ACNA KEEPS the Filioque Clause

October 18, 2013

in Anglican View, Filioque

“But of all it is the unity of the Trinity which must be in danger at every point by the denial of the filioque,” Karl Barth

George Conger

Filioque Controversy[1]The decision to keep the filioque clause in “Texts for Common Prayer” represents a victory of common sense over special interests writes George Conger and is a mark of the political and theological maturity of the Anglican Church of North America.

On 18 October 2013 the ACNA released its long awaited Eucharistic liturgies. The document entitled “Texts for Common Prayer” retained the language of the double procession of the Spirit, the filioque, but permitted its omission when reciting the creed.

A draft text released in June had called for the omission of the “and the son” or filioque clause following the statement:

“We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.”

A footnote to the draft text explained the reason for the revision by stating:

“The filioque clause ‘and the Son’ may be added here. It is not included in the text above for ecumenical purposes, in accordance with the 1978 Lambeth Conference, though the ACNA does not disagree with the theology of the filioque.

The language found in “Texts for Common Prayer” keeps the filioque but permits its omission. It states:

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father [and the Son],”

A footnote at the bottom of the pages explains:

“The filioque [and the Son] is not in the original Greek text. Nevertheless, in the Western Church the filioque [and the Son] is customary at worship and is used for the explication of doctrine [39 Articles of Religion]. The operative resolution of the College of Bishops concerning use of the filioque is printed with the General Instructions at the end of the Holy Communion, Long Form.”

At their Spring 2013 meeting the ACNA bishops adopted a resolution endorsing the omission of the filioque. The vote in support of the resolution was unanimous, but in the debate Bishop Julian Dobbs argued that while the motive of closer relations with the Orthodox, who do not have the filioque clause in their liturgical texts, was commendable, there were reasons why the Church in the West had adopted the revision in the Patristic era.

Blogger Joel Wilhelm argued omitting the filioque for ecumenical purposes bespoke a lack of theological rigor. “[H]ow do you not disagree with the theology of something and then drop it anyway? Additionally, dropping the double procession from the Creed violates Article V: Of the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.”

“Are the ACNA bishops also going to change the Articles by fiat,” he asked.

The omission of the filioque clause in the draft text also spoke to the disproportionate number of Anglo-Catholic and philo-Orthodox bishops and organizations within the ACNA’s organizational structure.

Like the Episcopal Church, the ACNA’s appeared to be in thrall to enthusiasts. Special interest groups who are dedicated to a particular cause have often been able to press their agenda onto the wider church. Changing the Episcopal Church’s teaching on abortion, the Book of Common Prayer, women clergy and homosexuality was driven by dedicated special interest groups — not by mass appeal.

The filioque controversy has been discussed within Anglican circles for about 125 years. However interest in this topic had been a highest among Anglo-Catholics who had sought to justify a non-Roman type of Catholicism by an appeal to the Eastern church.

The rise of the charismatic movement within Anglicanism over the past 25 years has also renewed interest in the question of the relationship between persons of the Trinity. Charismatic Anglicans who claimed a deep experience of the Holy Spirit were viewed with concern by the mainstream. The attempt to give theological coherence to their experiences of the Holy Spirit sparked additional interest in pneumatology.

The controversy that followed the bishops’ vote and draft liturgy caused the ACNA leadership to rethink the need to move forward on the filioque. While Anglo-Catholics of all stripes and Charismatic Anglicans were comfortable with the move, they were not able to reassure traditional Evangelicals that dual progression of the spirit (proceedeth from the father and the son) was not an essential underpinning of the Christian faith.

For Evangelicals Karl Barth’s words in Church Dogmatics precluded change. “But of all it is the unity of the Trinity which must be in danger at every point by the denial of the filioque,” Barth argued.

Offering a compromise solution on the filioque allows ACNA members to hold differing and irreconcilable views on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. And it allows the church not to fall victim to one of the ills — theological fads — that have plauged the Episcopal Church and help spark the creation of the third province movement in North America.


{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: