The wisdom of Diarmaid MacCulloch’s ‘A History of Christianity’ might benefit FCA leaders and commentators

I’m reading and being inspired by Diarmaid MacCulloch’s ‘A History of Christianity’ at the moment. I’m not a historian and my grasp of Christian history is shaky and selective. MacCulloch is reminding me of why my faith formed in the way it did. Christian history is so complex and messy – well, we know that, don’t we?

Fortified by forty-five minutes of reading about Latin Christendom: the New Frontiers, I dipped into Virtue Online, something I rarely do nowadays, to see how David is reporting the FCA meeting in Battersea.

  • Orthodox Anglican Archbishops set to Change the Face of Anglicanism
  • Archbishop Wabakula launched a fusillade of attacks on the present structure of the Anglican Communion
  • He was joined in his attack by Nigeria Archbishop Nicholas Okoh
  • Wabakula ripped the situation arguing that we cannot treat this simply as an institutional crisis
  • The Kenyan leader blasted what he called “endless dialogue” designed to wear down resistance

Hyperbole, as always, from David Virtue – he both fuels and reflects the attitude of some in the Global South/GAFCON/FCA/AMiE/AMiA movements.

David has been trying his best to glean information from those at the meeting ‘despite a media blackout’. Reporting what Bishop Michael Nazir Ali said doesn’t quite support David’s dramatic tone of the previous day.

  • While it has not been publicly raised, the intention is that the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) will, in time, be recognized as a legitimate province of the Anglican Communion
  • [The] new leadership will not be led by bishops alone and must include people of influence in the orthodox movement, including orthodox leaders of big parishes and church planters
  • Nazir Ali wants tangible ways to move forward but this did not include breaking with Canterbury. When he said this “nobody demurred from that notion”
  • This conference has placed a significant emphasis on the importance of the whole of church. We are not Congregationalists,” said one bishop
  • The role of the FCA is to ensure these three things and also to affirm that there will be no schism coming down the pipeline

I think David and many of those attending the FCA meeting would nevertheless benefit from reading MacCulloch’s history. Here are three nuggets:

The Beatitudes and Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God:

They form a code of life which is a chorus of love directed to the loveless or unloveable, of painful honesty expressing itself with embarrassing directness, of joyful rejection of any counsel suggesting self-regard or prudence. That, apparently, is what the Kingdom of God is like.

The coming kingdom will make up its own rules. The later Church found this an uncomfortable message as it settled down to make sense of people’s everyday lives. (p88)

Referring to second century Christian texts:

The documents which do survive conspire to hide their rooting in historic contexts: this makes them a gift to biblical literalists, who care little for history. (p112)

Of those who became bishops in the ‘Dark Ages’:

The Western Church has remained notable for the presence within its clerical ranks of a great many who are interested in clear rules and tidy filing systems. Western theology has been characterised by a tidy-mindedness which reflects the bureaucratic precision of the Latin language: not always to the benefit of its spirituality. (p320)

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