The Saint Mary's In Depth Group met tonight and I presented the material again, and one commented that it was a different angle and not one he'd heard before regarding the Oxford Movement - my overall point being that they were not some obnoxious right wing theological traditionalists, even if they were looking for defences against change they could see coming and seen come, whether German liberal biblical criticism and the actions of the State over the Church after the 1832 Reform Act. There was some engagement with the liberality of the day - John Henry Newman with his Unitarian brother Francis William, and Pusey having a delayed not an instant reaction to what he discovered first hand in Germany. Plus all that ritualism was later.
I kept pointing out to one in the group that he was relying on private judgement in deciding what was and was not objective reality - say on baptism, ministry and the like. If certain views in the Church of England are optional, then that is different from J. H. Newman saying private judgement is limited to only what the Church has not said and what has not been heard. F. W. Newman of course had a view wholly approving of private judgement regarding the scriptures and a Church he took as abstract. Some of the conversation took what happens at St. Mary's as illustrative of the points being made, but the Catholic basis is the Charles Gore affected 'Affirming' (though some regard it as 'Denying') variety rather than the traditionalism from the later Oxford Movement that is now coming to an effective end within the Church of England.
Take baptism. You can have a Protestant believer's view about it, and refuse it to those who don't adopt a Christian stance. Or you can see people have all sorts of views about it, but the Christian minister may have a view of objective regeneration that happens anyway, so no matter what 'they' think the rite has its objective impact. But there is another view, the one that I followed in the Unitarian church when providing the music for a 'child naming', where a British Humanist Association approach was made a bit more sacred and religious, and the children had their heads wetted - that this was a meaningful rite of passage, the 'proper naming' of the child, for those who wanted this ceremony. All those who come can be so served, but there is nothing objective taking place beyond the views and the gateway passed through by the families. Now the question regarding the 'Affirming Catholic' position in general is how much is actually Catholic and objective, and how much is wrapping paper around much private judgement and subjectivity.
One said about being thoroughly confused, and I said, "Oh good," as indeed another had said before that I don't make religion easy.
Anyway, there it was. Now there are personal reasons that the next session could be my last, or I may carry on. Nevertheless, after today, theologies to discuss, with the exception of Radical Orthodoxy, are general and don't have particular Anglican impact. So I thought next time I might wrap it up, or at least summarise some of the issues and we can discuss them in general. It will therefore be less a paper forged by delving into books and be more of a personal reflection to put issues out to the folks who come along. Plus these papers printed go to other people. Even if I then carry on, next time can be a transition point. We next meet end of August, just before my car tax runs out.
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