Anglican Ethics

Anglican Ethics

Do others have the right to define what's ethical for me?

Rev. KEVIN FLYNN is an Anglican priest and director of the Anglican studies program at Saint Paul University.

You oppose “others” to yourself as if you were an autonomous, independent person for whom all beliefs and ethical practices were a matter of choice.

You got this idea from someone, though you may be unconscious of the fact. It’s hard to think of a better example of a more conformist perspective than that.

It’s the perspective of a good conformist consumer in a capitalist economy in which ideas are simply another product you get to choose on the basis of your arbitrary likes and dislikes. This idea, like any other idea, has a history and has been passed on to you just as any other idea or philosophy is passed on.

I assume that you believe it is right to be truthful, wrong to harm others, right to keep your promises, wrong to steal or defraud and so on. All of these were defined for you by others. Christians are disciples, people who learn from a teacher. What we learn is a set of behaviours that help us to live as Jesus did.

Anglican and Roman Catholic theologians in dialogue together described this reality in a document called Life in Christ: Morals, Communion and the Church (1994). “The fidelity of the Church to the mind of Christ involves a continuing process of listening, learning, reflecting and teaching .... Conscience is informed by, and informs, the tradition and teaching of the community. Learning and teaching are a shared discipline .... Guided by the Holy Spirit, believer and believing community seek to discern the mind of Christ amid the changing circumstances of their own histories.”

Yes, one must make up one’s own mind in a given situation, but there has to be a mind there first.

Our consciences are always formed by someone. Who has shaped yours?

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