Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Crisis, end-game, or opportunity?

It's been a busy week, criss-crossing the country for unrelated reasons.
But this has come to my attention. It's a critique of the recent Anglican primates' meeting in Dublin from Dr Charles Raven, from a evangelical, reformed perspective. As might be expected, he pulls no punches:
"...the crisis of orthodox Anglicanism in England is persistently underplayed, especially by evangelicals, many of whom seem to be stuck in the mindset of the 1960’s and think that they can somehow turn things round from within if only they can get enough votes or ordinands or bishops. This is not wrong, but it is inadequate – it is the past which has got us to the desperate situation of the present, with a failing Archbishop of Canterbury who has allowed false teaching to tear the Communion and the very real threat that those opposed in conscience to the consecration of women as bishops will be forced out of the Church of England...."
Read it all here

The only quarrel I would have, from an Anglo-Catholic perspective, with what he says is that, on any realistic reading of the Anglican situation, yes, it is now far too late to "turn things round from within," and it has been for some considerable time, given that apostolic order has been fatally compromised within Anglicanism and along with it all hope of meaningful ecumenism with Rome and the East, at least on the old "ARCIC" pattern of theological dialogue leading to full and visible unity. Given the recorded statements of Rome and Orthodoxy on the subject, one would have to be delusional to think otherwise, or else have a unlimited faith in the converting power of liberal theology. The truth is that those who are at the cutting edge of Anglicanism's more radical departures from orthodoxy have no time for such (to them) frivolous and peripheral things as "catholic" ecumenism and never have. Their interests lie elsewhere, mainly in the turbulent waters of the theology of human sexuality and in the kind of thing we all had to endure during our student days (the antidote to Bultmania was a close reading of the works of the great Fr Eric Mascall), and about which Fr Longenecker writes about so honestly here
What, then, is the future?
There is an interesting, and related, article in the February edition of The Portal by a consistent friend to Anglo-Catholics, Fr Aidan Nichols O.P., continuing a theme he has developed more fully elsewhere, but now with the benefit of the events of January 2011. In it he goes some way both to put things in some kind of historical perspective and to point the way forward:
"....The bishops, priests and people who are joining the Ordinariate come from the nineteenth century Oxford Movement. In fact, they are following out the logic of that movement to the end. The Tractarians were not mainly interested in looking back at earlier Anglican writers for bits and pieces they agreed with (though they also did that). They were mainly concerned with restructuring Anglicanism root-and-branch on Catholic principles (for which the older writers were sometimes useful, and sometimes not). The Tractarians wanted to reshape the whole of the Church of England – not just the High Church party – along Catholic lines. We know how much was achieved along those lines, in preaching, Liturgy, devotion. But when in 1992 the Synod voted for the admission of women to the ministerial priesthood, that crucial Tractarian ambition was frustrated for ever and a day.
That did not mean, however, that the aims of the Oxford Movement could not be realized in another way. Once the Tractarians admitted Rome was a genuine Church, and not a parody of a Church, as earlier polemics had it, a number of those who remained loyal Anglicans started to thinking about ways in which corporate reunion might be possible...."
And he continues with a warning we should all take to heart, whatever our immediate plans:
"....Those who, despite having pictures of the Pope in their clergy-houses, sacristies or even churches, cannot imagine ever moving into another ‘part of the Lord’s vineyard’ (as Pusey put it) need to be clear, however, that achieving tolerated status within the Church of England (a.k.a. The Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda) is not what the Oxford Movement was about..."
It's difficult to argue with that.

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