Fr Jonathan Munn has written some fine reflections on his recent experience at our recent ACC Provincial Synod. Broad Birettas and Canterbury Caps is not an article about clerical dress, sacerdotal boulevardiers or curés de salon – but about our Anglican tradition of tolerance and open-mindedness.
I sincerely hope it will be possible to attend the next Provincial Synod and meet those good people and clergy in America and from all parts of the world. We get very out on a limb in our parishes and missions. Internet, blogging and e-mail are truly a lifeline that keeps us together – if used sensitively and with awareness of the fact that the person on the other computer is a real person.
With my experience in life, I get as exasperated with conservatism as with “liberalism” or “political correctness”. We have to get behind the reasons why we react from what hurts us, and react mildly and sensitively. Fr Jonathan discovered the way Americans love English things, and don’t quite “get it off”. That might sound patronising but we can’t help being English. What is good is that the Americans are making efforts to keep the Anglican tradition alive in a world where, usually, only money matters. That is to their credit.
I have had dealings with those who felt that “low church” or Reformed doctrine should be the bedrock of Anglicanism at the expense of Anglo-Catholicism, whether by way of restoring pre-Reformation traditions or copying post-Tridentine Rome. I have to confess that I tend to find Reformation theology boring as with late RC scholasticism of men like Suarez and Bellarmine, because logic tends to be elevated at the expense of contemplation and mystical theology as in the Eastern Orthodox traditions. Perhaps this is where broadness can be discovered instead of the world of “You’re wrong – I’m right – here’s why – now go away“! I see here the importance of twentieth-century Roman Catholic and Orthodox theology.
How can we be broad? Certainly in terms of preferences of schools of theology. We all perceive the same revealed truth from different points of view of human understanding and cultural perspectives. Certainly, our broadness needs to be of a new kind rather than trying to reproduce the conditions of England in its most unstable and violent eras of history, namely the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. There are elements to add to the old polemics, like the modern theological, biblical and liturgical movements and their acquisitions.
Liturgical diversity within the limits of what is recognisably Anglican or western is important. It seems undesirable to have liturgical uniformity in military lockstep and for everyone to be straining at the leash and angry with each other. I came to the ACC using the Sarum liturgy, but I agreed to use the Anglican Missal when serving congregations accustomed to it. That is pastoral common sense. I have never used the 1549 or 1928 Prayer Book rite, but it is a legitimate Anglican liturgy, and I would use it for pastoral reasons (certainly after a good rehearsal). I think most of us in England would have that kind of pastoral flexibility.
Our relations with other Continuing Anglican Churches is of vital importance. I transferred from the TAC to the ACC because the former will take a considerable amount of time to recover from the loss of many of its members to the Roman Catholic Ordinariates, and there are many questions to be asked about why it elected Archbishop Hepworth and kept him in office for so long. Nevertheless I respect and esteem the TAC and pray for its recovery over the years and decades. Their English diocese is sparingly communicative, and I can only hope it will grow and make the right decisions.
If we develop a sense of “broad church”, it will have to be such that those of more Reformed or Anglo-Catholic sensitivities and convictions will not be alienated either by polemics or the gueule de bois of equivocation. Indeed disagreements over doctrine occur, such as between fundamentalists of Calvinism or the milder versions of TULIP among Anglican reformers and those I would term as “Christian humanists”. Sometimes, we just have to agree to disagree and remain friends.
Also, arguing over sixteenth-century points of doctrine seems to be somewhat surreal in a time when Christianity is cracking apart along other lines of fracture and the world rejects Christianity altogether as something that is incapable of furthering political agendas and various ideas of social engineering. The more we argue over completely irrelevant stuff, the more we will miss the bus with the real issues of today.
As for sharing a cup of tea, my wife and I consume vast quantities of Earl Grey tea bags, but we usually have something stronger for when guests come. After all, we are living in France!
Thank you, Father, for your reflections.