December 29, 2010

Evangelical or Catholic?

Filed under: Anglicanism,Theology — William Witt @ 5:36 am

ihsRecently, I was asked the following in an email.

I have been trying to get to the bottom of which “version” of Anglicanism is more accurate to history: the more reformed one or the Anglo-Catholic one. McGrath and Colin Buchanan make Tractarianism out to be wildly innovative and revisionist and the Anglo-Catholics aver that these reformed types pass over many continuities of the English church with its pre-Reformation heritage.  Could you 1) commend some strategies and tip me off to some dangers in pursuit of this question, lest I be too easily sucked into either party’s credo and 2) recommend a course of reading for me which would help me to adjudicate the question of which “wing” of Anglicanism Anglican history best supports?

My response:

Dear XXXX,

Thank you for writing and Merry Christmas. I apologize that it has taken so long to get back to you.  I began an initial response, but it soon became clear that it was becoming much too lengthy for an email.  I have been intending to do a series of posts on my blog about Anglicanism, and I hope this initial response will become  the beginning of a more lengthy series.

Perhaps the best way for me to answer would be to tell you a bit about myself.  I was raised a Southern Baptist, in a denomination that was biblicist in a way that church history simply did not matter.  I grew up in a church where it was just assumed that we could jump straight from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans to the late 20th century United States without any stopping points along the way.  To the extent we thought about church history at all, we believed that Baptists had recovered the true gospel that could be found plainly in the Bible; Roman Catholics had messed up Christianity by adding a lot of ritual, works-righteousness, pagan superstition, and an unbiblical hierarchy; the Protestant Reformers had recovered part of the gospel, but had not gone far enough.  They had kept such unbiblical practices as infant baptism, sacraments, and written prayers.  I remember once hearing it explained to me when I was young that the Roman Catholic Church was the “whore of Babylon,” but the Protestant denominations were nothing more than the “daughters of the whore.”  Unlike Roman Catholics, and even other Protestants, we did not mess around with human traditions, whether those of Rome or those of the Protestant Reformation.  We went straight to the source, the Bible.  Although we were Baptists, we simply called ourselves “Christians,” and we tended to think that we were the only ones.

I went to college at an Evangelical liberal arts college that was slightly less provincial.  Still, a lot of the faculty seemed to think that the Holy Spirit had simply disappeared from the church immediately after the death of the last apostle, only to reappear at the time of the Reformation, particularly in the theology of John Calvin and his followers.  However, I was fortunate enough to study under two teachers who introduced me both to Church history and to the pre-Reformation philosophical tradition. (I was a philosophy major.)   I became acquainted with the writings of Plato and Aristotle, but also Augustine and Aquinas.  These teachers also introduced me to what was then called Neo-orthodoxy, but what I would now call “critical orthodoxy”: Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, the twentieth century biblical theology movement of Walther Eichrodt and Oscar Cullmann.  I discovered Wolfhart Pannenberg on my own.  Also, since my senior year in high school, I had been reading the Inklings–C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, George MacDonald, Charles Williams, Dorothy Sayers,  and G. K. Chesterton.

When I graduated from college, I wanted to study theology.  I knew that I was no longer a Southern Baptist, but I did not know what I was.  I did graduate studies at the local Roman Catholic seminary because I was not interested in the other two local options—one Conservative Baptist (I had had enough of that), the other liberal Methodist (I was interested in Karl Barth and Thomas Aquinas, not Rudolf Bultmann or process theology).  I hoped I might learn more about Aquinas in a Roman Catholic seminary.

I did not learn a whole lot about Aquinas there, but I did learn something about post-Vatican II Roman Catholicism, which was critically orthodox in its study of Scripture (unlike my undergraduate college), and ecumenical.  I discovered that Vatican II Roman Catholicism was simply not interested in the kind of Reformation-era polemics that still characterized much of Evangelical Protestantism.  I studied under Roman Catholics who accepted historical critical biblical scholarship, who agreed that Paul taught justification by faith, and conceded that Rome had been largely at fault for many of the problems of the Reformation. I learned that there was a radical difference between Tridentine Catholicism, and post-Vatican II Catholicism. I also discovered contemporary Roman Catholic theologians like Karl Rahner, Bernard Lonergan, Yves Congar, and Henri de Lubac.  During the time I was at seminary, I tried to engage the crucial theological issues that I thought distinguished me (as an erstwhile Evangelical) from my fellow Catholic students and faculty—justification by faith, the relation between scripture and tradition, sacramentality, church polity.

During my time at seminary, I also was introduced to a newer ecumenical approach to Reformation historiography, as represented by scholars like Heiko Oberman.  Traditional interpretations of the Reformation (both Roman and Protestant) had interpreted it as a movement that was in essential discontinuity with the Medieval Catholic Church, and made no distinctions between the early Medieval theology of a Thomas Aquinas or a Bonaventure, and the later voluntarist Nominalism that characterized much of the theology of the late Medieval church, and against which the Reformers rightly protested.  Thomas Aquinas was not William of Ockham, but neither was Aquinas Cajetan or Suarez.

Tridentine Catholics of the traditional approach thought that the Medieval Church had it right; so Protestantism was not a Reformation, but a Revolt.  In contrast, Protestant historiographers believed that the late Medieval Church was a falling away from biblical faith, and the Reformers were restoring the gospel.  Trent was not a Catholic Reformation, but a Counter-Reformation. 

Scholars like Oberman read the Reformation as what it was, a reforming movement in the late Medieval Roman Catholic Church.  As such, the Reformers corrected a lot of what they thought were abuses in the late Medieval church, but also uncritically accepted as normative many of the self-understandings of late Medieval Catholicism that were simply aberrations of the culture of the time, for example, its individualism, its penitentialism, and the voluntarist theology of Nominalism.  Also, insofar as both Trent and the Protestant Reformation were reactionary movements, both sides rejected positions held by the other side simply because they were held by the other side.  If the Reformers insisted on sola scriptura, scripture and worship in the language of the people, and justification by faith alone, Trent insisted on Scripture and Tradition as two equal sources of revelation, scripture and worship in Latin, and justification by faith plus works.  If Trent insisted on transubstantiation and eucharistic sacrifice, and a magisterium, the Reformers (at least some of them) rejected any notion of a bodily presence in the sacraments, any notion of eucharistic sacrifice, and embraced congregational or presbyterian polity.  The conclusion was that neither Trent nor the Reformers entirely got it right, and both Trent and the Reformers got some things right that the other side missed.

Finally, during my time at seminary, almost by chance I discovered something called The Chicago Call, from a conference pulled together by a Wheaton College professor named Robert Webber.  This document and its accompanying book, The Orthodox Evangelicals, enabled a major breakthrough for me.  The Chicago Call was a call for Evangelicals to recover the historic tradition and worship of the pre-Reformation Church.  Webber later went on to publish books like Common Roots, Evangelicals on the Canterbury Trail, and become the advocate of something called “Ancient Future Worship.”  Webber and The Chicago Call were the beginning of something like an Evangelical Ressourcement movement, a Protestant echo of the similar movement among pre-Vatican II Roman Catholics like Yves Congar and Henri de Lubac, who helped Roman Catholics rediscover the patristic roots of Catholicism.  The Chicago Call told me that other Evangelicals were doing something that I thought I had been doing entirely on my own. Shortly afterward, I myself became an “Evangelical on the Canterbury Trail.”

At the end of my time at Seminary, I did not become a Roman Catholic. I had learned a lot of what it felt like to be Catholic from the inside, and I had given Roman Catholicism a more than sympathetic hearing.  But at the end of the day, I did not become Roman because of my dissatisfaction with what John Henry Newman called “development of doctrine.”  Specifically, the Roman doctrines of papal primacy and infallibility, the marian dogmas, and transubstantiation, were stumbling blocks for me.  My historical study convinced me that these were not part of the teaching of either Scripture or the early church (Newman conceded this), but were later (primarily Medieval) developments.  Unlike Newman, I saw no way to understand these Roman dogmas as legitimate doctrinal developments; rather I was, and I remain, convinced that they are departures from both Scripture and the historic faith of the patristic church.

However, I had not attended any church regularly since I had left the Baptists after I graduated from college, and,  if I did not become a Roman Catholic, I did need to become a member of some church.  I ended up becoming an Episcopalian on theological grounds.  I did not think that Anglicanism was the “one true church,” but I did conclude that Anglicanism came closest to have gotten the Reformation right.  Anglicanism had recovered the fourfold marks of the church that had distinguished the second century Catholic Church from Gnosticism during the crucial time in which the church established its identity: 1) Canon (expressed in Anglicanism as sufficiency and primacy of Scripture); 2) Rule of Faith (expressed in Anglicanism in Creedal worship and embracing of the Nicene Creed and Chalcedon); 3) apostolic succession (episcopacy but not papacy); 4) worship in word and sacrament (liturgical worship expressed in the Book of Common Prayer). At the same time, Anglicanism embraced the genuine insights of the Protestant Reformation: sola scriptura and justification by faith alone.

My own understanding of Anglicanism was also informed by the new Reformation historiography.  The Reformation was not simply a break from the Medieval Church, and that was not how the Anglican Reformers themselves understood their task.  If one reads the writings of Thomas Cranmer, John Jewel, and Richard Hooker, one finds that they understood the Reformation in a way that was distinct from much of continental Protestantism.  Where Luther’s and Calvin’s anti-Roman polemics often made a point of repudiating much church tradition as a departure from the gospel, the Anglican Reformers consciously chose the different strategy of insisting that the Church of England had returned to the catholic tradition of the patristic church from which the late Medieval church had departed.  The Anglican Reformers affirmed the primacy and sufficiency of Scripture, but as read through the hermeneutic lenses of the church fathers: catholic church tradition as a faithful reading of Scripture, not Scripture over against tradition.  The Anglican Reformers endorsed catholic liturgy, but in the language of the common people and purified of later Medieval errors. The Anglican Reformers preserved episcopal polity, but without the aberration of papal primacy. Reformation Anglicanism thus saw itself as in continuity with the Catholic Church, and a reforming movement in the Catholic Church, but certainly not as rejection of genuine Catholicism.

At the same time, Anglicanism is not a movement whose pristine purity is established in, and ends  with, the Reformation.  If Cranmer and Jewel and Hooker are fundamental to Anglican identity, it is the Caroline Divines who establish regular Anglican  practice and give it its definitive form.  If you want to understand Anglican theology, read Cranmer, Jewel, or Hooker. If you want to see what Anglicanism looks like when people live it out, read George Herbert, John Donne, Thomas Traherne or Lancelot Andrewes.  Finally, Anglicanism is a Reforming movement that continued to reform itself.  There is no Anglicanism without Evangelicals like William Wilberforce, John Newton, and Charles Simeon (but also emphatically John and Charles Wesley), but  neither is there Anglicanism without Anglo-Catholics like John Keble and Edward Pusey.  I would also say that neither Evangelicalism nor Anglo-Catholicism are completed as early nineteenth century movements.  They reach their maturity with the embrace of critical orthodoxy in later figures like B. F. Westcott,  F. J. A. Hort, C. F. D. Moule, Anthony Thiselton, and N.T. Wright (Evangelicals), Charles Gore and the Lux Mundi movement, Edwin Hoskyns, Michael Ramsey, E. L. Mascall and Austin Farrer (Anglo-Catholics).

Again, because Anglicanism is a reforming movement in the Western Catholic church, it also finds itself in continuity with the pre-Reformation Church: the Celtic Church, the early English Church of Bede the Venerable, the Medieval scholasticism of Anselm, the Medieval spirituality of Julian of Norwich, The Cloud of Unknowing, and Walter Hilton, but also non-English Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Catholicism: Athanasius, Cyril of Alexandria, the Cappadocians, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas.

Finally, Anglicanism has been at the forefront of the modern ecumenical movement.  My own theology has been formed as much by figures like Bernard Lonergan, Yves Congar, Henri de Lubac, and Hans urs von Balthasar, as it has by Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Wolfhart Pannenberg.  I also have been influenced by earlier ecumenical figures like the Reformed leaders of the Mercersburg Theology, Philip Schaff and John Williamson Nevin, and more contemporary figures like Leslie Newbigin,  T.F. Torrance and George Hunsinger. Anglican bishop Stephen Sykes has written somewhere that Anglicanism has no need to choose between the Reformation and the Catholic tradition. Anglicans can learn from both Thomas Aquinas and Karl Barth.

That is, of course, to skip ahead.  After graduating from seminary, I did doctoral work at the University of Notre Dame, where I studied under people like Stanley Hauerwas, John Howard Yoder, and David Burrell.  At that time, Notre Dame had an ecumenical faculty of Protestants like Hauerwas (who called himself a “High Church Mennonite”) and Catholics like Burrell (who called himself a “Barthian Thomist”).  Hauerwas and Burrell were proponents of the “Yale School” of theology associated with Hans Frei, George Lindbeck, and Brevard Childs.  Contemporary advocates of this approach would be the Yale graduates now at Wycliffe College, Toronto (Chrisopher Seitz, Ephraim Radner, George Sumner), non-Anglicans like Lutheran David Yeago, and (now) Roman Catholics Bruce Marshall, and Rusty Reno.  It was this “Yale School,” ecumenical, Protestant-and-Catholic-theology-in-dialogue that helped form my thinking at Notre Dame.  It never occurred to me at that time that, as an Anglican, I had to choose between the Reformation and Catholicism.

A more contemporary example of this ecumenical “reforming catholic” approach would be that associated with the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology founded by Robert Jenson and Carl Braaten (both of whom I also like), and their journal Pro Ecclesia.

I realize that I have covered quite a lot of ground in telling my story, but I am hoping that the above account shows something of those who influence my own theology, and my own understanding of Anglicanism.  I hope that my theology is catholic, evangelical, critical, and orthodox.  To the extent that I am an Anglican, it is because I understand Anglicanism to be a Reformation (that is, reforming) movement in the Western Catholic church.

What then of the movements called “Evangelicalism” and “Anglo-Catholicism” within Anglicanism?  To the extent that  we look back to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century movements called by those names, I think we can learn much from those movements.  Willliam Wilberforce and John Newton were voices of social reform in nineteenth century Anglicanism.  The Wesleys introduced hymnody and the demand for conversion,  discipleship, and holiness.  Charles Simeon has much to teach about the importance of preaching and parish ministry.  The modern mission movement largely grew out of this Evangelical movement.  Similarly, Anglo-Catholicism was instrumental in the recovery of the pre-Reformation Catholic identity of the church, particularly the church fathers, and liturgy.  Any contemporary Anglicanism needs to embrace all of this.

But Evangelical Anglicanism and Anglo-Catholicism can also be understood as partisan movements within Anglicanism that embrace the earlier understanding of Reformation historiography I mentioned that views the Reformation as a clean break with Medieval Catholicism, rather than a movement of reform and continuity within Western Catholicism.  Given this historiography, one must choose.  To be Evangelical means that one is not Catholic, and vice versa.  George Hunsinger has recently referred to this approach as “enclave theology.” (More on this in another post perhaps.)

Historically, I think this reading is just mistaken. It tends to read Cranmer in light of Calvin and the Continental Reformation, to dismiss Jewel’s argument as self-serving Erastianism (from a Catholic perspective) or simply ignore it (from a Protestant perspective), and to miss the continuity between Hooker and his predecessors. (Hooker was a disciple of Jewel who was a protege of Cranmer). In order to read the Anglican Reformation as an anti-Catholic movement, it has to read the Caroline Divines as a very quick falling away from the earlier genuine Anglicanism of the Reformation period rather than its fruition.  It tends to view Calvinism as “real Anglicanism,” and “Arminianism” as an aberration.

Enclave theology of an Evangelical stripe tends to look for a “golden thread” in Anglican history, in which a handful got it right, but most got it wrong. 

The Anglo-Catholic version of enclave theology can tend to read the Anglican Reformation as guilty of all the worst sins of Protestantism—private judgment, subjectivism, sectarianism, the sure path to liberal Protestanism ( This would be Newman’s reading.  Fortunately, later Anglo-catholic theologians like Michael Ramsey and E. L. Mascall do not simply dismiss the Reformation as a mistake).

I would suggest that enclave Evangelicalism and enclave Anglo-Catholicism are actually mirror images of one another, both defining themselves in opposition  to the other, both looking for their identities in movements outside Anglicanism–either continental Protestantism or Tridentine Catholicism–and neither being faithful to the historic Anglican Reformation. 

Both also end up with truncated theologies.

Enclave Evangelicalism often focuses exclusively on justification by faith, which it identifies with conversion.  It looks to Geneva (or perhaps Wittenberg) rather than Canterbury, and finds its sympathies with the Puritans rather than Hooker.  The sacraments are undervalued, and sometimes understood in a Zwinglian manner.  (I have heard Evangelicals express concerns about baptismal regeneration as an Anglo-Catholic reversion to Romanism.  To the contrary, Cranmer, Jewel, and Hooker all clearly teach baptismal regeneration.)  Enclave Evangelicals tend to focus on penal substitutionary atonement to the neglect of other atonement models equally evident in Scripture and tradition, on merely forensic models of justification (reducing soteriology to “imputation”) to the neglect of sanctification, to the neglect of the resurrection, union with the risen Christ, eschatology, ecclesiology, and the Trinity.  (Thus the hostility of enclave Evangelicals to the “new perspective on Paul,” which, while not necessarily right about everything, corrects a lot of these Evangelical oversights.) Enclave Evangelicals will use the Prayer Book, but often do not see the point, and seem often to equate sloppiness in liturgy as a badge of their identity.  Anglican Evangelical piety often owes more to “born-again Christianity,” revivalism, pietism, “church growth movements” (“contemporary worship”), and Pentecostalism, than it does to historic Anglican Prayer Book spirituality. Enclave Evangelical theology also behaves as if Vatican II never happened. It continues to identify Roman Catholicism with Trent, and not to acknowledge the extent to which Roman Catholicism has self-corrected.

Conversely, enclave Anglo-Catholics tend to be Tridentine in their ethos.  (When I was at Notre Dame, Catholic liturgy students joked that they visited South Bend’s Anglo-Catholic cathedral to see how it was done before Vatican II).  Enclave Anglo-Catholics conflate ecclesiology with polity. Apostolic succession (and valid orders) are the heart of the gospel in the same way that justification by faith is for Evangelicals (thus the horror in response to women’s ordination), with a corresponding clericalism.   Liturgical innovations (like Marian piety or Anglican missals) are introduced into the liturgy in a way that is contrary to historic Anglican theology or practice, and tends to be modeled on post-Reformation Roman practice.    There is also a kind of “preciousness” that tends to infect Anglo-Catholic piety. (One of my former decidedly Anglo-Catholic bishops had a distinctively British accent. He was a native of Baltimore, MD.) Ironically, enclave Catholicism also pretends that Vatican II never happened, insisting on identifying with Catholicism positions that Roman Catholics no longer hold.

Ironically, where at least some enclave Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics come together is in their mutual opposition to critical biblical scholarship, to liturgical renewal, and to women’s ordination. While they might agree on little else, enclave Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics can join together in their desire to make the 1928 (or 1662) BCP to be exclusively normative, and to reject women clergy.

They also often agree (at least in the USA) in embracing a common “conservative” political position that would not have been recognizable to either the social conscience of Evangelicals like Wilberforce or the Christian Socialism of much nineteenth century Anglo-Catholicism.

When I am asked to identify my own theological stance, I usually call myself a “Barthian Thomist.”  If I were asked to identify my churchmanship, I would call myself a “catholic evangelical” or a “Reforming Catholic,” in the tradition of movements like the Mercersburg Theology, Jenson and Braaten’s Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology, or figures like Thomas F. Torrance.  If I am an Evangelical, I am an ecumenical Evangelical, who understands the Reformation as a reforming movement in the Western Catholic Church.  If am an Anglo-Catholic, I am a post-Vatican II Anglican catholic, who understands catholicism as ressourcement, not as retrenchment.  If asked to choose between an evangelical and a catholic understanding of the Reformation, I would refuse that choice as a false dilemma.

I hope that helps. Suggested readings will have to come later.

Grace and Peace,
William Witt


  1. Great article and you express many of my thoughts and hunches. I look forward to further essays on the same topic.

    Comment by Patrick Malone — December 29, 2010 @ 7:45 am

  2. A pleasure to read this — more things to look forward to, both here and in studies at TSM.

    I sense a high irony here:

    “Enclave Evangelicals will use the Prayer Book, but often do not see the point, and seem often to equate sloppiness in liturgy as a badge of Anglican identity.”

    Comment by Rich Gabrielson — December 29, 2010 @ 10:02 am

  3. Rich,

    I realized that I had mistyped that so that it is actually more ironic than intended. I should have written, “Enclave Evangelicals will use the Prayer Book, but often do not see the point, and seem often to equate sloppiness in liturgy as a badge of Evangelical identity.”

    As an Evangelical, one of my motives for converting to Anglicanism was its liturgical worship. Before Vatican II, if one were an English speaking Christian, the only two places where one could worship in English in something like the way that historic Christians had always worshiped was in an Anglican or (sometimes) Lutheran church. Roman Catholic worship was in Latin. Orthodox worship was usually in Russian or Greek (and sometimes still is, I think). Mainline Protestant denominations had largely adopted “free church” worship–a few hymns followed by a sermon.

    I have lived in a number of dioceses and worshiped in a number of Episcopal (and now ACNA) churches. Although there was considerable variety in style (from high to low), all had faithfully followed the 1979 BCP and sang from the 1982 hymnal. It is only as I have become acquainted with congregations that self-identify as distinctively “Evangelical” that I have discovered a kind of “Anglicanism” that patterns itself on the “Willow Creek” model–dropping the hymnal enirely, instead relying on praise choruses and rock bands, and even dropping or reducing liturgical worship to a minimum. This is done for purposes of evangelism. For some reason, it is thought that Anglicans can attract members by trying to resemble Baptists or Pentecostals as much as possible. Why would someone become an Anglican when one can get the “real deal” at the local Baptist megachurch down the road? My understanding is that this is even more the case in England than it is in the USA, where Evangelical worship is often designated as “happy clappy.”

    I also have discovered only recently that some Evangelical Anglicans are suspicious of well done liturgy, vestments (particularly chasubles), processions, chant, elevating the host, crossing oneself, etc., as “Anglo-Catholic,” and therefore “bad.” In all parishes of which I had previously been a member, all of these were normal. Bishop Bill Frey, who confirmed me, had solidly Evangelical credentials, and shortly afterward became Dean of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry. Frey was very proud of his Guatamalan chasuble, which he wore regularly, and had been a gift when he was bishop of Guatamala. Only recently have I learned that Evangelicals are not supposed to wear chasubles because they are “catholic.”

    I find this baffling.

    Comment by William Witt — December 29, 2010 @ 7:37 pm

  4. Personally, I came to Anglicanism not only because of its continuity with the early church (which was a big reason) but largely because of its “wide umbrella,” allowing for unity in essentials but diversity in nonessentials, and in which one can be truly “Anglican” without checking your brain at the door to embrace some super-specific doctrinal checklist. I spent time as both a Roman Catholic and a free-church Protestant before coming to Anglicanism, and sometimes I honest-to-god miss me some free church worship music. I like it and it feeds a part of my soul that hymns don’t (and vice versa). At the same time, I enjoy worshiping in Elizabethan English and I get jazzed about singing in Latin. THUS it makes no sense to me for one camp, whether they are on an extreme or in the middle, to say “This is what it really means to be Anglican/Evangelical/Whatever” (By which is usually meant “this is what it really means to be Christian, you bumhead”).

    Comment by Rebecca — December 29, 2010 @ 11:32 pm

  5. Hi Dr. Witt,

    Some inquisitive questions to start the New Year!

    When you decided to leave TEc, were the Continuing Churches a consideration for you? Why or why not?

    If not, was it because of the Continuing Churches opposition to WO that (partially) helped you decide against joining a Continuing Church?

    If WO were to ever be discontinued in ACNA and its churches (in your lifetime), would you leave ACNA because of its no-WO stance?

    P.S. Glad to hear that you’ve left apostate TEc.

    Comment by Truth Unites... and Divides — January 2, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

  6. #5,

    Almost the very first post I ever wrote on this blog was entitled “Why Not Leave?” In that post, I stated:

    “So this choice I will not make as an individual. When the orthodox in North American Anglicanism make the choice that they eventually will make, I intend for that choice to be my choice.”

    I followed up to that post with another about a year ago entitled (appropriately) “Why Not Leave? A Followup.”

    In short, in those two posts I indicated my commitment to a global wide approach to the future of orthodox Anglicanism. Originally, I had hoped that Canterbury might make that possible, but I can live with a Global South solution. When Canterbury failed to act, I was fortunate to be living in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where my bishop is now the archbishop of ACNA, but I would have committed myself to ACNA regardless. However, if I were in a diocese like South Carolina, whose bishop and clergy have shown remarkable courage to resist TEC’s new agenda, I would have taken my stand with the diocese. I think the Global South has made it clear that, in the long run, a global solution will be one that includes both ACNA and Communion Partner dioceses like South Carolina that stand their ground.

    I have had little first hand experience with the Continuing Churches. There seem to be two kinds. Some (like the Reformed Episcopal Church) have committed themselves to ACNA. Others have refused to have anything to do with ACNA. I think it is fairly clear, however that the Global South Primates have indicated their intention to work through ACNA and the Communion Partners. Obviously, my commitment to a global solution commits me to the only one there currently is.

    At the same time, in my limited experience of the Continuing Churches, at least those that have distanced themselves from ACNA, I have encountered variations on enclave theology. This is not something I am interested in. The worst possible decision that any future orthodox Anglicanism would make would be to commit itself to an enclave theology. Such a move would negate any possible ecumenical significance, would lead to further splintering, and would just create one more Protestant sect.

    Comment by William Witt — January 3, 2011 @ 1:04 am

  7. Bill, I was interested to read your account above, because, of course, our respective pilgrimages crossed paths at Notre Dame. I too remember the bishop with the faux-Oxbridge accent. Very amusing.

    I have a lot of sympathy with your position, but I urge you strongly not to paint a caricature of the Reformed churches. Many of Calvin’s reforms, including a weekly celebration of the Lord’s Supper, were stymied by the city fathers of Geneva. Even the continental Reformers saw themselves reforming the church catholic rather than trying to begin the church anew in the style of the Donatists. My tongue-in-cheek moniker, Byzantine-Rite Calvinist, might well be understood as reformed catholic. They may not have found the same balance that the Church of England did, but they were far from rejecting the Fathers and the pre-Reformation church in its entirety.

    Greetings and happy new year, Bill.

    Comment by David Koyzis — January 3, 2011 @ 7:51 am

  8. “The worst possible decision that any future orthodox Anglicanism would make would be to commit itself to an enclave theology. Such a move would negate any possible ecumenical significance, would lead to further splintering, and would just create one more Protestant sect.”

    Hi Dr. Witt,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. In regards to the excerpted quote above, don’t you think that WO makes Anglicanism an enclave Protestant sect, particularly if one regards “ecumenical significance” to mean having closer relationships with the significant Churches of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church?

    Comment by Truth Unites... and Divides — January 3, 2011 @ 8:45 am

  9. David (#7),

    Point well taken. As I wrote about the continental Reformation, I was thinking of something like the rhetoric of Luther’s Babylonian Captivity of the Church or the equation of catholic reform with “popery” by nineteenth century Anglican Evangelicals.

    Certainly, it is possible to read much of the continental Reformation as “reforming catholicism.” This is largely the reading of the Augsburg Confession.

    I at least give a hat tip to this reading in my post, mentioning, among the Reformed, Philip Schaff and the Mercersburg theology, and, among more contemporary theologians, Thomas F. Torrance, and George Hunsinger.

    For a similar Lutheran approach, I appeal to David Yeago, and to Robert Jenson, Carl Braaten and the Center for Catholic and Evangelical Theology.

    The crucial distinction, I think, is that between ecumenical and enclave theology. There are ecumenical theologians and movements within Lutheran and Reformed theology (as above), but also enclave entrenchments as well. (I think of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod).

    Also be aware that what you are reading in this post is largely an in-house discussion. Primarily, I am addressing enclave movements within Angicanism, both Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic.

    Finally, I would say that despite the concessions I make above, there is a difference between the historic Anglican approach to the Reformation, and the continental approach, which is easily discernable if you compare something like Luther’s Babylonian Captivity with Jewel’s Apology of the Church of England. Throughout, Jewel appeals not only to Scripture, but the Rule of Faith, to catholicity, to the early ecumenical consensus of the church, and to historical continuity with tradition in a way that Luther simply does not.

    Comment by William Witt — January 3, 2011 @ 7:35 pm

  10. #8,

    I mentioned women’s ordination as an illustration of the way in which “valid orders” is an enclave obsession of some kind of Anglo-Catholics in the same way that “imputation” or perhaps “predestination” would be an enclave obsession of some kinds of Evangelicals. One of the ways in which one can detect enclave theology is the way that any issue under discussion quickly turns to the pet enclave distinctive. And they are distinctives because rather than focusing on ecumenical consensus, the focus is on the one particular thing that distinguishes the sect from those against whom it identifies itself. For enclave Roman Catholics, the issue immediately becomes (not WO), but papal authority, because papal authority is what distinguishes Rome from every other church, and, which, accordingly becomes the chief source of identity for Roman Catholics. For enclave Orthodox, the issue is that the Orthodox Church is the unique guardian of Holy Tradition, which all other (especially Western) churches have abandoned, as well as Orthodox distinctives like the essence/energies distinction or the rejection of the filioque. That Anglicans do or do not ordain women has no significance whatsoever for enclave Roman Catholics or Orthodox, both of whom agree that the main problem with Anglicans is not that they ordain or do not ordain women, but that they are not either Roman Catholic or Orthodox. Ecumenism for enclave Christians always means conversion to the one true version of Christianity of which I and my church alone are the exclusive representatives.

    WO is important for enclave Anglicans (whether Anglo-Catholics or Evangelicals of the Sydney variety) not because its presence or lack will bring about reunion with Rome or Orthodoxy (it won’t), but because it is an important distinctive of enclave identity. It is a way of saying, “we are not them.”

    Anyone who reads my blog is aware that my primary disagreements are with liberal Protestants, particularly liberal Protestants within the Episcopal Church (and Anglicanism). However, I believe I am largely ignored by liberal Protestants. To the best of my knowledge, I have never been linked by or any of my posts discussed or refuted by any liberal Protestant (especially Episcopal) blogs.

    However, I do occasionally get referenced by orthodox blogs, and they are inevitably of two stripes. Sometimes, I receive favorable links from various kinds of orthodox bloggers of various churches, who like something I have written about development of doctrine or (once) even Cyril of Alexandria.

    However, I also get referenced (in a negative way) by various kinds of enclave bloggers, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, and it is inevitably because I have challenged some distinctive of enclave theology. And this does not make people happy: “Dr. Witt may be a nice guy, but he is weak on women’s ordination” or “He has the wrong view of Scripture” or “He simply does not understand Roman Catholicism.” One hostile link to one of my posts included an accompanying photograph of a grinning Katherine Jefferts Schori–and everyone knows how much I admire her.

    My numerous posts and sermons in defense of Christian orthodoxy are ignored. What is important is that I have the wrong opinion on some enclave issue.

    I do regard WO as an enclave issue. For those who think it terribly important, I think it is largely important as an issue of identity over against those who think otherwise.

    If the ACNA were to commit itself to reverse the ordination of women, it would not open us up to reunion with Rome or Orthodoxy. What it would do is close our future to reunion with other orthodox groups (Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and most Anglicans) who are struggling with the same issues we are, but also have strong views in favor of ordaining women.

    To pick a similar issue, many enclave Anglicans are committed against liturgical renewal, and, particularly against any revision of the 1928 BCP. Certainly those who want to worship with Cranmer’s historic liturgy should be allowed. But to insist that only Cranmer’s liturgy is a valid Anglican liturgy would again turn Anglicanism into an enclave sect.

    Having said that, WO is not the subject of this post. I may discuss it at some later time.

    Comment by William Witt — January 3, 2011 @ 8:16 pm

  11. “I hope that my theology is catholic, evangelical, critical, and orthodox. To the extent that I am an Anglican, it is because I understand Anglicanism to be a Reformation (that is, reforming) movement in the Western Catholic church.”

    Given your hope and understanding, I was simply interested in ascertaining whether you firmly believe that WO happens to be a reforming movement in the Western Catholic church.

    Comment by Truth Unites... and Divides — January 4, 2011 @ 6:10 am

  12. “If the ACNA were to commit itself to reverse the ordination of women, it would not open us up to reunion with Rome or Orthodoxy. What it would do is close our future to reunion with other orthodox groups (Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, and most Anglicans) who are struggling with the same issues we are, but also have strong views in favor of ordaining women.”

    Interesting point, but I’m a little unclear as to which specific Protestant groups you’re referring to. The Mainline churches that have embraced women’s ordination seem to me to have done it as part of a broader liberalizing program, much like TEC did, not out of an ecumenical spirit or an evangelical impulse. The only pro-WO groups that I can think of that are still consciously trying to retain some form of historical orthodoxy are ACNA itself, and perhaps some of the charismatic/holiness denominations.

    But I’m not especially familiar with this subject, so I’m interested in hearing about which churches I’m overlooking.

    Comment by Ethan C. — January 4, 2011 @ 10:42 pm

  13. #12,

    To give just a couple of examples. This summer, the ELCA (Lutheran) jumped off the same cliff that TEC jumped off five years earlier. I know (because I have met them and worshiped with them a few months ago) that there are orthodox Lutherans within the ELCA that have approached Archbishop Duncan and the ACNA because they view this as an ecumenical opportunity, rather than create another competing Lutheran body. At the same time, they would not consider joining with the LCMS precisely because of LCMS’s enclave understanding of Lutheranism.

    Within the mainline Protestant denominations, there are numerous orthodox Christians who find themselves in much the same situation in their own denominations as have the orthodox in TEC. Again, there is a real hunger among many of these folks for a renewed sacramental and liturgical theology and worship. One of the best books that has been published recently on Prayer Book worship is by a Methodist biblical scholar. These folks are the contemporary representatives of Bob Webber’s Ancient-Future Evangelicals, and they are worthy ecumenical dialogue partners.

    Since the formation of the ACNA, there has been renewed conversation with the Orthodox, who consider the ACNA to be the ecumenical voice of authentic Anglicanism in the USA. ACNA’s stance on the ordination of women has not been an obstacle to this conversation, although TEC’s stance on same-sex blessings was.

    Finally, for those who have noticed the news, Archbishop Duncan has been embraced by Anglican primates of the Global South as their recognized representative of Anglicanism in North America, and he has been invited to attended Global South meetings in that context.

    Again, this post is not about women’s ordination, which was mentioned in a total of two sentences.

    Comment by William Witt — January 5, 2011 @ 2:31 am

  14. Thanks, Dr. Witt, that’s what I was curious about.

    To get back to your broader point about enclave theologies in Anlicanism: perhaps the reason that enclave Evangelicals and enclave Anglo-Catholics are united in opposition to “critical biblical scholarship, to liturgical renewal, and to women’s ordination” is because, historically, those issues became extremely important immediately before TEC’s downfall. And given the similar manner in which those issues have correlated to liberalization in other churches (such as ELCA), perhaps they could be forgiven for thinking that they are early symptoms of the same syndrome.

    I like your point about enclave theology being a tendency to treat one’s view of the Reformation as an identity-marker rather than as an opportunity for dialogue and community. However, I wonder if it might be simply impossible to resist the corrosion of liberalization with some retreat into enclavism.

    It seems to me that resisting the tide that has overtaken so much of the mainline requires a significant amount of line drawing between acceptable and unacceptable theological viewpoints. That would seem to be a whole lot easier to do for those who have a general tendency to emphasize distinctions and draw lines already, even between themselves and their close theological neighbors.

    Comment by Ethan C. — January 5, 2011 @ 3:52 am

  15. Ethan C.

    Critical biblical scholarship has been part of Anglicanism since the time of Westcott and Hort (Evangelical) and Charles Gore and Lux Mundi (Anglo-Catholic). That’s almost a hundred years before TEC went south. Moreover, the best advocates of critical biblical scholarship, like Westcott and Hort, Edwyn Hoskyns, C. F. D. Moule, or, more recently, Brevard Childs’s student Christopher Seitz, have been among the strongest critics of liberal Protestantism. Hoskyns almost single handedly put the liberals to flight in England for an entire generation.

    Similarly, the strongest leaders in the liturgical renewal movement (Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Reformed and Lutheran) were all strong advocates of orthodoxy.

    The argument that connects these things with liberalism only works on the basis of post hoc, propter hoc (after this, because of this) reasoning. One could as easily argue (and would be as much mistaken) that, because the civil rights movement immediately preceded these things as well, that there is an inherent connection between racial equality and other kinds of liberalization. One could even suggest that because the liberalization of the Protestant denominations immediately followed Neil Armstrong’s moon landing, that there must be an inherent connection between NASA and liberal Protestantism.

    Such arguments have to be made theologically, not simply by pointing that one thing followed another thing chronologically.

    Certainly one must draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable theological variants. And the way that ecumenical, evangelical, catholic theology does that is by placing its central focus on the subject matter of Christian faith that is summarized succinctly in the Creeds and Councils. What all of the people I mention with high praise in this discussion have in common (whether Roman Catholic, Protestant or Anglican) is their commitment to the distinguishing characteristics of catholic faith expressed in the second century. Every one would affirm the normativity of the canon of Scripture as the prophetic and apostolic witness to revelation. Every one would affirm the essential Christian dogmas summed up in the Rule of Faith: incarnation, saving work, and atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Every one would affirm the Nicea and Chalcedonian faith that Jesus Christ is God become human, fully God and fully man.

    That is where the heart of Christian faith lies. Enclave orthodoxy focuses elsewhere, and always on partisan distinctives.

    Comment by William Witt — January 5, 2011 @ 4:22 am

  16. “However, I wonder if it might be simply impossible to resist the corrosion of liberalization with some retreat into enclavism.”

    Ethan C.,

    Did you mean to write this instead:

    “However, I wonder if it might be simply impossible to resist the corrosion of liberalization without some retreat into enclavism.”


    Dr. Witt,

    I understand that WO is not the subject of this post, yet I’d like to reconcile these two excerpts that you wrote:

    o “Ironically, where at least some enclave Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics come together is in their mutual opposition … to women’s ordination. While they might agree on little else, enclave Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics can join together in their desire … to reject women clergy.”

    Compare and contrast with:

    o “WO is important for enclave Anglicans (whether Anglo-Catholics or Evangelicals of the Sydney variety) not because its presence or lack will bring about reunion with Rome or Orthodoxy (it won’t), but because it is an important distinctive of enclave identity. It is a way of saying, “we are not them.””

    This looks incoherent to me. If anything, saying no to WO is to repudiate “enclave Anglicanism.” Conversely, to embrace WO is to embrace “enclave Anglicanism.”

    Wouldn’t you agree?

    Comment by Truth Unites... and Divides — January 5, 2011 @ 6:26 am

  17. #16,

    WO is not the topic of discussion on this post.

    Accordingly, I will address your question by using an illustration from the point omitted from the elipses in your comment:

    . . . to make the 1928 (or 1662) BCP to be exclusively normative . . .

    Theologically, enclave Evangelicals and Enclave Anglo-Catholics agree no more on their reasons to oppose WO than on their reasons to oppose liturgical revision of the Prayer Book. Indeed, because of their mutually opposed understandings of sacramentality and the significance of the Reformation, their reasons for opposing both are mutually incompatible.

    Let me draw a parallel with two other churches. The LCMS gives to the Book of Concord a virtually infallible status. I own a copy published by LCMS in which it is explained in the preface that Lutherans grant infallibility to no text except the Bible: sola scriptura. At the same time, The Book of Concord serves only to explain or interpret the Bible, and it just happens to do so faultlessly. So to disagree with The Book of Concord is, in effect, to disagree with the Bible.

    Certain enclave Roman Catholics believe that the Latin mass is the only permissible eucharistic rite based on their interpretation of the Council of Trent.

    What do 1928 Prayer Book Anglicans, LCMS Lutherans, and Latin mass Roman Catholics have in common? Initially, it would appear: nothing! Cranmer’s liturgy is directly opposed to the theology behind the Council of Trent and (accordingly) the Latin mass. The Book of Concord rejects Tridentine Catholicism as “works righteousness.” Latin mass Roman Catholics view the Protestant Reformation as a heresy. LCMS Lutherans are suspicious of Cranmer’s eucharistic rite, behind which they fear lurks Zwinglianism. I would venture that most Prayer Book Society types have never seen the inside of a Book of Concord.

    Yet there is a commonality expressed in a loyalty to a particular extra-canonical text dating to a particular time in history in which it is believed “our side” got it right for all time, and a common opposition to an expressed departure from that standard, behind which lies, I suspect, as much a mentality or attitude of “conservativism” as a theology that is “conservative” or orthodox.

    One of the characteristics of enclave theology is an opposition to “change as such.” This may manifest itself in ways that seem mutually incompatible–commitment to 1928 Prayer Book, Book of Concord, Latin mass–but actually are not, or it may manifest itself in some ways that are strikingly similar: opposition to WO, common political commitments. Orthodox theology is neither “conservatist” nor “liberalist,” but trinitarian, evangelical, ecumenical, and catholic. It is “post-conservative” as it is “post-liberal.” It is neither opposed to nor in favor of “change as such,” but insists that all changes need to be evaluated theologically.

    Whether or not opposition to WO reflects an “enclave theology” depends entirely on the theology behind the opposition, and whether the theology flows naturally from a commitment to evangelical and catholic orthodoxy, or, conversely, whether the theology is an ad hoc construction that is about opposing “change as such.” My own reading of Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic opposition finds mutually incompatible theology rooted in enclave commitments. That is, Sydney Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics of a certain stripe might agree in opposing WO. Neither side would be very happy with the other side’s reasons for opposition. Since the theologies behind the opposition are incompatible, one suspects that the real reasons may lie elsewhere.

    Comment by William Witt — January 5, 2011 @ 7:27 pm

  18. Thanks for fixing my typo, TUAD.

    Thank you for the answer, Dr. Witt. It seems sensible.

    Still, it seems to me that there is a better case to be made for the connection between the innovations of women’s ordination and the changes in the 1979 prayer book and the disaster of liberalization than you wish to admit. I think historically, the fact that similar changes preceded liberalization in other denominations is evidence that deserves to be given weight. It is not mere post hoc ergo propter hoc, given the correlation between such movements and liberalization in a variety of denominations. It is a question that is deserving of close examination.

    I’m not arguing that particular persons who supported WO, liturgical revision, and critical biblical scholarship were proto-liberalizers themselves. The connection I’m drawing does not rest on their intentions. Rather, I think much of the impetus for liberalization arose from the sociological effects of those movements, occurring in the times and places that they did.

    In much the same way, the authors of Vatican II did not have the intention of throwing Roman Catholicism into a catechetical and pastoral crisis, but that turned out to be one of the effects of the counsel occurring in the midst of the turmoil of the ’60’s and ’70’s. No doubt John XXIII and Paul VI had no desire to see clown masses in San Francisco and Womenpriests, but I don’t know of many people who would deny that there is a clear connection between Vatican II and these later developments.

    My suggestion is that what you identify — rightly, in my opinion — as “enclave theology” might be, despite its own problems, necessary for resisting liberalization. I appreciate what I take to be your project, which is to reject both the artificial limitations of the enclave mindset and the errors of liberalism. But I rather doubt that it is a position stable enough to sustain a large church body.

    Comment by Ethan C. — January 5, 2011 @ 9:05 pm

  19. “My suggestion is that what you identify — rightly, in my opinion — as “enclave theology” might be, despite its own problems, necessary for resisting liberalization.”

    Setting aside the question of whether the descriptor “enclave theology” is good or helpful or accurate, it seems to be, dear Ethan C., that your suggestion to Dr. Witt is that he has to pick his poison.

    Poison A: Enclave Theology

    Poison B: Liberalism

    There is no third way, and Dr. Witt must choose which hemlock to drink.

    Thank you Ethan C. for your contributions to this thread.

    Comment by Truth Unites... and Divides — January 6, 2011 @ 12:30 am

  20. Gentlemen,

    Thank you. The entire point of my argument is that the choices between enclave theologies are false choices, and that there is an alternative, and it is not liberalism. Your mileage may vary, but my argument is what it is. However, it seems to me that the last few comments are re-covering ground that has already been covered. How about we give it a rest?

    Comment by William Witt — January 6, 2011 @ 4:00 am

  21. I should be clear that my intention in responding to the recent comments is not to suggest that the distinction between ecumenical and enclave theology is not one worth pursuing, nor that the issue of WO is not an issue worth discussing. However, neither is the central issue in this particular blog post. If time allows, I hope to write something more about both issues (separately) in the future. To take up so much space about them in this discussion is to distract from what I actually wrote. The perennial temptation for blog comments discussion is to become distracted by issue peripheral to the main topic.

    Comment by William Witt — January 6, 2011 @ 8:28 pm

  22. Thank you, Dr. Witt. I certainly hope you’re right about there being a third alternative. I guess I’m not really sure how the distinction between enclave and ecumenical theology is not central to this blog post, though. Wasn’t that a key part of your answer to the email? That you can be a “catholic evangelical” because of your ecumenical perspective, and that you couldn’t be comfortable as a simple “Evangelical” or “Anglo-Catholic” because of your perception that they are enclave positions? Forgive me if I’ve misunderstood you.

    Comment by Ethan C. — January 7, 2011 @ 1:14 am

  23. Full disclosure: I was sitting two chairs down from Bill at the church’s Twelfth Night party when I heard my comment being discussed. I was in another conversation so I couldn’t speak up for myself. My delayed response:

    I didn’t meant to come across in my comment (#4) as a wet blanket. Bring on the snark. :) I appreciated your comment that both uber-evangelicals and uber-anglo catholics can get, well… weird, shall we say, about their worship preferences. After a long time spent rather cynical towards lower church worship, I am realizing that I have been selling my spiritual life rather short.

    The thing about contemporary worship is that it has to be done well. Hymns & high church liturgy, even if lamely carried off, still have the theological content to be powerful worship under all but the most egregious misuse. Contemporary worship does not have that advantage – but when done well, it does what it’s supposed to do. But when done badly… well. I rather loved your mention of Karen Carpenter. I both love the song “Breathe” when I’m worshiping with it, but I can’t help but make fun of it a little when I’m not. I don’t see any reason to bother with taking it too seriously or with dismissing it.

    Every legitimate style has its shortcomings and its potential. I’m just concerned that we don’t develop an allergy toward another perfectly legitimate expression. (There is no shortage of illegitimate forms that give me hives.) Within the sub-category of the worship service, that sounds like making the choice you are trying to avoid. Not to mention it being a big fat wrench in ecumenism.

    In an (probably failed) effort to be concise, I will stop there.

    Comment by Rebecca — January 7, 2011 @ 4:36 am

  24. Ethan #22,

    I think I was rather clear about the distinction between enclave and ecumenical theology. Enclave theology buys into the older historiography that views the Reformation as a “clean break” with the Medieval church, and then asks: “Paper (Reformation) or plastic ([Tridentine] Catholic)?” Ecumenical theology is more sympathetic to a historiography that views the Reformation as both in continuity and in discontinuity with Medieval Catholicism.

    Ecumenical theology is a ressourcement movement. It looks to the Reformers (and for Roman Catholics, to significant post-Reformation Catholic figures like John of the Cross or Ignatius Loyola), but, because both sides in the Reformation were subject to their own historical limitations, ecumenical theology also looks back to the most significant theological figures in the tradition, both patristic and Medieval.

    Ecumenical theology focuses on the “subject matter” of theology as expressed in the ecumenical creeds. One of the most significant developments in recent theology has been the revival of Trinitarian theology, beginning with Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics 1/1, but significantly influencing theology in just about every branch of the church: Protestant, Catholic, Anglican, Orthodox. The heart of the gospel lies in the triune biblical story of creation, covenant, incarnation and redemption, church, and eschatology as new creation. Barth has expressed this by saying that God is in himself who he is in his revelation. Karl Rahner has said that “The economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity, and vice versa.” (Not quite correct, but more right than not.)

    Ecumenical theology has also focused on a canonical reading of Scripture in light of its subject matter as centered in the “Rule of Faith,” understood as a summary of the biblical narrative. I would suggest that this has been a major focus of the biblical theology movement, but especially of someone like Brevard Childs. In recent years, biblical theology has become an ecumenical approach to reading Scripture, shared by Catholics and Protestants, and has largely changed the way that Evangelical Protestants read scripture. Certainly, biblical theology is the focus of biblical studies at the seminary where I teach.

    But ecumenical theology is not biblicist. For help in reading Scripture, it looks to the way that the church has read Scripture in the past, to fathers like Chrysostom and Augustine, to Medieval figures like Aquinas, and, of course, to Reformers like Luther and Calvin.

    Ecumenical theology is also a revival of catholic practice, in contrast to the limitations of both Trent and many of the Reformers: Bible and worship in the language of the people; liturgical worship that looks to its patristic roots. Ecumenical theology does not have problems with liturgical renewal or revision that is rooted in ressourcement.

    This is where ecumenical theologians focus their attention. If you read the postings on my blog, you will discover it is where I focus my attention.

    In contrast, because enclave theology is about upholding confessional identity over against other confessions, it tends to view pre-Reformation tradition through the eyes of Reformation entrenchments. Tridentine Roman Catholics read the fathers and people like Aquinas through the lens of Trent. The only father enclave Protestants often care about is Augustine, and even he is read through the eyes of Calvin or Luther. (How many Protestant interpreters of Augustine recognize the significance of teleology, habit, and desire, in Augustine’s account of grace?)

    Enclave theology tends to focus on distinctive identity issues: the right understanding of predestination or inspiration, papal infallibility, ecclesial polity, adult baptism.

    Enclave theology focuses its reading of Scripture on enclave identity issues, and tends to proof-texting.

    It seems rather clear to me that these are very different (indeed incompatible) approaches to theology and different ways of being the church. It also seems counter-intuitive to suggest that a theology that is focused on the triune and ecumenical subject matter of the Rule of Faith, in a canonical reading of Scripture, and on liturgical worship that is Trinitarian, expressed in the public reading of Scripture, expository preaching on the lectionary, and the Eucharist as the culmination of worship in which the church becomes the body of Christ, as it is united to and participates in the life of the risen Christ, is bound to lead inevitably to liberalism, while the only way to preserve orthodox Christianity is to find one’s identity in church dividing issues.

    To the contrary, it seems rather obvious to me that liberalism is largely a reaction against enclave theology, and has simply ignored ecumenical theology. The standard liberal account portrays the only two options as liberalism or “fundamentalism,” and makes no distinction between Catholic versions of “fundamentalism” and Protestant versions. The standard liberal account also simply ignores ecumenical theology, either conveniently labeling ecumenical theologians as “fundamentalists” or trying to claim ecumenical theologians as people who really would have been liberals if they had just thought about it a little harder.

    Comment by William Witt — January 7, 2011 @ 8:06 pm

  25. […] Witt posted THIS very helpful essay that became personally viral for me as it was forwarded along to me no less than […]

    Pingback by Evangelical Anglicans & Anglo Catholics « blackbeans — January 8, 2011 @ 3:07 am

  26. […] William Witt is a scholar who I respect a very great deal.  This blog post (with a few minor quibbles on my part) of his fairly well represents why I identify myself as an […]

    Pingback by Why I am an evangelical, Anglo-catholic, charismatic – Part I | Praying with Fire — January 20, 2011 @ 6:39 pm

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