As the Church of England bridges evangelicalism and catholicism, as well as being headed by a Monarch – is she the true universal Church?
Since Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church has been desperately evangelising and in many ways is catching up to the CofE in the way that it presents itself as well as liturgical reforms and a more liberal approach to running the church in general an almost latent schism has arised. One group, who claim to be traditional, ‘proper’ catholics – embrace the Traditional Latin Mass (Tridentine form of the Roman Rite) and could be considered traditionalists in almost every way (except that they still believe the Orthodox are heretics rather than themselves – though many deny the authority of some or all recent Popes); the other, more mainstream group, participate in Novus Ordo masses read in the vernacular, tend to be either very Papal or indifferent – much like mainstream society in general.
Traditionalists believe the Roman Catholic Church is rapidly changing for the worse – and part of me agrees; The church is becoming very pedestrian and almost secularised – some of the more liberal churches could be mistaken for evangelical protestant service churches. But contemplating this over Lent, I’m inclined to ask if that is such a bad thing?
Before returning to Orthodoxy I used my year or so of Jewish studies to toy with the idea of Judaism – I was really drawn to a ‘pure’, regulated form of worship with the ancient tradition alongside it – it’s not uncommon for people to yearn for a life that is ordered. Everything you need to do is laid out in a timetable, from how to pray to how to go to the toilet! God of course is omnipresent and omnipotent – He knows when we acknowledge him despite the language or ritual used – but some methods help us connect better with Him. Returning to Orthodoxy and subsequently adopting a monastic life, which I had more or less had to begin with, wasn’t too different to Orthodox Judaism – fewer rules though.
Within Christianity, protestantism was unlikely to take off how it did after Luther’s 95 theses; Reformations had been attempted in the past – primarily against issues with the Roman church, but ultimately people became more literate and began to understand the Holy Scriptures in more personal ways. Ritual and tradition isn’t for everyone – not all of God’s children are academically-minded to the extent that they want or are able to study their faith indepth, it is enough to acknowledge God, Jesus and enjoy the Gospels; Others crave an intellectual and ritualistic method.
I don’t think this is coincidence – in the west we think of the Catholic church as the Roman Church, the Orthodox Church as Eastern, and Evangelical as the reformed church of the West. The truly catholic or universal church should encompass all of these, shouldn’t it? Evangelical witness and catholic faith?
In a way we are all heretics [See: Russian Old Believers vs current Russian Orthodox Church] – and I think the Church of England may actually, have hit the happy medium of a universal church. One can participate in Choral Evensong with the Book of Common Prayer, and celebrate the Eucharist using traditional liturgy & language – or attend a church with the same basic principles but with a completely different approach, with modern language which is easy for hoi polloi to grasp and understand, while singing songs of praise which are memorable and joyful and sharing bread in an informal way.
We know in the time of King David, the Psalms were sung and accompanied by instruments – but liturgical snobs hiss at the use of guitars or organs? The problem then, is surely with bigotry rather than what God, through the Holy Scriptures, tell us.