Thursday, August 07, 2008

Pinoy Anglicans

Mike Tan wrote something about a little known church in the Philippines. The Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP) is the Anglican Church in the Philippines. The Episcopalians ("Piskies" is a term of endearment) run one of the best hospitals in the country (St Luke's), the best weaving school (Easter's in Baguio), a college now a university with a good track record (Trinity),and the oldest international school (Brent).

For a church with just about 200K members, the ECP has influenced education and ecumenism far beyond its size. Its reason for existence in the Philippines is the key. The first bishop in the Philippines, Charles Henry Brent declared that the church won't build an "altar over another altar".This was during an unecumenical time. When the Americans came, Protestant missionaries divided the country for their mission to preach "the true Christian religion" to a country that is majority Catholic Christian. Brent gave the Philippine Church very prophetic witness. Brent limited his mission to the expat community, the non-Catholic Chinese and the non-Christian tribes. Thus the Cordilleras and parts of Binondo and Sta Cruz Manila are Episcopal Church territories. Perhaps the best known Episcopal church in the region is St Mary's in Sagada.

My lola was a Piskie of the High Church kind. The Anglican church can be divided into three streams, the low or evangelical kind, the broad church and the High Church kind. The Low church emphasizes traditionally Protestant positions, the Broad church accomodates elements of both Protestant and Catholic traditions and the High church emphasizes ritual and Catholic tradition. Some high churches are even more Catholic than the St Peter's Basilica! (in terms of ritual). In these high churches, you have to ask the priest if this is really an Anglican church.

We see the same in the Roman Church. Some Catholic churches are as or even more Protestant than an Anglican low church. The Jesuit Church of the Gesu in the Ateneo campus is my best example!

With diverse views of what the church is or ought to be, Anglicanism has preserved a tradition of tolerance and comprehensiveness. It is not that this is lacking in the Catholic Church (the Roman Catholics are as comprehensive as the Anglicans despite the noise conservatives make), Anglicans don't have a Pope that says that one doctrinal view is unacceptable. The church has to come to a consensus. Since the Elizabethan settlement, this via media has held until very recently.

This via media is almost in tatters with differing views on sexuality and the ordination of women. The debate on contraception which the Anglicans settled in 1938 Lambeth and is still a point of contention among Benedict XVI's flock, is a cakewalk compared to what is tearing at the Anglican Communion today.

The Roman Church in a Vatican II document on ecumenism has very special regard to the Anglican Church. This is because the Anglicans have preserved many Catholic traditions (episcopacy for instance) while maintaining distinctively Protestant ones. This is Anglicanism's greatest gift to the Universal Church.

Some of the Catholic traditions of Anglicanism like parish morning, midday and evening prayer are all but lost in the Post-Vatican II Catholic Church. Pope Benedict's agenda is to recover these in Catholicism. The Novus Ordo in English isn't comparable to Cranmer's English. It is no surpise that Cardinal Kasper paid tribute to these treasures as"Marvellous Evensongs" while giving a frank assessment of Anglicanism's troubles and how these would affect reunion with the Catholic Church in the recently concluded Lambeth Conference.

Anglicanism's troubles I believe stem from it losing its Catholic and Protestant charism in exchange for secular ones. Perhaps this is the reason why Kasper is praying for a new Oxford Movement. The Oxford Movement of the 19th century recovered the Catholic in Anglicanism. Kasper is praying that the Anglicans recover the Christian in Anglicanism!

Anglicanism has its gifts that will make Roman Catholicism less Roman but more Catholic. The Catholic Church can offer the Anglicans the charism of being more universal while recognizing the gifts of authority. The old Catholic bogey that the Anglican Church is a product of Bluff King Hal's lust will have to be laid to rest. Anglicanism is a reflection too of Roman Catholicism and the troubles that affilict it. Kasper's friendly and frank assessment and Pope Benedict's great concern is evidence of that. What really faces the Anglican and Roman Churches is essentially the same. The two churches have to recover that lost catholicity. The Anglicans have lost it due to lack of authorityand doctrinal ambiguity while the Roman Catholics have lost it due to overcentralized authority and doctrinal inflexibility.

Now about Evensong and Common Prayer. This is expressing my Anglican spirituality as a Catholic. It is unfortunate that unlike in English speaking countries, Catholic churches are not across the street from Anglican ones in our country.Whenever I am in an English speaking country, I make it a point to attend Mass in the morning and Evensong in the evening. Sometimes we have to cross the street to really recover what it means to be Catholic.

How does one recover catholicity? St Paul gives the famous answer. Charity.

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