We deny to claim "any Superiority to ourself
to defyne, decyde, or determyn any Article or Poynt
of the Christian Fayth and Relligion,
or to chang any Ancient Ceremony of the Church
from the Forme before received and observed
by the Catholick and Apostolick Church."

Norman Simplicity

Norman Simplicity
Click image for original | © Vitrearum (Allan Barton)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Via Media

Delightful thoughts, with not a word written by me (as my thoughts are distinctly undelightful). Excerpted for my purposes but read the entire piece.

Something truly catholic seems to have been beginning in the sixteenth century and it is a great pity movements on both sides of the Channel were quashed. A middle way is always difficult to follow. Purists of all stripes are ever-ready to hurl insult at those who they see as less committed to a strict way of being. Yet it is often the maintenance of a via media that is the most difficult; lack of prescription requires greater wisdom in judgment. It was on this point that the Laudians, and indeed the Jansenists, found themselves indicted. The former found themselves brought low by philistinism in a newly-Reformed Church that was not fully prepared to accept that visual beauty had a place in the worship of God. The latter were assailed by an institution sensitised by the unexpected triumph of a youthful Protestantism and thus unable to see in its own history the seeds of the doctrines espoused by Jansenius and Saint-Cyran ...

In the past century it was the Central Churchmen who sought to keep alive the best of the Laudian reforms and their efforts issued in art and ceremonial a striking similarity to the elegant austerity of the Gallican Church of the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries. The restraint of Augustinian understanding of human inability which Jansenism introduced would have had the same effect on the wilful exuberance of Romanist theology as Laudian freedom of artistic feeling would have had for the hard-edged Puritanism of the Church of England. So much the pity that reconciliation requires self-restraint ...

... With the feeling that extremes have come increasingly to dominate discourse, both in the sacred and secular realms, the description of Central Churchmanship as 'deliberately moderate, with the traditional Laudian idea of the beauty of holiness being given moderate rein. The overall ethos [being] one of orthodoxy, duty and devotion tempered by an abhorrence of fanaticism, the usual British reserve, and a fear of appearing Pharasaical' seems relieving and refreshing. Such a thoroughly decent via media is a distinctly refreshing antidote to the instability and chaotic infighting of mainstream Evangelicalism and Anglo-Catholicism. Perhaps never before has a Central position been so needed ...

... Central Churchmanship offers a way forward. If self-consciously detached from the bonds of the excesses of the Establishment, a self-limiting middle path devoted to the scriptures, the Creeds, and the Anglican tradition embodied in the writings of the first two centuries of Anglican Divines and worshipping with moderate ceremonial in the context of an austere beauty fulfils a necessary need in a world of extremes, a need that is increasingly difficult to find in a climate of polarisation. With Masses and prayer for the dead on one hand and drum kits on the other, one often wishes for a sensible alternative to both. Unfussy and uncluttered in both theological temper and aesthetic expression, Central Churchmanship provides a respite from the chaos of sectarian religiosity which is at heart either Papalist or independent. Likewise, standing apart from the frenetic haste of contemporary life Central Churchmanship provides a community to which one may belong as a reasonable individual -- mind and heart able both alike to express themselves -- without sacrificing the essential Christian desire to view life in the world through the light of scripture and to form it accordingly. Holding in tension the best of its reformist predecessors, Laudianism and Jansenism, it stands as a witness to reasonable thinking beyond and above traditions rife with zealotry. To be a Central Churchman is to stand in a permanent oasis of peace, historically proved, biblically grounded, and utterly reasonable while the streams of time and sectarian circumstance ebb and flow and ultimately decay.

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