Anglicans Online in their weekly commentary, make some, at least superficially, “surprising” admissions about the term “orthodox”:
It’s become common for Anglicans who are not comfortable with the contemporary church to refer to themselves as ‘orthodox’. That venerable word when applied to Christians has several meanings in the dictionary, but the generally accepted meaning of that word seems to be ‘Of or relating to any of the churches or rites of the Eastern Orthodox Church’.
Well, okay, not so surprising after all. AO, a “liberal” outfit, is actually thumbing their nose at the “conservative” or “traditional” Anglicans who want to use the term “orthodox” to distinguish themselves from heretics and revisionists in Anglicanism, like . . . well, sort of like AO.
So now AO pulls the trigger:
We’ve attended services at Eastern Orthodox churches (which didn’t use the word Eastern in describing themselves) and didn’t get a sense that there was much similarity between the newly-named Orthodox Anglican and the [Eastern] Orthodox.
This is the equivalent of a e-bitch-slap. “So, call yerselves ‘orthodox’ do ya? Well, guess what? Ya’ll ain’t what’s referenced in the dictionary when it comes to ‘orthodox,’ and dang if ya’ll don’t look anything like a ‘real’ Orthodox Church.” In other words: Calling yourselves “orthodox” is a whole bunch of meaningless twaddle.
AO go on to point out the difference in Orthodoxy and orthodox Anglicans. They’ve done some reading, it appears, and have come to some interesting conclusions. You know, thoughtful chaps, what? It seems that Orthodoxy centers it’s life in the liturgy, while orthodox Anglicans center their lives in the Scriptures. (Or so dichotomizes the AO folks.) But let’s hear it from the AO peeps.
It seems to us that the usual intended meaning of the phrase ‘Orthodox Anglican’ is focused more on Biblical literalism than on the Tradition of Orthodoxy.
They read that whole book on Orthodox liturgy (they’re so proud of themselves!), so . . .
We’re confident that the liturgy written down in this book has been properly preserved from the earliest days of the Christian church, probably predating scripture by a century. In the very beginning, as we understand it, the goal of the church was to preserve what believers had been taught by the Twelve, to memorize the liturgy and preserve and protect it for the future. But Liturgy — Λειτ-ουργία, the work of the people of God,
is not a ‘spectator sport’ in which the Priest, Deacon, Servers and Singers are the players and the congregation the audience or viewers. … Together we proclaim our Faith, together we call on God as ‘Our Father’. We do not come to the Liturgy as isolated individuals; we are there as … the members of the Body of Christ.
Pretty amazing admission, isn’t it? They concur that the Orthodox Divine Liturgy is very, very ancient, probably predating Scripture, preserves the Tradition, and so on. What the–? Rubs eyes. Yep. That is, in fact, what they admitted.
But of course, that admission comes with another e-bitch-slap and a shrug. First the slap:
All of this sounds quite the way we think a church should be, and though to us the descriptive ‘Anglican’ implies a liturgical focus, . . .
See?! See?! You nasty orthodox Anglicanses are nothing like the real Orthodox. We are! We’re liturgical, yer not. Nyah, nyah.
And now the shrug:
. . . perhaps the liturgy in our church is not exactly as handed down through the centuries, we suspect and hope that it’s close enough to keep God from thinking we’ve gone astray.
But you know, all that tradition stuff, really makes us tired and cranky. We prefer something more modern and progressive. And donchaknow God’s a good bloke and won’t mind anyway.
And now kitty’s claws get bared:
The Anglican churches that we know are not churches of law or Biblical literalism but of living liturgy in communion with the Saints, balanced among scripture, tradition, and reason. We wouldn’t presume to use the word Orthodox to describe them; it’s already taken to mean something else, after all, but we think that we oughtn’t let our present-day squabbles interfere with our understanding of what the word Orthodox really means, and meant to the generations of saints who spent their lives preserving that tradition of the Liturgy.
The amazing thing is that, with a straight face mind you, the AO crowd can a) admit Orthodoxy preserves the Tradition via the Liturgy, b) admit that their liturgy departs from the Tradition, and c) still claim that somehow they’re connected to the saints who died passing on that tradition, while AO and their crowd would die rather than return to the Tradition.
As another group of orthodox folks might exclaim: Oy vey!
Well, if Anglicans Online has gotten catty, you know the Webelves won’t be remiss in giving it the appropriate once-over.
The title of ‘orthodox’ Anglican is claimed by many and various stripes of evangelicals, charismatics, Anglo-Baptists, Anglo-Catholics; it encompasses (on the American and Canadian scene) divorce and remarriage, contraception, abortion, the ordination of women to the diaconate, priesthood, and episcopate, Sola Fide, Icons and Marian devotions, the Book of Common Prayer and modernist liturgies– you get the idea. Included in this is the fact that a lot of ‘traditional Anglicans’ agree rather more in what they are against, not what they stand for.
Anglican Orthodoxy has become a self-appointed title, including a grab-bag of ideas and practices. This embodies the war in the heart of English Christianity from the turbulent and violent start of the English Reformation, with the battle of Catholic, reformist and ultra-protestant ideas for supremacy.
But you can always count on the Webelves to be far more reflective than their revisionist counterparts at AO:
The question remains for Anglican ‘orthodoxy’– By What Authority? How is Anglican conservative pick-and-choosery different in principle from the pick-and-choosery of Anglican liberals? How are we not both sectarians, even if a few more items in our grab-bag have some pedigree to them, and agreement with the fullness of Christian tradition? Liberal Anglicans (like most of the broad-churchy Anglican Onliners) are the twins of conservative Anglicans in so many ways. General Synod or General Convention are the symptoms, not the disease.
As Anglicans Online points out, Orthodoxy belongs to Eastern Catholicism and Western Catholicism first of all. Theirs are the Scriptures, the Fathers, the Creeds, the first worship and praises of God in Christ. For them, being “in communion” is about agreement in the faith once delivered, and then, being “In Christ”, about receiving his body and blood as a living part of his One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
This is the big question quietly lurking behind all the storms and tribulations of our Anglican situation. After all, if the liberals were all to become ‘orthodox’ Anglican, what would that church look like? How would it avoid falling back into the same problems that beset us now? How are we catholic Christians, and not a collection of sectarians in impaired relationship with one another, and with the wider church?
Being “in communion” with Abuja or Kampala or Sydney instead of Canterbury doesn’t answer the question.
There is a very simple, though often very difficult and painful, way truly to be orthodox, and that is to become Orthodox. And for Anglicans there is a Western Rite the Church has preserved for them. Admittedly the Byzantine rite far outnumbers the Western rite, but there is, nonetheless a way forward for Anglicans. Check out the Faith of Our Fathers lectures available at Ancient Faith Radio.