Wednesday, February 1, 2006
Anglicans turn UK Unitarians out of cathedral.
The January 28 issue of The Inquirer, a British Unitarian magazine (not online), reports that the annual Anniversary Service of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches in the UK will no longer be held in Chester Cathedral, where the service has been held since 2001. "A complaint following the 2005 service prompted a review of the cathedral statutes, according to Nicholas Fry, spokesman for the cathedral," the article says.
"Usual circumstances require worship to be according to Anglican forms or, occasionally, according to forms used by churches that are membrs of 'Churches Together in England,'" the spokesman continued.
The Rev. Andrew Hill, minister of St Mark's Unitarian Church in Edinburgh, said, "This is an impoverished understanding of Christianity, that the only valid expressions of religious faith in this day and age are those associated with Churches Together or with the Council of Churches. On a wider plane, in light of the relationship between people of different faiths within Britain, this is simply setting a poor example."
The magazine's editorial observes: "In the entry hall to Chester Cathedral, there are signs saying 'Welcome' in 26 languages. A Unitarian could be forgiven for doubting their sincerity."
("In response to complaint, Cathedral says no to GA," MC Burns, The Inquirer 1.28.06: 3; "Cathedral's bad example," editorial, The Inquirer 1.28.06: 2)
This story highlights for me the decades-old erosion of a model of catholicity that, for a while in the early 20th century, seemed capable of encompassing Unitarians and Universalists along with many other Christian denominations. It's a model that saw Christian unity proceeding on an ethical basis rather than a doctrinal one. So much for that! The ethical model is almost entirely dead now as a model for the "church universal"; instead, questions of doctrine and authority are the central concerns.
This poses an uncomfortable dilemma for theologically liberal Christians like those of us you can still find in non-credal or heterodox denominations: Do we have a way to engage in ecumenical dialogue anymore, especially when our denominations are not set up to make truth claims or negotiate them with other denominations? I know this is an entirely irrelevant question for most UUs, for whom we're simply engaged in interfaith dialogue as non-Christians, but I still want to see a way to engage in Christian fellowship as a theological liberal.
Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 1 February 2006 at 7:50 AM