Sainthood In The Anglican Church; Is It Not A Heresy?

It is redundant to speak of life as an intricacy; it is downright a pang that we labor [each day] to get ahead of – although that has been a long time coming. To this day, life is an itinerary of failures and miserable events culminating in death – or maybe not exactly… We have always clutched onto a certain hope – that we’ll rise again and live again in glory, depending on how we might have worked for the same while we still linger in this realm.

To many that sounds like dreamland, rather too good to be true but it’s the only promise out there – that death is not the ultimate state after all. And what a relief to know that there is an antidote, as it were, for the sting that death is. For all it’s worth, Christians would rather work for this saintliness than waste away the slim chance to permissiveness.

The scripture says in Hebrews 12: 1, “as we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that easily entangles us, and let us run easily the race marked out for us.”

According to Anglican Rev. Edward Muyomba of Mukono Diocese, the “great cloud of witnesses” in question are the fathers of faith that came before us. These are also called saints. And they surround us as spectators and cheerleaders to the race of faith we run. These are men and women many Christians have clasped onto as their faith patrons and source of encouragement such as the Uganda martyrs.

A whole community of believers, however, is much familiar with the Catholic saints but not the Anglican Saints. Notwithstanding that only recently the first Anglican Arch Bishop of Uganda was pronounced as a saint. Just how does one make a Saint in the Anglican Church?

First off, a saint is someone who has been made holy or sanctified. Therefore when the Church pronounces one as a Saint, it is an inference to the fact that he is either in heaven or at least he or she lived the Christian faith in such a remarkable way that we ought to take notice, honor them and try to do the same in our own circumstances.

Rev. Muyomba explains that someone has to die, in the first place, to be declared a saint.

He continues however that even though the Anglican Church believes in the saints, “the title Saint is not so often emphasized as it ventures to sort-of create grades of sanctity or discriminate among the holy persons who dedicated their lives to the work of the Gospel.”

“The Anglican Church does not have a [definite] mechanism for canonizing saints. Unlike in the Catholic Church, it makes no claims of regarding the heavenly status of those whom it commemorates in its Calendar or Register. And this is why the “Anglicans” normally avoid the term Saint. This does not mean no-commemoration for men and women who we deem holy for having sacrificed so much for the Gospel.”

Therefore according to the ninth Lambeth Conference held in 1958, the saints are simply those who are regarded as heroes of the Christian Church in the Anglican Communion and according to Resolution 79, the Calendar should be limited to those whose historical character and devotion are beyond doubt.

And the addition of a new name should normally result from a wide spread desire expressed in the region concerned over a reasonable period of time.

There is no single calendar for the various churches that make up the Anglican Church; each local communion such as Church of Uganda has its own calendar suitable for its local situation. This calendar contains a number of persons/figures important in the history of the Anglican Church. At the same time Anglican fellowships from elsewhere often borrow the important figures from each other’s calendars as the international importance of these figures becomes obvious – such as St. Janani Luwum.

For instance, in the American Episcopal Church, a communion of the Anglican Church, the official calendar of saints is called Lesser Feasts and Fasts. Every three years at the General Convention, representatives of the Dioceses propose adding new saints to the Calendar.

If approved by both the Bishops and the deputies, the feast is adopted provisionally for three years and the Saint’s name is added [provisionally] to the Calendar. During the three years that follow, the entire Episcopal Church is invited to receive the saint, to celebrate the Saint’s feast day, to look to the saint’s example and to determine if the Church has made a wise decision or not in adding this name to the Calendar.

If all goes well, at the following General Convention, the Saint is confirmed and a fully canonized saint emerges. If not, the name comes off the calendar and the veneration becomes just a local custom as the Bishop allows. The procedure is about similar almost everywhere among the Anglican communions.

However Rev. Muyomba of St. Luke Church insisted that canonization in the Anglican Church is not about firmly stating that someone is or not a saint. Rather it is about whether the person in question is a saint that ought to be recognized and celebrated by the whole Church.

He therefore added that it is far less important that the Church recognize us as saints than God recognize us as such.

“Saints were sinners [just like us] who were redeemed by the blood of Jesus and given grace to surround us with their prayers and their love that we might also come into the glory of everlasting life in Christ.”

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