Sunday, March 17, 2013

Canterbury: Repentance and Reformation Before Reconciliation

Fr. Dale Matson

Canterbury never seems to have an over the cliff moment, only a possible downhill slide into oblivion. There has been a well-intended but mistaken sense for both +Rowan Williams and ++Justin Welby that agreement within the WWAC is simply a process issue whether it is called ‘Indaba’ or ‘Reconciliation’. Both men have failed to see the differences between the traditionalists and progressives for what those differences really are. It is heresy versus orthodoxy. I was greatly disappointed when +Rowan Williams referred to the differences as a matter of ‘styles’ as if it was simply differing local adaptations of the Gospel. They have identified and attempted to treat a symptom, disunity, as the problem when disunity is only a symptom of the problem.

Today, Canterbury Anglicanism is not a firewall. Canterbury is a fulcrum  used by the progressives to pry loose the preeminence of Scripture, Tradition and Reason and supplant it with subjective experience. The innovations are patches of new material on old cloth. Would Canterbury be recognizable by Thomas Cranmer today? The once reformed church is now itself in need of reformation.  The ‘locally adapted’ innovations of progressive churches are now becoming the tail wagging the dog of Anglicanism. We have taken the wrong road and ignored our brothers and sisters in the Roman and Orthodox Churches. It was a sin of pride to go another direction. The ordination of women propelled us down the wrong path. Some would even say our separate path began sooner with birth control that makes sexual pleasure the goal of human sexual intercourse. This has degenerated further into reproductive rights but it is still murder of the unborn child. It is an unconscionable outrage that some call this a blessing. Sex for pleasure has led to additional perverse forms of sexual relationships being added to the list daily. The church is called to be a restraint on evil not call that which is evil blessed.

One cannot separate Canterbury from the Church of England. The CoE views itself as both catholic and reformed. Reformation is not usually associated with innovation as much as a recapturing/remembering. That is the spirit of Thomas Cranmer.

“The religious settlement that eventually emerged in the reign of Elizabeth gave the Church of England the distinctive identity that it has retained to this day. It resulted in a Church that consciously retained a large amount of continuity with the Church of the Patristic and Medieval periods in terms of its use of the catholic creeds, its pattern of ministry, its buildings and aspects of its liturgy, but which also embodied Protestant insights in its theology and in the overall shape of its liturgical practice. The way that this is often expressed is by saying that the Church of England is both 'catholic and reformed.’”

Thomas Cranmer was both catholic and reformed. His vision was for a Benedictine spirituality available to the people in the vernacular via the Book of Common Prayer. Orthodox Anglicanism was preserved in missioned lands far from Canterbury.  What the progressives would term primitive binary thinking is God’s prophetic voice calling Canterbury back to her roots. Canterbury is no longer catholic or reformed. Canterbury has gone her own way, doing what is right in her own eyes. Canterbury has not sought the council of the Roman or Orthodox churches. Can Canterbury even say to what extent she remains a part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church? She still has a seat but no voice and vote. Does Canterbury even reflect the mind of the majority of Anglicans?

The ear of Canterbury has turned toward contemporary society for its prophetic voice and away from God's voice in Scripture.  Myopic eyes see only a contemporary human centered missiology. It is a material kingdom of this world. It is a human flourishing in this world mentality, not a preparation for the next world spirituality. God the Holy Spirit cannot and will not bring unity and reconciliation to those holding to Tradition, Scripture and Reason and those who have introduced another gospel. It is the gospel of distortion. It includes Eve rather than Mary feminism. It is the insistence on factional rights rather than God’s sovereignty. It is human focused not Christocentric.  It is finding new ways to introduce innovation through the back door in the dark of night one inch at a time.

This is not the time to attempt reconciliation without the urging and blessing of God the Holy Spirit Who created and unified the Church of Jesus the Christ. This is the time for repentance and reformation. It is a call to return to historic orthodox Anglicanism. It is a call to seek reconciliation with our brothers and sisters in the Roman and Orthodox Churches. It is a call to return to the only name and hope we have, Jesus Christ.

“It is Classical orthodox Christianity that tells the profoundest truth about the One we call the Christ."  Very Rev. Robert Barron, S.T.D. 


The Underground Pewster said...

Good points. Let me present a question.

Unity in the Church as it now stands appears to mean being able to share the communion cup with those who you see supporting an "innovative" (AKA heretical) Gospel.

Is that theologically tenable?

I don't think it is, but I will leave it to wiser minds such as yours to spell it out.

The "innovator" will claim that his position is Spirit led, not heretical, etc., and therefore those who believe communion has been impaired by those innovations are labelled as the ones who are less than Christian.

A renewal is clearly needed, but Canterbury has not wanted to offend anybody except perhaps the "orthodox" recently. I think any honest attempt by the Church to create unity will have to come out of a search for the truth. I don't see that happening anytime soon. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer reflected on his days at Union Theological Seminary.
" the conflict between determination for truth with all of its consequences and the will for community, the latter prevails. This is characteristic of all American thought, particularly as I have observed it in theology and the church, they do not see the radical claim of truth on the shaping of their lives. Community is therefore formed less on truth than on the spirit of 'fairness'."

Dale Matson said...

I initially attempted a quick response but realize there is so much to your thoughtful comment that I will submit a blog length response.

John Brough said...

The 'innovator' is a spiritual tourist whose church is the bus from which they depart to new experiences and thrills. They have no fruit of the spirit, nor gifts, so a shopping they must go.