Vol II No. 5

Provided That the substance of The Faith be Kept Entire: Doctrinal Minimalism In The Episcopal Church

The Revd. Fr Gavin Dunbar

When classical Anglicans thought about doctrine, they thought about the truth that is necessary to salvation, the gospel, but they also thought about the community that was established and united by saving truth, the church. The relation of church and doctrine recurs in the liturgy of the classical Prayer Books. On the feast of the Apostles Simon and Jude, for instance, the collect turns the doctrine of Ephesians 2:20, 21 into prayer, addressing God as the one who had “built thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone”, and asking “so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto thee”. Apparently, the author of this collect – presumably Thomas Cranmer – did not know that “doctrine divides”. He saw doctrine as means of unity, unity with other Christians in the Church, and comprising, as the same passage in Ephesians put it, “an habitation of God by the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22). What is known in truth must be willed in charity, and so before addressing institutional structures, in the Prayer for the Church Militant, the congregation prays confidently for the spiritual unity of the church in both aspects, “beseeching thee to inspire continually the Universal Church with the spirit of truth, unity, and concord:

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