September 22, 2005

Shadows of Unity

When I was in seminary I wrote a paper for R. William Franklin's church history course, in which I compared the lives and views of Dr. William Reed Huntington and Fr. Paul Wattson, founder of the Society of the Atonement at Graymoor. The essay was later published by the Society of the Atonement, with two responses, addressing my sometimes pointed critique of Fr. Paul's concepts and direction.
It occurs to me that we are engaged in a similar discussion at present as to which model for unity or communion is best, and so I'm providing a link to this essay for anyone who might be interested in a historical perspective.
Here is the precis of the paper:

In this paper I will examine two men and the models for church unity they proposed. This is a study in contrasts and shadows. The men themselves are shadows of each other: each perceived in the other a distortion of an ideal; each reacted to the divisions within the Episcopal Church in a different way, one by seeking common ground, the other by escape to higher ground. The models for church unity they proposed reflect their different backgrounds and outlooks, and respectively present an ethos centered in community and an ethos built upon authority. As such they reflect the ongoing tension between koinonía and episkopé that has marked the church from the days of Paul and Peter. The models have changed and been adapted over time by those who have adopted them, but the end of unity for which they were to serve as means seems still as shadowy as ever.
The first part of this paper compares and contrasts the lives and philosophies of the two men: one viewing the strength of the church welling up from the parish, the other looking to the See of Peter as the fons vitae for the health of the body. The second part summarizes the origins and development of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral and the Church Unity Octave. A brief concluding section comments on the current state of ecumenical affairs, and describes one glimmer of hope among the shadows of unity.

Read the rest at Shadows of Unity


Caelius said...

Father Haller--

I loved the essay. I never will look at the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral or the Octave of Christian Unity in the same way again.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Dear Friend from Afar,

I think you are quite correct that the so-called Instruments of Unity are a very recent invention, at least as such. (Whether they actually promote unity is another question; I would suggest that Lambeth and the Primates' Meeting at least rather offer opportunities for friction and the establishment of "authoritative" acts that they have no authority to enact or enforce, leading to further dissension and division. But that is another matter for another time.)

Historically, I can offer this brief survey of the origin of the "Instruments" simply as entities.

1. At the time of the first legislative movement towards the creation of the Episcopal Church as a discrete ecclesiastical entity (1785), a Constitution was proposed for adoption without a Preamble but with an enabling resolution beginning:

Whereas, in the course of Divine Providence, the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America is become independent of all foreign authority, civil and ecclesiastical....

(This echoes the language of the Preface to the Book of Common Prayer, which also refers to the necessary ecclesiastical independence of the Episcopal Church.)

2. Article XI of the same Constitution stated:

This General Ecclesiastical Constitution, when ratified by the Church in the different States, shall be considered as fundmental, and shall be unalterable by the Convention of the Church in any State.

3. At that time the only existing "instrument of unity" was the Archbishop of Canterbury.

4. The Preamble as it now stands was added to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church in 1967.

5. At that time, the only "instruments of unity" in existence were the ABofC and the Lambeth Conference (which dates from 1867).

6. The Anglican Consultative Council
achieved its formal status a year later in 1968; there had been an earlier less formal Consultative body).

7. The Primates Meeting is the latest of the "Instruments" to come into being. As a formal body it dates from 1978.

Now, following the normal rule of cause and effect, it could in no way be suggested that the "instruments of unity" herein described (and apparently first described as such in the 1988 "Virginia Report") are in any form "instruments" that led to the creation of the Anglican Communion. (I have already noted the question of their ability to serve as means to the preservation of unity.)

Canterbury is referred to in the Preamble to the Constitution of the Episcopal Church, and there is a canon on the election of representatives to the ACC. Lambeth is not mentioned, as far as I can find. The PB officially became a "Primate" some time in the 80s, when that distinction was added to the job description.

Finally, it must be noted that the Anglican Consultative Council, at its most recent meeting, adopted Resolution 2 that altered the terminology: the Archbishop of Canterbury is the "focus of unity" and the other three are more appropriately called "Instruments of Communion." This important distinction has passed largely unnoticed.