Friday, October 27, 2006

Petitioning the person in the pew

Albion posted the following comment on a post about the AIC:

Could we perhaps try to move this away from what is running perilously close to a sniping match, and try to be more constructive. I, too, find it curious that there seems to be an inordinate focus on the hierarchy and virtually nothing on the numbers on the faithful. But this is not unique.

What do we have in common here, and is there any ground for cooperation and intercommunion between the AIC and the other jurisdictions?

He makes very good points: one that is pertinent to the article in question, but also in the general scheme of things. When are the usual people in the pew sought out for advice for the church? When does the opinion, experience or understanding of an "ordinary" (no such thing) parishioner get considered?

In Britain, the government of a Parish is usually made by the PCC (I gather that in the U.S. they call this the Vestry Committee) so the day-to-day running of the Church is dealt with by an elected body.

But what role does the ordinary parishioner play in the Church? These are the folk at the coal-face of life. These are the folk whose charge it is to go into the community and live Christian lives in a world which, quite frankly, would rather they didn't. Theirs is the greater persecution, since they inhabit a world that is not cloistered away from corruption and spiritual attack. These folk come to Church regularly to find spiritual refreshment and rest, sanctuary and security, hope, health and happiness, as they devote their lives to God. Yet when are they ever heard by those whose job it is to serve them? Frequently within their own parishes, I hope, but on the global scale of things about the direction of the Church, in describing their needs and calling for consistency, very seldom.

At the Reformation, the majority of the faithful wanted to retain the Roman structures that provided them with the certain knowledge that they were in church. They were ignored by those who wanted to impress the new doctrines upon them. Okay, so the majority of the laity aren't academic theologians, but if the Church has done its job and served them by teaching them to listen to Scripture and Tradition, then they will know when something is amiss, as did those affected so drastically by the schism from the Roman Catholic Church.

And similarly now. The focus as to what happens to the Church seems always to lie at the feet of the bishops. They have authority to guide and govern the Church, but when things go awry, as the Anglican Communion has, and the bishops speak on their own doctrines after capitulating to the Zeitgeist, what does one do? It is to the priests to whom the faithful turn for guidance, and to the bishops that the priests turn for authority.

There are many parishioners within the Continuum who are after the same thing - the honest and true worship of God in the Catholic Faith uncorrupted by fate, fashion and feelings, and the majority of churches within the Continuum offer just that. Yet are they the ones being kept apart by the politics of the bishops?

I suspect that the majority of the traditional followers of the Church of England are actually Anglo-Papalist in their affections, but do not have the ear of any Anglo-Papalist movement, nor the education to voice their concerns in the way that the hierarchy would hear. Many are being misinformed by liberals who peddle a epistemological solipsism of doctrine, and individuality of worship, effectively an intellectual opium to dull their minds to the actual Truth.

If the people want to be heard then they must seek out the language that people will hear. It is not enough that there be a knowledgeable spokesperson, but that each Christian should have the education to know their need, the need of their society and how the Church is failing to provide that need.

Yes, bishops and priests have authority in matters of Doctrine, provided that it is the correct Doctrine. Thus those in Orders must be respected, but their decisions made on behalf of the whole Church must include the voices of the parishes if there is to be consistency. His Holiness is the servant of the servants of God, the focus of Catholicism, as long as he does actually serve those servants of God (which the present Pope is doing magnificently. He listens, as did his predecessor). He will only do this by listening to those who have to engage the world in a harder struggle than those who have the shelter of Holy Orders. Even the Pope is outranked by the Catholic Faith, yet it is that same Faith that we have to carry with us, within each of us, into the world. Let us trust the authority of priests and bishops, but temper that trust by educating ourselves carefully in the Doctrine that Our Saviour gave us. You don't need a Ph.D for that!

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