Monday, October 30, 2006

REC/APA Paper on Unity

The combined bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America have issued an excellent paper on unity among orthodox Anglicans, particularly between those two church bodies.

As is our bishops’ practice, there is excellent teaching in this paper. I particularly appreciate and share their conclusions about different churchmanships among orthodox Anglicans.

Part of the genius of Anglicanism . . . has been its clearly defined standards on first order doctrines, while at the same time it has allowed for a breadth of belief regarding second order doctrines.

Indeed! And I want to be in same church with people who, say, have a different view of Mary than I do. Or rather, I am in the same church with people who have different views. So church bodies should have diversity that reflects that fact.

A serious error I see in both Roman Catholic and very Protestant churches is that they willfully exclude that diversity. For example, to be a good Catholic, you have to believe in the Immaculate Conception. (In fact, that’s practically required for converts to Roman Catholicism.) To be a good Protestant, you can’t. That does not reflect Christ’s church.

Speaking of which, the following paragraph is particularly prescient given the sectarianism of the REC’s past and of a minority of Reformed Episcopalians today:

The approach of freedom within defined doctrinal parameters has resulted in greater unity and less fracture. It requires resisting the temptation to permit “isms” and movements from pulling the theology of the Church to one extreme or the other. To some, this is not pure enough. They have sought a kind of absolute doctrinal purity that can only exist in heaven. This was the error of the Anabaptists. John Calvin addressed this problem when he wrote, “Among Christians there ought to be so great a dislike of schism, as that they may always avoid it so far as lies in their power. That there ought to prevail among them such a reverence for the ministry of the word and the sacraments that wherever they perceive these things to be, there they must consider the church to exist . . . nor need it be of any hindrance that some points of doctrine are not quite so pure, seeing that there is scarcely a church which has not retained some remnants of former ignorance.”

The vision of unity amidst a variety of orthodox Christians under one roof is one reason I’m now an Anglican . . . and a Reformed Episcopalian.

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