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SPRING, TX: Anglo-Catholic Bishop Unfolds Catholicity of Anglicanism

SPRING, TX: Anglo-Catholic Bishop Unfolds Catholicity of Anglicanism
Former Episcopal Bishop William Wantland lays ground work for Sept. FiF-NA Assembly

By Mary Ann Mueller in Spring, Texas
VOL Special Correspondent
August 27, 2019

SPRING, TEXAS --- The call came several weeks ago. It was my dear friend Bishop William Wantland, and he was inviting me to St. Timothy's Anglican Church and to one of Forward in Faith-North America's (FiF-NA) regional conferences which St. Timothy's pegged as "A Festival of Faith." The bishop was the scheduled presenter and he used his three talks on The Catholicity of Anglicanism as a run up to the FiF-NA Annual Assembly in September in Hurst, Texas.

The former Wisconsin bishop and I have a long history together. When I was editor of small twin community weeklies in Chippewa County, Wisconsin, the Rt. Rev. William C. Wantland was the sitting ordinary in the Diocese of Eau Claire. After 25 years away I had returned to my home state and settled in the closest Episcopal church -- St. Luke's in Ladysmith, and Bishop Wantland became my bishop. I left Wisconsin as a Lutheran and returned as an Episcopalian.

He was 55 at the time. He is 85 now and could easily pass as a man 20, or even 30 years younger than he is. I was turning 40 at the time and now I am turning 70. At this point Bishop Wantland is "younger" than I am. I have aged 30 years, he hasn't.

Bishop Wantland was using the Spring regional conference to hone his presentation: "The Catholicity of Anglicanism." It was a dry run of his teachings he is preparing for the upcoming Forward in Faith-North America assembly scheduled for Sept. 20 & 21 this year to be held in Hurst, Texas.

I have danced with The Episcopal Church since 1965. But Bishop Wantland's latest teaching has filled in a lot of the gaps in my own understanding of Anglicanism. For this I am deeply grateful.

He tackled the history of Anglicanism starting with St. Joseph of Arimathea and ending with the Anglican Church in North America and GAFCON while weaving through the long and rich history of Christianity touching upon the first seven ecumenical councils stretching from 325 to 787 AD which are accepted by the apostolic churches streaming from an undivided Christendom including the Anglicans, the Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox (the Coptics), the Syriac Christians of the East, Old Catholics of the Union of Utrecht, and the Church of Rome. All these historical churches trace their thread of apostolic succession to a common line before the united church started to fracture during the Great Schism of 1054 between Orthodoxy and the Great Latin Church of the West. Although the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox parted ways 500 years before hand.

Dancing through the list of Archbishops of Canterbury Bishop Wantland started with Augustine, a Benedictine, sent to Canterbury by Gregory the Great in 597 AD. The saintly monk's holy preaching was so powerful that he was able to convert King Ethelbert of Kent to Christ. The bishop, who now lives in his native Oklahoma, also introduced the historic ancient patriarchs of the early church: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem and how each played a role and continues to play a role in the catholicity of the Christian Church and how today's Anglican ties are made and maintained.

Then he expounded on the Sacraments especially the Eucharist which he calls one of the two dominical Sacraments, meaning instituted by Jesus Christ, Himself. The other dominical Sacrament is Baptism. Both Baptism and Holy Communion are necessary for salvation while the other five sacraments are not.

The bishop iterated that the two dominical Sacraments must use the words (formula) and elements (matter) used by Christ. Meaning that Baptism must use water and be done in the Trinitarian formula of "In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit." And that Holy Communion must be celebrated with bread and wine using the words of institution spoken by Christ at the Last Supper -- "This is My Body ... This is My Blood" -- spoken in the first person.

Next on Bishop Wantland's mind was the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral focusing on the Holy Writ, the historic creeds -- the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, and even the lesser known Athanasian Creed -- as classic statements of Christian faith.

The Apostles' Creed is a primitive basic statement of faith while the Nicene Creed fleshes out Jesus Christ where the Athanasian Creed brings out the interconnection with the Personages of the Holy Trinity and is sometimes said on Trinity Sunday.

The Quadrilateral was originally conceived in the 1886 Episcopal House of Bishops as a way of defining the bare minimum essentials of faith needed to help foster the re-membering (bringing back to gather) a dismembered and fractured Christendom in the fulfillment of Christ's Priestly Prayer for Unity as recorded in John 17. Two years later the third Lambeth Conference tweaked and signed on to the Chicago resolution and joined its name to the Quadrilateral.

Then he carefully explained that Anglicans are working hard to help foster the reunification of the universal Church but that the minimum essential deposits of faith outlined in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral must be the guidelines to help bring that about. He also noted that the Anglicans and Roman Catholics have long been in dialogue, as are the Anglicans and the various Orthodox, and the Anglicans and several Protestant denominations such as the Lutherans and Methodists.

I remember him being very active in LARC -- the ongoing Lutheran, Anglican, Roman Catholic dialogue in Wisconsin.

The bishop was careful to point out that "Protestant" does not necessarily mean that one is protesting against something or someone but rather protesting for or defending another valid position.

Many times, he reiterated the Four Marks of the Church are -- one, holy, catholic and apostolic -- as defined by the First Council of Constantinople in 381 AD and stated in the Nicine Creed. But he also noted that the Church moves slowly, sometimes very slowly. Progress is marked in years, decades, centuries, and even a millennium so ultimate reunification of an undivided Church may take a long time. Something he, or most of us, may not live to see.

The learned bishop noted that "catholic" is not solely a means of identifying the church associated with the "Patriarch of the West" -- the pope of Rome. As such Pope Francis is also known as Bishop of Rome, the Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, the Primate of Italy, and the Metropolitan Archbishop of the Roman Province.

The word "catholic" itself means universal however many people equate the word only with the "Roman Catholic Church" which seems to be a misnomer. The Church of Rome, is more accurately called the Holy Roman Church, and spread throughout the Holy Roman Empire and beyond. The word Catholic does not appear its title just as Episcopal does not appear in the legal documentation of The Episcopal Church. TEC's corporate title is The Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society and it is under that title that General Convention is convened.

Anglicanism, too, is universal. It is the third largest Christian body behind the Church of Rome and Orthodoxy. Anglicanism spread throughout the world with the English explorers then followed by the missionaries. Now it touches all habitable continents. In all there may be as many of 102 million Anglicans of all stripes. Those who are in Communion with the See of Canterbury and those who are not -- those Anglicans who are a part of the Anglican Continuum and share a common history, liturgy, and apostolic lines back to the Apostles. Those bishops would not be invited to the 2020 Lambeth Conference.

This will be the first time in 40 years that William Wantland will not be in attendance. As a priest he attended the 1978 Lambeth and as the Bishop of Eau Claire he went to the 1988 and 1998 Lambeth's and his final trip to Lambeth was as a retired Episcopal bishop in 2008. Now as a member of the ACNA College of Bishops he in all liklihood is not on the Archbishop of Canterbury's personal invitation list.

Although ACNA Archbishop Foley Beach has been invited to attend as an "ecumenical" observer along with representatives of the Anglican Church of Brazil and the Reformed Evangelical Anglican Church of South Africa (REACH-SA). Other ecumenical visitors are to include Roman Catholics, Old Catholics, the Orthodox, Methodists, and Lutherans.

There are another 330 million Orthodox both Eastern and Oriental spanning the globe with the Church of Rome making up the largest group of the world's Christians with 1.2 billon worshippers who show allegiance to the Vatican. The rest of the world's Christians have splintered into hundreds and even thousands of large and small denominations.

Trying to bring all the various denominations into to a one unified church in the fulfillment of Christ's Prayer for Unity, will be as difficult as herding cats.

The oldest continuing Anglican presence in the United States is St. John's Episcopal Church in Hampton, Virginia originally founded in 1610 as a Colonial Church of England parish. However, Anglicanism first came to Canada via Sir Martin Frobisher who sailed the waters of Davis Strait in present day Nunavut. His chaplain celebrated the first known Service of Holy Communion using the 1559 Church of England's Book of Common Prayer in early September 1578.

The retired Eau Claire bishop expounded that the Scriptures contain all things necessary to salvation and the historic episcopate was elemental for apostolic succession. He also noted that the Apocrypha was not to be tossed. That it is a part of the richness of Scriptural writings and is readily used by Anglicans in Daily Office and for Mass readings.

Bishop Wantland can trace his own episcopal consecration through The Episcopal Church's line of succession back to the first Presiding Bishop William White who in 1787 was consecrated the second American bishop by the 88th Archbishop of Canterbury John Moore, along with the Archbishop of York William Markham and Bishop Charles Moss of Bath & Wells.

Then 193 years later Fr. William Wantland, an Oklahoma native and a member of the Seminole Nation, was consecrated bishop as the IV Bishop of Eau Claire by XXII Presiding Bishop John Allen, along with Bishop Stanley Atkins (III Eau Claire) and Bishop Gerald McAllister (III Oklahoma). He is bishop number 750 in the Episcopal House of Bishops. Today there are 1,121 Episcopal bishops, of which 34 are women. Something Bishop Wantland utterly and categorically rejects.

Until his retirement in 1999 the Diocese of Eau Claire was only one of four Episcopal dioceses which did not allow female priests much less women bishops to function within the diocese. The other three dioceses were: Quincy in Illinois, San Joaquin in California, and Fort Worth in Texas. Now women's ordination has spread to all dioceses in The Episcopal Church. The latest 2015 TEC figures available show that in the domestic church 35% of all working priests are women ranging from a low of 13% in The Episcopal Church IN South Carolina to a high of 83% in the Navaholand. The Diocese of Eau Claire now has at least two female priests. The TEC Diocese of Fort Worth has eight women priests while the TEC Diocese of San Joaquin has 11 female priests. In 2013 the TEC Diocese of Quincy was reunited with the Diocese of Chicago and became the Peoria Deanery. At least three women priests have crept into that deanery and are serving as priests.

The former Eau Claire bishop can trace his own Episcopal Church apostolic line of succession from the XXII Presiding Bishop (John Allen) who consecrated him to the XXI Presiding Bishop (Arthur Lichtenberger) to the XX Presiding Bishop (Henry Knox Sherrill) to the XVIII Presiding Bishop (James DeWolf Perry); to the XII Presiding Bishop (David Tuttle); to the VIII Presiding Bishop (John Henry Hopkins); and eventually to the first Presiding Bishop William White. He was ordained deacon in 1963; priest in 1970; and consecrated bishop in 1980. For 56 years and counting he has been in the ordained ministry.

Bishop Wantland has also served as co-consecrator for Bishop John Ashby (II Western Kansas); Bishop Steven Charleston (VI Alaska); Bishop Mark MacDonald (VII Alaska); and Bishop Keith Whitemore (V Eau Claire).

On September 21 the newest member of the ACNA College of Bishops, the Very Rev. Ryan Reed, is scheduled to be consecrated bishop coadjutor in Fort Worth, Texas. He will eventually become the IV Bishop of Fort Worth when the ailing Bishop Jack Iker (III Fort Worth) -- who turns 70 this week -- retires on December 31. Bishop Wantland will be one of his co-consecrators. The oldest ACNA bishop will be helping to pass on the tread of the unbroken line Apostolic Succession to the newest ACNA bishop. A long episcopal strand that has reached over the nearly 2,000 years of living Christian history.

If records are still available through Bishop Wantland line of succession the soon-to-be Bishop Reed could not only trace his consecration back to the first presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church William White, he could also trace his apostolic line back to the first Archbishop of Canterbury St. Augustine of Canterbury, and through him all the way back to one of the Apostles, who were the first bishops of the undivided Church. All the Roman pontiffs, of course, trace their pontifical enthronement back to St. Peter, who is considered the first pope of Rome. Francis is the 266th pope in St. Peter's papal line. Justin Welby is the 105th Archbishop of Canterbury; and Michael Curry is the 27th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.

Now at 85 William Wantland is the oldest living member of the ACNA College of Bishops, although former Reformed Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Leonard Riches has worn the miter five years long longer than the former Eau Claire bishop.

At one time Bishop Wantland took an extended sabbatical and used the time to study all the documents he could lay his hands on about the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. He wanted to learn all he could from the historic documents and how to properly interpret them and drink in all that the Articles could tell him about themselves. The Articles were also a topic of discussion at the Spring meeting.

The ACNA bishop, who is not only a trained and experiences secular attorney and judge and the first chief justice of the Seminole Nation Supreme Court, he is also a brilliant Canon lawyer and well-versed in church constitutions and canons -- The Episcopal Church, ACNA, the Church of England, as well as other historic apostolic denominations.

Following his intense study of the Thirty-Nine Articles he has concluded that the Articles of Religion need to be read and interpreted in the mind of the writers of the Articles who were hammering out the various articles of religion and faith while in the midst of the throes of the Reformation all within the spiritual upheaval which resulted from the English religious turmoil with the Roman Church seeking to extend papal authority over the 16th century English church.

Currently in the United States there is a great upheaval over the interpretation of the US Constitution. Those, like the late Justice Antonin Scalia, feel the Constitution needs to be read, interpreted and applied using in the mindset and understanding of the original Founding Fathers who were the writers of the document. These modern readers of the Constitution seeking the mind of the authors of the Constitution are called "Constitutional Originalists." While other Supreme Court justices see the Constitution as a "living" text and its meaning can evolve to accommodate and embrace the ever-changing culture.

So, with this understanding, Bishop Wantland would be considered an originalist when it comes to reading the Thirty-Nine Articles while discovering the historic Catholic meaning of the Reformation document without shedding the Anglican evangelical flavor and fervor.

The small FiF-NA regional conference -- a couple dozen showed up -- was being held at St. Timothy's Anglican Church. I had been there one time before when John Michael Talbot, a noted Roman Catholic performer and hermit-monk was in concert at the church. One of St. Timothy's priests recognized me from that earlier trip to Spring's Anglican facility.

The church building originally housed a Church of the Nazarene congregation. At this point the Nazarenes have a greater and steadily growing membership -- 2.5 million -- than The Episcopal Church does with its shrinking membership now down to 1.8 million and steadily declining.

The former Nazarene church had to be stretched and plummeted into Anglican worship space. Now the church can accommodate the Eucharistic liturgy of an ACNA bishop and the reciting of the Divine Offices of morning and midday prayers for a small FiF-NA group.

It was wonderful to again get into a Forward in Faith gathering and hear and participate in the back and forth recitation of the Psalms in Divine Office.

Up front the church has a huge carved Celtic cross. The worship space's primary color is green: the walls are a soft green with the chancel's backdrop a moss green. The four stained glass panels behind the reredos are a study in variegated greens with other muted colors. But they are not depictions of the four writers of the Gospel but rather St. Dorcas -- also called Tabitha -- who is mentioned in the Book of Acts; Christ the Good Shephard; St. John the Evangelist; and St. Barnabas. Avocado green is woven into the shell pattern of the pew cushions and reflected in the muted green of the carpet.

Day light streams in high overhead through a square canopy styled skylight. Surrounding the worship space there are a few stylized modernistic stained-glass windows in bright jewel tones of red, yellow and blue. These colorful windows are along the top of the walls where they join the ceiling. There is a four-rank organ and a grand piano on one side on the other the elements of a praise band can be seen against the other wall -- the drums, an electronic keyboard, and a guitar.

A chalice was sitting upon the freestanding altar and it is draped in a bright emerald green chalice veil as a silent testament to what is to come following Bishop Wantland's triple presentations. As the final act of the day the ACNA bishop would celebrate Holy Communion in honor of St. Bartholomew. Even though the reredos and pulpit hangings are in the seasonal color of green, the liturgical color of the day is red to reflect that the Sainted Apostle shed his blood through martyrdom for his spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He helped to bring the Good News to India but lost his head in Albanopolis in Greater Armenia for evangelizing King Polymius of Armenia.

The day of prayer, learning and fellowship wrapped up with Bishop Wantland celebrating the Eucharist. Although the color of the post-Pentecostal season is green Bishop Wantland was dressed in his red chasuble and matching red mitre. He was not carrying his crozier since he was not officiating at any episcopal services -- confirmation or ordination. He was simply functioning as a humble parish priest -- by celebrating the Eucharist and preaching.

It was good to again see him at the altar. My mind shot back through the years to Eau Claire where I had seen him many times at the altar in his own cathedral -- Christ Church Cathedral. I used to attend the midweek Service of Holy Communion at noon on Wednesdays and when I could get away the Thursday evening Mass, too. But many times I had to cover school board, or city council, or county commission meetings, school events, or chase fire engines. So the Thursday evening service was not always a lock. But I purposely scheduled the midweek service into my weekly planner and tired hard not to miss it.

Through the years I have been to Masses with Bishop Wantland in Wisconsin, Arizona (1991 General Convention); Illinois (Forward in Faith Assemblies); and now in Texas. Perhaps one day I will see him at the High Altar in Heaven with the Great High Priest -- Jesus Christ. That is if I get there. I am sure he will get there. He is a saintly man, a holy priest and humble bishop.

Bishop Wantland's energy, his strength, his wit, his brilliance, his preaching and teaching abilities are not dulled nor dimmed. Although he is more white-headed than the last time I saw him at Forward in Faith seven or eight years ago. His hair is thinning a bit, he is little more stooped and his genuflections are not a deep as before. The hardest thing to see what that he was alone. His dear wife was no longer by his side. Jan Wantland went on the meet the Lord two years ago.

For the most part Bishop Wantland has not changed. As always he stood arrow straight and totem pole sturdy during the entire time the Eucharist as visibly present. Even when not celebrating at the altar at an ACNA meeting or a Forward in Faith Mass I can always find him standing in rapt attention and prayerful contemplation until the sacred elements are carefully put away. He can stand by the hour that way. He has such a deep reverence and respect for the Eucharist that he will only stand in the visible presence of his Eucharistic Lord.

One other signature trait of Bishop Wantland is that nowadays he always pronounces the final Eucharistic benediction in his native Seminole language. That was something I look forward to hearing again. Saturday afternoon he did not disappoint.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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