Thursday, October 17, 2013
Provincial Synod and Provincial Anglicanism
On Saturday, I fly out to Newport Beach for the Provincial Synod of the Anglican Catholic Church. My intention is to keep some form of a diary or at least a series of reflections on this important event. It's important, obviously, for the life of the Anglican Catholic Church, but also in my life and work since, for the first time, I see the Church on a larger scale, and meet many friends who I've know for a long time and yet never seen face to face.
This is such a wonderful occasion because, from diverse places, we draw together to strengthen what we have in common - our Anglican Catholicism. We Anglican Catholics hold to a very simple principle. Our dogma are rooted in the Undivided Church, revealed through Holy Scripture and its interpretation by the Church Fathers before East split from West. Of course, there are many good doctrines which we may hold, but these can only hold the level of pious opinion unless they can be proven by the Undivided Church.
This does make for "regional variations". Some of us may indeed hold to the Articles of Religion, others may hold to the Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Our Lady. Some of us may rejoice in Benediction and Exposition, others may find it against something they believe. However, each delegate will hold to two very important facts about us. First that we believe ourselves to be Catholic and that our Catholicism is expressed through an Anglican lens. Our noun is Catholic, our adjective Anglican. We all try, in some way, to live that as our expression of our worship of the Lord Jesus Christ Whom we love and adore.
Of course, it is our definition of "Anglican" that can be seen as the prime cause of our regional variations. The word simply means "English". The Church in England is described as Ecclesia Anglicana from at least as early as 1246. There may be a lot of political wrangling over the idea of the freedom of the Ecclesia Anglicana but the essence is there. Anglican simply means English.
How do we interpret that? Well, I've blogged on this idea before several times. Some seek to make that identification with the English via the Book of Common Prayer and the doctrine found therein with the Articles. Others will demand communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, or with the Queen of England. All of these are fair enough.
For the Anglican Catholic, again we have to turn to the Undivided Church for our understanding of "English" and one might be forgiven for thinking that this is where it gets rather tricky, since "England" itself only really existed from 897 and that was only the southern part of the country. However, history is rather kinder to us than that. English unification happened in the 10th century and so there is very much something in the Undivided Church that can be considered "English".
For the Anglican Catholic, to define Anglicanism as dependent on the doctrine of the prayerbook is problematic since not all the doctrines of the Reformation are at all prominent in the English Church of the 10th Century or before, but the seeds are indeed there. A certain following of St Augustine of Hippo does indeed yield to the Protestant understanding of predestination and election, but this understanding is not universal - it is not a Catholic dogma. Not everyone thinks St Augustine was always right. Limbo is a case in point, though this was an attempt by St Thomas Aquinas to soften St Augustine's much harsher judgment on the unbaptized.
What is clear to the Anglican Catholic is that being in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Queen does not define Anglicanism for precisely the reason that neither the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Queen publically assent to the Catholic Faith (at least since 1992, possibly from the mid 1980s).
We English Anglican Catholics (there's a tautology if ever there was one!) see our Anglicanism very much as part of our upbringing, but we cannot assume that our Anglicanism is any more definitive than any other Diocese for the simple reason that the Anglican Catholic Church as a separate body from the Anglican Communion was started in the U.S, so we English don't have a great deal to boast about.
Our Anglicanism stems from the use of English Liturgy, the Sarum and Gregorian rites used in England before the Reformation translated by those who sought to re-Anglicise the Church with the use of English language. Miles Coverdale, the masterful translator of the Book of Psalms, also translated the Gregorian Canon. The 1549 Book of Common Prayer has its roots in the Sarum Liturgy. The language is English at its most poetic and precise. In this sense, we are very akin to Orthodox Churches in that our Ritual is based on a regional version of the ancient Eucharistic Canons as well as the Sarum Use and the Benedictine Rule of prayer.
As I mentioned earlier, there are several definitions of Anglican two of which an Anglican Catholic may legitimately hold. We acknowledge communion with the Anglican Communion simply is not Catholic and therefore not truly Anglican because it is not Catholic. This leaves the Prayerbook Anglicans who use the prayerbook to define Anglicanism doctrinally and the Ritual Anglicans who use the English Rites to define it from a ritual point of view. There is much common ground, and much upon which we hope to build at our synod.
One characteristic of Anglicanism that needs to make its presence felt is the tolerance of other viewpoints within itself. The Anglican Communion has become too tolerant of non-Catholic and indeed heretical practices. Other Churches (like some Protestants) are not tolerant enough. Prayerbook Anglicans and Ritual Anglicans have much to agree upon - the doctrine of the Undivided Church is no small thing - and our Anglicanism gives us a common language in which we can express ourselves well and eloquantly.
I am looking forward greatly to speaking this language to my colleagues from all over the world and hope that our drive for unity from Province to Parish may bring much joy and Good News to the World.