I heard an absolutely wonderful statement today (thank you Margaret) and it struck me with its beautiful simplicity. To quote:
"What if the Anglican Patrimony is people?"
This is not to deny all the practices and perspectives that make up the "culture" of the Anglican Patrimony; certainly not. Yet it is trying to point out something that is often forgotten in all the hustle and bustle of theological blatheration that does more to cloud the issues than to clear them up. The practices only exist if there are people who are doing them, and the perspectives only exist if there are people who are holding them. These things, like love, only exist in the performance of them, and we often forget that it is the people who are the "flesh and blood" of what we are discussing (pun intended).
It is not as though we can discuss a structure of a vestry or parish council and imagine that structure without it being filled by people. Hence, it is those very people's souls which are what we are supposed to be preserving when we seek to obey the Holy Father's wishes in Anglicanorum Coetibus. The academic side of things only exists because there are academicians who are "academizing". To get all caught up in a heated torrent of debate over any detail of the faith will usually mean that we have come to believe that we are discussing Plato's forms rather than the behaviors of men and women who are loved by Christ.
When I see the behaviors of many Christians today, it seems as though they want us to believe that they love their brother enough to kill him. Oddly, I recall the command being more along the lines of loving our brother enough to die for him. Sometimes this dying for our brother means dying to self. There are many ways that you can live out that "dying to self", but if nothing in you changes, then you have not died to self. One can die to self by just shutting his mouth (or putting Chinese handcuffs on your typing fingers); one can die to self by apologizing to a brother (publicly if the offense was public); or one can die to self by saying "yessir" when the Ordinary tells you to do something you do not want to do.
To preserve the human part of the patrimony means that we are to be "our brother's keeper". This is so because these beautiful practices and ideas will become ugly and unholy if we use them as swords against the tender heart of a confused Christian brother. There are some who pride themselves in defending a cause or system as though they were the last defender of the faith, and yet all they are accomplishing is the alienation of one that they should be seeking to help to grow in faith. Better to let the cause go and save the man, than to let the man go and save the cause.
Many of us find great joy in the Anglican Patrimony. Yet, every one of those aspects that you enjoy are mere words on paper (or the screen) if you do not treat the people as more important. To turn a phrase: God made the patrimony for man, and not man for the patrimony. Sometimes we forget this, and it shows when we least expect it.
There are many, many souls out there who have been dragged out to sea by the undertow of either the liberalism in the Episcopal Churches or the cantankerousness of the "continuing" Anglican denominations. Others have merely wandered into the waves because they got confused by much that has happened recently in the Catholic Church. A new ship is setting sail now in the American Ordinariate and the sailors who board her need to do more than keep the deck clean. They need to be going out seeking those who are floating in the sea of modern relativism and immorality; those who have fallen away and yet not found (or forgotten) their true home in the barque of Peter. They have been treading dangerous waters for quite some time and have not found safe harbor; let us seek and find them with all the passion of the Chief Shepherd looking for His lost sheep. This is what it means to preserve the patrimony more than anything else: to seek and save that which was lost.