a response to “what is Anglicanism”

A fellow priest in my diocese asked his colleagues to share their thoughts on Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi’s essay “What is Anglicanism?” Here is my response.

I appreciate ++Orombi’s essay very much. We in the so-called “developed world” need daily reminders of the context and experiences of others in the Communion and the oppression and hostility in which they live. The Archbishop of Nigeria offers a similar reminder in several interviews conducted by Ruth Gledhill which can be seen at Youtube [ http://www.youtube.com/user/ruthgledhillfranks].

I was especially interested in Abp Henry’s “three pillars: martyrs, revival, and the historic episcopate” on which Anglicanism in Uganda is built. What strikes me about these three pillars is how reflective they are of the biblical description of the Church. 1 Timothy 3.15 says “the church is the pillar and ground of truth.” Unlike our poisoned (http://books.google.com/books?id=e19zlwlOVwUC&pg=PA72&lpg ) and purely subjective perception of “truth” in the West (i.e., “you can have your truth and I can have mine”), the Archbishop knows that the truth of the Church is immutable. The faith for which Uganda’s martyrs died, the faith caught through Uganda’s revivals, the faith defended by Uganda’s bishops and priests is the same unchanging faith that has been handed down from the Apostles themselves (I’m sorry the Archbishop only mentions the Reformers: I have long held that the predicament in which the Church finds herself now is much more reflective of the Christological conflicts of the Early Church).

I’m also reminded of another description of the Church and how she has been faithful to the immutable truth irrespective of where or when she finds herself or what she must endure.
St. Irenaeus: Against All Heresies I,10.2. As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith [Irenaeus describes the content of this in the paragraph right before], although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world. But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shines everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth. Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the Master [the Church]); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition. For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it.

To conclude: I would have liked more explanation of the Archbishop’s ecclesiology. This is because, while I do appreciate and understand and agree with the Archbishop’s understanding of the authority of Scripture, the Anglican Communion seems to have no canonical or ecclesiastical tradition to which she may hold accountable those who seek to change “the faith once delivered” (remember the “trial” of Bishop Walter Righter?).

Other than appeal to “bonds of affection” (which intimates a threat of excommunication) we seem to be headed toward the self-fulfillment of protestantism: schism begetting yet more schism.

Having “shared” way too much… I’m very interested in others’ thoughts as well.

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