After Rowan: Priorities for the Anglican Communion

I really recommend this article. I see no need to reproduce it here. I am impressed by Dr Milbank’s analysis of “Whig” latitudinarianism and Erastianism, and how modern “liberalism” is modelled on it. He rightly complains about the predominantly “liberal” and managerialist ecclesial culture that encourages bureaucratisation and over-specialisation.

The clergy need better and more thorough education, at least equivalent to the Roman Catholic seminary system, preferably coupled with a theology course in a university. That is fine by me, but I think Milbank might be neglecting the dimension of hands-on experience, though he happily does not forget the spiritual aspect which is primordial. I am quite flabbergasted to find The Church of England needs some sort of equivalent of the Catholic cardinalate. But Milbank qualifies this idea by having global primates fulfilling this role and not a “super-elite” as in the Roman Catholic Church. He also comes out with the idea that the Anglican Church needs to have a teaching voice, not an infallible authority, but simply a return from the current tendency of leaving the faithful with no guidance at all.

These three notions would not be intended to create a kind of parallel or rival Roman Catholic Church, but to be seen as only steps towards an eventual reunification under Roman primacy.

Milbank’s strongest wish is for there to be new blood to warm the frigidity of the “Whig” Church – what matters for Anglicans in the near future is finally to expunge from its midst the more heterodox and worldly-compromising notions of surviving whiggery, in order that Anglicanism can at last stand forth in its hidden coherence: radically biblical yet hyper-Catholic; sturdily incarnated in land, parish and work, yet sublimely aspiring in its verbal, musical and visual performances. If that seems a little wordy, read it phrase by phrase, and you’ll get it!

He also impresses me by correctly identifying the hallmark and scourge of any established and institutional Church – bureaucracy and inertia. The organisation exists for its own sake and not for the Christian mission. Of course, I would not point a finger only at the Church of England – – – but also Ultra Montes!

Go and read the article, and I would like to know what you think.

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3 Responses to After Rowan: Priorities for the Anglican Communion

  1. Stephen K says:

    A very detailed article indeed, covering a lot of ground with many strands to take in. I got the sense he knows his subject and his church and so who am I to argue with his ideas and proposals? Except, perhaps, just one. It does strike me that if all these proposals for coherence and cogency are worth doing, then it seems strange to reduce them solely to a strategem to “unite under Roman primacy”. If anyone needed reminding of the fact, from all the controversy where the ordinariates are concerned etc. unity conceived by the RCC appears to be the obliteration or reduction of any other tradition-in-the-collective, i.e. any other church-as-such. The RCC simply does not accept any version of the “Branch-theory”. If the Anglican church has a soul to recover, if Anglicanism has a history and character to be faithful to and rejuvenate, then it surely is precisely because it is Anglican not Roman Catholic? The “Catholic” element in the Anglican Church is not to be confused with “Roman Catholic”, surely? As a commentator on the article’s link pointed out, albeit in different and I think erroneous terms, the reality of the Anglican Church is founded in Henrician politics and not in the older Roman imperial politics that established the post-Gospel Roman Church. Like Cinderella’s stepsisters, neither church quite fits comfortably into the ecclesial slipper the Gospel urges. Thus, Dr Millbank’s proposals, to my mind at least, are worthy of a much larger and truer goal – true union beyond and not under the flawed existing primacies that have historically been asserted. Otherwise, why bother?

  2. William Tighe says:

    Forgive my a priori scepticism, but I know enough about Millbank to know that he is all in favour of WO, as well as believing that the Church can and should bless same-sex “partnerships,” although he seems to wish not to consider such “partnerships” as equivalent to heterosexual marriage.

    I had what my sister-in-law terms “intense fellowship” with Millbank and his wife at a garden party given by the Vicar of Litte St Mary’s, Cambridge, in October 1978. They were so vexed by my absolute opposition to WO that they arranged for me to meet a young Theology tutor at Westcott House, who, as they assured me, would “set me right” on that subject — his name was Rowan Williams. A week or so later I had a pleasant hour-long (or a little more) tea with Dr Williams, but I am afraid there was no meeting of minds (especially since his views, if I recall correctly after so long a space of time, revolved largely around a supposed Christian “principle of equality” that trumped both Scripture and Tradition).

    So I view any proposals for “ecumenical progress” coming from such a source with, as I wrote, a priori scepticism — but I shall certainly read the article.

  3. William Tighe says:

    Well, I’ve read it, and find it interesting but fantastical; and only a man who believes in “squaring the circle” could write this:

    “On the home front, the coalition government’s commitment to legalise gay marriage makes it imperative for the Church of England to take a stand against the intended measure, while distinguishing such a stance from any mode of prejudice against gay people.

    This may well imply that a majority of British Anglicans – who resist any redefinition of marriage, and yet have no objection to civil partnerships for gay people, including gay priests, and the blessing of these partnerships in church – can no longer afford to tarry for the rest of world. (It should be noted that no issues about legitimate expression of same-sex affection need arise here, since a gay union cannot be “consummated” within the traditional theological understanding of that term – that is, an act of sexual intercourse between man and woman that potentially leads to procreation.)”

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