Thursday, 21 May 2009

New Material

It just shows how things are in the Church of England (either in reality, suspicion or both) when the promotion of Giles Fraser to a clerical ethics job at St Paul's Cathedral becomes subject to chatter about a liberal leaning individual getting a promotion, and whether he is a 'good boy' liberal that the hierarchy would promote. Mad Priest has raised this point from his own perspective of not getting a new appointment because he is a blogging bad lad.

From my perspective, Giles Fraser is well within the current Anglican spectrum. He had a recent attack on liberals and boundaries (when applied to religious individualism) that underlined that. Fair enough, if he wants to follow a package deal. It certainly puts the people I've just been talking about into perspective, the authors of Essays and Reviews. One of those, Frederick Temple, somewhat recanted, and was promoted to Bishop of Exeter, Bishop of London and Archbishop of Canterbury. They really were liberals: evolutionary and developmental liberal Protestant Victorians, open ended in theology along with history and anthropology (etc.), absorbing and promoting the German theology as of Schleiermacher, Rischl, Harnack and Troeltsch, long before the more conserving Christological affirmations of Barth, Bultmann, Bonhoeffer, Tillich, Niebuhr and the like happened as they yet addressed modern society.

Most members of the In Depth Group, with a new face coming in, had not heard about this early Anglican controversy before, a point where Anglicans at the radical end of the Broad Church party had moved as close to the Martineau Unitarian position as they could get - considerably more liberal/ radical than John Robinson was going to be in the 1960s, against which David Jenkins was (and I maintain he was) central and orthodox. The fact that people like David Jenkins and those even more conservative still would face the 'drawbridge up' of many people at Fulcrum recently shows just how sectarian Anglicanism is becoming (if one believes Fulcrum is a central position where the dividing line comes). The In depth group itself discussed its own asking of questions in the context of the religious scene generally, which is admittedly quite conservative, of the minority of the population as churchgoers settling on these bigger churches where they receive ready-made answers. Such did not appeal to this group at all, of course.

The controversy of Essays and Reviews was capped, really, by Lux Mundi, a synthesis of Oxford Movement Catholicism and expressions of liberalism, which leads directly to the Affirming Catholic position of today, but it has taken until today for the traditionalist tractarian movement to finally come to an end in the Church of England as the Church institution prepares to ordain women bishops. The Essays and Reviews authors thought the tractarians were a reactionary group fixed upon externals, but they did not reckon on Jowett's student Charles Gore's synthesis. Another of Jowett's students, Edwin Hatch, might have done more to promote an open liberalism for longer had he not died young (55) when Lux Mundi was first published in 1899.

My point is, over the months I've been presenting, is that these more recent controversies we've all heard about are not actually that liberal at all, contrasted with the theology that was more active in the later nineteenth century; and, as well as giving a survey of controversies, and reactions too, and traditionalisms, I will later want to give an insight into some of the stranger 'just as liberal as the nineteenth century' theology suited to a postmodern setting - such as the writing of Mark C. Taylor of course as we will get back to the spread of American and European theology. These theologies are institutionally marginalised, however. I've already suggested this about Don Cupitt and Richard Holloway in Britain, but these two don't care for the institutional Church much more either (it works both ways).

So our theology tour is also a history tour and is a comment on an institution of the Church of England as something of a theological backwater, but nevertheless revealing periodically to a rather startled audience here - on the same basis that it snows in winter - that theology still goes on.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

thanks for the summary of some context, P. I do glance at Anglican Mainstream or Fulcrum now and again; but one must be careful as a reader not to fall into their trap, mainly their closed sense that they probably represent the only possibility of true, real faith, real following. In fact, they are much farther to the right than their self-congrats for being supposedly centrist. I do have a nagging sense that Anglicanism is much more conservative in many global places than I often credit. Previously, I could resolve this by counting on Anglicanisms as a big tent deal. Now, of course with realignment campaigning, nobody can take a global big tent for granted any longer. If the big tent collapses, I think the unrealigned will leave and regather. we all will still be there somewhere, around, on the same planet. drdanfee

Fr Craig said...

how about a comment on the Irish scandal

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

I don't really know enough about it, in details of what happened and how, though the obvious conclusion is about cultures of closed secrecy and on to who is attracted to these roles of petty power and the distorting impact of celibacy on sexual expressions of power.

One good thing about the secularisation of Ireland and the marginalising at last of Roman Catholicism is the chance to co-operate better with the north via less fear of the south. Religion is part of the problem there.

hugh said...

Well .... with my mother being from the republic and my father from northern ireland the island was not a pleasant land religiously . Talk about balancing the best of two evils .

The republic was , up until the mid 80's effectively a theocracy . The state and the church being entwined so intimately ( much more insidiously than in England )that it was a real detriment to both . The north , on the other hand was a small section of fundamentalist bible belt where even the playground swings were tied up on sunday lest children enjoyed themselves on the 'Lords' day .

Both the north and the south have been undergoing secularisation in recent decades ( mind you this process has been hindered by the crude diatribes of Dawkins Hitchens et al ). It's just that the republic has been undergoing it faster no doubt spurred on by the child abuse scandals .

Regards .