Friday, July 26, 2013

Articulating Identity.

Recently, I've had to leave a couple of Facebook groups for the simple reason that I am tired of the squabbling that seems to surround questions of Anglican identity. I note with interest Father Chadwick has set up some "blow out" pages so that people can get into heated but polite discussion about how Anglicanism relates to Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and Orthodoxy. I prefer to stay out of such polemics because they soon fall into insults or beating others over the head with the Catechism of the Catholic Church or the XXXIX Articles.

From the point of view of the Affirmation of St Louis, the principles of doctrine neither include the Catechism of the Catholic Church nor the XXXIX Articles, neither are they included in the Canons of the Anglican Catholic Church. Of course, it is perfectly reasonable for a member of the ACC to hold to these documents provided that they do not clash with the doctrine of the Undivided Church. However, given that neither the CCC or the XXXIX Articles are held unanimously, they really cannot be used as authoritative statements in debates with other Anglicans. The CCC properly belongs to the Roman Catholic Church, the XXXIX Articles with Protestant Anglicanism. Both contain much that is valuable; both contain much that causes contention and division among Christians.

It is true that in my more rabidly Roman days, I used to hold greater store by the CCC and had very little time for the Articles; now I do not because if there is any ground for Unity, it must come from the Undivided Church, not from just a large majority of it. The CCC does not represent the orthodox teaching of the whole Catholic Church. Neither do the XXXIX Articles which are largely an attempt trying to unite the Catholic and Calvinist wings of the Established Church of England. The CCC does not define Catholicism, the Articles do not define Anglicanism.

Many would look at the Continuing Anglican Churches and say that, because they are Anglican, they are Protestant, and these folk will cite history to show the intent of the Reformers was to excise all that is Catholic. The first Reformation in England, of course, was that of Henry VIII and the infamous divorce business. It was political as it separated the politics of England from the politics of Rome. The intention was categorically not to change doctrine. This came later as evidenced in the prayer-book of 1552 and its successors. Nonetheless, the Church of England maintained its orders and Apostolic Succession (until 1993) regardless of largely irrelevant Papal Bulls. It is true that there is a Protestant admixture within the Church of England, but that Protestant heritage does not speak for the whole of Anglicanism. It certainly does not define Anglicanism and it certainly does not define the ACC.

The ACC is Anglican, not because there is any one definition of what it is to be Anglican, but rather in that it holds to English Catholic Liturgy. It has the 1549 BCP which is lifted practically wholesale from the Sarum Use and augmented with the Gregorian Canon in the English and Anglican Missals. It is using liturgies used in England since before the Reformation and continued afterwards. That is the Anglicanism we preserve. Of course, our members can hold to the XXXIX Articles if they wish, but they are not definitive in the ACC Canons and they do not define what it means to be Anglican. I suspect the same is true in other Continuing Anglican Churches.

To call the ACC Protestant is actually meaningless given that Protestantism did not exist in the Undivided Church. Indeed, according to the Orthodox Church, Roman Catholicism is Protestantism defined. Personally, I find the term "Protestant" difficult to bear on the grounds that it lumps me in with those Christians who, for reasons of their own, reject good Catholic doctrine. I'm not too fond of the phrase "Reformed Catholic" either, but then perhaps I'm just being precious. I cannot speak for other Continuing Anglicans who may be happy with being Protestant or simply plain indifferent.

Perhaps I've made my distaste for the Articles clear to the point of being offensive. That is certainly not my intention. I have seen clever priests from within my own Church write some very fascinating, edifying and truly Catholic articles on the Articles. What I would hope is that, rather than take them as being authoritative, we should rather take them as opportunities to reflect on what it means to be Catholic. They contain much wisdom, but not all wisdom.

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