John Martin introduces the Traditional Anglican Church
READERS OF THIS magazine will be well aware of the approach that FiF took in opposition to the liberal activities of the General Synod, particularly after the passing of the Canon to Ordain Women in 1992. Others, however, chose different ways ahead, and though some fell by the wayside, there are still many ‘continuers’ in this land in various groups. Among them is TTAC (The Traditional Anglican Church), and that Church lays claim to be taken seriously.
After an abortive start under a different title, a small group of people remained adamant that they should be part of the large Anglican body known as the Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC). For us, this offered an Apostolic, Episcopal, Catholic Church, firmly rooted in the Anglican faith. This Communion was already well established in America, Australia, Canada, India, Ireland, Pakistan and S. Africa, and we were seeking membership of a vast body of Christians with similar thoughts and aspirations.
The process of ‘joining’ demanded a thorough examination of our faith and intentions. This involved the production of a Constitution, acceptable to both our own members and the College of Bishops of TAC, and also our acceptance of the basic documents of that Communion – most significantly, the Affirmation of St. Louis, Thanks to the untiring help of our Primate, (Archbishop Louis Falk), Fr. (now Bishop) John Hepworth, and many hours of work by our foundation committee, these objectives were achieved and a General Assembly duly approved them on May 4th. 1996.
As a body, we felt impelled to make a clean and total break with the established Church of England and to root ourselves in the traditional Anglican aspects of the BCP, Authorised Version of the Bible and the thirty-nine Articles, despite their faults and shortcomings. Whilst this may seem anachronistic to many, it does give us a proven foundation-stone, which has stood the test of time, upon which to build and construct the pilgrim way before us.
In addition, we decided, from the outset, that we would not seek to have our “own Bishop” until we are strong enough to provide the support that he would need. Instead, we have Episcopal oversight from Archbishop Falk. This may seem, to many, a strange decision, but it prevented any personal jockeying for position and the power struggles that have assailed other continuing Churches. In practice, it works well! As the Archbishop’s Vicar General I can make his wishes known in England and readily procure his advice upon Episcopal matters.
The Archbishop is well known to many in Cost of Conscience and Forward in Faith and has worked closely with both organisations. The ‘Lewisham Concordat’ is a symbol of the bond between the three parties. It allows full intercommunion for all members and establishes mutual recognition of clergy orders, and is now in operation in every part of the world.
Worldwide, the Communion is continuing to expand, and membership now runs into hundreds of thousands. Though the contribution of TTAC to this number is relatively small, it is not inconsiderable and, since our inauguration, we have grown into a church with twenty-two priests and deacons, around two hundred lay members, and more are still coming forward. We worship mainly in homes, village halls and whatever other buildings are available. Two of our congregations have made the breakthrough and have their own churches. Ordinations and Confirmations are administered by TAC Bishops when they visit England
Inevitably, with matters of conscience, there are diversities of opinion between those who “stay and fight from within” and those who decide to reject the institution entirely and draw their battle lines outside the bastion of liberality. We must be realistic and accept that these differences exist. On the one hand, members of FiF might ask why we didn’t stay and strengthen their army. In reply, members of TTAC look at FiF and say that they are still within the establishment, enjoying the benefits of their buildings and still accepting the authority of Canterbury, whilst we have given our all (including our friends, churches, vicarages and stipends). Some of us have even been pilloried by our local clergy, Diocesan officials and former friends.
These tensions and paradoxes will always exist whilst we are in the human condition, but they are there as a challenge, rather than an obstacle to our progress. No one can know how they will ultimately be resolved. One thing is certain – they are the work of Satan and his purpose is to deflect us from preaching the Faith “…which has been believed everywhere, always and by all…” (St. Vincent of Lerins). Our proper response should be a deepening and strengthening of our faith so that God can work his will among us.
The battle MUST NOT be between those who seek different ways of opposing a common enemy, but between us and that enemy – the patently errant Synodical body which still claims to be “The Church of England”. Together, we have to defend ourselves, and the coming generations, against the many horrors released from the Pandora’s Box that Synod opened in 1992. The darkest contents of that box have yet to be exposed, though I suspect that they are creeping ever nearer to the surface.
Let it be clear that there is no intention of mounting “take-over” bids in either direction. FiF and TTAC have their own agendas, and intend to continue the struggle to maintain the true Faith in their own ways for the foreseeable future. Even so, events might take a totally unpredictable turn and either body might then have to review the situation and be ready to offer love and care to the other.
But that is for the future. For the moment my purpose is to encourage members, both clergy and laity, to talk to each other as friends and co-workers for the maintenance of the ‘One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church’.
In pursuit of this concept of working in parallel, the Council of FiF has co-opted me, (a priest who “resigned under the Measure” and Archbishop Falk’s Vicar General in England), to the Council. This means that both bodies will be fully aware of the work and activities of the other, and so we can avoid doubt and suspicion of each other. Jointly, we can search out the will of God and seek to serve Him to the best of our ability. We can re-establish a respectable and honest Church which carries those special marks of ‘Anglicanism’ into the generations yet to come.
High ambitions? Yes, but God has higher ambitions for his children than we can imagine and, with His help, they can be achieved.
John Martin is Vicar General of the Traditional Anglican Church