Sunday, 6 November 2011

Sorry, my skateboarding days are over.

Having been compared to Bart Simpson by the MCJ [here] I feel I should just say this in some kind of defence. My poor attempt at an analysis of the causes of the “slow train-wreck” which is modern Anglicanism, was just that - an attempt at a partial analysis. What it was clearly not (but not clearly enough, obviously) was an an attempt to take refuge behind an inadequate ecclesiology as a total explanation of what has happened.
What I meant - and this is where I agree with some of Christopher Johnson's comments - is that any ecclesial body which is, in its origins, that un-catholic concept, a State Church, runs a high risk of selling out to the surrounding culture. Any church which has historically prided itself on its conformity to the cultural and political status quo risks prizing its cultural setting above its commitment to the person of Christ. Moreover, any church which is “synodically governed” (in the modern sense of permitting majority votes to decide doctrinal issues) has to recognise that heterodoxy is  always potentially only a short series of votes away. Combine the two factors and we get to where we are today. What has happened to us has taken place simply because it could. The structures, the historical mind-set and unconverted human nature itself have conspired to allow it.

Yes, the Anglo-Catholic movement (I can't speak with personal experience of the other traditions) collectively and individually over the years bears a heavy responsibility. We opted some time ago for being at ease in Sion, to accept an honoured place as just one ‘churchmanship' among many, and to be content to be an ecclesiastical 'party' (in more ways than one perhaps)  rather than to continue the battle to change the 'institution' itself. Yes, as individuals we have failed to pray enough, think enough and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ convincingly enough. For all too long the trumpet has sounded an uncertain note; we were happy in our ecclesiastical ghetto provided we were left alone.

But how possible was the original dream? Could it be that the vision was fatally flawed from the outset, doomed not only by our personal sinfulness and unfaithfulness (although that is always a major contributing factor) but by the fact that rather than being the catholic but reformed body of our imagining we were always at heart a protestant state church (along with its various offshoots, largely the legacy of a world empire) which had certain powerful surviving Catholic elements of order and liturgy and which could not be completely ‘catholicised’ (or for that matter, as we are seeing now, led in a definitively liberal direction) without breaking asunder or experiencing a haemorrage of members? Cardinal Kasper’s request to the last Lambeth Conference to make a decision as to whether Anglicans were to be a church of the first century or of the Reformation, has, of course, now been answered in favour of the latter option. But it may, in fact, have been answered long ago and the option never available at all.
I don’t know. Whatever the truth, we are where we are. The decision in front of us personally as Anglo-Catholics (and collectively if that’s at all still possible) concerns where we go from here.
The present is what we, and God’s will, have helped to make it; but so, too, is the future.
I’ll stop before I can be compared to Cassandra or Uriah Heep - I can’t think of an equivalent cartoon character


  1. The problem is that by asking General Synod to make doctrinal decisions, such as the consecration of women as Bishops, we are giving in many instances untrained laity the opportunity to disregard Catholic Tradition, Scripture and Reason in favour of the trend of the age. Mind you that also affects many clercical members who prefer popularist views to doctrinal orthodoxy.

  2. Whine whine whine again. The plain fact is that the Catholic faith is true, protestantism is a distortion. Your honoured place is to hold the Catholic faith and the decisions of a synod do not stop the Catholic faith from being true.

  3. Always good to hear from you! But you're not really complaining about me being over-critical are you? Pots and kettles spring to mind....


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