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Two articles from the Church of England newspaper about ARCIC
Prydain ^ | 5/20/2005 | Will

Posted on 05/21/2005 7:25:35 AM PDT by sionnsar

There has been quite a bit of discussion of the latest ARCIC report--this one on the views on the Virgin Mary. Here are two articles from the Church of England Newspaper that I found interesting:

End in sight to divisions over Virgin Mary?

Mary: a question of respect

Both of these are rather perceptive articles; as End in sight to divisions over Virgin Mary? states,

The document is now to be put to the two Churches. If they come to agreement on this it would place the questions about authority in a new ecumenical context and represent a fundamental change in the relationship.

The door, the report suggests, is closed on the option of Anglicans agreeing to differ on Mary if the churches reunited. “Roman Catholics find it hard to envisage a restoration of communion in which acceptance of certain doctrines would be requisite for some and not for others.”
Indeed, it seems to me that if Anglicans in general were to agree to this, it would mean a certain degree of submission to the Roman magisterium. There are already a number of Anglo-Catholics who would have no problem with these proposals, but as can be seen from both articles, evangelicals who uphold Article VI of the Thirty-Nine Articles will not readily agree to this. But as we have noted before, these talks do not mean very much as long as there is no true theological cohesion in Anglicanism, and it may be that the ordination of women has closed the door on this anyway.

TOPICS: Catholic; Mainline Protestant
KEYWORDS: arcic; europeanchristians; mary; theotokos
End in sight to divisions over Virgin Mary?

An end to the centuries-old division over the place of the Virgin Mary in the Church came closer this week after the Anglican Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC) said that there is deepening agreement on her role.

But Anglican evangelicals immediately poured scorn on the proposal in the new report that the ‘infallible’ dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, are ‘consonant with the teaching of scripture’.

The report also says that controversial Roman Catholic devotional practises relating to Mary and the Saints, need not be ‘communion-dividing’. It states that there is “no continuing theological reason for ecclesial division” over the role of the Virgin Mary.

The meetings of ARCIC in the past few years on Mary argued that both communions were involved in a process of re-reception of the place of Mary in the life of the Church. They also claimed that differences over Mary were exaggerated by both sides following the Reformation.

The report, ‘Mary: Hope and Grace in Christ’, which was published this week after six years of discussion, says that Papal dogmas about Mary are not new ‘revelation’ but instead new ‘definitions’ of scriptural teaching.

It concludes that the teaching about Mary in the two definitions of the Assumption and the Immaculate Conception can be said to be consonant with the teaching of the Scriptures and the ancient common traditions.

Doctrine and devotion, which focuses on Mary, including claims to ‘private revelations’, must be moderated by carefully expressed norms, which ensure the unique and central place of Christ in the life of the Church, it states.

The authors of the report hope that it will begin a process of reconciliation in overcoming one of the most fundamental obstacles to closer unity between the Anglican and Roman Catholic Churches. They are keen for a “common faith” concerning Mary, as outlined in the paper.

The document is now to be put to the two Churches. If they come to agreement on this it would place the questions about authority in a new ecumenical context and represent a fundamental change in the relationship.

The door, the report suggests, is closed on the option of Anglicans agreeing to differ on Mary if the churches reunited. “Roman Catholics find it hard to envisage a restoration of communion in which acceptance of certain doctrines would be requisite for some and not for others.”

The former Bishop of Woolwich, the Rt Rev Colin Buchanan, warned that many evangelicals would be very slow to be convinced about the assertions of the report. “Is the commission drawing people together or putting itself out on a limb?” he asked. “Anglicans have been hijacked by the Roman Catholics and it seems as though the captives have become sympathetic with the captors.”

The Rev Rod Thomas, a spokesman for the evangelical group Reform, said: “If Mary has been wholly and completely assumed into Heaven and we are able to pray to her, it goes completely against the grain of Jesus Christ being our great high priest who intercedes on our behalf with the Father.”

He added: “It has become clear that we can only find common ground through theological fudge. That can never be a basis for moving forward in unity.”

The working party included Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, and the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali.

Mary: A question of respect
By Harriet Harris

An analysis of ARCIC’s agreed statement, Mary, Grace and Hope in Christ

The most recent ARCIC document, Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ, launched this week, is likely to receive a more rocky response than other parts of the ARCIC corpus. It is facing major disagreement registered in 1981 in an earlier ARCIC statement (Authority in the Church II) over the dogmas of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and her Assumption. These dogmas are the more problematic for having been made binding on the faithful by papal fiat (in 1854 and 1950, respectively), independent of a church council.

Unease remains even on agreements reached in 1981, including observing Mary's festivals, according her honour in the communion of saints, and recognising her as Mother of God Incarnate (Theotókos). The appellation, Mother of God, declared at the council of Ephesus, is central to the theological rationale offered in Mary. It reflects a fully incarnational theology, in which God was human and Jesus divine even in the womb. While it was a contested title in the fifth century, by the sixth it had become universal in eucharistic prayers of East and West. But despite its genuine orthodoxy, it continues to cause discomfort, the Church of England's Common Worship liturgies preferring instead ‘ever-blessed Mother of Christ our Lord' (Antiphon to the Magnificat for Marian feast days).

At the heart of disagreements over Mary lie questions of whether doctrines concerning Mary are sufficiently supported by Scripture. This new Statement employs typological readings, though it hopes not extravagantly.

It also draws on Reformation emphases on the sufficiency and clarity of scripture, though it hopes not in a reductionist manner, and on historical-critical insights whilst aiming to avoid historicism. Belief in the virginal conception is affirmed not only as a sign of the presence and work of the Holy Spirit, and hence of Christ's divine sonship, but as pointing to the new birth of every Christian as an adopted child of God -- each born again from above by water and the Spirit. This is a key way in which the document reinforces Mary as mother of all the Church.

Potential objections to belief in the virginal conception are swiftly dismissed in a footnote: that it derives from an over-literal reading of Isaiah 7:14 is rejected, for that is not how the idea is introduced in the Lucan account; that it arose in response to accusations of Jesus' illegitimacy is also rejected for these accusations could have come afterwards, in response to rumours of Jesus' unusual birth.

The footnotes harbour the most contentious material, including a suggestion that reference to Jesus' brothers may mean kinsmen, relative or step-brother (n.3). If this is accepted, the door is kept open for espousing Mary's perpetual virginity. This divisive dogma is discussed in another footnote documenting the development of devotion to Mary in the Patristic writers. Leo, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Ambrose and Augustine are all cited to lend their weight to the tradition of Mary's virginity 'ante partum, in partu, post partum' (n.7).

Later in the document it is stated that ‘Our two communions are both heirs to a rich tradition which recognizes Mary as ever virgin’ [51], which does not technically state that we all accept this particular teaching, but could be thought to imply it. It also states that we ‘are agreed that Mary and the saints pray for the whole church’ [51] though many would beg to differ.

The Statement describes, not uncritically, how devotion to Mary increased in the Middle Ages, through 'an increasingly elaborate body of doctrine' and 'speculation' about Mary's sanctification [42]. It is also not uncritical of the Reformation's pruning of Marian tradition, in a desire to secure the centrality of Christ as mediator. Mary became a battle-ground between Catholic and Reformed. The BCP omitted the feast of the Assumption as lacking scriptural warrant and exalting Mary at the expense of Christ, though it retained the feasts of the Conception of Mary, Nativity of Mary, Annunciation, Visitation and Purification/Presentation.

Criticism is made of a Roman Catholic tendency to wear Marian spirituality as a badge against Protestantism, a tendency that was checked at the Second Vatican Council when, out of concern for ecumenical sensibilities, no separate document was drafted on Mary [47]. The Council was followed by a period of unanticipated decline in devotion to Mary, which Paul VI and John Paul II both addressed partly by emphasising the Christological focus of devotion to Mary.

Christological grounding is crucial for addressing the contentious dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption. Both dogmas are read back from the exalted Christ: viewed eschatologically Mary can be seen to be glorified, justified, called, predestined [54]. The Statement also asserts that both dogmas are consonant with Scripture, and can only be understood in the light of Scripture [58. 59].

It is acknowledged that there ‘is not direct testimony in Scripture concerning the end of Mary’s life’, but Stephen and Elijah were 'drawn into God’s presence’ [56], and Mary is seen ‘as the faithful disciple already present with God in Christ’, and so as a sign of hope for all humanity. Christians have ‘discerned in faith that it is fitting that the Lord gathered her wholly to himself' [57].

Mary’s immaculate conception, which affirms that Mary’s sanctification took place at the very first moment of her conception [n.11], is seen to be dependent on Christ’s atoning sacrifice by again taking the eschatological perspective: ‘Christ’s redeeming work reached “back” in Mary to the depths of her being, and to her earliest beginnings’ [59].

The question remains whether Anglicans are required to believe these dogmas, or whether they fall outside the specification in Article VI of the 39 Articles of the Church of England, of ‘whatsoever is not read [in Scripture], nor may be proved thereby’ [60]. The dogmas are said to follow from Mary's identity as Theotókos, which itself depends on faith in the Incarnation [63].

The last few decades have witnessed significant convergence between Anglican and Roman Catholic renewed devotion to Mary and a re-receiving of Scriptural and patristic teaching about Mary. But asking Mary to pray for us remains a point of contention between Roman Catholics and many (though by no means all) Anglicans. The closing phrase 'pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death' was added to the Hail Mary in C15 and was rejected by the Protestant Reformers. This document affirms that Christ is our sole mediator, but that the unique mediation of Christ is worked through human beings. Asking Mary to pray for us is akin to asking our brothers and sisters on earth to pray for us. The prayers are offered through Christ and do not compete with his unique mediation [68f].

ARCIC believe that there remain no theological reasons for division on this matter [75]. The ways in which Mary's example has been used by the Church to encourage passivity and impose servitude on women gets brief mention, and is then swept away by insistence that justice for women and empowerment of the oppressed are fuelled by daily reflection on the Magnificat [74]. Cults of Mary that develop around apparitions are classified as private devotion, not required but permitted and respected [73].

Some Anglicans may wish that more of what ARCIC commends were merely permitted and respected, rather than required.

The republication of the whole ARCIC corpus is due soon. It would be difficult and unwise to attempt to respond to the material wholesale, for much of ARCIC II is contentious in relation to ARCIC I, and we would not want to lose the goods of ARCIC I.

The Co-Chairs present the new statement on Mary as a 'powerful reflection of our efforts to seek out what we hold in common'. The choice of words no doubt reflects an arduous process, which has yielded not so much a common faith on Mary as a struggle to articulate a position on Mary consonant with both traditions.

1 posted on 05/21/2005 7:25:36 AM PDT by sionnsar
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Speak the truth in love. Eph 4:15

2 posted on 05/21/2005 7:26:37 AM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || Newsweek lied, people died.)
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To: Kolokotronis

article #2 ping

3 posted on 05/21/2005 7:35:29 AM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || Newsweek lied, people died.)
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To: sionnsar

Two words...women's ordination.

4 posted on 05/21/2005 7:40:01 AM PDT by kalee
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To: sionnsar
I think saying that honors reserved to Mary are nonscriptural are a straw obstacle, so to speak. The Blessed Trinity is not supported in Scripture. Is it to be abandoned, since it does not appear to be defined in Scripture, but was only taught by ancient Christians?
5 posted on 05/21/2005 7:40:45 AM PDT by TheGeezer
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To: sionnsar

Women's ordination will be the one area Canterbury and Rome will not be able to reconcile. Canterbury will sell us out on the 39 articles, but you can count on the fact that they will stand firm on women's ordination.

6 posted on 05/21/2005 7:43:47 AM PDT by kalee
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To: kalee
I agree. It's interesting to me to see women priests among the orthodox ECUSA here.

But... in a year or two will it still be Canterbury... or Abuja? And what happens if it's the latter?

7 posted on 05/21/2005 8:04:04 AM PDT by sionnsar (†† || Iran Azadi || Newsweek lied, people died.)
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