Saturday, 22 November 2008

The historical identity of the Church of England

Christopher Howse writes today in the Telegraph about Anglicans who’ve lost their memory.

Like an unwatched pan of milk, readers of the Church Times have seethed up and boiled over in response to an analysis of the Church of England by the ever-controversial historian Jonathan Clark…

Here are the links to the Church Times pages where this debate has proceeded:

First, Jonathan Clark wrote an article The C of E needs a strong story.

The next week, there were several letters in response, under the headline The new historiography: is an Anglican via media still defensible? from Jeremy Morris, Simon Heans and Andrew Burnham.

The following week, there was a further letter from Christopher Scargill and a response from Jonathan Clark, at The Church of England’s historical identity.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Saturday, 22 November 2008 at 12:44pm GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Church of England
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A very important issue..as one who knows their history has a sense of their present and future.

Posted by: Robert Ian williams on Sunday, 23 November 2008 at 8:45pm GMT

"It may be superficially surprising that feminism and gay rights should today occupy so much of the attention of Anglicans, but the historian must discover why that is appropriately the case. What is really at issue is au­thority, and that is ultimately histor­ically grounded."
- Jonathan Clarke -

J. Clarke's inference that the Church of England, and Anglicans in general, have lost their sense of history, presupposes that any movement away from past 'certainties' in dogmatic theological speculation are out of character and therefore antithetical to being true 'Church'.

This is precisely why the Roman Catholics are themselves at present in crisis - because of their seemingly inability to recognise the fact that the faith 'once delivered to the Saints' is still a vital living force in a world of change. We can never alter our history, that is a given. What we can do is move as the Holy Spirit leads, and a the Catholic and Reformed Anglican Church has always tried to do.

It is not just a matter of being overtaken by the spirit of the age - rather, it is more a matter of interpreting what the Holy Spirit might be asking the Church to discover about the realities of the Creation as God has designed it to be. God did not stop communicating with us after the publishing of the King James - or any other Bible. To imagine that the Church has to remain in the 'dark ages' without the Enlightenment, is to remain at the mercy of historians, who would have us eschew the discoveries of science and the variety of human responses to our world as it is constantly being opened up to the insights and processes of human development.

Rome has decided to resile to a pre-Vatican II environment - with no development of theology that might discover 'something new' is able to co-exist with 'something old' - in a constantly changing world. History can give us some understanding of where we are going, but it cannot trump the value of experience. The future has to take this into account when struggling with theology.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 26 November 2008 at 10:50am GMT

"To imagine that the Church has to remain in the 'dark ages' without the Enlightenment, is to remain at the mercy of historians"

This can be taken too far, though. There are certain things about the preEnlightenment period that we have lost to our detriment. A better understanding of myth, for one thing, less arrogance that our knowledge will, or even already has, answered all questions about the Universe, a better appreciation of the more abstract facets of existence. Not that they had it right, either. Take a thing like visions. We need to see such things as nothing more than electrical phenomena in the brain, perhaps "delusions" if you will, or even illness. They would have seen such things as being from God. Can I suggest a middle ground (how Anglican!)? Neither of these things matters. A religious person can always attribute brain activity to God, after all. What matters is how our humanity experiences it and how it interacts with our faith. But, then, my return to faith came, as much as anything else, out of a growing perception that there is a huge part of our human experience that is not accounted for at all well by science. It is interesting how religious people have bought into the hubris of "our modern perceptions can answer everything". Look at how conservative Evangelicals here react when I suggest that the obvious historical inaccuracies of the Bible do not in any way detract from its truth. There are elaborate explanations of how some part are allegorical, some parts literary, and some parts "historic", though it is obvious that none of it is really historic in any way we can recognize. That is totally modern: in order for reality to be of value, it must be provable. Indeed, if it isn't provable, it isn't reality at all. Look at how angry some conservatives get here when I claim we cannot prove the existence of God. It's so funny how this scientific, "prove it" attitude comes from people who are very vocal in their mistrust and condemnation of science that goes against their own preconceived notions and prejudices. That this attitude underlies the ideas of both John Spong and those for whom he is the incarnation of the anti-Christ makes for no end of giggles!

Posted by: Ford Elms on Wednesday, 26 November 2008 at 2:03pm GMT

If there is a crisis in the Catholic Church , it is because of the poor discipline meeted out against dissenters.

Excommunicate is the loving response and Divine pattern.....if you love smeone you tell them the truth, not what they want to hear,

The opposite of love is indifference.

Posted by: Robert Ian Williams on Wednesday, 26 November 2008 at 9:21pm GMT

"If there is a crisis in the Catholic Church , it is because of the poor discipline meeted out against dissenters"

Because the discipline meted out around 500 years ago by Rome certainly served to silence those pesky, what were they called....oh yes, Protestants. I believe it all started with someone whose name I think was Luter, or Buther or something. It's hard to find anything about him or the movement he started, since Rome's discipline was so effective in quelling that little bunch of rabble rousers. I can't think what would have happened had Rome been more willing to acknowledge Her faults, who knows, we might have myriad different Protestant groups instead of the wonderfully unified Western Church we have now! Oh, sarcasm alert!

Posted by: Ford Elms on Friday, 28 November 2008 at 12:55pm GMT
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