Wednesday, June 08, 2005

anglo-catholic self-criticism

The following are my responses to P. Goings' responses to a previous post.

The comments and questions were helpful, clarifying, and insightful.

After we've gotten our "Network" province in the U.S. how long will it be before we're hearing accusations of "idolatry" and "bread worship" from some pulpits?

Speaking only from my experience (which, I admit, is pretty limited), I'd say that most theologically informed evangelicals are pretty receptive to catholic praxis, without caring to avail themselves of it. Most (again, in my experience) tend to have a high-ish sacramentalism, at least as compared with, for example, Presbyterians. Some are suspicious of certain catholic practices, usually the invocation of saints and the veneration of relics, but if we could come to agree that these are aidiaphora, we would have made a huge intra-communion eccumenical leap. And I think that such agreement is well within the realm of possibility.

Maybe that's largely due to agreement on moral issues between catholics and evangelicals, but maybe we could consider agreement on moral issues to be not merely superficiem, but a segue to a deeper theological rapprochement -- maybe the agreement will provide a more charitable basis for approaching the issues addressed (comparatively uncharitably) by the various parties to the Elizabethan settlement.

It's only the prissy anglophilia of some anglo-catholics which has prevented them from embracing some aspects of spirituality often associated with evangelicals.


True, but I don't think its properly just anglophilia. Its also a philos for the accountrements of catholic practice, and a concomitant neglect of the substance of catholic theology -- the temptation here is to a naive ritualism, and its very real among anglo-catholics. How could it not be? The accountrements are truly good and beautiful. This is the sort of temptation to which we acquiesce when we self-righteously (and loudly) storm out of a "mass" when we notice the celebrant is a woman. I've known people who delight in doing that. I've done it once or twice myself.

You're perfectly right to point out that anglo-catholicism is being true to itself when it gratefully acknoweldges the consolations of the spiritual life; that its not just conceding ground to evangelical enthusiasm. But again, there can be a temptation to stodginess among anglo-catholics (and again, I'm often guilty of this) which is just a prideful, emotional bulwark against what we often erroneously regard as the erosion of catholic identity by evangelical sentamentalism.

I would also like to see some clarification about what it means "to dwell on such things" as you reckon it.


First of all, I was talking about the aesthetics of anglo-catholicism, not its ascetics -- though what I mean could really be said of either.

By "dwelling on such things" I just mean that aesthetics (incense, candles, Pallestrina, damask, etc.) as well as ascetical practices are all means to an end. When we lose sight of the end (salvation, deification, the beatific vision, union, etc.), we can become satisfied with our accomplishment of the means, and pride slips in. So not to "dwell on" these things is just to remember that they are not ends in themselves, and that we should therefore insist on nothing but the end which they serve (though we can and ought gratefully to avail ourselves of the means).

But this also means that we should be happy to receive communion from a godly Evangelical priest vested in a cassock alb, but duly ordained in the succession, etc., if we should find ourselves in such a situation. Some anglo-catholics will shreak and faint away, like a Bond Street dandy, if an acoustic guitar appears at mass. They shouldn't act like that.

I think that it's better in this case to look to the interpretations of Holy Scripture which we have from classical anglicanism, roman catholicism, and eastern orthodoxy than to start from scratch.

I agree completely. I just mean that we cannot really listen to the teachings on scripture that come from our mediate ecclesial context, because those teachings are woefully inadequate at best, and in many cases flatly apostate. Individuals ought to read the bible for themselves, but they ought to read it within the interpretive framework, as you say, of (in our case) historical anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy.

7 comments:

Paul Goings said...

WB,

Thanks for the comments and answers. I'd say that we're in agreement on most things. Some further reflections:

I'd say that most theologically informed evangelicals are pretty receptive to catholic praxis, without caring to avail themselves of it.

And if that held true generally, I think I'd have a much higher comfort level with the idea of a "Network" province. However previous correspondence with Dr Peter Toon and some of what I read on places like Virtue Online, T19, and MCJ leads me to believe that there would be significant issues. In any event, if there is to be unity these things must be discussed up front, and agreed to by all.

Paul Goings said...

Its also a philos for the accountrements of catholic practice, and a concomitant neglect of the substance of catholic theology--the temptation here is to a naive ritualism, and its very real among anglo-catholics.

A very real problem which I believe is entirely based in faulty (or non-existent!) catechesis. It's very severe in places, and needs to be aggressively addressed, but it shouldn't be used as an excuse to modify the use of ceremonial or ritual.

Paul Goings said...

This is the sort of temptation to which we acquiesce when we self-righteously (and loudly) storm out of a "mass" when we notice the celebrant is a woman. I've known people who delight in doing that. I've done it once or twice myself.

Well, the example you give is not that good (it's not in any way a question of aesthetics) in my opinion--you offer a better one later--but you're right to say that nothing excuses that sort of behavior. That situation happened once to my wife and I--on the day after our marriage. We stayed until the offertory and then left quietly. Fortunately the R.C. church in the town we were driving to had an evening mass, so we assisted at that later in the day.

Paul Goings said...

But again, there can be a temptation to stodginess among anglo-catholics (and again, I'm often guilty of this) which is just a prideful, emotional bulwark against what we often erroneously regard as the erosion of catholic identity by evangelical sentamentalism.

I reassert that this is not true everywhere. Come to S. Clement's for the Sacred Heart; you'll quickly find that we have no problems at all with "evangelical sentimentalism."

When we lose sight of the end (salvation, deification, the beatific vision, union, etc.), we can become satisfied with our accomplishment of the means, and pride slips in.

Absolutely.

But this also means that we should be happy to receive communion from a godly Evangelical priest vested in a cassock alb, but duly ordained in the succession, etc., if we should find ourselves in such a situation.

Certainly. Why wouldn't you?

Paul Goings said...

Some anglo-catholics will shreak and faint away, like a Bond Street dandy, if an acoustic guitar appears at mass. They shouldn't act like that.

No they shouldn't. I know the type. Note that most of the anglo-catholics who would behave in such a manner generally have no interest in the spiritual life beyond the "Sunday Opera." They're not really anglo-catholics to begin with.

J-Tron said...

But this also means that we should be happy to receive communion from a godly Evangelical priest vested in a cassock alb, but duly ordained in the succession, etc., if we should find ourselves in such a situation. Some anglo-catholics will shreak and faint away, like a Bond Street dandy, if an acoustic guitar appears at mass. They shouldn't act like that.

Interesting. One of the things that facinates me about some Anglo-Catholics is precisely this insistence that worship that involves different music or movement than these folks are used to is somehow less Catholic, regardless of the theology being preached or the rightly administered Eucharist at the heart of the service. It's particularly bizarre to me having spent the first 21 years of my life as a Roman Catholic. Anglo-Catholic worship, while interesting, is often completely foreign to me, whereas the kind of worship that some Anglo-Catholics scoff at is much more like the RC churches I grew up in.

we cannot really listen to the teachings on scripture that come from our mediate ecclesial context, because those teachings are woefully inadequate at best, and in many cases flatly apostate. Individuals ought to read the bible for themselves, but they ought to read it within the interpretive framework, as you say, of (in our case) historical anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy.

This too is a curious statement. Of course I agree with the second sentence. But I wonder how you justify the first in terms of your understanding of Catholic moral teaching. Does this mean that the official positions of the church to which you submit yourself are in no way binding on you personally because you believe they diverge from other, older teachings? If so, doesn't that leave you open to the same kind of criticism often levied against liberals, that they pick and choose what they want to follow and to ignore? Would you preach from the pulpit against positions--any position--explicitly taken by the Episcopal Church?

father wb said...

Good points, J-tron.

Re: the first: I think Roman Catholics, at least in this country, could learn a lot from Anglo-Catholics, aesthetically speaking. Yeah, it doesn't matter much if some people like electric guitars at mass. But there's something to be said for offering the Lord the best that we have, and I think Pallestrina is better than Matt Redman, in some objective sense. The point is that we shouldn't be snobs. We shouldn't look down on anyone because they want to sing "My God is an awesome God; he reigns..." etc. We should just have Pallestrina whenever we have anything to say about it. But when its not up to us, we should offer the Lord whatever's available. De gustibus non disputandum est.

Re: the second point: Yeah, there's certainly a lot of ECUSA mess I would not preach, and might explicitly preach against, were I to find myself in a situation necessitating such. The problem (or the blessing, depending on how one looks at it) is that there isn't really much in the way of ECUSA dogma. I mean, we might say that the ECUSA teaches permissiveness viz. homosexuality, but that doesn't come near anything like RC dogma.

But you're right. It does put (what I call) the orthodox, particulraly orthodox Anglo-Catholics, in something of a bind. I am in a real sense submitted to ECUSA in virtue of my ordination vows. Regarding the ordination of women, in which I do not believe, I reconcile the incongruity by not receiving from women, but not preaching against them, not carrying on about it among people with whom I disagree. If anyone asks, I'll certainly tell them what I think, but I recognize that I owe obedience to ECUSA and ECUSA thinks differently.

But this bears upon what I think is a common liberal falacy. One often hears the homosexual issue comapred to the ordination of women. But there's nothing wrong about being a woman and behaving as one. Indeed its a good thing to do. And indeed, I don't believe there's anything wrong with women being protestant ministers. So the problem is that ECUSA's teaching on women's ordination proclaims that those in charge of ECUSA understand the priesthood to be a kind of protestant ministry, and that is incorrect. So women priests is, to me, an incongruity. It is incorrect more than it is sinful.

But teaching permissiveness about homosexual practice is, I believe, to teach something explicitly proscribed by God in the scriptures, and confirmed (by the Holy Spirit) consistently in the Church's teaching on the matter for 2,000 years. And when it comes to me, I cannot in conscience proclaim sin to be non-sin -- no matter what the sin.

So yes, my obedience is to the Universal Church before it is to ECUSA. And when the two run up against one another, I'll go with Holy Mother Church every time. I reckon I won't be allowed to do that forever, but that's my plan until someone pitches me out.