Guyer’s Weblog

May 8, 2009

Tract 3: Against Iconoclasm

Filed under: Communio Anglicana,Meta-Category,Theologoumena — guyer @ 4:29 am

“Nobody, after all, uses words except for the sake of signifying something.”
– St. Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana (I.2,2)

Introduction

The Shield of the Episcopal Church (USA), which features both the Cross of St. George and the Cross of St. Andrew (displayed below).

Reconciliation in Communion: A Word to the 76th General Convention of the Episcopal Church begins with a series of prescriptive theological points about matters of faith and order in the Episcopal Church, each of which is made by way of affirmation.  The bulk of the document, which comes after these, consists of points that are concerned with the actions of the forthcoming General Convention.  Between these two thematic sections, however, is a single historically-oriented point that, although both affirmative and prescriptive, also considers the future.

[We] Affirm that the self-understanding and mission of the Episcopal Church have become inextricably anchored to its relationship of full communion with the See of Canterbury, its active participation in the Instruments of Communion, and its formal and informal partnerships throughout the Anglican Communion.  This is reflected in our liturgical patterns, and the continued allocation of funds for the Anglican Communion.

The operative words in this statement are that “the self-understanding and mission of the Episcopal Church have become inextricably anchored to … the See of Canterbury.”  This statement is not for us, the authors, merely a question of ecclesiological theory.  It is also a question of the concrete, material realities within the Episcopal Church that are given symbolic expression.  In other words, we are especially concerned about how the Episcopal Church communicates itself to those who are within and outside of its walls.  Thus, this tract will begin with a brief discussion of the nature of symbols, and then move on to consider some of the symbols of the Episcopal Church that witness to its historically rich identity.  I will conclude with a proposal that focuses on what a separation between our church and the wider Anglican Communion could look like – specifically, as a tragic and horrific expression of iconoclasm.

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