Monday, 16 July 2012

Establishment - perhaps not so much?

Several commentators  have recently singled out the Church of England's  identity as a State Church as being the root cause of her enslavement to the Zeitgeist. I understand their argument and sympathise to an extent with what they are saying (although still from a vantage point within the afflicted institutions rather than from outside them), but as I see it,  the real problem, the fatal flaw of Anglicanism, lies elsewhere.
The provinces of the Anglican Communion which have been the first to succumb to the deadly bacillus of liberal thought are those of the TEC, hardly a state church in any sense, regardless of separation of powers, although its members have been largely recruited from a very narrow 'elite' substratum of American society. To that extent they have not been committed institutionally, as the argument runs, to keeping in step with the social, ethical and political mores of contemporary culture. Similarly, the Scottish Episcopal church  and the Church in Wales have moved, and in the space of  a generation, from a largely  Prayer Book Catholic stance to one of advanced theological liberalism, a situation which cannot be accounted for just by the importation of a few high profile liberal churchmen from across the English border.

It is not Establishment as such which has left the Anglican provinces of the West utterly defenceless against the onslaught of philosophical post-modernism in society or of that of its fifth columnists within the church, the aggressive and increasingly illiberal proponents of the 'liberal equality agenda.' 
The problem, the fatal flaw in Anglican polity, is not so much that of fulfilling the role of a State Church (ironically, the Church of England itself has never been more in control of its own life than it is today - and we have to remember also that the Oxford Movement and its subsequent development, late nineteenth and early to mid-twentieth century Anglo-Catholicism, arose as a counter-cultural protest movement from within that very Establishment), but a profound incoherence - dating from its initial sixteenth century separation from the Latin West - in its approach to authority, lacking, as we have remarked before, both the authority of the Petrine primacy to guarantee orthodox theological praxis or the profound veneration for Tradition which serves a similar function within Eastern Orthodoxy.


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