Geoffrey’s posts on Restorationism interested me. Like many non-Protestants, I have but scant acquaintance with what preoccupies my Protestant brothers and sisters, and Geoffrey provides me with insights which I should not otherwise get. As soon as I read what Geoffrey had written, I followed it up with further reading, but stopped when I found myself getting drawn into what seemed to me a world of self-reconstructed ‘Apostolic’ scenarios.
It did, however, make me take down from my shelves a book I hadn’t read for some time, Peter E Gillquist’s Becoming Orthodox, and in the light of the ‘Restorationist’ idea, I was finally able to put my finger on what had bothered me about the book. It is, in fact, another form of restorationism, differing from what Geoffrey describes only in that here we have a large group of evangelical protestants investigating the early church and saying that the one which is most like it is the Orthodox Church: it is liturgical, it has bishops, and it had sacraments; it also did not have the Catholic ‘additions’. Well, I had been there, done that, and had the icons, and yet ended up crossing the Tiber; in view of recent posts, I thought it might be useful to review how and why. I shall try to keep this general, as far as is possible, because although each journey is our own, there are elements of all journeys which are common.
I was brought up a High Church Anglican; indeed every Anglican service I went to as a young man was good deal closer to the traditional Catholic one than most Catholic services. One of the odder features of Anglo-Catholicism, at least to outsiders, is that parts of it are very hostile to Rome. Perhaps we are so close that we have to make sense of the fact that the one thing we won’t do is to accept the Pope as Universal Bishop, or to accept the teaching on Infallibility. We were perfectly happy to accept the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, and indeed, at least where I worshipped, the whole raft of Marian devotion (indeed I remain devoted to Our Lady to this day); but what we would in no wise accept was the Pope.
So, as my Church moved off in directions I could not follow, like many Anglicans in the early 1990s I found myself at a loss. Disliking schism, I could in no wise join one of the ‘continuing Anglican’ bodies; but neither could I join Rome. Like many such, I found my way into the Orthodox Church. There was the Church of the Apostles; it had everything, except the Roman stuff I couldn’t buy.
There was, however, that nagging thing which refused to go away. The Apostolic church was one which had communion with Rome; the post-Apostolic Church had communion with Rome; Rome had a primacy of honour; the old undivided church had communion with Rome. Yes, there was sacramental; yes there was Apostolic succession, and yes there were liturgy, bishops and other marks of the early church; but there was no communion with Rome.
But Rome had ‘added’ things. Which things? Had the Church of the Apostles had a New Testament? No. Was that an ‘addition’? Heaven forfend, it was a development. Had the Church of the Apostles proclaimed the Creed? No. Was that an addition? Heaven forfend, it was a development. Did the Church of the Apostles teach that a book called the NT was the only way to know God? It did not? The Orthodox Church had all those things too; so did the Catholic Church. The Orthodox Church was not in communion with Rome, with the successor of St Peter. That, as I have described elsewhere here, was when I gave in. I stopped being any sort of restorationist and returned to the church of my ancestors. Like the Apostles, I acknowledged that with all his imperfections, St Peter, in the form of his successor, was the rock. From that everything else fell into place.