Defining ecclesiology – alarming developments in the Church of England
Dr. Charlie Bell,
Charlie Bell is John Marks Fellow, College Lecturer, Praelector and Director of Studies at Girton College, Cambridge, and an Academic Clinical Fellow in Psychiatry. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and senior fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
The defining ecclesiology of the Church of England has been a battleground for centuries. Even the term Anglican has been strongly seen by some as a party within the Church of England and absolutely not synonymous with it. Meanwhile, the Anglican Communion has sprung into existence, with huge differences in theological, liturgical, practical and existential facets. Yet, nonetheless, there are some things that are distinctly Church of England and, indeed, Anglican, that run through the different constituent churches – if not in terms of the theology, then at least in terms of praxis. The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral is a good indicator of some of these things, and it is clear that for centuries, these kinds of things matter. They matter, not because they become idols in themselves, but because they form part of the narrative that forms our historical and living tradition. Much of what has occurred during the coronavirus crisis has revealed what these elements of fundamental praxis are and pointed out places where they might be at risk. In a previous article I have interrogated the nature of the sacraments; in this article, I wish to consider the significant ecclesiological challenge that was laid down by the Archbishop of Canterbury on 15th July in his joint ‘Statement on Episcopal Consecrations’ with the Archbishop of York.