Icon (Close Menu)

Futures in Anglo-Catholicism

Fr Robert Hendrickson recently opined that “It’s Time for a New Oxford Movement.” He rightly points out that in many ways, the ’79 BCP represents a decisive move to institutionalize an anglo-catholic liturgical vision. Yet there remain other problems. The “Spirit of ’79” is still alive and kicking among the Boomer generation still holding onto power. Liturgical innovation continues to move us closer and closer, ironically, to the post-protestant vision of the UCC. A dialectical negation of what was accomplished may be close at hand.

I will not lay out the whole of Fr Hendrickson’s post, one can simply go read it. He offers suggestions of where a “New Oxford Movement” should focus its energy.

For my part, as someone who usually uses labels ironically but who, when he gets earnest, readily self-identifies as a “liberal catholic in the Gore/Ramsey/Williams tradition,” I would like to offer a few of my own thoughts. It bears noting that the so-called theological sentiment “Radical Orthodoxy” in a way may be comparable to the Oxford Movement, though it is much more clearly in the Lux Mundi vein. It’s certainly the most lively Anglican theological movement now going — exciting both strong admiration and zealous hatred, as well as general confusion.

But I don’t want to talk about that. What follows are a few ideas that rattle around in my head when I think about, to wax poetic, “the future of anglo-catholicism.” They are not a system, neither are they exhaustive. I imagine these too will incite confusion among my peers, but that’s alright since they often do the same to me. These are framed in constructive dialogue with an old and continually thought-provoking post by Benjamin Guyer, “Theses on Anglicanism,” specifically theses V-VIII, and XXXVI-XXXVII, though several others are in view. Essentially I’d like to see what happened with the “catholization” of Anglicanism in the wake of the new liturgical movement to carry itself out further, to where anglo-catholics do not make of themselves a privatized enclave of voluntary theological fetishization. But I run on ahead of myself.

I – Give up the catholic moniker in service to the truly universal, that is the catholic. As Ben puts it: “To define oneself as a particular kind of Anglican is to make the modifier of one’s identity – e.g., Anglo-Catholic, evangelical, liberal, etc. – more important than the base of one’s identity – i.e., Anglican”

I would suggest that this is something that the Oxford Movement would have agreed upon entirely. For them, what was important was to establish that the Church of England, and by episcopal extension all Anglicans, were in legitimate “apostolic succession.” It would not have mattered if they could’ve filled a thousand parishes with candles and incense if the C of E was not a truly apostolic church. Indeed when some thought that it wasn’t, they converted to Roman Catholicism. “Anglican” should be sufficient enough to cover what needs to be said. (Let’s not forget that not all Tractarians were especially “high-church”)

II – Reject the “enclavization” into “catholic,” liberal,” evangelical,” low/high church,” broad.” Reconfigure along lines of monastic rites and orders.

What I’d like to see is “Anglican” denote a scripture reading church that takes the fathers, ecumenical councils, and traditions as authoritative, and one that is episcopally governed, with a concrete history. With these three things, scripture, tradition, and episcopacy, we “catholics” get everything we need. To the extent that these enclaves exist and have unfortunately become wedded into a (theologically unreflective and unjustified) happy clappy “broad church” meta-ethos, we find ourselves buying into the modern depoliticizing of religion into an irrational but allowable personal and private opinion. This is no doubt related to the serious lack of academically rigorous theological debate around church dividing issues. Consider that different monastic orders in Roman Catholicism have different ethoi, and their distinctive theologies have subtle shades and emphases; many have their own ordo, their own rule of prayer and liturgy, yet they still fall under the banner “Roman Catholic” without scandal. So perhaps an “evangelical Anglican” ethos would produce theology with its own uniqueness; nevertheless we need to see this as under the banner “Anglican,” held together by the three things I just mentioned. When a Roman Catholic talks about “Dominican theology” they don’t mean the same thing as when we say “evangelical theology;” they’re all still responsible to dogmatic theology that is universally true.

III) Reconfigure dogmatics, including the Eucharistic theology, as properly dogmatic, ie – obligatory for the whole church to believe.

I don’t mean to suggest we take up a Continental-style confession, or make the Articles of Religion the new standard of Anglican orthodoxy. What I mean is that when we are having theological discussions that there is no more of this “everyone has a right to their own theological opinions and all are equally valid.” Anglo-catholics need to discuss theology in such a way as to reject the position that it’s acceptable simply to retreat into a “catholic ghetto” where Anglo-catholics get their own special and idiosyncratic positions but no one else needs to take them seriously, or where they themselves aren’t challenged by other Anglicans.

IV) Reconfigure difference in the same way. Affirming the local and received is different than latitudinarianism, which is to be rejected as whiggish and false, beholden not to truth but to “peace when there is no peace.”

What is to be sought is not a bland or authoritarian uniformity — Anglicans are traditionally best at devotional, poetic, and irregular dogmatics for that to be the case anyway. Difference is not a threat to unity and the truly catholic is a peaceful unity-in-difference; yet unity is to be found in the action of God in Christ in his Church and not in a belief in “tolerance” or “inclusion.”

V) Start reading Scripture in such a way as to challenge the independent validity of evangelical readings.

This is already underway in the wake of post-liberalism. Yet our (healthy) tradition of “liberalism” still tends to accept the “historical” as the primary and authoritative mode to read Scripture. We should absolutely incorporate historical readings into a multi-layered hierarchy of ways to read Scripture, but we are languishing in a lack of faith and have failed to read Scripture rightly to the extent that we no longer consider the literal, that is the christological sense of Scripture to be the primary and most authoritative sense. Whatever aid we may get from examining the scriptural imaginary of 1st century Jews, we do not need such a base to give us permission to read Christ in the Old Testament. It is fundamentally an act of faith that Christ is the primary referent of all of Scripture.

VI) Purposely distance ritualism from “catholicism.” Argue for it on other grounds — dogmatic, philosophical, cultural — but catholic is not shorthand for “pretty robes.”

What I’m specifically reacting against here is whatever the hell it is that makes people think that when I say “anglo-catholic” what I really mean is that I like smells and bells. On the one hand it’s a reduction of “catholic” to subjective aesthetic preference — “Oh, you just like high liturgy” — and it’s not even connected to theology or ecclesiology on the other. And anglo-catholics buy right into this with so many petty discussions about the intricacies of liturgy and robes and how many times to shake a thurible. Not that high liturgy is bad, obviously, or that low church is actually praiseworthy, but it’s such an incredibly narrow vision of the catholic. Also think of certain austere monastic orders that live a simple life and perform simple prayers and liturgies. We would never suggest they “aren’t catholic.”

VII) Reconnect charity to justice and the good such that social justice, the Eucharist, and the Church, are tied back together again. Requires the rejection of capitalism on the one hand, and communism on the other. Connect again ritualism, labor, and justice re: the London priests.

There’s no such thing as a purely free, nor purely natural, economy. There’s no economy that does not need the severe disruption given it by the Christian primacy of charity as overruling all other virtues; there’s no national people, Christian or not, that do not need to be asking the larger question about a) the transnational Church united in Christ, and 2) the needs of any and all their neighbors; there is no “traditional family value” that is not at least relativized in the Church – “Who is my father and my mother?” The Church is before “the family,” as is made clear by the ecclesial nature of the rite and the taking of the Eucharist in the wedding ceremony.


  1. I enjoyed this post, Tony. I am flattered and humbled that you have been in “constructive dialogue with an old and continually thought-provoking post” by myself.

    I think that we have gotten to a point where, because the Anglo-Catholic movement made high liturgy acceptable, people have basically forgotten that Anglo-Catholics were really about quite a lot more that that. In fact, I would actually blame the current crop of “Affirming Catholicism” folks for wholly diluting the meaning of Anglo-Catholicism – by embracing the politics of the secular left without question, the Affirming Catholics have effectively denied that Anglo-Catholicism can be anything other than a liturgical style, for liturgical style is all that really links them to historic Anglo-Catholicism. On morality and the sacrament of orders, in particular, Affirming “Catholics” have denied the right of the ancient Church, the Roman Catholic church, and the Orthodox church to have any kind of authoritative say on Anglican developments.

    The “spirit of 79” as you put it is very much the older “spirit of 68” (although without the homemade bombs), only now wearing clerical vestments. For as long as this spirit infests our church, we will be suffocated by left wing that cannot tell the difference between the old left (in Anglican history, Gore), the new left that rejected the old left, and the far left which just wants to blow stuff up. I was interested to read in Gerd-Rainer Horn’s The Spirit of ’68 this week about how the old left detested the youth culture that defined the new left in the 1960s – indeed, the old left was much more conservative than we today usually realize. The new left was indeed a break with the old left, just as the new left-inspired Affirming Catholic movement was a break with the old liberal Anglo-Catholics. Recall Gore’s views on birth control, for example – the Affirming “Catholic” repudiates such a view.

    The late-1960s were a profoundly violent and destructive break with the past and it has had a wholly deleterious series of effects upon the church. My own view is that the only way forward is to bind up and cast out the recent past, but this cannot be done without the self-knowledge provided by sustained historical study.

    One last thought: Anglo-Catholicism’s most defining feature was not, in my opinion, its theology but its devotional life. The Anglo-Catholic “ghetto” that you are unhappy with is, in my opinion, less of a willed theological “ghetto” and more the continuity of a certain devotional style that has been stripped of its theological capacity and its passionate, rowdy, hopeful aspirations. You don’t get a popular, mass movement by thinking profound thoughts. Rather, you get it by touching the heart. That is something that Anglo-Catholics did very well and it is actually something that activists today also do (although its far less elegant and far less inspiring – not to mention, at least in the churches, far less orthodox). Generally speaking, I think that revival begins in the heart moreso than in the head. If anything, Anglo-Catholics have kept the devotional, emotional element going. It’s the theology today that is lacking. But if historic Anglo-Catholicism is going to have anything to offer, it is going to have to address why the spirit of 68 and the spirit of 79 are fundamentally wrong. That will take quite a lot of brain power. It will also be unfashionably conservative. And, to touch upon current events, such a position will have no place at all for women bishops.

      • Ben is under the mistaken impression that Anglicans alone of catholic churches aren’t allowed to enact ‘novel’ practices without consultation. Yet I do forget when the Roman Catholics consulted with us about novel marian dogmas or creating the Anglican Ordinariate…

      • Btw, I never responded to your comment, Ben.

        You said:

        “I think that we have gotten to a point where, because the Anglo-Catholic movement made high liturgy acceptable, people have basically forgotten that Anglo-Catholics were really about quite a lot more that that. In fact, I would actually blame the current crop of “Affirming Catholicism” folks for wholly diluting the meaning of Anglo-Catholicism – by embracing the politics of the secular left without question, the Affirming Catholics have effectively denied that Anglo-Catholicism can be anything other than a liturgical style, for liturgical style is all that really links them to historic Anglo-Catholicism.”

        Now while I lack a sense of how Affirming Catholicism fits into the larger history of contemporary anglo-catholicism, I at least agree with you, as is pretty clear in the post, that in many cases it all boils down to liturgical style. Most often “liberal catholicism” looks nothing at all like what it looked with Gore, et. al. It doesn’t even reflect the serious liberal catholicism of people like ABC Michael Ramsey or Rowan Williams. There tends to be more of a focus on the sacraments and on liturgy than in more Protestant wings, quite often its core commitments look akin to good ole’ liberal Protestantism than a critical catholicism.

        I also agree that the Anglo-catholic devotional life was very important and has need to be important again. Two things I would note. The first is that AC devotional life often connected into social doctrine in ways I’d like to see connected again — many great Anglican socialists were AC. And secondly, I think we have something of a gem in Rowan Williams. I’ve long believed one can’t really understand his theology unless one looks to his work on spirituality.

        Finally, while I agree with you that we still are not making serious christological and dogmatic arguments in favor of women bishops (or priests for that matter) — we tend to stumble along on vague notions of “progress” or “equality” taken wholesale from questionable political assumptions — nevertheless I do not think we should halt on women bishops. For one thing, it’s nonsensical for churches who already ordain women to the priesthood; but also, I don’t think either the Catholics or the Orthodox view us as sufficiently catholic. They don’t seek our counsel when they make substantive moves and while I don’t think this necessarily justifies it, I think it places our own counsel in perspective. Our bishops should act like they have episcopal authority and not constantly look for validation from churches who for centuries have rejected our claims to catholicity.

  2. On the substance of your post, I have little argument. I’m all for a non-ghettoed anglo catholicism, theology in addition to good liturgy, more and better social awareness, etc.

    But let me speak as the resident Papalist regarding a few stray comments: you’re not all wrong, but you’re not all right either. The rejection of Anglican orders is not a straightforward matter — like other ecumenical problems, it has a deeply political history. (In other words: Apostolicae curae is more a distraction than anything else.) The ordination of women was, for most (especially ecumenically minded) in the RC hierarchy, proof that Anglican orders were not truly apostolic — and it is for that reason that they were so saddened by it. (If all was lost before, you’re right: it wouldn’t have mattered. The same goes for women bishops in the C of E. In principle, it would make no substantive change, but aesthetically, symbolically, it is a major difference.)

    Anyway, I’m quite sensitive and sympathetic to the idea of Roman innovation without consultation (or, allegedly so). This too is quite complicated, as you well know. Both the Roman Communion and the Orthodox Communion regard themselves (with interesting qualifications) as the Catholic Church — and I needn’t remind you that in the period in which something like the Immaculate Conception was developing and being promulgated — roughly the 12th century to the 19th — we had yet to hear of modern “ecumenism”! That’s not an excuse, exactly, just a reality.

    For my part I think the language of innovation is overblown. Yes the Orthodox use it. But only the most anti-Roman Orthodox (who are likewise blind to their own kinds of “innovation,” from a long streak of what we would call Donatism to the “innovative,” if totally coherent, doctrine of energies) do so with force. The parts of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption that seem most of concern to Protestants (namely: Mary’s sinlessness and her assumption body and soul into heaven) are utterly uncontroversial in the East, as they have always been in the West. The innovation, if there is one, has to do with the technical mechanism of papal power — the Marian dogmas themselves are a red herring.

    Anyway, again, I don’t mean to distract from the substance of your post. But be wary of simplistic name-calling vis-á-vis Rome. It is, I think, another of the more pathological problems of the Anglo-Catholic subculture, and doesn’t really help our ecumenical imagination!

    • No less a theologian than Sergius Bulgakov has harsh things to say about the development of Roman Catholic theology, even marian theology (see his book on Mary, The Burning Bush). He’s clearly no reactionary blind to the development of dogma and practice in the Eastern Church (An interesting case in point would be his exposition of the development of Christology in the Patristic fathers, the first part of The Lamb of God.)

      It’s kind of immaterial for me when the marian doctrines were under development, what’s important to note is that they developed and were novel insofar as they clearly aren’t readily found in Scripture and can barely be found at all in the Fathers.

      It is only of importance for me to note that doctrine does in fact develop. There are different ways of accounting for it, but the basic fact isn’t controversial to any but the most brutishly ideological.

      By “accusing” the Roman church of “innovation” I really am not trying to out-catholic the Catholics as we are prone to do — which you noted; I’m trying only to say that if we believe that Anglican episcopacy has at least the same claim to apostolic authority as do the other catholic churches, and I believe it does, then we aren’t banned entirely from exercising that authority any more than are the others. Since I believe that the dogmatic case in favor of women priests is ironclad, and since we’re already the red-headed stepchild of episcopal churches, and, importantly, since we have already been ordaining women, and furthermore since the process towards women’s ordination was more properly episcopal than the anything like what we’ve been doing of late, then I’d like to see us live into this decision already-made.

      That being said, I do still agree with both you and Ben that it is not going to help us ecumenically either.

      • Thanks Tony, that makes sense to me, and it’s a pretty good point: given that there is development, what prevents us from being the developers? (I would want to distinguish between development and innovation.)

        For me, at least, there’s a good Latin answer to this, having to do with Rome’s universal primacy, but you may not be able to accept that.

        The other answer is more ecumenical, and has to do with the weird character (charism?) of Anglicanism. Unlike the other two “communions,” we do not claim to be the Catholic Church (or even that the Church “subsists” in us), and so, if we want to retain that self-description — and I’m not saying we do; in fact the General Convention these days tends to think of itself as an Ecumenical Council sans qualification — we are more obliged to listen to our ecumenical partners (the other “branches” of the Church from the Anglican perspective) than they are to listen to us.

      • I am under no mistaken impression, Tony. Novel Marian dogmas create a problem, yes, but the Anglican Ordinariate has nothing to do with doctrine. It might be helpful to describe the Ordinariate less as a novel practice and more as a novel institution.

        I think, however, that one can make the argument that for Roman Catholics since Vatican II, Rome has been far more sensitive to the ecumenical implications of its actions. Hence it has done very little that is ecumenically upsetting. And, as Evan Kuehn points out in a recent essay on the Covenant and Anglicanorum Coetibus, the Ordinariate was not intended to be part of the ecumenical activity of Rome. Yes, it was obnoxious at best, insensitive at worst. But surely you don’t believe in tit-for-tat or that one wrong justifies another?

      • Anglo-Catholicism made the branch theory of the church central to its ecumenical activity. Thus the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches were given priority in ways that Lutherans and other bodies were not. (In matters of liturgy and devotion, many Anglicans and especially Anglo-Catholics, both ‘left’ and ‘right’, still hold to this theory. I think this is part of why Anglicans have such a poor understanding of other Protestants, but that is another story.) If one were to go back to a historically-grounded Anglo-Catholicism, one would have to privilege the views of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches, neither of which ordain women in any capacity. Perhaps they are right, perhaps they are wrong, but I am really concerned here with the pragmatic state of play: if one values relationship with these churches, then women’s ordination is a barrier to that. Some Orthodox were quick to recognize the validity of Anglican orders in the early-twentieth century, but none recognize the validity of women’s orders, and very, very few have been willing to consider the possibility of women’s ordination. WO has been a big problem in Anglican-Orthodox relations. Surely we do not blame traditionalists, even pragmatic traditionalists, for being such?

        I think that there are good reasons for not holding the branch theory of the Church. But even without it, we must deal with the facts of ecumenical relations and the facts of how other Christians worship, teach, believe, etc. We can’t help how other churches innovate. We can help how we innovate. We are responsible for our own actions and will be called to account for them.

        • Although I find the Branch Theory tempting, ultimately I don’t think that the Spirit works in straight lines. I have a fundamentally different view of Apostolic Succession than that which is traditionally meant in our circles. (That is, I believe in episcopacy ex opera operato, not in Apostolic Succession as a pure lineage of perfectly kept blessing guaranteeing charism.)

          I also find your concern with purity and clear lines between the Church and its ‘surrounding culture’ problematic, as if somehow the Church stands over-against culture rather than that the Church is already included and in many ways indistinct from its surrounding culture. Not only is it already partially determined by its culture (which is not problematic at all), but apologetics means a creative mix of incorporation and challenge to the surrounding culture. For example think of the ways platonism and other philosophical terms were used, modified, subverted, yet used, to develop our key trinitarian dogmas.

          Likewise we can challenge what is lacking in the post-60’s anthropology and how that has effected how we view women’s ordination, but it’s neither possible nor necessary to cut off entirely the reality that the post-60’s situation pressed the “issue” of women’s ordination further along.

          • You really find my concern with ‘purity’ strange? Now that is odd! Purity is inseparable from independence.

            I’m uncomfortable with claiming that the Church is ever determined by its culture. That smacks of fatalism and a formulaic historical teleology. Most historians gave up on Marxism a long time ago. It’s too bad that so many theologians are still clinging on.

            The other real difference between us, it seems, is that I am not a contextual theologian. I reject the view that “the world sets the agenda for the Church” (to borrow from Risto Lehtonen, The Story of a Storm: The Ecumenical Student Movement in the Turmoil of Revolution (Eerdmans, 1998), 25). Spend more time studying the 1960s. You might come to view it differently.

            I don’t understand why you compare Platonist vocabulary with 1968-era activism. The two are not coterminous; something linguistic should not be conflated with something practiced. Platonist practice had some influence, yes, upon the Church – but I’m not sure that it had any greater influence than various Jewish practices (e.g., the Essenes and the Theraputae). And there were plenty of arguments about how much was too much, etc. Influence was contested, not unidirectional.

            I’m contesting influence.

          • Down with the Branch Theory!

            I prefer to speak in terms of fullness, not least because that is something that makes sense across ecclesial lines (no other “branches” have ever held anything like the “branch theory”). To do that, though, means that I (or we) have to speak from a posture of humility (or even humiliation), acknowledging my own tradition’s lack of fullness and need to look beyond itself.

          • That’s perfect, Fr Sam. “Fullness” is precisely how I would parse it. Not least because we Anglicans are dependent on the missionary work of Pope Gregory.

          • Wow. It’s not everyday that I’m accused of being Marxist! Uhhhh…I’m passionately against material dialectics and all variations of hegelian historio-pneumatology. Note that I said “partially determined,” not determined absolutely. I may mean slightly more but certainly no less than C. S. Lewis in his preface to St. Athanasius’s de Incarnatione:

            It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.
            Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united—united with each other and against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions. We may be sure that the characteristic blindness of the twentieth century—the blindness about which posterity will ask, “But how could they have thought that?”—lies where we have never suspected it, and concerns something about which there is untroubled agreement between Hitler and President Roosevelt or between Mr. H. G. Wells and Karl Barth.

            The fact that we’re even discussing women’s ordination is proof of this.

            And yes, I do find what seems to be your approach to purity problematic. The Church only ever receives its divine life as a gift, and this gift is made possible only in Christ. The Church’s holiness and identity are thus never from itself; its ability or attempt to secure holiness sifting “outside influences” cannot but be significantly problematic. Now, the life of grace is of course mediated in the world, yet it’s this mediated character itself that requires of us discernment and judgment (certainly anyone who appreciates something like virtue ethics would recognize this) with respect to our current cultural situation. (I would highly recommend John Milbank’s essay “Culture: The Gospel of Affinity” in his book Being Reconciled: Ontology and Pardon to get an idea of where I’m coming from.)

            In addition, re: platonist terminology, I hardly think that it was simply a set of words that the Church utilized in the christological debates. The question of how to use or not use pagan philosophy was a widely considered issue and included much more than mere linguistics. Which isn’t to say I’m trying to put forward a narrative of bad-pagan-Greek influence — These debates were focused acutely on reading Scripture — but it is to say that our engagement with the world is always complex, layered, etc… (Not to just keep recommending books but a few important works to consider on this are Nicaea and Its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology by Lewis Ayres; the two-volume/three-book work The Formation of Christian Theology by John Behr; The Origins of the Christian Mystical Tradition: From Plato to Denys by Andrew Louth; and, of course, Rowan Williams’s Arius: Heresy and Tradition. Or for a contemporary take, Graham Ward’s Cultural Transformation and Religious Practice. None of which you must read but all of which in one way or another show that the interaction between churches and cultures was layered.) I don’t think the crude dualism of Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture will do, ie – “Christ and Culture,” “Christ against Culture,” “Christ above Culture,” etc…

            I do fear that we are drifting off into parenthetical diversions here. Might we bring it back around to the post, or has that moment already passed? I’ll certainly consider a post or a few about women’s ordination, though.

          • My question – and it is a historically open question – is whether or not TWR’s narrative, which I think is fairly standard, is correct. Was Li Tim-Oi reinvented – recast as a forerunner – after the beginning or WO? Or, was she always seen as a trailblazer? I suspect the former. But one would have to look at perceptions of her between the time when she resigned her license and the time when WO began in earnest. So I don’t have an answer for you on this, just an open question.

      • Your argument in your last paragraph is similar to that of Paul Avis in The Identity of Anglicanism (a very good book, btw). What is clear, however, is that at present – and for all we know, it will always be this way – women’s ordination makes ecumenical relations more difficult, rather than less difficult. What is more, women’s ordination makes intra-Anglican life more difficult rather than less difficult.

        Insofar as a change within the Church is either a) due to external cultural changes, or b) apologetically indebted to external cultural changes, you will only bring external cultural language and norms into the Church if you pursue the said change. For example, women’s ordination is due in part to the cultural developments of 1968. You cannot help but bring in the valuative language of these changes into the Church if you allow the Church’s practices to be changed by these same developments. What is more, these developments were not uniform in western (and for this discussion, specifically Anglo-American) culture. Rather, these changes were divisive, between both the new right and the new left, as well as between the new left and the old left. By importing the aims of the new left into the church, you create divisions within the Church, precisely because the new left did the same in the wider culture. The Church has no need to sign up and accept the views of the new left (or the new right or the old left or whomever else). Why then do we do it? Why do we demand that laity accept new left Anglo-Catholicism? Where is wisdom, pastoral sensitivity, care for the preservation of our institutions, or care for our ecumenical relations by demanding that Anglicans must accept new left Anglo-Catholicism?

      • Tony, it might be helpful if you were to write an article on why you support women’s ordination. It is a desperately important topic in desperate need of theological reflection – and theological reflection is precisely what activists have no time for.

        An initial thought for this article: if bishops, priests, and deacons are three different orders and not merely a successive hierarchy of advancement, then it need not follow that having women priests should lead to having women bishops. Part of what you may wish to explain is why having women in one order of clergy necessitates having them in another order of clergy. I, personally, don’t see the necessity of the connection.

        • I would hate to presume to authority in theology. I may talk big sometimes but I know that I am probably the least trained and experienced on this site. So while I’d be happy to address WO from a christological position, and while this is something that I am currently doing research and work on, I don’t want to come off as if I imagine myself capable of terribly serious theological work.

          I also would take the ‘traditional’ Anglican approach and first address it through Scripture, only then moving to considerations of tradition. So the relations between the fourfold ministry wouldn’t be of primary concern for me.

      • I think that Sam is very, very correct when he writes that

        For the Orthodox, the Marian dogmas are about ecclesiology, not mariology. And as for Bulgakov, he was not always in the mainstream of Russian theology. It might be better to see what Florovsky has to say on point.

        • Sorry – not sure how to edit the comment above, but it should read:

          I think that Sam is very, very correct when he writes that

          “The innovation, if there is one, has to do with the technical mechanism of papal power — the Marian dogmas themselves are a red herring.”

          For the Orthodox, the Marian dogmas are about ecclesiology, not mariology. And as for Bulgakov, he was not always in the mainstream of Russian theology. It might be better to see what Florovsky has to say on point.

          ps Can someone tell me what the correct closed tag is for

          ? Thanks!

          • Since the Orthodox have come up, we might as well mention that the theology of the sacrament of order is quite different East/West. I do not really know much about the Orthodox view, other than that they do not (tend to) share the Western idea of a single sacrament whose fullness is present in the episcopate. (And hence, liturgically, they do not allow priests to “function” as deacons, as we do.)

          • I gather that you were trying to do a block quote. It is just “blockquote” and then “/blockquote”. Except with thingies (that’s the technical word) instead of quotation marks.

          • Of course I don’t believe in tit-for-tat. I do, however, believe in the possibility of developments in doctrine, in practice, and in the authority of episcopal churches to enact new practices and develop historical teaching.

          • 1) Sometimes responding in the back of WordPress makes editing comments easier.

            2) Bulgakov may not always be in the main of Orthodoxy, but he’s also one of the least reactionary modern Orthodox theologians who’ve written. So I take him more seriously than some others who constantly have anti-western polemics to make.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Get Covenant every weekday:


Most Recent

A Recommendation of the Acton Institute

I have been attending theology conferences for over 40 years, and I have just returned from a conference...

Wycliffe College and the Character of Anglicanism

Wycliffe College came into being in the midst of a bitter dispute over what it meant to be...

The Sabbath and the Dignity of the Weak

If you cannot keep the Sabbath, you cannot save a life. This is Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s bold implication...

Singleness: Eschatological and Evangelical

The Meaning of Singleness: Retrieving an Eschatological Vision for the Contemporary Church By Danielle Treweek IVP Academic, 336 pages, $35 This important...