Saturday 29 January 2011

Revisionist of a Radical Search

Probably the core of the problem for Theo Hobson has been the Church of England's establishment. He has called for a liberal Christianity that seems to be impossible inside the Church of England, and that anyone on that side of the argument is on a loser. He wanted an "anarchic, post-ecclesial Christian culture" in religion, and the best he could expect to find in Britain was:

...a new, more radical, liberal Christianity that affirmed secular liberalism and was wary of institutional orthodoxy. In place of the traditional church, I proposed a loose culture of informal meetings, celebratory events, artistic expressions of faith – a new, freestyle religious culture.

Now the puzzle is that I am an attender in such a movement, and it is called the Unitarian Church. I suspect, however, that although Unitarians embrace secular liberalism and are wary of institutional orthodoxy, he would also find them lacking in terms of informal meetings, the celebratory and the artistic. It is, after all, a long existing Church, and it also has a Puritan shadow - a bad thing, certainly, but provides some useful tramlines once they are transformed.

He would not be Unitarian for the same reason he is not Quaker, because they [comment]:

throw out the baby Jesus with the bathwater of dogmatism.

Having moved to the United States, he is now happier with The Episcopal Church. It is fresher and forms (most of) its identity with a bolder approach and pioneer of a form of liberal Christianity.

The same contrast can be made between American Unitarian Universalism and British Unitarianism. The American Unitarian product has more argument, more bite, a better sense of political identity and social purpose than its comparatively stuffy British counterpart.

Why so? First because there is a bigger social base of churchgoing in the United States that allows for more risk. It is easier to grow once the recipe is right and the Unitarian Universalist Association has shown steady growth. Secondly the history of denominational competition allows for a more specific identity in the religious supermarket - this attitude affects both Unitarians and Episcopalians.

Actually, Theo Hobson didn't look hard enough. There are a myriad of little groups in Britain that would have met his criteria, ignoring Unitarians and Quakers. My last entry referred to one such, and now I await to see how another such group develops - the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church, now that its Latin Rite fantasists have jumped ship from their creation.

The fact is, of course, that The Episcopal Church retains all the doctrines and dogmas of Anglicanism. It is socially inclusive, and it has a wider interpretation, but it remains at core conserving. Whereas I like the idea of the Liberal Rite and then the liberal aspect of the Liberal Catholic Apostolic Church (the part that has continued - and here is its news) I did conclude that for me the Open Episcopal Church is just the same thing, observing the Nicene Creed for example. The OEC is probably the equivalent of a consistent liberal leaning The Episcopal Church in Britain. Actually, the Scottish Episcopal Church isn't so far away from this. Now I don't observe the Nicene Creed, because in simple terms I don't just interpret it I disagree with it, and even the Apostles' Creed involves active disagreement. In fact I am no longer Jesus centred in any obvious sense (though I've volunteered to take the Easter Day service at Hull) and indeed I embrace secular science and social science.

Clearly Theo Hobson has become a revisionist of his own radical search.

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