The following was originally a comment:
The accuracy of my report that Anglicanorum Coetibus is in response primarily to an old request from FiF/UK took me by surprise. I assumed everyone knew that FiF/UK was first in line, and did the closest work at the end.
This was reported earlier:
NOT everyone was bewildered. The Revd Geoffrey Kirk, secretary of Forward in Faith — who will be standing down next year, after an “annus horribilis” of ill-health — told the Assembly on Friday: “You will have wondered why the original agenda of this Assembly was so sketchy. Well, now you know.”
The statement from Rome was “not a bolt out of the blue”. It was an event long expected, for which many people had worked over the years. In 1992, Fr John Broadhurst, as he was then, had sent out a card to every priest on the mailing list asking him to affirm acceptance of the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church...The Bishops of Chichester and other bishops had made similar contacts, and FiF representatives had spent two days in January as guests of Cardinal Christoph Schönborn in Vienna. As they had departed for London, he had flown off to Rome.
“This is Plan B, emerging mercifully on cue as Plan A seems to have an increasingly uncertain future in the leglisative revision committee of the General Synod.”
The TAC was mentioned as also making a petition.
Ed has said that the TAC expect another set of Norms particular to them. The one point, however is that these cannot contradict the existing constitution and its norms, if indeed the prediction is true. Rome will not change precedent and the official doctrine with which it has bound itself.
I was asked earlier this evening if I regard acceptance of Anglicanorum Coetibus as a betrayal of Anglicanism. In the sense that we have never claimed to be the One True Church, but only a part of it (as we say about all other such parts) the answer cannot be yes in an open sense. But, in terms of the present time in which we live, as things are right now in history, yes it is a betrayal.
originally posted Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Considering the present issue, I have decided it is quite timely to post, for a second time, this essay. - Fr. Hart
We hope therefore that to reform ourselves, if at any time we have done amiss, is not to sever ourselves from the Church we were of before. In the Church we were, and we are so still. Other difference between our estate before and now we know none but only such as we see in Juda; which having sometime been idolatrous became afterwards more soundly religious by renouncing idolatry and superstition. If Ephraim “be joined unto idols,” the counsel of the Prophet is, “Let him alone.” “If Israel play the harlot, let not Juda sin.” “If it seem evil unto you,” saith Josua, “to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods whom your fathers served beyond the flood, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land ye dwell: but I and mine house will serve the Lord.” The indisposition therefore of the Church of Rome to reform herself must be no stay unto us from performing our duty to God; even as desire of retaining conformity with them could be no excuse if we did not perform that duty.
Notwithstanding so far as lawfully we may, we have held and do hold fellowship with them. For even as the Apostle doth say of Israel that they are in one respect enemies but in another beloved of God; in like sort with Rome we dare not communicate concerning sundry her gross and grievous abominations, yet touching those main parts of Christian truth wherein they constantly still persist, we gladly acknowledge them to be of the family of Jesus Christ; and our hearty prayer unto God Almighty is, that being conjoined so far forth with them, they may at the length (if it be his will) so yield to frame and reform themselves, that no distraction remain in any thing, but that we “all may with one heart and one mouth glorify God the Father of our Lord and Saviour,” whose Church we are.
Richard Hooker (1554-1600) wrote to defend the polity of the Church of England against the attacks of the Puritans who wanted to abolish every trace of Roman influence, and who had assumed that the episcopal polity of the Church of England was simply one of those "Romish" things that they wanted to dismantle. In a very lengthy Preface, Hooker criticizes "Calvin's Geneva Discipline" and other theories on how to reinvent the ecclesiastical wheel, tearing down Puritan assertions that their model was taught by scripture. In the process he became the first Anglican writer to provide certain things that have become a basic philosophy that contains features of theology foundational to Anglicanism. The need to weigh all doctrines by Scripture, with the aid of Right Reason and the Church with her Authority (or, as is customary to say today, Tradition- though he meant Polity as well), comes from a careful reading of his Laws of Ecclesiastical polity, as does the idea of the Via Media, not as some sort of compromise for peace, but as a different road altogether, to be taken for the sake of truth.
To appreciate Hooker, we need to remember the times in which he wrote. The nature of religious apologetics was far less polite and far more polemical in the Elizabethan Period than it is in our own ecumenically sensitive time (usually). To write a sweeping dismissal of "Papist" or "Romish" practices as consisting of idolatrous and superstitious abominations is not at all acceptable today (and indeed, it hinders communication and understanding). But, in Hooker's day, the possibility of reunion was the sort of thing that was potentially scandalous and dangerously controversial. His words aimed at something charitable shortly after a time in which "Papists " (to use the word of that period) had murdered Protestants in great numbers for heresy, and in which the Queen still considered obedience to the pope as treason punishable by death, that is, loyalty to a foreign prince who had sought to undermine her rule (i.e. kindle civil war and her execution). Nonetheless, in that period with all of its violence, we find in Hooker the reasonable and pacific attitude that would become characteristic of Anglicanism at its best.
In the above passage, Hooker affirms principles that were unique among Reformation churches.
First of all, Hooker affirmed the antiquity of the Church of England, and the fact that no new church had been formed. "We hope therefore that to reform ourselves, if at any time we have done amiss, is not to sever ourselves from the Church we were of before. In the Church we were, and we are so still." Even though Archbishop Matthew Parker (if not Cranmer before him) could have been considered the first of his line, this was not the position of the Church of England. Instead, Archbishop Matthew Parker was the 77th Archbishop of Canterbury. It was the same Church that had been established at the Council of Hertford in 673 A.D., when the ancient Celtic British and the Anglo-Saxon Christians came together in unity as Ecclesia Anglicana (not at the earlier Council of Whitby in 664, though it had laid the necessary foundation). This first unique principle was, therefore, no new church but rather continuity of identity.
The second thing was principle. The 39 Articles state very simply that the Church of Rome has erred. So, Hooker's words: "In like sort with Rome we dare not communicate concerning sundry her gross and grievous abominations." The English Reformers rejected ideas and practices that were either taught by Rome or allowed by Rome, not in an effort to turn away from the Catholic Faith, but instead to purge it of errors, and get back to its essentials. This kind of thinking is principled where some modern forms of ecumenism fail. The sloppy ecumenism of the Charismatic Movement comes to mind, in which unity was simply assumed by means of ignoring or explaining away genuine points of disagreement. If theological principles are unimportant, eventually moral principles must also fall by the wayside. Without the honesty that this form of principled stand requires, no real efforts toward unity will ever be possible, because no true discussion will take place. The Anglican position was that these principles mattered, but unique to Anglicanism was the notion that these were errors within the Church. The other churches of the Reformation dismissed the Church of Rome altogether as a false or fallen church, even as Antichrist. Not so Hooker, setting the position that would prevail in Anglican thinking.1
Finally, the Anglican position as stated by Hooker was unique in that it held forth the hope of reunion. So he said: "yet touching those main parts of Christian truth wherein they constantly still persist, we gladly acknowledge them to be of the family of Jesus Christ; and our hearty prayer unto God Almighty is, that being conjoined so far forth with them, they may at the length (if it be his will) so yield to frame and reform themselves, that no distraction remain in any thing, but that we 'all may with one heart and one mouth glorify God the Father of our Lord and Saviour,' whose Church we are." It has been argued by anti-Anglican apologists that the Church of England was no different from the other Reformation churches because they never officially "unchurched" the Lutherans or Calvinists. Never mind the fact that (despite much fiction to the contrary) the polity of the Church of England did not allow the functions of ordained ministry to any man unless and until he was ordained by a bishop in Apostolic Succession, a fact that, in itself, teaches the limits of their confidence in the sacraments of the continental European Protestants. What matters in Hooker's writing is that he never "unchurched" the Church of Rome. Furthermore, although in embryonic form, he sets down the goal to someday establish unity with the Church of Rome, a serious effort that would get underway long after his death.
At this time one group of Anglicans who may be able to go forward in that effort is the TAC. Of course, it would require the resignation of Archbishop Hepworth from his position (as he knows and has stated himself). Most of us are not able to speak intelligently about what exactly their plan is, or maybe simply their hope. Speculation and rumor do not help us get to the facts, and neither do panic or suspicion. However, certain things are obvious, not the least of which is this: When (or if) an answer comes from Rome it will not lead to immediate action, but to discussion. This discussion will have to be theological, because it would involve polity and liturgy.
In recent months I have posted a few things aimed at fellow Anglicans who lack confidence in their own heritage as legitimate and validly Catholic, mainly because it is clear that they have learned only from Roman Catholic sources, and have completely lost sight of Anglican principles. RC bloggers have beaten up quite a few of them mentally. And, the weakened state of the official Anglican Communion is enough to depress them, leading to despair that any good thing could ever come from that Nazareth. And, in some ways other Anglicans add to the confusion by losing all proper sight of the via media, becoming either just like modern Evangelicals as extreme low churchmen, or nose-bleed high Anglo-Catholics who live in constant fear of anything that seems "Protestant," forgetting that it is not the opposite of "Catholic."
This fear of anything "Protestant" is easily exploited by people who see the same terms employed by Lutherans or Calvinists as by Anglicans, not realizing that often the overlapping of phrases was inevitable, and that most of these instances were a continuation of theological debate among Catholics in the west that preceded the Reformation period. Sometimes, what they perceive as "Calvinist" is Augustinian, Dominican and even Thomist. The overlapping of terminology was inevitable, but one thing remains certain. The 39 Articles and other Anglican formularies were not Lutheran or Calvinist, nor were most of the terms employed in them unique to Protestantism at all.
If efforts to achieve unity do continue between the TAC and Rome (or any serious body of Anglicans and Rome, and/ or Orthodoxy) I urge consideration of these few principles I have gleaned here from Richard Hooker. If, for anybody, that involves studying Anglicanism all over again, or perhaps for the first time, it is well worth the effort. Our own baby should not be thrown out with the bathwater
1. Indeed, in the same chapter One of Book III, Hooker dismisses Calvin's extreme position on the children of the Church of Rome as, to use his exact word, "crazed"- as in, crazy.