May 26, 2017

Scenes from the Life of St Gregory the Great: Scene 2 — The English Mission

For the feast of Augustine of Canterbury, a dramatic reading of the correspondence between Gregory the Great and the Archbishop of Canterbury. With yours truly and Br Thomas Bushnell in the roles.

Of the Paradox of Anglican Tradition

It is a paradox of the Anglican Way that one of its traditional tenets is that tradition is unreliable as an independent source of authority. This paradox is evident in the works of the judicious Hooker (who never mentioned a three-legged stool) and the more authoritative Articles of Religion. Anecdotally, I have seen this paradox play out a number of times in religious community and the ecclesiastical life of the church. Time and again, people who come to religious life, or to positions of leadership in the church, expressing a desire to be under authority come to reject that authority when it proves either less than authoritative or authoritatively asserts something contrary to what they independently want to believe. It is as if they are saying, “I want to be told what to think,” but when they are told to think for themselves, or are told something they do not find congenial, dig in their heels or shake the dust from them. It has been my experience that the most schismatic and disobedient are the ones who profess to hate schism and claim obedience “to a higher authority” — code for “one that agrees with me.” They head off to seek a church or community which either tells them what to do, or places them at the apex of leadership.

Anglicanism, as it is expressed in The Episcopal Church, lives in this tension, and seeks to help people to find a mature faith growing from within rather than impressed from without. Instead of formation — molding the person to fit a necessary pattern — it is education — the drawing forth of insight, relying (it is true) on a framework, but trusting to the power of the indwelling Spirit to guide and nurture.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG