Thursday, August 03, 2006

Have Continuers Stepped too Far Ahead?

I draw your attention to an article by the Revd Dr Peter Toon over at the blog of the Prayer Book Society of the USA entitled "The Affirmation of St Louis (1977), The Anglican Communion Network and The Anglican Way."

I would welcome your comments on this piece, particularly on his conclusion:

"It is difficult to come to clarity on the question of whether the Affirmers in 1977 saw themselves as Anglo-Catholics committed to historic Anglicanism (as set forth for example in The Canadian Solemn Declaration of 1893 and printed in the 1962 Canadian BCP), who allowed their private and cherished opinions to influence their description of the Anglican Way in a kind of reactionary pendulum flow, OR that leaving the two mainline Churches provided the Anglo-Catholic participants with the opportunity to reform Anglicanism in a Rome-ward or perhaps Orthodox-ward direction and they took this opportunity to do so, believing they were forging a new and better path for others after them to walk in. If the latter then, it would appear, they are making their impact in ways never envisaged in 2006 through the Common Cause partners of The Network!

"Apparently for some Continuers today in the ACC, ACA, APA and APCK neither the doctrinal decrees of the Council of Trent nor the doctrine of The Articles should be considered confessional documents, but rather the doctrinal decrees of the first Seven Ecumenical Councils that are commonly recognized by Rome and the East, should be so regarded. This view allows Continuing Anglicanism to be both informed by the historical importance of the Articles and open to Roman Catholic (Tridentine) doctrine and liturgy as pious opinions, but not dogmas. The peculiarly English traditions of worship created in 1549 are central to this position in the Continuum, though some borrowing from Latin and Greek traditions is allowed when judged to be edifying to the English mind and spirit. This viewpoint is also said to be the reasonable trajectory of the "Caroline Divines." (The problem with this approach is that it is imaginary and it tends to create a form of religion which is that of a tiny minority alongside but not in with the fellowship of 80 millions of the Anglican Way in the Anglican Communion of Churches, and also not in with or part of historic Catholicism of East or West.)

"Certainly all reasonable people accept that The Affirmation of St Louis goes beyond the normal statement of The Anglican Way and thus cannot be signed or accepted by those who are committed to the classic Anglican Formularies as they are presented, for example, in The Solemn Declaration of 1893 of Canada and in the Constitution of The Church of England, the Anglican Church of Nigeria, and in virtually all other Anglican provincial constitutions and presented in many editions of The Prayer Book of 1662 around the world.

"The Network, it seems, faces a dilemma. If it embraces the Seventh Council and Seven Sacraments then it steps ahead of world Anglicanism and away from the historic Formularies of the Anglican Way. If it does not, then it will not apparently win the hearts of a very small group of Continuers for whom, it appears, the “extras” of the Affirmation count more than the solid center where they agree with the historic Reformed Catholicism of the Anglican Way.

"A suggestion --- Let those of The Network, who actually hold to the historic Formularies, seek to persuade the Continuers to hold their cherished views as private opinion not required church doctrine; and then there can be real progress towards common witness and aims on the basis of unity on Scripture and classic Formularies."


poetreader said...

There's a core issue here, which is in actuality a part of the reason the Affirmation became a bit more distinct in its statement of historically Catholic positions. That is the one issue that galvanized these AngloCatholics to band together and to become Continuers. That is, of course, the matter of female 'ordination'. It really isn't possible to draw closer to the Network while the Network continues to hold on to this novelty. Really the one thing that has distinguished Anglican Evangelicals from non-Anglicans has been commitment to an Apostolic ministry. This commitment has been the only real 'glue' to hold Anglo-Catholics and Anglican Evangelicals together in one church. With the abandonment of that, the 500 year arrangement that held these two strands together has vanished. I find this sad. I believe the healthy tension between the two outlooks has been constructive in the life of the church, but if that one link has been broken, the intense effort involved in finding softer and eirenic ways to express what Catholics find essential comes to seem unnecessary.

I find it sad that so many breathe a sigh of relief that we no longer need to put up with those people, but, at the same time I recognize that it's probably true that we don't need to.

Pray for the unity of Christians.


Anonymous said...

Well said, Ed. I think that there seems to be a denial among many who have stayed within the Canterbury fold that the real communion-breaking issue was the purported ordination of women. The current object of controversy, the homosexual issue, is merely a side-effect of a tendency (expressed beautifully on this site some months ago in 'It's about the Resurrection, Stupid') towards de-historicizing and 'spiritualizing' the actual historical and concrete facts of our faith (like the resurrection and the miracles) and at the same time reducing the spiritual elements of the faith to a concrete, 'social justice' pan-liberationist agenda ('forget doctrine, cure malaria'). The 'women's rights' (esp. to holy orders) push was part, a very visible part, of that. And we only have to read what's coming from the mouths of the RC ladies recently 'ordained' on a boat to see that the ordination of women comes with a whole different version of the faith. There might be yet another different version of the faith, one which doesn't really know what deacons, priests and bishops really are, or doesnt' care, and if the Affirmation separates the Continuers from that branch, perhaps it's too bad, and with prayer and witness only temporary.

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

I have some degree of sympathy for the Rev'd. Dr. Toon's concerns--I think he sees the classical Anglican comprehensiveness being lost. I'm personally don't believe this is done by embracing Nicea II, but perhaps it would be best to actually read through the declarations of the council and its canons and discuss what we mean by "accepting the council."

In the Eastern Orthodox Churches the embrace of Nicea II means more than just a rejection of iconoclasm, it means a directed veneration of icons. The normal custom upon entering an Anglican church is a bow or genuflection to the altar (the throne of the heavenly grace), in the Orthodox churches it is the kissing of a centrally placed icon. As an Anglican priest I can celebrate a valid Eucharist without a cross upon the altar; in an Orthodox parish I believe there are a minimum number of icons needed to properly celebrate the Divine Liturgy. Many Anglican parishes (APA, APCK, ACA, ACC) have nothing more than a brass cross or crucifix on the Holy Table--not the embrace of icons that most of the Eastern churches demonstrate.

I believe most Anglican show reverence to sacred images (by treating them reverently) but it is not the same manner of reverence shown in the Eastern Churches. I'm not arguing for the Byzantine manner, although I think all Anglicans need to have an accurate idea of the reasons for the theological rejection of iconoclasm in Christianity and why the acceptance of sacred art does not lead one to idolatry (one only has to look at Lutheranism to see that all that is needed in this matter is proper teaching).

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I have had a little debate with Dr. Toon about these issues. First of all, if Anglicans really are Reformed and Catholic, then how can they refuse to accept the unanimous decision of the Bishops in Ecumenical Council during the First Millennium? Unless we accept the Seventh Council, we are have no right to say we hold to the Catholic Tradition at all, even a Reformed Catholicism (and remember, the translation of the seventh Council that the English Reformers possessed was terribly flawed). Secondly, if read carefully, the Articles teach that there are seven sacraments, and the Catechism states that two of these are generally necessary for salvation. Two are “sacraments of the Gospel,” and the other five are from the Old Testament. That this is indeed the meaning of the Article is clear when we consider the correct understanding of the phrase "commonly called." To say that five are "commonly called sacraments" is to say that this is what the Church calls them. In modern English the implication would be different; but the Article comes from the era which gave us the Book of Common Prayer- speaking of the whole Church and the Mind of Christ within it.

Nonetheless, if to be Catholic I could no longer call myself Anglican, then I would drop the name in a heartbeat. We don't say, in the Creed, I believe in the Anglican Way." We say "I believe One [Holy] Catholic and Apostolic Church." Or, in the Apostle's Creed, "I believe in... the Holy Catholic Church." The Athanasian Creed does not say that we must hold to the Anglican Way, but to "the Catholic Faith." The Articles tell us that we must hold to these Creeds. Nonetheless, because the Anglican Way is supposed to be consistent with the ancient Catholic Tradition of the Undivided Church, it must be subject to the Faith of that Church, and repent of any "distinctive" theology of later traditions.

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

"Nonetheless, because the Anglican Way is supposed to be consistent with the ancient Catholic Tradition of the Undivided Church, it must be subject to the Faith of that Church, and repent of any "distinctive" theology of later traditions."

I would say "Amen" to this, and add that trying to force Anglicanism into Calvinist or Tridentine modes are equal departures from the Catholic Faith of the Creeds and the undivided Church and inconsistent with the intent of the Anglican divines of the 16th through 18th centuries, as well as the intent of the first phase of the Oxford movement.

poetreader said...

Quite true, but Trent and Calvin (and, for that matter, Luther)are not to be rejected simply because they are Trent or Calvin or Luther.
Since they were all students of Scripture and of the Fathers, in a highly sectarian and divisive period, they all had insights of value for our pursuit of the same studies, and they all evidence serious mistakes made in overreaction to their opponents. They should be heard and considered, but in all cases with caution and discretion.


Rev. Dr. Hassert said...


Very good point--my statement was coming from a reactionary point of view, having seen various groups try and force Anglicanism into either a Calvinist or Tridentine mold. True, we can and should read and seek truth while reading, as you say, without caution and discretion.

The Methodist theologian Thomas Oden has a three volume dogmatic series on the Trinity where he does exactly that, and in his work one finds Calvin, the Russian Catechism, Luther, and Trent all referenced in the same paragraph.

Warwickensis said...

Hmm. there seem to be several definitions of Anglicanism here, and there is no consensus as to which is right. Is Anglicanism
merely Catholicism done in an English accent?

There is also a subtlety within Anglo-Catholcism itself, and this has been mentioned recently on the Anglo-Catholic Central message board.

There is a polarisation between proper Anglo-Catholics, like Ed, and the Anglo-Papalists, like myself. While in itself this isn't an issue of division, it is an issue of doctrine.

If I ask the churchgoers of Britain if they think we ought to rejoin with Rome. The majority will say "yes". Not because of the desire to reconcile Anglican doctrine with that of the Holy See, but because of the pervading liberalism of the British culture in which everyone is right.

Until it became largely heterodox in its teaching, the Church of England held an interesting position whereby four doctrinally diverse positions were held together until sheer adherence to zeitgeist began to tear it apart. There is a sort of prevailing "niceness" amongst Blighters that can sort of pull this off. Perhaps you disagree. Being a Blighter myself, I can't really speak accurately. certainly Blighty has, in recent years, lost her image of tolerant "niceness".

This ability to hold polarised positions together seems, to my mind, a typically Anglican thing to do, and why I'd like to see some form of a council of Continuing Churches.

We do need unity, especially if we are to have an impact on the localities in which we are each based. We are all called to serve our parishes. Suddenly with all this ICT we can talk to folk 12,000 miles away, so our Network is precisely that.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I am not able to appreciate Anglican Comprehensiveness as a good thing. It is simply a ruse. The only way forward is to go backwards, not five hundred years, but to the Patristic times, to the first millenium in which the Church was recognized in each locality as part of the one and only Church. The ideal of having no "distinct theology of our own" is still the truly catholic way. If Dr. Toon's Anglican Way is our standard, then we cannot avoid a "disticnt theology of our own." We would be just another Protestant sect.

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

When I speak of Anglican comprehensiveness I'm making reference to finer matters of doctrine and practice, not to the Faith of the Creeds and Councils. An "Anglo-Romanist" stance makes Tridentine doctrine and practice normative, which I find un-Catholic and unpatristic.

I'd have to make a comparison here between orthodox and catholic Anglicans and the Eastern Orthodox. All the Orthodox agree on the Real Presence, but the nuances you will receive when asking a priest what the Real Presence means will be as varied as the priests you ask. Read Schmemann and then read Losky and then Meyendorff and you will see three different "emphases." You will also find different emphases among the Church Fathers (between say Augustine and Chrysostom on this issue).

Anglican comprehensiveness ought to be the Catholic comprehensiveness of the ancient Church and of the Fathers, not a "ruse" for putting Anglo-Baptists and Anglo-Romanists under the same tent.

poetreader said...

It has been said that when there are two theilogians, there are atl least three opinions. The core of the Catholic Faith is not negotiable, but there are many views of the implications of that Faith. Fr. Hart, you and your brothers are an inspiration to me. I am quite sure that youd do not differ in any essentials, and I note that each of you quotes the others often -- But if you all saw the same implications arising from that common Faith, you'd all be in the same manifestation of Catholicity. I see the Hart family as a living testimony to the one Faith and a powerful declaration that there is no good reason that full communion should not exist now. It doesn't, so our work is cut out for us.

This is what I mean by comprehensiveness.


The Lemonts said...

When I was living in Sacramento I attended the local APCK parish and had lunch a few times with the priest. I was attending a Greek Orthodox Church and studying to be recieved into Orthodoxy. The sticking point in Orthodoxy was that in some jursidictions you have some really troubling nominalism, yet these people are still Orthodox and able to recieve the Body and Bolld of our Lord. ON the other hand the Anglican priest (who was super orthodox to me based on my study of Orthodoxy) and his flock are heterdox, unworthy to recieve the Body and Blood of Christ, etc. Why? Because their Bishop is not in communion with the EP or some other Patriarch? The faith was excatly the same, probably healthier in the APCK parish as it was not fixated on pagan Helenic culture.

I have read some of Archbishop Morse's interviews and I am struck at how orthodox he is. All the meanwhile in Sacramento Metropolitan ANTHONY (of blessed memory) had his arm around a notorius supporter of an ideology that is dirrectly in opposition to the Met's Church calling him a good man.

I hope I can find a parish as faithful as that small, orthodox parish in Sacramento.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for calling out Fr. Toon. I did the same thing on his PBS blog, which is moderated. So, I don't know whether he posted or read my comments. But, I noted how the REC is becoming comfortable with the Seven Councils properly construed and applied (i.e., without medieval abuses that the English Reformation has--with a few exceptions in the odd hyper-Spikey, Medeivalist, Counter-Reformation, Anglo-Papalist parish--more or less succesfully swept away.

In short, when you are out flanked on the catholic side by the REC, any claim to Reformed Catholic becomes exceedingly tenuous.

Albion Land said...


Such modesty! Why didn't you tell me, or anyone else, you had created your own blog and that your most recent post is on the Seventh Council?

I shall be linking you today, but for those who don't want to wait, here is the URL: