Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Thoughts on Common Cause. . .

I have a few misgivings about the current state of the Common Cause Partnership between numerous Anglican bodies (mostly those that are somehow linked to Canterbury); they can be summed up in the following 1) the use of numerous and conflicting liturgies, 2) the open rejection of Catholic order in some quarters (while this a minority position, in many estimations), 3) a sometimes glaring lack of contact with actual Anglican theology, leading to a "reinvention" and questioning of things settled in the Magisterial Reformation. However, the basics are sound:

"1) We confess the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired Word of God, containing all things necessary for salvation, and to be the final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life.
2) We confess Baptism and the Supper of the Lord to be Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself in the Gospel, and thus to be ministered with unfailing use of His words of institution and of the elements ordained by Him.
3) We confess the godly historic Episcopate as an inherent part of the apostolic faith and practice, and therefore as integral to the fullness and unity of the Body of Christ.
4) We confess as proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture the historic faith of the undivided church as declared in the three Catholic Creeds: the Apostles', the Nicene, and the Athanasian.
5) Concerning the seven Councils of the undivided Church, we affirm the teaching of the first four Councils and the Christological clarifications of the fifth, sixth and seventh Councils, in so far as they are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures.
6) We receive The Book of Common Prayer as set forth by the Church of England in 1662, together with the Ordinal attached to the same, as a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline, and, with the Books which preceded it, as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship.
7) We receive the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1562, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing the fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief.

In all these things, the Common Cause Partnership is determined by the help of God to hold and maintain as the Anglican Way has received them the doctrine, discipline and worship of Christ.

"The Anglican Communion," Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher wrote, "has no peculiar thought, practice, creed or confession of its own. It has only the Catholic Faith of the ancient Catholic Church, as preserved in the Catholic Creeds and maintained in the Catholic and Apostolic constitution of Christ's Church from the beginning." It may licitly teach as necessary for salvation nothing but what is read in the Holy Scriptures as God's Word written or may be proved thereby. It therefore embraces and affirms such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the Scriptures, and thus to be counted apostolic. The Church has no authority to innovate: it is obliged continually, and particularly in times of renewal or reformation, to return to "the faith once delivered to the saints."

To be an Anglican, then, is not to embrace a distinct version of Christianity, but a distinct way of being a "Mere Christian," at the same time evangelical, apostolic, catholic, reformed, and Spirit-filled."

I can find nothing to disagree with in any of this--the sticking point is to get all those involved to take such a declaration with the utmost seriousness. Classical Anglicanism, in the past, would take this all quite seriously: No innovation. Period. End of sentence. To fully resolve any issue in dispute, see what the practice and belief of the ancient Church was.

The problem with extreme "party" aspects of Anglicans (here I do mean Anglo-Catholic, Evangelical, and Latitudinarian/Liberal) is that they all want to introduce innovations and somehow baptise such innovations as right, proper, and truly Anglican (meaning, in essence, truly ancient and Catholic). Elements of the Anglo-Catholic movement have tried to impose elements of the Roman system into Anglicanism and say "it is as it always has been" (extra-liturgical devotions to the Blessed Sacrament, Roman feasts and their underlying doctrines, Purgatory, etc--Catholicism is assumed to be an equivalence with 19th century Italian Roman practice or the Council of Trent). There is a tendency among some in the Evangelical party to ignore those parts of the Prayer Book found to be "too Catholic" (the teachings concerning confession, the theology of Baptism as an ingrafting into the very Body of Christ, the nature of the ministry--a Puritan streak comes about from time to time which tends to reject anything not in the Bible and even to embrace some things not in the Bible as long as they flow from "evangelical theology"), and there is the most striking tendency, that of the modern Liberal, to pretty much throws out all foundational doctrine while retaining the externals (perhaps the unkindest cut of all).

American Anglicanism does indeed need a Reformation and a restructuring. The CCP is a good place to start. I hope and pray it succeeds. As a body the CCP must seek an honest return to the old and Catholic ways of the Reformed Church of England as outlined above, and it must not be afraid of saying to Canterbury that it will walk apart from her such a move would be the best thing for the survival of the Anglican Way in its fullness. I am given some hope that there is strength in the current numbers of parishes now associated with CCP--right now over a thousand. For those in the Continuing Anglican Churches, please pray for those in the various Episcopal groups that comprise the CCP, that they may be filled with the Holy Spirit to follow the truth of Christ in all things.


Canon Tallis said...

I have read and re-read this now three times and each time have been more amazed at the sanity of every word. The itch for innovation seems something which none of us can resist, but the wholeness of the Anglicanism which we have all but lost can be regained only by a return and obedience to the source documents of our faith. Why is it that some who say they value Anglicanism find that so hard?

I do not find it difficult to value orthodoxy in the Orthodox or real Romanism in the adherent of the papal see, but the tendency among those who say they are Anglicans to set up several hard divisions on what they do to and with the prayer book tradition deprives all of us of a visible unity and identity which we need. This old "mere Anglican" prays for a day when unity in doctrine, discipline and worship among those of us who follow the via media of the prayer book will be a reality. Or will the Lord return first?

J. Gordon Anderson said...

I think that our various jurisdictions would be much better off if we put all of the time, energy, and resources that go into efforts like FACA and CCP into strengthening and building our jurisdictions. Right now we are a bunch of small groups with few resources, no vision for the future, etc. And we are hoping to merge into a larger group or form a larger group that has no resources, no plan for the future, etc. That is bound to amount to nothing.

It is interesting that the articles of FACA (which CCP's are modeled after), talk about how we can do all of these amazing things, such as collaborate on Sunday school material, ordination standards, etc. But from what I have seen FACA hasn't done any of that - or anything else for that matter - since it came into being. I fear that CCP is going to be the same way.

Am I being too negative?

Anonymous said...

Common Cause is a step, a shakey one but a step. Having walked from our mother churches it will take a while to adapt to the independence and then we work on melding our various talents into a single structure. To borrow from the Borg "We will add your theologiocal distinctiveness to our own (we're not all that diferent anyway) Oh and Kate! "Resistance is futile God's people will prevail.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

CCP needs to reject women's "ordination." The hopeful sign is that Bishop Robert Duncan himself wants the subject to be studied, and has acknowledged his past support for WO as his one and only departure from what the Church has always taught and practiced.