I’ve written before about where I think the CofE is headed (see especially here, here, here and, most simply, here). And I’m just wondering… I wonder what future the TEC-sympathetic clergy and congregations have in the CofE? Which is really one way of asking: what is the future for those of us who are Anglo-Catholic in theology and worship and spirituality, but who neither want to go to Rome nor embrace liberal-ish evangelicalism?
I read this post a while back, which made me think a lot. I know the church and people concerned (close to where I did my curacy) and the vitality of that sort of Anglo-Catholicism has surely vanished – rightly, on many things.
If I were to dream up a recipe for ‘my’ sort of Anglo-Catholicism, what would it look like?
At the heart – and what would qualify it as ‘Anglo-Catholic’ – would be the three-fold emphasis flowing from the theology of the Incarnation. That means: a eucharistically-centred spirituality (worship); a commitment to the orthodox creeds (doctrine); and a passionate engagement with the world, seeking social justice (service). These three I see as aspects of a single commitment, that is, logically, you can’t have one without the other two; or, at least, you can’t have full-bodied versions of one without the others, as they each support the other and give them purpose, focus and strength.
Theologically, it means a commitment to the catholic faith, understood in the traditional way as ‘what has been believed everywhere by all Christians’ – which I know is an ideal that has never been actualised, but ideals are important. In practice what this means is an acceptance of the teachings promulgated by the united councils of the church, ie through the first millenium. It involves reference to and reverence for the teachings of the church fathers as holding great weight for how we are to understand the faith. It means classical theism and an embrace of Christian mysticism. It means the approval of icons and incense – worship embracing all the senses!
With respect to the church in England, it means that we see the Anglican church as a part of the catholic church – not a sect but simply the gathering of believers in this territory. It means not claiming any doctrinal distinctives, nor any exclusive possession of the truth. It means rejecting the claims of foreign popes, and certainly the Modern doctrinal corruptions associated most especially with Vatican 1. No to Marian dogmas, but certainly an acceptance of Marian devotion such as hymns to the Theotokos.
It means a profound scepticism about the established nature of the church, and a settled intent to seek disestablishment in so far as that pursuit does not undermine more immediately important goals. It means putting flesh on the bones of ‘episcopally led, synodically governed’; that is, obedience to our bishops is still a virtue ardently to be sought, but it would be better if the bishops were elected.
It means – in the words of +Richard Chartres when he once gave a charge to ordinands – not getting caught up with the ‘festoons‘ of the faith: particular manners of dress or address; and also abandoning the whole panoply of eucharistic devotions that derive from the theological corruptions symbolised by Corpus Christi.
It feels good to get all that off my chest. However I suspect that, sadly, those who share this understanding are doomed to live out our ministries in a state of exile.