Monday, January 23, 2017

Unity with two integrities?

With the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is full swing, of course we pray for the reunification of the Church and the end of mutual excommunications.

There are lots of disunities within the Church. There are disagreements about polity, sacrament and the nature of salvation which do damage the Body of Christ, but not more so that the mutual demonization that occurs. I tend to agree that one who does not believe in the physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist cannot really be in communion with one who believes that the Eucharist is purely symbolic. To the first, it must be that the other is denying the presence of one's Saviour and Lord, denying His power and will for humanity in providing such a miraculous banquet. For the other, any reverence and worship directed towards a wafer can only be seen as idolatry. At least one party is in error, and committing some form of sin. However, neither sin is unforgivable and, while either is a sin against God, the first judgment will be on the intentions of each person on the matter. If both parties are sincere in their desire to worship the same Holy Trinity, there can and will be some reconciliation when the hearts and minds of us all are made open.

I think that the same goes with most of these disagreements. If we can at least applaud the desire for integrity and sincerity for the promulgation of the Love of God from those who cannot accept what we believe the Church teaches.

For example, I am not an Augustinian, that is, I do not believe that St Augustine was 100% right on the nature of Original Sin, free-will and grace, the nature of the sacraments, and certainly not on the certain damnation of the unbaptised. As far as I can see, his was the only voice on some matters, and that St Vincent of Lerins wrote hisCommonitorium in part to put the brakes on Augustinian thinking. 

I cannot accept (pseudo)Calvinist arguments that there is no such thing as free-will, and I do believe that we do have a part to play in our salvation by reaching out to grasp the hand that has been offered to pull us out of our prison. Yet, I can appreciate that Augustinians defend the the absolute sovereignty of God to the hilt, that they have an ability to find peace knowing that they are already saved, and can follow Kierkegaard by making that leap of faith. I fully believe Augustinians to be sincere followers of Christ, and that includes Calvinists and hyperCalvinist, and trust that, before the throne of God, we will not only be put right, but rather love each other more because we held opposing views. 

Can we be in communion, though? That's difficult to say completely, but I do know many Calvinist whose reverence towards the Holy Sacrament, holding onto a spiritual Real Presence that is as firm as any Catholic view. Given that the term "Real Presence" can stand quite a bit of noesis as each person encounters reality absolutely personally, I would incline to be lenient here. If someone can say to me that Christ is as present in the Host as they are present in the building, I would be inclined to say that we were in communion.

The idea of a different "integrity" is best known between the different opinions on the Ordination of Women. Essentially, the way that an "integrity" works is to allow mutually exclusive opinions on the matter to remain in communion with each other. In the sense that I have have thought out above, a Calvinist with a high belief in the Eucharist could well be considered an integrity. This could give a better sense of unity between Anglicans of the Catholic and High Protestant persuasions.

Yet, with regard to the issue of the Ordination of Women, this "dual integrity" format is much more unconvincing. There are four Opinions, I suppose, that one can hold:

1) Both women and men can be priests;

2) Only men can be priests;

3) Only women can be priests;

4) No-one can be priests, i.e. there is no such thing as "ordination".

These are all mutually exclusive (I leave out the "trans" issue given that it is a marked minority - under 100,000 in the U.K - complicates matters, and has yet to be proven not to be a form of body dysmorphia). Can each of these be an "integrity" within Anglicanism? 

For these to be "integrities", they would need to have some semblance of communion, i.e. there must be a common belief for Communion to hold. 

One who subscribes to Opinion 1 must believe that the Eucharist celebrated by a man must be the same as that celebrated by a woman, otherwise they cannot believe that men and women are priests in the same priesthood.

One who subscribes to Opinions 2 and 3 must believe that the Eucharist celebrated by a woman must be different from that celebrated by a man. It is evident that, however sincerely they are in their beliefs, they cannot be in communion. 

One who subscribes to Opinion 4 either believes that the Eucharist is purely symbolic, or that anyone can confect the Sacrament of the Eucharist. 

Thus we see that Opinions 2 and 3 are not in communion by definition.


Opinion 4 clearly cannot be in communion with a Catholic, and any Eucharist celebrated in Opinion 4 would be of the gravest doubt to Opinions 1,2 and 3 given that they believe that a priest needs to celebrate the Eucharist. Thus, on the grounds of the assurance of sacramental validity, Opinions 1,2, and 3 cannot be in communion with 4. 

Finally, since Opinion 1 says that the validity of the sacrament is the same regardless of sex, then Opinons 2 and 3 must regard them as equally invalid by defect of intention. Hence Opinion 1 cannot be in communion with Opinions 2 and 3.

Thus, by logic (which should hold here due to the mutually exclusive nature of the Opinions) no-one is in communion with the other, and therefore cannot form an integrity. Oh yes, they may attend each others' Eucharists, but they simply cannot regard them as valid without compromising the very integrity that they are trying to keep. Any communion that they may have with another opinion, is therefore merely lip-service and a form of dishonesty. 

This is, I argue, why it really is not right that those who oppose the episcopacy of women should remain in the CofE. It actually prevents mutual flourishing as both "integrities" are essentially competing for the same financial resources. I suspect that Conservatives in the CofE could argue similarly about the different "integrities" with regard to marrying couples of the same sex. 

It is better to nail one's colours to the mast than mislead people, and I would urge all Catholic-minded folk in the CofE to find a better home for their integrity.

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