The peculiar situation of theology was posed to me the other day, and in turn, I posed it to Andy (A Red State Mystic): what makes the difference a church that is Anglo-Catholic and a church that is “merely” High Church Middle-of-the-Road?

Richard, aka Triscuit, has reported than in the Midwestern-ish area, even the most Protestant of the Episcopalians have a Tabernacle and Sanctuary Lamp. 

Andy has suggested that at one time, Tabernacles and Sanctuary Lamps were one of the major determing signs of Anglo-Catholicism. 

But the truth is, though I’ve heard of so-called “Low Church” Anglicans, I’ve yet to come across any of them online. I’ve even seen some of the Reformed-Protestant-we’re-not-actually-in-the-Anglican-Communion “Anglicans” who, despite definitely avowing that they are indeed Protestants, maintain the Tabernacle and Sanctuary Lamps.

Also, I should point out that if I had to convert to the Roman Church based on the Roman Catholics I personally know, it would be no problem. But if I had to convert based on the Roman Catholics I’ve seen online, I would probably sooner rather die a heretic’s death

Why?

Because frankly, many of the Online Romans seem to have a distorted view about practically everything. When I read Romans go on about why Romans convert to Anglicanism and say that it’s never because of any real theological issue, I just had to scoff. 

But allow me to back up and concede for a moment: of course it’s not necessarily for a theological reason, but probably, quite often, for one of attitude. The theology of the Roman Church isn’t the issue with most of us Anglo-Catholics; indeed, many, if not most of us, like the Pope well enough and all that jazz. It’s the attitude to it all: I see so many (Online) Roman Catholics act as though they know everything, everything, there is to know about spirituality. 

But they don’t because none of us do.

Conversely, I think the reason many Episcopalians eventually join up with Rome is because Rome dares to make more definitive-sounding, absolute claims about religion, saying that “this is the way it is, folks. Deal with it. God says so,” and Anglicanism often eschews trying to nail down (pun intended) any kind of theology for the fear of offending someone in some tribal religion that has no exposure to the outside world. So, the idea that one can ask a difficult question and receive a complicated (but potentially erroneous) answer backed up with the claim of “We’re the One True Church, y’all” gives Episcopalian-to-Roman Catholic converts a sense of comfort that they might not experience in the Episcopal Church. 

That doesn’t mean it’s correct, though, which is the point that they miss. 

High Anglicanism, and when I say High Anglicanism, I mean the finest Anglo-Catholicism, makes a distinction among things that is subtle but important, and I think that is the genius of Anglicanism: to make fine, subtle distinctions that are otherwise overlooked. One interesting example recently came to me from another website that explains that Anglicanism distinguishes between authority and infallibility. 

Our model of Tradition, Scripture, and Reason is where the authority of our Church arises, and though these three are authoritative, they are not infallible. When I read this, I realized I had been trying to articulate this all along. 

In my case, I would go so far as to concede this all the way to the Pope and the Magisterium of the Roman Church: they are authoritative in matters Christian, but they are not, now, before, or in the future, infallible. 

When I hear people say things like, “OH, well, you silly Episcopalians should just trust the Bible and get away from all that other stuff,” I want to smack them. Hard. Preferably with something that will cut them. But better yet, I take my boyfriend’s tactic on this one: I usually just won’t engage in an argument with such a person. I don’t have the time to try to explain to someone who is patently wrong with their Evangelical Protestant Bibliolatry why and how they’re wrong, nor is it my responsibility. 

I react in a similar way when someone dares to call me a Protestant. I am no Protestant, that’s for sure. 

Stevo

 

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