charles Lowder and Lincoln Wainwright, and Fr. Basil Jellicoe! The list goes on and on.

This missionary zeal is what is being incorporated into the Ordinariates. There are Anglican Use societies popping up all around the United States, usually very small at this point, with the future goal of becoming full Catholic parishes for the Ordinariate, worshipping according to the Anglican Use. This is the “other side” of our forming the Ordinariate in this country, with the more popular story of the already-established Anglican parishes choosing to come in en masse. The latter gets the secular press headlines, but the former is where the substantial future of the Ordinariate lies.

Evangelism is just as much an obligation by Christians as is fulfilling Christ’s High Priestly Prayer in St. John’s gospel, “that they all may be one.” In fact, Evangelism is a part of being united. True unity is lived out in full sacramental unity which reflects the same faith. Liturgically and culturally the faith can be legitimately expressed in many ways, from the different forms of the Roman Rite (of which the Anglican Use is a part), to the Eastern Rites, to the different cultural music and ritual used from region to region in that worship. But this does not mean, as Anglicans should know better than most, simply finding the bare minimum we have in common and establishing communion in order that a unity of faith may one day occur! Quite the opposite is the case, actually.

One of my many projects I work on is to try to help network people together, especially here in California where I now live, to help form Anglican Use societies to one day become full parishes for the Ordinariate. In this, I have learned well the importance of evangelism from my Southern Baptist roots and from my time at Nashotah House. I would often talk to Jackson Kemper as I mowed the grass around his grave for my work duties, and my main prayer was for a restoration of Anglo-Catholicism and a unity among Christians. I do wonder whether he had some role in the Ordinariates! But the point is that his spirit of church planting and reaching out to the lapsed and heathen (how I loathe such sociological constructions as “unchurched”) is very much a part of the Anglo-Catholic DNA, and while it went into a hibernation during the Slow Decline over the past forty years or so, it is very much alive within those going into the Ordinariates.

The UK is no different than the US in this respect either, probably even more so. Those who have formed the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham have left their church buildings and housing and are having to start over completely. This level of sacrifice and dedication only strengthens the resolve to reach out and grow. In America we are blessed to have many congregations coming in with their property, but these are still in the minority, and even still they have risked quite a lot and gone through much difficulty to get to where they are now, awaiting now the erection of the Ordinariate. This provides us all with an environment full of promise and of challenge. But we must not loose sight of our main goal for the immediate future, and not become complacent in the distant future.

Our immediate goal, and I would argue long-term goal, is to evangelize Anglicans and Protestants, as well as non-Christians. Not to say that the whole of the Church does not have this same goal, but reaching out to Anglicans and other Protestants is our unique missional priority. Other Catholics have the duty to bring in Anglicans and Protestants, but their missional priority is not them per se. Their missional priority depends on their local context and reaching out to the lost there: lapsed Catholics, healing the breach with the Orthodox, converting people of other religions, and generally forming the society around them to the Church’s standards. In other words, civilizing the world. Ordinariate Catholics obviously are to participate in these aims as well, but our primary objective in evangelism, as far as I see it at least, is to unite our “separated brethren”, particularly Anglicans and Protestants, with the Church.

We’ve read much on the liturgical and musical contributions Ordinariates can bring to the wider Church, which will certainly help in the wider goal of civilizing a “post-Christian” society. I love Fr. Z’s “Save the liturgy, save the world!” It’s so true! But that is only one facet of our purpose as Anglican Use Catholics. The other is evangelism.

We must learn ways of evangelism which are uniquely Anglican but most importantly are Catholic: Incarnational, reaching out to the whole of the person. The first and most obvious method is the use of multimedia, particularly on the Internet. All religions are doing this, but what makes the Catholic use of this unique? Well one of the first examples I can think of is the use of this to network people to form real Catholic communities. Sure, the Baptists do this too, but they cannot show online Our Lord himself present with us in real time. Online Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, while not a substitute for actually being there, is a great tool to present Christ to the world!

But the rubber meets the road offline, not online. Relationship building with lapsed Catholics, with curious Protestants with questions unanswered, with Anglicans who are tired of being lied to and their church being changed on them overnight: these are where the small Anglican Use groups that are forming around the United States and the UK are needed most after they leave Mass. We must not be satisfied with being seen simply as a life raft, for that we indeed are, but we must also show the world that we are the fullfillment of Christ’s command to be one and have begun the process of undoing the damage caused by the Reformation’s schisms. We must show the world the saving healing that has been, and is being, bestowed upon us. It is for them as well.

Those of you who, like myself, started crying back in October of 2009 when Anglicanorum coetibus was first released, know exactly the kind of healing and the feelings that go along with it. There’s a whole world out there that would love to feel this too, but so many don’t know, understand, or are at a place in their life where they can’t see it yet. It is our unique duty, and our priority in evangelism, to bring this healing to them. We must seek these people out, communicate to them the hand of God himself in the Ordinariates, and to help bring them in with us. Not only will they too become one “that the world may believe,” and not only will they find the fulness of the faith within the Catholic Church and be in communion with one billion other Christians in Christ’s Church, but they will find healing from the schisms, separations, isolations, partial-truths and strangeness of some vague kind of fellowship with Christ and others.

The spirit of Jackson Kemper and the others lives on in the Ordinariate and it is up to us to embrace it and live out faithfully, to help others as Christ and his Church have helped us.


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