Holding firm

Ed Tomlinson on two blogs that suggest a renewed Anglo-Catholicism as a solution to turbulence in the CofE and increasing secularization

This month we delight in the marriage of Fr Trevor Jones and Fr Ivan Aquilina. But before we call for the latest liberal liturgies, let me explain I speak only of their thinking! Over the last month both have written, in different ways, about our present plight and future hope.

On the margins
Fr Jones blogged: A radicalised Islamicist, in Sebastian Faulk’s new novel, conjectures…that over the previous ten years the Christian religion has disappeared from the conscious of the English without them noticing, or for that matter, caring… So central was the Church to the English way of being that Sir Arthur Bryant could title one of his populist histories, without need for further explanation, Trote&ant Island. English folk seeing that title knew that that meant them.

It was possible for a Book Club, with no Church connection to have a biography of Father Wainright as its choice of the month. Such self descriptors would mean nothing today… The last decade has seen a growth in secularisation that has put Christianity on the margins of national life…

Spirituality was seen, for a while, to be our hope. The Western Church has indeed re-explored its spiritual tradition (if not disciplines), meditative and contemplative prayer have been re-gifted to the laity, Spiritual Directors abound, publishers produce spirituality’ titles. But the secularised world sidestepped us, it invented the spiritualbut not religious’ category, an inspired manifestation of post-modern thought, placing the spiritual outside meta narrative and community.

We cannot play in that space, we are religious, we have rite, order, and our prayer comes within the constraints of the richly delivered past. Hope can ultimately only come from that richly delivered past. It seems to me that only a special approach to the Christian tradition has the depth and experience for the challenge of the secular age.

The Church must be renewed from the depths of its Scriptural and credal base, it must be rich in sacramental life, human and humane, capable of negotiation and able to survive with minimum life support facilities. It must be disciplined but tinged with an anarchic anti-authoritarianism, it must inspire loyalty and despise fanaticism, it must, it really must reflect the weeping and the joyful meal sharing of Jesus… Which all adds up to a renewed traditional Anglo-Catholicism, thus QED if we are the best bet, then it must be time to stop bemoaning our future and start building it. England (though it knows it not, yet) expects.’

Fighting for the CofE
Powerful words which sit very well, I thought, as an introduction to this timely apologia from Fr Ivan’s blog:

‘From time to time people ask me why I am not a Roman Catholic. The problem I face when asked this question is that generally those who ask it expect a quick and snappy answer. And yes, you have guessed, there is no such answer! I do not spend my days considering why I should or should not be Roman Catholic. I am a Catholic. I live my Catholic Faith in the Anglican tradition inspired from Scripture, Reason and Tradition…

‘From time to time, I do despair of the good old C of E. I despair when I see some of its members not only trying to change willy-nilly the Anglican polity but now even the Faith delivered through the hands of the Twelve! Is Rome the answer?

It might be and it could be, but for now I am called to witness in the Church of England, to witness to the Catholic Faith, to the Eternal Truth of Jesus Christ. The Church of England with its sacraments and teaching has been a mother of saints and it is worth doing all it takes to fight for its patrimony’

A passionate orthodoxy
What Jones and Aquilina both suggest is that Anglo-Catholics need to roll up their sleeves and get on with it! I agree. For, ultimately, it is only a passionate orthodoxy that has any chance of resurrecting our national church and equipping it for the task of evangelization.

Though they may not know it, our opponents in Synod need us more today than at any other moment in history. For who else is going to get out there among the people and teach the orthodox faith to this godless generation?

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