Religion, Theology, and the Human Sciences

By Richard H. Roberts | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
Lord, bondsman and churchman: integrity, identity
and power in Anglicanism

INTRODUCTION

The pungent and abrasive title of this chapter indicates the main aspects of an investigation I propose into some of the contemporary dilemmas of English Anglicanism as represented prominently by a leading apologist for this tradition, then Professor Stephen W. Sykes, Van Mildert Professor, Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Cambridge.1 In two important and related, but perhaps not fully appreciated, works, The Integrity of Anglicanism and The Identity of Christianity, 2 Professor (later Bishop) Sykes sought first to rework Anglican theological method and self-understanding, and then to formulate and apply in the context of the church universal, and its task of defining the identity of Christianity, the contribution he believes it is the distinct vocation of the Anglican Communion to make. These are the positive proposals to be found in Sykes' project, but underlying them is a yet more fundamental theme, that of power, and it is the latter, I believe, which is of the greater theological significance in the long term. Indeed, I shall argue that the 'sub-plot' or 'sub-text' of the position developed in Sykes' two major works comprises the elaboration of a theory of theological power which is in effect the linking thread upon which hang glistening beads of historical and

____________________
1
This chapter first appeared in C. E. Gunton and D. W. Hardy (eds.), On Being the Church (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1989), pp. 156–224. When first published, it largely escaped review. Thus, for example, in a review in the Church Times, 'Lord, Bondsman and Churchman' was not referred to, although all the other contributions were identified. The text appears here in its original form with revision confined to occasional necessary alterations to the verb tenses used and one or two small corrections. Whilst the chapter may in some respects be regarded as a period piece, it remains in my view a legitimate critique. Its basic predictive theses have proved accurate: we now have a managerial Church of England in which, as demonstrated in the following chapter, the unneurotic celebration of power ('real power') takes place. Bishop (then Professor) Stephen Sykes was struggling with the ancestral tension between 'authority' and 'power': managerialism decisively resolves that tension into the latter.
2
The Integrity of Anglicanism (London: Mowbrays, 1978); The Identity of Christianity (London: SPCK, 1984). Henceforth referred to as Integrity and Identity respectively.

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