Bishop's Commentaries




What’s in a Name?

“Forward in Faith North America” is a relatively new name given to generations of Catholic Witness in the United States. Even with the various name changes, most of which were conditioned by the circumstances of our vocation at that time, one thing remains clear:

Forward in Faith is the unified Catholic Witness for those who call themselves Anglicans. Over the years we have been called to particular emphases. As the American Church Union, we regularly called Episcopalians who were not immersed in the Catholic nature of Anglicanism to an awareness of our unbroken heritage as Catholics in England, pre-dating the arrival of St. Augustine in 597 A.D. Indeed, Bishops from York were present at the Council of Arles in 314 A.D. and also the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. - well before the 6th century endeavors of Pope St. Gregory in sending St. Augustine of Canterbury. Our unbroken heritage includes Monastic evangelization, Conversions, Marian appearances, Restorations, Reformations, and Movements, all a part of our heritage without one overpowering the other - a tapestry of Faith that eventually, even before the formation of a new Nation, established and nourished countless leaders in the New World.

Forward in Faith exists, in part, to recall the Church to her heritage - with a unique history, spirituality and liturgical expression:  Eastern in her earliest theological roots and Western in her unique relationships in the Western world. Clearly those who do not know their history, or who define their history in terms of brief periods in time are unable to see the Spirit filled Movements of God’s grace in this remarkable expression of the Catholic Faith. Forward in Faith does not see its role as defensive, for what we proclaim is Jesus Christ in whom all that the Father has willed is Revealed. We seek to remind the Church that her Truth is Revealed and is not Evolutionary. Jesus Christ in His earthly ministry was not engaged in an incomplete Revelation that required later generations to revise so that His task would be completed in them. The Church is known as the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, and she embodies the “Vincentian Canon”- the three-fold test of Catholicity as articulated by St. Vincent of Lerins, (400-450 A.D.) namely “what has been believed everywhere, always and by all.” This is one of the tests that is utilized to evaluate Truth versus error. Thus, we oppose innovations and revisions to the Faith of the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, as impossibilities, both for segments of Anglicanism but also, by implication to the Faith espoused by St. Jude - the Faith once delivered to the Saints. Simply put, we do not believe that we have the authority to change that Faith. Moreover, we believe that the burden of proof is placed on those who seek to alter the Faith. We defend the Faith, but we are not defensive.

As heirs of that unbroken Tradition, we recognize that in a rapidly changing, majority rules world, many may well see groups and movements such as Forward in Faith to be irrelevant. Indeed, for some we are reminders of what the Church has been. For some we exist to educate by introducing people to the Faith that has always been. For others we exist to recall them to what they have known and believed. In all things we exist to be used by the Great High Priest, Jesus Christ, who “is the same yesterday, today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8). In an ever-changing world, people are looking for stability, and it is the Catholic Faith which provides it. Forward in Faith exists to demonstrate that faith by conferences, writings, books, magazines and personal witness - often in the jurisdictions in which we serve.

We are Catholic as we see ourselves as a part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church grounded in Biblical Faith and Sacramental presence - proclaiming Christ truly present as He articulated at His Last Supper. We are Orthodox as we proclaim the Creeds. We are Traditional as we preserve and proclaim the truth passed down from Jesus our Savior. We are Conservative as we conserve without alteration the gifts passed down to us from Apostolic times. We are Evangelical as we proclaim with enthusiasm the Good News of Jesus Christ who has called all of us to repentance and won for us Salvation which He freely offers to all who turn to Him.

We are Forward in Faith: grounded in an unbroken Heritage and moving Forward with a 2000-year Faith for generations to come. That is what is in a name.

July 1, 2018 

“Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write, appealing to you, to contend for the Faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude 3

Beloved in Christ,

As the Ambassador for Anglican and Ecumenical Affairs for Forward in Faith North America I must always remind people that we represent several jurisdictions in Anglicanism, and as such are blessed to have clergy and laity who are united in one purpose “contending for the Faith which was once delivered to the saints.” We continue to pray for our members in the Episcopal Church especially during their most recent General Convention as they witness ongoing issues that have caused many to leave most especially over the last five decades. Likewise, we pray for our members who are participating in ways that will reunite brothers and sisters in concordats, both specifically with Anglican jurisdictions and also with those who broadly come under the category of “non-papal Catholics.”

In particular we wish to commend the recent GAFCON gathering in Jerusalem for their boldness in proclaiming the Gospel and for standing in the face of non-Biblical revisions of the “Faith once delivered.” We commit ourselves to praying for the Most Rev. Foley Beach, the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America and for the Most Rev. Ben Kwashi of Jos in Nigeria, as they soon will assume the critical leadership of the GAFCON movement. Most particularly we pledge ourselves to pray for Archbishop and Mrs. Kwashi as they continue to be attacked by Islamic forces, most recently just days after returning from Jerusalem. The unity of Anglicans specifically, and of Christians globally, is critical at this time in history as we see a divided Christianity being attacked by an ever-growing number of people united to destroy the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church - the Bride of Christ - the Body of Christ. The outside attacks on the Faith are regularly in the news, requiring Christians more and more to address the problems within the Body of Christ which prevent us from a unified response.

Forward in Faith, and its predecessors the Episcopal Synod of America, the Evangelical and Catholic Mission, the Committee on Apostolic Ministry, and the American Church Union have spoken clearly for decades about aberrations and innovations that have caused division in Anglicanism. Sadly, even some of our own have created new categories for the evaluation of innovative theologies. “Core Doctrine” and “First and Second Order Issues” are subjective terms and apart from not being able to be supported historically, can be used by anyone who is seeking to defend their reasons for revising the “Faith once delivered.” Forward in Faith has labored to maintain the highest level of Communion possible in the midst of the many changes that have been imposed upon Catholic Anglicans over the years. Our heritage is an unbroken one from Jerusalem to the lands that produced Saints such as Alban, David, Patrick, George, Augustine, Hilda and Dame Julian. Our unique Heritage has had a profound effect on countless Anglican Worthies, including C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot and numerous Monks, Nuns, and Missionaries. The various Catholic Congresses of the last century have articulated well the so-called English Patrimony of which we of Forward in Faith count ourselves heirs. Being an heir carries with it a responsibility of speaking the truth boldly but in love.

The matter of Holy Orders is not a second order issue for it is grounded not only in the Doctrine of Creation and in the Doctrine of the Incarnation with the implications well-articulated in the qualifications listed in the Pastoral Epistles. We are compelled to say that failure to address and resolve a major stumbling block to the Unity of Christianity, in particular with regard to the two larger Communions, will result in ongoing divisions and a precious loss of time in mobilizing Christians to combat the attacks from without and within. A truly Orthodox, truly Conservative, truly Traditional, and truly Missional approach must take place if we are to be engaged in reclaiming the world for Jesus Christ. Enshrining any moment or even several decades in Church history will not serve us well. A truly Conciliar approach is essential, which will mean reminding ourselves of the Historic Councils’ proceedings and revisiting how the Church has dealt with heresies of the past. Schism is counterproductive, but heresies which contain enough truth to be believable and somewhat convincing infect the Body.

We are intentionally named “Forward in Faith” as we continue to move into the future armed with the Gospel, the Sacraments, the Councils, the Apostolic Ministry - “Contending for the Faith once delivered to the Saints.

The Rt. Rev. Keith L. Ackerman, SSC, DD


Manners, Social Grace, Politeness, and Other Lost Arts

Recently I observed two men at two separate events who caught my attention. One man walked into the church wearing a baseball cap and left his hat on throughout much of the Mass. At the other event I witnessed a man walking into the restaurant wearing a baseball cap, and he wore it throughout the meal. Never mind the fact that he walked into the restaurant before the woman with him, and then plopped himself down into a chair allowing the woman to fend for herself. Let’s turn back the clock.

At minimum most people are taught to say “please” and “thank you.” In the past, upon receiving a gift, people said “thank you” to the gift giver, but then within the week, a thank you note was sent as a follow up. Gentlemen stood when a woman entered the room, and then sat down when she sat down. The same was true when the Clergy entered a room. When a gentleman knocked on the door, he removed his hat when the door was answered and he entered the room holding his hat until his hat and coat were taken by the person whom he was visiting. Gentlemen held the door for ladies and they tipped their caps as a sign of respect. By and large these several social graces have disappeared, among numerous others. Sadly, there is also an excuse for poor social graces, “After Feminism emerged, women don’t want me to hold the door or help them with their chair.” “What’cha see is what’cha get.” Unfortunately, the latter is probably true.

In the 1950’s it was not uncommon in Elementary Schools to have classes on social graces, including the appropriate way to communicate. Unconnected telephones were placed in the classroom and students were taught the social graces connected to making and receiving telephone calls. When we made a call, we said “hello” and we identified ourselves. We then asked if we were interrupting anything and if this was a convenient time to talk. If it was a convenient time, then we proceeded by stating the purpose of our call. We never were to interrupt the other person while they were talking. We were told always to conclude the call graciously before we said “good-bye. It was also commonly understood that calls should not be made before 9:00 A.M. nor after 5:00 P.M. unless it was a social call and the other person had indicated the appropriateness of calling. These points, of course, are somewhat obvious in terms of demonstrating some level of appropriate manners and social grace, but many telephone communications today are devoid of showing respect for the other person. In all things, we were taught, a telephone conversation is not a substitute for a face to face communication or meeting. The telephone was a convenience - not a replacement for rapport building and nuanced words with affirming “facial expressions” that can convey at times, more than words.

Letter writing was an art. Hand written letters were highly appropriate between friends, and in many instances, letters were kept in a scrapbook or a special case. These letters contained complete thoughts and, oftentimes, endearing phrases which encouraged the recipient.

Typed letters, on the other hand, were generally confined to business interactions, and while there was the allowance for a “carbon copy” (cc) the recipient always knew who would be seeing the letter. If the recipient wished to share the letter with others, then good manners dictated that the recipient asked the author for permission.

Articles in magazines and books, unless they were fiction, were well written and highly documented with footnotes and a bibliography. They were not a collection of unsubstantiated opinions. The purpose of such devices, such as a “Forward,” in the book was to indicate that someone who was well respected had read and endorsed the book or article. If something simply were in print, without any of those elements, then they often had little or no credibility, and they certainly could not be used or quoted in a serious work being done by students.

The distinction between men and women was designed to show respect. Women were to be called “ladies” and men were to be called “gentlemen.” No one was called “you guys.”

With the introduction first of email, then social media, and then texting, many of the practical boundaries that were set suddenly were removed. Emails were sent with the expectation of a rapid response, people were encouraged to post their opinions and instant messages were sent with the expectation of an instant response. All of these are now sent at any hour of the day, seven days a week with an emphasis placed on the convenience of the sender rather than the convenience of the recipient. Unfortunately, with the new expectations came the tacit understanding that if you fail to respond to my email, post, or text within the time I expect, you must be upset with me or you may be ignoring me. There are even people today who become somewhat depressed when they have been “unfriended” on a Facebook page!!

Sadly, the culture seems to be winning in terms of removing all boundaries of communication protocols and the social grace that should accompany wholesome communication. Moreover, those who impulsively feel a need to express a feeling or a thought can do so without a moment of restraint. In many ways the new “no boundaries” communication prevents disciplined thinking from occurring, whereby people formerly had to organize their thoughts in a cohesive fashion. Today it is often a “stream of consciousness.”

This new form of communication is often reflected in the new and emerging nondenominational churches. People enter the “vestibule,” get their Starbucks coffee, pick up their bottled water and without discovering a Liturgical focal point, sit in the auditorium. The people are greeted with “Good morning,” words are flashed up on screens with power point presentations and the action is directed towards the people in the seats. No Creeds, no Councils, no history, no boundaries.  Wear baseball caps throughout if you wish.

Historical, Liturgical Christianity now appears to be irrelevant to some people because the culture has judged it to be so. For Traditional Christians, we enter a Narthex quietly, renewing our baptismal vows as we dip our fingers into Baptismal water and make the sign of the Cross reminding us who we are to meet. We enter the Nave with hat in hand, genuflect before the King of Kings in His Sacramental presence, kneel at our pews in silence as we communicate with Jesus, and then wait with anticipation. We stand as the Sanctuary Party (Clergy and Servers) enters, we exchange ancient greetings with the priest, and we sit and listen carefully to be instructed (Epistle.) We stand out of reverence to hear the Words that Jesus Spoke (Gospel) and we reflect on the words that God has given to the Preacher to explain the mysteries of our 2,000+ year Faith, handed down from Jesus to the Apostles to us. We recite in the Creed what the Church has always believed and taught - unstained by the world. We pray for ourselves and for each other. We take responsibility for our sins, and we offer to God that which is His by right.  In conformity with the Church described in the Acts of the Apostles we graciously exchange greetings that eventually lead us back to the Last Supper where we are nourished by the Body and Blood of Jesus. 

In every element of the Liturgical event the emphasis is on God. The emphasis is placed on what God has done for us. Everything is directed towards God, and in what He has given us through Word and Sacrament, we have no need to be entertained. In the end we thank God for these gifts and we are sent out into the world to share what we have received. Before leaving, however, we once again kneel in silence preparing to re-enter a noisy world.  No parishioner satisfaction cards are filled out so that Sunday morning can better suit the Christian consumer by receiving their input. We are not so concerned about how we feel as we are about how God feels about us. 

This is all very counter cultural today, but at one time it was an essential component in terms of manners, respect, social grace and politeness. We showed absolute reverence in the presence of God in His House, great respect for those around us, and more concern about the feelings of others than our own feelings. We were not called to be critics - we were called to be worshippers.

Is it possible that the more we have succumbed to the seduction of instantaneous expectations in communication, abruptness in manner, and removing all socially graceful boundaries, that we have lost God in the process? Are we not grateful that our expectations and demands of others in terms of communication are not God’s expectations and demands of us? That we respond to His call immediately, that we react immediately to His expectations, and that we check in often to see if we have missed His call; or even worse - that we looked at our caller ID, saw that God was calling and we refused to answer.

Gracious communication - is it a lost art - or simply a reflection of a people more interested in themselves than in the One who created them to communicate with Him?

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