Discussion in 'Questions?' started by Reed, Oct 7, 2018.
Anglicanism is such a complex tradition!
Perhaps it might be better said that Anglicanism is a comprehensive tradition!
Am I correct in my belief that Anglicanism can be (even if it hasn’t always been) understood as a sort of basal, creedal, mere Christianity, on top of which a wide variety of further theological outlooks can and have been built? And that there exists a fair amount of tolerance between and within the varied outlooks?
The heart of the Fathers of the Anglicanism we know was to conform to the creeds of the historic church recapturing something of the authenticity of the primitive church, and in terms of the Elizabethan Settlement to be a church for all loyal to Christ and Monarch. In some sense there is an elastic band of Anglicanism, which in our age, as in times past has endeavoured to be stretched by some beyond its breaking point.
What would you say the breaking point is? Of course I think women ordination and recognition of same-sex partnerships go way too far, which is why the continuing churches are attractive to me.
Historically, Anglicanism has been based on a circumspect but robust set of doctrinal principles. In recent times, those doctrinal principles have been cast aside, even prior to women's ordination and same-sex toleration (it seems to me the two issues are connected). We want to champion the historic doctrines again, at least here on the website. This isn't without its own challenges.
There are splendid works throughout Anglican history which illustrate those core Anglican doctrinal principles, and we are doing our best to republish them for free. Are we doing a good job with making those works more accessible?
The breaking point will always be when we allow our understanding of what is true to be more important than unity.
If you think about in terms of the language of the liturgy. The 1549 prayer book was a radical prayer book, and one of the most radical features of it was the language, as for the previous 900 to a thousand years or more the liturgy had been in latin. The principle was set forth that the liturgy should be celebrated in the vulgar tongue - the language of the people. This was understood to be a return to the practice of the primitive church, so in one sense it was entirely radical, and in another sense it was radically conservative.
In our own time we are struggling with liturgy again. The argument being that Tudor/Elizabethan formal English is now longer the language of the people, whilst there is a strong element that views the Prayer Book of 1661/2 as the Gold Standard of Anglican Liturgy. Of course both arguments have weight, and I would have to say that the language of some contemporary language is more ghastly than godly. I cringe every time I hear the liturgy begin with 'Hi and welcome to worship this fine day. My name is XYZ and it is great to have you all here today to worship our amazing God. So Hi Everyone' and the response 'Hi XYZ'. I don't like liturgy on screens, and a number of contemporary hymn/song expressions seem modestly short on theology. In my part of the world I don't have a lot of options that are geographically sensible.
Despite my frustration, I also recognise that if we just toodle off in our own little world muttering the glory of the Tudor Liturgy, from the point of view of the world it may as well be in Latin, and the great principle we established, liturgy in the vulgar tongue has been sacrificed. There is a principal of Anglican Liturgy (and life) as I understand it, that all things should be done decently and in order. By staying I hope that my presence retains a call for all that is glorious and dignified in the liturgy. By staying I hope to hear what is good and noble and true in what some are calling for, and I hope and trust that in that respect, those who hold a contrary opinion might owe some respect to those who hold views contrary to their own.
The shape of contemporary life is that many aspects of our life have become increasingly adversarial, with many believing that any giving of any ground represents the collapse of the whole. That is not saying that there are not lines which should not be crossed. I despair at the loss of a creed from the liturgy in some places, and am mortified when I am asked to recite the Apostles Creed in the liturgy because the Nicene Creed is too long and nobody understands it anyway.
None the less, I also recognise and take most seriously the prayer of Jesus on the night of his betrayal, when he prayer that we might all be one. And I pray for grace to find that unity, and not to be the cause of further division, but perhaps even in some small way an agent of the reconciliation which lies at the heart of the mission and ministry of Jesus and his church.
I feel like other branches of Christianity view the Creeds, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments as the initial, simplistic aspects of our faith, until we graduate to 'serious' thought in some theologian, or whatever. I'm discovering two things:
1. viewing theologians as fundamental rather than accessory is deeply problematic
2. the creeds (etc) are far from simplistic, in the sense that you can hang the entirety of dogmatic and moral theology on them. For example Nowell has a discussion of labor and wages, as an exegesis of 'give us this day our daily bread'.
As one of my pastors said some time ago, "You never graduate" from Ten Commandments, etc. We may be the only Christian tradition that:
1. Puts so much emphasis on something that everyone else takes for granted,
2. Looks to ground our entire dogmatic and moral theology on it.
So true, and I know I need to take this to heart. For years I’ve been on the outside of Christianity due to an obsessive need to find a church that wouldn’t regard me as a heretic for my handful of views that don’t fit neatly into any established theology, while at the same time doesn’t engage in things I strongly oppose, such as as female priests or same-sex “marriage” (my opposition stemming not so much from viewing them as heretical, but from viewing them as threats to the civilized order).
Theology shouldn’t be regarded as fundamental, but it is very hard to discern where optional theology ends and nonnegotiable dogma begins. It seems different for every Christian tradition. But one of the things that appeals to me about Anglicanism is that it seems the domain of dogma is more limited than in the other traditions, and that more questions are left to speculative and optional theology. For example, the catechism in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer is a few pages long, compared to those of the Roman and Eastern churches, which are hundreds of pages long. If my interpretation is correct, this means that Anglicans have more “breathing room” when it comes to issues of theology.
What would constitute core dogma or essential doctrine for a continuing Anglo-Catholic church like the APCK or the APA (not necessarily for the traditionalist Anglican movement as a whole)? The Creeds, the Book of Common Prayer, a Tractarian interpretation of the 39 Articles...Is there anything else that’s essential?
An update regarding my views of the Fall (which is probably my single greatest theological stumbling block): my interpretation of Genesis 2 and 3, while not fully formed, is somewhat similar to that of contemporary Eastern Orthodox theologian Paul Ladouceur. Provided here and here:
Ladouceur concludes that his interpretation of the Fall is more compatible with Eastern notions of original sin than with those of the Western church, while still acknowledging difference with the traditional Eastern understanding of the Fall as an historical event. It would seem that the Branch Theory of the Tractarians would allow for some theological legitimacy in Eastern Orthodoxy, while traditional Eastern Orthodoxy itself (which seems just as dogmatic as the RCC, though less centralized) would probably respond to Ladouceur with a loud “Anathema!” for questioning the historicity of the Fall.
Read the Affirmation of St. Louis. That document is critical for the bulk of the Continuing Anglican movement.