Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter 2009

It's all doom and gloom at the moment, isn't it?

The Pope speaks about the terrible loss of life in Italy through the Earthquake.
The Archbishop of Canterbury speaks of the need to use the recession as a lesson in anti-materialism. The first item of News in Blighty is about the Labour Party Spin Doctor attempting to slur the Conservative Party leaders.

So what's different from this age from the time of the Resurrection?

It seems mainly to be the technology we use, and the breadth of our ability to communicate our ideas. We are certainly no more enlightened than those who have gone before us. Our political and economic situations don't hold up much hope for the future; the crumbling fabric of our society in a culture of "grab what you can" certainly doesn't fill us up with hope; and the militant atheists seek to drum up more support with their happy and uplifting slogan of "dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return" - it's such a comforting thought that will win many a person over(!)

And into this hot-pot of Pharisaism and Sadducaism, political unrest, hedonism, barbarity and sadness, one little man does something amazing - He rises from the dead. Not ostentatiously, no big bang that shakes Jerusalem and Rome to their very foundations, no rout of the foreign power, He just appears to those who love Him to show them that their faith is not misplaced.

And suddenly, we realise that life is worth living, even though depressions do assail us and that there is something more. Sure, we have nothing to show for it, nothing that will prove that our hope is well-placed, we just have that hope, and our faith and our love that will confound the philosophers and scientists and the cynics of this day and age, just as it always had confounded them in ages past. The problem is that Truth is bigger than the Human Mind and always will be. Only the Church possesses the fulness of Truth and even then I'm not convinced that she possesses it fully in any one particular instant of Time, but cumulatively the truth discovered in each age piling up upon that discovered previously.

But there is work to be done, for I do not believe that the Church is living out her hope as well she might, for many of her congregations are getting choked by the cares of this world. So what is it that we have to do? Pray! Yes, then what?

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Who's Authority?

How about I state the obvious?

Anglicanism is in a wee bit of a pickle!

Recent events among my friends in the Continuum highlight one thing: that the divisions are getting worse and are having a detrimental effect on Christians of all stripes.

A priestly friend has followed his bishop into an Anglican jurisdiction which some hold to have a question mark over aspects of their belief. I trust my friend and his bishop to be acting according to their consciences and their belief in God for the good of their congregations and for the faithful promulgation of the faith. I also know nothing about the jurisdiction into which they have moved, so I remain rather disinterested (not uninterested) in their situation. They have my prayers.

It does strike me as terribly odd that such a move was necessary in the first place. It is nothing less than a scandal that Anglicanism is deteriorating into divisions and factions according to subtle nuances. It seems that no-one seems to want to do anything together these days.

To be honest, I am the last person to be preaching about not joining in with others, seeing that I refuse to play a full part in my own parish on account of the nature of the ἀτάκτως. But then I refuse to be so disorderly. Am I right to go with my own conscience in this matter, or should I submit myself to the authority whom God has set over me?

This isn't just at the heart of Anglicanism, it's present in Roman Catholicism where goodness knows how many thousands are ignoring our Pope's teaching on contraception, or the orthodox monks who are not exactly averse to giving each other a punch up the bracket! This division is a spirit in society itself. Look at how in this country there is no respect for any form of authority. Eggs are thrown at deputy Prime Ministers, Lords are covered in custard, priests are heckled in their pulpits, teachers verbally abused and ignored by students.

Of course, it all stems from the fact that our leaders have let us down in the past. Popes have been corrupt, Kings despotic, priests failing to practise what they preach, governments failing to listen to the people. It seems then that there is no possible way that the Truth of God's existence can have been authoritatively passed from generation to generation.

The Roman Catholic Church says that she is One True Church that possesses the fullness of Truth, so do the Eastern Orthodox Patriarchates, but they are not united. Anglicans have always claimed to be part of the One True Church, yet do not agree on the source of authority, and the Protestants who rely solely on their Bibles (allegedly) cannot agree on the correct interpretation. It's a shambles!

So how can Anglicanism ever be united if some want to do just what the world wants it to do, others stick to the BCP and various interpretations of that and still others wish to be reunited with the Pope? What is Unity in these circumstances?

So what marks should there be for unity? I doubt that I can ever produce a definitive list that is even remotely philosophically or theologically sensible., but I try in the hope that my feeble mutterings may inspire greater minds to make it clear (assuming that they read this!):

1) That Holy Scripture, Orthodox Catholic Tradition and Right Reason are at the heart of the Christian Faith and are authoritative;

2) That at least the first Seven Oecumencial Councils are authoritative;

3) That the Seven Sacraments are ordered according to Catholic and Orthodox Tradition, that their efficacy is recognised and their importance promoted.

4) That there is recognition of others' adherence to other formularies which do not contradict any of (1) or (2).

5) That all conversation between those of different jurisdictions is conducted with the sole view of standing together in the Presence of Christ and seeking nothing that would scandalise the other, but rather that a mutual exploration of the Truth may be achieved.

6) That all attempts must be made for communio in sacris and that all dialogue to this end should never cease.

For me, these represent a start and a hope that there would be some common ground for building a Church that will give society what it needs.

Society has lost its sense of the sacramental. If we cannot venerate Our Lord in Sacramental form in Church, then how would we teach others to venerate Him in their secular lives? If we cannot live together without trying to tear ourselves apart, how can we show the Body of Christ as a united entity?

One of the reasons I stay Anglican is because I have a trust and respect for my Anglican Prayer-book critics. I cannot hold to the Prayer Book as being definitive of Anglicanism, but they do and admittedly that Prayer-Book has been part of Anglicanism for four-and-a-half centuries. That I believe that Anglican Catholicism stems from the pre-Reformation Church in England is a sticking point that affects the relationships between Anglican Papalists and the Prayer-Book Catholics.

It would be a help for unity if either side here did recognise the various intentions behind the other. The Anglican Papalists do seek corporate Unity with Rome and accept the primacy of the Holy Father (though sometimes, I rather cheekily think that we APs do Rome better than Rome does ;-) ) that we are trying to hold two jurisdictions together, rather than allow them to drift further apart. We seek the impossible and logically contradictory - the reconciliation of the Anglican Identity with the Catechism of the Catholic Church, nor should we pretend at this stage to know how it should be done.

But then, we APs must stay Anglican for the sake of our Prayer-Book Catholic brethren - after all they have sprung from the same cleft in the Church that we have. Theirs is an integrity that comes from objective criticism and it is in part that they struggle to find the nature of the Anglican Identity, which eludes them as much as Unity eludes us. That Rome needs to hear them is clear, since Rome has not heard the Anglican voice for four-and-a-half centuries, and has not benefited from the scholarship and the Anglican reserve which it needed to hear and has only just begun to hear. But then APs and PBCs must stick together for the sheer sake of a coherent Anglicanism.

It is only in the light of this unity that the Liberals might repent and return. We should not cut these misguided iconoclasts off absolutely either.