Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Modern Anglicanism: an exercise in achieving internal cultural hegemony

Every day the depressing similarities between the worlds of politics and the Church become more and more observable.
Much as the right won the philosophical argument over socialism, those who stood for the tradition have run intellectual rings around the doctrinal revisionists (in Anglicanism) and those who have argued for ‘the spirit of Vatican II’ in the Roman Catholic Church.
To take one example, one only has to consider the contribution made by the book ‘Consecrated Women’  in the Church of England's ongoing struggle over the nature of the apostolic ministry to realise that its opponents had nothing to fall back on except a uninspiring mélange of largely irrelevant arguments from the secular world and the quasi-Marxist (or perhaps Gramschian) rights agenda which, despite its lack of intellectual credibility, seems to be carrying all before it in Church and State.

Whatever the situation now prevailing in the Catholic Church (and there are many encouraging signs of the progress of the hermeneutic of continuity), Anglicans have largely fallen under the spell of  the advocates of rupture and discontinuity, not because they have won the intellectual argument but because they were better at counting heads. 
Those who, for good or ill, having captured the citadels, are now running the show have simply ignored the arguments, confident that, in a synodically governed community, arguments don’t matter, only votes and the patronage to achieve and maintain their own version of  ‘cultural hegemony.’  And they have relied on the support of a clergy steeped in the nostrums of the radical theological schools through which either they or their teachers have passed, and of laity so thoroughly secularised and oblivious to the history and traditions of their own Communion they simply cannot recognise the force of theological arguments when they - fleetingly - encounter them. In modern synodical structures, ‘debates’ are purely cosmetic, the flexing of the muscles of those who have already made up their minds. As we observe them now, ‘synods’ are an alien intrusion from the world of democratic politics into what should be the theologically consensual and collegial traditions of Christian decision-making.

In the political world, those who sought to lead were always anxious to attain office, now they mostly speak of being in power. Ecclesiastically, in the recent past the orthodox who were in positions of authority in Anglicanism were (consistent with their understanding of the breadth of the Anglican tradition) far less interested in promoting those who agreed with them to positions of influence than our present leaders who have consistently excluded theological difference with an unparallelled ruthlessness. 
We don’t need to be reminded that the  english word ‘office’ derives from the latin for service, 'officium.'  Now,‘potestas’ is something very different…..

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