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Ecumenical folly

October 19, 2016

These hopes of a union with Rome were of course entirely illusory. Rome could never have offered any terms that were acceptable to the majority of Anglican clergy; in any case, in a country where people are free to switch religion, the whole notion of corporate reunion is curiously outmoded.

1. Andrew Brown and Linda Woodhead, That Was The Church, That Was: How the Church of England lost the English people (London: Bloomsbury, 2016), 11.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Dr. Perm permalink*
    October 19, 2016 12:58

    The most highly problematic element of this quotation is the use of the word “corporate.” Setting aside for the moment the etymological root of the word (Latin *corpus*, meaning “body”), it has inseverable connexions with our modern concept of “corporation.” If we view these Church Bodies as corporations, then yes of course it is “curiously outmoded” to speak of a corporate merger between two institutions. However, as Christians we maintain that the Church is resolutely NOT a corporation (in the secular sense), nor a mere human institution.

    If we confess the Church as the Body of Christ in the world, then the healing and mending of its divisions and brokenness must be of our utmost concern. Are there significant theological, liturgical, and ecclesiological barriers that stand between Rome and Canterbury? Of course there are. Is there any creative idea at all how to reconcile fundamentally different stances between Canterbury and Rome on any number of issues? Not yet. But I’m not convinced that this must needs lead to an inevitable conclusion of “folly” for at least attempting the conversation. St. Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 12: “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.'”

    I think we must also acknowledge the existence of inherent, long-standing biases that go beyond sober ecclesiastical-theological disagreement. Such biases would count it High Treason, a betrayal of good clean Anglo-Saxon Virtue and John Bull himself, to be caught cavorting with *Those People.* 1960 is still in living memory for many today — a time when (for example) my grandparents could not countenance casting a vote for Jack Kennedy in the US Presidential election. Why? He was one of “Those People” — he would put us all under the authority of the Pope, of course! And on and on, right back to the Gunpowder Plot and Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.

    There may indeed be theological impasses between our two Communions. But let’s not call at least the good-faith attempt at a conversation about reconciliation “folly.” And let’s sure as hell not talk about our churches as if they are mere reflections of ourselves, or as mere Corporate Institutions, and not as the Body of Christ.

    • October 20, 2016 10:41

      Well said, Dr Perm! Reunion need not mean dancing to the Pope’s tune, nor him dancing to ours. We can rejoice in our diversity, the diversity of the Christian body, while still seeking the highest level of communion possible. We must certainly see the good in our fellow Christians. And maybe, too, recognise that we hold far far more in common with RCs than the few things (like women’s ministry and our approach to human sexuality) that divide us.

      • ambly permalink
        November 30, 2016 11:47

        Don’t we already have the “highest level of communion possible” with Rome? We acknowledge our common baptisms – but beyond that unless we indeed do “dance to the Pope’s tune” there is nothing more on offer.

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