• RSS Subscribe to Blog

  • PAGES

  • RECENT PONDERINGS

  • RECENT COMMENTS

    Steve on SAINTLY?
    Paul Nicholson on SAINTLY?
    RGE on Calling the Shots
    Walter J. Tanner on MARRIAGE EXTENSION
    franiel32 on IN THIS COMPANY
  • ARCHIVES

  • BLOG STATS

    • 106,855 hits

CONTROL

Control is a reaction which sets in when trust evaporates. How do we protect ourselves when our security seems threatened and when it is no longer possible to negotiate in good faith?  When human relationships break down, participants look to protect what they have. Whatever the outcome, whether in families or institutions, protective and reactive measures deepen mistrust and encourage self-justification. Feeling badly done by, bitterness increases. People lose respect for each other and love turns to hatred.

When a marriage seems to be breaking down our church requires that the parties seek the counsel and advice of a priest. Such a priest is assumed to be neutral. The priest may call in a professional marriage counsellor or therapist whose task is to offer professional and objective help.  The whole premise here is that the vows and union formerly enjoyed by the couple should be a base to explore the strengths and weaknesses of a relationship, seeking to revive and build upon that which was once there.

It is no accident that many who came into our church from other traditions, who “fell in love” with “Episcopalianism” are the first to feel betrayed when their chosen church seems to become something else. They are not alone. Many who grew up loving our liturgy, our ethos reach the point when they find it difficult to recognize the continued presence of that which they love in what the church has become.

Of course those who have been active in promoting the utility or even the “justice” of the changes which have transformed the church find those who cleave to an older pattern obstructive and unenlightened. Those who have been attracted to the church as it now is, have no “memory” of what the church was and thus have little sympathy for old-fashioned types.

Habit is an essential ingredient in human nature. Habit provides security and stability. Granted there are those who become captive to habit and who become disoriented when the rhythm of life is destroyed. On the other hand there are those who love to move the furniture around, throw out the old and bring in the new. As Gilbert, of Sullivan fame remarked, we are “either a little liberal or else a little conservative, tra la la.”

I was thinking about this when I wrote an essay the other day on the social and historical background in which Richard Hooker, our first great theologian, wrote his seminal work. Particularly I was thinking about Elizabeth i’s chapels. Elizabeth grew up during the time when the Church of England became a national catholic church under her father. Henry VIII broke with Rome but during his life time the worship of the church changed very little. When Elizabeth came to the throne, and once again divorced the church from Western Catholicism, she was obliged to appoint to high office people with a different experience to her own. Many had gone into exile on the Continent and had espoused the Reformed views of Continental evangelicalism.

Stubbornly this “conservative” woman retained in her chapel many of the ceremonies and outward signs she had grown to love as a child. She insisted that the structure of the church remained traditional, in its retention of the provincial, diocesan and parochial system, in the rhythm of the Christian Year and a lectionary linked to that rhythm.

A case may be made that her stubborn conservatism enabled “Anglicanism” to resist the “liberalism” of Calvinism and gradually to bring together a comprehension between things old and things new. Had she not imposed her own stamp on a radical church, the Church of England would have become a Presbyterian kirk. The Queen and her third Archbishop gave protection to an unassuming parson, Richard Hooker, whose great work created a traditional synthesis between the past and the present. Hooker was five years old when Elizabeth came to the throne. He grew up worshiping according to the rites and ceremonies of the 1558 Prayer Book. He and many of his generation were shaped by the language and theology of the BCP.

Today there are many of us in TEC whose spirituality and doctrine of the church (ecclesiology) has been shaped by the way we worship.  We are alarmed by those whose religious experience is framed not by our structural heritage but by a religious experience which looks to an “authority” above and beyond the language and temper of our liturgy. Some are ultra conservatives, framed by “charismatic evangelicalism” and many, convinced that the church is not a safe home, have abandoned TEC and formed their own home.

The ascendant and dominating party in our church describes and limits our heritage in the light of their cultural, social and “justice” issues. For them the contents, structure and ethos of our worship is no longer the law of faith and of prayer, but a neutral reality which may be used as a vehicle for their reforms.

Those of us who are convinced Prayer Book Christians have no Elizabeth to protect us. We find ourselves in a “denominational” church untrammeled by that which they regard as the “traditional” ethos of Anglicanism.

The revised Prayer Book of our church has been in use for a scant thirty years. Yes, the 28 BCP didn’t have a long life but it was in touch with the temper and ethos of the past. The present Prayer Book has within it the possibility of framing a similar theology and spirituality. Yet it hasn’t had the chance to sink into the psyche of the people. The words and their meaning, the rhythm and meaning of its cadences are confronted by the doctrines and discipline of those who look beyond who we are to a cultural and social “theology” which finds its apex in the decisions of a governing body, General Convention, in the policies adopted by a majority rather than in the doctrine, discipline and worship of the church.

Is there a neutral and pastoral authority to which those of us who have been formed and are formed by Anglicanism as expressed in its structure and worship may appeal?  Seven bishops went to Lambeth to seek such pastoral advice from the Archbishop of Canterbury. It was his predecessor who intervened when TEC was being formed and insisted that our liturgy and structure remain firmly Anglican. In a global world, as members of a global “Communion”  those bishops and those of us whose faith and spirituality is framed in our worship and the words and meaning of our worship have nowhere else to go. Our Primate leads the reformers. Many of our bishops are reformers. Where then shall we go to find an authority which affirms that our theology and spirituality is that which our church affirms in its doctrine, discipline and worship?

The problem for us is that the other “party” in our dispute is not ready to join us in seeking counsel from Canterbury. They affirm the justice of their position and their absolute right to do their own thing. They are right. We are wrong.  The Primates have sought to offer committees and  bodies to help us in seeking some form of redress and support. Their offer has been rejected. And thus we now seek from Canterbury some assurance that we may retain our links and communion with the wider church and  retain our own integrity to be that which the church has been.  Many of the Elizabethan leadership were full of Calvin. They looked beyond that which the church was in structure and liturgy to a higher and external authority. They sought justice. Elizabeth, a remarkable woman, tempered their enthusiasm.  Where is our Elizabeth?

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: