Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Importance of Liturgy

One thing that often makes me uncomfortable is the fact that a sizeable minority of the clergy seem to think that the liturgy is a drag, or worse still, their play thing. This attitude seems to communicate itself to the "professional laity," and before you know it, the parish has degenerated into the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Innovation, or St Mildred Wassupnow.

Much of this attitude was encouraged by the liturgical "reforms" of the 1960s and 70s, which made liturgy a moving target. Unfortunately, much of what was thought to be "ancient" in the 1960s has been debunked by further improvements in liturgical scholar in the 1980s and 90s. Unfortunately, the sixties version of liturgical good pactice has been canonized in many seminaries and parishes, and even in the Continuing Churches, the chief liturgical texts are Dix's "Shape of the Liturgy" and Jungmann's "Mass of the Roman Rite."

Neither Dix, nor Jungmann were friends to the accustomed way of doing things, and their seminal works laid the foundation for the deconstruction of the liturgy in the 1960s. However, whilst I think they both would have approved of the reformed Anglican and Roman liturgies, I do not think that either of them would have approved of the horizontal emphasis of so much modern worship. The unarticulated focus of much modern Eucharistic liturgy is that the community gathers around the altar and celebrates itself. The tendancy of the 1960s liturgical reform was to remove the mysterious and the beautiful in favour of the didachtic. The eastward position was ditched in favour of facing the people; traditional language was replaced by often banal modern language; and there was a massive simplification of the ceremony that accompanied the Eucharist. Add to this the inevitable burlap banners and polyester vestments in exchange for the embroidery and brocade of former times, and there is a visible "cheapening" of the setting of the liturgy.

The major problem with the modern liturgies is their artificiality. They are not the products of organic development, but of a very deliberate pruning and reshaping of our worshipping tradition to conform to an academic theory. Of course, that criticism could also be levelled at the BCP, but after four hundred years of use it had developed its own organic tradition. I really should say traditions, as Anglican liturgy was divided between those who followed Cranmer's 1552 BCP and those who followed the Scottish Tradition. The major criticism of Cranmer's 1552 BCP from a Patristic point of view has usually been the dismantling of the Canon. Cranmer undoubtedly did this to get rid of the mediaeval notion of the Sacrifice of the Mass, but it was a change that undoubtedly had served its purpose after a couple of generations. As early as the 1610s, some of the "English Arminians" - the proto-High Church party that gave birth to the later Caroline Divines, Non-Jurors, and "Orthodox" - were reasembling the Canon by saying the Prayer of Oblation after that of Consecration. This change, along with others, was incorporated not just into the Scottish BCP of 1637 but also into the "Durham Book" of 1661. It was only the immoveable conservatism of Clarendon and Juxon that prevented the English Church from adopting the Scottish type of Communion service in 1662.

Dissatisfaction with the Cranmer Eucharistic liturgy was expressed from time to time throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but it was generally muted. High Churchmen feared what the forces of liturgical rationalism might unleash, and parliament was far too busy financing fighting the French to worry about the Church. As a result it was not until 1928 that a serious attempt was made to reform the English BCP, and this was again along Scottish lines. Inspite of twice being defeated in Parliament, the English 1928 BCP did in fact enter use in many parishes and remained in use until the 1960s and 70s when it was gradually replaced by the Alternative Services. During this long period of time, the various BCPs had built up a sort of performing tradition that had reconnected them to the historic line of liturgical development. There the reforms of the 1960s were as much of a break in continuity for Anglicans as for Roman Catholics.

Dix's "Shape of the Liturgy," in common with its RC counterparts, advocated reshaping the Anglican liturgy to conform to the model of the sixth century Roman Liturgy. However, this reshaping incorporated a host of later developments, so that the whole thing ended up being a mish-mash. This process was made all the more messy by the stripping of revived ceremonies of their traditional forms, and a reform of the liturgical calendar that can only be described as crass vandalism.

Most traditionalists and nearly all introverts detest the Peace, and rightly so. Although the Peace is an ancient liturgical ceremony, the authentic form of which - a stylized and orderly passing of the Pax Domine through the clergy and congregation - had been preserved in the monastic tradition. Unfortunately, rather than restore that orderly use to parochial liturgy, the liturgical professionals (a.k.a. "Litniks") gave us the dreaded gab and grab-fest that passes for the peace in so many parishes today. This perhaps shows us why the passing of the Peace was replaced by the use of the pax-bede, or banned altogether in parish churches by the 13th century.

However, far more serious than my time honoured gripe about the Peace are the following two criticisms. The reform of the liturgical year, and the "removal" of the Canon.

The Liturgical Year as given in the Tridentine Mass and the 1662/1928 BCP had survived little altered from the seventh and eighth centuries. The one major change, the addition of the feast of the Holy Trinity on the Octave of Pentecost had affected the Curial and Sarum Uses differently, but otherwise, the two were closely related as they passed through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, the 'Gesimas, and so forth. Both Anglicans and Roman Catholic observed Octaves, quite a few of which were common to both traditions, so that the calendar as mch as anything else demnstrated the essential continuity between the Catholic Church of Rome, and the reformed catholic Church of England. In spite of the fact that it went back to the Golden Age of the seventh century to which the Litniks often appealled, it was swept away and replaced by a scheme which usurped one of the traditional functions of the daily office, that of the orderly reading of Scripture. However, the first victims of the Reform were some of the ancient octaves of the Church, so that during the 1960s Anglicans were observing more Octaves than Roman Catholics, and then with the new Missal of 1969, and the Series Three lectionary whole seasons, such as the 'Gesimas and Passiontide went missing, or were remodelled. Also the traditional series of Sunday lections was replaced/reorganised. The effect was another radical discontinuity.

Another ancient principle which went by the wayside in the 1960s was that of each liturgy should have a single fixed Eucharistic Prayer, called the Canon (rule). I express it this way because the Eastern Orthodox have three liturgies, but each has but one Canon. Furthermore the Liturgies of St Basil and St John Chrysostom are used at stated times of the year, so in no sense can they be called alternative liturgies. By contrast, the modern concept of liturgical variety led to the Roman Catholic Church introducing three alternative Eucharistic Prayers in 1968; and the Episcopal Church included multiple Eucharistic Prayers with the Zebra Book in 1973. The Church of England maintained the idea of one Eucharistic to each liturgy until the late 1970s.

The trouble with the reform of the 1960s and 1970s was not only that it introduced clergy to the idea of perpetual liturgical innovation, but that it led to the dismantling of the ancent liturgical tradition of the Western Church - both Roman and Anglican. Rome has been trying to call a halt to this process for the last thirty years - since soon after John-Paul II's election. Benedict XVI's liberalisation of the conditions under which the 1962 Roman Missal can be used has to be seen as part of an attempt to reconnect Roman Catholicism to its ancient liturgical tradition. Some call this "reform of the reform." On the other hand, mainstream Anglicanism continues to churn out alternative and new liturgies - many of them of little merit, and even less use.

Continuing Anglicans have largely resisted the temptation to indulge in the liturgical fidgets, and continue to regard the last traditional BCP of their former Province, as their liturgical norm. Unfortunately, we have had to suffer through the liturgy wars between those who use the Altar Service Book and those who refer the Missal. A process which I am sure has turned many people off Continuing Anglicanism. I would have thought that after thirty years of banging our heads against that particular brickwall we might agree to disagree and move on.

However, the real point of this point is to reiterate Alcuin's old adage that "the law of prayer is the law of belief." The theological and liturgical turmoil of the last fifty years have to some extent fed off one another. In order to move forward as Continuing Anglicans we need to maintain our liturgical stability because it is a sign of our theological orthodoxy. I would also note that we should always celebrate the liturgy with dignity and reverence, preferring a modest service done well to an elaborate one done badly. Reverence is caught not taught. If our services are slovenly; then we should not be surprised if the people do not value the liturgy as they should.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Affirmation of St Louis - Some Thoughts

The Anglican Catholic Church, the Province of Christ the King, and the UECNA all list the Affirmation of St Louis among their important founding documents. However, there have always been difficulties about how it should be used and interpreted. The major disagreement has been whether it is a prism for the understanding of the older formularies - the Articles, Homilies and the BCP - or their replacement. None of the three "St Louis Churches" has ever come down in favour of one view or other. In the absence of any official pronouncement, we must look at the Affirmation itself, and the Anglican theological tradition for guidance.

The Affirmation of St Louis came about in response to a theological emergency. The complete abandonment of the Apostolic Ministry and partial abandonment of the Christian morality by the Episcopal Church had left orthodox Episcopalians without a spiritual home. As a result the St Louis Congress of Concerned Churchmen was held, during which the Affirmation was accepted as a basis for a revived Anglican body in North America. The framers of the Affirmation of St Louis were also far sighted enough to see that the Episcopal Church's support for abortion "rights" and the ordination of women to the diaconate and priesthood would lead to a whole string of theological and moral innovations. These have led, in an absolutely logical progression, to the ordination of practicing homosexuals and the blessing of homosexual unions as revisionist notions of social justice has replace divine justice as the animating spirit of theological discourse in the Episcopal Church. In the face of this particular manifestation of zeitgeist, the framers of the Affirmation of St Louis wished to preserve the theological and moral integrity of the Anglican tradition. In order to do so they affirmed the Church's traditional theological understanding - the centrality of the Bible, the Creeds and Councils, and the Anglican tradition. They also affirmed traditional Christian moral values such as the sanctity of human life, and the sanctity of (hetrosexual) marriage. Read with unprejudiced eye, the intent was to maintain the Anglican Tradition whilst linking it unequivocably to the faith of the Church before the disunion of East and West.

In terms of 1970s Ecumenical thinking, that meant that the Thirty-nine Articles, Prayer Book, and Homilies had to be read within the context of the Seven Ecumenical Councils. However, it is possible to make far too much of this provision. This appeal to antiquity does not compromise the integrity of the Anglican theological tradition, even though Anglican theologians have often been uncomfortable with the Seventh Council. Archbishop Parker and other Anglican theologians from the 1550s onwards have always maintained that the Anglican Formularies be read "in the most catholic sense," an idea continued in the provisions of the Affirmation of St Louis. Jewel, Parker, Andrewes and Laud - like the framers of the Affirmation of St Louis - had appealled to the witness of the Ancient Church, of the Bible, Creeds, Early Fathers, and Councils against the innovations of the modern Church. This appeal to antiquity has been an abiding theme in Anglican theology since the beginning and it remains part of our inheritence as Continuing Anglicans

Sadly, the Affirmation of St Louis has been misused to attempt to re-engineer Anglicanism into a species of old Catholicism. This has always been a tendancy with some Anglo-Catholics, but in the cotext of post-1977 Anglicanism it has been even more decisive than it had been in the Episcopal Church. The three provisions that they have fastened on to most often have been the requrement that the Church adhere to the first seven Councils, the inclusion of the idea of the seven sacraments in the Affirmation, and the provision that the 39 Articles and the BCP be read in accordance with the provisions of the Affirmation of St Louis.

Of the three, most use has been made of the provision that the Articles of Religion, etc., be interpreted "according to this Affirmation" as a Trojan Horse for the re-engineering of Anglicanism within the Continuum. This is especially ironic given that it the provision itself reflected Caroline thinking on how the Articles and BCP should be read. Instead of continuing the old practice of reading the Articles within tradition, a concerted attempt has been made by some to interpret this as making the Articles, etc., redundant. This is a piece of wishful thinking, as any provision that requires one to interpret existing documents in accordance with it is acknowledging the continuing relevence and authority of those formularies. On the other hand, given the sort of logic chopping that the Articles have been subjected to, there was a need to establish a standard of interpretation in accordance with the traditional Anglican principles. The appeal made by the Affirmation is to the Catholic and Apostolic faith of the first eight centuries, which perfectly in accordance with the principles laid down by Bishop Jewel and Richard Hooker back in the sixteenth century.

This appeal to antiquity has always been a central plank of the Anglican repudiation of both Papalist additions and Puritan subtractions from the Faith. It now also serves as an essential defense against liberal revisionism. On the whole, the tone of the Affirmation of St Louis is that of continuity, not innovation. The main thrust of the Affirmation is to restore and maintain the connection between Anglicanism and the Catholic faith of the first centuries - a connection that had been continually made by the Reformers, the Caroline Divines and other mainstream Anglican theologians. To read the Affirmation of St Louis in any other manner is to do violence to, even betray, the whole idea of the Continuing Anglican Movement, but that has not stopped people from making the attempt. If the Continuing Anglican movement is to achieve lasting unity, it needs to get away from the desire to innovate, and place all its energy into maintaining and continuing the Anglican tradition that has its roots in the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Beatles Are Not The Only Thing You Need To Know About Liverpool

J. C. Ryle was not a Liverpudlian by birth, but he spent the last twenty years of his life as the Bishop of the newly created Diocese of Liverpool. This diocese consisted of the busy port city of Liverpool and the nearby towns of Warrington, Wigan, and Southport. In case you think it was a wholly urban diocese, there were rural areas around Ormskirk and Crosby, but for the most part, Ryle's problems were those of the city and the slum.

Ryle was born 10th May 1816 in Macclesfield, Cheshire, then a smallish town. J. C. Ryle had gained a first at Oxford and had also been a cricket blue. He passed up the opportunity for an acadmeic career, and instead studied law and business in his father's office. Also while he was at Oxford he found his faith, having been converted in 1838 at the age of 21 when he found the words of Ephesians 2 striking home into his heart. He had been going through a period of what I suppose we would today call "Student Angst" and his new found faith gave him a purpose and direction he had lacked before. A second crisis was provoked by the failure of his father's bank in 1841, and the 25 year old Ryle took Holy Orders, not as an escape from financial failure, but as the result of a sense of vocation that had been nagging away at him for some time. He was ordained by the Right Rev. C. R. Sumner, the evangelical Bishop of Winchester.

Ryle served his curacy in the diocese of Winchester and showed himself to be an energetic and competant curate. His talent was rewarded, rather strangely, not with a busy London parish church or proprietary chapel, but with an obscure parish in Suffolk. It was here that Ryle's children were born, and here that he employed his ample spare time as a writer and controversialist. He had the popular touch, and his name became known to those who were not naturally much interested in Church affairs. As a result of this he received two appointments in the course of 1880. The first was as Dean of Salisbury, but that was replaced by the offer of the new diocese of Liverpool by out-going Disraeli government. Disraeli saw Ryle as a safe Evangelical choice, but the plan also appealled on the grounds that it thwarted incoming Gladstone's desire to appoint a High Churchman to Liverpool.

For Ryle, this piece of party political infighting was not an auspicious start, but he was so obviously fitted for the task that no-one held it against him. As a rural dean and one of the leaders of the Evangelical Party he had already demonstrated his administrative ability, and he turned all his gifts as a teacher, preacher, pastor and administrator to the work of a bishop. Ryle was not a bricks and mortar man, and his first decision was to defer the building of a cathedral until there was adequate church provision for the 400,000 souls in his diocese. He secured mission rooms and divided parishes into more manageable districts, appointing a clergyman and a scripture reader to each to build up a new congregation. He also ensured that the clergy received a living wage and make provision for clergy retirement - he was one of the first bishops to do this. His ability to get things done is reflected in the numbers. When he was appointed bishop there were 170 parishes; this was increased to 204. At the start of his episcopate there were 120 assistant clergy, by 1900, there were 240. He also encouraged the use of Scripture Readers and other lay workers to build up the diocese's network of spiritual support for the laity, and as a result Liverpool became one of the best run and most forward looking of English dioceses.

Ryle was able to work alike with Evangelicals, Central Churchmen, and High Churchmen. His displeasure was confined to the small Anglo-Papalist faction within the diocese of Liverpool, who he occasional embargoed, and more often ignored. Unlike some other bishops whose Episcopates were mired by controversy because of their opposition to Ritualism, Ryle, whilst expressing his displeasure, did not allow it to overshadow more important and worthwhile tasks. Unlike many bishops who feel that they have to face both ways to be effective, Ryle remained loyal to his Evangelical beliefs, but managed to be the bishop of the whole diocese.

He finally retired in January 1900, and died a few months later. He was spoken of as "a man of granite with the heart of a little child" which neatly describes both the essential simplicity of his faith, and the ruggedness and determination he showed in fulfilling his ministry.

Am I alone in thinking that the Church needs more Ryle-like people to counter this era of spiritual "anythingarianism" in which we live? As the line goes in a country song "if you don't stand for something; you'll fall for anything." That, unfortunately, has been all too true of western Anglicanism for the last forty years.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More Thoughts on Central Churchmanship

The key idea for Central Churchmen is the idea of being loyal to the Anglican expression of Christianity in theology, worship and discipline. So I am going to look at each of these areas in turn. In my next Blogpost, if nothing intervenes, I am going to put together a bit of a reading list that might begin to give you a fair idea of what it means to be "Central." As is usual for me the approach is going to be historical, but with the idea of outlining the basic principles involved.

Theology for Central Churchmen is very much a continuation of the old High Church,or as some folks called it, orthodox, tradition. We begin first and foremost with the idea that Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to Salvation and it corrolary - that orthodox Creedal Christianity can be proved from the Bible. Therefore it is not neccessary to waste much time here discussing the Being and nature of God, the Trinity, the Incarnation, Atonement, etc., as Central Churchmen are all in full accord with the traditional teaching on these matters. When it comes to what makes Anglicans different, Central Churchmen basically follow the line of development that begins with Jewel, the wanders its way through Hooker to the Caroline Divines, and then on to eighteenth and nineteenth century High Churchmen like Daniel Waterland, William Van Mildert, Harold Browne, Christopher Wordsworth, etc.. Central Churchmen tend to be mildly Arminian in outlook, believe that baptism confers regeneration, and believe that Christ is truly present in the Eucharist. They also hold with a mild form of the doctrine of Apostolic Succession.

English Arminianism is a little different to that of the Dutch. Theologians such as Lancelot Andrewes objected not to the idea of Predestination as such, but to the doctrine of double Predestination promoted by some Calvinists - for example, Perkins. They argued that this, to borrow Archbishop Laud's phrase, "made God the most unjust of tyrants" and they saw double predestination as inconsistent with a loving and merciful God. They also regarded Predestination as preached by some of the Puritans as being anti-sacramental, and the Caroline Divines seem to have held with the idea that Christians exist in a state where we are both saved and being saved. This notion also explains the strong sacramentalism of the Caroline High Churchmen, and of their modern successor of the Central stripe.

Baptismal regeneration as a doctrine can be grossly misunderstood, but in the "saved and being saved" context of the old orthodox Anglican theology it makes perfect sense. Central Churchmen hold that in the absence of any positive will to the contrary on the part of the minister or of the person being baptised, Baptism confers regeneration; the child or person receiving baptism is born again of water and the Holy Spirit, and is made a child of Christ. If they continue in the profession and practice of the Christian Faith they will be saved. It is the duty of parents and godparents (and by extension of the whole Church) to ensure that the child or person baptized is brought up in the Faith. The one thing we have to be quite clear about though, is that Baptismal Regeneration is not some "hocus-pocus" that works independently of the faith of the Church and the faith of the individual, but part of the economy of salvation left to us by Christ Himself.

The Real Presence is something that Central Churchmen believe, but tend not to define. Some Central Churchmen would hold to a position similar to the "high receptionism" of Calvin. Others hold to Virtualism that teaches that whilst there is an objective change in the status of the bread and wine, their natural substances remain, but they become in virtue, power and effect, the Body and Blood of Christ. This protects the notion that Christ is really present, but avoids the murky waters of mediaeval philosophy and the concept that the Eucharistic bread and wine, undergoing some sort of change of substance. Central Churchman also tend to fight shy of too strong a conception of the Eucharist as a sacrifice. It has, however, sacrificial aspects. The first is that it is a commemoration (amnesis) of the one perfect sacrifice once offered, and the second, it is our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for Christ's saving work. The offering of ourselves in Christ's service is also part of this sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.

Apostolic succession is a doctrine that has been much over emphasized by some in the Anglican Church. A fact that makes many Central Churchmen a little uncomfortable. That said, there is no denying that Anglican Orders derive from a continuous sequence of ordinations stretching right back to Apostolic times. In some circles there has been far too much made of this physical continuity of hands on heads, and not enough made of the "other" Apostolic Succession - that of doctrine. Most "middle Anglican" wroters on the subject refer to both aspects. They admit that the concept of Apostolic Succession was first and foremost one relating to the need for the Church to continue in "the Apostles' doctrine and teaching" and the ordination was both a commissioning by the church to administer the sacraments and preach the Word, but also an attestation to a man's orthodoxy. Thus in the early church Apostolic Succession was a matter of both ordination and maintenance of the faith once delivered. It was only in the High Middle Ages that a certain hardening of the theological arteries took place and Apostolic Succession became more of a matter of hands on head than rightness of doctrine.

In all of the categories above Central Churchmen reflect the old moderate High Church tradition, so I suppose the next issue that has to be addressed is what differentiates Central Churchmen and Prayer Book Catholics. I think the difference really lies in the attitude of Central Churchmen to the cult of the saints. Central Churchmen certainly revere the saints, but they do not venerate their relics nor invoke them in prayer. Both practices are a bridge too far in the direction of Rome for Central Churchmen. Prayer Book Catholics, on the other hand, find it hard to disapprove of either practice, but point out that neither is to be found in the public liturgy of the Church as laid down in the Prayer Book, and are therefore a matter of individual piety. Prayer Book Catholics and Central Churchmen tend to work together easily because they have a common loyalty to the Anglican tradition. There can be significantly more discomfort when Anglo-Papalists and Central Churchmen come into contact with one another, simply because the former are always looking over their shoulder at Rome - either modern Rome, or that of Pius X. However, so deep was the Central Churchmen's commitment to "the benign and comfortable air of liberty and toleration" that in the twentieth century Anglo-Papalists only got themselves into the doghouse with Central Churchmanship bishops for doing something completely outrageous such as dropping the BCP in favour of the Latin Breviary, Missal, and Ritual. I personally suspect that this tolerance was a calculated policy in that it denied the Anglo-Papalists the glamour of "mild martyrdom" and slowed the growth of practices not to be found in the BCP.

That attitude to the Anglo-Papalists brings to mind another element in the Central Churchmanship ethos - that of continuity. Central Churchmen were generally committed to the BCP and to allowing worship styles to evolve gradually. Whilst the more committed Anglo-Catholics frequently alienated people by changing the usual Matins and Sermon into a non-communicating High Mass, Central Churchmen stuck with the accustomed format adding Communion services in the early morning, and after Matins, then eventually having a Communion service mid-morning oncea month leaving Matins undisturbed the other three Sundays. For much of the twentieth century the usual Central Churchman parish had three services on a Sunday - an early celebration of Holy Communion, Matins and Sermon mid-morning, and Evensong in the early evening. Generally speaking Central Churchmanship parishes adopted the less controversial ideas of the Tractarians in reviving the full use of the BCP. They often had daily Morning and Evening Prayer, and a midweek Communion. The observance of Saints' Days was a bit hit and miss, but a parish would probably see a celebration of the Eucharist if the parson thought he would have a congregation.

Central Churchmanship as a whole seems to have been only moderately enthusiastic about Prayer Book revision. The proposed English BCP of 1928 garnered wide support from Central Churchmen, but neither the Broad Church Randall Davidson of Canterbury, nor the Prayer Book Catholic Cosmo Lang of York really wanted the 1928 BCP. When their successors, the Central Churchmanship Archbishop Fisher and the High Church Archbishop Garbett put forward A Shorter Prayer Book in 1948, the Communion service was very largely that of 1662, with material from the 1928 being confined to the ante-communion, Morning and Evening Prayer, and the occasional offices. It was only in the 1960s under the influence of the Parish Communion Movement that Central Churchmen moved towards Communion as the main Sunday service and the adoption of a new Eucharistic liturgy. As a rule, Central Churchmen initially alternated BCP Matins with Parish Communion according to the alternative liturgy, before settling on the latter as the usual Sunday service. The early service and Evensong remained BCP until well into the 1980s in most places.

When it came to vestments and ceremonial, Central Churchmen were not innovators. Seasonal altar frontals and two candles usually appeared on the altar late in the 19th century, as did the surplice choir; the stole gradually replaced the tippet at Communion services, baptisms and marriages; whilst bowing to the altar entering and leaving church, and after receiving Communion became widely accepted among lay people, with the clergy bowing perhaps a little more frequently in the course of the liturgy. Fasting Communion and receiving at te early celebration were the norm from about 1890 through to the 1950s, but it was not as rigidly enforced as in Anglo-Catholic circles. Central Churchmen parishes generally chanted Matins and Evensong on Sundays, and settled on the mildly High Church Hymns Ancient and Modern as their favoured hymnal. The Communion service generally remained said, though there was a tendancy to use Merbeck's setting when it occurred as the main service on Sundays, and on Christmas, Easter and Whitsunday. In short, the Anglican ethos of the mid-twentieth century as reflected in litierature was very much the creation of the Central Churchman.

In a Central Churchmanship parish, church life in its widest sense was important. Most Central Churchmen would have felt they were letting the side down if they did not promote various societies within their parishes. The old favourites, in addition to Sunday Schools, were the Mother's Union for women, the Church of England Men's Society for men, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel - for mission work. Many Central Churchmen were also keen on Scouting with troops of both Scouts and Guides being attached to many town parishes. Large parishes often had attached to them a roster of local groups - knitting circles, youth groups, etc. - which although not specifically Church related used the parish plant as their meeting point. This provided an interface between the wider community and the parish church that kept the Church at the centre of village and small town life. It has probably been the case that disappearence or complete secularization of many of these groups that has done most to marginalize Christianity in England.

As I have said before, Central Churchmen stood for historic Christianity in its Anglican guise. They relied on the Bible, the Early Fathers, and the Caroline Divines, along with a hearty dollop of commonsense in doctrinal matters. Worship was according to the BCP, which they generally regarded as the best liturgy in Christendom, but one not incapable of improvement. Ceremonial was deliberately moderate, with the traditional Laudian idea of the beauty of holiness being given moderate rein. The overall ethos was one of orthodoxy, duty and devotion tempered by an abhorance of fanaticism, the usual British reserve, and a fear of appearing Pharasaical.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Broad and Central

I often describe myself as "a Central Churchman," a term readily intelligable in the UK, but a bit out of the way for Americans, whose nearest equivelent is Broad Church. This, however, carries some connotations of Liberalism to my English ear, perhaps because in using the term "Broad" Americans are actually covering what the British would consider to be two distinct parties - the Liberals and the Central Churchmen.

In England, Broad Church, is now an out of date useage. It was applied in the mid-nineteenth century to English liberals, such as the Very Rev. Arthur Penrhyn Stanley and F. D. Maurice, who were both middle of the road in ceremonial, and liberal Protestants in theology. However, their liberal protestantism was nowhere near as "liberal" as that of mid-nineteenth century Germany, as it remained creedal, and rooted in traditional theological categories. However, it was not dismissive of either Biblical Scholarship, nor of Darwinianism and Social Reform in the Victorian Liberal's sense of those words. Broad Churchmanship as a distinct party was around from the 1850s through to the 1920s when it morphed into a more definite liberalism under the influence of R.C. modernism. They liked to think of themselves as the thinking man's party within the Church of England, but in fact, their influence was mainly among the clergy and educated laymen. Broad Churchmanship flourished to some extent due to the patronage of Queen Victoria, who tended to be a Bible-based, but distinctly liberal in her religious views due the liberal Lutheran influences of her governess and her husband. As a result, quite a few senior Victorian ecclesiastics came from the innocuous liberal tradition of Broad Churchmanship including A.P. Stanley, Valerian Wellesley, A.C. Tait, and Randall Davidson.

Central Churchmanship seems to have been more or less a self-renaming on the part of the younger generation of Old High Churchmen c. 1875 as the term "High Church" was increasingly applied to the Anglo-Catholics. When casting around for a representative name for the Central Churchmanship position in the late nineteenth century I am inclined to think of E. Harold Browne, Bishop of Ely, then of Winchester from 1873-1891. Browne would have considered himself a High Churchman, but his commentary on the Thirty-nine Articles was much favoured in Central Churchmen until the 1920s. What characterized Central Churchmanship was a fairly conservative view of Scripture, an adherence to the Book of Common Prayer, the Articles, the teachings of the Early Fathers; in short, what has come to be called in the last 30 years "classical Anglicanism." This placed them midway between the Evangelicals and the Anglo-Catholics theologically, and this tended to come out in their ceremonial too. Central Churchmanship was inclined to dignity and restraint in worship, and making innovations only when the broad spectrum of opinion was behind them. When thinking of Central Churchmanship, one name, that of the Most Rev. Geoffrey Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury 1945-61 almost automatically springs to mind. His emphasis on continuity, on making the Church of England work, and his avoidance of theological extremes was typically "Central." He also represents the fact that for much of the twentieth century Central Churchmanship was the dominant party in the Church of England because it was the default position for a broad segment of the Church.

Unfortunately, as the 1950s and 60s progressed, it was increasingly clear that the new liberalism was making some significant gains among the ranks of what had once been the Central Churchmen. There was a feeling abroad that the old theology of "Classical Anglicanism" was no longer equipped to deal with the challenges of the twentieth century. As a result, the teaching staffs of what had once been mainly Central Churchmanship theological colleges - for example, King's College London, Wells, Lincoln, and Salisbury - tended to embrace a more liberal theological position. This filtered through into a liberal drift on the part of the Church of England. That said, the vast majority of parishes would still describe themselves as Central Churchmanship, but their theology now has an element of liberalism to it that would have been absent fifty years ago.

So how do I cope with the American tendancy to lump everything middle-of-the-road under the "Broad" banner. Well, I cop out and describe them as Conservative Broad (the English "Central") and Liberal Broad (the English "Broad" or Liberal) and that seems to get the point across! However, there is another point that I need to get across, and that is the need for someone in the Continuum to stand unequivocably for the Central Churchmanship tradition. At the moment, the Anglican world is dividing into three noisy armed camps - one Revisionist, one Angl-Catholic, and the other Evangelical which neglect the essental balance and moderation of the Anglican tradition. I am not sure we can do much about the Revisionists as they seem to be passing out of Christianity altogether into some sort of new age mish-mash, but there is a need for the old Central Churchmanship with its belief in a reformed catholicism that encompasses both High Churchmen and Evangelicals to act as the glue to hold Anglicanism together. In order for Anglicanism to survive as a witness to the totality of the Gospel and the real fullness of the undistorted Anglican tradition there remains a need for that least fashionable of beasts - the Central Churchman.