Thursday, November 11, 2004

One theology or many theologies

I had a fabulous evening yesterday (with Mike and Wayne - thanks guys if you're reading) discussing all kinds of stuff from literature to science fiction, politics and theology. As two Americans the guys wanted to know what I thought of the Anglican theology or as we came to agree the THEOLOGIES of the Anglican church. We discussed the merits of having a single theology or having a multiplicity of theologies. We ended up mostly with a consensus that a breadth of theological understandings is acceptable but that the starting point of these theologies should be united as they are (supposed to be) in the commonality of the Gospel reading at the Sunday Eucharist. We felt that a church certainly needed a common baseline of belief (indeed we agreed quite wisely with the fathers of the early church that we should all share common credal statements!)

The question is...

Where DO we draw the line? What are the absolute FUNDAMENTALS of our faith? Of your faith? What can we be flexible about? What can we NOT compromise on?

I'm not entirely certain that we ALL have to agree on the answers to the above BUT I do think we all need to have ANSWERED them for ourselves.

Gosh there's a bit of a challenge for us! I think I need togo away and THINK and PRAY a lot!


Anonymous said...

You seem to have hit the crux of the current problems firmly on the head. The 'Traditional Anglicans' are maintaining that there is a single Anglican theology, that parts of the church are deviating from. However if you take the time to go around a few local Anglican churches, or in some places within the *same* church, there are many variations.

The comment about the Gospels and the creeds raised a smile. My impression of the Gospel readings in the Sunday Lectionary is that they are carefully picked to skirt round the inconsistencies between them that most people discover if they study them in detail. In that way most regular Anglicans whose contact with the Bible is through Sunday services, or structured Bible notes don't notice the differences.

As to the creed, I have heard several different Anglican clergy comment on what seems to be a common experience in their training. The group is asked to raise a hand for lines in the creed with which they disagree or have some issue, and a suprisingly large number disagree with a suprisingly large number of statements in the creed, but different people agree with or have issue with different bits. Again it's something that clergy are made aware of, but that the average person in the pew doesn't realise.

On that basis I think the common theolgy that unites the current Anglican church is actually very small. The strange thing is that until recently the average person in the pew didn't realise. As Rowan Williams said at Greebelt this year "Quite a lot of people had to learn that the Church of England was not just them. What I heard from both sides of the controversy was that 'We thought the Church of England was us and people like us, and maybe one or two others who did not matter too much'. There was a sense on both sides of shock and dispossession."

Roger Vere Youth Worker said...

Thank you for that. I will respond anon when I am not about to go to a party!

Anonymity is a wonderful thing though it would be interesting to know who made that previous comment.