Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Anglican Communion, part 2

Haven’t we been here before: in the midst of strife which threatens to tear apart the Communion? Of course we have, several times in the Church’s history, even within the past century or two. In the 1800s it was a question of ministers wearing vestments, placing candles on the Altar and having robed choirs adorn worship with the beauty of Gregorian chant. Such a ruckus was then in effect that the House of Bishops passed The Chicago Quadrilateral which was later adopted by the Lambeth Conference - a once every ten years gathering of all the Anglican Bishops from around the world meeting at Lambeth Palace, the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral is found in our Historic Documents in the back of the Book of Common Prayer (p.876-7). Since many folk do not have their own copy of the BCP at hand, the Quadrilateral is reprinted for you following this note. The Quadrilateral (“Four Essentials,” if you wish) was designed, not for the ending of internal schism, to be sure, but for the joining together of bodies of Christ, as we continually seek in our ecumenical dialogues. The Episcopal Church has sought recently to strengthen our ties with the Moravian Church and most recently with the United Methodist Church. The Four Essentials are the basis of our dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church, as well as many other Christian bodies.

Yet, I believe it can and should be the focus of our unity even as Anglicans around the world. Here is where our Moravian sisters and brothers inform us. The banner of the Moravian Church is:

In essentials - unity. In all other matters - charity.

Wars could be waged over who the best composer of Church music is. But even to this musician, it is a non-essential whether we have Bach, Rachmaninoff, plainchant, Lowell Mason or Vaughan Williams. (Notice, however, that they are all ‘classical’ musicians!) Preferences, matters of taste, personal interpretation, current situations. Many things affect non essentials. But the essentials transcend time and personal preferences. Let us always be aware of the difference between essentials and non-essentials and ‘wage war’ for love and charity alone which are Christ’s eternal essentials.

Father Erb

The Rev’d Edward K. Erb, Rector
St. John’s Church, Hamlin, PA
Reprinted with permission.