Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Checks and Balances of being Anglican

As I've said before,  I am not an Anglican. However, I am Anglican. Linguists will notice the difference immediately, but I hope everyone sees how I now regard myself after six years of being outside the CofE, and nearly six years of being in the Anglican Catholic Church.
The distinction is subtle and, perhaps, one of the causes as to why people-who-are-Anglican and Anglicans often talk past each other.

My detractors will say, "how on Earth can this fool dare to call himself Anglican?"

They have a point. I don't subscribe to the doctrine inherent in the Book of Common Prayer, I see the XXXIX Articles as something of an irrelevance, I hold to Transubstantiation, and see Archbishop Cranmer as just plain wrong. (Yes, I know that technically makes me regard Cranmer as heretical, but he is my very best favourite heretic!) In fact, I do not use the Book of Common Prayer at all. I say my Offices from the Monastic Breviary, and the Mass from the English Missal. Just how can I even use "Anglican" as an adjective, let alone a noun?

One of the big concessions that I made in moving from the CofE to the ACC was dropping Latin. While I was in the CofE, I was reacting, at first ignorantly, against the Liberal Agenda,  and bounced too far into Ultramontane Anglican Papalism. I used Latin more in my private devotions. I could still use Latin, like Fr Anthony in the Sarum Rite, but one of the things that I have found important for the sake of commonality is the use of English.

Further, my Breviary and Missal are conformed not only to English, but to the English translation in the BCP. Indeed, this consonance with the BCP is, in my view, the genius of what Cranmer really did in compiling the BCP, and what makes the idea of Anglican clear as an adjective and as a potentially unifying concept.

It may not seem it, but the ACC is actually a broad Church with the BCP at the heart of its liturgy, but with the Primitive Church as the Doctrinal Authority. This allows for checks and balances to be made and thus prevent priests from going too far and turning personal foibles into full blown heresies.
Even if it isn't used explicitly, there is a true Commonality in the BCP that does actually bind us. I am so heartened by the joint Synods of Continuing Anglican jurisdictions being held this Autumn. We can come together because the things we value can all be found within the BCP. We free ourselves from individual personalities and back onto an ideology which unites us. This was something that we lost when some Bishops in the ACC tried to expunge the whole notion of Anglicanism and left Continuing Anglicanism in the 1990s.

The Roman Catholic Church has its ideology and thus its notion of regularity bound up with the Holy Father and the Magisterium which has developed around him. The various Orthodox Churches have their ideology coloured by their indigenous culture. This is why the ACC, and indeed certain other Catholic bodies in the UK, have a good claim to be part of the English Orthodox Church. We have a history which shows how far we can go before losing our identity and ideology as Catholics and the BCP comes out of that history but does not wholly define it.

Our historical notion of Anglicanism as an adjective allows us to know where we are by looking at the presence of Christ in our history and seeing Him at work, preventing us from becoming Roman Catholic or Greek Orthodox or Russia Orthodox, when we are not.

In our history,  we have the faith delivered in the first centuries by those using Roman trade routes. We were then reminded that, though we are an island, our faith is not at the Synod of Whitby and then with the Germanic and French conquests which brought us in line with the Western Patriarchy but never so much as to take the Papacy with the gravity of the Continent. At the Reformation, we not only finally shrugged off a Papacy which had accrued too much political power, but also refused to take on board fully the innovations of the Continental Reformers, while preserving a Catholic element from which would eventually spring the Caroline Divines, the High Churchmen, and the Tractarians.

At each stage, the history of Anglicanism prevents us from deviating from the first Millennium and the Catholic Faith therein while connecting with the people of the day.

The BCP is an expression of our ideology, but not the centre of Anglican Catholic ideology. This way we don't wake up Calvinist one morning and Glagolitic the next. There is liturgical stability built into the BCP which still allows some flexibility, but not enough to change things so radically as to be unrecognisable and thus inconsistent with our historic selves.

But is this identity important? Aren't we told to decrease so that Christ may increase? Of course we should. Our lives as individuals and as Churches are in full submission to His Authority. Yet our call is to reach out to those outside the Church and bring them God's grace in a way they can understand. The identity of an indigenous people is bound up in their history, and thus the way we preach the Gospel and dispense the grace God gives us all must be consonant with that history for their benefit.

You can be sure that if you step into any ACC parish, you will know where you are in the liturgy. You will hear the same prayers made and the same praises offered. You might hear the Te Deum sung at a BCP Mattins, or at a Benedictine recitation of the Office of Readings. Either way, it will still begin, "We praise Thee, O Lord." Thus you can be comforted that whatever liturgy is being used, it is being directed to the same God by Anglicans and people-who-are-Anglican around the world. Our liturgy does not chop and change every week, nor from parish to parish. That way Anglican Catholics are indeed visibly united in our Church lives,  and united with so many other Continuing Anglicans too.

Long may this Commonality continue in the love of Christ and bring us together in Him. May God richly bless the Synods this October and all who are involved that we are all together one in Him. 

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