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.
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’.
We’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.
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