Notes on the talk by Bishop Keith Ackerman
At St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, June 5, 2008
The Rev. Leander S. Harding, Ph.D.
The second presenter at the conference was Bishop Keith Ackerman, bishop of the Diocese of Quincy in The Episcopal Church and president of Forward in Faith, North America, the Anglo-Catholic society which is best known for its opposition to the ordination of women. Bishop Ackerman opened with the proclamation that “Christ is Risen” in Greek and Russian and was heartily answered by the assembly that Christ is Risen indeed. He spoke of the mystical oneness of the church. That despite the apparent divisions of the church, the church can only be one because Christ is one. The bishop identified three sorts of authority in the church; magisterial, confessional and synodical and proposed that all three of these types of authority are properly exercised for the continuing reformation and renewal of the church in faith, love and service. He quoted Richard Hooker about the reality of the church that “from Him who is its head it has descended to us now.” Bishop Ackerman said that the bishops properly have the spiritual jurisdiction in the church but that this jurisdiction must be exercised for “the health and salvation of souls.” He quoted the monk of the East, “where Jesus is there is the church.” The proper exercise of authority in the church is, to quote Cranmer, “that we might evermore dwell in Him and He in us.”
Bishop Ackerman gave a precis of the thought of the late Archbishop of Canterbury, Michael Ramsey from Ramsey’s book The Gospel and the Catholic Church, “institutionalism fails without mindfulness of the faith and the faith fails without mindfulness of the historic church.” Ramsey emphasized the vital connection between a consciousness of the passion of Christ and a consciousness of the church as the Body of Christ and the tendency in Protestantism to lose this connection. The Bishop made a case that a Eucharistic church that longs for union in Christ “must be a church with spiritual disciplines.” Unity must be based on doctrinal agreement that is made real and practical in spiritual discipline.
Bishop Ackerman spoke of the longstanding connections between Anglicanism and Orthodoxy in this country, including the relationship between Bishop Grafton of Wisconsin and St. Tikhon the great missionary of Alaska and later Patriarch of Moscow. Bishop Ackerman quoted Bishop Grafton that “in times of confusion Anglicans turn East for inspiration.”
The Bishop then spoke about the doctrinal incoherence of The Episcopal Church, and the emergence in the midst of the ecclesial chaos of North America of an “extra-denominational church on pilgrimage” that is truly “convergent,” that seeks to be truly catholic, orthodox, confessing and renewed for the sake of mission. The Bishop expressed hope in the power of God to overcome the divisions of the churches and to use the Fellowship in fostering ecumenical convergence amongst apostolic Christians of all denominations. “How God will use our divisions for reform and renewal God knows.”