Friday, January 18, 2013


The so-called ‘Elizabethan Settlement’ which shaped the Church of England as a National Church meant that Anglicanism developed tasked with including all who could affirm three simple norms: ‘The Scriptures and the Gospels, the Apostolic Church and the early Church Fathers’ (Being an Anglican: and it is arguable that inclusivity has been the benchmark of the Church.

Yet there is a strong drive in human beings to define what belongs and exclude that which doesn’t.  We tend towards the lure of dualism: light and darkness, flesh and spirit, male and female, good and evil etc…  Yet Anglicanism has held within itself the tension of opposites: it is both catholic and protestant; a church both existing in and relating to the temporal and spiritual worlds. 

There is much in scripture which suggests that we should make clear distinctions between the ‘saved’ and the ‘damned’ (to put it at its most basic whilst acknowledging all the other dualistic distinctions provided by religion).  This approach appeals to those who need religion to provide a sense of security (and they are both within and outside the church), yet is fraught with danger.  It is interesting to note that the picture provided by scripture is not so simple.  In the Book of Job, for example, Satan is not located in Hell but is part of the Court of Heaven, which suggests that the writer understood the need for some kind of integration of ‘good’ and ‘evil’.  How does one live with such apparently opposing movements?  Some traditions have developed to exclude the ‘impure’ and these tend towards the Ark principle and, arguably, feed -  and reflect - similar social movements.  The genius of the Elizabethan Settlement was to try to include as many as possible for the opposite led to ruptures in society.  One sees this constantly at work: at national levels this is evident in conflicts over land (Israel/Palestine; Unionist/Republican in Northern Ireland; Islamic militants/the West etc.) whilst in the Church of England it is most particularly apparent in the way evangelicals are focussed into excluding gay and lesbians from the church (or, at least, its structures) together with the heated debate as to how those opposed to the ordination of women to the Episcopate can remain included in the church.  Arguably the current energy being focussed into a demand that Britain leave the EU is fed by this same desire to exclude what is perceived to be a threat to the ‘purity’ of the nation.

The expression of desire to recognise we lived in ‘One World’ which gained popularity twenty years or so ago seems to no longer hold the appeal it did. As we move towards an increasing sense of a living in a global society we also seem to be tending towards its opposite.  The idea of moving towards living together in one world where those who ‘have’ see it as their duty to aid those who ‘have not’, together with the concept of a universal (catholic) church seems to be in the decline.  The ‘pure’ nation state existing in isolation from other states, only relating to them insofar as is necessary entices more and more people.  Yet, in the face of the fact we do live in a world which, increasingly, realises we live or die together with which will the church side?

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