Saturday, July 14, 2007

What is Anglicanism?
By the Archbishop of Uganda

As the first instalment was so popular, here is more common knowledge:
  • What many semi-churched, semi-schooled Americans think, certainly back East: You mean that hoity-toity Protestant church started by that horny king of England who wanted a divorce? Six wives, ‘off with her head’, ha ha ha.
  • The C21 update: You mean that hoity-toity Protestant church in big cities that does gay weddings?
  • Catholic lite: all of the pageantry, none of the guilt.
  • William F. Buckley Jnr, I think in the 1970s: Can anybody from the Pope to Mao Tse-Tung be absolutely sure he is not an Anglican?
  • ‘Oi, vicar! We want to have our kid done. Big christening party, family, you know. Jesus? Never heard of him.’
And now the archbishop:
Few would deny that the Anglican Communion is in crisis. The nature of that crisis, however, remains a question. Is it about sexuality?
That’s a presenting symptom.
Is it a crisis of authority — who has it and who doesn’t?
Same.
Have Anglicans lost their commitment to the via media, epitomized by the Elizabethan Settlement, which somehow declared a truce between Puritan and Catholic sentiments in the Church of England? Is it a crisis of globalization? A crisis of identity?
Regular readers know my answers. The via media between Catholicism and heresy was a mistake and inherently unstable because Protestantism is a mistake. Calvinism inevitably shatters into Unitarianism as old American Church Union supremo Archbishop Robert Morse says; all Protestants with their private judgement and cutting off scripture from the rest of tradition are heading Spongwards even though many still don’t know it.

Back to Anglicanism: without British power, the end of which he mentions later in the article, the Elizabethan Settlement naturally flies apart.

What the archbishop, a Protestant-leaning conservative churchman, is trying to get at of course is that the content of the faith matters more than belonging to a substitute for the empire. And here he’s right.
Take, for instance, the traditional Anglican characteristics of restraint and moderation. Are they part of doctrine, as Anglican theology, or discipline, as British culture?
What I call the tolerant conservatism I learnt and try to carry with me along with my Prayer Book psalms and canticles.

Having experienced both English and American Mid-Western Anglicanism I can say neither is a snob thing just for (would-be) toffs, the country club etc. It’s more spread out, over several classes. Rather like American Roman Catholics and Lutherans.

And statistically today, showing the Global South’s clout as asserted by the archbishop, an average Anglican is not a white Englishman or American but a Third World black woman, probably of the Protestant but definitely not of the theologically liberal persuasion.

England of course is like much of the rest of Europe, Protestant, RC or Orthodox: you find references to the church strewn through the culture and lots of nominal members, but next to nobody regularly goes to church any more.

What is Anglicanism? Well, of course there’s what I and other Catholic churchmen thought/think it is, what it really is in its teachings and what in practice it’s becoming.

The archbishop:
In the Church of Uganda, Anglicanism has been built on three pillars: martyrs, revival, and the historic episcopate.
Can’t object to that.

What is Anglicanism? There’s the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, true as far as it goes which is the Catholic reaction to much else said or (in classic English understatement?) implied in the Prayer Book.

The distinction the archbishop, and the classic Anglicanism he quotes, makes between doctrine and discipline is entirely Catholic.

I still think it’s fair to say those among the Broad Churchmen who deny scripture (what the archbishop is objecting to) and the creeds (in some cases like the sometime Bishop of Newark turning into atheists more or less) and the extreme Evangelicals who deny the divine instutution of the episcopate and any form of the Real Presence in their theology, are both over the line. (‘Out!’ as the line official cries out at Wimbledon. Maybe Lambeth can rent some of them.)

I get a lot of stick for this but hold that teaching that gay sex is not a sin is also a deal-breaker.

Today Anglicanism is in a possibly/probably fatal standoff between the conservative and the liberal Protestants. Some day the Christians and ex-Christians will go after each other.

Here is how the liberal Protestants in charge operate: chase whatever is becoming fashionable in the upper middle class and manufacture a theology to accommodate it.

Once in Oxford Fr Colin Stephenson (when he was vicar at Mary Mags) asked a newsagent for a copy of the Church Times and the man was surprised he was anything to do with the Church of England, to which Father thundered, ‘We ARE the Church of England!’

Us? In theory we could have been right but now it seems only academic. I’ve got my liturgical language, my Godwardness and my tolerant conservatism but I understand the objection that we weren’t really Anglicans at all but culturally English (Old) Catholics who read Coverdale’s psalms.

Anglican was always only an adjective to us (it only means English), Catholic the noun.

What is Anglicanism? Dr Jonathan Munn has reminded me that ‘today marks the 174th anniversary of Keble’s Sermon on National Apostasy’ (it was about state interference in the church, suppressing dioceses, nothing to do with ceremonial), usually credited with starting the Catholic Movement.

Quotations from him (found by Jim Ryland):
The Church has in these later ages been gradually growing imperfect and languid in her discharge of both her duties. She has not shown her ancient bold front to the civil power when profane or encroaching. She has not kept her old jealous watch against utilitarian breaches of order, or philosophical perversion of truth within her precincts.

The corruption of man is the prominent doctrine of the Old Testament, and the redemption of the New. The truths most repellent and distressing to human nature, but continually presented to our view in real life, are cautiously and fully impressed upon the mind before it is invited to dwell on the more elevating half of the Gospel. The degree of acceptance which the divine method of instruction meets with will always be in proportion to the humbleness and self-denial of the learner and to his sense of moral obligation.

Christ is near at hand. You have but to lift up your eyes and look, and behold Jesus Christ visibly set forth, crucified among you. He is in His Church, He is in His Scriptures, He is in your prayers, He is most especially in His Sacraments.

It is only safe to take God's will exactly as we find it declared in the Bible, interpreted by the Church, and not to perplex ourselves with philosophical or other fancies. Only in this way may we obtain a complete view of our condition here on earth and of our duty, building higher and higher, feeling that our foundation is sure. This is the only way of escaping the curse, that we should for ever continue to be wavering and unsteady in all the great rules and principles, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
This one fits where the Catholic Movement has ended up:
If the Church of England were to fail, it would be found in my parish.
If you believe as I was taught that you are only part of the church then don’t act like you’re the whole church. That’s my answer to everything in the Episcopal row.

P.S. Whatever his theoretical powers are, the Pope is Anglicans’ patriarch.

From Episcopal Café.

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