Monday, 15 May 2017

Anglican or non-Anglican that is the question

Political debate within the church just highlights to me how far we need to progress towards living in Christ even after all these years.  I have been reading lately a book that criticises the spate of managerialism that is apparent in the Anglican polity, particularly the English church.  At the same time I have also read with interest a recent post with regards to the prospect of a breakaway evangelical Anglican Church.  In both these cases I find that there appears to be a lack, a lack of some form of perspective that says that we are Anglican.  The first example is perhaps not as bad as the second but my underlying issue is the same.  It is an issue that crops up time and time again in all manner of situations and if we belong to the "Anglican" denomination in any form we need to make sure that we are being Anglican.

Anglicanism is a strange denomination in many respects perhaps not least is that it arose in England.  It is generally understood that the trilateral of Anglicanism is Scripture, Tradition and Reason which helps us to come to grips and handle theological dissent of one form or another.  (The more structural side of Anglicanism is founded on the Quadritlateral and the Instruments of Communion not something of interest at the present time.)  These three legs as it were are there to guide our reflections and try to be loving neighbours in as honest a way as is possible when our wants and desires push our neighbour away.  In allowing this to occur Anglicans are constantly in tension with the two ends of a spectrum.  The Catholic end draws us towards a more Catholic understanding of the central focus of the sacramental nature of the church with its rites and liturgical flair.  The Evangelical end draws us towards a literalism in biblical interpretation and a following based on Jesus.  Both ends appeal to various sections of society but the Anglican says "Both ends are true so how do we hold those truths in a manner that honours both."  How does the evangelical Anglican come to understand that the Catholic Anglican has as much truth as do they?

Holding the tension takes effort and is not easy

We are honest with each other and we respect and love each other as neighbours in the true sense.  Frustration from one end of the spectrum because they are not being 'heard' or that they are not getting 'advancement' sounds too much like the attitude of a spoilt and insecure child.  At baptism our Godparents and at confirmation, we, take vows that say "I reject selfish living".  If we are not getting our way and we go of on a rant or a tirade or we are going to split of and form our own Anglican church, is just selfish living on our part.  If we are incapable of working with the tension of the via media of Anglicanism then surely we cannot create a new Church and call ourselves 'Traditional Catholic Anglicans' or 'Evangelical Anglicans'.  In promoting a single view from one end or the other then we need to lose the 'Anglican' because we are not, we become an 'Evangelical' church the same as any other 'Evangelical church'.  Anglicanism implies the middle tension not the extreme ends of our beliefs.

Sometimes when tension is high the elastic breaks, what we need most in the Anglican church at present is a theological voice (and here I agree with my first example) that holds the tension and brings the ends into conversation.  This may mean discerning the voices that can speak from either end and including them in the leadership so that all are 'heard'.  In the tension of relationship that is Anglicanism we so often forget that community is formed by listening to the outside voice and discerning, not adamantly stating, God's calling.  From my view point the stridency of various claims from each end in the Anglican church is an act of selfishness.  Only when we can move away from our cherished and strongly held understandings, do we start to become truly Christ centred.  We put aside our Bibliathan and Jesusian and Incensian selfish understandings and begin to put God where God belongs at the centre of our lives.

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