Definition of Anglicanism

Once again Damian Thompson highlights an Anglican detail that reveals all: He quotes the Bishop of Rossdale (who he??)

“We have been a Church which has been held together by belief, as contained in the historic creeds, and not by agreeing to particular statements about that faith.”

This is such a classic piece of Anglican theological sleight of hand that it ought to be preserved forever not just as a definition of Anglicanism, but a definition of that fuzzy, polite and muddled way of speaking that Anglicans have. I can remember how they would gather together and say stuff like, “I think that in some sort of way I would like to say that in one manner of speaking it could be possible to assert that one might perhaps see that from one perspective (realizing of course that there are other opinions and not wanting in any way to denigrate the views of others) while still holding that it is perhaps not inconceivable to believe (whatever ‘belief’ might actually mean) that is it could be said that perhaps the sky might be seen to be blue.”

Anyway, look at the actual statement. Notice the bishop doesn’t say he believes the creed, or that the creed is part of divine revelation to the church or that one must believe the creed to be a good Anglican. He doesn’t even say he thinks the creed is true or even that it ‘contains’ truth. Instead he says his church is ‘held together by belief as contained in the creeds. How is belief contained in the creeds? Belief isn’t contained in the creeds. Nothing is contained in the creeds. The creed is not a container.

Furthermore, and this is the classic bit: they think agreeing to the creed is enough, but they don’t need to agree on what the creed actually means.

Therefore we can all say, “He became incarnate of the Virgin Mary”. How nice. You are allowed to believe that this means that God’s Son supernaturally became man through the co operation of a spotless virgin. However, you may also believe that this means that ‘in some way the God-ness of the human race was fully realized in the birth of an extraordinary man called Jesus who was given birth by a nice young girl who was really very good–perhaps more good than any other young girls…”

Or you can believe that it really means that God is fond of chili con carne and flies on Virgin Airlines while singing ‘How do you solve a problem like Maria’.

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  • Father, as an until-recently Episcopalian, your analysis is SO spot on.Cheers.

  • I belong to the Church of Jesus of Chili Con Carne, part of the Anglican Communion!

  • Dwight,In your earlier rant you state: “the number of faithful Catholics may be miniscule.”How do you decide what constitutes ‘faithful Catholics?’ My former accountant, an Opus Dei stalwart claimed his group were faithful Catholics. My former parish priest who celebrated Communionn with Protestants, claimed he was a faithful Catholic. They both claimed they follow the Magisterium, the papacy and tradition. They can quote yopu chapter and verse. They could each probably even quote the support of bishops. Two different sects within one big denomination – and there’s more.So who’s right?Fr Corapi has spoken on EWTN about arriving in a Catholic church to find a woman’s figure on the cross. He says its wrong; I’m sure the parish priest can quote the Magisterium, papal hisory and tradition to prove he’s right to tell the parishioners to worship Christa. If the pope has the final say, there wouldn’t be enough hours in the day for him to rule definitively on every dispute. Excommunication is rare, so different sects operate within the Catholic church, both convinced THEY alone uphold the magisterium.I once interviewed a former abbot at the Benedictine monastery, Pluscarden in Scotland. I asked if the monks were independent of chruch rules or did they answer to the pope?He replied: The pope lives 2,000 miles away in Rome. I don’t bother him and he doesn’t bother me.’That’s as much unity as you can hope for in your denomination so stop pretending its just the Anglicans who are in a muddle.James

  • James,This is precisely why you need a living magisterium. No set of documents can deal with all the issues and all the creative ways people can interpret. As for faithful Catholics, I am sure none of us are completely faithful. The point is the standard is there. It is clear. We can move towards it.

  • Mr Hastings youre bringing up generalities against Fr. Longnecker’s historical prescident. when given the choice between the two I go with the one I can more reliably verify. Even so you’ve answered your own question, Sure the pope doesn’t have the time to visit and speak with every single catholic, no man could. By my estimation, assuming 1 billion catholics that would take almost 285,193 years for a half hour chat with the pope for everybody. but what the pope does do is he will write encyclicals and give homilies and statements that act teach based on the scriptures themselves in a definitive way. The application of this knowledge and determining whether one is following them fully is a matter for discerment that is unique to the given situation. if you wish to compare one parish or organization against another though it is possible (not always simple but possible) to systimatically go down the record and see who is going according to the church and how much so. The church (and yes even your church) are full of sinners who despite their efforts to say they are following the laws are either knowingly or unknowingly falling short of that goal. One should be thankful that such a means of discerning orthodoxy exists that does not depend on the fancy of our whims. its so much more than can what be said for the alternative.

  • Dear All,Even the living magisterium and papal statements are not decisive.For example, the pope’s moto proprio has been interpreted in different ways by different bishops. Which one is right, are some interpretations more right than others? Or what about Humanae Vitae? Forty years on, this so called dceisive document is still being debated. What is its real meaning?The claim that at the heart of your denomination lies a solid, undeniable truth is an attractive one.But as soon as you say it is true, another Catholic can simply say: ‘no, the pope actually means this.’How can you say who is right and who is wrong?James

  • Father, as a young adult I joined an Episcopal church in the city where I lived at the time. (It was off-the-scale liberal, but I didn’t have much of a clue at the time; I just wanted to be part of a church, and it was my geographical parish.)I participated in a newcomers/adult confirmation class that was quite extensive and lengthy. It was taught by laymen, and for our last meeting the church’s rector joined us for dinner, followed by a talk–by him. After dinner he proceeded to, essentially, deconstruct the Nicene Creed. He went through it line by line and said we could believe whatever we wanted about this or that.I have never forgotten it. I had hoped to learn about the historical origins of the Creed, perhaps, or the larger theological issues it addresses. Silly me. That may have been when I gave up once and for all ever getting an answer to my question, “what does the Episcopal Church teach about (fill in the blank)”? Fortunately, I had enough of a faith foundation at the time to put the whole thing in context. I realized that this was just another liberal Episcopal clergyman substituting his opinions for Sacred Tradition (although I couldn’t have articulated it as such at the time).To make a long story short, eventually I became reconciled to The Church (Deo gratias!), but I often refer to that experience as a telling anecdote about the confusion engendered by what you so aptly call “Anglican theological sleight of hand.”

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  • I heard a great story; I wish I could remember the name of the person it was supposedly about. The story was that an Episcopalian would say the Apostles’ Creed with the congregation on Sundays, but skip the lines he didn’t believe in. His belief became more and more circumscribed, and he kept saying less and less of the Creed, until finally he was remaining silent for the whole thing except that he would boom out “…suffered under Pontius Pilate!” He whole-heartedly believed that one article because he knew that everyone suffers under the government of their day.

  • Edited for gramitical clarity.Mr. Hastings we can sit here and argue the magistarium all day but it will do neither of us any good. belief that the Holy Spirit guides her church can be seen from history (via the documents of the early church) but ultimately the act itself is an assent to faith. the magisterium is itself a marvelous act of grace by Christ. there are graces we receive to help us deal with our troubles and there are graces we receive to prevent them. If it can be assumed that God (being truth itself) should desire us to know him, he using the endowed gift of reason he has created for us, would allow us a means by which we can approach him in reason, as this is a supernatural relationship his Spirit guides us in the use of our reason, his Son demonstrates the practical application of these teachings. It is the magisterium itself through the Holy Spirit that complied the bible, it did not appear out of the blue. to discredit the validity of the magisterium you undermine the position of the validity of the scriptures as they stand today. after all how do they know the cannon we have today is inspired? why not use the gnostic gospels? why not ask some calvinists for their opinion on lutheran theology? for that matter why not call up the local asylum and ask some of the residents there if God talks to them, lets hear what responses we’ll have then? you’re in a connundrum if denominations can’t settle amongst themselves, all of them agree to beleive in the same fundamentals and then argue over what those fundamentals are. A god who leads people away from truth by bombarding them with “truths” which cannot be simultaneously upheld is not the God of truth I know. My question to you then Mr. Hastings is if you want to discredit the work of the holy spirit through the chrurch Christ founded on Peter, what do you propose as such an attactive alternative?

  • nice anecdote rachel, speaking of suffering under the government have you ever heard about Thomas Jefferson’s Bible? he took a knife to the pages until he could cut out every portion that affirmed christ’s divinity.

  • Dear all,When the Catholic church or any other church has at times taught in error, it doesn’t follow that God was in error; only his followers.For every anecdote about some silly Episcopalian priest, there is a similar one for a silly Catholic bishop or a silly Evangelical pastor or a silly Lutheran minister. I have never denied the Catholic church put the Bible together; but then you put it aside. Why?It is sad thursday dismisses those poor souls living in mental asylums. Don’t you know God loves us all, and speaks to us all, including those society has marginalised or calls ‘mad.’Why not pray for their healing?Oh, I believe in the church Jesus founded, with himself as the corner stone. I thought that was what Catholics believed too?But we move away from my initial question. Catholics from the different sects within that denomination, live their own spiritual lives with differing views of authority, Communion, contraceptives and many other issues. They all claim to source their views from the magisterium, the papacy and tradition.But they can’t all be right.I am not attacking the Catholic church which I admire and regard as having a fullness of the faith.I just want to know how you can decide which of them are, as Dwight stated, the ‘loyal Catholics.’James

  • James the flaw in your logic is say they all claim the magisterium as the rationale for their argument. not true. like anyone who tries to go through with a serious sin such as contraception or abortion, if they cannot rationalize their opinion with scripture or with the teachings of the church, they will couch the bulk of their argument with appeals to emotion or cite secular motives. one can determine a “Loyal Cathloic” (as you put it) by measuring up their statements and actions against the church teachings and scripture and seeing how closely they match up. if they are consistent then they are said to hold orthodoxy. what does the chuch teach? well a good place to start would be the catechism, again these are means by which one can measure orthodoxy. Outside of the catholic Church you’d be hard pressed to have a means to do the same. I ask then If I may, how do you define “Loyal Christianity”? by what standard? If you “admire and regard [The Catholic Church] as having a fullness of the faith.” Why then do you deny it’s authorty? Do you ignore the scriptural basis for this authority? I am trying to respond to your questions I think it is only fair you answer some of mine.Pax Tecum!-Thursday

  • thursday,Its not so much that I deny the Catholic church’s authority, its just that I honour Jesus’ authority more.When your denomination promotes errors such as limbo and purgatory and an exaggerated theology on blessed Mary; when it promotes suffering but does little about healing, then I know Catholicism has a fullness of the faith, but not THE fullness of faith.It was Dwight who introduced the phrase ‘loyal Catholics.’ But nothing written here so far can explain how you determine loyal Catholics from rogue Catholics.When I was a Catholic, some priests taught us in the Legion of Mary and at Catholic school, that it was not a mortal sin to miss Mass or to live with someone rather than marry them. Other priests taught both were mortal sins and my soul was in danger if I did either (not that I did)Now, who was right? Who is right as I still hear both arguments today. I’ve even asked bishops and theologians and receive different replies from them. As soon as you pick sides, someone can say: ‘oh that’s just YOUR personal interpretation of the catechism, papal documents, or the magisterium.’ And you can’t prove they are wrong.James

  • Its 1.38am here in the UK. I’ve just finished writing a piece on abortion for the Christian media and its time for bed.This is the question I’m asking in the article – celebrity Chrisatians in the UK will march to end poverty, speak out against drug abuse, support inter-faith dialogue and challenge politicians on climate change (if its actually happening)But how to get them to speak against abortion and support awesome groups like the Sisters of the Gospel of Life in Glasgow, Scotland? Abortion is the taboo subject. It might lose them record sales or lead to a drop in bookings.But isn’t ending abortion worth it?Good nightJames

  • Dear James,With all due respect, I think most honest observers would find that in matters of faith and morals, The Catholic Catechism, promulgated by John Paul II, is anything but ambiguous; not a whole lot of room for interpretation unless one is intent upon twisting the text to a particular point of view. Consequently, the suggestion that there are serious theologians debating its interpretation is a bit much. (Note here the difference between honestly debating the interpretation of the text and dissent.) And I believe that you will find that the catechism captures quite beautifully the fullness of the faith.

  • P.S. May God bless you in bringing attention to the fight against abortion. Looking forward to reading the article.

  • Christopher Jospeh,Watch EWTN and you’ll see the concern that station has about what’s being taught in the seminaries, Catholic Universities and schools. Hear Fr Corapi say how on his travels across America, he used to feel at home when he arrived at a new parish; now he wonders what horrors he’ll find behind the doors.He mentioned a parish where a woman’s figure called Christa was on the cross and other parishes where the holy water font has been replaced by New Age crystals.There are parishes like the one I used to attend in Glasgow, Scotland, where the Eucharistic ministers washed the chalice etc after Communion and other parishes where lay people were banned from the sanctuary.Its not just a matter of style or culture. The problem goes deeper. Opus Dei followers have one view on authority and the Eucharist while liberal Catholics teach something entirely different.I repeat, the Catholic church is a good and important denomination; there is salvation within it. But there are serious issues too.People like Dwight want to ignore this because they desperately seek a pretend unity. One way of coping is for him to search the internet and publish any silly Anglican reports he can find. That avoids him facing the truth in his own denomination.Thanks for your kind comments on my abortion article – that is one area where the Catholic church has taken the lead. James

  • Mr Hastings I will agree that there are problems over orthodoxy in catholic education yes. this is not something new, but neither is it new that there is a standard by which to measure orthodoxy. I believe the point Fr Longnecker has been laboriously getting to for you is thatby contrast the Anglican communion lacks such standards, and at first he believed the issue was sociological but a study of the formation of the Anglican church instead shows that this way of thinking in fact has much deeper roots than the Co-Opting of secular humanistic values.I for one though certainly not representative of the entire catholic church sincerely apologize for the confusion you suffered at the hands of such liturgical abuses and I assure you such parishes are a minority, and are considered heterodox. Thankfully this period within the Catholic Church seems to be coming to a much needed renewal . I can speak from my own personal experiences about the dangers of such practices. My own family no longer practices any formal religion after coming across a parish that practiced heterodoxy. I thus far have sadly been the sole exception. the question I had to ask is how does one define Christianity? What is it’s fullest and definite description? what is it’s historical roots? It caused me to reexamine the catholic church from a new perspective. I once took things form the perspective of blind faith, upon reflection this was an immature faith which trusted individuals as if they were the institution itself and not merely agents of said institution. this view was flawed because it ignored the reality of personal and private sin. when one lacks that distinction very dangerous and flawed conclusions can be made in which an entire institution may be falsely condemned on the basis of a single individual. I took several years to look at this from another angle then. for a number of years as a secular humanist and atheist I proposed that the catholic church, or any church for that matter was merely institutional and nothing more. Still the question of what defined Christianity was an elusive question until I used both faith (In Christ and upon the church he founded, and in the sacraments he prescribed) and reason (measuring the actions of single individuals against an established profile for orthodoxy, thus discerning which actions are more true than others) did a definition begin to emerge.I apologize if I am making this all sound so clinical, the reality is that the experience in itself has been anything but. God Created us as beings of faith and reason together. faith is ungrounded when separated from the church and is prone to wander about aimlessly when not responsive to the holy spirit. Reason is a tool, much like a sharp knife it can cut your food, perform surgery, blaze a path through the jungle or kill people. I’m sure that you are fully aware of the consequences secular reason can have when divorced from the truth of the church. I too am saddened by continuing abortions and I sincerely offer my prayers along with yours.what does faith and reason have to do with the current situation? when Heterodoxy occurs there is often an imbalance in this relationship. faith overpowering reason becomes emotional intuitive but irrational, such is the case regarding parishes that adopt new age customs or televangelists that invite people on stage for a healing. often times these people experience a psychological placebo instead of truth. Faith overpowered by reason dissects the scriptures as though they were a dead animal carcass to be studied. this leads to the conclusion that the organs of the church (Her creeds her teachings) are either obsolete or useless, this can often lead to a vital part of the church being removed for the sake of visible comfort while ignoring the invisible realities that underlie God as Truth. There are elements of this present as I said globally, and I don’t want to pretend the catholic church is immune, it is not, but unlike other churches, our theology is built on rock rather than sand, and when we renovate the foundation still remains. Thus Fr. Corapi can rightly say he is indignant, as he should be, he has seen the documents of the church and how the holy spirit has guided it for 2000 years he has a definitive history he can trace and use to prove that the man worshiping “Christa” is in the wrong. his faith is in Christ and in the church he founded and upon the traditions established by Christ and the church. The man whom you mentioned earlier who put a woman on the cross while free to make those claims cannot refute them, his house (he prepared for himself) is built on sand.again I offer my sincerest prayers and apologies to those who are stranded by liturgical abuse, but by the fact that they exist recognized as such implies a standard, and this standard is recognizable to anyone who would take a moment to invest their attention to it. I pray that you might do the same Mr hastings.Pax Tecum!-Thursday

  • thursday,I have to say I prefered the parish where the laity were given their proper role as opposed to those which institutionalised them.The priest in question has been reported many times to his bishop. Not only was he not repremanded, he was given a larger parish. I think he is a wonderful priest, and obviously his bishop agrees.If you live a true Catholic life then you may be the example your family need to bring them back to Jesus. When you know the joy of being loved individually by Jesus, you want others to know it too.I think we’ll have to disagree about style and format of faith, but we both know the importance of it.James

  • James,Please don’t misunderstand my previous statement – I was addressing the specific point that an honest reading of the Catholic Catechism could lead to multiple interpretations on matters of faith and morals.As for the concern voiced by many Catholics regarding the practices of those who are among (or profess to be among) the Church’s members, that concern is certainly justified. Try Googling “Catholics for Choice”, “SSPX,” or “liturgical puppets,” to start. Indeed, the problem does go deep, but fortunately, the problem goes “gray” as well. (That is, until the next problem comes along, which Original Sin assures us will.)With respect to members of Opus Dei having one view on Church authority and others having an entirely different view, this merely begs the question, “Who is correct?” Opinions may vary, but the consistent teaching of the Church does not.Finally, to be fair to Fr. Longenecker, he has employed the same level of sarcasm, satire, and poignant commentary to those who claim to profess the Catholic faith as he has to the Anglican Communion. Call-to-Action, SSPX, and others have garnered his attention over the past year despite the fact that they garner very little of the public’s.Regards.

  • christopher joseph,So who has the correct view on authrority – Opus Dei or a liberal Catholic? Which follows the consistent teaching? I’ve asked that question of bishops and cardinals but they just smile indulgently and avoid answering.Incidentally, I like that image of Joseph and Jesus which is a welcome change from just Mary and Jesus, a single mom.But it would be better to show a real family, mum, dad and child.James.

  • Rachel, I believe the source of your story is a quip by Eric Vidler, erstwhile Dean of King’s College, Cambridge, once an Anglo-Catholic later turned Anglican skeptic. In some ways, it was a similar journey to that of Richard Holloway, except that Vidler was, by reputation, a far classier personality than the rude and crude crusading Holloway.