Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Could Anglican Ordinariates be the Real ´Anglican Middle Way´?


As an Anglican seminarian from an Evangelical background I was introduced to the concept of the via media or 'middle way.' It was explained that the Anglican faith was a 'middle way' between the extremes of Protestantism and Catholicism. Anglicans were meant to be open to the truths to which both Protestants and Catholics witnessed. In matters of liturgy, sacred music, spirituality and doctrine the Anglican was meant to be informed by both the Catholic and the Reformed traditions. While this was good in theory, as Cardinal Newman observed, in practice the via media was no more than a good idea.

It was no more than a good idea because no one actually practiced the Anglican via media, or if they did, they did not do so for long. That's because Christianity is a dogmatic religion. We need to have a firm set of beliefs to undergird our religious practice, and everything else in our religion needs to be an outgrowth of what we believe. Unfortunately for those who wish to follow the Anglican 'middle way' Protestant and Catholic beliefs contradict more often then they complement one another.

Therefore, while it may be possible to worship in a way that combines Catholic and Protestant traditions, it is impossible to hold to both Protestant and Catholic beliefs at the same time. Consequently Anglicans end up being either Anglo Catholic or Evangelical. The only stream of Anglicanism which, it might be argued, holds to the via media are the mainstream liberals, but that is not because they hold the Catholic and Protestant beliefs in balance, but because they don't really believe in either. Their via media is really more of a via negativa--not a middle way, but a negative way.

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