Worship is not just for praise and supplication of God‘s people in Anglicanism, but also the amain arena for our theology (Stevenson, p.187). This relationship is tachkled in the Latin phrase Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi which literally translated means “the law of praying is the law of belief” (Stevenson, p.187). What does this mean for the average pew setter who may not be aware of this concept? It means that while other churches have a confession or a Pope for final authority in theological matters, Anglicans are a beast all their own. This reflection will explore theology of Anglicans from what we are or, or are not, to the Prayer Book, to symbolism and finally, pragmatism. Within the relfection the good and bad will be explored on the Via Media of Anglican Theology where the law of praying is the law of belief or in the more mundane, from the symbol comes the thought.
Stevenson’s article on this topic found in The Study of Anglicanism was an excellent and loaded word primer on this very notion. A good flow in from the discussion previously on Reason, Tradition, and Scripture coupled with the Via Media and now exploring how theological though is formed as an Anglican standard.
The church as a whole is known for taking the middle road of Protestantism and Catholicism (or in ancient language, Popish). There is no deining theologian that is held to as a universal authority (like a Zwingli, Luther, or Calvin) or ultimate authority. If there were an Anglican theologian in the past to read, it would be Richard Hooker, yet he is not unversally held to as a standard. For the church it is the Book of Common Prayer where our theology is found, so one could say that it is Cramner who is our theologian, yet in the era of speciality he would be called a liturgist more than a theologian.
Does this mean as a church we seek out the lowest common denominators to appease everyone? No. That is a misinterpretation of our theological heritage, and just diving into the Prayer Book dispels that notion. It is a balancing act in history that made people tolerable yet some unhappy. Yet it brings about the idea of where certain parties in the Communion want to move the Anglican Church. Movements to move us to more of a confessional church that removes the backbone of what we are as a people, a people that take our theology from our prayer.
This idea of the Prayer book was both a field for Cramner of theological expression and experimentation (Stevenson, p. 189). It is a basis of the liturgy that it explores symbols that impact the people, and brings an understanding of God into their daily lives.
It is why services were deemed to be held in the language of the people with the priest and people reading from the same Prayer Book. Nothing hidden in the liturgy, the ability to experience theology right there. That is the ability to experience as a community and indvidual the Spirit of God. It is why the binding act for the Anglican Church worldwide is the Eucharist. Not exactly transubstantiation and yet more than just a rememberance it is something in between, one of the great mysteries of the faith. Yet one common cup bonds us all, in our diversity of theology and belief.
It is what would be lost to the church if we moved towards a confession or to one central authority…the ability to be universal in our belief in God, yet localized to a liturgy that impacts the walk and belief of the people in that location. For it is in the act of the liturgy that our theology comes alive in the community.
Now of course there is a down side to the way Anglicans do theology, because it can easily become rote. The Canadian church has been under a twenty-five year experiment with our Book of Alternative Services, not wanting to alter the Book of Common Prayer from the 1600’s. Yet is so doing we are negating the Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi. The liturgy itself can become frozen in time and an untaouchable, which goes against the spirit of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Faith in regards to the liturgy as well as the theology experimentation Cramner began.
For if our theology is to stay fresh, and channelling God we not only need a liturgy that reflects where we have been and where are at, but experimenting with the possibilities of where God is calling us to be as His people.
The concept of Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi also raises the question of church decoration. For you are laying out decorations for a worship service that will take in all a person’s senses and the use of symbols become powerful and important. It is not a symbol like one would choose to adorn a hockey jersey with but rather a symbol that reflects what the ministry of the church is.
It takes the symbol selection out of the hands of just one person and what impacts them, but rather to a whole community of people and what to them is the symbol of the faith. The localized worship of God within the universal bond of the Eucharist.
The final part to be touched upon is a rather simple statement Anglicans are pragmatic theologians. The pragmatism found in the Church of England is becuase the theology is relevant to the socio-cultural factors of the day. It touches the people where they are at and let’s them experience God there.
One major distinction within the more liturgical style service is that it is not necessarily seeker sensitive or geared towards a salvatory altar call as one will find in the more mainline Evangelical service (although there are strong evangelical Anglican churchs that probably do practice these). Rather the Eucharist (our Mass) is geared towards a servicing of the Saints. What is going to allow the saints of God to rest in Him and experience Him within Sunday morning worship so that they are equipped to live out the Great Commission Monday to Saturday within their school, workplace, community and nation?
It is a service designed to bring the Body of Christ to the foot of the Cross-at the altar rail each week around the world to share in the renewal that His Cup and Bread bring to us so that we may be filled with His Spirit, Love and Grace for another week.
It is in our prayer that our theology is formed, there are amazing things that can happen because of that, and amazing drawbacks, yet in the end if it equips the Body to answer God’s call to change this world, then so be it.