13 November 2010

how we pray is how we believe

Anglicans or if you prefer Episcopalians can argue endlessly over a paragraph in the Book of Common Prayer. If the Eastern Church can schism over how to make the sign of the cross (it did once complete with a war!) we can similarly fight over what we say at some point in a service tenaciously. And there is logic to this as we believe the title, how we pray encapsulates and shows the world how and what we believe.

Polity, Ecclesiology matter too. For instance, because it is congregational, that is vests all the authority to decide matters of governance in the congregation, a Baptist church does not decide at the denominational level who can preach. In a sense it cannot. Recent efforts to limit preaching to men among Southern Baptists have been controversial precisely because of this point.

We Anglicans in some countries (USA, Sudan and Scotland among them) often call ourselves, "Episcopalians." We are as the catch phrase goes, Episcopally led and Synodically governed. So we have bishops whose office confers leadership responsibilities and powers on the one hand and the various assemblies of bishops, priests, deacons and even laity that set the canons (rules) by which we understand how things work. And we have this requried prayer book, which defines how we worship.

Some of us could be Roman Catholic (some of our bishops just became Roman Catholic) if we did not hang onto our existing ideas of governance and worship. After all, some of us pray to saints, that is a rosary on my blog I make them and pray them, many of us like incense so much we are jokingly called, "smells and bells" Anglicans, and we have deacons and priests in our ministry.

Some of us could be Methodists. In fact the entire Methodist Church sprang from the work of two Anglican priests, James and John Wesley. In England we are still connected structurally, in Canada we share a hymnal and in the US the Methodists are in close relationship with the Episcopalians and we share some liturgies.

So part of how we define our polity is that it able to encompass a lot of diversity. I have a good friend, a deacon who thinks my affection for the Anglican Rosary and my elder son's Marian devotion rather odd. That is OK, Episcopalians are a "big tent" and we all fit in it.

In this context then consider the Ridely Draft Covenant as amended. As we are structured so we believe. First let's agree that the Anglicans generally know what we believe from what we do. That is the point of common prayer. We say the same prayers every Sunday around the world, eat the same bread, drink the same wine, hear the same lessons from the Bible read and even across amazing language barriers often sing the same hymns. So we do the same things, because we believe the (roughly) same things.

There is a lot we do not consider what academics call 'first order' issues or looking at it the other way, there is a great deal we consider not necessary for salvation. I make a sign of the cross honoring my Eastern European roots, in a way that Rome would not use. I can do that while the person next to me uses the Roman formula. How we do that, IF we do it, is not a salvation issue.

The Covenant changes that. Suddenly the polity is international, governed almost entirely by bishops, curial in the sense that the bishops in committee are the rulers and the question of what beyond the basic beliefs in our creeds, the prayer book and our quadrilaterals (which see) is a salvation issue is outside our control. It belongs, suddenly in the hands of archbishops, primates whose major claim to authority is superior political skills.

It may be that a church led, governed and controlled by a curia is a good thing. It is not however the Anglican thing. We explicitly allow as things now stand, each national church to revise the prayer book for local use. The changes in almost every case are style and language not substance but the changes are also not subject to some authority's permission -- yet.

It is precisely that independence that sense of collegiality but not curial control that the "no" forces are seeking to preserve. A polity that is singular needs a supreme governor and several archbishops see themselves as candidates. None of the above, that rising American star is my choice.

No Anglican Covenant.




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Anonymous said...

I have wanted to post something like this on my website and this gave me an idea. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

What a nice post. I really love reading these types or articles. I can?t wait to see what others have to say.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

This is a fantastic view of the situation, I don’t think I’ve quite seen it from that perspective before.

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