Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Varieties of Anglo-Catholicism

A friend of mine once quipped that Anglo-Catholicism comes in more varieties than Heinz's sauces! In the UK there was a very definite "party system" within the Catholic Movement in the Church of England. The basic division was between those who put the Anglican tradition first, and those who regarded their membership of the Church of England as being an historical accident, and therefore tend to look to Rome for authoritative guidance. In the UK we referred to the former as "Prayer Book Catholics" and the latter as "Anglo-Papalists."

The archetypal "Prayer Book Catholic" parish used the 1662 BCP, but made a few, uncontroversial additions, such as the Benedictus and the Agnus Dei at the Eucharist. They would also give pride of place in the worship schedule to what was increasingly referred to as the "Sung Eucharist." Eucharistic vestments, and a ceremonial patterned on that of "the second year of King Edward VI" - or less frequently a very diluted version of Roman practice - were the norm among Prayer Book Catholics in Britain. In terms of theology, they aligned with figures such as Charles Gore, Claude B. Moss, and later Michael Ramsey.

The Anglo-Papalists favoured the English Missal or the Anglican Missal for the Mass. Most parishes continued to use the BCP for Matins and Evensong, and for the occasional offices, but the unofficial Missals were the rule for the Eucharist. However, Missal could cover a multitude of sins - anywhere from a mildly enriched BCP service through to the Tridentine Mass in English. Anyone who wants an idea of how this worked out in practice need only look at the Ninth Edition of Ritual Notes (Knott, London, 1946) which makes provision for both approaches to celebrating the Mass. Theologically, when they were not using Roman Catholic text books they drew on works such as those of Darwell Stone, Frank Weston, and Fr Carleton of "King's Highway" fame.

In truth, most Anglo-Catholic parishes fell somewhere between the two poles. For example, All Saints' Margaret Street in London was very "Roman" in its externals, but for most of its history they used a rite which was recognizably Prayer Book. As one of its Vicars (Fr. Cyril Tomkinson, if remember aright) noted "the rule here is music by Mozart, decor by Comper, choreography by Baldeschi, but, my dear boy, libretto by Cranmer." This underlines the underlying loyalty to the Anglican tradition, as enshrined in the BCP, felt by many in the Anglo-Catholic mainstream. In short - Roman in externals did not necessarily mean Roman in doctrine.

This final point was even more true of the Anglo-Catholic movement in the USA. Of course, there were, and are, parishes that are traditionally Anglo-Papalist - such as St Clement's, Philadelphia, and Church of the Resurrection, NYC. On the other hand, the "English Use" Prayer Book Catholicism so often found in the UK never got a lot of traction in the USA. Instead there was an indigenous form of Prayer Book Catholicism that drew on Rome for its externals, but generally kept close to the 1928 BCP in liturgy.

However, there was one thing that united Anglo-Catholics and that was the opposition they faced from Low and Liberal Churchmen. In a sense it was this common feeling of being somewhat "up against it" that provided the glue that kept the Anglo-catholic Movement together. Many of the problems that Anglo-Catholicism in the Continuum has encountered in the past thirty years have come from the fact that Anglo-Catholics are no longer the minority, but rather the dominant party within a much smaller church. This has led to some unfortunate behaviour with the formerly oppressed behaving as oppressors of those who do not share their views on theology and liturgy.

After thirty years of being Continuing Anglicans rather than Episcopalians there are signs that things are beghinning to settle down a little. Some of the shrillness that used to come from being a minority within the Episcopal Church has departed, and with it some of the liturgical preciousness has gone. Both of these developments are undoubtedly healthy ones, as they reduce the tendancy for "churchmanship" to be a point of division between Anglicans in the USA. However, our continuing, uncompromising commitment to Catholic Faith and Order in its Anglican expression do create some difficulties.

The first difficulty is that our commitment to ancient Catholic Faith and Order make ecumenism with Rome difficult. Our default position would be the Patristic Consensus that evolved after A.D.500 but before the theological "hardening of the arteries" that occurred under the influence of scholasticism. The modern tendancy of Rome during to make dogma things that are not Biblical constitutes a major bar to unity, and one that is not easily resolved.

Secondly, there are difficulties in our ecumenical contacts with Orthodoxy. The greatest of these seems to focus on what I call the cultural element. There is little conception of within Orthodoxy of a western orthodoxy. To the Greek Orthodox especially being Orthodox means being Eastern Rite, and if possible a Greek or a Slav. The old joke is that whenever a westerner converts to Orthodoxy he has to become Russian or Greek in order to fit in.

The third difficulty that has to be dealt with is our relationship with "neo-Anglicanism." The principal representative of this neo-Anglican perspective in the USA is the ACNA. In terms of doctrine there is potentially little that divides us, though I have to admit that the charimsatic and neo-evangelical elements in ACNA fill me with a mild form of dread. However, there is a truly major problem when it comes to ACNA's understanding of the doctrine of orders. In effect they try and embrace two contradictory positions, then compound the difficulty by treating Holy Orders as a secondary doctrinal issue when in truth, any matter that concerns the integrity of the sacraments is of the first important doctrinally speaking. Whilst the majority in ACNA would agree with the St Louis Continuum in saying that women cannot be admitted to Holy Orders, and influential minority continues to ordain women to the priesthood and diaconate. Even among those who reject the ordination women within ACNA their acceptance of the ancient three-fold ministry seems to be dependent on historical precedent, and not upon its Apostolic institution. Of course, I think I can assume that the Anglo-Catholic minority would accept the traditional view, but they are not in the driving seat in ACNA. When it comes to those in ACNA who ordain women to Holy Orders, they have to realise that this was the decisive issue which marked the Episcopal Church's departure from Catholic Faith and Order, and led to the departure of the original ACNA (now ACC, APCK and UECNA) from ECUSA. The new ACNA also has to realise that until it resolves its doctrine of Orders in favour of the traditional point of view it is impossible for the St Louis Continuum Churches to enter into full Communion with them. However, I have to make it clear that I wish them well, and pray that they return to the fullness of Catholic truth instead of trying to compromise with modernism and revisionism.

The Continuum's major task is to find a way of being a unified church not only in doctrine, but in organisation. This will not be an easy task, as we have become used to operating apart, but I would like to see the creation of a standing conference of Anglican bishops in the USA that will faciliate open channel communication between the three St Louis Churches, and begin to dissolve the distrust that has built up thanks to twenty-five years of sometimes ill-considered unilateral actions. Our major mission remains to be faithful witness to the Gospel of Christ and to the Catholic Faith and Order that he gave to His Church. Beyond that we should have no agenda.


  1. You mention WO as the principal difficulty with ACNA, but I would like to suggest that there is more to it than that. The ACNA folks have only just recently left TEC, so they are fairly thoroughly infected with all of the heresies that are rampant in TEC. We might ask, "what was that final last straw that caused them to leave TEC?" and I'm not sure I know the answer to that question. My point here is that they have absorbed so very much in terms of not just WO, but also the homosexual agenda, the heresies of the "1979 BCP" (in quotes because it is a phony), the total lack of clergy discipline within TEC for 50 years or more, the breakdown of the marriage canons, and on and on. I know a number of these folks, and I think a lot of them would require some serious instruction before they could be brought in to the St. Louis Churches.

  2. A great, great post Your Grace! Please keep on keepin' on!

    Witnessed a close clergy friend of mine who just jumped over to the ACNA because of the promise of:
    a stipened, retirement, excitement, numbers, just the kind of things we all would like, aka a state church. But no care for the issue of WO, the deliberate dumbing down of the office of the priesthood, I mean "ministerial leaders" (ACNA terminology)and a book of alternative services in place of our glorious prayerbook that saints have given their lives for in the worship of our Lord.

    Men of God within the Continuum; get a backbone, be ready to walk on alone, and seek the wayward and backslidden as faithful servants laboring in vineyard, for He will come, and His reward is with Him.

  3. ACNA not only continues to ordain women but they also continue to use the theologically flawed 1979 Book of Alternative Services. Just compare the Baptismal Rite and the Prayer of Humble Access to that of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Theologically ACNA is TEC just five minutes away from ordaining Vickie Gene.

  4. I wish the ACNA well but I believe they will start to fragment over the issues that have been pointed out by Fr David and it is those issues that have not been resolved or to my knowledge even been addressed.
    Very sad

  5. 知識可以傳授,智慧卻不行。每個人必須成為他自己。...............................................................

  6. As an ACNA priest in the forming "sub synod" of dioceses that maintain catholic order, I found your post germane. Please remember that in all matters of controversy, 1662 BCP is our standard. The 1979 baptismal...whatever will be replaced rite soon with something that actually asks God to make sin-fighting Christians instead of communities for organizing.

  7. I suppose the proof of how ACNA can hold together is that until the latest "last straw" they managed to hold together in ECUSA.

  8. With all due respect I have to ask why was the ACNA even necessary when the continuing jurisdictions such as the UECNA,APCK,ACC and in part the ACA were already here?

  9. Because Anglicanism is not synonymous with Anglocatholicism. The Evangelicals would feel very alienated in those places. And the fact that the ACNA is bringing people and parties together, while the continuers continue splitting into smaller and smaller sects also says something about the need for ACNA.

  10. Fr Chris
    With all due respect I would have to disagree with you

  11. Newsflash... UECNA is not, nor ever has been a strictly Anglo-Catholic body, though perhaps we are the best kept secret in American Anglicanism. We hold to the 39 Articles and the Book of Common Prayer, and to the Anglican Tradition. Traditional Anglicans of Evangelical, Central and Catholic churchmanships are welcome to join us.


  12. I think ACNA's origin is actually ecclesiological. Taking four bishops looks a lot more like a "valid" schism, especially when they stay in communion with other Communion bishops. After all, the whole thing could be stood on its head: why don't the continuing churches fold into ACNA?

  13. Wingate's question is easy to answer: Robert Duncan and the attitude his pro women's ordination polity with all of which that implies about a loyalty to the "doctrine, discipline and worship . . . of the Church" as one would find in the American book of 1928 or any of the previous classical Anglican prayer books.

    Very well done, my Lord Peter, and I certainly believe that it is time and past time for an Anglican equivalent of the Orthodox Council of canonical bishops. This is another case of all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God . . .or of the Catholic and Anglican necessity of every effort be spent in pursuit of the largest possible inter-communion and defense of traditional, classical Anglicanism.

  14. I'm not going to step up to the the issue of whether any Anglican prayer book wishes to establish or not establish a priesthood of males only. However the fragmentarily-acquired episcopacy of the continuing churches is, for the rigorous, something of a scandal; so is the continuing fragmentation. And inasmuch as women are a defining issue, if ACNA were divided so as to cut the Three Catholic Dioceses from the rest, it seems to me that they have a better ecclesiological claim than the continuers do.

  15. The new ACNA has a real indentity crisis. On the one hand, they wish to please their patrons that do hold to 1662 & the 39. On the other, they do wish to keep on using the '79 and to ordain priestesses. As a writer puts it, they are hardly five minutes away from the EC. Their last straw was much more recent than that of the St Louis Continuum, which in turn was later than that of some others, such as the pre-St Louis people and that of the REC.
    They had, indeed, become so accustomed to te priestess issue and the '79 that they now have little in common with the rest of us. They don't even speak the same language.

    I don't know how this can be overcome. All I can suggest is that the more 'catholic-minded' will realise that, though the language differs, there are similar outlooks. We can only pray that these people find it possible to deal wit us when the time comes that they cannot remain as they are.
    Heaven guide and protect us all.

    In +,

  16. +Peter,

    Your Grace, St. John's Episcopal Church in Detroit, MI is a shinning example of a Prayer Book Catholic Parish that actually uses the 1928 Prayer Book! Gasp! It is a good example of the Parson's Handbook and Ritual Notes in action. Since the priest is a graduate of Nashotah House, I would assume that the House main liturgical style is that of Prayer Book Catholic, rather than Missal Catholic.