Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Tractarians and the Liturgy

The Oxford Movement or Tractarianism often gets the blame for certain things which were not part of their original programme. One of these is the profusion of Missals and other unofficial devotional manuals that grew up in the late nineteenth cnetury. These are really products of the second phase of Ritualism than of the Oxford Movement proper. Tractarianism was first and foremost a theological, not a liturgical, movement. Keble, for example, never introduced Eucharistic vestments, or even the use of the stole, at Hursley in his thirty-odd years of ministry there. Like any other Church of England clergyman of the time of his ordination (1816) he stood at the north end in surplice, tippet, and hood. On the whole, liturgical innovation beyond what had already been done by the Caroline Divines and the Non-Jurors belongs not to Tractarianism, but to Ritualism.

The whole of the liturgical programme of the Oxford Movement could be encompassed by a single phrase - "taking the Prayer Book at its word." Thus the goals of the Oxford Fathers in terms of liturgy were to follow the Book of Common Prayer faithfully in their parishes. The acid test of Tractarianism in te early days was public recital of the Daily Offices. This never completely died out in the Church of England, but by the 1830s very few parishes took the title of the offices in the literally. As you will doubtless recall, it says "The Office of Morning/Evening Prayer daily throughout the year." The first Tractarian to reintroduce the daily Office was the Rev. Thomas Keble, John's younger brother, at Bisley c.1836. This was a completely inoffensive innovation - except perhaps to the parish clerk, who suddenly found himself much busier - and a sign that the Tractarians were serious about the liturgy.

The Tractarians also wanted to reintroduce weekly Communion, and fasting Communion. To do this, they picked up an idea that had already been introduced by Daniel Wilson, the Evangelical Vicar of Islington, who had introduced a regular 8.00am celebration of the Lord's Supper for the 'serious' members of his congregation. The Tractarians embraced this with some enthusiasm, and it soon became a characteristic of 'High Church' worship as understood by them. So much so that it became identified with them to the extent that folks thought they invented 'the early celebration.' It should be noted that the Tractarians did not encourage non-communicating attendance at Holy Communion, and as a result Tractarian parishes tended to retain Morning Prayer, Litany and Ante-Communion as the main Sunday service. The non-communicating High Celebration (few Anglicans used the word Mass in the 19th C.) was another Ritualist innovation.

Another aspect of Tractarians and the liturgy was its architectural setting. Although they were essential conservative in their attitude towards the dress of the clergy and the forms of service, they did want to see the architectural setting of Anglican worship improved. From about 1840 onwards, they put into practice the less controversial recommendations of the Cambridge Camden Society or Ecclesiological Society as it was later called. The tall box pews of the 17th and 18th centuries were abolished. The three-decker pulpit was split up into pulpit, reading desk, and lectern, all copied from the 'proper' mediaeval forms. Chancels were fitted up with choir shalls, and low walls or full blown rood screens to separate them from the nave of the church. By the 1890s there was hardly a church in England that had not had its proper Ecclesiological Society inspired restoration. Some were extremely sympathetic, others were rebuildings in disguise, but no matter how extensive they were they tended to result in what we think of as the proper Anglican/Episcopal church interior. The pews consist of several low islands divided by a centre alley and possibly alleys along the walls or side aisles. The pulpit and lectern stand left and right at the front of the nave. Beyond them is the chancel containing choir stalls, and a very prominent altar at the east end of the building raised on several steps and railed off. This plan was very successfully adopted in the USA where architects tended to feel less bound by mediaeval proportions even when using the Gothic style. They tended to widen the central nave and the chancel, thus making the building more of a hall, which fitted in with the requirement of Prayer Book services to be heard as well as seen.

The final aspect of Tractarian liturgics I want to look at is the hymn. The old High Churchmen had been a bit suspicious of hymns, which were then mainly an Evanglical thing, and tended to be rather subjective in their content. As a result, the High Churchmen stuck with metrical psalms, only slowly adopting hymns. The first locally printed hymnal used in the parish church in my home town had the whole of the New Version of the Psalms (Tate and Brady) but only a few dozen hymns. However, the Tractarians had a more positive attitude to hymns, mainly because they produced a lot of poets. The best selling book of religious verse in the nineteenth century, with around one million copies sold, was John Keble's 'The Christian Year' which provided a poem for every Sunday and Holyday in the BCP, and as meditations on other topics, such as Baptism and Holy Communion. Isaac Williams and John Henry Newman also wrote poetry, as did William and Fanny Alexander. Fanny Alexander was also a skilled translator of old Irish texts, whilst J. M. Neile did the same service for many Latin texts. The natural result was that the Tractarians began to compile hymnals, the best known of which was the original version of Hymns Ancient and Modern, first published in 1861.

The Tractarians were also enthusiastic about the choral service. Books containing the Psalms and Canticles pointed for Anglican Chant, and collections of Chants appeared. The old plainsong setting for the responses was also revived, and slowly but surely, the sung service was introduced into parish churches, even, eventually, making its way into Evangelical circles. In my home church our copies of the Parish Psalter were very dog-earred, especially in the section containing the canticles. Merbeck's setting of the Communion Service was rediscovered and adapted to the 1662 BCP, and was sung at the monthly late Communion service in many a parish, even sometimes at 8.00am on special occasions.

Lastly, I would note that singularly little liturgical, as opposed to theological, controversy attached itself to the Tractarians. They were conservative about the Prayer Book fearing that further revision would be in the wrong - i.e. a rationalist direction, though they did occasional suggest that improvements in the correct direction could be made. On the other hand, it seemed to be generally understood that their programme was simply one of obedience to the Book of Common Prayer even if it was not exactly popular with everyone. My home parish developed much along the same lines as many another parish with a Tractarian incumbant. When the Rev. George Hogarth arrived in 1858 he found Morning and Evening Prayer estaloshed at 10.30am and 3.30pm respectively; Holy Communion celebrated once a month, and a morning service every Thursday. He increased this immediately by establishing daily Morning and Evening Prayer; moved Sunday Evensong to 6.30pm; introduced Sunday School and Catechism at 2.30pm on a Sunday afternoon; gradually introducing a weekly Communion service, and improving the standard of music in the parish. By the time of his retirement some twenty-four years later, the parish had daily Matins and Evensong, and Communion on Sundays and Holydays, weekly Sunday School and Catechism, and a new organ. His successor introduced regular midweek Communions and a surpliced choir, continuing the Tractarian trajectory started by Hogarth. What my home parish never had was the late morning non-communicating High Mass. The 10.30am slot was occupied by Mattins, and briefly alternated with a Sung Eucharist before both Matins and the Sung Eucharist became weekly events in the early 60s.

One thing that is slightly disconcerting today is the number of parishes with elaborate services with ceremonials and rites not authorized in he BCP, but do not even observe the appointed Holydays, never mind have daily Morning and Evening Prayer. The structure of daily Offices and Sunday and Holyday Eucharists is one that we inherited from the Early Church, and we should do our utmost to sustain and restore it. I know this is often difficult to do today as many Continuing Anglican priests are bi-vocational, but difficulty should not exempt us from at least trying. At the very least, we should have Morning Prayer before our Sunday morning Eucharists, then move slowly forward restoring the full pattern as our parishes and missions develop. Remember that this pattern of sustained and regular worship, praise, prayer, and sacrament is the great powerhouse of the Church, and we should teach our eople to love the Daily Offices as well as the Eucharist.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Future of Anglicanism

The seeming collapse of attempts to start an Anglican Ordinariate in Canada following some unfortunate remarks by Archbishop Hepworth have got me wondering about that old question - whither Anglicanism? It seems to me that yet again, no matter how hard the Anglo-Catholics try to make themselves acceptable to Rome, they are still met with the same response - convert! I hope that those Anglo-Catholics who sincerely believe that the Pope is the Head of the Church on earth do convert, because it will simplify matters back here in Anglicanland.

In the USA it seems that there are three strands to the Continuing Anglican movement that I would loosely characterize as being Moderate Evangelical, Old High Church, and Anglo-Catholic, though I suspect that a lot of folks would not use my labels, but there you go. To a greater or lesser extent all three depend on the Church as whole having a strong ANGLICAN identity with which to interact, and react. However, Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics tend to emphasize only those elements that they like - basically the Articles in the case of the former, and the BCP and the appeal to the Fathers in the case of the latter. Old High Churchmen have the fault that they tend to be rather insular and self-sufficient - but maybe that is not altogether a bad thing.

So, in what does the Anglican identity lie?

First and foremost, the Anglican identity is an expression of the Church Catholic - that congregation formed by Jesus Christ through His Apostles to be His Body. In terms of defining what that body believes we rely on the Bible, the Creeds, the Councils of the Undivided Church. This appeal has been one that has been made by Anglicans right from the beginning. Archbishop Matthew Parker told his clergy to interpret he Articles and Injunctions 'in the most Catholic sense.' Hooker, te Caroline Divines and the High Churchmen of the eighteenth century all wrote with one eye fixed on the Early Fathers. The Oxford Movement also appealed to the Father, as did the more learned of Anglican Evangelicals. Unfortunately, modern Episcopalianism seems to regard the Fathers as some dead dude who wrote about Chrstianity a long time ago, and only reference them when it suits ther revisionist agenda.

To me, the second plank of the Anglican identity is Common Prayer. In the sequence of Reforming measures introduced between 1534 and 1553 the first BCP comes third or fourth. The idea was to put the liturgy into English; to simplify it so everyone could participate; and to cleanse it of those elements at variance with the Scriptures and the Fathers. Unfortunately, during the second phase of the Catholic Revival, some began to argue that the BCP was incomplete when compared to the modern Roman Liturgy which in their minds had become normative. This led to them adding to the BCP on their own authority - something which, from the catholic point of view, was strictly a no-no. These additions were eventually codified in the form of the English, American, and Anglican Missals, to which the Bishops wisely did NOT authorize for the use of the whole Church. At the end of the day the Catholic Liturgy of that branch of the Church Catholic denominated 'Anglican' is the Book of Common Prayer in the edition authorized by the General Synod or Convention of the Province involved.

Thirdly, the Articles of Religion. Now I know a lot of Anglo-Catholics reach for the gin when I mention the Articles, but there are one of the defining documents of the Anglican Reformation. Unfortunately, some of us have been conditioned to reject them without making a serious examnation of their contents. The major roblem comes from the fact that they dea with the controversies of the mid-sixteenth century, and their theological currency is one that we use little today, but they are none the less instructive. The first thing thing that has to be remembered is that they do not explicitly deny any doctrine maintained by the first Seven Councils. Secondly, the Church has always demanded that, like the BCP, they be interpreted in 'the catholic sense.'

Fourthly, the Anglican Continuum preserves the Apostolic Ministry of (male) deacons, priests, and bishops. Like the Roman Church we can trace the mainline our orders back through the centuries to the fourteenth century - which is a couple of hundred years further back than Rome. Furthermore we have no evidence to suggest that there was a break in the succession then, or, as the Romans allege in 1559. We can therefore regard it as reasonably certain that our Orders go back to the days when the Apostles prayered over and then laid hands upon the men they sent out as overseers, elders and servants of the Church, just as they in turn had received the Holy Spirit and been sent out by Christ Himself. However, I would at this point like to remind you that you can have the most impeccible Orders in the world, yet it is worthless unless you also believe, live and preach that Catholic and Apostolic faith that was committed to your keeping at your ordination.

What I am suggesting here is that Anglicans have an inherently Catholic identity that is not to be found in its imitation of that eccentric Communion headquarted in the Vatican, but in its own Liturgy and Articles. The future for Anglicans lies not in becoming something, but in being what we already are - the English reform of the Catholic Church. This concept of Reformed Catholicism is one that was dear to the Reformer, the Caroline Divines, the Georgian High Churchmen, the Tractarians, and to good churchmen and women in every period of the Church's history. Reformed Catholicism is also the key to our future as one strand of the Church Catholic. We need to give up being embarrassed by our Anglican-ness and proclaim that which we have received.

If I have a vision for the coming Continuing Anglican Church it is that we stop looking over our shoulders and start looking only on Jesus Christ. Less poetically, we need to stop worrying about the fact we are different to Rome or Orthodoxy and just get on with being the Catholic Church of the English (-speaking) People. Of course our apeal is wider than that, and we must always be ready to embrace those who share the Reformed Catholic ideal whatever their language, but we need to be aways mindful of the fact that our roots lie in the Church of St Patrick and St Augustine; the Venerable Bede and Alcuin; of Cranmer and Laud; Simeon and Keble, and the untold millions who have found the most perfect expression of Catholicism to lie within her walls.

After four hundred years in which we have been in some sense "the Establishment" either by law or by culture, or in both, we are now in an era where we have to make our way by our profession of the Faith once delivered to the Apostles. We need to become a Missionary Church and an Evangelizing Church that exalts Jesus Christ - 'the way, the truth and the life' - in all that we do and teach. Cleaving more closely to Christ is the only way in which we can hope to overcome the challenges posed to the Truth by both secularism and Islam.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

General Convention

For those of you who are interested there is a report on the 10th General Convention of the UECNA posted at

What does not come across very well in the report is the focus that we had on Mission and Evangelism at this Convention. I believe that there are two factors behind this. The first is that there are quite a few younger clergy in the UECNA who are mission-minded, rather than maintenance-minded. This represents a major shift from three years ago. Then the 'mission-minded' felt sufficiently marginalized that a number of them left the UECNA for the REC shortly after the 9th GenCon. Secondly, I think there is a general realisation in the UECNA that being God's chosen frozen is no longer enough, we have to grow in order to survive, and that this involves a measure of adoption. Please note, that I use the word adaption not change.

In 1978, when the first bishops were consecrated for the original ACNA, secularism and media technology was still only in their first flood. Since then a lot has changed, and the tide has risen much higher. The attacks made by the tiny secularist minority in the USA have grown ever more strident, and the media - especially TV - has promoted a entertainment culture that discourages serious thought - especially about the state of one's immortal soul. This does not apply only to religion. When did you last here a politician talk in a comprehensible way about issues?

Also unhelpful has been the mega-church phenomomen, which, whilst preaching a form of Christianity, tends to eschew the intellectually difficult, and fall into step with the entertainment culture. I suspect this strategy is successful with baby-boomers who at least received a veneer of 'real religion' before the entertainment culture really began to take over. For them, the spoon feeding works, and keeps them active Christians. However, it does not tend to promote profound commitment, though there is a certain element of the Walmart effect.

However, I think those who study Christianity are beginning to realize that the mega-churches, whilst having tremendous influence do not make deep disciples. Certainly a an unscientific survey of what I loosely refer to as 'Christian spam' seems to reveal an obsession on the part of Church growth gurus with deeping discipleship. Some of the big tin shed preachers I have talked to freely admit that only 5 to 10% of their people do more than turn up on a Sunday morning. This tells us that at the moment American Christianity is probaby more characterized by its quantity than its depth. That is not necessarily a bad thing, having lived in both the UK and the USA I have to say that even a veneer of Christianity makes for a far freer society.

I suspect therefore, that there is a significant group of believers and potential believers who want to connect with something deeper than entertainment religion. This bears some superficial resemblance to the situation as American Anglicans found themselves in during the 1820s and 1830s. At that time, there was a significant group of Christians who had been touched by the Second Great Awakening, but wanted something deeper. This was precisely the era when Evangelical Episcopalianism grew expontentially within the Protestant Episcopal Church. Why?

Well, the short version is that Evangelical Episcopalian offered a heart-felt religion that did not neglect the intellect, nor tip over into mere emotionalism. It was orderly and reverent, by contrat to the extremes of revivalism. It also learned to use 'the culture' against itself. Evangelical Episcopalians made use of Prayer Meetings and Street Preaching, but they centred it all in the worship of the Church, and in faithful preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. They connected the religious sentiment of the day, and harnessed it to something deeper - a presentation of Christianity which was deeper being not just Biblical, but Biblical, Creedal, and Liturgical. Anglicans are uniquely placed to supply the 'something deeper' - what we are less equiped to do is tell people about it.

So far, Continuing Anglicans have tended to remain stuck in the defensive mindset that they adopted in 1977, and have made no concerted effort to Evangelize. The prevailent belief is that we just need to continue doing what we have always done until the world comes to its senses and returns to us. Unfortunately, that is a very poor mission strategy, and something that the UECNA has decided it can no longer afford to do. Over the next six months we will be looking long and hard at Mission, and seeing where we as a church have been going wrong, and how we can do better. Hopefully that will produce a plan that we can begin to impliment next year.

One last note. As always, the UECNA GenCon was more of a family get together than a meeting. I think that we are very blessed as a church to have this freedom from rancour, factionalism, and Church politics. Long may it continue!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cranmer - an Appreciation

It seems inappropriate to let the 455 anniversary of Cranmer's execution pass without saying something about his achievements as a reformer, a liturgist, and as a theologian. Today, Cranmer and his vision of what Anglicanism should be is deeply unpopular even with those who describe themselves as 'traditionalists.' I suspect this neglect of Cranmer by many who venerate tradition are only interested in preserving "the revolution before last," which, in the case of Anglicanism, is the Catholic Revival of the late nineteenth century.

Cranmer's family had lived for several generations on the border between Lincolnshire and Nottinghamshire. Cranmer was born in 1489 in Aslockton, Notts., then as now a small village, not far from Grantham. Cranmer's father was a yeoman farmer, a class that had grown economically important since the Black Death, and was to remain the backbone of English society until the industrial revolution. These men passed on their farms to their eldest sons, but there was little they could do for their other sons than give them a good education.

Thomas Cranmer ended up at Cambridge where he came to embrace the principles of the Reformation cause at some point in his mid-30s. Already married and widowed, Cranmer had received major orders c.1519, and was pursuing an academic career in one of the University's lesser colleges. However, the ideas he heard discussed at the White Horse Inn converted him to the reforming cause, and providence - I cannot think of a better explanation - arranged his career so that he was in an unequalled position to push the cause of reform.

Cranmer first came to the notice of Henry VIII during his attempts to secure an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Cranmer suggested putting the matter to the Universities of Europe, thus bypassing the Papcy and the Curia which were both under the control of Catherine's nephew Charles V. In return for being useful, Cranmer was made Archdeacon of Taunton, and was sent as one of Henry's representatives to the German princes. He settled in Nuremberg in 1531, and shortly afterwards married. This was an unusual step for a cleric from Catholic England, but natural enough in Lutheran Nuremberg where it seemed Cranmer anticipated spending the rest of his life. I think we can all imagine his surprise, and concern when he was recalled to England in 1533 to succeed William Warham as Archbishop of Canterbury.

Not surprisingly, Cranmer tended to lead quaite a retired life away from Court. He favoured his more rural residences as this made it possible to lead something close to a normal family life with his wife, Margaret, and their increasing brood of children. Meanwhile at Court, Thomas Cranmer did his bit as a faithful royal servant implementing the Acts of the Reformation Parliament which severed England, Ireland and Wales from the Papal obedience. He also signed off on Henry's annulment and crowned Anne Boleyn as Henry's consort in 1533. The one blot on Cranmer's career was his complicity in Henry's matrimonial adventures. However, one suspects that this was not something Cranmer lost too much sleep over given that Henry's lawyers could usually give his position an air of legal respectability.

Cranmer's ability to pilot through reform was limited whilst Henry lived. The smash and grab raid on the monasteries did not originate with Cranmer, but with Thomas Cromwell who wished to reduce the amount of property, and with it the power and influence of the Church. Cranmer's hand can be seen in the establishment of the New Foundation cathedrals - Gloucester, Chester, Peterborough, Bristol and Oxford - whose statutes placed a far more stringent requirement for preaching on the Dean and Chapter than existed in the Old Foundations. Also when it came time to reconstitute the Chapter at Canterbury - a former cathedral prior - he insisted on creating a college of preachers, funded from the old monastic revenues, which doubtless he intended to be the shock troops of the Reformation.

Cranmer's first hesitant steps towards a new liturgy came with the Litany of 1544, and his decision to make the Sarum Use standard throughout the Province of Canterbury, and possibly the whole of England in either 1534 or 1543. After Henry's death he formed a small committee to assist him with first 'The Order of Communion' which was to be inserted into the Latin Mass, and then with the first version of the Book of Common Prayer. The 1549 BCP became mandatory throughout England on June 10 1549 and marked the complete abandonment of Latin in the liturgy. However, it is a rather conservative looking document, even though on serious inspection, one has to dismiss the claims of Bishop Stephen Gardner, and modern Anglo-Catholics that the Communion service therein supports transubstantiation or consubstantiation as bogus. Cranmer's work endured mainly because of his masterly use of the English language and sound theology. It is interesting to note that those groups within Anglicanism keenest to abandon Cranmer's liturgy have also been the one's most eager to abandon Creedal Orthodoxy.

Cranmer revised the BCP again in 1551-2 this time into a more clearly reformed structure, but the actual wording changes are few and minor. The most significant being the replacement of the old words of administration with 'Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and be thankful." Cranmer's book on the doctrine of the Lord's Supper shows that he held to what he described as the doctrine of the 'true presence' as opposed to transubstaniation. Through his reading of Ratramnus and the Early Fathers, and the arguments of Nicholas Ridley, he had come to a doctrinal position close to that of Calvin - that is to say 'Receptionism.' He also gained much from his friendship with other Reformed moderates such as Martin Bucer.

Cranmer also has a measure of influence on the educations of Edward and Elizabeth, ensuring that they received a series Christian Humanist, and Protestant leaning tutors. Edward seems to have become a dedicated reformer, who doubtless would have developed into a definite Calvinist. Elizabeth, who was Cranmer's God-daughter, seems to have embraced rather more of Cranmer's outlook except in ceremonial matters.

Towards the end of his life, Cranmer's mature theology trod a via meia between Lutheranism and Calvinism. On most issues - Predestination, Baptism, the ministry, Church-state relations - Cranmer seems to have remained broadly Lutheran, but in terms of the Eucharist he had adopted a position similar to that of Calvin. Both the Forty-two Articles of 1553, which are directly Cranmer's work; and the Thirty-nine Articles of 1571, which were revised by Cranmer's protege, Matthew Parker, reflect this middle way between Lutheran and Calvinist. Cranmer's theological position can also be seen in his contributions to the Book of Homilies - a compendium of officially approved sermons - set forth in the reign of Edward VI as part of the ongoing programme of Reform.

After the accession of Mary in 1553, Cranmer's arrest and trial were to be expected. In order to secure his recantation he was placed in solitary confinement and was also a witness to the burnings of his close friends Latimer and Ridley. This has the neccessary effect on Cranmer, who broke under the strain and signed his recantation. Under normal procedures, Cranmer would have saved his skin by such a recantation, but Mary could not forget his part in the proceedings that had secured the annulment of Henry's marriage to her mother. As a result Cranmer was led out to burn on March 21st 1556 his final public act being to recant his recantation, and affirm his Protestant faith.

Cranmer is not in the ordinary sense an heroic figure, and is all the more interesting because of that. Whatever you may think of his role as a Tudor civil servant - an occupation that always makes the practicioner aquainted with forty shades of grey - one cannot fail to realise that Cranmer was one of the major architects of Anglicanism. In his reform of the liturgy, and his careful steering of a course between the competing Protestant ideologies, Cranmer laid the foundation for a national, liturgical, episcopal, Reformed Church that took its theological cue from this or that school of modern writers, but from the Scriptures and the Four Latin Doctors.