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CaNN Commentary
June 25, 2007, 12:07 pm
Filed under: CaNN Commentary

They Have A Point

It’s probably a sign of utter bloghaustion, but we find ourselves somewhat agreeing with Anglicans Online again.

The title of ‘orthodox’ Anglican is claimed by many and various stripes of evangelicals, charismatics, Anglo-Baptists, Anglo-Catholics; it encompasses (on the American and Canadian scene) divorce & remarriage, contraception, abortion, the ordination of women to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate, Sola Fide & Icons and Marian devotions, the Book of Common Prayer and modernist liturgies– you get the idea. Included in this is the fact that a lot of ‘traditional Anglicans’ agree rather more in what they are against, not what they stand for.

Anglican Orthodoxy has become a self-appointed title, including a grab-bag of ideas and practices. This embodies the war in the heart of English Christianity from the turbulent and violent start of the English Reformation, with the battle of Catholic, reformist and ultra-protestant ideas for supremacy.

The question remains for Anglican ‘orthodoxy’– By What Authority? How is Anglican conservative pick-and-choosery different in principle from the pick-and-choosery of Anglican liberals? How are we not both sectarians, even if a few more items in our grab-bag have some pedigree to them, and agreement with the fullness of Christian tradition? Liberal Anglicans (like most of the broad-churchy Anglican Onliners) are the twins of conservative Anglicans in so many ways. General Synod or General Convention are the symptoms, not the disease.

As Anglicans Online points out, Orthodoxy belongs to Eastern Catholicism and Western Catholicism first of all. Theirs are the Scriptures, the Fathers, the Creeds, the first worship and praises of God in Christ. For them, being “in communion” is about agreement in the faith once delivered, and then, being “In Christ”, about receiving his body and blood as a living part of his One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

This is the big question quietly lurking behind all the storms and tribulations of our Anglican situation. After all, if the liberals were all to become ‘orthodox’ Anglican, what would that church look like? How would it avoid falling back into the same problems that beset us now? How are we catholic Christians, and not a collection of sectarians in impaired relationship with one another, and with the wider church?

Being “in communion” with Abuja or Kampala or Sydney instead of Canterbury doesn’t answer the question.


CaNN WebMaster

Hallo again to all.

It’s become common for Anglicans who are not comfortable with the contemporary church to refer to themselves as ‘orthodox’. That venerable word when applied to Christians has several meanings in the dictionary, but the generally accepted meaning of that word seems to be ‘Of or relating to any of the churches or rites of the Eastern Orthodox Church’.

Jesus, an orthodox imageWe’ve attended services at Eastern Orthodox churches (which didn’t use the word Eastern in describing themselves) and didn’t get a sense that there was much similarity between the newly-named Orthodox Anglican and the [Eastern] Orthodox. We turned to the library to read and learn more about the [Eastern] Orthodox.

Our Greek is a little rusty, so we were glad to find an English translation of The Divine Liturgy of our father among the saints John Chrysostom.* Its introduction begins with this quote from Archbishop Gregorios:

‘The holy Liturgy is the cornerstone on which our Church depends and continues its mission throughout the world.’

and then goes on to note that

The Liturgy, then, must be at the heart of the life of the Church, of each Parish, of each Community. The holy Liturgy is not simply one of the activities of a parish, it is the reason for its existence. … The mission of Orthodox Christians is to proclaim God’s Kingdom, and this is done above all by the celebration of the holy Liturgy. Through the celebration of the Liturgy Christ and his love for mankind are made present in the world. This celebration is the common task of all the members of the People of God.

It seems to us that the usual intended meaning of the phrase ‘Orthodox Anglican’ is focused more on Biblical literalism than on the Tradition of Orthodoxy.

We read the entire book, fascinated. We’re confident that the liturgy written down in this book has been properly preserved from the earliest days of the Christian church, probably predating scripture by a century. In the very beginning, as we understand it, the goal of the church was to preserve what believers had been taught by the Twelve, to memorize the liturgy and preserve and protect it for the future. But Liturgy — Λειτ-ουργία, the work of the people of God,

is not a ‘spectator sport’ in which the Priest, Deacon, Servers and Singers are the players and the congregation the audience or viewers. … Together we proclaim our Faith, together we call on God as ‘Our Father’. We do not come to the Liturgy as isolated individuals; we are there as … the members of the Body of Christ.

All of this sounds quite the way we think a church should be, and though to us the descriptive ‘Anglican’ implies a liturgical focus, perhaps the liturgy in our church is not exactly as handed down through the centuries, we suspect and hope that it’s close enough to keep God from thinking we’ve gone astray.

The Anglican Church to which we belong is not a church of law or Biblical literalism but of living liturgy in communion with the Saints, balanced among scripture, tradition, and reason. We wouldn’t presume to use the word Orthodox to describe our church; it’s already taken to mean something else, after all, but we think that we oughtn’t let our present-day squabbles interfere with our understanding of what the word Orthodox really means, and meant to the generations of saints who spent their lives preserving that tradition of the Liturgy.

See you next week. And the week after that, and another.


12 Comments so far
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By what authority? By the authority of a plain reading of scripture. Scripture trumps tradition (that’s what makes us protestant), and scripture trumps feelings (that’s what differentiates us from the reappraisers).

As for avoiding falling back into the problems that beset us now, I think there are two ways to do it: in the seminaries, and in the way we choose our Bishops. We need godly professors teaching future priests, and we need to change the way we choose our Bishops. As it stands now, we elect “nice” people to be Bishop; we need to be choosing godly people. As far as how we would go about doing this, unfortunately, I have absolutely no idea.

Comment by mrsfalstaff

You’ve named the problem. There is no authority when your “trumping” sound is heard. That is why there is the multiplication of (protestant!) denominations. Each one gets to decided what “a plain reading of scripture” looks and sounds like. Each one gets to decide what is “orthodox” and what is “adiaphora.” And so we wind up with our present situation.

Comment by dpc+

I think not. The reappraisers have to jump through intellectual hoops to stretch scripture to support their position. Are you suggesting that tradition should have authority over scripture? That makes little sense – tradition is man made, and corruptible.

Comment by mrsfalstaff

I also find it kind of interesting that the reapraiser types are balking at our use of the word “orthodox”, when liberals of all stripes are infamous for redefining words.

Comment by mrsfalstaff

Thank you mrsfalstaff for including me in the “our use of the word”! I’m suggesting that “the liberal/reappaiser types” are doing nothing different than the Baptists, Disciples, Church of God, Presbyterian, etc, etc, have done and are doing.
I’m not suggesting that “tradition should have authority over scripture” but that they must work in complementarity. That is the orthodox way. That which has been “handed down (the paradosis)” (see 1Cor. 11:2) is “the pillar and ground of truth” (1 Tim 3:15): viz the Church. In orthodoxy there is a congruency between “tradition” and “scripture” and it is reasonable.
I completely agree with you about the propensity of some to completely redefine words. My daughter (when she was 9) once asked whether a ‘gay’ bishop was one who really enjoyed what he was doing…

Comment by dpc+

Well, from my perspective, it is different. But I suppose they all do say that, don’t they? My prayer is that the centre will hold, and that the orthodox Anglicans in North America will remain in communion both wtih the Global South Anglican churches and with Canturbury. However, if Cantaur denies the gospel – well, faithfullness to God takes priority over unity.

English is a complex language – but in my own correspondence, I use Orthodox to mean Eastern Orthodox churches, and orthodox when refering to orthodox Anglicanism. When one is refering to the Orthodox church, “Orthodox” is taking the part of a proper noun, a name. It is nothing new for an english word to mean different things in different contexts.

On an unrelated point,as an evangellical Anglican protestant, (and an off topic one – perhaps if you wish to address it it would be better if you emailed me privately) I am suspicious of that which has been “handed down”. How has it been handed down, and how has it been protected from corruption?

As far as what your daughter asked you was concerned – how delightful! How did you answer the question?

Comment by mrsfalstaff

[…] In a recent commentary, the Binks admits: The title of ‘orthodox’ Anglican is claimed by many and various stripes of evangelicals, charismatics, Anglo-Baptists, Anglo-Catholics; it encompasses (on the American and Canadian scene) divorce and remarriage, contraception, abortion, the ordination of women to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate, Sola Fide, Icons and Marian devotions, the Book of Common Prayer and modernist liturgies– you get the idea. Included in this is the fact that a lot of ‘traditional Anglicans’ agree rather more in what they are against, not what they stand for. […]

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I see that CaNN has gone – the domain name has been taken. Is this the end of CaNN……..?

Comment by Peter

On the actual question posed – yes, one of the great weaknesses of protestantism in general is ‘personal interpretation’ over ‘tradition’. On the other hand one of the great weaknesses of Catholicism is ‘tradition’ over ‘personal interpretation’.

To put it another way, both emphasis have inherent weaknesses – we never met anything we couldn’t corrupt and idolise.

So, on one side I see denominational splits that I lament. On the other side I see teachings in the form of ‘tradition’ that I cannot see any real justification for other than that is the tradition.

On one side I see the lack of authority, on the other I see an ‘infallible’ authority.

So when I see folks swimming the Tiber I think ‘good for them’, but it seems to me like jumping from the fying pan and into the fire.

Wouldn’t it be good if we could all take the best of what we are, jettison the worst, and become the Church God desires us to be?

I think that will take a miracle, though. Fortunately, we have a God who can do just that :-)

Comment by Peter

While I’m at it, the other thing that puzzles me is the insistance on Bishops being connected in one unbroken line etc etc back to the apostles.

I don’t mind it at all, it sounds all well and good, but I don’t really understand the insistance and weight given to it.

Whenever I hear it emphasised and stressed, it just reminds me of the reply Jesus gave to those Pharisees who were claiming a long unbroken link back to Moses – something about raising stones etc.

Again, this unbroken line seems to be a good thing that can be move close to idolatry – well like I was saying, there is no good thing that we cannot corrupt and idolise etc….

Comment by Peter

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