Faith and Reason: Lights in the world, salt to the earth: In the second article in our series on the meanings of catholicism, the Bishop of London examines Anglo-Catholicism from the inside. The article is excerpted from his book Living the Gospel

ANGLICANISM has never claimed a faith of its own but, to use some words of Archbishop Laud, 'only that faith which was once (and but once for all) delivered to the saints' - a faith uniquely revealed in the holy scriptures and set forth in the catholic creeds, a faith which the Church is called upon to proclaim afresh in each generation.

It is in the delicate interplay between scripture, tradition and reason that the Anglican method of doing theology has been and continues to be pursued, always recognising that scripture is the normative, primary and controlling source of our authority. As HP Liddon, the considerable Tractarian scholar, reminds us: 'We cannot separate the Bible from the church which recognised and has preserved it. The divine book and the divine society are the two factors of the one revelation - each checking the other.'

So, for Anglicans, tradition is to be understood as that which is consonant with and conformable to the holy scriptures. The former Archbishop of Dublin Henry McAdoo wrote that 'the function of the Anglican appeal to antiquity is both faith-guarding and identity-affirming', and it is in this context that reason, our own freedom for exploration, questing and questioning, continues to be pursued.

It is in this context too that contemporary issues and questions are to be explored. As much as anything in the debate concerning the ordination of women to the ministerial priesthood and episcopate there lurks to my mind the substantially more important question of authority and decision-making in a divided church.

There remains a formidable theological task to which I believe Anglican Catholicism must be committed, and where it appears to be somewhat lacking at the present time. Furthermore, in place of the considerably negative mind-set of the catholic movement with its siege and ghetto mentality, there needs to be an altogether more positive participation in and contribution to the many issues before our church, indeed before the Church Universal; and a greater openness to hear and to seek God's will and God's way for his people.

As ever such a will and a way will not always be crystal clear. More often than not the way is opaque and obscure, discerned, paradoxically, more in the unknowing than in the knowing. But it is only in the staying with the questions, in the discussing, the listening, the reflecting and the praying - rather than in the shouting down, marginalising and excommunicating - that we shall, as part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church, be led towards the truth by Him who is the spirit of truth, the lord and the giver of life.

The theological enterprise can be hugely frustrating; it can also be immensely exciting, for it is nothing less than an engagement with the deep mystery of God, creator and redeemer of all that was and is and ever will be.

I looked, and behold, a great multitude.

But 'church', its being and nature, cannot remain in the realms of purely theological enquiry. We rejoice that we are 'church', part of the one holy catholic and apostolic church, through time and in eternity. I deliberately say 'we' - it is an inclusive term, not an exclusive one. To my mind Anglican Catholicism has been too much concerned with ordained ministry and not enough concerned with the ministry and mission of the whole Church.

Those of us who are ordained have a particular and distinctive ministry which is at heart diaconal in its exercise; we are stewards and servants at the bottom of the pile rather than at the top so that we may encourage and enable the whole Church to be what together we are called to be - lights in the world, salt to the earth. I would like to see a much greater attention being given to a theology of the laity, a theology which is in no way patronising, but which recognises the primacy and priority of who and what together we are. Whether we are priest, deacon, bishop, churchwarden, organist, in the third row or the back row, together we are women and men baptised into Christ Jesus; once we were no people but now we are the people of God. In other words, the enhanced status, if such terms are at all appropriate, ought to go to the laity rather than to the clergy.

A further difficulty which needs to be addressed is the over-preoccupation with the stuffy and constricting world of the Church, with ecclesiastical politicking, committees, synods, more meetings and yet more paper. The Church is actually sent out and sent forth to be both the sign and instrument of that new and living way forged through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The catholic movement has become immersed within the confines of the Church, even of the sanctuary, whereas in truth the eucharist is the very springboard for mission and the proclamation of justice and righteousness for all - the celebration of God's kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.

That perspective of forwards and onwards is ours today. Our forebears in the catholic movement were zealous for the transformation of the Church and the conversion of England. That task remains and if we are at all to address ourselves to it then we need not only to recover the full meaning of 'catholic' - in the sense of wholeness and inclusiveness, rather than issue-driven and exclusive, and quite irrespective of whether we consider ourselves to be of the affirming variety - but also to realise that we are being called to look beyond ourselves to the vast and increasing numbers of people for whom the Christian message is either of little importance or totally irrelevant.

That is the thrust of the eucharist - we are to go forth to love and serve the Lord, to go with confidence and joy in the name of the risen and living Lord Jesus Christ. We are ourselves to live his risen life, surrounded as we are by so great a cloud of witnesses, and ourselves to be the instruments of the Lord's love in bringing others to faith. Yet all the time we must keep alive that vision of the Church which was so dear to those who have gone before us and with whom in the holy mysteries we are united in that love which knows no end - that vision of the Church of Jesus Christ as a divine society, as a wonderful and sacred mystery: truly a home for sinners and a school for saints.

The Right Rev David Hope's Living the Gospel is published by Darton Longman Todd, pounds 6.95.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: HR Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of a HR Manage...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - HR Consultancy - £65,000 OTE

£35000 - £40000 per annum + £65,000 OTE: h2 Recruit Ltd: London, Birmingham, M...

Day In a Page

Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture