I suppose that like many people, I feel hurt when I am contradicted and manipulated. But I don’t mind a challenge, and many of my most treasured things are challenged. That is part of a blogger’s lot. You either stop discussing the subject and put a taboo on it, or try to reason things out or at least to “use the force” – listen to our intuition.
My intuition is to think of a world in which anything that attracts us is forbidden or not available. When the answer is always “no”, then one ceases to ask. There are domains in life that bring us joy and meaning, far from the cold, dark and empty churches that everybody have forsaken apart from a few old ladies who are not going to be followed by their daughters.
Michael Frost, one of my most prolific Orthodox commenters seems to be a sympathetic and sincere fellow. But, he does keep coming back to the same point. I have read from him the fact that he has been received into Orthodoxy (the Antiochian Church to be precise), but is too far from an Orthodox parish to do other than attending services in the Anglican Church in America (TAC) parish in Iowa of Archbishop Louis Falk without receiving any Sacraments.
I suppose that if I were not a priest, there would have been little point in my joining the ACC as it has no presence in France where I live. Only my priesthood enables me to live anything like a sacramental life in the Church. Otherwise, I would have to choose between what is available. In my area, within Christianity, it would be the local Roman Catholic parish, a free Evangelical community imported by American missionaries or the Jehovah’s Witnesses at a pinch. Otherwise, it’s a long drive to Rouen or Paris to go to some traditionalist place. Check mate – move somewhere else or give up Christianity as something futile and academic.
I don’t think our friend accepts any possible definition of Anglican Catholicism except a dusty dry, totally irrelevant and narrow reference, that of the seventeenth-century Non-Jurors. There haven’t been any of those people around for a very long time. So, this delving into history to find a reference point ends up as quite subjective. It’s no good if we propose Henry VIII or before but perfectly fine when it’s to Michael Frost’s taste.
Now, I have vented my anger, and try to see things a little deeper…
He does bring up a valid point – that being the fact that doctrine and praxis develop and are never the same in one age as in another. Certainly, the Non-Jurors are more recent than Henry VIII or Cranmer or St Osmund of Salisbury. When I was discussing British light music some days ago and the nostalgia of those of us who have been around for a few years, I made the observation that the “old days” were not so “good”. My parents were in their teens during World War II, and that certainly was not an enjoyable time. I was in my teens in the 1970′s, and I have no nostalgia for that time. When was any period of history a “golden era”. In the seventeenth century, idolised by “classical Anglicans”, there were still gruesome executions and witch hunts, a notion of cruelty and inhumanity in the name of a vengeful God. We have various ideas of the middle-ages. There was great beauty as evidenced in the buildings and illuminated manuscripts, but there was also disease, violence and ignorant intolerance. The Inquisition was in full swing, something like in The Name of the Rose, and the fires were burning day and night. Is anything in this world more than an illusion?
We are encouraged to try to stake our claim to a denominational title for one’s particular religious community or sect, and in doing so, we try to refer to a foundational myth or our idea of a historical period. That’s what the Romantics did in their medievalism and reaction against Rationalism and the Industrial Revolution. They produced pastiche in the form of their art, poetry and architecture – but the sanitised version of what they thought of as “medieval” was in itself something original. When thinking of the fourteenth-century country parish or Salisbury Cathedral in the fifteenth, movements of dissident Anglicans in the eighteenth, Methodism, reactions to the delirium of nineteenth-century Roman Catholicism and just about anything “out of the box”, something original came about. The Renaissance was an attempt to revive the aesthetics and values of ancient Greece and Rome, but it also produced something new.
Old Catholicism had its foundational myth, and in the nineteenth century moved towards liberal Protestantism and reformed itself out of existence. The Dutch Church went into schism because they were too “heretical” for Rome to give them a bishop, and the Germans and Swiss revolted against infalliblism, but evolved beyond eighteenth-century Catholicism. That is certainly not the ACC or anything I would want to have anything to do with. Both Utrecht and Bonn referred to the post-Tridentine Roman Catholic Church and tried to move beyond it.
The ACC’s reference certainly is not post-Tridentine Roman Catholicism even though the Anglican Missal is a straight translation from the Pius V missal of 1570 with some Prayer Book stuff stuck in. Actually, the Anglican Missal of 1921 is a fine piece of work and the English translation is exquisite. True, we don’t exactly worship Thomas Aquinas, Bellarmine or Suarez.
I am not an American, so the PNCC means little to me, even though it approved the Nordic Catholic Church which has a few little communities in western Europe. There are any number of so-called vagantes bishops who seem to have been consecrated in order to establish a community rather than for a pre-existing community. The ACC is something different. Perhaps we should study Laud, Ken and other Non-Jurors, but their stage of development is far behind what we have discovered from more recent sources. Are the Non-Jurors any more relevant than documents from Henry VIII or the Thirty-Nine Articles – all of interest to historians – but of little use to us living at the beginning of the twenty-first century with our own problems and historical hindsight.
Devout Americans can be so narrow in their criteria and uncompromising that they end up as “one-man true churches”. I have seen this in the more extreme RC traditionalist ideologies. It is through this lens that any reference to a historical period is seen – you have to be exactly like as it was, otherwise you are incoherent at best and hypocritical at worst.
If I am not “Non-Juring” (this concept means so little to me), then, I must be
in the 1870s Dollinger model than the 1700s Jansenists, since this would put you squarely in the medieval scholastic era and Thomas’ Summa as interpreted by all of the medieval RC Church Councils thru the 1510s without accepting either papal infallibility or the Council of Trent as dogmatic in nature.
I don’t reject the Council of Trent, but being “bound” by it is fettering the freedom of our thought and spirit to see that period in its wider historical and cultural context. As I said at the beginning of this posting, I don’t mind being challenged, but I will not be manipulated into being loaded with considerations that are just not an issue for me. Many aspects of Trent cleaned up the filthy bathwater that the Protestants threw out with the baby. Unfortunately, the RC Church was over-zealous in its liturgical reforms and many things that were abolished were ancient and good, like for example the Laetabundus sequence for Christmas and many others. An atmosphere of centralisation and reform replaced something that had been laid back and “natural”, even if there were superstitions and accretions in popular religion to be pruned back. Bugnini and Paul VI only followed the same ideology and procedure in the 1960′s.
Our real reference is our own time, but we have just about nowhere to go. Rome is what it is, essentially like in the nineteenth century but without the pomp, faste and liturgy. Orthodoxy isn’t really interested in anyone but its own people. Modern Anglicanism has gone the way it has gone. Fundamentalist Protestantism is inhuman and unhealthy. Wherever you turn, the answer is “no”. Why should we not give up and be “spiritual but not religious” or explore the other word religious traditions? Many of us would find a lot of good giving things a rest and seeing life and the world from another point of view – if the world is anything more than money, raw power and greed.
Not being American, I see things from the European point of view – the bleak midwinter of our consciousness of our mortality. Yet, light is found in darkness, in that balance between pessimistic realism and hope. I am aware that all is illusion and our spirit never finds rest, what St Aelred called the Sabbath of the Soul. We search for the Philosopher’s Stone like a child after the crock of gold at the end of the rainbow or the fairies at the bottom of the garden. The nearer we get, the further away we are, like Tantalus dipping his head for the water he will never reach.
Historical references can only give a rough idea of things, but they like many other things are but analogies. The past is gone and only the memory remains. That is why so much importance is given to documents. They are all that remain of history as we remain prisoners of the illusion of time. All is illusory and we will not find rest in this world, but we can come somewhere near it, even if only for a short time. We live in our own era (2013, nearly 2014) and we can relate to it more or less well. Personally, I am very isolated from the urban world and the new generations. I am unable to understand modernity and post-modernity, yet that’s where the “church fodder” is found, since a business needs paying customers to keep going. Alternatively, the Church is something outside and above trends and markets.
For this reason, I can only conceive of Christianity in monastic and contemplative terms, the hidden leaven in a world that is hostile to the spirit or seeks a different and new expression.
I commented above on revivals of classicism or medieval culture being pastiches, but yet something new. In the final reckoning, Continuing Anglicanism can be something new and herald a new culture like the Renaissance and Romanticism. We refer not to one time or document, but to anything that seems to promote a break from what is stifling the spirit. It is for this reason that I would like to combat the centralising tendency of modernity from the Industrial Revolution to our own times and herald freedom and diversity. There may be many evils in such freedom and diversity, but the good and beautiful would be allowed to grow and prosper at least for a brief time like the Belle Epoque before the soul of man died in the trenches of World War I.
That briefness of the illusion is the condition of our life. We are born, grow, live and die – and live in hope that the life beyond the veil will give this transitory life meaning. I don’t know if our Anglican Catholic bishops or my fellow clergy would see things in the same way, but this is a part of our freedom and diversity. Thus, we will live in a single Church and see things in myriad ways, far beyond Protestantism or Papalism or whatever else.
I begin to understand the meaning of post-modernism as a new yearning and thirst for what is beyond us and present in our spirits beyond our reasoning. Perhaps it is the “new middle ages” of which Berdyaev wrote in his various philosophical works. We must be going somewhere in our dark tunnel. Perhaps it is this…
So, Michael, I might seem to be hard on you, but I assure you that I’m harder on myself and my own illusions. I keep you and all my readers in my humble prayers, aware of my own unworthiness and weakness, but living in faith, love and hope.