The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Saturday, November 3, 2007


So as schism accelerates (see, we Episcopalians are forced to question some of the most basic tenets of Anglicanism--who are we as a Church, what are the "core tenets" of our faith, and to what extent are we a "Biblical" church or a "progressive church." We're forced to examine these issues, as well as what we owe those who disagree with us on the issues which seem to be tearing our church asunder. At such a time of questioning, I feel impelled to start exploring my own positions and to join in the discussion within the Episcopal blogosphere

So, to begin my own small effort to participate in the discussion:

Who am I, and Why Should You Care?

I'm an Episcopalian who was raised Roman Catholic during the papacy of John Paul II, and gradually felt myself shoved to the fringes of that church by its increasing authoritarianism and marginalization of dissent within. I studied with the Marianists and the Jesuits when Frs. Hans Kung and Charles Curran went from respected progressive voices to silenced outsiders, and the experience of seeing the Jesuits threatened with dissolution didn't exactly endear what one author has termed "the authoritarian monolith of Rome" to me. (A quick summary of this history is available here:

So, although I'm a liberal, I understand what it's like to be a minority within a faith community, and firmly believe that as long as core doctrine is not in question, the widest possible scope for discussion must be encouraged--for both liberal and conservative.

I became an Episcopalian in 1996--and have never regretted it. The two parishes with which I have been associtaed--St Bartholomew's NYC and Trinity Wall Street--have given me a stirring example of a place where faith is lived, not just preached, and where "radical welcome" is not merely political correctness, but an intergral part of the Great Commission.

I admire the traditional Anglican way of holding both liberal and conservative, catholic and protestant, wings of the Church together in a dynamic tension that prevents either from lapsing into complacency. To my mind, the erosion of this aspect of our Church is the greatest harm to be effected by our present-day schism.

Why an Anglo Catholic?

Beyond the fact that Anglo-Catholicism (that is, as I understand it, a stressing of the "Catholic" theology and liturgy from the original Prayer Book to the present one, in the tradition of the Anglo-Catholic Oxford Movement of the 19th Century), tends to operate in a ceremonial that I'm comfortable with from my RC upbringing (even Rite II has more dignity than the rather awful prose used in parts of the Vatican II translations of the Mass), Catholicism properly understood steers clears of the two rocks of Bibilolatry and Calvinism that can drown the message of Christ in a fug of self-hatred and guilt.

Also, the Catholic tradition in the Anglican Church is more welcoming to mysticism, the raw material of religious experience, without reducing it to a quest for the paranormal or "altered state" for the jaded spiritual palate. (One of my Anglican heroes, William Inge, explains the development of mysticism in the Anglican tradition, stressing the rooting of faith in reason as well as revelation, and deploring the repressed emotional drives that can infect a purely emotional mysticism in his splendid study Christian Mysticism, which originated as the 1899 Bampton Lectures; you can read it online here:

Aren't Anglo-Catholics Conservatives?

Well, not always. I'm more Lux Mundi (Gore, et al. 1889) than Pusey or Newman; Gore, with Inge and with William Temple and Christopher Bryant are my sources of inspiration in the Anglican tradition.

The more conservative Anglo-Catholics and I might agree on matters of liturgy and worship, but would not on women's ordination, the diminished role of the laity some seem to advocate, and many social issues.

What's My Over-arching Position?

Frankly, I think that today's conservative wing is largely in the wrong in church affairs, in that they are unwilling to share fellowship with liberals who hold views which are defensible within the framework of Christian orthodoxy--that is, while liberals are adjusting to modern social realities, and are trying to discern the will of God today, some conservatives are all to eager to demonize those with whom they disagree--labelling Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori as a "finger of the claw of Mordor" ( speaks not ill of her, but of the commentator, in my opinion.

That the faith develops and evolves is not of itself heresy; it's predicted expressly in John 16:12--a verse deployed by Inge in explaining his engrafting of the thought of Plotinus into understanding mysticism, and is consistent with St. Paul's famous saying (1 Cor. 13) that we see now through a glass darkly--which Inge uses to urge caution in applying literalism to the Scriptures, as well as to the process of discernment. And that is my overall approach--fidelity in core matters, treating the Scriptures as inspired but not inerrant (because the writers had their own cultural lenses through which they interpreted the message) and careful in discernment, respectful of those with whom we disagree.

Next Post: A Defense of the Church's Revised Stance on Homosexuality


Anonymous said...

Welcome, Anglocat, to the blogosphere!

You sound pretty reliable, so I'll put you on my daily "check-out" list.

Odds are, conflicts aside, that you have felt (and will feel) right at home in TEC. How much healthier (albeit often a bit icky) to have our familial spats out in the open, isn't it? And to find space for almost any one who is sincerely searching.

Anglocat said...

Yes, it's healthier--and a bit icky. I feel sometimes like we're on a roller coaster--and taking the plunge, but only to come up together, I trust.

Thanks for the welcome, John-Julian! I'll look forward to exchanging views in the days to come.