Yesterday I was reading this post on Thinking Anglicans about the struggles toward ordination of women to the episcopate in the Church of England. This article from Andrew Goddard, linked at the TA post, made a reference to Anglo-Catholics and Anglo-Evangelicals in the Church of England having “different ecclesiologies.”
In responding, I made the comment, “As for Mr. Goddard's analysis: I was struck by the comment that Anglo-Catholics and Anglo-Evangelicals have "different ecclesiologies." Notwithstanding some differences in opinion, how can those with different ecclesiologies claim to be in the same institution?”
One person responded to my question with his own: “Good question -- but aren't you a bit late in asking it, since it has been the case ever since 1559?” (And thank you for that, Mr. Tighe.)
I had some thoughts about that which I posted (I think; the process didn’t seem to function smoothly), but which I also thought I would share here.
Well, late, yes, although I wouldn't have dated it to 1559 so much as after the Tractarians; but perhaps late, yes.
However, I think the "different ecclesiologies" as laid out by Mr. Goddard are more different, more polarized than I experience in the Episcopal Church. My experience is of a theology of episkope that balances functional and charismatic understandings - that is, a vocation to specific functions for which the Spirit provide the person the specific charismatic gifts. Perhaps most folks in the Church of England think (when they think about it at all) much the same, and Mr. Goddard presents the poles for clarification and sake of argument. However, the wider rhetoric, and especially all the talk of "taint," suggests that there are indeed folks in the Church of England embracing the extreme positions.
Perhaps the question isn't why they're still in the Church of England (if not exactly "together"), and not in the Episcopal Church. In the American context, where all ecclesial communities are matters of choice and none is "by law established," the extremes have largely left, forming new communities (and, two points: rhetoric from some notwithstanding, no one has been thrown out, but some have walked away based on conscience, feeling, as we often say, "better fed spiritually;" and second, there are indeed splinters in the American context more liberal than the Episcopal Church). One wonders if without Establishment these folks would have chosen to stay in. So, is the answer to my question that they remain together legally for reasons that don't affect their theologies of the episcopate?
Just a thought.