Traditional thoughts on tradition

This is a post about language. It’s not a post about the merits or otherwise of Roman Catholicism and the Church of England.

I’m a keen follower of rugby league. I especially like good quality playing strips with traditional designs. Wigan should have hoops, Bradford should have a red, amber and black band across the chest and St Helen’s should have a red ‘V’ on their white shirts. They’re the traditional designs.

Except for St Helen’s the red ‘V’ isn’t their traditional strip. The club was founded in 1873 and began playing in blue and white stripes. They then switched to a white strip with a red band across the middle. In 1961 they switched to their current design. The red ‘V’ is a newcomer, an upstart and the radical’s choice.

I mention this because of the coverage of the moves by Joseph Ratzinger to implement a scheme to allow Anglo-Romanists to join the Roman Catholic Church. Those targeted by this move are those in the Church of England currently disaffected by the direction the church with regard to women priests and other issues. As a result they’re being called Traditional Anglicans by the media.

The Anglicans most likely to respond to Rome’s manoeuvres are those whose liturgy, theology and practices closely match the Roman church. They’re also called High Church Anglicans. They wave incense around and have statues of Mary in their churches. They may even see the Bishop of Rome as being a man of authority with regards to their faith. However, the 39 articles of faith of the Church of England are pretty clear as to how its clergy are to respond to the church of Rome and its practices.

Article 19 says: the Church of Rome hath erred, not only in their living and manner of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith.

Article 37 says: The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realm of England.

We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort.

Whereas Canon 12 of the Council of Trent (which is still official Catholic doctrine) states: If any one shall say that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the divine mercy pardoning sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is that confidence alone by which we are justified; let him be anathema.

If people are comfortable to come under the authority of Rome, then that’s their decision to make. However, the media shouldn’t call those people “traditional” Anglicans when they’ve rejected the very articles that establish what Anglicanism is. These ‘traditional Anglicans’ are nothing of the sort. They’re as traditional as the red ‘V’.


Nothing fishy about Polycarp

St Polycarp's

St Polycarp's

Kerry and I were married in St Polycarp’s church in Sheffield. The most common question asked of us when people were told the venue was: “Who was Polycarp?” To which the best response I could give was: “He had many fish?”

I have to admit that my view of church history can sometimes look a bit like this: Jesus, Acts … (here be dragons) … Luther, Calvin, 1662, today. This has meant that I have ignorantly thought that the Church Fathers were as guilty of Roman innovations as the medieval church. Thankfully, it was Calvin that showed me the error of my ways.

Calvin was very keen to show he wasn’t an innovator. He made constant referral to the Church Fathers in his defence of the Protestant faith. I was chastened. Time to read the Fathers, Phil. Continue reading