Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The List

Over at The Continuum (now, due to the writing of Father Hart, my favourite blog) a discussion in the comments has generated a list of basic premises that ought to be held when dealing with the Church of Rome in ecumenical dialogue. I've laid them out in a mildly adapted way here and can only add my hearty agreement.

Father Lawrence Wells contributed the following points that ought to be essential:
1) Anglican orders are absolutely valid and always have been,
2) The papal claims of infallibility are rejected,
3) The Marian dogmas of Immaculate Conception and Assumption are lacking in true Catholic consensus,
4) The Reformational understanding of justification is the only correct reading of Scripture.

Father Hart rightly added:
When Rome understands our position, then we can talk. This is no arbitrary list. I would say that at least all of these points are necessary. I would add one more:

5) "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation."


Anonymous said...

Dear AC+:

I note your careful wording as to the Immaculate Conception, "lacking in true Catholic consensus". Is it therefore a permissible pious opinion among orthodox Anglicans?

As a Protestant, I was taught that the RCC teaches that Mary is free from both original and actual sin, whereas of course Christ alone is without both original and actual sin. However, the version of the IC that I have seen in a few Anglican writers says that the BVM was conceived in a redeemed state, i.e., conceived and redeemed simultaneously. Which is to say that she was conceived "freed" from original sin, as opposed to being conceived "free" from or without original sin. The end result being that she was never in any durational state of sin. Redeemed, but never sinful, I guess.

There is an interesting essay on the subject at


Anonymous said...

I think this is an excellent topic for discussion, but I also believe that it requires that we be completely candid about Anglican weaknesses. For instance, I know that Father Hart has said elsewhere that the validity of Anglican orders and the reality of Anglican catholicity and orthodoxy at the Reformation can be credibly and definitively established, but just barely. Now please don’t read this as anything approaching an accusation or criticism - I am able to say it only because I have carefully followed what Father Hart has written on his own blog and others, like Pontifications. I only mean to say that we have reached a stage where complete frankness, self-examination, and openness about our own concerns about our Anglican doctrinal and worship tradition and sub-traditions are necessary for us to honestly determine if we have held, in our various schools and sub-traditions, to the same basic understanding of Our Lord, His Work and His Mission in and through the Holy Spirit, and God's calling for His one true Church.

We have reached a point in Anglicanism where if both A) the continuing church bodies and the orthodox remnants that remain in official Anglicanism in the West cannot come together on the grounds of a truly common understanding of the orthodox catholic faith or B) the Anglican Communion fails to establish true discipline, protect traditionalists and. in the words of Queen Elizabeth I, doesn't acknowledge that the "tide of innovation must cease", catholic Anglicans will have virtually no ground to stand upon. If such tragic events do occur, we may still have a solid case on the basis of our tradition, but we will have to work through the fact that during some periods of history, that tradition hangs on by only a thread of faithful practice of the fullness of our evangelical catholic worship and spirituality. I realize that I am probably deserving of some serious criticism for the nature and substance of these assertions, but I feel that I have to be clear about where I'm coming from.

I am in complete agreement with the List on points 1 through 3. By my way of thinking though, point 4 is weak because there is not one, but there are at least five Reformational understandings of justification. I am an Anglo-Catholic (and not Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic) in part because I generally agree with this evangelical shift on justification. However, while the medicine that was the initial Reformational thinking in England on justification and salvation was salutary, it was soon often misapplied or treated as a panacea (especially by those who were "calvinistic") to the exclusion of its proper framing within the sacramental life and the Church generally as the land of grace where we "work out our salvation with fear and trembling". I think Hooker brought us back on course, but he has too often been read as if he were simply updating Cramner or expressing a moderate Calvinism. These views of Hooker, while not completely devoid of truth, are grossly inadequate and totally miss his deep immersion of the doctrine in the Church Fathers. Furthermore, these faulty views have some credibility within various evangelical schools of Anglicanism that have sincerely tried to make Hooker fit within a single general Reformational vision of justification that just isn't there. Hooker was, I think, restating and more deeply catholicizing a pre-Elizabethan evangelical position that would be more properly placed in a category with Melanchton or the early Bucer. And beyond all of this, I think NT Wright and others (many of whom are very Reformed on a number of theological issues) have demonstrated credibly that it is no easy task to fully understand all that the New Testament lays out for us on justification.

Point 5 is problematic because that particular Article of the 39 Articles is too directly addressing medieval (and some current) Roman Catholic views of authority and not addressing other critical questions of ecclesiastical authority. First and foremost among the non-addressed matters is whether various required practices of the Church which ultimately have doctrinal significance are only legitimate if they are based on a strictly scriptural foundation. Some extreme among the English Reformed of that day would have taken the "strictly scriptural foundation" position, but there is a nuanced but significant difference between our Article VI and the position that is taken in Reformed confessions such as the Belgic Confession. Other articles of the 39, such as no. XXXIV, only cloud this question further, not because these article are faulty in any way, but because again, they are designed to address matters of that day that don't really have parallels in our time.

Secondly, who has or should have the ecclesiastical authority to determine what "is not read therein" nor "proved thereby"? These questions are definitively answered in the context of the Act of Uniformity that gave us the 1559 Book of Common Prayer, in the canons of the Church of England, and in the process of how and by which Church authorities they were authorized in 1571, but the first part of Article VI is really speaking directly against something Roman more than it is offering a positive doctrinal statement.

Thirdly, whose canon of Holy Scripture is it that contains all things necessary to salvation? The Roman, the Orthodox, the Anglican - and with or without what each body considers to be deuterocanonical or less authoritative, less apostolic books? Even if we include the last sentence in the first part of Article,

("In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.")

we are still left with more questions than answers.

I have come to accept the 39 Articles as authoritative, again in no small part due to some of Fr. Hart's work on the subject. But we have be willing to admit that the Articles have holes that some clarification and harmonizing with the principles behind the canons of the Ecumenical Councils and the doctrinal vision behind the 1662 BCP and ordinal would go a long way in filling.

Anonymous said...

Even though it is not a dogma, but a discipline...and as much as I actually love my Roman Catholic brothers and sisters and the Petrine Patriarchate of the West...and as much as I have been tempted at times to dip my toes in the Tiber...I believe it is a mistake to bar men from marriage post-ordination. Whether it should be a big issue on the's a huge one for a great many young men looking at Holy Orders.

An Anglo-Catholic Spirit-Filled Evangelical CANA Seminarian