Page 4, 20th May 1977

20th May 1977
Page 4
Page 4, 20th May 1977 — What Anglicans believe

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Locations: Slough, Surrey, Cleveland


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What Anglicans believe

Much has been and is being written in the Catholic Herald about the unity of the Roman and Anglican Churches, yet no one has written to ask whether the laity of both establishments have made any advances towards making clear their individual belief in the nature of the Eucharist — the actual change that takes place at the Consecration during the Catholic Mass which does not take place at the Communion Service of the Anglican Church. Do the Anglican laity accept ransubstantiation, the change of the water and wine into the true Body and Blood of Christ? Dr Coggan seems to imply that the Anglican Church does believe in this change, judging by his recent statement of "our joint participation in the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood," calling the Eucharist a Sacrament.

Although this statement was made to the Episcopalians, could it mean that the Church of England now believes in Transubstantiation? If so, what claim does the Church of England make on the true ordination of their priests giving them the power of consecrating? The hierarchy of the Church of England arc obviously anxious for the union of Christianity, but without being under one head. And what of the Anglican laity? Do the Anglican laity, whether practising or not, wish to be united in faith and creed?

A great doubt hangs over Catholics in regard to the possibility of ordinary non-Catholics ever accepting the tenets so strongly believed in and held to by ordinary Catholics, or submitting to the precepts of the Catholic Church. After all, a Christian Church is composed of two parts — the hierarchy and the laity, the ministry and the people. the priest and his congregation. A. B. Reid East Molesey, Surrey.

The Church of Christ is not concerned with "fashion", which is the whim of the moment. It is, however, deeply concerned with realities, both eternal and temporal, the changeless and the changing. Our faith is in the unchanging eternal truth: let us not confuse it with its outward form, which can and must change as we change. Failure to progress is stagnation and eventual disintegration. For many centuries the Church has failed to realise that while God does not change, man does: his increasing knowledge ever opens up new horizons to his understanding, not only of himself and his world but of these in relation to the eternal truths.

Truth does not change, but the way man sees it does. Truth has many faces. Official Church kept her eyes firmly fixed on one face only, while many of her children have long seen others — and if they have said so, been forbidden to look at them.

Now the blinkers have been officially removed but many are screwing up their eyes, afraid to look, afraid of change lest the fundamental truths be lost. Have we not learnt, these 2,000 years, that in spite of the multitude of our collective transgressions, Jesus Christ is always with us, as he said he would be. Have we forgotten Pentecost?

Christ prayed that we should be One. To this end he gave us a sacrament of two elements, bread and wine, to be his body (flesh) and his blood, to signify the unity of his divinity and his humanity and our union one with another in him.

This sacrament of his Body and Blood he gave us so that we might all of us share in the fulness of his life. He did not make our doing and our sharing conditional upon anything other than our faith and love; neither upon sex nor age nor

social standing, least of all upon the degree of our understanding.

However we may express our belief in its eternal truth, there is not one of us who fully understands the Eucharist, the truth of which it is beyond the power of man totally to comprehend. So long as we, whoever we may be, do in faith, with love and reverence, what Our Lord commanded us to do, how can there be any blasphemy?

The Eucharist is the very centre of the Christian Faith, the everpresent visible sign of our belief in the divinity ofJesus Christ, the most efficacious guarantee of our unity: it is the means to unity, as well as its sign.

Without a full and free participation there is no hope of unity, either within our individual Churches or between them. The sooner we all learn truly to believe and understand that only God has a monopoly, of truth, the nearer will we corne to achieving that unity which we all so much desire.

There is no need to concern ourselves unduly about "the shape of things to come". Unity does not mean uniformity, which is as undesirable as it is unnatural and impossible to maintain.

First we must grasp the essence of unity: shapes have a habit of forming themselves in response to the present need. Christ has given us the foundation; the Holy Spirit will guide its shaping.

Clare Hourihane Boscombe, Bournemouth, Dorset. \ While all Christians will welcome the further impetus given to the growth of the ecumenical spirit between the two Churches by the meeting of Pope Paul and Dr Coggan, the latter's call for immediate inter-communion is surely putting the ecumenical cart before the horse.

His further remarks that some Anglicans and Catholics are receiving each other's Communion without official sanction are injudicious, as he is in effect encouraging individual Church members to commit ecumenical No doubt his words will be welcomed by the hyper-ecumenists on both sides but can one be sure that they will be as happily received by many grass-roots members of the two Churches?

Anglicans who sincerely believe in some form of Real Presence in their Eucharist can be assumed to have such pride and faith in their own sacraments that recourse to receiving Communion in a Catholic church would be deemed to be both misguided and disloyal. Catholics, for their part, believe that only in the Mass is Christ's presence made manifest in all its fullness — that their Eucharist is the indelible mark of the uniqueness, unity and authenticity of the Catholic Church. It is these grassroots realities of belief that euphoric ecumenists in both Churches so often ignore.

D. G. Galvin Wonersh, Surrey.

The reasons why Communion cannot be shared with Christians outside the Catholic Church are set out clearly in the pamphlet "Intercommunion" issued in 1968 by Ecumenical Commission for England and Wales. When a Christian body separates itself from unity of doctrinal faith it also separates itself from Cornmunion, because Communion has always been understood as a sign of unity of faith. Inter-communion without doctrinal unity would be a false sign.

Charity that is not faithful to the truth is not the charity of Christ.

(Fr) Michael Sellers

Slough, Berkshire.

I would suggest that your contributor, Dr Brian D. Johnson (May 13) might be happy to be brought up to date by considering these facts: 1. In the Book of Common Prayer the child is taught to believe that "the body and blood of Christ are verily, and indeed, taken by the faithful in the Lord's Supper":

2. That in the first and third exhortations in the Communion Service the priest refers to "the sacrament of the body and blood of Christ" and to those coming to receive communion to receive "the body and blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ";

3. That in what we call the prayer of humble access we pray that we may "eat the flesh of thy dear son, Jesus Christ, and drink his blood"; and .4, That in No 28 of the Thirty-nine Articles we are told that "the bread which we break:is a partaking of the body of Christ and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ."

Dr Johnson must surely be aware that these simple facts have been before the public for over 300 years and it is difficult to sec how any liturgy could be more explicit. We are, after all, speaking about a mystery of faith.

We enter into murky waters when the discussion moves onto the competence of Anglican ministers to "consecrate". Clearly Dr Johnson holds what might be termed the "physical transmission" theory of ordination. I don't.

It just so happens that a number of years ago 1 was ordained by a Roman Catholic bishop and now find myself happily exercising this ministry in the Church of England. But 1 have not the slightest shadow, of doubt that my colleagues in this priestly ministry are just as much ordained as 1 am. It's a bit like seeing the Loch Ness monster: once you've seen it, you know. But you haven't a chance of convincing others I (Rev) G. Gabriel Dewhurst Stockton-on-Tees,


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