Fr. Dan of “Catholic in the Third Millennium” makes the following statements concerning Anglican catholicity and with respect to our current problems ideas of a “magisterium” to solve our problems. (Fr. Dan describes himself as: “Vice President and Academic Dean of an ecumenical seminary and a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas.”)
I accept the premise that an “Anglican magisterium” would make Anglican life so much easier. But would it make Anglicanism more “catholic”? Would it solve the issues that so divide the Anglican Communion today? Or, rather, would it solidify for all time certain theological innovations in the name of “Anglican doctrinal development”? I believe the latter to be more likely, and I believe that supposedly “infallible” Roman dogmas (e.g., the Immaculate Conception) make the point better than I ever could.
Such a scenario, of course, is nonsensical. An “Anglican magisterium” is about as oxymoronic a term as one can imagine. However, my point should be obvious: the Anglican way of being “catholic” (or living into catholicity) is different than the Roman way. So why is it that Roman apologists (many of them ex-Anglicans, I might add) only come out to play when they have homefield advantage? Obviously it’s futile to argue for the catholicity of Anglicanism on Roman terms. So I won’t. I will be content to argue for the catholicity of Anglicanism on Anglican terms.
At first, it may appear odd to my readers to hear me suggest that Anglicanism has its “own terms” or definition of catholicity. But it shouldn’t. I have argued on a number of occasions that each of the three major apostolic communions (i.e., Roman, Byzantine, Anglican) operate on quite different understandings of what it means to be “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic.” Romanism and Byzantinism both make claims of ecclesial ultimacy. But their respective claims are mutually exclusive, as the former insists on papal supremacy and the latter on the received faith of the ecumenical councils. Thus, despite whatever superficial similarities Rome and Byzantium may have, they are different ways of understanding what it means to be catholic. In contrast, Anglicanism has never made a claim of ecclesial ultimacy, and so defines itself not as the Catholic Church, but rather as a catholic church, and thus recognizes the other two communions as legitimate branches of “the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” Unlike Fr. Kimel, I see this as Anglicanism’s greatest strength, not its weakness. And if it survives the present struggles, then it will only be that much stronger.
I agree that Anglicans do not have to define our catholicity in Roman terms or in Byzantine terms. It makes little difference to me whether Rome or Constantinople recognize each other or Canterbury as being truly part of the “one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church” or not. I don’t believe we (Anglicans) are in competition with either communion or that we are approaching the question of catholicity from a place of insecurity, thus needing approval from anyone else. After all, we think Rome has erred (as we all do from time-to-time). We shouldn’t and don’t have to seek their approval. Rome doesn’t determine our catholicity, but some want to think that the Roman Church does just that. Without the Pope’s imprimatur, well then we are just Protestant or Catholic wannabees, or some such thing.
Fr. Dan continues:
You see, believe it or not, I still believe in “common prayer catholicity…”
Rather Anglicanism is a way of being catholic, or living into catholicity, that has proven itself very effective and extremely resilient over the last nearly 500 years of this independent Anglican experiment. I still believe that Anglicanism is a movement of God. I may be wrong. But why should I give up on it now?