Saturday, January 06, 2007

My Third Reason for Remaining Anglican



What follows is my response to an anonymous correspondent who left an insightful comment on my previous post It's all Greek to me?? Hardly... (18 December 2006). Within this response I elaborate briefly on my third reason for remaining Anglican.

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ANONYMOUS: What separates Rome, the EO, and the Anglicans is ecclesiology more than any other thing. If one was to believe that the Church is defined by the Pope that person would have no choice but to be in communion with Rome. If one was to believe in the ecclesial ultimacy of the EO that person would of course join the EO. If one wants to be eclectic or inclusive, they go to the Anglicans. The red herrings of molester-priests in the RCC, xenophobia in the EO, or apostasy amongst the Anglican episcopate is really not relevant. Objectively speaking, either all three groups are wrong in their ecclesiology or one of them is right. Your personal comfort because of socialization or a desire for a particular liturgy shouldn't trump or determine how you define "Church" as you confess it in the Creed.

LEXORANDI2: I couldn’t have said this better myself. THE theological issue separating Romanism, Byzantinism, and Anglicanism is ecclesiology, which leads into my third reason why I remain an Anglican: Anglicanism views eclecticism and inclusiveness as a virtue, if not the very heart of true Catholicism.

In this respect, Anglicanism looks more like the pre-schism (pre-1054) Church than do the alternatives. When I look at the Roman Church or the Eastern churches (or the Oriental Orthodox bodies for that matter), I see eminent apostolic churches that hold essentially to the same faith that I do as an Anglican. Nothing in my Anglican ecclesiology prevents me from affirming them, or any of the baptized, as full brothers and sisters in Christ, nor forbids them a place at the Table. Paradoxically, it is my affirmation of the same that prevents the very fellowship with RC's and EO's that I as an Anglican so desire. So, in this respect, what I see in Anglicanism is what I believe that Rome or Byzantium SHOULD BE.

ANONYMOUS: If the writer had a firm allegiance to his ecclesiastial affiliation he wouldn't have even had the thought of switching; in fact the mere thought of joining something that defines out of the Church his entire tradition post-1054 would have been less than appealing. RC's and EO's don't daydream about being anything but what they are because they have a strong position on what they are confessing about "Church" in the Creed. Anglicans need to develop the same strength, but how can they when you can gather a group of conservative Anglicans and no two agree on the past or the future?

LEXORANDI2: Given the present troubles within our Communion (to which Rome’s troubles with “molester-priests” or Byzantine xenophobia hardly compare), it takes a rather hardhearted person not to understand the fears and, yes, even doubts, that weigh heavily on the minds of many otherwise committed Anglicans as they see their tradition unraveling around them in the face of overt apostasy, and perhaps even - God forbid - the beginning of the end of the Anglican experiment. I also find your generalization of the comparable allegiances of RC's and EO's amusing in that I know perhaps ten times more RC and EO converts to Protestantism (and Anglicanism) than I do the reverse. Hmmm... I wonder if any of these converts ever "daydreamed" about being something else before they jumped ship?

Like I suggested before, when I look at Rome and Byzantium I see communions that should, in the interest of a more consistent catholicism, be more "Anglican." This should be a matter of concern for someone like you, because I suspect that I am not the only Anglican "daydreamer" who feels this way. If Anglicanism falls irreparably apart, there will no doubt be many Anglicans finding new homes in one of the two remaining apostolic communions, which inevitably means that these communions will indeed become more "Anglican" over time. Perhaps this will mean the end of ecclesial ultimacy? (As they say, every cloud has a silver lining.)

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Dan. A very interesting post and answer. Matter of fact, I understand your answer. Two things that I find true in your response that I would like to comment on.

First, as Anglicanism begins to "unravel" (your words) it only makes sense for Anglicans to plan or at least look at an escape route. Some of us left before others, however, I believe that Anglicanism is very compatable with RC and EO.

Second, I think most RC's (I can't speak for EO's) would like to continue to move toward a more "open" ecumenicism. It is very difficult to do so simply b/c the way the RCC has defined herself. I don't think that this is necessarily bad and I believe that Vatican II made a first good step if not two steps toward this. It was enough for me to convert.

I consider myself an English Catholic (Anglican w/loyalty to the Pope) and see my identity, tastes, and preferences for things Anglican. I believe, obviously, that I have found that perfect mix.

This is just my personal opinion, but I believe that Anglicanism is dead and has been for several years. Ideally speaking anyway. Anglicanism is not what it was in the late 1800's and early 1900's obviously. And Anglicanism does continue to split and have as many opinions as there are noses.

However, I will go on record as saying, in my humblest of opinion and non-important, that those who stay in Anglicanism in its present state and continues to pray for unity is doing something good and holy and self-sacrificial. I did it myself while I was in the SSC and that was going to be my course of action. I simply became frustrated with Anglicansim on the one hand, but MAINLY I became convinced of the papacy.

My $0.02.

Anonymous said...

"So, in this respect, what I see in Anglicanism is what I believe that Rome or Byzantium SHOULD BE."

In saying what you have, it seems you're interested in the RCC and the EOC only insofar as you can change them into what you are. I'm not trying to trivialize you, because you seem like a serious guy, but nonetheless you want both to be more like you. To the ears of both the RC and the EO it sounds like you're asking for a breakdown of discipline communally, and a watering down of the respective sacramental systems. That isn't your aim, but that is how we hear it.

"If Anglicanism falls irreparably apart, there will no doubt be many Anglicans finding new homes in one of the two remaining apostolic communions, which inevitably means that these communions will indeed become more "Anglican" over time."

You do have a vivid imagination, I'll give you that. The trickle of Anglicans happens one person at a time and these folks must swear allegiance to either the Pope or to the Tradition of the EO, and since the places where these Anglicans enter into the RC and the EO are quite limited as compared with the larger RC and EO communions worldwide, the more likely scenario is these former Anglicans will be the ones doing the changing (of themselves).

" Perhaps this will mean the end of ecclesial ultimacy? (As they say, every cloud has a silver lining.) "

How do you know that the things you are arguing for from the RC and the EO were not the causes of Anglicanism sliding towards falling "irreparably apart"?

Yourself, and another gentleman, have argued against "ecclesial ultimacy". Who doesn't believe they have that??? The EO certainly has articles of faith that are not optional for its communicants, and thus believes they hold the true faith. The RC certainly has beliefs unique to them and thus holds the same view (Is the doctrine of Immaculate Conception less binding than a belief in the resurrection of the body?). Anglicans simply don't have a solid core, and are left free to be whatever they choose, be it nearly Presbyterian to nearly Catholic (I'll leave out the apostates because I'm sure you dislike Spong as much as I). Ever meet a confessional Lutheran that thinks only they have the gospel and the sacrament? What a fun crowd. The individual fundamentalist also believes in ecclesial ultimacy, they simply place it in themselves and their own ability to define the boundaries of the invisible Church that exists in their fantasies. That the Church is visible and one is the difficult thing for all of us traditionalists to grapple with.

You say that Anglicanism most resembles pre-1054 Christianity. It differs mainly in discipline. It's not just that the Bishops don't enforce discipline, they have lost the instruments with which to do so. Where does discipline begin? The ability to withhold communion. It's not just whether a person is baptized, they must also affirm certain beliefs affirmed in Confirmation. They must be in good standing, have taken Confession, etc. You are , in effect, by arguing for an open Table, nullifying the sacraments of Penance and Confirmation to that individual you commune without strings attached. It sounds sweet and loving to have an open Table, but it is really quite the opposite. Even in the best case scenario of your desiring to commune visiting RC's and EO's, they would be communing outside the umbrella of their respective communions, and outside the discipline and confines of what both consider "the Church". They may say it nicely in these politically correct times, but both the RC and the EO when they say "Church" aren't talking about you. Enumerating a certain set of beliefs doesn't constitute "visible Church" to the RC or the EO; that is a distinctly Protestant conception.

Thomas said...

I like very much this comment:

"Anglicanism views eclecticism and inclusiveness as a virtue, if not the very heart of true Catholicism."

I think this is a genuine description of what has been called the Sprit of Catholicism, which every Christian ought to embrace. However, what does it mean in concrete ecclesiological terms? If the Church is visible, as the sacramental principle necessitates, then unless one subscribes to an anti-Church scheme, such as Covenant Theology (also a product of the English Reformation), eclecticism and inclusiveness must be balanced by a visible uniformity and exclusiveness.

My only hesitation in accepting this virtue unqualifiedly as Anglican is that historically speaking Anglicanism was never designed nor intended to be as diverse as it has become. Whether you consider the Reformers, the Caroline Divines, the Puritans, the Laudians, the Non-Jurors, the Evangelicals, the High Church, or the Apostolicals, no one party seems to have championed the kind of eclecticism and inclusiveness with which you triumphantly credit “Anglicanism”. The only exception might be the liberals and the latitudinarians who don’t seem to stand for any particular Anglican distinction other than the lack thereof. In any case, it seems to be a very recent notion - is it even accepted by most Anglicans? - that the strength of the Communion consists in its diversity.

dmartin said...

"However, I will go on record as saying, in my humblest of opinion and non-important, that those who stay in Anglicanism in its present state and continues to pray for unity is doing something good and holy and self-sacrificial."

After reading this, I think I need to expound a little bit on what I meant.

I did not mean that one should stay in Anglicanism. I simply meant that for the Anglican who sees it as his mission or as necessary to remain in Anglicanism, then I believe it can be done with a spiritual purpose. For one who is CONVINCED to stay in Anglicanism, it would be self-sacrificial... it would have to be.

lexorandi2 said...

A very fair critique, Thomas. I would never contend that this virute is Anglicanism's by design. Rather, it is Anglicanism by happy accident, and, in no small meansure, by necessity.

I will also admit that Rome in modern era in large part gets it. Apart from residual calcification carried over from more polemical times, the contemporary Church of Rome is more in character with what was once distinctively recognized the "Anglican ideal" (probably best exhibited in the late 19th -early 20th centuries) than is TEC.

As a reminder, here's something I wrote on this blog back in September (post on Generous Orthodoxy) that makes this point, and gives what I feel are the reasons for it:

"...There is little question that, in retrospect, theologians of the 21st century will one day look back to the late 20th century as the Roman Church's most shining moment thus far. Not that there weren't problems or mistakes made along the way, but somehow, some way, the Roman Church of the 20th century was able to create a context for theological inquiry that I think can rightly be described as "a generous orthodoxy" (a phrase that Brian McLaren and the emergent church unfortunately threaten to turn into a cliche).

"My own hypothesis is that this is the result of Rome's tenacious adherence to creedal and conciliar commitments (despite the filioque) combined with an openess to intellectual inquiry that permits her theologians to enter into constructive dialogue with modern advances in the sciences and other disciplines. In this way orthodox creedal and conciliar commitments serve as boundary markers establishing the wide perimeter within which the catholic theologian is free to explore and incorporate new discoveries of the world around us, which in turn helps in large part to illuminate and reinvigorate an ancient faith.

"Ironically, once upon a time this was more the rule in Anglicanism than it was for Rome. In fact, I would go so far as to say that this was once a strength and characteristic peculiar and unique to Anglicanism. One need only compare Anglicanism's "generous orthodoxy" of the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the calicified post-Tridentine Roman Church of the same period. Indeed, my hunch (though I haven't done enough research yet to prove it) is that the reason behind Rome's dramatic and largely successful de-calcification of late was that it "stole" this particular page right out of the Anglican play-book, at the same time that, tragically, Anglicanism began to move, if not to ignore outright, the ancient boundary stones that once kept her from going astray."

lexorandi2 said...

Anonymous writes:

"Yourself, and another gentleman, have argued against "ecclesial ultimacy". Who doesn't believe they have that??"

I, for one, do not. And I would argue that Anglicanism in principle does not either. Sure, Anglicans believe as strongly as the rest of the Christian world in visible structures and boundaries. But a belief in ecclesial ultimacy involves a corresponding denial of the provisional and imperfect nature of the visible Church on earth.

The Romans, in principle, are ecclesial ultimists; yet, in practice, they acknowledge "ecclesial communities" (in some cases even actual churches!) plus the validity of orders/sacraments outside her boundaries, not to mention her imperfect union with ALL baptized Christians. So, in practice, Rome looks, dare I say, a little more "Anglican" in acknowledging her imperfect union with the "rest" of Christendom.

The Byzantines, as well, are ecclesial ultimists. And while their position is arguably more airtight than that of the Romans, they are still inconsistent. E.g. the existence of parallel jurisdictions along ethnic lines in North America; the provisional recognition of non-canonical Orthodox bodies; and even their relation to Rome (i.e. they have never declared the Roman See vacant, never attempted to set up a rival patriarchate in Rome, [unlike, say, Alexandria], nor ever attempted to hold an ecumenical council without Rome.) Even Orthodoxy's fruitful dialogue with the Oriental churches in recent years is an implicit acknowledgement that the Church may just indeed exist in some provisional degree outside Orthodoxy's canonically recognized limits.

Ecclesial ultimacy is a hard ideal to live up to, and, of the apostolic churches, only the Anglicans are honest enough to discard the idea.

All the best,
Dan

P.S. I'd be curious to know who this other gentleman is that has been using the term "ecclesial ultimacy." I borrowed the language from Barth. But I'm the only one that I know who has ever applied this particular language in such a manner.

Mark said...

Our anonymous friend might be referring to some earlier discussions we had about Barthian ecclesiology. If memory serves me, among those who chimed in several were in agreement with you that the existential and provisional nature of the Church militated against the claim to jurisdictional or "ecclesial" ultimacy.

lexorandi2 said...

Yes, that would explain it. Thanks, Mark.

Dan

Mark said...

The Prayer Book's Second Office of Instruction maintains that "all baptized people" are the members of "the Body of which Jesus Christ is the Head". This statement receives further elucidation later on when the Office considers the ecclesial notes of the Nicene Creed ( i.e. One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic ).

Nonetheless, Anglicanism makes a distinction between catholic or Apostolical churches and churches that are merely Protestant ( the difference between the two being largely, though not exclusively, a matter of preserving the three-fold ministry, with bishops in lineal descent from the Apostles ).

At times the Anglican apologetic can sound remarkably similar to post Vatican II statements of Rome's imperfect communion with "eclessial communities".

How should Anglicanism define itself in relation to the "non-Apostolic" churches?

It seems to me that the Anglican refusal to assert ecclesial ultimacy for itself cannot be allowed to trump Anglicanism's historic claim to catholicity, or vice versa. Quite a balancing act, no?

Thomas said...

You are certainly right, even according to the general consensus of Catholic historians, about the “calcification” of early modern theology and philosophy (I have a small collection of the better representatives of the dreaded “manualist” theology from this period). This is especially true of the 17th and 18th century reaction to the scientific movement spawned by Galileo. However, that is not to say that much modernism was not imbibed by Roman Catholic institutions – especially European seminaries – prior to the 20th century. The Vatican Council, the syllabus of Pius IX and the Leonine Commission can all be seen, in part, as reacting to this phenomenon. Is Anglicanism an influence on the modernist turn in contemporary Catholic thought? Probably it is, but not confessional Anglicanism – as in her theology – as much as the scientists, historians, writers, and biblical critics among her clergy - some of whom became RC converts. And of course, as you have already pointed out, Newman is an example of the theological connection between Anglicanism and Romanism in the 19th c., but it is unclear to me which distinctively Anglican ideas (not including original ideas developed during his Anglican period) he incorporated into his Roman Catholic writings – with the exception of the epistemology of Joseph Butler.

dmartin said...

How should Anglicanism define itself in relation to the "non-Apostolic" churches?

This is my question, as well.

I know many who have no problem with unity and communion with "any" baptized Christian. ANY and all can come to the Table. Am I understanding correctly? And if so, what "branches" besides EO and RC does that include? Lutherans? Presbys? Methodist? Baptist? Pentecostals? Indys? How far down the pecking order do Anglicans go?

lexorandi2 said...

'How should Anglicanism define itself in relation to the "non-Apostolic" churches?'

I think the approach should be similar to the current Roman approach to non-apostolic churches (which includes the Anglicans, I know), but with some significant differences.

Anglican sacramentology understands baptism to be full inclusion into the Church, which is the rationale behind the Anglican custom of inviting all of the baptized, even those in non-apostolic churches, to the Table.

Secondly, (and this is where Anglicans certainly differ), the absence of the apostolic orders of ministry - bishops, priests, deacons - does not mean (in all cases) the absence of a church. However, it does mean a defect in the ministry of the particular body that lacks the apostolic ministerial orders (e.g. Lutherans). Moreover, it is a defect that must be remedied before full union can be realized.

Mark said...

Actually, the Anglican understanding of ecclesiastical authority-which presumes the de jure divino status of the three-fold ministry without unchurching those from non-episcopal traditions-seems to be a textbook example of your earlier point that Anglicans believe "as strongly as the rest of the Christian world in visible boundaries and structures", without denying that the Church exists, however imperfectly and provisionally, outside of the "canonically recognized limits" of Catholic Christendom.

jbrim said...

My word, he said that in one sentance! St Paul lives again!

dmartin said...

"Moreover, it is a defect that must be remedied before full union can be realized."

Isn't this realized in the Eucharist? When an Anglican allows one without apostolic ministerial orders to partake then aren't you implying "full union"? Aren't you saying, "I'm ok, you're ok"?

lexorandi2 said...

DMartin: "Union" is the uniting of two or more entities - in this case ecclesial jurisdictions. What baptism accomplishes and the Eucharist nourishes is our "unity" (our "oneness" in Christ).

Mark: Thanks for making my point better than I, and in one sentence!

Dan

dmartin said...

That really does not answer the question.

Do Anglicans believe that to share the Body and Blood of Christ is an act of full communion or not?

If not, why not?

Anonymous said...

"Anglican sacramentology understands baptism to be full inclusion into the Church, which is the rationale behind the Anglican custom of inviting all of the baptized, even those in non-apostolic churches, to the Table."

Of what purpose then are the sacraments of Penance and Confirmation? Should these be relegated to a secondary status? If so, this is a major restructuring of the sacramentology of both East and West, and a large departure from Catholic tradition.

"Secondly, (and this is where Anglicans certainly differ), the absence of the apostolic orders of ministry - bishops, priests, deacons - does not mean (in all cases) the absence of a church."

When you recite the Nicene Creed, and you confess that the Church is "One", what do you mean? Do you mean an invisible Church? How do you square this with the ecclesiology, for example, of St. Ignatius of Antioch? Historically, exclusion from communion has been a means of discipline for individuals (as when St. Ambrose excluded Theodosius) and groups (Nestorians, Eutychians). We see this discipline most commonly used today in the case of the sin of divorce in which both East and West will exclude an individual from communion, at least for a season or more. Could not the openness of the Anglicans to commune anybody have been a contributing factor in their current free fall? If so, why should then the RCC and the EO follow this example?

lexorandi2 said...

The sacrament of confirmation is something that should never have been separated from baptism as a normative rite. The East is absolutely correct about this, and the Anglican tradition has been moving slowly back to this norm for the last half century, by (1) restoring the post-baptismal anointing (chrismation) at initiation, typically with oil consecrated by a bishop, and (2) permitting paedo-communion in many provinces (without prior confirmation).

That there is still a separate (later) rite of "confirmation" in the West (in both RC and Anglican practice) is an "accident" of historical development peculiar to the West, owing to the imposition of the Roman rite of initiation beginning around the 8th century. As a result, Rome's unique custom of two post-baptismal anointings - one presbyterial, the other episcopal - became normative in the West. Over time the second anointing was detached from the rite of baptism and postponed for many years in its administration: hence, the emergence of "confirmation."

The East knows of only one post-baptismal rite, i.e. Chrismation; not two, which is administered immediately after baptism and before first communion. This was the primitive norm in both East and West (Rome being the ONLY exception).

As far as Penance is concerned, you make it sound as if the Orthodox and the Catholics are unanimous here as well, but they are not. Practices vary between the two. Anglicans too exercise the office of absolution, and have developed their own penitential disciplines - most notably in the Eucharistic office (as a preparation to receive) and in the pastoral offices to the sick. Private confession is also available.

lexorandi2 said...

Anon,

Allow me to address your last two questions in reverse order.

The open Table is not an "openness of the Anglicans to commune anybody," as you suggest. Rather, the Table is open to all baptized Christians who (1) can in principle confess the Creed along with us in good conscience, (2) are prepared to receive Communion through penitenial discipline (which, at the very least, is provided in the service itself), and (3) are not known to be under formal and public censure or discipline.

Second, the only "invisible Church" that I know of is the Church expectant. The Church here on earth is all too visible, with its imperfections and divisions. If the reality of what I speak appears to be "invisible" with respect to the Church here on earth, it is only because we, in our sin, have reified the "unreal" and thus allow falsehood to obstruct our view of what is truly "real."

Anonymous said...

All Qvetching aside the anglican religion was dead the day bloody henry the 8th became pope of England. Fast forward 400 years and the vast majority of Anglican/Episcopal churches are empty come sunday morning.The exact opposite is occurring especially in France, Germany Italy & the United States vis a vis the Catholic Church, Orthodoxy (Traditional) Latin Catholicism is growing (we sure need labels to define things here in modernity) none the less Latin ie: Tridentine Masses world wide are attracting millions of Catholics especially young 18-45 yr olds usually with large families. Traditionalist Catholic seminaries are filled to overflow and sadly many are turned away for lack of space, the same is occurring in Traditional Abbeys, convents and monasteries they are growing rapidly. As for the "if you wanna believe in God new and improved anglican church thats cool & if not thats cool, pretty much the same with that dying branch of Catholicism called liberal/post Vatican 2 crowd it's dying along with most of it's 1960's style revisionist prelates. Shalom/Pacem/Pax Johannim