March 19, 2010

What does an Archbishop do [say] in a Crisis?

As little as possible. As much as necessary. Apparently. Now, I do think there's much scriptural wisdom in that. But then again, what's politically needed isn't always what's spiritually needed. And so it goes. And so it goes.

This post comes due to Doug Chaplin's ongoing series about the doctrinal foundations of the Anglican Communion, written during the crisis of the 1500's, known as The Forty-Two Thirty-Nine Articles. Political Doctrine isn't my usual cup a' tea 44-oz coke, but Doug caught my attention with these two posts about Thomas Cranmer's writings on "Church". So I paid closer attention.

Today's post at Doug's blog had more to say about Cranmer's personal context, and although I had to read it twice (and refresh my English History a bit) to catch on, the post also contained a couple of absolute gems that jumped out right away:
The church has authority to proclaim the good news, to go to every nation, to baptize and teach, to heal and reconcile, and to share the life of the Spirit. That active authority to carry out the mission of God precedes organizational authority, the settling of controversies, and the adjudication of what makes for right worship, all of which are fundamentally subservient to the church’s nature as a sacrament of the kingdom of God, a visible sign of the mission of God, and an embodiment of the gospel.
Yes, right belief should help someone live the kind of life to which God calls us. But no-one is saved by right doctrine, but by the God right doctrine should help us encounter.
Absolutely wonderful.

Doug goes on to conclude:
the lack of cohesiveness between these articles on the church, and the lack of rigour in setting out an all too brief reaction against particular controversies of the day, is a serious problem. The failure to address it in less polemical times than either Cranmer’s or ours is part of the backdrop of present Anglican difficulties.
Not to sound unsympathetic, but it's true that a failure to plan is indeed a plan to fail. It's also nothing but tragic to consider how that little maxim intersects with the answer to my post's title, at top. Finally, at the risk of over-axiomizing: 'The larger any organization becomes, the more self-serving it necessarily becomes.' In the foundational writings of Cranmer, if I've caught on correctly, national (political) priorities seemed to dominate local (spiritual) ones.

But so it goes. So it goes.


Peter Kirk said...

Bill, I thought you might be more sympathetic to Cranmer, and defend him from the charge of not having a proper ecclesiology - in effect what Doug charged him with. After all what the charge really amounts to is that he didn't have a developed sense of the church as a hierarchical institution which Anglo-Catholics like Doug think he should have had - but you and I don't agree. And I don't think it's really fair to blame Cranmer for problems that arose 450 years after his painful death.

Bill Heroman said...

Wow. Well, as I hinted before, I may have completely misunderstood. I was hoping you'd comment, of course, and maybe Doug will grace us with more clarification here as well.

But waitaminit - Are you really telling me the Archbishop under Henry VIII is supposed to be the one in favor of non-hierarchicalism? (????)

On blame, I took Doug's point on that not as being against Cranmer, but as being against everyone since. Iow, Doug's suggesting someone else sh/could have revisited things since then.

Btw, my brief reflections here were more about Doug's second post than his first. I was definitely more confused by his first post, as I said yesterday on Facebook.

Peter Kirk said...

Well yes, it would be wrong to say Cranmer was anti-hierarchical. He certainly believed in subservience of the church to the state, to the extent that he infamously said that Nero was the head of the church in his time and in effect had the right to persecute Christians. In effect he was saying that Queen Mary had the right to persecute and burn him, as she did.

But he was against the idea that a church hierarchy could be infallible and so command absolute obedience. He wrote that "As the Church of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, have erred; so also the Church of Rome hath erred..." And he was against what Doug is teaching, that the church created Scripture and so has the higher authority.

Also while Cranmer probably didn't intend Article XX to teach the autonomy of local congregations, as Doug points out Cranmer fails to make that clear.

Bill Heroman said...

Well, you know, I'm not in favor of extra-local church gov't per se, to begin with. So I'm really just an interested observer.

And those gems were terrific. :-)

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