Subtitle to the above title is:
"withstanding eccentricity and heresy at the margins without loss of identity",
with title and subtitle drawn from the following response to last week's post by Bowman Walton:
"A: "Six priests were executed: three evangelicals for heresy, and three papalist Catholics for treason."
In the system of order through terror that monarchs of Henry VIII's time inherited-- be appalled by the opening pages of Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish-- this makes perfect, centrist sense. Marginalise the impossible extremes without hesitation; let your people play on a broad, strong centre, working out their differences as they can.
A church where every opinion is equally authoritative has never existed, but a church for *consensus-seeking inquiry* with some tolerance for eccentrics is feasible. And an improvement on what many of us see on the ground today.
B: "...we pride ourselves on the ability to find the via media, the middle way, the compromise between two extremes, which enables us to live together with tension and difference, sometimes even with contradiction, if not happily ever after, then unhappily ever after."
Yes, but we should stop. The 42A? Gorham? "Ceremonialism?" If this proceduralising truthiness has ever been real-- Virginia was still trying clergy for heresy in the early C20; TEC has recently deposed clergy for believing several old orthodoxies-- we have not seen it lately. Its method has never been usefully formulated. And why, anyway, would a bag of marbles be better than a bunch of grapes? For Anglicans as for everyone else, in is in, out is out.
C: A more historical view is that the CoE has been graced by a broad traditional centre (eg Jewell and Hooker, the Tudor and Stuart bishops, the episcopate itself), by a prayerbook able to serve as a standard of centrist Western doctrine, and by supreme governors determined to maintain both breadth and continuity. The result has been a tradition of national *pilgrim churches* with broad, resilient centres that is unique in Protestantism. These centres have been renewed by gradual reinterpretation and have withstood eccentricity and heresy at the margins without loss of identity.
D: In an age of theological ferment, The Integrity of Anglicanism seems most undermined by the lack of a discerning magisterial authority like that which Cranmer and Parker exerted on the BCP and the 10/42/39 Articles. There is no way back to an ABC acting as an English pope, synods are not capable of sorting through ongoing theological debate, and the hazard may be too temporary to warrant the permanent Anglican Inquisition that nobody expects anyway. "
The emboldening of paragraph C is mine. I think this is the money quote. In our current Anglican perambulations, in which schisms and threats of schisms tend to focus our minds on "issues" (because one and only one issue triggers schism or threat of schism), whether or not a "majority" exists here or over there for this or that "view", whether or not "opposing views" may be held simultaneously in this or that church, and then, what power "synods" or "conventions" hold to effect "change", a moment's pause to consider, perhaps better: a long, slow pause, paragraph C might assist Anglican decorum!
That is, what if our focus was more on what it means to (re)find a "broad, traditional centre," "a standard of centrist Western doctrine," leadership (whether civic or ecclesial) which is "determined to maintain both breadth and continuity," and thus an Anglicanism which fosters "a tradition of national *pilgrim churches* with broad, resilient centres", encouraged by recognition that doing this is a unique charism within Protestantism (actually, I think, within all churches).
Thus we could, in this long slow pause, gain a sure and certain hope that our future life and strength as Anglicans is (with slight rewording by me) by gradual reinterpretation which unfolds with (and does not reject or expel) eccentricity and heresy at the margins without loss of [Anglican] identity."
What do you think?
By way of contrast, I want to introduce a few matters - pertinent as I shall try to explain - drawn from my current reading of Paul Ladouceur's Modern Orthodox Theology: Behold I Make All Things New (London, New York, etc: T & T Clark, 2019). This book is an engaging (i.e. makes one think about theology) survey of Eastern Orthodox theologians, theologies, and theological debates over the past few centuries - all the more intriguing because a rough guide to EO theology is that the Fathers sorted all theology centuries ago and there is nothing further to discuss!
(Incidentally, but not part of this post, that different Orthodox theologians and theologies can be surveyed in an interesting manner is triggered by the fact that at various points since the Reformation, EO has strongly entertained, even been educated by Western theologies and Western academies, and the debates surveyed in part represent the phenomenon of Patristic based theologies rising to counter the bad Western influence).
(1) An observation re Anglican theology: p. 49: in respect of a 19th century conversation between an Orthodox theologian and an Anglican theologian, the former, Khomiakov observes:
"Many bishops and divines of your communion are and have been quite orthodox. But what of it? Their opinion is only an individual opinion, it is not the Faith of the Community. Ussher is almost a complete Calvinist; but ye he, no less than those bishops who give expression to Orthodox convictions, belongs to the Anglican Church." [Citing Alexei Khomiakov, "Third Letter to William Palmer," in W. J. Birkbeck, ed., Russia and the English Church during the Last Fifty Years (Londong: Eastern Church Association, 1895), 69-70.]
I suggest C above, in other words, is an appeal for great attention to the "faith of the [sic] Anglican community."
(2) An observation re the merciful, gracious love of God: p. 79, my bold:
Cited from the Autobiographical Notes of Sergius Bulgakov (a noted Russian intellectual from the turn of the 19th/20th centuries, the last Procurator of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, Minister of Religion in the Provisional Government of 1917, which ended with the October Revolution, and then, in exile in 1919, one of the founders of St Sergius Institute in Paris), is this converting experience of God, during which Bulgakov encounters a spiritual elder:
"A miracle happened to me. I realized it then without any doubt. The Father, seeing his prodigal son, ran to meet me. I heard from the elder that all human sin was like a drop of water in comparison with the ocean of divine love. I left him, pardoned and reconciled, trembling and in tears, feeling myself returned as on wings within the precincts of the church. ... The bells were calling to prayer. I listened to them as if I heard them for the first time in my life, for they invited me also to join the fellowship of believers. I looked on the world with new eyes. The next morning at the Eucharist I knew I was participating in the Covenant, that our Lord hung on the cross and shed his blood for me and because of me; that the most blessed meal was being prepared by the priest for me, and that the gospel narrative about the feast in the house of Simon the leper and about the woman who loved much was addressed personally to me. It was on that day when I partook of the blessed Body and Blood of my Lord." [no specific footnote is given for this, but I think the previous footnote on that page includes the likely reference, in which case it is: "Quoted in Zernon, The Russian Religious Renaissance, 97-8.]
Do we ever read Anglicans these days who give the impression that we understand the extent of the divine mercy in respect of sin?
(3) In our Anglican world, we argue about things such as "authority" and current sexuality debates involve a lot of rational propositions proposed and opposed. One theological development surveyed is "intuitive knowledge" which could be defined as "reflection on personal experience in the light of revelation [as] a door to ascertaining fundamental reality" [p. 100-01]. Offering, in Ladouceur's words, a resolution of the "inherent tension and duality between the knowing subject and the object known" in terms of "love, which alone can unite subject and object in harmony," one such theologian, Berdyaev, writes this thought provoking paragraph, cited on p. 101,:
"Love is recognized as the principle of apprehension; it guarantees the apprehension of truth; love is a source and guarantee of religious truth. Corporate experience of love, sobornost', is the criterion of apprehension. Here we have a principle which is oppose to authority; it is also a method of apprehension which is opposed to the Cartesian cogito ergo sum. It is not I think, but we think, that is to say, the corporate experience of love things, and it is not thought which proves my existence but will and love. ... Love is the principal source of the knowledge of Christian truth, and the church is a unity of love and freedom." [cited from Nicolas Berdyaev, The Russian Idea (New York: Mcmillan, 1948), 161; 164. PRC: I understand "authority" in the citation to be a critique of Catholic theology and the Cartesian reference to be a implied critique of a rationalist Protestant approach to truth; sobornost' could also be defined as "communion of love."]
There is much to think about here, not least whether this is, so to speak, "too subjective".
But the essence of what Berdyaev proposes is what Bowman Walton proposes above re a broad, consensual centre which does not race to rid itself of eccentricity and heresy, i.e. "the church is a unity of love and freedom."
Further, a church which is a communion of love seeking the truth, engaging its corporate, personal experience with the revelation it speaks to itself (proclaiming Scripture) and hands on to itself (tradition), is going to be a body in which "gradual reinterpretation" takes place, rather than schism.