- Series: McGill-Queen's Studies in the History of Religion (Book 40)
- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: McGill-Queen's University Press (April 23, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0773521607
- ISBN-13: 978-0773521605
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
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Modernity and the Dilemma of North American Anglican Identities, 1880-1950 (McGill-Queen's Studies in the History of Religion) 0th Edition
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"Modernity and the Dilemma of North American Identities" is a valuable work because it covers territory other books don't, and Katerberg is a careful scholar. Katerberg is one of the few to place Anglican identity in its modern context, and his work is the most important one that does so. Katerberg's argument, in essence, is that modernity and disestablishment forced North American Anglicans to reinvent themselves and form new identities. Katerberg argues that North American Anglicans were able to adapt to the secularizing influences of culture until the 1960s and that the institutional decline and fragmentation that ensued are not necessarily bad things.
Several themes run throughout the book as Katerberg presents his thesis largely through the lens of 6 Anglicans who are representative of the different parties and flavors of Anglicans. These themes are: the relationship between evangelicalism, liberalism, and Anglo-Catholicism; the impact of modernity on historic Anglican forms of spirituality; comparative perspectives on Canada and the United States, the evolution of Anglicanism as a North American phenomenon, and the critique of the secularization model in favor of thinking in terms of modernity and competing identities.
I'm especially glad that Katerberg is able to discern contradictory but complementary trends in modernity, for this seems the best way to make sense of what's going on. For example, there are both powerful centrifugal and centripetal forces at work in modernity, as well as both integration and fragmentation. He rightly calls attention to the fact that by the late 19th century religion in America was less a matter of descent and more a matter of personal choice. Ironically, Katerberg argues, by trying to construct stable, unifying identities, North American Anglicans had their identities fragment, for, as Katerberg observes, identities are particular and not universal. In fact, he argues, North American Anglicans hoped to transform a particular tradition into a universal identity, a desire that was distinctly anti-modern. He also rightly recognizes that denominations are transitional institutions designed to recognize and contain Christian diversity within modern nation-states. Ultimately, Katerberg argues that the strategy of comprehension as a way of dealing with diversity not only included but excluded and not only fostered unity but also fragmentation.
In summary, Katerberg believes that the paradoxes of the modern project lie at the root of Anglican dilemmas of identity in North America, a unique position in the scholarship of Anglicanism. I have come to very similar conclusions in my own research and believe that if Anglicans want to know who they are and understand where they are going, they will have to come to grips with the distinctly modern nature of their identity. While I don't agree with all of Katerberg's conclusions, his work is an invaluable one. I wish, as well, that he had spent less time on his case studies and more on unpacking some of his startling conclusion.
Unfortunately, I think this work has remained largely unread for two reasons: it's not an easy read, since it's packed with a lot of close argumentation and concepts. Also, this work is more nuanced and transcends the usual facile descriptions of liberal vs. conservative Anglicans.
"Modernity and the Dilemma of North American Identities" is, therefore, not for the average reader but is an invaluable resource for those who want to study Anglicanism in much greater depth and for Anglican leaders who want to help understand their own religious tradition better. Unfortunately, in corresponding with William Katerberg, I discovered that Anglicanism was only a passing research interest of his: his unique insights are of great help.