Monday, August 27, 2012

Whatsoever you bind on earth

Last week the Anglican and Catholic Dioceses of Christchurch hosted Prof. Paul Murray (Durham, UK, (RC) member of ARCIC) who gave a lecture on 'Receptive Ecumenism'. Paul Murray very kindly gave me a copy of one the key books on Receptive Ecumenism for placing in the Theology House library, Receptive Ecumenism and the Call to Catholic Learning: Exploring a Way for Contemporary Ecumenism (edited by Paul D. Murray, Oxford: OUP, 2008). It consists of papers delivered at an international colloquium at Ushaw, Durham, held in honour of Cardinal Walter Kasper in 2006. Actually there are 32 papers in all - a busy colloquium! The papers are mostly presented within the 'branch' triangle of Anglican, Roman and Eastern Orthodox churches, but some also take up Methodist ecumenism (and rightly so, Durham is a Methodist stronghold).

Receptive Ecumenism is a kind of 'third way' for ecumenism once we have realised that nothing is going to change in the short term between churches insistent that they are in the right. This new direction for ecumenism is to shift the paradigm from 'teaching' to 'learning.' When we think we are in the right then we are liable to approach ecumenical dialogue with the attitude that we have something to teach the other partner or partners. Receptive Ecumenism encourages the idea that we might enter such dialogues ready to learn from the other, no matter how much we might think the other has wrong-headed ideas or ecclesial deficits. I gather Receptive Ecumenism is now important to the direction the ARCIC III conversations are going in.

Just browsing through the papers yesterday I noticed an interesting paper by Nicholas Sagovsky. With a surname like that people as prone to rushing to judgement like me might think it was an Eastern Orthodox contribution but, no, Sagovsky is an Anglican and the paper is entitled, 'Anglicanism and the Conditions for Communion - A Response to Cardinal Kasper' (pp. 373-384). He takes up a searching question of Kasper to Anglicans:

"How is it possible to designate Scripture and the Apostles' and Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creeds as normative in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, but to disregard the binding force of the subsequent living tradition?"

Sagovsky's reply has both a certain intellectual neatness and a modelling of receptive ecumenism. For time and space's sake I pass over an important argument Sagovsky makes concerning Anglican 'comprehensiveness' (which Kasper concomitantly takes up in relation to the question) and head to this paragraph (p.380):

"A distinct concern for Anglicans to put to Roman Catholics is the way in which definitions that have taken place after the division of the West and the East have for them constrained the depevelopment of 'living tradition' within the understanding of one particular historic epoch. One such case would be the definition of transubtantiation (1215); another would be the definition of the Immaculate Conception (1854); another the bodily Assumption of Mary (1950). In each case the Orthodox have refrained from making similar definitions. The Orthodox would undoubtedly press the question of the role of the Bishop of Rome in doctrinal definitions such as those of 1854 and 1950, neither of which was made in the conciliar context but only after consultation within the Roman Catholic Church. Yet the Roman Catholic faithful are bound to accept such definitions. Kasper's question to Anglicans about their failure to accept 'the binding power of the living tradition' becomes in reverse a question to Roman Catholics about the premature binding of the living tradition." [my italics]

Tomorrow I will take up a point Sagovsky makes about tradition and communion within Anglicanism. It is one thing to neatly offer a rejoinder to Kasper's searching question, it is another thing to work out the manner in which tradition binds Anglicans and the means by which Anglicans themselves avoid premature binding of tradition!

1 comment:

Father Ron Smith said...

" I gather Receptive Ecumenism is now important to the direction the ARCIC III conversations are going in."
- Dr.Peter Carrell -

I would have thought, Peter, that even from the beginning, the ARCIC initiative (post Vatican II) was set up to explore the possibility of theological convergence on many conflicting issues in our two Churches.

I find it interesting that both sides of the arguments (both RC and AC - as well as between Catholic and Evangelical Anglicans) claim
to either embrace or disclaim insular 'orthodoxy' on many issues in dispute. Thus, real convergence may require a lot of jettisoning of
privately-held 'orthodoxies'.

This can be a real problem when the different Churches claim to be exclusive guardians of 'orthodoxy'.

'Semper Reformanda' - the call of Good Pope John - is surely the impetus for any convergence. For any Institutional Church Body to claim exclusive 'orthodoxy' - in any theological proposition is to deny the Holy Spirit's ongoing role of new revelation in the Church.