THE MOST REVEREND DR. HEIGO RITSBEK
MA, MDiv, DMin, LittD, DD
Patriarch of The Anglocatholic Church
By the Grace of God, we celebrate the Third Anniversary of The Anglocatholic Church this year of the Lord, Anno Domini 2019. Our Communion is very young, very young. But the teaching and the liturgy and the Principles of church government are going back to the Early Church.
We may honestly ask the question – why there is a need for such a young representation of these teachings and values and liturgy and Principles of church government for a three year old communion? Are not there communions which are centuries old having them already and we may be part of them? Why have something new in this twenty first century?
If we recognize and require the Apostolic Succession, why to emphasize this through a new communion? Here we reach to the key issues, that Apostolic Succession is not a magic thing of the laying of hands by bishops. The Succession that Bishops give to the new Bishops has to be giving to the new generations all that which came from the Apostolic times. If it is not Apostolic, then we cannot talk about the Apostolic Succession.
At this time of history of the Christian Church, there are two Principles, which are for us the „red line“. Certainly these are seen very well, but actually they go to deeper theological truths among many Christian communions. And then we see that these our “red lines” actually are much more deeper as with the first glimpse. These „red line“ isuses are – non-acceptance of female clergy and gay clergy. At first it seems to be a small issue of ministry – but actually, if we had accepted these non-scriptural and non-traditional understandings (i.e female clergy and gay clergy), then actually we had thrown away sacramentology of the Holy Scriptures and of the Apostolic Tradition; also we had thrown away ecclesiology of the Bible and the Early Church.
Are we the only „right church“ in the world? No. Absolutely not. We recognize fully a lot of communions, most definitely Roman Catholic Church, Orthodox Church, several Eastern churches and among Old Catholic and Anglican bodies churches many, which cling to the Holy Scriptures and the Apostolic Tradition. But we are one younger brother among these above mentioned communions.
We are a small body: thirty one bishops with more than two hundred priests and two hundred deacons in over 100 parishes in 25 countries of the world with 22,000 faithful members. But at the same time I want to emphasize that the question is not so much in it, what is our membership number, but how much we actually are „the salt of the Earth“.
One of the key-questions of every denomination is the reason for existence which involves clear understanding who we are? What is our mission? In what sense are we different? As mentioned above, this is not the question how or why are better – but is the DNA of our communion.
I have been asked several times, theoretically speaking, if there were in the world a communion with exactly the same theology, liturgy, moral theology, church polity etc., what would we do then? And my honest answer would be – then we enter into negotiations to merge with such a church. Our existence is not for that, to keep our ecclesiastical positions. At the same time we do not need to have changes in our DNA only for that, to be in communion with somebody or to merge with another communion.
In the 21st century it seems that our challenges are in sexual ethics. Yes in this too, but they grow out from our basic theological groundwork. Do we believe every line of the Creed? Do we believe the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God? Do we believe the liturgical and sacramental nature of the Church? Do we believe in Holy Trinity? And so on. It is very sad to see, how in many churches around the globe all scriptural truths and Early Church values are disappearing very quickly like snow in spring.
This all had more general beginning during Humanistic times from fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. When the center of the Universe was not God anymore, but a human being. And that is why now we may be surprised, why all basics of Christianity is turned upside down.
To live in a human-centered world, it is very clearly seen that humanism is the biggest enemy to the Christian theology and to the Church. Every church or communion which wants to be “humanistic” in whatever way, loses its firm Christian roots. It is no need to name all these activities, which are called some people, who wear the name Christians, what they do or believe. Our task is not to be judges, God is judge. But at the same time the teachings of Jesus and the Early Church and the Apostolic Tradition are giving us light where to go and what to follow.
And who gives now Agenda to the Church? Many Christians think that the world around us, the people around us, a human being. This makes life for many serious and dedicated Christians very hard.
As mentioned – we are not the only place where to hide from humanistic plagues, but at least one place among others. And in this we see also our mission and reason for existence.
If somebody asks – what is the mission of The Anglocatholic Church? Then our answer is very simple, it is in the words of Jesus – “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Let us pray the Collect of our Anniversary.
ALMIGHTY and Everlasting God,
who didst deign to enrich the earthly Body of thine only Son,
the Holy Church, by the birth of a new family of faith :
Mercifully grant to us, we beseech Thee,
the healthfull Spirit of thy Grace,
that we may ever please Thee in truth,
and be filled with the dew of thy heavenly blessing,
that, in our witness and ministry,
we may bring forth a fruitful harvest of souls
to the honour and glory of thy great Name;
Through our Lord Jesus Christ,
who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Spirit,
ever one God, world without end. Amen.