Articulating Identity by Deacon Jonathan Munn of our Diocese.
I always appreciate Deacon Jonathan’s writings, which are always very articulate. The issue of Anglican “identity” or the “patrimony” much discussed in the contexts of the Ordinariates is a difficult one. There has been enough to-and-fro between my postings and some exponents of so-called “classical” Anglicanism. Like many words and concepts, Anglicanism means different things to different people. Things are made worse when we think the way we understand it should be imposed on all in a complete lack of tolerance. It also has to be said that this fundamental incompatibility is intrinsic to the Reformation / Counter-Reformation polemical world view. There is no common ground, and one position can justify itself only by negation of the other.
This is why I have always expressed the idea that any kind of Catholicism has to transcend that period and that way of thinking (based on decadent scholasticism and questionable metaphysics). We in the ACC talk of the Undivided Church as a standard of faith and orthodoxy. In the absolute, there never has been an “undivided” Church, as Christians were in conflict right from the beginning, but what we call “undivided Church” is the general consensus of western and eastern Christianity prior to the mid eleventh century that followed the christology of the Council of Chalcedon. It is what western Catholicism and eastern Orthodoxy have in common over and above the liturgical and cultural differences. We refer to a kind of ecclesiology that situates the authority of the Church in the body of the Episcopate rather than on a single Patriarch or incumbent of one of the ancient Apostolic Sees.
Dr William Tighe wrote a very interesting essay on the question of the Thirty Nine Articles – Can the Thirty-Nine Articles Function As a Confessional Standard for Anglicans Today? Dr Tighe is a Roman Catholic who attends the Eastern Rite, but he has written this article beautifully. Fundamentally, the Thirty-Nine Articles are too tied to their historical period and a particular style of philosophical language and scholarship for them to be of anything other than of academic relevance to us today.
We in the ACC are often criticised for identifying with the mainstream Catholic tradition rather than the tenets of the Protestant Reformation whose purpose it was to combat superstition and anything like a resurgence of Paganism in a Christian context or corruption in the clergy. So be it. There will always be Christians with their convictions, traditional ideologies and inherited principles. We can hardly blame them, but rather engage a “dialogue of love” and show that we are not so wicked or superstitious after all.
We should certainly spend less time justifying ourselves than seeking to live fully the tradition with which we identify. A most edifying example I see are the many monasteries which write little or nothing on the internet, yet each day live the liturgy of the Mass and the Hours of prayer. Surely, the internet can be our scriptorium and the classroom where we can both teach and learn. I like to see it used constructively, with the priority given to our real liturgical and spiritual life. Would that not be more healthy?
I don’t mind people “blowing out”, as we all have a need to do it from time to time, but it is not the real expression of our Christian life. Perhaps our real “patrimony” or “identity” is that of being Christians with the sacramental “interface” we have between earth and heaven. It certainly bears thinking about!