Anglican Identity

I’m back–hope your holidays were good. I’ll post on mine in a bit but this has been bugging me…

Over on Thinking Anglicans a commenter going by “Raspberry Rabbit” made the observation in the ongoing discussion about Truro/Falls Church that many who protest so loudly about Anglican identity may not be terrible well informed in it themselves. Rabbit mentioned one such vociferous “Anglican” who used to come to seminary classes in a Savlation Army uniform… One of the central topics in the current debate revolves around the notion of Anglican Identity. Everybody is sure that they have it and that the other side doesn’t. several things come to my mind including the reognition and realization that few in the debate in this corner of the web, at least, are cradle Anglicans. I’m a fairly recent convert myself. So how do we decide what is really Anglican and what isn’t without distorting things? It’s hard and the danger as to always before our eyes especially when we engage in polemics on who’s in and who’s out, who’s authentically Anglican and who’s not.

Personally, I have my own recommendation and criteria. It’s not really about formal theology since Anglicans have been all over the map on that one. Ditto on purity tests like the 39 Articles which were useful at a certain time and place for locating the English Church in the face of Rome, Geneva, and Wittenburg–and whose current application is one of the ongoing topics of debate. No, I go back to the prayerbook. Feel free to lecture me about Anglican identity–after you’ve spent at least a year living with the prayerbook Offices every morning and night and making it to Mass at least most of the Sundays and Holy Days. And for the record the edition doesn’t matter–’28, ’79, hell, I don’t care if you’re using the 1662 book. What is important is that Anglicans are people whose lives and thoughts about life (ergo, theology) are shaped in the context of these liturgies. The twice-daily recitation of the creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the versicles; the daily recitation of the canticles; the weekly celebration of the Mass; the monthly recitation of the Psalter; the yearly reading of the Scriptures, this is fundamentally what makes classic Anglicans in my book (literally…). Try that–then come back and harangue me about Anglican Identity.

11 Replies to “Anglican Identity”

  1. I must confess that you and *Christopher have turned me toward St. Benedict’s Rule. I’ve suggested a book for study to my DoK chapter, Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict by Esther de Waal. I hope they enjoy it and it give the members an introduction to its influence in our Anglican point of view.

    But I wonder: what about our traditional approach to scripture? Does that have anything to do with it? And, having been raised liberal–what is it?

  2. I agree that Anglicanism is the living of Spirituality through the Offices and Liturgy. The problem though, is that everyone else wants to impose on Anglicanism what they believe is making Anglicans deficient. People like Spong wants us to be Unitarians. Certain Anglo-Catholics believe that true Anglican liturgy is Tridentine and everything else is heresy. Anglo-Papist believe that we can’t be Anglican unless we look to go back to Rome. Certain Evangelicals can do all you say above and still spend their days wanting to extend the Creed to exclude all those that don’t fit their doctrine. Meanwhile, Anglican leadership is busy either trying to kick everyone out or change our identity in order to let everyone in.

    Annie – On your question concerning scripture. I think it would interesting if we adopted the Benedictine Lectio Divina. We did it when I was an Oblate. It really makes a difference in your thinking when you pray the scriptures instead of trying to disect it.

    Well needless to say, Derek, you have certainly given me my New Year’s resolution. I hope it’s easier than losing weight :-)

    Hope to see more great posts in 07!

  3. Rabbit mentioned one such vociferous “Anglican” who used to come to seminary classes in a Savlation Army uniform…

    If this was in England the person may have belonged to the Church Army, the Church of England’s C19 copy of/answer to the Salvation Army. Similar uniforms but the CA’s is grey.

    Several things come to my mind including the reognition and realization that few in the debate in this corner of the web, at least, are cradle Anglicans.

    You noticed that too! I see lots of angry ex-whatevers, usually burnt-out RCs and born evangelicals, who use the Episcopal Church as a water tower threatening to pick off anybody who does not approve of homosexuality for example. (‘You only tolerate it as a citizen? Not good enough’ BAM!) And there are embarrassing conservatives too who think calling ++Cantuar or Dr Jefferts Schori demeaning or inaccurate names (‘the archdruid’ for example) or posting Photoshopped jabs will bring more people to the faith once delivered. Not a whole lot of geniality, tolerant conservatism or other charming, Christian aspects of the Anglican Way.

    (Though sometimes you do see some wicked humour from both sides, like the one about Bp Martyn Minns in Virginia resorting to Nigerian ‘419’ e-mail scams for fund-raising: ‘Greetings in the Lord! I earnestly desire a business relationship with you….’ Looked at entirely apart from the battle royale, now that‘s funny!)

    What is an Anglican?

    Mass-and-office Catholicism… Anglicanism leads naturally to it if you follow orthodoxy…

    We have our differences of course but the facts that my religion today is largely praxis-based (the Mass and offices like you) and that I am a born Anglican are probably connected, or ‘I don’t care what the bloody sign outside the church says it is as long as the religion inside is Catholic’. Where the word is preached and the sacraments rightly administered… sounds familiar, ja? As for me, add apostolic bishops and a canon of the Mass and Bob’s your uncle. :)

  4. Thanks, James. Yes, I try but have had no instruction. Father K. is working on it and said he will speak to a Benedictine about it for me.

    (Getting through the Psalter in a month still intimidates me, however.)

  5. You know, Derek, that touches one of my concerns about non-Episcopal seminaries for Episcopal clergy. Various fine academic institutions have introduced “Anglican tracks” for preparation for ministry, such as those at Emory or SMU. I wonder what those institutions offer for formation as a worshipping community? The round of offices were central to education in my seminary They helped emphasize that it was in worship and prayer together that we found unity, and not in uniformity of intellectual assent.

    And sometimes the results aren’t all that pretty anyway. I worked with a colleague who spoke to candidates for ordination of “an ontological change” taking place in ordination, rather than “an indelible mark.” She only convinced me that she did not understand ontology. She never convinced me that her ordination had made her anything other than human.

  6. Annie, getting through the Psalter in a month will just become normal after a while. The key is to give yourself grace–if you miss an office or two or five, just remember that you’ll get to it next month… One of the reasons that I recommend reading the Fathers so much is because it offers a different (sometimes better) way of reading that bypasses some of our modern preoccupations (just remember that they have their own set).

    Marshall, the Anglican Studies programs at non-Anglican seminaries don’t have an eighth of the formation that you’d get at a place like General. It often consists of a single Anglican service aweek which simply is not enough for formation in my book. What gets inevitably lost in these cases is the Office and that’s the real tragedy in my book.

    Fogey, yes, praxis is where it’s at as far as I’m concerned because what you pray does work its way into what you think.

  7. One of the reasons that I recommend reading the Fathers so much is because it offers a different (sometimes better) way of reading that bypasses some of our modern preoccupations (just remember that they have their own set).

    I remember recently reading C.S. Lewis’s Preface to On the Incarnation , where he says something of this sort…

  8. I resemble that commentator. The point was not to denigrate the witness and opinion of those who may come to us from other traditions. There is a case to be made, however, that a great many people have come into the Anglican tradition by way of congregations which only marginally consider themelves Anglican – hyper evangelical bodies, neo pentecostal churches – certainly a dynamic and lively part of the Anglican tradition but, it must be admitted, a little light on both ecclesiology and eucharistic theology. In a few cases individuals with little Anglican formation and deep feeling have ended up lecturing the rest of us on how we’ve turned our back on traditional Anglicanism because we are not Biblical Inerrantists or because we would not be able to subscribe to the same view of Penal Substitutionary Atonement as those who easily bridge the Anglican-Baptist divide. Something is not right here. People do not cease to be Salvationists immediately upon joining the local Evangelical Anglican gathering and should perhaps poke around the breadth of the Anglican world before making pronouncements.

    Raspberry Rabbit
    Scotland

  9. Hi Rabbit–I totally agree with your point. And I wouldn’t limit it to “in a few cases” either… Especially on the web we get all sorts telling us how to do things without much grounding in Anglican liturgy and polity…

  10. One of the reasons that I recommend reading the Fathers so much is because it offers a different (sometimes better) way of reading that bypasses some of our modern preoccupations (just remember that they have their own set).

    Pardon my ignorance here. Do you mean like the readings that you recommended last Lent from the Catholic site? I didn’t get very far on them (although I still have the PDF file). And there seems to be tons of stuff by the Fathers–not that I mind at all since I like reading it, but I would really like to read them in hard copy. I retain that better. I checked the other day and they wanted something like $249.00 for CDs! I know that our church library doesn’t have them, etc. Sheesh!

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