Thinking Anglicans

the heartlands of Anglicanism

ACNS reports that the Archbishop of Cape Town, Njongonkulu Ndungane, has written a lengthy reflection on the nature of Anglicanism, and what it means to be an Anglican. The reflection is addressed to his fellow Primates. Here are a few snippets from the early paragraphs:

What does it mean to be Anglican? What is it about Anglicanism that has led so many to conclude that it provides the most productive spiritual soil for living out the Christian faith? What is it that we have, which we dare not lose?

Archbishop Rowan offers his own description of our distinctive Christian inheritance…

It is indeed within the territory encompassed by these strands that I find my own experience and understanding of Christianity. These describe the rich heartlands of Anglicanism — the solid centre, focussed on Jesus Christ, to which we are constantly drawn back by the counterbalancing pull of the other strands, if any one threatens to become disproportionately influential.

These Anglican heartlands are the subject of my reflections — the historic fertile middle ground, which is in danger of being forgotten amid polarising arguments and talk of schism.

The ACNS summary is included below the fold. The full reflection by Archbishop Ndungane is here.

‘Heartlands of Anglicanism’ — Archbishop of Cape Town Promotes Middle Ground

The Archbishop of Cape Town has written to the Primates of the Anglican Communion issuing a strong call to uphold the ’ broad rich heartlands of our Anglican heritage.’ He argues that this must be ‘the territory on which we debate our future.’ He adds ‘it is not something to be fought out at the limits of conservatism or liberalism, as if they were the only possibilities before us. ’

In a lengthy reflection on what it is to be Anglican, Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane declares, ‘we cannot lose this middle ground.’ He argues that the central core of Anglican tradition is not bland or shallow, but offers ‘productive spiritual soil.’ He refutes any suggestion that embracing the middle ground means ‘anything goes.’ Rather, he affirms uncompromising dedication and obedience to the heart of faith, as it is lived under the authority of Scripture, of Church order and structures, and of Christian tradition.

His call follows the recent ‘profound and stimulating reflections’ by the Archbishop of Canterbury, ‘The Challenge and Hope of Being an Anglican Today.’ In responding, the Archbishop of Cape Town asks ‘What does it mean to be Anglican?’ and affirms Archbishop Rowan’s description of the fundamental character of Anglicanism as combining the best of both catholic and reformed tradition, which together inform mature engagement with contemporary culture. He contends that any authentic solution to current differences within the Anglican Communion must preserve these strengths.

He also argues that the best means of finding such a solution is to proceed in a characteristically Anglican way: in a spirit of tolerance, trust and charity, and through the existing structures of the Communion. Acknowledging that these have evolved over time to serve changing needs, he now calls for their ’ renewal, transformation and revision’ rather than ‘radical replacement,’ so as to preserve their strengths. He points out that legal authority rests with the synodical processes of Provinces, and calls for fuller engagement of clergy and laity in the current debate, which he says will inevitably be lengthy.

Archbishop Ndungane speaks of ‘creative and dynamic diversity’ within his own personal faith, as well as at every level of Anglicanism. He illustrates this by reflecting on experiences within Southern Africa, from which he also demonstrates that decisions to exist separately can leave a lasting and difficult legacy.

He offers a fresh understanding of what it means to live within tradition, not seeing it as ‘dry history’ but rather as ‘holy remembering’ through which we ‘find our place of participation within the unfolding narrative of God’s redeeming acts.’

The Archbishop does not propose specific solutions. Instead, he writes that his intention is to help Anglicans be faithful to what God has done in the past, and so preserve and pass on the best of that heritage — and that he believes that holding on to the middle ground, the Heartlands of Anglicanism, is the best way of achieving this.

ENDS

For further information, please contact Penny Lorimer, Media Liaison for Archbishop Ndungane on +27 82 894-1522

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Thomas Renz
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Thomas Renz

The second opening question (“What is it about Anglicanism that has led so many to conclude that it provides the most productive spiritual soil for living out the Christian faith?”) makes me wonder whether there are more converts to Anglicanism in South Africa than England, more Christians who made a conscious choice in favour of this “productive soil” rather than another, Christians who have not been born and bred Anglican. Those of us who have converted to Anglicanism from other branches of the catholic church have done so for a huge variety of reasons. Evangelicals have come to Anglicanism out… Read more »

Marshall Scott
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This *is* a valuable contribution. It reflects from Scripture, Tradition, and Reason. It is not so general as to offer nothing new (as with Archbishop Sentamu’s address), nor so subtle as to simply become the canvas on which others project their own eisegeses (as with Archbishop Williams’ recent statements). It’s not that I don’t think there are points to the other statements. I do, and have said so, here and elsewhere. However, the breadth, depth, manner, and source of this statement has more to commend it in actually calling us to all that continuing to work together (much more meaningful… Read more »

Thomas Renz
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Thomas Renz

A certain self-centredness is maybe unavoidable in reflecting on what it means to be an Anglican but this can be a dangerous thing. Would it not be more helpful to seek to define what is essential for any Christian church while trying to discern what it is that makes us Anglican? The “heartland” of Anglicanism must surely be a land we share with other branches of the holy, apostolic and catholic church!

Martin Reynolds
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Coming from a mother raised in the fundamentalist Welsh Baptist tradition and a father raised as a Glaswegian, Celtic supporting Roman Catholic, my journey into Anglicanism came because it made me smile, no – laugh! When I came, by God’s graciousness, to faith, I looked around for a vehicle for that faith and the Anglican Church appealed to me most. In that community I found people more Protestant than Ian Paisley and more Catholic than the Pope and then some! Somehow they all muddled along under the same roof and there was ample room for someone like myself to ask… Read more »

Robert Christian
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Robert Christian

I really enjoyed this reading. I think Anglicanism needs to work. If we’re committed to Christ but cannot live in communion with each other how do we witness Christ’s Peace to others? We need to focus on what we have in common; the love for Christ Jesus, for the building of God’s kingdom. We may have different interpretations but focusing on common goals is a way to move forward instead of this pompous postering. I hear a voice of reason here. Thomas: I agree many people join the Anglican/Episcopal Church for various reasons. When we join I do think we… Read more »

Ian Montgomery
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Ian Montgomery

M. Scott writes: – I am particularly interested in heeding Gamaliel’s standard. Let us in America be, if you will, the Research and Development Department of the Communion. There is within the USA a demand that Episcopalians (especially the clergy) follow the new teaching. In certain dioceses those who dissent are crushed and no longer allowed to be part of the process. The leadership clearly does not tolerate dissent, nor welcome the dissenting minority. There is a win all totalitarianism at work. It has been seen regarding the ordination of women and is now taking place (in some dioceses more… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

But you want to throw all liberals out of Anglicanism, Ian. Can’t see there’s a lot of difference – and I haven’t heard anyone in ECUSA talk about expulsions. Not from the liberal side, anyway.

Dave
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Dave

Thomas Renz wrote: “Would it not be more accurate to state that any imbalance stems from lack of commitment to one or two of the strands” (Scripture-based, Catholicity, cultural & intellectual sensitivity) “? The AB hints at the fact that none of these strands is optional but he does not give much thought to how their interrelationship is properly ordered.” Dear Thomas, I must say that I agree completely with your assessment and am not convionced by +Ndungane’s article. “Middle ground” or “Via Media” seems to be just some of the latest *fad words* that liberals use to describe themselves… Read more »

J. C. Fisher
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J. C. Fisher

*Graciousness* . . . arising from God’s grace.

In part of Anglicanism, you see it (without regard for color or continent, as in +Ndungane’s words).

And in another part of it, you don’t. 🙁

Pour out *more* grace, Lord!

Thomas Renz
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Thomas Renz

It is natural that at various points in our personal history, we are more enthusiastic about some aspects of the faith than others. It is also not suprising that in specific contexts we stress the value of some aspects of the Anglican way more strongly than others. But this is very different from effectively abandoning one of the key ingredients. A church which dispenses with cultural sensitivity and intellectual honesty becomes a sect. A church which does not celebrate Christian Baptism and the Eucharist is a sect. A church which does not uphold the Scriptures as the rule and ultimate… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
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Ian Montgomery wrote: “In certain dioceses those who dissent are crushed and no longer allowed to be part of the process.”

Names, times, places, please – or for ever keep your peace!

Laurence Roberts
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Laurence Roberts

I spose my trouble is I’m ‘a’ nature mystic,Marian,agnostic,Evangelical,Plymouth Brethren, BCP, Catholick, eros devotee, Catholic, Charismatic, atheistic, Buddhistic, agnostic, jungian, phenominological, painterly,Friendly ( / ‘Quakerly’) person. These adjectives and wot not are in the order they first appeared in me (as far as I can recollect). Starting at about age 3 with unitive experiences (as they call them) around nature, Police cars & police men, vision of our lady at 8,and going on from there. As all these ‘phases’ live on in me, and are alive in me, I know I feel and think differently on different days. And (‘I’)… Read more »

Merseymike
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Merseymike

Why do you expect different treatment from liberals than you are prepared to offer to liberals, Dave?

Göran Koch-Swahne
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Thomas Renz wrote: “A church which dispenses with cultural sensitivity and intellectual honesty becomes a sect.” Pray, what exactly is “cultural sensitivity” and h o w is it linked to “intellectual honesty”? Strange visions tumble in my mind…. Thomas Renz wrote: “A church which does not celebrate Christian Baptism and the Eucharist is a sect.” What, may I enquire, is “celebrate” in this context? A manifestation of the “faith” of the individual – or the Faith of the Church in Christ’s Sacraments? Thomas Renz wrote: “A church which does not uphold the Scriptures as the rule and ultimate standard of… Read more »

Robert Christian
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Robert Christian

“A church which dispenses with cultural sensitivity and intellectual honesty becomes a sect.” Cultural sensitivity is a bad(ly) thing? Intellectual honest as oppposed to dihonesty? A church which does not celebrate Christian Baptism and the Eucharist is a sect.” As a “liberal, revisionist,” I still celebrate communion every week, as well as Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. I try each and every day to live fully my baptismal promise. A church which does not uphold the Scriptures as the rule and ultimate standard of faith is a sect.” Here I might deviate since like the Roman Church I… Read more »

Cynthia
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Cynthia

“There is within the USA a demand that Episcopalians (especially the clergy) follow the new teaching. In certain dioceses those who dissent are crushed and no longer allowed to be part of the process. “

Yes indeed. Try Pittsburgh, Dallas-Foprt Worth, San Joquin [which I think I just spelled wrong], Quincy and a few others.

Marshall Scott
Guest

Ian: I have heard such allegations made. My observation is that those allegations are coming on both directions: that in the identified ACN dioceses that moderate congregations that wish emphatically to stay in the Episcopal Church are being excluded/restricted, and that pro-AAC/ACN congregations in liberal dioceses are being excluded/restricted. Where we find that we must consider that unacceptable. At the same time, there are cases where, as near as I can tell from reading in the net, a handful of pro-AAC/ACN congregations have foreclosed beforehand any thought of reconciliation (the Diocese of Florida is a particularly sad situation, but the… Read more »

drdanfee
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drdanfee

The idea that what distinguishes Anglicanism as a path – or a range of inter-related contexts? – from all the other paths/contexts in which people are following Jesus of Nazareth can be simply put to some narrative extent, but not so simply lived. Our historic Anglican tradition was simply what everybody already knows. Anglicans are united in a lived, acted theology of inter-relationship which is first and foremost enacted in sacramental liturgy-common prayer – the two emblems of which are typically baptism (which tends to get read as protestant or reform in its emphasis on the call-inclusion of all believers… Read more »

Thomas Renz
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Thomas Renz

Göran – “cultural sensitivity” and “intellectual honesty” belong together as a habit of engagement with our world as in the phrase “a habit of cultural sensitivity and intellectual flexibility that does not seek to close down unexpected questions too quickly.” My substitution of “intellectual honesty” for “intellectual flexibility” was not meant to signal a different concept but to gloss “intellectual flexibility” as an ability to engage honestly with all the evidence, taking up “tenacious pursuit of the truth” from the essay in question. There is no hidden agenda behind my use of “celebrate”. I could have written “A church which… Read more »

Dave
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Dave

Merseymike wrote: “Why do you expect different treatment from liberals than you are prepared to offer to liberals, Dave?”

Dear Merseymike, because liberals are wrong. The Church is supposed to be *just* for Christians- those wanting to follow Christ – not *just* for religious liberals (whether or not they are Christian).

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

Robert Christian: I used the phrase “dispense with” as equivalent to any of these:

1. Manage without, forgo,
2. Get rid of, do away with
3. Exempt one from a law, promise, or obligation,

abbreviated from http://www.answers.com/topic/dispense-with

Maybe there are other uses of the verb which are unknown to me.

So to rephrase: where cultural sensitivity and intellectual honesty are done away with church becomes sect. (And just to make myself perfectly clear: “church” = good, “sect” = bad.)

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

Robert Christian: I did not imply that anyone would want to abandon all three strands at once. In fact, that was rather my point (cf. my first contribution) but I won’t labour this now.

What does the affirmation of the Scriptures as “the rule and ultimate standard of faith” have to do with a flat, ignorant, stupid, literalistic reading of the Scriptures?

mynsterpreost
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mynsterpreost

Dave wrote: because liberals are wrong.

Ah. That settles it, of course. Alternatively, it demonstrates the hollowness of an argument which ends up depending on a ‘cos I say so’ statement.

Brant Wiley
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Brant Wiley

I’m afraid that it will be difficult for me to take anything Dave has to say in the future very seriously. That saddens me because I value hearing from those with whom I disagree yet offer something meaningful to the conversation. I hope that his last post was just some kind of frustrated outburst and that he can return to dialogue mode.

mynsterpreost
Guest
mynsterpreost

literalistic reading of the Scriptures if only it were literalistic, then engagement at a meaningful level with those who approach the Bible from the infallibilist perspective would be much easier. Scholars are literalists — when it says (for example) that the sun stood still, they assume that’s what the text says: compare and contrast the explanations in conservative evangelical commentaries which advance hypotheses which actually contradict the text but appear to make it historically accurate to a superficial reader. The recently disinterred naturalistic explanation of the plagues of Egypt is another good example of the price paid in the desperate… Read more »

Thomas Renz
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Thomas Renz

Mynsterpreost — have you read any scholarly commentary on Joshua recently, evangelical or otherwise? I rather doubt it, as you seem to think that it is obvious to everyone but poor, prejudiced evangelicals what precisely the verse refers to.

I happen to be interested in this verse because of my work on Habakkuk (see 3.11) but I don’t want to take the thread off topic.

mynsterpreost
Guest
mynsterpreost

I borrow from my wife’s library, who does a spot of OT lecturing. The point I’m trying to make isn’t in any way original — I first found it in Barr’s ‘Fundamentalism’ back in the 80’s. It seems to me probable that the Joshua 10 material is linked with Canaanite mythology, and that to start scurrying around for naturalistic explanations actually obscures the text and takes the eye off the ball. This is my objection to the charge that those who are not conservative evangelicals do not take the Bible seriously — I contend that we do, and that scholarship,… Read more »

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

“It seems to me probable that the Joshua 10 material is linked with Canaanite mythology” reads much better and rather differently from “when it says … that the sun stood still, [scholars] assume that’s what the text says”…

I would take issue with the assumption that my earlier contribution presents a specifically conservative evangelical view, whether or not “conservative evangelicalism” in your mind equals Barr’s depiction of “fundamentalism”.

I am also slightly bemused about your concept of an “infallibilist school” with an identifiable, albeit inconsistent, hermeneutic.

No ill feelings, though.

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

Maybe I should elaborate on this last point because Robert Christian seemed to think that he could not agree with “A church which does not uphold the Scriptures as the rule and ultimate standard of faith is a sect” because “like the Roman Church” he doesn’t recognize the two creation stories as factual/historical events and because he did not observe the laws in the book of Leviticus. Well, like any other mainline denomination (although they would not like to be called a denomination), the Roman Catholic Church is a broad church in which you find all sorts (Anglicans who think… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
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I might as well repeat what I wrote in a thread below: It’s strange to see all these Calvinist readings of dear Dr Hooker and the XXXIX Articles. Wasn’t Dr Hooker defending the Via Media of the Church against the Gregorian past (and Tridentine present) of schismatic Rome, and, equally, against the extreme Neo Platonism of secarian Calvinism? It does look like the acrobatics performed by the Pietists over the German Lutheran Books of Concord ;=) And this goes for Calvinist readings of Dei Verbum and Some Issues as well. (The quote from Dei Verbum says, with Dr Hooker, that… Read more »

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

PS: “is without error” seeks to affirm that Holy Scripture is entirely true and trustworthy in all its assertions, i.e. “does not teach error”. The phrase is not meant to imply that we cannot find errors by external standards of grammar or history writing or nature description. The instrumental phrase in a fuller description is “what Scripture teaches”. Obviously, this could go on for ever. I am not actually inclined to pursue it and did not mean for anyone to get hung up about a specific term. Hooker never argued that Scripture taught one thing but that we now know… Read more »

mynsterpreost
Guest
mynsterpreost

Thomas — apologies, I had not meant to suggest you were in any way fundamentalist! Sorry if that was the impression created. Your last posting identifies pretty exactly my own position – you don’t have to be fundamentalist to have a high view of Scripture, except that I would ask whether the Fundamentalist view of Scripture is as high as that of the non-fundamentalist. The current creationist goings-on are a case in point: a literalist reading of some of the biblical creation stories would find creationism unacceptable: six days the Book saith, and that’s that. So when a fundamentalist embraces… Read more »

Thomas Renz
Guest
Thomas Renz

Göran – did I ever say that all things are contained in Scripture in the way you imply? I talked about “the Scriptures as the rule and ultimate standard of faith” as the heartlands of the holy, catholic and apostolic church. Maybe you refer to the “affirmation of the Scriptures as the church’s sole source of revelation and the only final and infallible standard”? Maybe I should have written “the church’s sole source of infallible relevation” but in context it is clearly a statement against the two-source theory of revelation to which Trent committed the Roman Catholic Church and “standard”… Read more »

Thomas Renz
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Thomas Renz

“In a word, we plainly perceive by the difference of those three laws which the Jews received at the hand of God, the moral, ceremonial, and judicial, that if the end for which and the matter according whereunto God maketh his laws continue always one and the same, his laws also do the like; for which cause the moral law cannot be altered…” (III.10.4, original) or to put it more briefly: “the moral, in the nature of things, remains unchanged, and unchangeable; the ceremonial has ceased, the end thereof having been fulfilled: and the judicial, though the end remains, yet… Read more »