May 6, 2009

The Wrong Glue

Several sources report the Archbishop of Canterbury as having said he is looking for a more "cohesive" Anglican Communion.

And right there we have the nub of the problem. Cohesion is the natural process by which the identical molecules of a substance are bound together. It is distinguished from adhesion, in which different particles are held together.

It is an important distinction. The various provinces of the Anglican Communion, although sharing a great deal in common, are not simply identical units stamped from the same mold. Even on this continent, Mexico, the U.S., and Canada have their own distinctive character as churches, and are from from identical in many respects.

+Rowan has spoken time and again of his anguish lest the Anglican Communion be nothing but a federation. He really does appear to want a single unified world-church, made up of more or less interchangeable subunits. In his current remarks, he laments that the Anglican Communion as it was 20 years ago may not survive. That seems to me to be self-evident; but his proposal to move towards a more centrally organized entity than we had 20 years ago is not necessarily any more faithful to the Gospel, and involves as fundamental a transformation (if not more so), as a movement to a less centrally organized entity than we had 20 years ago. The movement towards networks less rigidly structured seems wise in trying times.

As I've noted before, there is a model for a world-church: the Roman Catholics have it down pat. As an entity, the Church of Rome is cohesive, bound by a single central canon law and government, a teaching authority, and all the rest that goes with it. Some four centuries ago the Church of England said No to this model, and set about to be a national church, governed within its own context — not without much pain. This reality brought to the larger church such things as the common cup and the vernacular liturgy — gifts the Church of Rome reluctantly and only finally accepted within living memory — as well as things like a married clergy and ordained women which she has yet to accept. And what has the world-church brought to Christendom in her role as the Sole Western Developer of Doctrine (as Newman saw it)? Papal infallibility, the Immaculate Conception, and the Assumption.

I hope the ACC, in its meetings this week, will not exchange the Anglican birthright for a "pot of message" — as C. S. Lewis once punned. Let them remember the motto of the Anglican Communion, inscribed around that precious compassrose: The Truth Shall Make You Free. (Emphasis mine.) It is for Freedom and in Truth that we bind ourselves together — in adherence to the Truth of Christ we shall be one, not because we are all the same (for the compass points in all directions), but because He is One, and we are One in Him.

Let Him be our Unity, not some man-made Babel of a Covenant, whose meaning is already shattering into a hundred tongues, and which offers cohesion only as adhesion by coercion.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG


Tay Moss said...

Preach it, brother!

Kirkepiscatoid said...

The Kirkepiscatoid corollary to your post:

"Glue's ok, but think twice before you use epoxy."

June Butler said...

He really does appear to want a single unified world-church, made up of more or less interchangeable subunits.

I'd be astounded if the ABC succeeded in gathering the Anglican Communion cats into a herd that would respond to a central authority. What is he thinking?

I love Lewis' "pot of message" and your "man-made Babel of a Covenant", Tobias.

What a great waste of time, effort and money has gone to move forward what was a misbegotten idea from the beginning.

Anonymous said...

"And what has the world-church brought to Christendom in her role as the Sole Western Developer of Doctrine?"

How about the three Ecumenical Councils of Trent, Vatican I, and Vatican II, plus the dogmatic formulations of the Assumption and Immaculate Conception? Nevermind the reclaiming of the Patristic era, the neoscholastics, and contemporary Catholic theologians. These are far more substantial contributions theologically than anything coming out of the CofE and its spawn in the past four centuries.

Meanwhile, you guys can't even figure out whether you are in communion with each other and whether sexual vice is "reasonable and holy."

RCs are pretty insular, but compared to Anglican navel-gazing we're but pikers.


Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Oh, Michael. I do begin to wonder at your reading comprehension skills. I think I mentioned the two Marian doctrines, no? As to V1 and V2, I think the former can have little to commend it, and the latter, while creative, didn't really bring anything new or brilliant to Christendom that hadn't been well articulated elsewhere previously. Of course, the RC's thought they were being incredibly progressive -- which just goes to show how insular and out of touch they were.

As to patristics, I think it is evident that the Anglicans were at the forefront of their recovery back in the 16th century -- which in part led to the Reformation. The Church of Rome only broke from its bondage to scholasticism (to the extent it has) in fairly recent years, and only made its peace with the East even more recently. Meanwhile the Episcopal Church, via Scotland, was already in dialogue with the Orthodox in the formulation of its liturgies, back in the 18th century.

I do not deny that there have been many fine RC theologians -- many of them silenced by the authorities.

As to your comment on vice -- well, you show your bigotry once again. It must be fun to be part of a world in which you never have to doubt the rightness of your point of view, so long as you toe the party line.

Matteo said...

If you tie two tomcats together by the tail, you have union, but you don't have unity.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Excellent image, Matteo. It reminds me that if you put a sandwich in a blender, it may still have all of the substance of a sandwich, but I wouldn't call it a sandwich any more!