Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Seitz on catholic anglicanism

On T19 recently I came across this comment from Seitz of the ACI, a comment which seems mistaken:

Anglicans are Christians in a Communion (hence ACI). They are not national churches where one uses a retinal scanner to get into a new ‘Christian’ zones. And neither is the Communion a collection of the like-minded in Provinces which are inventing a new kind of Anglicanism—even for very pressing reasons. If it comes to that, the Communion is over anywhere. It may come to that. Some may want it to come to that. Others are wanting to do everything possible to prevent the fracture of anglicanism whilst maintaining things like ‘CA Principles’ (e.g.).

The Anglican Communion to which Seitz refers is not a church; this is not how it was envisaged at its inception, and nothing in its history to this day indicates that over time it became a church. Whatever communion exists in the Anglican Communion, it is not the same communion as that celebrated and enacted in the sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Eucharist.

To my limited knowledge, nobody is ordained simply into the Anglican Communion as a deacon, priest, or bishop or simply baptized into it as laity: "you're a Communionite". Nobody celebrates simply on the Anglican Communion's behalf, save in a derivative sense. At the moment, it cannot be done; there is no causally accessible path.

Indeed, there may be said to be a communion associated with membership in the Anglican Communion, but "communion" in this sense is derivative from a prior relation established in the dominical sacraments as practiced in Christian churches.

Thus, as the Anglican Communion is not a church, if what were known as national churches are not really churches after all, then there are no Anglican churches anywhere. What then of our orders? Our sacraments? All irregular, all the time? Or maybe he would suggest there are in fact many more Anglican churches than anyone ever realized, each diocese being an Anglican church unto itself whether it knew itself to be that or not? Maybe--who can tell? He just seeems to be making this stuff up. Or better: it seems a peculiar service to render expedience, a new liturgy if you will: the ad hoc ministration.

But seriously, his ecclesiological fantasies are supposed to express a normative notion of catholicity? Who buys this rather private notion of "catholic anglicanism"? Foisting this patent absurdity on our divines does them no service. Surely, foisting it on the Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion is no service either.


At 10:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to agree with your line of argument: it would seem that Anglicanism is de facto national in character. No Henry VIII and assertion of rights as king, etc., no Anglican Catholic church.
As we (USA) have no king, and are loath to even accept an hierarchy of divines, is the King-Country-Nation model of any relevance?
It is an embarrassing fact that the Anglican church was spawned out of the actions of an impotent king, whose actions vis-a-vis the church were entirely national/political.
The appeal made by the "reformers" is to a church catholic-- universal and not dependent upon nationalistic boundaries.

At 1:32 PM, Blogger Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Well, Anonymous, it wasn't just Anglican and Henricians who saw this as a reasonable solution. I would suggest that Henry's difficulties created an opportunity for the creation of ecclesiastical nationalism, but that it might well have happened in any case. The principle behind the later phrase "Cuius regio, eius religio" was bruited about the same time as Henry's reform in England.

For good or ill (and I think it good) Anglicanism emerges out of this notion, a notion originally devised to keep some peace. Much or our recent conflict arises out of the efforts to bring people from very different traditions together in a unified structure: a church instead of a communion. Something's got to give, as the old song said.

At 5:15 PM, Blogger The Anglican Scotist said...


Good question.

It seems to me there may be relevance here without necessary connection; that is, the national character of Anglicanism is not essential to it, but serves its well being. What do I mean?

Just that it is a way of instantiating the life of the church, which is our way by a kind of contract or covenant, i.e. our Constitution and Canons. We could have instantiated a different structure within which to function, and could in theory revise the contract articulating our structure, but at any rate the church cannot live without instantiating some structure.

Our polity, our particular normative structure, is of special interest for its expression of republican principle: an effort is made to balance and restrain power while keeping clear lines of accountability.

In that respect, we managed to instantiate a structure arguably improving on the CoE's structure; we took something good out of the much maligned European Enlightenment.

Inasmuch as power should be checked, balanced, & held accountable, it would seem we have a duty to the church to preserve and hand on our peculiar structure, no matter how much it is despised by Williams and others. We have a duty to preserve our polity and enfold it into Christian tradition.

That is why we should take very seriously any proposal to alter our polity in the direction of removing checks and accountability--we would be breaking a grave obligation to the church catholic.


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