In the summer of 2006 the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams very helpfully identified three things that when held together make Anglicanism distinct from other Christian denominations and contribute to the essential character of our church. Other denominations share one or two of these things. What makes Anglicanism unique is the balanced presence of all three. They are:
- A reformed commitment to the absolute priority of the Bible for deciding doctrine.
- A catholic loyalty to the sacraments and the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons,
- A habit of cultural sensitivity and intellectual flexibility that does not seek to close down unexpected questions too quickly.
These three points clearly linked to our reformation heritage, our catholic heritage, and our intellectual heritage nicely capture the core strength of the Anglican way of living out our Christian Faith.
So there we have it: a commitment, a loyalty, and a habit; three marks of Anglicanism. When these three elements are in balance we have Anglicanism. Problems within Anglicanism occur when they get out of balance.
(Continue reading for more explanation on these three points)
Tension, tension, tension. I honestly feel a lot of tension and temptation to side with just one (or at most two) emphases above and dismiss the rest. However, my whole Regent education has taught me to embrace and hold the tension, because many important things in theology are not either/or but paradoxically held in great tension as both/and (e.g. three and one, divine and human, already but not yet, unity and diversity in the body of Christ…) Those who claim that they can resolve it easily and dismiss certain theologies or practices have no respect for the church’s history and the struggle of all the saints before us. It can also easily go down the slippery slope of heresy and schismatic moves.
I remember many years ago my mentor prophetically told me that he thinks Anglicanism suits me because it provides a nice bridle to a revolutionist at heart like me. Tension, tension, tension. Keep embracing and holding the tension in humility, admitting that we cannot resolve it until the day we meet the Lord.