Sunday, August 17, 2008

Anglican Unity

There is a great hunger for Christian unity within Anglican circles these days, pulling various factions of Anglicanism in different directions. In some respects one of the forces at work seems to be the desire to be part of "something bigger." On the one hand you have groups like the Traditional Anglican Communion (represented in America by the Anglican Church in America) and perhaps certain elements of the Diocese of Forth Worth hoping to become something of a "uniat" Anglican Rite within the Roman Catholic Church. Of course, for most traditional Anglicans this is not a viable approach. Perhaps more viable (for those who desire to be a part of a larger group of Christians), given the Anglican ethos, is to explore the Western Rite currently in use in one or two Orthodox jurisdictions. Why do I see this as more viable? I have a copy of the Western Rite Service Book and roughly 90% of its contents comes from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer--most high church Anglicans probably couldn't tell the difference during a service. However, one thing that hinders many is the feeling that they are second class citizens in Orthodoxy as those who use either the 1928 liturgy or the Gregorian canon and not one of the "real" Orthodox liturgies. The creation of a western rite bishop--or working towards such a creation--would be a great move forward.

However, many Anglo-Catholics feel the pull of Rome much more strongly, even if they have previously identified themselves as being of one mind with the Seven Councils (thereby rejecting the peculiar Roman additions to the faith). The visible unity that Rome provides is apparently far stronger.

Similarly, the pull from remnants of the Canterbury Communion is also very strong. The Common Cause Partnership, which includes Anglo-Catholic dioceses from the Episcopal Church, elements of Forward in Faith, the Anglican Mission in America, and the Reformed Episcopal Church is hoping to become the new orthodox Anglican province in North America and become recognized by the more conservative elements of worldwide Anglicanism that met in Jerusalem. However, parts of the Common Cause Partnership ordain women to the priesthood and show no signs of stopping--as Bishop Martin Minns has put it, there are "two integrities" on this issue, both of which will "be respected" (as women continue to be ordained). I hate to sound cynical, but this language is remarkably like that of the Episcopal Church from a few decades back. However, leaders such as Bishop Hewett of the Diocese of the Holy Cross sound very hopeful that the majority in Common Cause will win the day and the historic order of the Church will be preserved. We will need to wait and see, but the 800 pound (and he seems to be gaining weight) gorilla in the corner of the room need be acknowledged. If he is not, the result will be a new province with "impaired communion" as one of its founding elements, and as such it will not remain viable for long.

Anglican Christians do indeed need to work for unity, but it cannot be achieved at the expense of a common ministry for the Holy Table or Common Prayer built around the Cranmerian-Laudian prayer book tradition.

Just my two cents. . .


Anonymous said...

History teaches that either Roman or Eastern uniatism is quite likely to be a bate and switch thing. And, if traditional Anglicanism is Catholic, in the creedal sense, then uniatism is pointless.

The big problem that I see in unifying traditional, catholic Anglicans is that no "splinter" or "dissenting" jurisdiction or ecclessial structure stands for the same in both word and deed.

Indeed, the Evangelicals, lead largely by African Bishops, are not Catholic (women's ordination) nor completely traditional in liturgics (neo-Pentecostalism). Likewise, where the rubber meets the road, the St. Louis Statement jurisdictions often confuse Catholicism with Romanism.

Still, all in all, the St. Louis Statement strikes me as the most classically Anglican affirmation going (though the 39 Articles are finessed a bit too much by simply indicating that all Anglican formulas must be read in subordination to catholic consensus of the Faith), whereas the GAFCON statement's "two integrities" is both a gaffe and a con. Moreover, the "Chamber's Succession" bishops appear ready for reunion. And, as both Archbishops Provence (PCK) and Haverland (ACC) on record as supporting Prayer-Book Catholicism, classical, central Anglicanism may finally be finding a rallying point (much to the Missal-Mass Anglo-Catholics' dismay!)

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...


Excellent points. I too think that the quest for unity should be among those with the most in common--the classic 1549-1928 BCPs and the common ministry of Catholic order. As one ACC bishop once put it, the only reason for the sad division among those with so much in common is sin.

I assume you've read ++Haverland's very good book on Anglican Catholic Faith and Practice. I appreciated how much he used the Articles to state "the Anglican position." However, he also undermined his case a bit later in the book by downplaying the Articles.

I think Bicknell gives a critical and very Catholic presentation of the Articles. He points out that many things Anglo-Catholics do are not "Catholic" but simply Roman practices of the late middle ages (as does Dearmer). As we've discussed before, Browne's Exposition is also excellent.

Canon Tallis said...

One of the great problems with those who claim to be Anglo-Catholics is that they know very little of what is actually to be found in the classical prayer books and too much of what is to be found in those of Tridentine and Post=Vatican II Rome. I realize Anglican cassocks are more expensive than Roman soutanes, but I am extremely irritated whenever I see the latter on an Anglican cleric. The sad truth is that most Anglo-Catholics as well as most 'Evangelicals' are simply ashamed to be Anglicans and especially true prayer book Anglicans. They both treat the BCP as a book of assorted services rather than a liturgy and while the ACs opt for a Holy Communion service which apes the old Roman mass, the low churchman chooses MP with sermon and offretory so that no one will think him 'one of those.'
There was a point in my youth when the then bishop of North Carolina equiped his chaplain with a wooden ruler and instructions to whack his hands publicly when he failed to keep the prayer book rubrics. That was probably a little harsh, but I am guessing that North Carolina knew what he would be inclined to do save for the threat of public physical punishment. But what I would like would be a little consideration for the prayer book tradition taken as a whole and especially for the acceptance of the BCP as a complete liturgical system which required the use of all of in every parish church and chapel capable of doing so. Then both we the clergy and the laity might really learn what it really meant to be Anglican and not a pseudo-protestant (in the non Anglican sense of that word) as the Anglo-Catholic might come to find out what it meant to be a non Roman Catholic. But that is probably too much to ask and our clergy and people will continue to be uneasy and embarassed with and by mere Anglicanism.

Anonymous said...

"Mere Anglicanism," what a wonder appellation.

Yes, I thin its high time to start a"Mere Anglicanism" movement, in which one need not look outside to pan-Evangelical or pan-Charasmatic or pan-Catholicism to feel complete. This is not to say that we shouldn't desire the reunion of Christians or deny that Anglicanism comprises all of the above. But it is to say that, mere Anglicanism does and can stand in the very center, the very heart of the traditions of the visible Church militant.