Eastertide 2011, Volume XX, Number 2
(A feature article from the journal: Ecclesia Anglicana Hodie How Fare Our Anglican Cousins? Some Reflections Dedicated to Norman Nagel by John Stephenson)
Through two decades teaching Religious Bodies in Canada, I mostly agreed with Norman Nagel’s informed assessment of the confessional makeup of Anglican Christendom. “There is nothing under the sun less capable of generalization,” mused Nagel in an article published almost half a century ago, “than that admirable, exasperating, and mystifying salmagundi that is gathered together under the name of the Church of England.”1 The unfamiliar noun into which Nagel distilled his analysis sent me scurrying to a dictionary to discover that “salmagundi” — in its literal sense a cold mixed dish with all sorts of ingredients — gets across the image of a hodgepodge of belief and practice bereft of all rhyme, reason, or connecting threads.
Much evidence supports the widely held opinion that Anglican “comprehensiveness” is mind-bogglingly adaptable and thus capable of simply limitless variations. To go from London’s “higher than a kite” All Saints, Margaret Street, to its “lower than a snake’s belly” All Souls, Langham Place, taking in the humanist platitudes of a Broad Church homily at Westminster Abbey or St. Paul’s cathedral along the way, would be to ride an ecumenical rollercoaster that lurches now and then outside the bounds of Christendom onto secular and even inter-faith terrain. Oxford wags have been known to describe the Church of England in terms of the city’s geography, which can take travelers by car or foot “from the High to the Broad, passing Jesus along the way.”
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