Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Not Angles but Angels

The wait for the soon to appear biography of one character in the Anglican drama is occasion to explore another.  To read A.M. (Donald) Allchin's obituary is to read a life well lived.  His description of Anglicanism (written before present woes) makes it sound almost worth a try.
A faith which recognizes our hopeless ignorance before the mysteries of God, and does not pretend to find answers when it has not got them.  It recognizes at every point ‘the mysteriousness of our present being.'  It 'takes the side of faith and patience against the attractions of completeness and security and achievement and repose' [Eliot]. A certain tentativeness and humility before the affirmations of theology… which corresponds very closely to the apophatic elements, the awe and the reserve, which characterize the teaching of the great Fathers of East and West alike. This characteristic does not imply refusal of knowledge, any turning away from God’s gift of himself.  It is rooted rather in an experience of the limitations of man’s language and man’s concepts, and expresses a humility before the immensity of the divine.
Needless to say, said program has been occasion for pandemonium - for the very "refusal of knowledge" Allchin counseled against.  But at least he pulled it off.  Allchin's was an Anglicanism as serious as Eliot's, who once audaciously suggested that "Individual Conscience is no reliable guide; spiritual guidance should be imperative, and it should be clearly placed above medical advice" (141).

While Allchin was overwhelmingly indebted to Orthodoxy and Catholicism, Greg Peters suggests that one of his greatest contributions to ecumenism was to remain Anglican.  It sure helps when one lives in a town where it's possible - but there might be something to that.