Top 10 Reasons I’m Not Anglo-Catholic
I’m an Anglican Christian, but am not Anglo-Catholic. After a number of recent inquires I wanted to offer a synopsis of my perspective. So as to avoid harmful miscommunication, however, I want to first make some things explicitly clear. I not only consider Anglo-Catholics to be brothers and sisters in Christ, but I embrace them fully as representing a genuine expression of the larger tradition. 1.Though others may read it, this post is written primarily to an in-house, Anglican audience. I’m giving fair warning that a lot of the terms and issues may be utterly foreign to those outside of this sphere. One of the things I value most about orthodox Anglicanism is its internal elasticity on adiaphora. It uniquely upholds what is to my eyes an obvious New Testament tension between doctrinal “purity”–for lack of a better word–and ecclesiastical unity. Therefore, amidst our disagreements I strive to be accurate yet concise, critical yet charitable, forthright yet respectful. You’ll find no strawman arguments, ad hominem attacks, false dichotomies, or the various other logical fallacies that tend to crop up in these sorts of blog posts. That being said, here are the Top 10 Reasons I’m not Anglo-Catholic:
10. Evangelical. Evangelicalism is an undeniable part of my spiritual DNA. I see myself as being within the lineage of such deceased figures as Whitefield, Wesley, Newton, Wilberforce, Webber, and Stott as well as such contemporary figures as Packer, McGrath, and Wright.22.The tangible connection with the ancient, undivided Church’s history and tradition was perhaps the #1 draw to Anglicanism, but I’m much more ancient-future than ancient alone. I’m much more Trinity (or Gordon-Conwell) than Nashotah, if you will.
9. Ideology. In my experience, the vast majority of Anglo-Catholics find a significant part of their identity in being uniformly conservative–theologically, politically, socially, etc. As the title of this blog makes clear, that ain’t me. I’m a hardlining moderate through and through.33.They’re unquestionably in the minority, but there are more than a handful of evangelical Anglicans who are moderate.
8. Epistemology. I stand with persons like N.T. Wright in holding to postfoundationalism. While this isn’t necessarily mutually exclusive of Anglo-Catholicism,44.One of my mentors and former professors, Fr. Michael Pahls, is welcome, living proof of this. my experience tells me such a position puts one at odds with the vast majority of its adherents.
7. Sacraments. I believe there are only two Sacraments that were explicitly inaugurated by Christ–baptism and communion.55.That is, I affirm the Thirty-Nine Articles’ statement that “[t]hose five commonly called Sacraments, that is to say, Confirmation, Penance, Orders, Matrimony, and Extreme Unction, are not to be counted for Sacraments of the Gospel, being such as have grown partly of the corrupt following of the Apostles, partly are states of life allowed in the Scriptures, but yet have not like nature of Sacraments with Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, for that they have not any visible sign or ceremony ordained of God.” I count the additional five as sacramental, or even sacraments, but not Sacraments. Moreover, I disagree with the Anglo-Catholic view(s) of the nature and efficacy of sacramental theology. We’re just not on the same page here.
6. Western. I don’t see the Anglican tradition as being exclusively Western. I realize this puts me somewhat at odds with more than just Anglo-Catholics, but I see Anglicanism as at least containing a patristic tradition of English Christianity that preceded Roman usurpation.
5. Egalitarian. I believe in full gender equality. While I want to be careful not to reinforce the unfortunate caricature that all complementarians are misogynists–they’re not–the fact remains that I’m at odds with their “distinct but equal” philosophy.66.In my experience, in practice it too often it resembles the supposed equality of the “separate but equal” Jim Crowe South.
4. Polity. Anglo-Catholics are a decidedly hierarchical expression of the Anglican tradition. That makes me most uncomfortable. While I enthusiastically embrace episcopal oversight, I have strong reservations about strong top-down governance in any organization.77.It’s not from Scripture or anything, but I agree with the principle that power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
3. Churchmanship. Except for on special occasions like Christmas and Easter, I’m not a bells and smells sorta dude. I tend to be pretty darn high church-inclined as far as evangelical Anglicans go, but too much of that stuff just feels like we’re dressing up for Halloween.
2. Milieu. By its nature Anglo-Catholicism is captive to antiquated cultural norms. Anglicans on the whole have a lot to learn, but that expression seems particularly out of touch. They’re usually tone deaf to the socio-religious, intellectual, racial and other notes of our day.88.I say this with confidence only because Anglo-Catholics themselves and evangelical priests I know within Anglo-Catholic dioceses have consistently reported this to me. Two examples, both of which are very important to me. First, they tell me that the Anglo-Catholic culture on the whole doesn’t know what to do with our emerging postchristian and postmodern society. Consequently, they’re digging in their heals and defensively reinforcing old ways of seeing and doing things. Second, I hear that Anglo-Catholics haven’t the foggiest clue about planting churches among anyone but middle- and upper-class WASP Christians. I’ve only ever seen a handful of non-white people at Anglo-Catholic parishes, which seem to be the exception proving the rule.
1. Catholic. I definitively see myself as catholic but don’t consider myself Catholic. From the Marian dogmas to Tomistic theology with numerous other beliefs and practices in between, I’m at odds with it. And, honestly, if I were to be Catholic I’d probably just be Roman Catholic.