Tuesday, July 18, 2006

from TLC: No Longer Catholic

Thanks to Fr. Jake for this link. The article is by Gary Kriss, who is a member of my own diocese. I don't know him personally.

Although by and large I like this article, there are a couple of needs for correction. First, the Elizabethan settlement never 'comprehended' anything. This is a common misconception about the settlement (so I don't blame Fr. Kriss for it), that it initiated the Anglican identity in 'comprehension for the sake of truth.' This is revisionist history; that is, reading something into history that wasn't there the first time 'round. The Elizabethan settlement was not, in fact, theological in nature -- it was merely an oath of conformity to CofE doctrine and practice and an oath of alligience to the English crown. It was a very partizan thing, in those days. People who would not take the oath were looked on as suspect citizens, though it was not in itself grounds for arrest, as I understand it. If there is any thing vaguely resembling 'comprehension' there, it would be found in the fledgling recognition that although the sovereign was willing to command men's bodies in a minimum standard of behavior, their souls and theological minds could remain their own; that is, so long as they didn't communicate their heresies to anyone. The metaphor we should use to properly understand the Elizabethan settlement is not an exoskeleton, that defines the boundaries of what is 'comprehended'; but rather an endoskeleton, that defines the shape of the core and from which growth may go outward. This is, I think, the essence also of Catholicism. It is a minimum standard -- the Apostolic doctrine and the Apostolic leadership -- which, if held to tightly, allows for a great deal of growth and exploration and expression outward. If Kriss is right and TEC has abandoned its hold to the endoskeleton of a commitment to Catholicism, both in doctrine and leadership, then we can expect the shape of TEC to be something along these lines.

Second, a correction, an opinion, about the Network -- I'm not so sure Kriss's read of the Network's motivation is accurate. They are not merely Evangelical, such that what matters first and foremost is biblical doctrine and not the historic episcopate. He should know from being in the diocese of Albany -- our bishops are network bishops, and they are strongly catholic on this issue. I believe there is much more catholicism in the Network than Kriss fears. That's been my experience, anyway. Make what you will of it.


father wb said...

I think there is more catholicism among evangelical Anglicans -- at least among evangelical Anglican clergy -- than most people admit. My impression is that the most destructive aspects of Evangelicalism (receptionism, a disregard or contempt for catholic order, an exclusive commitment to Biblical literalism, bourgeois prejudices, etc.) comes more from the laity -- especially from "converts" who have not been long nurtured by Anglican doctrine and piety, and who perhaps only go to an Anglican church accidentally, because it is THE happening evangelical church in town.

But most evangelical priests I've encountered hold to a fairly robust sacramental doctrine and devotion, and something very close to a catholic understanding of catholic order. Much more so than, for example, the puritan-leaning C of E clergy of the 17th and 18th centuries. Perhaps the lessons of the Oxford movement have been internalized. Perhaps this is their real legacy.

These obviously are generalizations based on my experience in ECUSA. It might not hold true in other parts of the Communion.

koenigsfreunde said...

Dear Thorpus,
The link to Fr. Kriss's article is wrong. It should be this. I love the boneless chicken ranch!

I consider myself an evangelical catholic. It would mean that my sensibilities are lower church than you (or Fr WB), but I would certainly not consent to something lay presidency at the Eucharist (as the Diocese of Sydney would want it). However, I would prioritize evangelical distinctives over catholic ones. So consider me one of the good evangelicals in your book.

I would remind Anglo-Catholics that the sections of the Windsor Report that dealt with communion ecclesiology and the teaching of the NT were probably written mostly by Bp. Tom Wright of Durham. As a Scripture scholar, Wright represents evangelical churchmanship at its best. A faithful and competent reading of Scripture can and should lead to a robust ecclesiology, rather than the other way around.

As WB points out, the "most destructive aspects of Evangelicalism" come from their laity. It's been noted for a long time by many sociological studies of evangelicalism that these destructive aspects are symptomatic of poor theological/biblical literacy. Perhaps this arises because many of these "bad apples" are new converts. At any rate, a charitable read of evangelicalism would have to take these factors into account.


texanglican said...

I, too, would like to think that evangelical Anglican clergy are more sympathetic to Catholic theology and practice than their forebears of previous centuries. But one counter-indicator might be the increasing emphasis on the 39 Articles as a doctrinal standard among evangelical Anglicans. (It is a deeply Reformed document that contains articles that originally targeted certain Catholic practices [benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, invocation of the saints in prayer, etc] and teaching ["the intermediate state" aka Purgatory, etc.]. Trinity Episc. School for Min.'s Statement of Faith, for example, privileges the 39 Articles as a summary of "historic Christianity," apparently on a par in value with the Catholic Creeds! http://www.tesm.edu/
admissions/application ). Granted, in the nineteenth century Anglo-Catholics found a way to read the 39 Articles that they could tolerate, but the present evangelical tendancy to view a document with a notably partisan tone as authoritative is not very eirenic, on the face of it. Have I misread this? If the comments above are correct, why pick a potentially anti-Catholic document as a basis for doctrinal discipline, as the Theological Statment proposed by the Network and its Common Cause partners does? I know of at least two former priests of my diocese who recently swam the Tiber who insist that there is no future for Anglo-Catholics within the Network for specifically this reason. It is quite worrying.

Jody said...

To all, I agree there is more catholicity amongst evangelicals than many would admit--but the catholicity there is doubtless has its roots in biblical and theological literacy... this is for the same reason that I'm sure many dyed in the wool Anglo-Catholics are going to be more evangelical than they would admit, because there are always times and places when our party lines break down because of faithfulness to the gospel.

To attempt an answer at Texanglican's question, as to the emphasis on the 39 articles, I believe that it comes from the same place an emphasis on the 1662 BCP comes from: a desire to turn back the clock before all this mumbo jumbo started and a belief that the Nicene and Apostles creeds simply aren't explicit enough, i.e. there are post-modern liberals who will affirm every statement of the creeds, and then forward a preposterous interpretation of them... as a result there is, as there always is in a time of conflict, a push for more clarity and confessional statements that clerify who "we" are and what "our" interpretation of a given doctrine is or should be. I personally find very little that is overly offensive about the articles and I consider myself an evangelical catholic. That said, I understand the concerns of my more Anglo-Catholic brothers and sisters whose piety is expressly condemned within them. I believe the articles should be accepted as a statement of an Anglican way of stating beliefs, and of doing theology, but that they should not necessarily be binding in all areas. Instead, I would like to see the orthodox gather and present a contemporary statment that addresses the theological issues over which we are dividing.

I will also say that I am more troubled by the neglect, if not wholesale rejection, of the Scottish-American liturgical tradition, with its important eucharistic theology which is lacking in the 1662. I would think this too would be an issue amongst Anglo-Catholics.

mmbx said...

Tee!hee!hee! That chicken cartoon cracks me up, Fr. T.! Thanks for my grin of the day.

I'd rather not say said...

First (just to be provocative), I'm an anglo-catholic who thinks Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament is a western innovation that should be banned, just as the Articles call for. You would never see something like Benediction, a ceremony that grew out of the practice of non-communicating masses, in an Orthodox church. "Catholic" is not "Tridentine."

Second, on the Articles:


Third, I note that the "Proposed Theological Statement of the Common Cause Partners" is actually a fairly catholic document, so much so that it is a cause for concern for an evangelical such as Peter Toon. See


father thorpus said...

I wasn't required to swear to the 39 Articles in either ordination ceremony, and they've always been explained to me as guidelines, not a confession. Granted, they were probably given much more authority when they were written. It's interesting to look at the history of the 39 Articles and how they were accepted. Cranmer wrote an original 42, but only 39 made the Elizabethan cut. Remember, all our talk about the broad, tolerant Elizabethan church is bunk -- read Stripping the Altars by Eamon Duffy. The Elizabethan church was strongly Calvinist, but with a firm undercurrent of Catholicism. Here's a nice collection of quotes descibing the way the Articles have been intended to be read:
They all point out that the Articles partake of the same spirit that defined the Elizabethan settlement; namely, that the CofE is and ought to be superficially Reformed (these are 'safe' doctrines) but we recognize that there's a strong undercurrent of Catholicism whose proponents we're really not willing to exclude, so we, in like manner as the Elizabethan settlement, demand outer conformity while allowing inner freedom.

It's this attitude that leads many of us to say that we've never been required to believe the Articles, that they've never had the authority of a confession or creed. At the same time, it's a legitamate argument to say that they ARE authoritative, at least for official church doctrine and practice.

I'd rather not say said...

I wasn't required to swear to the 39 Articles in either ordination ceremony, and they've always been explained to me as guidelines, not a confession.

But you were required to swear to the doctrine of the Episcopal Church, yes? It is at least arguable that this includes the Articles.

father thorpus said...

I was required to swear and sign an oath of conformity to the doctrine and discipline of the Episcopal Church, and that I believed the Old and New Testaments to contain all things necessary for salvation.

What does this mean? It is first an oath of conformity with reference to TEC, not of belief or loyalty -- same thing as the Elizabethan oath. Second, as per my bishop's instructions, the oath is to be interpreted according to the question on p. 526: "Will you be loyal to the doctrine, discipline, and worship of Chrsit as this Church has received them?" Not 'as it has altered them' or 'as it understands them now.' This oath refers to the faith once delivered to TEC and does not bind us to innovations that lead outside orthodoxy. Third, the ordination service is very clear that our first responsibility is to Christ, not to TEC as an institution or even to our bishops. Note again the question on p. 526: "doctrine, discipline, and worship OF CHRIST." And note the required answer: not a simple 'yes', but "I am willing and ready to do so." The ordination service leaves just enough room for conscience that if TEC decided to worship Satan or Sophia or some such detestable enormity, its clergy would not be bound to follow the institution to the dearth of their souls or those of their flocks.

It is a basic principle in the scripture, particuarly in Paul, and the basis for all our traditional Anglican freedoms, 'each man's soul's his own' -- that is, that each individual will in the end stand before Christ and have to give an account of his soul. "Just following orders" or "my denomination made me do it" won't cut it. TEC's claims to Catholicity are of just this order of things: our souls depend upon valid sacraments and ministries; these in turn depend upon Catholicity. If TEC is no longer Catholic, we have a problem.

Right now I think we're still Catholic but not intentionally so (ala Kriss's article).