Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Unity and Uniformity

My next post will be my thousandth. I'm not sure whether that's an achievement or not given that several blogs younger than this one have surpassed that ages ago. One of the recurring themes that keeps coming back to me is that of the whole idea of Unity.

Why is it that those who adhere to the Affirmation of  St Louis are not united? Why is it that other Catholic bodies who hold almost identical doctrines to Anglican Catholics are not communio in sacris?

In the United Kingdom, Anglican Catholicism is tiny - small but quite well-formed. I won't say perfectly formed in keeping with the adage as perfection is only enjoyed by the Church Triumphant, but it makes sense to me. Of course, I am still studying and, when life settles down a bit more, perhaps I'll be able to answer the questions that keep bubbling up in my thinking to a better satisfaction.

Also in the United Kingdom, there is a movement emerging of a new Anglican Evangelicalism in GAFCON and the new group in Jesmond with their new style of missionary bishop. One wonders whether they seek to do what St Augustine of Canterbury did and try to bring the Christians in the country together under a single umbrella, this time of Reformed Anglicanism. Quite how this is going to play out is going to be interesting, especially given the rather invidious position that the female Church of England bishop of Newcastle and, indeed, the Archbishop of York. Certainly, given that Bishop Jonathan Pryke is still a member of the Church of England, it does raise the question of how he can follow Canon II of the First Council of Constantinople, or Canon XVIII of the Second Council of Nicaea for that matter. That’s the CofE's problem, though.

The trouble with Anglicanism is that it is not uniform - indeed it is designed not to be uniform so as to be inclusive. It is this rampant inclusivity that is the cause of its present teetering on the edge of collapse. Now that a rogue element has been introduced, and that further missionary bishops are being promised, the confusion that this will bring to the CofE may indeed be the beginning of the end of the Elizabethan Settlement.

If that happens, then there will be opportunity for different groups with the same uniform to make common cause.

Is uniformity important?

That was a problem that tore the ACC apart in the 1990s. Essentially, an attempt was made to impose a liturgical uniformity on the Church which was not warranted and essentially tried to eradicate our Anglican heritage of which the ACC is actually rather proud.

As a former teacher, I am used to school uniform. I have seen it worn in several ways. Some boys are smart, their shirts crisp and ironed, tucked in appropriately , their ties in a respectable half-Windsor. And, inevitably, there are the boys with their ties dangling loosely around their neck with the thin bit far longer that the wide bit, their shirt tails flapping, scuffs on their blazers, and mud on their trousers. Yet, their uniform was the same - they were definitely of the same school. I didn't mind that so much, though the staff were told that one had to make sure that one's tutees were appropriately neat and tidy. That's important - personal discipline is a valuable lesson worth learning - yet, the way that they wore there uniform allowed for their individual personalities to come through, and that was important too. There needs to be this tension between a neat conformity to the uniform as well as a sufficient relaxation to be comfortable in that uniform.

Latitude is important: rules are there to guide, not coerce: the love of God requires consent. As a Church, we are to call people onto the path of Righteousness, not push them off the path of Sin at gunpoint.

Yet, change the uniform, and you change the school.

The ACC does not have the same ecclesiology as Anglicanism. We do not require our members to affirm the Anglican Formularies because we view the first seven Oecumenical Councils as part of our heritage. Most Anglicans of the confessional variety only subscribe to the first four. That means that there is a difference in our uniform which is not superficial. It may not always be an obvious difference, but it does point to different conclusions that can be drawn under the umbrella term of "Anglican". Our statement of unity demonstrates that we cannot sacrifice our principles just for the sake of some pretended peace. The Benedictine Rule also forbids making a false peace.

The next few years promise to demonstrate a jostling around as Anglicans and people-who-are-Anglican try to find a better sense of community. This is good. The more that people strive to be part of a worshipping community, the better. It puts an end to this scandal of in-fighting and cult of personality that has dogged Continuing Anglicanism. Canon XVI of the Second Council of Nicaea (the Seventh Oecumenical Council) says that clergymen should be very careful of the uniform that they wear, for:
"All buffoonery and decking of the body ill becomes the priestly rank. Therefore those bishops and clerics who array themselves in gay and showy clothing ought to correct themselves, and if they do not amend they ought to be subjected to punishment. So likewise they who anoint themselves with perfumes. When the root of bitterness sprang up, there was poured into the Catholic Church the pollution of the heresy of the traducers of the Christians. And such as were defiled by it, not only detested the pictured images, but also set at naught all decorum, being exceedingly mad against those who lived gravely and religiously; so that in them was fulfilled that which is written, The service of God is abominable to the sinner. If therefore, any are found deriding those who are clad in poor and grave raiment, let them be corrected by punishment. For from early times every man in holy orders wore modest and grave clothing; and verily whatever is worn, not so much because of necessity, as for the sake of outward show, savours of dandyism, as says Basil the Great. Nor did anyone array himself in raimentembroidered with silk, nor put many coloured ornaments on the border of his garments; for they had heard from the lips of God that They that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses."
There is but one uniform that all Christians must wear, and that is the wedding garment of the Lamb. This is a garment given to us by the Bridegroom and we are bound to wear it, and try and keep it nice for the wedding. Whether we are Roman, Orthodox, Anglican Catholic, or Anglican, this is the garment that we need to make visible so that people can see that we are off to a wonderful wedding, and that they are truly invited. When they journey with us, let us ensure that we help them to wear their wedding uniform with pride and are not scandalised by too much starch in the Church which stiffens that garment so that they cannot breathe!

1 comment:

Fr Anthony said...

I learned many lessons from my ecclesiastical dandy seminary in Italy, the way garments were worn or men presented themselves with exaggerated preciousness. I find that as bad as being slovenly. We need to be simple. There's an old story from La Fontaine about a donkey carrying a load of saints' relics:

A Jackass bearing relies seemed a lord,
Thought ’twas himself the gazing fools adored :
Thus a grave Square-toes he himself believed,
And hymns and prayers as his due received.
Some one his error soon found out, and said,
“ Good Jack, through vanity you’re off your head ;
It is the idol, and not you,
To whom they think the homage due.”

Men honour not the donkey magistrate,
They make a leg but to his robe of state.

That's a great lesson for us priests, in our dress, our manner and our lives.