Anglican Characteristics

Anglicanism has always been characterized by three strands of Christian emphases – Catholic, Reformed, and Evangelical. It has been Catholic in its total embrace and appropriation of the whole Faith (kath’ ‘olos.). It has been Reformed in terms of its mode of Ecclesiastical Structure and Governance. It has been Evangelical in terms of its loyal proclamation of, and faithful witness to, the Whole Gospel of Jesus Christ. Within recent times, the AC has attempted to adopt specific methods of accentuating its Evangelical character. One method has been by designating a Decade of Evangelism, the results and effects of which have been variously assessed. More recently, the AC has sought to provide for itself a new matrix for integrating its culture of worship, work, and witness in keeping with its Gospel proclamation and teaching. Having subscribed to the UN Millennium Development Goals at the dawn of this millennium, and having proposed their adoption and implementation wherever possible throughout its membership, the AC subsequently determined that there should also be a clear delineation of some Marks of Mission. It agreed eventually on what it has termed the Five Marks of Mission. They are:

  1. To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom;
  2. To teach, baptize and nurture new believers;
  3. To respond to human need by loving service;
  4. To seek to transform unjust structures in society to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation;
  5. To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

What then are the characteristics of Anglicanism in general, and the distinctive Caribbean gifts through which these Marks of Mission might be embraced and authentically implemented?

First, the Anglican characteristics:

ONE: Anglicans uphold the four constituent elements of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral:- The Catholic Creed, the Three-fold Apostolic Ministry, the Authority of Sacred Scripture, and the Dominical Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist.

TWO: Anglicans are systemically and collectively committed to the transcendent principles of Mutual Responsibility of Interdependence (MRI), and the essential means of maintaining the historic “bonds of affection” between member churches.

THREE: Anglicans hold to a dominant culture if “Communio” not merely in name only, but also in realities of mystical fellowship, genuine participation (koinonia) in each other’s ways, woes, and welfare, while striving at the same time modes of working consensus through the exercises of the “Anglican Instruments” (Archbishop of Canterbury, Anglican Consultative Council, Primates Meetings, and the Lambeth Conference).

FOUR: Anglicans treasure the legacy and utility of the Book of Common Prayer, even if variations of texts and order have emerged in various contexts. The basic structures of liturgical, spiritual, and canonical life have been maintained, and the traditional allegiances to ecclesial discipline and moral rectitude are generally codified for common prayer and practice.

FIVE: Anglicans are traditionally linked by a heightened sense of liturgical order and corporate discipline that is undergirded by the intelligent and creative uses of Scripture, the invigorative observances of calendars (seasons, rites, ceremonies, psalmody and hymnody), and the preponderance of sanctity in the culture of worship.

SIX: Anglicans have historically been wedded to the highest standards of a theological tradition that promulgates that task of fides quaerens intellectum (Faith seeking understanding), rather than the hierarchy of magisterial dogma. This theological tradition has always enabled the AC to wrestle creatively with contemporary modes of discernment of the Divine will in the context of human experiences and expectations.

SEVEN: Anglicans embrace the ongoing theological task of identifying and working with four basic sources of Theology: Scripture, Reason, Tradition, and Culture. It is often the fourth source that affords the wider and deeper meanings of context, while allowing for variations of approaches to interpretation, integration, interaction, and innovation. This is precisely what makes way for the traditional motif of the Via media (the middle way), as well as the policy of Comprehensiveness, that both characterize the Anglican theological ways of thought, talk, and walk.

EIGHT: Anglicans are generally sustained by the mystical and spiritual efficacy of Word and Sacrament. This sacramentality of life not only enables diverse peoples to join in regular praise and worship in celebration of the mysteries of God, but also to affirm the sacramental nature of the whole people of God as the vibrant and veritable Body of Christ.

NINE: Anglicans have traditionally been marked out as a distinctive group of Christians who optimalize the essential nexus between the prophetic, the pastoral, and the practical. This means that the challenges and inequities of society that assault the rights and freedoms of human beings to pursue wholesome and fulfilling lives can be comprehensively addressed through the total ministry of the Church. In effect, this often brings the Church into a fertile, and sometimes acerbic, encounter with the structures of power and governance, as it seeks to speak truth to power. But this should hardly ever restrict or restrain the church from bearing faithful and courageous witness to the power of truth.

TEN: Anglicans are unswervingly and courageously committed to the highest levels of moral responsiveness to the social evils, moral deficits, and human injustices that occupy the public square. This inevitably involves the strategies of advocacy and counter-cultural expressions of outrage and protest, but also the establishment of programs and ecumenical partnerships that are attempting to overcome evil with good.

 

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