Radner posits that “God has, until the present, been using Anglicans as a figural outworking of Christian reconciliation in a fragmented, post-Babel world.” Reconciliation of the divided church has been achieved through Anglican habits encapsulated in three Latin phrases: ecclesia semper reformanda est (ongoing reform of the church), ad fontes (retrieval of the apostolic tradition), and lex orandi, lex credendi (reciprocation of prayer and belief). Another contributor to the book, Anglican journalist and theologian Barbara Gauthier, maintains that Anglicans have wrought reconciliation through the three streams of Scripture, sacrament, and Spirit, “representing Anglicanism’s evangelical, sacramental, and charismatic traditions.”
Because Anglicanism seems to be dying, Radner suggests letting it go as “a discrete ecclesial vocation and allowing its historic and contemporary forms to be remade for some further divine purpose.” This echoes the late Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey’s vision about the built-in obsolescence of Anglicanism, as summarized in the book by Stephen Bayne: “The vocation of Anglicanism is to disappear because Anglicanism does not believe in itself but believes only in the Catholic Church of Christ; therefore it is forever restless until it finds its place in that one Body.” Bray makes a similar point: “If Anglicanism is anything, it is a servant church in which every member has a ministry and in which all who believe in Christ are equally welcome.”
Indeed, a servant church may ultimately become invisible if the schisms in the worldwide church are healed, but ecclesial unity may not be possible without “Anglican essentials,” which have faded from the Global North. What other room off the hall summons the entire Christian family to the belief and practice of the undivided church during the first five centuries, as outlined by 16th-century Anglican Divine Lancelot Andrewes: “One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries and the Fathers in that period (the three centuries before Constantine and the two after) which determines the boundaries of our faith”?
The shorthand for Anglicanism is “reformed catholicism.” That seems as relevant today as ever because Geneva, Rome, and Constantinople have not come together in the ministry of Word and sacrament. And yet, as Bray recognizes, Anglicans in the Global North have either ignored or revised the formularies of the tradition—the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Homilies, the Ordinal, and the Book of Common Prayer—which are critical to its work of reconciliation: “Can a theological tradition exist without theology? That often seems where we are heading, but if we ever get there, Anglicanism will be as good as dead. Theological renewal is essential if we are to survive.” The via media of the Anglican tradition (interpreted in various ways as a mediator between Catholicism and Protestantism, Catholicism and Orthodoxy, popery and Puritanism) constitutes “the best of Anglicanism and its template for the future of Christianity after Christendom,” but also “evokes the worst aspects of Anglicanism: the spineless, muddling middle way that encourages a managerial mentality and gives rise to a false peace without principles,” avers ex-Episcopalian, Catholic theologian R. R. Reno.
How my Anglican family—85 million strong—resembles the Brothers Karamazov and what it means for how we engage each other. https://t.co/Gsk9iEWXOF
— Christianity Today (@CTmagazine) November 1, 2021