Sunday, April 22, 2012
Are Churchmanship Labels Effective?
I've been busy the last few weeks and unable to write here but I do have a thought for you today.
I'm wondering if our churchmanship labels are effective at describing theology and praxis. If I tell someone I am a "High Churchman" what images does that conjure up in their mind? I wonder because when I say that to certain people, there tends to be an expectation of what I believe and prefer ceremonially that doesn't line up with my belief or praxis. To add another layer of complexity to the issue, most of the times "high" and "low" are associated with ceremonial descriptions, at least in the Episcopal Church, while they originate as theological terms. Essentially, until the latter part of the 19th century, there was no ceremonial diversity in Anglicanism, almost all parishes followed the same guidelines for worship. In fact, the only diversity that existed was between parish churches and cathedrals (and collegiate chapels). The designations of "High" and "Low" started out to create a dichtomy between people who had a high regard for the Established Church and those who preferred lattitude in the Church. Obviously, those terms have evolved much over the centuries.
When I say that I am High Church, I mean that I have a high regard for the visible church in general and the Anglican Church in particular. The emphasis lies on the visible means of grace and the continuation of ministry in the three-fold ministry of bishop, presbyter, and deacon. The focus on the visible means of grace follows the historical, Reformational understanding of the Sacraments as means of grace for the Christian, yet denies not that justification is by faith alone. Neither does an emphasis on the visible church imply that the three-fold ministry is necessary for the existence of the Church. I hold to Waterland's theory of how baptism and regeneration are related. I hold to the "dynamic receptionism" of the same, in regards to how the body and blood of Christ are received in Holy Communion. I prefer a dignified yet ceremonially simple service according to the Usage of the Prayer Book. This is the position of famous Caroline Divines such as Laud, Taylor, and Cosin, and lesser known figures such as Van Mildert, Hobart, and Hopkins.
I'm not sure that this theology or ceremonial is best summed up with the word "High Church" anymore. The problem is, I'm not sure what words we can use to describe this type of churchmanship anymore.