We live in an age of soundbites and headlines. Christians tend to ask, ‘Are you a Catholic?’ or ‘Are you an Evangelical?’ without being specific about these terms. They may prefer one style of worship to another, or use various slogans to signal ‘group loyalty’; but they aren’t always able to argue their position theologically. But theology is important. It is not an ‘extra’ for those who happen to like it.
The Society of the Faith fulfils its aims through publications and grants. The 1947 report Catholicity formed the basis of a Symposium, the first in a series of study days on theological issues of major concern to the Society and the contemporary Church. The papers from that Symposium are presented here.
We also republish the full text of the 1947 Report – Catholicity: A Study in the Conflict of Christian Traditions in the West.
Why this Symposium, and why now?
The Society of the Faith believes that ‘catholicity’ is essential to the life and health of the Church. By ‘catholicity’, we mean ‘the full works’ – the Christian faith in its fullness, all its richness and depth – a faith both exciting and challenging.
But ‘embracing the full works’ doesn’t imply that all questions have long since been settled, and that all Christians need to do is to discover ‘what the Church says’. The Church has constantly debated the meaning and implications of the Gospel ever since the time of Jesus. Doctrines have grown, and multiplied, and been given fresh relevance time and time again. Practices – the organisation of Christian life, the structures of the Church – have been debated, and reformed, and revitalised, and reformed again. It is this whole panoply of thinking and doing which, as Catholic Anglicans, we can learn from.
And we cannot do this alone. Christian discipleship is never a solitary enterprise. I can only ‘be a Christian’ in community with other Christians, in dialogue with other Christians.
These papers are offered to the Church in the hope that they might help to maintain the traditional balance between Catholic and Evangelical perspectives within Anglicanism, at a time when some feel that balance is in danger of being lost. We do not suggest that we should focus on the past. We want to move into the future, equipped by our wonderful heritage to meet the challenges that tomorrow will bring. But the future can never be a repetition of the past. We want to follow our Lord’s advice, and stay awake. We believe that constant engagement with, and deep immersion in, ‘the whole works’ – with Catholicity – is the best tool in our armoury. And this we hope to do through more such study days in due course, the contents of which will also be published on this site.
The Revd Canon Robert Gage
Vice-Principal, the Society of the Faith