Page 8, 10th November 1978

10th November 1978
Page 8
Page 8, 10th November 1978 — Anglican creative tension
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Anglican creative tension

fhe Integrity of Anglicanism by Stephen W. Sykes (Mowbray, £2.50) Professor Sykes is here concerned with the key claim of Anglicanism to comprehensiveness: it entails as has been forcibly brought home to us recently, holding together mutually exclusive doctrines, even fundamental ones like the Incarnation. What, then, he asks of the integrity of Anglicanism?

This acceptance of comprehensiveness was given a particularly intriguing expression in the 1976 report of the Anglican Doctrine Commission which, while acknowledging that some of the differences regarding doctrinal truths were indeed mutually exclusive, advocated their retention because they provided "creative tensions".

The author argues, against this, that the Church cannot have it both ways must come down on one side.

Similarly, he casagates the liberalism which has found its way into both camps of Anglicanism (and was given droll de cite as long ago as 1925 by the C of E Commission on Christian Doctrine) as incapable of making a positive theological contribution.

But if his analysis leads him to some pretty blunt criticism of Anglicanism, his object is not by any means to demolish but to detect the basis on which the integrity of Anglicanism can be ensured.

He points for instance, as Catholics in the ecumenical field have done long since, to the lack of systematic theology among Anglicans — albeit he stresses that it should not be elaborated in academic ivory towers.

Naturally enough, since cornparisons with the Catholic Church are inevitable, he refers to Vatican H and to the diversities among Catholic writers — not, one would think, as some Anglicans do, for vicarious comfort and overlooking the little matter of Magisterium.

But if it is permissible to draw on rewarding conversation with the author to throw light on the book, one would question whether he is altogether clear who the Catholic "rebels" are — Conger on Tradition is not one of them!

Perhaps also the distinction, important in an assessment of the Catholic context, is not made between the teaching authority upholding unchangeable truths in the face of the incursions of error and the areas of discipline (fasting, vernacular, etc) which authority can alter.

He appeals to the inevitable phenomenon of recurrent conflict as an argument against the existence of a living voice of authority rather than as postulating the need for one a need in the Church which did not escape the notice of the Holy Spirit! He also seems so to dedicate Anglicanism to the transient prowess of theological technicians that it is permanently in the state of "becoming" and never "is"

At the end of it all he has not told us how the Anglican Church(es) can come down on one side.

But make no inistake. '1 his is a serious theological study and no piece of light reading: Stephen Sykes is Van Mildert Professor of Divinity at Durham University.

In the ecumenical field the book places the reader in the position where he must decide whether it is the author's account or the ARC1C's Statements that give the true Anglican situation; whether there is yet within Anglicanism a unity which provides a body sufficiently cohe sive to make conscientious sense of union between it and the Catholic Church.

In the long run this study may lead to conclusions other than the comfortable apologia for Anglicanism (but by no means advocating inertia) with which the book concludes.

William Burridge, WF




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