Preaching on Sunday at Farm Street Church, Fr. Francis Woodlock, S.J., made some allusions to the Anglican Commission's Report on Church of England Doctrine in his sermon on the miracle at Cana.
That miracle, he said, was a " hard saying," something to be explained away by Anglican Modernists who found the Gospel miracles incredible and sought always to deny them or give them a purely naturalistic interpretation.
Modernists would receive new encouragement from the Report of the Anglican Commission on Church of England Doctrine which was published last Friday, after twenty Commissioners, representing all schools of thought in their Church, had spent fifteen years in deliberation.
Father Woodlock regarded the report as of immense importance and agreed with the Church Times which, surprisingly in a High Church paper, describes it as a " momentous document."
" Not since the sixteenth century has a body of doctrine been set forth on behalf of the Church of England of such intrinsic importance or of such profound weight."
The preacher could not, however. agree with the further editorial comment that " the Commission has once and for all made it plain that the Church of England possesses a theological mind and a true sense of theological importance."
He thought it inconceivable that ever in the future . the Anglican Church would go back on the Report and take any disciplinary action to silence a bishop or priest who openly taught a denial of the Virgin Birth or the Gospel miracles of Christ or the existence of the devil or eternal punishment.
If bishops and clergy are free to disbelieve these traditional doctrines of the Christian faith, the laity will increasingly profess the same disbcliefs. People seldom believe more than they arc obliged. He thought that the report, while facilitating union with Free Church and non-episcopal bodies by its teaching on the validity of Sacraments, would stand as a further obstacle to union with Rome, and the Eastern Orthodox Churches who can never join in communion with a Church which cannot decide whether—to use the words of a Times leading article—the Virgin Birth of Our Lord is fact or myth; whether or not His tomb was empty on Easter Day, and whether the Gospel miracles should be taken as history or imagery.
The Report stands as further evidence of the fact that doctrinal comprehensiveness is now a recognised and accepted characteristic of the Anglican Church.
Though not a final authoritative declaration of the Anglican position, unless and until it has been examined and promulgated by the authority of Convocations, it is already a very weighty and, he believed, unchangeable expression of the mind of the Church of England.
The Times, commenting on the Arch
bishop of York's statement that the Commissioners, in spite of their doctrinal differences, ended as " a company of friends," said " they obtained, riot identity of belief, but unity of spirit, which is worth much more."
"We may note," said Fr. Woodlock, " that the same friendly unity of spirit was claimed for the much wider Conference on Faith and Order, held by Protestants of all kinds in Edinburgh last autumn, and even for the Conference at Oxford, in which Protestant Christians, Buddhists, Ilindoos, Mahom11,1leidl)a.its and others discussed religious " Had the unity of spirit been the primary aim of the Bishops assembled at the First Council of the Catholic Church, rather than the defence of Catholic truth committed to it, the Arian heresy would, in the interest of comprehensiveness, have escaped condemnation and the Divinity of our Lord would have been left an open question for members of the Church. Comprehensiveness in doctrine has never been and can never be a mark of the Catholic Church which was commissioned by Christ to teach with such authority that He could say of its teaching: " He that hears you, is listening to Me."
Amo, not Credo
"Can any Anglican today recognise the Voice of Christ in the hesitating. uncertain pronouncements of his Church, which none the less claims to be Catholic? Rather will he conclude that definite belief even in the Articles of the Catholic Creed matter little so long as a friendly spirit of unity and fellowship survives.
Dr. Major, the leading Anglican Modernist, once said that not Credo but Amo should be the test of membership in the Church of Christ.
" The Catholic Church," said the preacher, " calls for both orthodox faith and brotherly love in its members: orthodox faith must be claimed by a Church that was created to teach revealed truth to its members."