Thursday, November 5, 2009

Anglican identity lies in our theology

Where does Anglican identity lie? In Rome (when all is said and done)? In Geneva (or its modern analogy, Sydney)? In Canterbury (yes, deliberate double entendre there for Kiwi readers!*)?

John Richardson (focused on his own C of E) offers an excellent reflection on this and related questions in a talk he has published called, "Evangelicals and Catholics working together —where now, after October 20th?".

Here is an excerpt:

"The Church of England has a theological identity. It is established in its formularies and in its historical development. Above all, it is established in its commitment to test all things by Scripture. Surely none of us can object to that. The question we face is how we come to terms with it, and how we come to terms with the disregard of these principles by so many in our church today.


"The challenge of the hour, as I see it, is for us to recover the vision of being theological Anglicans. Some of us will find we cannot do that —I think that is as true for some evangelicals as it is for some catholics. If that is so, then we must face the facts honestly and courageously.

"But many —hopefully most —of us will discover that being a member of the Church of England is what we want. If that is the case, then we do not need to ask what we have in common — we will discover what we have in common.

"Our challenge will be, having these things in common, and truly being members of the Church of England, we call our church back to its proper theological roots and to its true mission."

*Here in NZ we have a province in the South Island called Canterbury which, with a portion of the West Coast of the South Island, constitutes the Diocese of Christchurch.

1 comment:

Howard Pilgrim said...

Thanks for that link, Peter. I found it thought-provoking, including this bit:-

"Evangelical Anglicanism, and I would say especially Conservative Evangelical Anglicanism in this country, has no idea how theologically thin and weak it is. Our great failing is that we do not do systematic theology. And the great shame is that Anglicanism provides just the sort of systematic theology we need."

He may be a little bit hard on conservative evangelical Anglicans with that comment. At least here in New Zealand, I do not see that Anglicans of any variety are strong in systematic theology. I agree with him that this is crucial for working through present controversies, but also tend to agree with two of his respondents who found his idea of an established Anglican theology to be his ideal rather than a historical reality.

Of course Richardson's focus is on that which may have been established within the C of E. For those of us who are emerging from colonialism, perceptions are bound to be different ... which is another key factor generating the present tensions, especially in third-world parts of the Communion.

Nevertheless, I think his point about the need for systematic theology transfers out of the English situation. What we recovering colonials would need to add is an assertion that an essential part of established Anglican theology is the inclusion of shared reflection on colonial and post-colonial experiences. To ignore those experiences would be less than systematic, as it would be ignoring essential elements of what God has established amongst us.