I’ve received a fair amount of feedback on my analysis of the new FiFNA Declaration, all of which has been helpful and thought-provoking. Overall, I am left with the impression that it would be a useful exercise to clarify and make public those points which I think serve as a solid foundation for Anglo-Catholic – Evangelical conciliation. This I hope by the grace of God to undertake in this follow-up discussion.
The ground of conciliation that I see as the proper place to unify Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals, out of which I was working implicitly in attempting to explicate the new FiFNA Declaration, is this:
- the Holy Scriptures as the primary rule of faith, containing all things necessary for salvation, such that whatever cannot be proved by them cannot be required of any (cf. Article 6)
- the 39 Articles as the historic standard of Anglican doctrine: which should guide our reading of Scripture as Anglicans, and to which, as Anglicans, our articulations of the Faith should be transparent
- our present commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord over and against trends that are fashionable in both Church and culture
- the ecumenical destiny and conciliatory character of Anglicanism represented in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral
I recognize that this will be a stretch for some Anglo-Catholics, as some of us get lazy sometimes and make a simple appeal to Tradition rather than working with transparency to the Scriptures and the Articles. Our Evangelical brothers and sisters are right to challenge us if we are doing theology in this modality, and we should be willing and able to engage thoughtfully and seriously when they challenge us to return to a more classically Anglican approach.
To Evangelicals this is chiefly an appeal to patience and charity. I’ve met plenty of Evangelicals who have made an ultimate judgment against Anglo-Catholicism, and seem to entertain and propagate a sort of phobia of the movement as a kind of liberal and/or Popish conspiracy. Such an attitude is simply alienating, and forecloses on the possibility any kind of meaningful mutual critique, much less the kind of fruitful and enriching theological friendship between members of the two camps that I have personally experienced and benefited from so profoundly.
Now, there is one other point worth addressing: some people smelled a “Newman-esque” hermeneutic at work in my analysis. That I would like to flatly deny. I am as suspicious as anyone at the way Newman uses the Articles in Tract 90 – and, I might add, that is the common attitude I found these days at Nashotah House. I have stated my principles in unpacking the Declaration above – I am not following Newman’s questionable trajectory. Nevertheless, It is quite possible that I have made errors in my interpretation, or in the application of my principles, or in my principles themselves; and to the extent that I have done so, I hope that my Evangelical friends will carefully point them out, and help me to become clearer and more consistent in my reasoning.
I realize that this leaves a lot of questions unanswered. My interlocutors have challenged every aspect of my interpretation of the FiFNA Declaration, raising many valid points. I’m not intending to simply sweep these away as irrelevant or unimportant. But I do want to ask the question, “Can’t we leave some loose ends if we are both committed to these core principles?”
I can sign the new FiFNA Declaration in good conscience. I have dear brothers and sisters in Christ who cannot. But I rejoice that I can worship and minister and serve God with them in the Anglican Church, and I don’t want anyone to take that away. This does not mean that we should simply overlook our disagreements and default into being an a-theological organization with “multiple integrities.” It means that since we both recognize that as we are committed to these as core principles, we can pray and think and work together towards consensus about where these principles lead vis-à-vis our various disagreements.