Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
November 10th, 2015 by Joel Watts

the eucharist as a litmus test?

English: Flag of the Anglican Communion

English: Flag of the Anglican Communion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In reading about the Eucharist I stumbled across the statement by the Church of England in response to English Catholics (One Bread One Body), The Eucharist: Sacrament of Unity. There is a lot in this short statement that is worth reading, and should be read in concert with Paul Avis‘s work, The Identity of Anglicanism.

At paragraph 35, the Anglican Bishops write,

While we appreciate the intention to safeguard the integrity of the Eucharist from indiscriminate celebration in inappropriate circumstances (for example, without agreement in the apostolic faith), we do not believe that eucharistic communion should be reserved for the end point of unity already achieved between separated churches…The unity in the Body of Christ brought about by baptism calls for further expression or realization in the Eucharist before this ultimate point is reached. The Eucharist is one of God’s greatest gifts to the Church and is given to build up the Body of Christ. We endorse the ecumenical insight that Christ builds up his Church as a eucharistic community. We do not believe that, because the Eucharist is undoubtedly a fundamental expression of the unity of the Church and a means of building it up, eucharistic communion must be reserved for full ecclesial communion, visibly and structurally expressed.

Avis responds,

With regard to the condition of manifesting catholic faith, the Anglican bishops question the appropriateness of strict doctrinal tests for lay people regarding eucharistic doctrine. They point to the tacit ways in which the faithful give their assent to the faith of the Church concerning the Eucharist through the fact of their active participation in the liturgy. The bishops ask: is not this enough? With regard to the condition of catholic communion, the bishops affirm the connection between sacramental and ecclesial communion, pointing out that, in the Anglican understanding, the Eucharist brings us into communion with the Holy Trinity and with ‘all who stand before you in heaven and earth’, all local churches and their bishops, together with the faithful departed. Again they ask: is not this enough?1

I tend to agree. I note that the Western Church has extended to the East rites of communion, shared. Could they not do the same to the Anglicans?

By the way, this document, among others, attempts to correct Rome’s views that Canterbury split from Rome. Many of us know that Rome did not always control the Church in England, or Ireland, or Scotland and so on. Rather, they had their own centers of ecclesiastical power, namely Iona and Canterbury, long before Rome wrestled control. Some could, and will, argue that England’s ecclesiastical freedom came during the Reformation, but it was a freedom returned, rather than a new one.

  1.  Paul Avis, The Identity of Anglicanism: Essentials of Anglican Ecclesiology (London; New Delhi; New York; Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2008), 98.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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