Monday, July 19, 2010

The Unity Problem

I have to be quite honest and say that, in human terms, I do not see there ever being a unified Continuing Anglican Church mainly because of the lack of agreement about what constitutes Anglicanism. This problem actually predates the emergence of Continuing Anglican in the 1960s and 70s, and probably goes back a century before that to when the "Rits" and the "Rats" were fighting for inclusion within the Anglican and Episcopal Churches.

Prior to 1833 there was pretty broad agreement as to the doctrinal position of the Church of England and its descendents. Anglicans were, to borrow a phrase from Lutheran historiography "Evangelical Catholics." The Evangelical party placed emphasis, obviously, on the Evangelical side of that inheritance, and the "High Church" party on the Catholic. The old Low Churchmen, the Latitudinarians, were really concensus protestants who, for political and theological reason chose ot to push Anglican distinctiveness and represented the main challenge to orthodoxy, but since the 1760s they had slowly declined into insignificance.

The real fun starts in the 1850s and 60s when the Ritualists and Liberals start to gain a following. The early Ritualists were, for the most part, traditional High Churchmen who wished to revive disused ceremonies. They had not yet developed the "advanced" notions of full-blown Anglo-Papalism which copied post-reformation Roman Catholic devotions to "tart up" the rather dowdy reality of Anglican worship.

On the other hand, the Victorian Liberal was an optimistic beast who believed that religion could be made scientific provided rigid adherence to the old Orthodoxies were not insisted upon. Chief among the leaders of Victorian Liberalism was Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, Dean of Westminster in the 1860s and 70s, who believed that in order to be credible, Anglicanism had to slough off superstition and outmoded orthodoxies, and embrace a sort of religious Darwinism. Dean Stanley was also aware of the fact that the "superstition" of Ritualism could be used as a Trojan Horse to encourage Parliament to loosen the terms of subscription so that Liberalism could grow within the Church.

Stanley's "sotto voce" campaigning among the political elite achieved its aim in 1871 with the so-called "Shortened Services Act." This made some inconsequential changes to the 1662 BCP, but also went along with a measure that loosened the terms of subscription. Before 1871, ordinands had to subscribe that the Articles as being "agreeable to Scripture" i.e. that the Articles of Religion reflected Biblical Christianity. After 1871, ordinands were required only to "affirm" that they contain nothing contrary to Holy Scripture. This loosening of the terms of subscription was a far more effective way of undermining the authority of the Thirty-nine Articles than the tortured logic of John Henry Newman's Tract XC, and the looser terms of subscription did indeed make the Church safe for Liberalism.

One paradoxical result of this loosening of the terms of subscription was that as Ritualism morphed into modern Anglo-Catholicism. The extremists began to abandon the traditional Anglican standards of the Book of Common Prayer and the Articles of Religion. The BCP was overlaid with devotions imported from contemporary Roman Catholic practice, and the XXXIX Articles were increasingly seen as "an historical document" that could be largely disgarded, except as a civil requirement for those being ordained. The Bishops pretty much blew their chance of containing Anglo-Catholic disobedience to the Canons of the Church of England by going along with Disraeli's "Public Worship Regulation Act, 1873." This attempted to strangle Ritualism by legal means, but its major flaw was that it set up a semi-secular court to adjudicate ritual cases. This gave the Ritualists, who stood for their own peculiar version of the separation of Church and State, the perfect excuse for ignoring the new Court. The new court, which replaced the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council was seen as a seculiar court that was meddling in affairs beyond its competence. Unfortunately, so far as ritual (more accurately, ceremonial) matters were concerned, that level of competence was pretty low. The new court even managed to reverse some of the decisions of the Judicial Committee had made on the basis of the Ornaments Rubric, and Caroline practice. Prior to 1867, the Judicial Committee as successor to the old Court of Delegates had been pretty successful in keeping the liturgical peace if only because the Ritualists recognized that it was a Church Court of sorts. Two or three bishops usually served on the Judicial Committee when ecclesiastical cases came up, so they could not dismiss it as a mere secular tribunal. The worst result of the Public Worship Regulation was that it made "white martyrs" out of Ritualist priests who would rather go to prison for contempt of court than give up their ceremonial. As a result, this attempt at governmental enforcement of ecclesiastical discipline broke down entirely. Needless to say, a good deal of liturgical chaos followed.

Eventually, Archbishop E. W. Benson stepped in and used his authority as Primate of All England to take one particularly controversial case - that against the Bishop of Lincoln, Edward King - into his own jurisdiction. Benson's decision was to put an end to the use of the Pubic Worship Regulation Act. The PWR Act was quietly repealed a few years later, but by then it was impossible to repair the damage done to ecclesiastical discipline. However, Archbishop Benson's methodology had proved correct. Anglo-Catholics might question his decision, but they could not, without betraying their own principles deny his authority to make it.

In the end, Benson's judgement was all but an acquital for the Bishop of Lincoln, but it came too late to prevent the radicalization of the Anglo-Catholic movement. By the 1920s, Anglo-Catholicism had embarked on a programme to remodel the Church of England. Bishop Frank Weston called on his fellow Anglo-Catholics to "fight for their Tabernacles" but a more sinister development was the gradual replacement of the official Book of Common Prayer by the English Missal, and the Anglo-Papalist parishes where children were taught the 'Penny Catechism' not the Catechism of the Church of England. To many moderate churchmen, Anglo-Papalism was the cuckoo in the nest, but ecclesiastical discipline had so thoroughly broken down that there was little the bishops could do except boycott disobedient parishes and grumble about those priests under their authority who were "more Roman than the Pope." The Anglo-Papalist priest who said his Mass in Latin, ignored his Bishop, and tried to be as Roman as possible often had his bacon saved by a church patronage system that allowed laymen to appoint parish priests of their own choosing. This gave them considerable protection for episcopal attempts at discipline.

The PECUSA had nowhere near the same problems with Ritualism as the Church of England. Being an unestablished Church, American Anglo-Catholics could not argue that PECUSA's ecclesiastical courts were "secular tribunals" with no authority in church disciple, and after 1885, having seen severalattempts at placing Canonical restrictions on ceremonial fail. The Bishops then seem to have adopted a policy of trying to kill Anglo-Catholicism with kindness. Only the worst offenders ever got into trouble with the Bishops, and sometimes, when faced with Anglo-Catholic disobedience, the bishops would turn a blind eye, or seek to find a compromise. Generally speaking, even though Anglo-Catholics did occasionally feel they got a raw deal from their bishops, there was nowhere near the level of acrimony there had been in England. The Episcopal system of parishes electing their Rectors, rather than having them appointed by the Bishop or a Lay Patron as was the case in England, also served to damp down controversy. It was only when a parish unsuspectingly called a Ritualist that there was a "flare up."

However, American Anglo-Catholicism still developed in a way that made it a church within the Church. Anglo-catholics supplemented the BCP with unofficial prayers and devotions. This process finally culminated in the production such unofficial liturgical books as the American Missal, the Anglican Missal (American Edition), and the Anglican Breviary. These came to supplant the official Book of Common Prayer in the more enthusiastically Anglo-Catholic parishes. American Anglo-Catholicism also increasingly ignored not just the XXXIX Articles, but much of the Anglican theological tradition. Francis Hall's "Dogmatic Theology" represents this progressive rejection of the Protestant tradition in Anglicanism, and presents Anglican theology as being a species of Old Catholicism in which the achievements of the Reformers are often damned with faint praise.

Predictably, when the wheels fell off the Episcopal Church's Wagon in the radical sixties there were two differing versions of conservative Anglicanism looking for a way to perpetuate themselves. Both could agree on the centrality of Scripture, the three Creeds, and the Early Fathers and Councils, but were at odds about the degree to which the Reformation tradition should be perpetuated. One group, believing that the Elizabethan Settlement had failed, wanted to perpetuate traditional Anglo-Catholicism with only limited accomodation to those who were not prepare to go along with the whole programme. The other wished to perpetuate a pre-1960s Episcopalianism that would be mainly Central Churchmanship, but would encompass Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical minorities.

Sadly, after the St Louis Congress, these competing visions failed to coexist within the new church. Eventually schism resulted, and the situation was further complicatated by the existence of pre-1977 Continuing Anglican groups that had been largely ignored by the Fellowship of Concerned Churchmen at the time of the St Louis Congress.

Inspite of the fact that there are now six major and several dozen minor Continuing Anglican jurisdictions within the USA, there are only really two versions of Continuing Anglicanism. The first step to unit has to be getting all the jurisdiction that share "Vision A" together, and likewise all the churches that share vision "B." After that has been achieved we can then explore the potential for vision "A" and vision "B" to come together in one church. At the moment, we are wading through alphabet soup and not dealing the different visions that produced it in the first place. Too often in the past we have tried to ignore the theology and treat our Continuing Anglican divisions as being purely political. As a result, we have had even more divisions. So let's get real here. We need need to first get to grips with what we mean by Anglican and Anglicanism, and then deal with the political stuff.

In the final analysis it may well be that the two visions of what Continuing Anglicanism are indeed incompatible. If that proves to be the case, let us be honest, and have two continuing churches which love and respect one another, rather than attempt a forced marriage between ultimately incompatible visions.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Scottish Influence on American Anglicanism

The first thing that I have to say is that this is not just another "Samuel Seabury and all that" article, though he will feature later on. The Scottish influence on American Anglicanism is wider and deeper than that mainly due to the political forces at work in Scotland, and the difficulty of recruiting clergy for the Colonies.

When the Bishop of Edinburgh declined to give allegiance to William of Orange (ironically, I am writing this on the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne) he left the door open for the replacement of Episcopalianism with Presbyterianism as the form of governance for the Church of Scotland. Although in some places the old Episcopalian clergy could fly under the radar and retain their parishes, in other places, especially in the Lowlands they were "rabbled out" by the Presbyterians. Some went underground, some went to England, and others to America. These became the first wave of Scottish Episcopal clergy to come to the aid of the Church in the American Colonies.

Perhaps the best know of this first wave is the Rev'd James Blair, the Bishop of London's Commissary for Virginia 1689-1743. Blair was born and educated in Scotland and ordained in the Episcopal Church. He gained the confidence of Henry Compton, the Bishop of London, and was sent out to Virginia to act as the bishops agent in that Colony. His major influence came not so much through the Church as through his Presidency of William and Mary College where he had a hand in the education of several generations of Virginia ordinands.

Three other names among the early Commissaries suggest Scottish origins. These are Alexander Garden, Jacob Henderson, and Archibald Cummings, but I have not yet got around to tracking down any biographical information about them.

The second wave of Scottish Episcopal clergy probably came to America in the wake of the 1715 Rising - a period when things were made very difficult for Scottish Episcopalians due to their known Jacobite sympathies. However, the evidence here is harder to track. It was in this period too, that a pair of Non-Juring Bishops were sent to the American Colonies in the hope of creating an independent Anglican presence in bishopless America. Unfortunately for them, American Anglicans preferred bishopless legitimacy to a Non-Juror Episcopate.

The third generation of Scottish clergy included men like William Smith of Maryland, who were the descendents of Scottish colonists. There were also some Scottish clergy who found it convenient to leave for America after the 1745 Rising. It seems that some of these dispossessed Episcopalian clergy joined the ranks of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel's Missionaries in New England spreading the Scottish version of the High Church tradition there.

Although the numbers of Scottish clergy serving in the American Church was never large, it was enough to create an awareness of the fact that - firstly, it was possible for Anglicans to survive without the Establishment; and secondly, that there was an independent Church in Scotland with bishops. Also, there was just enough Scottish influence in New England to give a distinct High Church edge to the Anglican Church in those parts, and to create an indigenous High Church party with followers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere.

So, what happened to the Scottish Episcopal Church in the meantime?

After years of proscription under William and Mary, Queen Anne granted toleration to the Scottish Episcopalians early in her reign. This put the Scottish Episcopalians under the same disabilities as English Dissenters, but it was a step forward. A few years later, in 1712, the UK Parliament passed an Act allowing the creation of "Qualified Chapels" in Scotland which would allow Scottish congregations to use the 1662 BCP under the ministry of English or Irish ordained clergy.

On the other hand, the Jacobite element accepted their second class status, and maintained both their independence and their links with the English Non-Jurors. Unlike the Qualified Congregations, there was little, at least at first, to distinguish the Scottish Episcopalians from their Presbyterian neighbours when it came to worship. The "Piskies" service consisted of metrical psalms, a reading, a prayer, and a sermon like that of the Kirk, but unlike the Kirk, they used the Lord's Prayer and the Doxology every week.

After about 1700, the English BCP began to gain ground among Scottish Episcopalians, but they did not feel bound to observe it strictly. Thus, they were able to participate in the liturgical experiments of their Non-Juror colleagues in England. The first Non-Juror "Scottish Liturgy" or "Scottish Communion Office" appeared around 1717, with updated versions appearing in 1746 and 1764. These were printed as "wee bookies" to be used alongside the English BCP - a tradition that continued until the Edwardian era. The main feature of the Scottish Liturgy was the long Canon based on Eastern Orthodox models, consisting of both he Eucharistic Prayer and the Prayer for the Church. The Scots also included an epiclesis - an Invocation of the Holy Spirit - in the Prayer of Consecration.

However, inspite of their liturgical creativity, they were fighting a loosing battle. The limited Toleration granted in 1706 was diminished after both the 1715 and 1745 Risings. Under George I there was also a very real attempt to promote the erection of Qualified Chapels to syphon away middle class Episcopalians from the Non-Jurors. A tactic that was reasonably successful in the Lowlands. However, the Non-Juring Scottish Episcopalians survives - especially around Aberdeen.

Where Episcopalian Meeting Houses were built in the eighteenth century they were made to look like barns, or cottages so that they would not attract unwelcome attention from government troops. On the whole this worked well, but when Butcher Cumberland's troops were making reprisals after Colloden, Episcopal meeting houses were a favourite target. A large number of Episcopal priests were imprisoned on, often trumped-up, charges of sedition, and several were executed for acting as chaplains to the Jacobite Army in the '45.

When grudging toleration returned again following the 1745 Rising it was under very restrictive conditions. Just as the Government tried to ban the kilt and the Great Highland Bagpipes, they also tried to make Episcopalianism impossible. For example, no Episcopal Minister could preach to a congregation of more than four people outside of his own family. This led to a new form of creativity - how to dodge the regulations! In many places Episcopalians met in a cottage with the minister and his family in the hallway, and the rest of the congregation gathered in the other rooms listening through the doorways. In others, the chapel was divided with glass and wood partitions so that each pew was a "room." No matter how hard the Hannoverians tried, the Episcopalians would not conform, though, by the 1780s it was reduced to a mere four or five bishops, forty clergy, and a similar number of congregations mainly in the northeast of Scotland.

After trying unsuccessfully to obtain consecration in England, Samuel Seabury (1729-1796) came to Aberdeen looking for the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church. Some accounts say that he did this on the advice of either Dr. Horne (later Bishop of Norwich) who was sympathetic to the Scottish Church, others on the then young Dr. Routh, but scholars today seem to agree that this was the agreed "Plan B" before Seabury left Connecticut.

The Scottish Bishops drove a reasonably bargin with Seabury. Before his consecration he agreed to labour behind the scenes to introduce the Scottish liturgy into America. Seabury was also to push the case for the American Episcopal Church to recognise the Scottish Episcopal Church. Therefore, Seabury's consecration took place on 14th November 1784 in St Andrew's Church, which was housed over a bank in Aberdeen High Street. Bishops Skinner, Kilgour, and Petrie acting as his consecrators.

On his return to Connecticut, Seabury organised his diocese along Scottish lines. Seabury toured his diocese periodically, he called clergy-only Synods to determine policy, and replaced the English Communion service with his own version of the Scottish Liturgy. He also entered into tortuous negotiations with the Protestant Episcopal Church organising in the Mid-Atlantic and Southern States. A dialogue which was not made any easier by Seabury's Tory past, and clericalist outlook.

It was probably providential that the Right Rev. William White of Philadelphia was the dominant influence in the new PECUSA. The other English consecrated bishop, Provoost of New York, hated Seabury's guts, and if he had been the Presiding Bishop we might have ended up with regional Episcopal Churches. Eventually Bishop White brokered a deal whereby the Diocese of Connecticut and its bishop could come into the General Convention on generous terms. White encouraged the replacement of English Prayer of Consecration by that of the Scottish Liturgy in the new American BCP. He also revised the PECUSA Constitution to incorporate an Episcopal veto - which was a further accomodation to Seabury's views. Lastly, White pushed for recognition of the Scottish Church alongside the Estabished Churches of England and Ireland as fellow Protestant Episcopal Churches. White also agreed to seat Seabury in the House of Bishops, despite Provoost's strident objections to the propriety of accepting his Seabury's Non-Juror orders. On the other hand, Seabury remained uncomfortable with the presence of the laity in the General Convention, and with the democratic nature of the new Church.

Such had been the depth of Seabury's objections to the proposed Constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church that he had attempted to get further bishops conscrated in Scotland. This would have enabled him to "go it alone" by forming a New England Church independent of that of the Middle and Southern States. However, the Scots, following the death of the Young Pretender, were in the process of making their peace with the British Government. The Scots' refusal to consecrate more bishops for America finally gave Seabury a powerful reason to make peace with the Protestant Episcopal Church.

One final point that has to be ade is that William White and William Smith were not altogether without Scottish influences. For example, one characteristic White decision - to create a House of Bishops with a Presiding Bishop rather than an Archbishop - finds its precedent in the Scottish House of Bishops presided over by the Primus. White was also open to making real changes, not just political ones, to the English BCP. One suspects that it was this openness on the part of Bishop White and Dr. Smith that allowed the American BCP to develop as a compromise betwen the English and Scots traditions.

Oddly, the Scottish Episcopal Church also had to make its own compromise with Church of England influences in order to achieve peace. In order to have the Penal Laws removed, the Scottish Episcopal Church had to agree to pray for King George. Later they accepted the English BCP and the Thirty-Nine Articles to allow the Scottish Church to absorb the Qualified Chapels. So like the Episcopal Church in America, the Scottish Episcopal Church found itself reconciling Scottish Non-Juror and English influences to produce a reinvigorated local Church.

One enduring legacy of the relationship between Seabury and the Scottish Bishops has been the bonds of affection that have existed between Scottish and American Episcopalians. It is sad to see both churches sobadly infected with liberalism today, but it remains the case that the old Episcopal tradition, as it stood before the invasion of secular humanism from 1960 onwards, is a strong a vigourous expression of Reformed Catholic Christianity. In order for Continuing Anglicanism to survive it is extremely important that Continuing Anglicans return to that tradition, rather than that of Revivalist Protestantism, or Rome.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Broad Church

Growing up in the UK, I got quite used to the idea of Evangelicals, Central Churchmen and Anglo-Catholics rubbing along in a certain sort of creative tension. Anglicans were used by the Thirty-nine Articles, the BCP, and the form of ministry, and although there were times when the Evangelicals and the Anglo-Catholics were on screaming terms rather than speaking terms we respected each other even when we thought the other chap was barking mad. Unfortunately the last thirty years have been so traumatic that the Church has become fragmented, and as a result, we need to learn to live toether again.

The Revisionist agenda - women's rights, gay rights, theological revisionism - has polarized the Anglican tradition Revisionist and Conservative camps that really have very little to say to one another. They do not have the same way of doing the theology. Conservatives look at Scripture, then with the help of the Early Fathers and Reason fathom out what is orthodoxy. The more extreme Revisionists start from the position that there is no orthodoxy, but God speaks anew to every generation, and that Scripture, the Fathers are relics of the past that need to be reinterpreted (rewritten?) to reflect modern understandings. It is very difficult to have a debate when you cannot even agree on the rules of engagement.

To my mind, the more sinister is the wedge that has been driven between the Evangelical Anglican and Anglo-Catholic traditions. Both groups accept the authority of the Canonical Scriptures, the Creeds, the historic male Episcopate, and the first four Councils; both are theologically conservative, and both are profoundly concerned with the salvation of souls. This has increasingly pushed them into differing strands of extra-mural Anglicanism - Evangelicals into AMiA, and Anglo-Catholics into the Continuum. For me, the Central Churchman, this is a disaster because in order to be fully itself Anglicanism needs to breath with both lungs - the Catholic and the Reformed. The Evangelicals need to the Anglo-Catholics to hold their feet to the fire about the Fathers, Councils, and Apostolic Ministry, and the Catholics need the Evangelicals to remind them of the centrality and sufficiency of Scripture. When each of the three strands of Anglicanism tries to live on its there is always a danger that it will become a parody of itself.

The fact that we have to some extent grown apart and become astranged means that bring conservative Anglicans back together is going to be a long process. In the mean time, even though we choose to work in different jurisdictions, we should perhaps seek out those from other traditions within Anglicanism and listen to them; not to be converted to their position, but to allow their insights to broaden our perceptions. There is an old adage that "the Church that lives by itself will die by itself," and there is a very great danger that by abandoning the "broadness" of the Anglican tradition we Continuing Anglicans will all somehow cease to be Anglican. So often Christianity - especially Anglican Christianity - is about living with the paradoxes, the greatest of which is the paradox of grace - we are sinners, yet justified. Anglicans live with another paradox - we are "reformed and yet catholic," or, if you prefer, "catholic, yet reformed." This tension between Catholic and Reformed is what has made Anglicanism so creative, and so attractive to so many people. You do not have to choose between the insights of the Reformation and the Catholic tradition, you can embrace both - provided that you can cope with the mess that that sometimes creates.