Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Distinctive Anglicanism

The distinctive character of Classical Anglicanism was forged between 1559 and 1688. The Elizabethan Settlement had left the church with its old Catholic hierarchy intact, a moderate Reformed Confession of Faith, and a more or less Lutheran Liturgy. Anglicanism's distinctive flavour came from how this broad structure worked out in practice.

The first major controversy that shaped Anglicanism was the Vestarian Controversy of the 1560s and 70s. A considerable number of clergy had spent 1554-59 in exile in the various Protestant enclaves in Germany and Switzerland. Many of these churches had rebelled against vestments and a strict liturgy, as well as adopting Reformed theology. These men came home with a strong desire to "complete" the reformation by sweeping away whatever remained of the old ceremonial. The first serious outbreak of this radicalism came in London in 1560. The Queen saw the scruples of the newly returned exiles as simple disobedience and told Parker to sort it out. In the middle of all this, Parker and Elizabeth evidently must have decided that some sort of compromise was necessary. Parker therefore required the use of the surplice in parish churches, and the surplice and cope in cathedrals and collegiate churches. The vestments were those traditionally associated with the daily Office (the surplice) and processions (the cope) rather than the Mass. Resistence continued, but constant pressure from the civil and ecclesiastical authorities ensured a large measure of outward compliance.

The next phase centred on the Episcopate. Those who had been in Geneva and Strassburg during Mary's reign strongly favoured a more intensive form of church disciple, and the modification or abolition of the Episcopate in favour of a Presbyterian system of Church government. John Whitgift (1530-1604) was the strongest advocate of the Anglican position and wrote extensively in defense of Episcopal government, the liturgy, and the use of vestments. However, Whtgift shared the strongly Calvinist theology of his opponants. The conflict was really between High Church and Low Church Calvinists.

Whitgift's rather rough and ready defense of the Anglican position was later expanded by Richard Hooker (1554-1600) in his "Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity" which gave a theological rationale to compliment Whitgift's polemics. However, one has to be very careful to read Hooker on his own terms not through his nineteenth century High Church, or twentieth century Liberal editors. He was a man who believed passionately in the supremacy of Scripture, but saw reason and tradition as being the best keys to unlocking its meaning.

Whitgift's theological Calvinism led him to disciple Baro and Barrett, two Cambridge theologians who questioned the Calvinist orthodoxy of the Church of England in the 1580s and 90s. Whitgift sought to put an end to the controversyby issuing the unequivocably Calvinist "Lambeth Articles" (1595) but the Queen refused to give them Parliamentry Authority. Although Baro and Barrett quickly disappeared from the scene, they had influenced a generation of churchmen who were to become influential in the last years of Elizabeth's reign.

The oldest of them were Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) and Richard Neile (1562-1640). Although this group was often called "the (English) Arminians" they did not share the theology of the Dutch Arminians except in so far as they sat loosely on the doctrine of Predestination. More important to the English Arminians, formed an ecclesiastical "Court Party" that valued an orderly and beautiful liturgy, divine right Episcopacy, and a strong sacramentalism. This put them at odds with a strong "Parliamentry Party" of Puritans who valued preaching, a more democratic mode of Church government, and austerity.

As the differing values of Court and Parliament came increasing into conflict not just over religion, but over politics, taxation, foreign policy, and the role of parliament. Charles' religious and political traditionalism eventually precipitated the English Civil War, which Charles lost. However, the Parliamentarians were unable to "win the peace" by establishing a stable form of government to replace the old monarchy. As a result, Charles II was swept back into power by General Monck and a political elite weary with the experimentation of the Cromwellian interlude.

Inspite of the attempts of the "hot heads" in both Church and State to turn the clock back. The eventual shape of the Settlement in both religion and politics was essentially "business as usual." The King reconciled the middle classes by promising triennial Parliaments, and the Bishops tried to conciliate moderate Presbyterians by some minor adjustments to the Prayer Book. The old Calvinist fires were to a large extent banked though not extinguished, and the High Church bishops had their hands full repairing the physical damage caused by Civil War and the temporary proscription of Anglicanism under Cromwell.

The final convulsion that shaped Anglicanism was the Glorious Revolution of 1688. James II & VII had tried to extend civil rights to his Roman Catholic co-religionists by rewriting civic charters, hand picking the judiciary, and raising a standing army. These were all measures that alienated the ruling class with the result that they invited James' son-in-law - Wiliam of Orange - to invade Britain. The revolution turned out to be a bloodless one so far as England was concerned.; though Scotland and Ireland were not so fortunate. However, the Battles of the Boyne and Aughrim settled the issue in favour of William III and Mary II. The Calvinist William replaced the Jacobite Episcopal, with the Williamite Presbyterian, as the Established Church in Scotland, but otherwise, it was business as usual.

In terms of the Church of England and the Church of Ireland, the 1688 Settlement led to the toleration of Protestant dissent, and another attempt to bring moderate dissenters back into the Established Church. The Non-Jurors, the High Church radicals, left, and there was a desire to follow a moderate "middle way" that an eighteenth century describe as "a benign and comfortable air of liberty and toleration." The combination of a tolerant Biblical orthodoxy, Episcopal Government, and Liturgical worship was now established as the Anglican Way, and it continued to be the mainstream of our Church until the 1970s.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Conservative Reformation - Part IV

There have been persistent attempts to sideline the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion (hereafter "the Articles") in recent years mainly from advocates of Liberal theology. As a result, most Anglican clergy have not looked at the Articles quite as closely as perhaps they should have done. The attiude of many seems to be that either that they are irrelevant or that of Oscar Wilde, who when asked to subscribe to the articles when he got to university said, "I'll subscribe to forty if you like!" More moderate folks do at least have the wisdom to see that the Articles have to be read in context. That context is, of course, the theological atmosphere of the fifty years preceeding 1563.

In some respects the English Reformation came rather late in the day, so in some senses it is derivative. The creative thinking was done elsewhere - in Germany and Switzerland - so the English contribution to the English Reformation was that of commonsense and moderation. The basic framework of both Lutheran and Reformed theology was set before the theological Reformation for underway in England, so it is possible to see where previous Confessional statements influenced the Articles.

So from whence do the Articles derive?

The format of the Articles follows that of the Confession of Augsburg (1530) in that it consists of a series relatively short statements either upholding traditional Catholic theology, or explaining where the Church of England differed from it. So let us begin with the basic structure of the Articles, which divide up as follows:

1 to 8 deal with the Fundamentals - the Holy Trinity, the Scriptures and the Creeds
9 to 18 with "the Doctrines of Grace"
19 to 24 with the nature of the Church
25 to 31 with the Sacraments
32 to 39 deal with various disciplinary and civil matters

So keeping this format in mind, let us work through the Articles seeing where they derive from, and their similarities and differences from other Reformation era Confessions.

The first five Articles deal with the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and are in line with Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Reformed teaching on this point. The wording, on the whole, echoes that of the Augburg Confession, though it is somewhat expanded. It also bears some resemblance to the Scotch Confession of 1560, which itself was influenced by the 42 Articles and the Helvetian Confession. Articles 6 to 8 follow the broad consensus of Lutheran and Reformed thought on Holy Scripture and the Creeds.

A similar consensus approach continues as the Articles address the subjects of justification, the role of good works, and predestination. To summarize the position taken by the Articles

1. Justification is by grace through "Faith Only."
2. Good Works play no part in our justification, but, after justification, they are acceptable to God, and are evidences of a living faith.
3. Article 17 asserts that Anglicans, in line with St Paul's teaching in Romans, believe in "predestination to life."

All of this is in agreement with the Lutheran Confessions and with the earlier less radical views of Bullinger, Calvin, and their generation of "Swiss" Reformers.

The Articles take a slightly more independent tack when it comes to the sacraments. The Article on the general theology of the Sacraments, and that on baptism are very much in line with the views of the Lutherans and the Helvetian and Heidelberg Confessions. In other words, Baptism conveys regeneration which is susequently manifested by a life lived in accordance with God's Commandments.

The Articles on the Lord's Supper are perhaps the most ambiguous part of the Thirty-nine. They only seems to absolutely preclude the mediaeval doctrine of transubstantiation, and the "Low Reformed" teaching of Memorialism. However, they tend to favour a High Calvinist understanding of the sacrament. Basically, Christ is present "in an heavenly and spiritual manner" and we receive him "by Faith." This is essentially a receptionist point of view, but one with a high degree of objectivity. On the other hand, the Articles pronouncements are not watertight, and it is perfectly possible to hold the Lutheran doctrine of Sacramental Union, and still subscribe to the Articles.

Articles 32 to 39 declare the need for an ordered and authorized ministry, the lawfulness of oaths, and that the civil authorities are part of the Divine Order. The Articles presume that the ministry of the Church will be episcopally governed and will consist of bishops, priests and deacons ordained in accordance with the provisions of the Anglican Ordinal. The Articles also insist that the rites and ceremonies of the Church, provided they contain nothing contrary to God's Word, may be regulated by the Bishops under the oversight of the Prince to ensure that God's people are duly edified - a clearly Lutheran position, and very different to the "regulative principle" beloved of later generations of reformed theologicans.

On the whole, the Articles are a moderate and temperate document which generally fall into line with the historic Reformed Confessions, but they leave the door a little bit open for those of Philippist and Lutheran views on the Lord's Supper. In a sense they are a broad and inclusive document, but that does not mean that they lack substance. Their inclusiveness derives from a studied vagueness on those point that were contested between Lutheran and Reformed theologians. The aim of the 39 Articles was to build a nation Protestant consensus on which to found a Bible-based, reformed Catholic Church.

It is the subsequent history of Anglicanism, rather than an inherent flaws in the Articles themselves that have led to the diminishing of their authority. Seventeenth century theologians rebelling against the double-predestinarian orthodoxy of Dort tended to sit lightly on Article 17. However, the Caroline Divines established a new, High Church Protestant orthodoxy which remained dominant for over a century. Then in the nineteenth century both liberal Broad Churchmen and Anglo-Catholics sought to diminish the authority of the Articles so that they could the more easily promote their own reworkings of Anglicanism. It was this later, Victorian phase in the remaking of Anglicanism that laid the groundwork for the theological chaos and moral relativism that took of the Anglican Communion in the second half of the twentieth century.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

A Conservative Reformation - Part III

The two key pieces of the Elizabethan Settlement were the 1559 revision of the 1552 Book of Common Prayer, and the Articles of Religion. The two of them set the theological tone for the English Reformation by providing the Liturgy by which the church prayed daily, and the doctrinal standard to which the clergy were expected to subscribe and adhere.

Of the two, the BCP is ultimately the more important in terms of the daily lives of ordinary English Christians. They heard it Sunday by Sunday and at Holyday, market day, and weekday services throughout their lives. By such frequent hearing and repetition it slowly carved its way into the language and culture of England, so much so that even in the last twenty years, an English Novelist (P.D. James, I think) has written a series of novels that used phrases from the BCP as their titles - for example "Devices and Desires" which comes from the General Confession. Slightly revised in 1604, and again more extensively in 1662, but in essence the 1552/59 Prayer Book remains the official, if sometimes hard to find, liturgy of the Church of England.

In his liturgical methodology Cranmer seems to have preferred the "invisible mending" of the Lutheran Church Orders. Thus is revision of the Breviary into Morning Prayer (Matins) and Evening Prayer (Evensong) was more along the lines of an abridgement than a radical reworking, with the legendary material and short Scripture Readings of the old Rite being replaced by roughly four chapters of the Bible each day. Cranmer's 1549 Lectionary starts with Genesis 1 and Matthew 1 at the beginning of January and works through the Old Testament and much of Apocrypha once; the New Testament, except for Revelation three times, and Revelation was read once. The old Canticles were retained, as were some of the Preces - responses - that were so much a feature of the old Office.

The original 1549 BCP "Order of Holy Communion commonly called the Mass" was even more conservative than Luther. Although the offertory and private prayers of the celebrant where removed in accordance with Lutheran think, the old Roman Canon was replaced by a new Canon, or Prayer of Consecration incorporating both the actual consecration, but also the Prayer for the Church and a Prayer of Oblation. This was composed to replace the Gregorian Canon of the Roman Mass, which seemed very disjointed when translated into English. A translation of the Gregorian Canon survived from c. 1548 which has been attributed to Miles Coverdale, which may have been a working draft for the 1549 BCP. However, it seems inconceivable that Cranmer ever intended to use the Old Canon in the new "Mass."

Even with Cranmer's reworking of the Canon into the Prayer of Consecration, the Communion service of the 1549 BCP received some unfortunate friends, and some stinging criticism. Stephen Gardiner (1500-55), Bishop of Winchester under Henry VIII, who was a non-Papal Catholic in theology, said that it preserved the essentials of the Latin Mass; an assertion that led to a lengthy pamphlet war between he and Cranmer. Martin Bucer, the moderate Reformed former Pastor of Strassburg, criticized it strongly in his "Censura." Many of Cranmer's revisions seem to have been made in answer to Bucer's criticism, but it is clear that in any case, if Diamaid McCulloch is correct, the 1549 was intended as only an "interim rite" anyway.

Cranmer's rearrangement of the Order for Holy Communion was pretty radical, and when finished it lay somewhere between Luther's 1526 "German Mass" and the Reformed orders of Strassburg and Geneva in format. The running order of the 1549 service had been:

Lord's Prayer
Collect for Purity
Collect of the Day
Collect for the King
Sursum Corda
The Canon - consisting of the Prayer for the Church, the Prayer of Consecration, and the Prayer of Oblation
The Lord's Prayer
Fraction and Peace
Short Exhortation
General Confession
Comfortable Words
Prayer of Humble Access
Agnus Dei
Prayer of Thanksgiving

Cranmer modified this to eliminate any impression that there was any "oblation or sacrifice" in the Lord's Supper. This was mostly achieved by breaking up the Canon of the 1549 BCP. Therefore the 1552 Lord's Supper had the following running order:

Lord's Prayer
Collect for Purity
Ten Commandments interspersed with the Kyrie eleison
Collect of the Day
Collect for the King
Scripture Sentences whilst the alms are collected
Prayer for the Church
General Confession
Comfortable Words
Sursum Corda
Prayer of Humble Access
Prayer of Consecration ending with the Words of Institution
Lord's Prayer
Prayer of Oblation, or
Prayer of Thanksgiving
Gloria in Excelsis

More radical still was what Cranmer did to the physical setting of the Eucharist. The 1549 service was still celebrated facing east with the priest in alb and chasuble or alb and cope. In 1552, Mass vestments were swept away and replaced with the surplice. The wooden table set up like an altar of 1549 is moved out into the middle of the chancel, set lengthways with its ends east and west, and the communicants knelt around it. Even this radical rearrangement was too conservative for some.

The revised form of the Prayer of Consecration consisting of just a brief explanation of why we celebrate this service and the Words of institution is still more Lutheran than Reformed in feel, but on the other had the words said to the communicant when given the Bread and Wine indicated that Cranmer was now in the "true presence" camp of Bucer, Bullinger, and Calvin, rather than the "real presence" camp of Luther, Melancthon, and his uncle by marriage Osiander. In place of the traditional formulars used in 1549, Cranmer orders the following "Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee and feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving" and "Drink this in remembrance that Christ's blood was shed for thee" speak of a concept of the Eucharist where the presence of Christ is not in the elements but rather in the celebration. However, the eleventh hour intervention from Hooper and Knox resulted in the assertion of the so-called "Black Rubric" which denied that there was any "real and essential" presence of Christ in the elements, and made it clear that kneeling was a sign of thankfulness(!) for the Christ's work. Cranmer's final change was to put the Gloria in Excelsis after Communion; a move probably inspired by St Matthew 26.30.

This rather long diversion is necessary in order to better explain what happened to the 1552 BCP when Elizabeth and her advisors got hold of it in 1559. It is pretty clear from what happened to the BCP that Elizabeth and her advisors intended to draw back a little from the Religious Settlement of 1552. For a start, Morning Prayer was now prefaced by two rubrics (instructions) the first of which commanded that "chancels shall remain as in times past" and the second required that the ornaments of both churches and ministers should be those allowed "by authority of Parliament in the second of the reign of King Edward the Sixt." This effectively authorized altar-like Communion Tables and Eucharistic vestments, but stopped short of allowing holy water, ashes on Ash Wednesday, and the old procession of Palms on Palm Sunday all of which had been abolished in 1548. The legislation also restricted the use of candles to two placed on the altar.

The next piece of invisible mending came in the Communion service where the words of administration for the Bread are altered to "The body of our Lord Jesus Christ which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for you and feed on him in your heart by faith with thanksgiving." The words said for the administration of the the Chalice now said, "The blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Drink this in remembrance that Christ's Blood was shed for thee and be thankful." This resulted in a formular which was much more Lutheran or Philippist than Reformed. The other important change to the Communion service was the removal of the "Black Rubric" which was offensive to Lutherans, and indeed anyone else who believed in the real present of Christ in the Eucharist. It was not restored until 1662, and even then it is significantly modified.

The other changes were mainly a minor importance. The lectionary was modified so that the New Testament was read twice not thrice, and the petition against the Pope was removed from the Litany, so as not to offend those who might have a lingering affection for the Papacy. There was also quite a large number of minor corrections to the Epistles and Gospels which were then largely drawn from "The Great Bible" of 1538.

Had the ceremonial provisions of the 1559 BCP not become dead letters within eighteen months of the book's publication the services of the Church of England would have possessed a certain resemblance to those of the Lutheran Churches of northern Germany, Denmark and Norway. As it was, there was a fairly widespread rebellion against the vestments required by the new BCP. As usual the flashpoint was London where a lot of the Protestant exiles who had waited out Mary's reign in Zurich, Strassburg, and Geneva accumulated.

An early sign of the trouble that vestments were to cause had been the attitude of Parker's consecrators. Only Barlow, the principal consecrator was properly vested. Hodgkin wore a surplice, and Coverdale a grey gown! The bishops soon found that parish clergy lately returned from Germany and Switzerland were no more receptive than Hodgkin and Coverdale. Parker had to fight hard to enforce the use of the surplice, and so far as London was concerned Eucharistic vestments were a dead letter. On the other hand there is a little evidence that in some rural parishes they may have continued in use for some years until the Puritanism or age caught up with them, and there are occasionally records of albs being used down to the latter part of the eighteenth century.

Even with the later concessions with regards to the use of vestments, the 1559 revision of the Book of Common Prayer placed the Church of England between the Lutheran and Reformed traditions in its liturgical practice. The BCP had some strong resemblances to the Lutheran Church Orders, but there had been far more Reformed influence on the Communion Service than one would find in most of Germany. On the other hand, the daily Offices had a far more important role in the life of the Church of England than they had in Germany or Scandanavia. Here the English retention of "choir obligation" with its consequent duty for deacons, priests and bishops to say Matins and Evensong daily, if possible in public, led to daily public services in the cathedrals and larger parish churches. The preservation of full-time professional choirs and organs in the great churches soon ensured that large scale church music was produced for the daily Office. This led to that peculiarly Anglican achievement the daily choral offices of Matins and Evensong.

In the next installment I propose to spend some time looking at the Thirty-nine Articles, and how they tread a middle course between Wittenberg and Geneva.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Conservative Reformation (Part II)

On her accession in November 1558 the three most pressing issues for Elizabeth were - an empty treasury, an incomplete and inconclusive war with France, and the settlement of Religion. The first and second of these took care of themselves. Hostilities had ceased with France, and the treasury began to refill from the Queen's ordinary revenue. This left religion as the thorniest problem.

Elizabeth's own religious convictions do not seem to have been a major force in her life by the standards of her time, but it is nonetheless clear that she preferred Protestantism. She had, after all, been educated by reform-minded Christian humanists like John Cheke, and she had dissimulated on the subject of religion, as only Elizabeth could dissimulate, throughout her half-sister's reign. Even if she had had a less protestant education, given that the Roman Church had declared her mother's marriage invalid, and her a bastard, she was not predisposed to remain under the Papal obedience. It therefore became clear that as soon as possible she would reinstate the Act of Supremacy as the first step towards a religious settlement. England quickly broke with Rome with Parliament declaring Elizabeth "Supreme Governor... on earth" (not as is popularly supposed 'Supreme Head") of the Church of England. Then comes a curious lull of several months as Elizabeth takes soundings, and allows the renewed break with Rome sink in. There seems to have been some neccessary delay, firstly, for Parliament's Christmas recess, and secondly, to allow Elizabeth and the Privvy Council to fill the bishoprics left vacant as all but two of Mary's bishops resigned or were deprived of their livings.

The clearest sign of where Elizabeth's religious policy was going was the Westminster Conference that took place early in 1559. This set piece was intended to signal a move back to Protestant camp. At the same time the second Prayer Book of King Edward VI began to reappear in some key parishes, and some hot heads began cleansing churches of "idols" until the government forbade such wanton destruction.

A few months later, when the Act of Uniformity appeared it was a basically a restoration of the status quo as it had existed in 1552/3, except that Elizabeth and her Council made several conservative amendments to the 1552 BCP. Firstly, "chancels were to remain as in times past;" secondly, the traditional vestments were restored; thirdly, the BlackRubric was removed and the words "The body (blood) of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given (shed) for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life" were added to preface the more Reformed form of 1552; and finally, the condemnation of the Pope was removed from the Litany. All of these changes moved the Church away from a more strictly Reformed position to make it possible to reach and accomodation with the English Lutherans.

For her Archbishop Elizabeth choose Matthew Parker. Born in Norwich in 1504, Parker had been Ann Boleyn, and later Henry VIII's chaplain. He had been Dean of Stoke by Clare from 1536-1546, but after the college was dissolved in the latter year he married and moved back to Cambridge. He was know to be a moderate advocate of the reformation, but after being removed from his Ecclesiastical offices in 1553 he was allowed to remain quietly on his farm in Suffolk through Mary I's reign. Parker was a moderate, but convinced Protestant, who had had a scholarly career at Cambridge and was a friend of both Peter Martyr and Martin Bucer. Elizabeth and Cecil had to work on Parker in order to get him to agree to become the Archbishop of Canterbury, but he eventually agreed and was consecrated on Dec. 19th 1559.

Parker did not have much time to get his earings as Archbishop as within a few months, he and his brother bishops issued some interim injunctions modifying the provisions f the 1559 BCP regarding vestments. Elizabeth also gave orders the restoration of some fifty minor Holydays to the calendar - without making liturgical provsion for them - forbade controversial preaching and limited the number of licensed preachers. Parker also laboured on making the cumbersome machinery of the Church of England work for a reformed Church.

Phases 1 and 2 of Elizabeth's settlement - the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Uniformity - seem to have met with little opposition, and not much enthusiasm. In the past ten years there had been four changes of religion, so most folks were prepared to go to their parish churches and take what was offered. Elizabeth and Parker's careful implimentation of the settlement had kept both the Lutherans and Reformed on board by pursuing a "Via Media" between Wittenberg and Geneva. However, there was still a need to produce some sort of doctrinal statement, and this was achieved at a join session of the Convocations of Canterbury and York in the winter of 1562/3.

It seems almost certain that Archbishop Parker was the guiding light in the reworking of Cranmer's Forty-Two Articles as the Thirty-Nine Articles. In this he was assisted by Edmund Grindal, Bishop of London. Things had moved on a bit in the preceeding nine years as the Anabaptist threat had receded and the Council of Trent was finally drawing to its close. Parker's redrafting of the Articles removed many of the references to the Anabaptists, whilst responses to some of the already issued decrees of Trent were incorporated into the text. The final draft was presented to a Convocation that was in a Reformed and reforming mood. A measure to remove organs from churches had been only narrowly defeated, so it must have come as a surprise when the Thirty-Nine Articles came through the neccessary debate relatively unscathed. The Queen, however, suppressed Article 29 as being offensive to Lutherans and others who held the traditional doctrine of the Real Presence, before they were issued in 1563. This may have irritated some of the more ardent spirits on the Reformed wing but it was a short-lived annoyance as it was restored in 1571 as the influence of Lutheranism waned in England, and there was less need to appease "Church Papists."

The 39 Articles as they emerged from the 1563 Convocation are an interesting document. Parker was going for consensus, and for the most part the Articles seem closer in spirit to the Augsburg Confession than to the various Swiss Confessions of the preceeding thirty years. The Lutherans lost out on with the (briefly suppressed) Twenty-ninth Article which takes a clearly Reformed position. On the other hand, the Lutheran concept of Adiaphora - that ceremonials not clearly contrary to Scripture may be regulated by the church - is firmly entrenched in the Articles, which marks a serious defeat for the Calvinist party.

The Articles really mark the end of the legislative phase of the Elizabethan Settlement. In theory the Church of England had a reformed liturgy, but with the traditional vestments still in use. Church interiors should have been changed only by the removal of altars, roods, rood lofts, and superstitious images, the last named were to be replaced with illuminated sentences a scripture painted on the church walls. Its doctrine was Protestant, treading a middle path between Lutheranism and Reformed positions. It government remained in the hands of Bishops in the Apostolic Succession, and the old cathedral establishments and church courts continued as before. In practice, there were compromises.

For a start, the unofficially cleansing of superstitious objects from churches often went beyond what was strictly neccessary. Organs had been removed from some churches, and were no longer used in others. Sacred music was at a low ebb. The churches were increasingly used as two rooms - the nave for Matins and Evensong, and the chancel for the Lord's Supper. Vestments - other than cassock, surplice, cope, tippet and hood - seem to have disappeared in many areas and did not reappear until modern times. Some ministers - particularly those of what was soon to be called a Puritan persuasion - omitted parts of the Prayer Book Services to make more time for preaching. Parker moved against these abuses in a variety of ways.

Firstly, he made it clear that simple church music in English was to be encouraged. This provision was, after some hesitation, embraced with enthusiasm and gradually the large scale choral services that we associate with Anglicanism developed as composers such as Thomas Tallis and William Byrd write grand music for the cathedrals and Elizabeth's Chapel Royal. Parker also promoted the compilation of the "Old Version" of the Psalms of David in Metre, and incident that led to the Church of England being "psalmody only" in many places until c.1800.

Secondly, he and Archbishop Grindal of York ordered that Morning Prayer, the Litany, and the Communion service were to be read as one in parish churches. This made it easier for magistrates to spot omissions. It also led to the characteristic Anglican "Dry Service" of Matins, Litany and Ante-Communion ending with a sermon. Due to the inertia of the faithful and the reformation's "no Mass without Communicants" rule, celebations of Holy Communion declined to once a month, once in two months, or once a quarter depending on the size of the parish. A few big city parishes and the cathedrals still maintained weekly celebrations.

Thirdly, in an attempt to secure uniformity in ceremonial, he required the use of cassock, surplice, tippet and hood at all services in parishes churches. He also required the use of the Cope in cathedrals and collegiate churches. Eucharistic vestments were allowed to quietly disappear, but remained legal.

Gradually, this Via Media Anglicana settled down to being the religion of England, though for the next century - until after 1662 - there was persistant agtitation for a further reformation of religion to put England in the Reformed or Calvinist camp.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A Conservative Reformation - Part I

There has been a pretty concerted attempt over the last 175 years by one party within the Anglican Church to deny the Protestant heritage of orthodox Episcopalianism. This has generally taken the form of either a deliberate misreading of the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion, (for example J. H. Newman's "Tract XC") or, more recently, an outright denial that they have any relevance to the modern Church. Whilst I would strongly disagree with the arguments contained in Tract XC, it is true to say, that you have to put the Articles into their historical context in order to fully appreciate what Archbishop Matthew Parker and the Convocations of Canterbury and York were trying to do back in 1563.

Theologically, the Protestant Reformers brake down into three groups. For the sake of argument let us call them conservative Biblicists, moderate Biblicists, and radical Biblicists. The Conservative Biblists were headed by Luther, and include other big names such as Melancthon, Bugenhagen, Olaus Petri, and most of the earlier English reformers - Barnes, Tyndale, etc.. The Reformers consist of the moderate Swiss and Rhineland reformers such as Calvin, Bucer, Oecelampadius, Peter Martyr, and Bullinger. The radical camp consists of people like Carlstadt and Michael Servetus who ultimately started rethinking the Creeds. The radical camp eventually painted themselves into a corner and survive only in radical Biblicist groups like the Amish, and the Mennonites. They have a distant mainstream cousin in the form of the various Baptist Churches, but on the whole their tradition has ended up being pretty marginal. On the other hand, the conservative and moderate Biblicists were to form the mainstream of the European Reformation.

The reason for this is that the various State Churches fell broadly into two groups. The Conservative Biblicists conducted their own form of the Reformation in North Germany and Scandanavia giving those countries a Evangelical Lutheran heritage. The Swiss soon abandoned some of the more extreme positions of Zwingli and conducted a moderate "Bible exclusively" Reformation in the Swiss Cantons, spreading it to Strassbourg, various Rhineland States, the Northern Netherlands, and Scotland. The English Church went its own way somewhere in between the two camps, giving some truth to MacCauley's old jibe about the Church of England. To modify MacCuley in the interests of accuracy it would be fair to say that Anglicanism ended up with "a Catholic hierarchy; Bucerian Articles; and a Lutheran Liturgy." Why was this?

In the 1530s and early 1540s it looked as though England was eventually going to embrace a conservative form of Lutheranism, akin to that of Sweden. Archbishop Cranmer was a Lutheran, and so were most of the Reform minded folks with influence. However, about 1545, Reformed ideas, mainly coming from Strassbourg and the Rhineland rather than directly from Geneva and Zurich, began to gain ground. Nicholas Ridley (1500-55), the "bright young thing" of the reforming movement seems to have embraced the Reformed Eucharistic theology after reading a ninth century tract by a monk called Ratramnus. He eventually convinced Latimer and Cranmer that the Lutheran position on the Eucharist was incorrect, and the stage was set for the Edwardian Reformation to proceed along moderate Reformed, rather than Lutheran lines.

Inspite of its conservativism, and favour with modern Anglo-Catholics, the 1549 BCP was carefully framed within a Reformed theological framework. However, Cranmer, who was a believer in gradualism, framed the service in such a way that Henrician Catholics would not be overly shocked by it, and that the Lutheran mainstream of the Reforming party could accept it whole-heartedly. By all accounts he did the job a bit too well, resulting in a lengthy debate with the Henrician Catholic bishop Stephen Gardner (1500-55), who believed that the 1549 Eucharist was capable of Catholic interpretation, and on the other front it was heavily criticized by Martin Bucer, the Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, who produced his "Censura" of the First BCP in 1550. Cranmer, who increasingly identified with the Reformed camp, went back to the drawing board, heavily modified the Communion service, and stripped away much of the ceremonial left in 1549.

The 1552 BCP marked the high water mark of Reformed thinking when it came to the liturgy of the Church of England. Edward VI died within a year, and the Accession of Mary Tudor (1516-58) made it dangerous to be a Protestant as she formally returned the country to the Roman obedience. However, Mary's ill-advised policy of burning prominent Protestants like Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, Hooper, Taylor, and various other important members of Edward's hierarchy did not play well with the general population. If she had lived longer Queen Mary would probably have been successful in returning England to the Catholic fold, or more likely, have pitched the country into Religious War, but as it was she died in November 1558 leaving a country stuck between the Old and New Religions.

Her successor, her half-sister Elizabeth (1533-1603) had been educated by John Cheke, and had had Matthew Parker as her chaplain at one stage. She therefore lent towards Protestantism, but was relatively uninfluenced by Continental trends being a partisan of neither Lutheranism or Calvinism. Matthew Parker (c.1504-1575), her choice for Archbishop of Canterbury, was also a proponant of the insular version of Protestantism and relatively uninfluenced by foreign disputes, whilst being full aware of all the issues. Sir William Cecil, her chief advisor, was also no fan of foreign fads, though perhaps a little more inclined to Calvinism than the Queen. With these three in charge of policy the stage was set for a moderate, "pan-Protestant" religious settlement, reflecting the government's need to bring all three streams of English Protestantism within the national Church. Elizabeth, Cecil, and Parker therefore set out to comprehend Lutherans, Bucerians, and Calvinists within one National Church. Paradoxically, what started off as a matter of political expediency ended up producing what John Wesley described as the "best reformed Church in Christendom."

In the next article we are going to look at how this was brought about and why it is so important for Continuing Anglicans to preserve their Reformed Catholic heritage.