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Vol II No. 5

As the Church Says or as the Bishops Do? The Prohibition of the Eucharist in Ontario During the COVID-19 Lockdown

by
Jesse D. Billett

Anglicans have often prided themselves on the theological comprehensiveness of their Church, a comprehensiveness rooted in shared practice rather than agreed doctrine. Anglican unity, it is claimed, depends on no infallible magisterium, no uniquely inspired teacher, no exhaustive sectarian system. It flows instead from the liturgy, which is both Catholic and Reformed, and which supplies the only framework in which the inexhaustible meaning of the scriptures and the creeds can be rightly perceived and embraced. On this view, to discover what Anglicans believe, one must not only to listen to what they say, but also observe carefully what they do.

This principle acquires particular importance when one tries to evaluate the response in Anglican jurisdictions around the world to the COVID-19 pandemic, in which public health regulations made it difficult or even impossible for people to gather for the liturgy. Bishops and clergy were forced to decide how to adapt their liturgical practices to these new conditions, particularly with regard to the Eucharist. Their choices were informed by theological views that, under normal conditions, would never find practical expression. What the bishops did revealed more than they had ever said.

The present

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