Saturday, 31 July 2010

Anglican Patrimony?

There has been much written on various blogs lately about Anglican Patrimony and what it really is and various arguments have been put forward in answer to that question. To my mind, Anglican Patrimony comes down to one essential question: what makes an Anglican distinctive. In my younger days we used to hold the view that one of the qualities of the church was that it managed to hold in tension three distinct churchmanship’s: Catholic, Central, and Evangelical. Whilst we might not agree we were all held together in this fellowship of the Church of England. We served under a Diocesan Bishop with whom we might disagree, whom we might not even like, but who we respected because he held together the Diocese in that bond of fellowship. That all disappeared when the ordination of women was implemented and Anglo-Catholics found themselves out of Communion with their Diocesan because he ordained women. They then came under the jurisdiction of Alternative Episcopal care. Barriers were erected and Catholics made to feel out on a limb by those who accepted the innovation. Sniping became a regular practice at things like Deanery Chapter and Deanery Synod from some clergy and people who would not, or who could not, accept us.

The distinctive nature of a CofE Parish means that everybody who lives in it has the right, by law established, to the service of the parochial clergy in such things as weddings and funerals and pastoral care regardless of their religious affiliation. I see this as part of the Patrimony which I guess with the Ordinariate may no longer be the case. Although taking weddings for non-believers, for example, can be enormously frustrating, they can provide an opportunity for evangelism.

Some argue that the Book of Common Prayer is part of the patrimony and I would have to agree with them. Prayer Book Evensong, sung well, is a delight. But although I have celebrated the Holy Communion according to the Prayer Book I find it quite deficient and much prefer the Roman Rite (or even Common Worship with Roman additions). Some advocate a return to the English Missal as being the authentic Mass of the Anglo-Catholic, and whilst I have used it occasionally I would not want to use it all the time.

Perhaps another part of Anglican Patrimony could be the willingness to take non-Eucharistic services from time to time such as the Christingle and the Nine Lessons and Carols. Both of these bring many people into church who would not otherwise come and provide another opportunity for teaching and evangelism.

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