Monday, March 5, 2012

Catholicity and Cats (With apologies to Tom Catolick)

Posted today was a Living Church article by Mark D. Chapman of Rippon College, Oxford.  It is again one of those appeals to the Anglican Covenant as a ‘way forward’ in its appeal to ‘catholicity’. 

I think I am getting less ‘catholic’ as I get older.  Maybe it is the move to TX where everything is Baptist, but I don't think unity is all it is cracked up to be--especially if unity means conformity.  Maybe I am speaking heresy. (I have been known to do that.)  I am not the kind of American that believes that individualism is the be-all and end-all of religious experience.  I believe desperately in community—the kind of community that allows us to live together with respect and generosity.  I am one who believes in the commonweal—that human society must work together for the betterment of all.  But the key word is ‘work together.’

I have never quite understood the penchant for 'catholicity' among Anglicans because we find obedience so foreign.  Obedience is the primary virtue for those who adhere to Rome. For those who admire or support Roman calls for Unity also must embrace a primary virtue of obedience to really understand the meaning of 'catholicity' in the today’s Roman mind.  (read: 'lockstep') That Professor Chapman seems to find seeds of ‘spatial catholicity’ in the work of the ACC and the Primates’ meetings is not surprising as they have that desire of all powerless bodies to have some way of managing bodies that have no desire to be managed.

 Part of what has made Anglicanism the different form of Catholicism that it has become is primarily because there have been no outside forces that curtail the ministry of Christ in the local areas.  This does not mean that we should not be mindful of the needs of other churches. The Lambeth ‘tea party’ was not set up to bring uniformity in the Communion.  It was to provide support for those churches in areas that were in need.  Every bishop I have heard who has come home from a Lambeth Conference has talked about the friendships they have formed with bishops in parts of the world quite foreign to their own.  It has not been about legislation.  Its value has been in relationships.

We can laud “Instruments of Unity” all we want, but it is NOT the so-called Instruments that hold us together; it is the hard wrought friendships and willingness to listen to those who are different from one another that makes for the kind of oneness that God calls from us as Church and Communion.  Just as dogmatic statements do not win folk to the banner of Christ any longer, doctrinal argument leave the younger generations cold.  The more we call for doctrinal commonality whether it is regarding Scripture or in ecclesiology, the less we will be able to tell the story of Christ to those who need to find ways to  make sense of their world, their surroundings, in the witness of a God who came to live among us.

For a post-modern age we need to be willing to open our idea of what unity means.  Unity must in a new age be a constant call for community rather than law or structures. If there is anything that the Post-Modern Era is going to call from us is a broader understanding of community, a broader image of the commonness that we all hold in Christ Jesus.  And in this sense we are ‘catholic’ –universal. 

  This is what bothers me about ++Rowan:  he has a modern mind with 16th century notions of catholicity.  Just as the Council of Trent made Roman Catholicism a rigid and unhealthy covenant for those afraid of 16th century Reform, so the Anglican Covenant tries to justify locking the barn after the cows have gone.  And while Vatican II did try to open the windows of Roman Catholicism, the past 50 years have shown that fear still roots out love and care.  This is what the Anglican Covenant promises.  But there is an interesting thing about the Anglican understanding of obedience.  It is not slavish.  “England never, never, never will be slaves” and neither will those of us who come from her womb.  So quite frankly, ++Rowan’s Covenant is an attempt to herd cats. 

1 comment:

Lay Anglicana said...

'An attempt to herd cats'. Yup, best soundbite on the Anglican Covenant all year.