Friday, November 4, 2016

Well, Your Grace, How Should It Be Done?

That question appeared recently in the comments to a recent article on this Blog, and I have to say that I do not have a simplistic answer. The main thing is to assert an honestly Anglican identity, which means we look firstly to the Book of Common Prayer in its entirety, then to the Canon Law of the Church, and lastly to the preferences of the congregation that we serve. Unfortunately, we cannot do this without both a certain amount of historical knowledge, and a certain amount of unlearning of common custom which has often grown up as 'window dressing' rather than meaningful ceremonial incorporating elements at variance with the genius of the BCP.

For my own part, I would have to say that Anglican ceremonial has to fall between two poles. On the Protestant end one has to acknowledge the authority of the 1604 Canons, and that whilst they are no longer binding in the USA, they do provide us with a brief summary of what was considered the minimum in the Church during the days of what some authors call 'The Puritan Aggression.' Although much was allowed to fall by the wayside, it has to be remembered that the Communion Table was to be covered with a frontal that went down to the ground - hence the Laudian fall which envelops the altar - and covered with a fair white linen cloth for the Communion. Surplice, tippet, and hood were required in parish churches, and the use of the Cope was not to be omitted in cathedrals for the Eucharist. A proper pulpit and font were to be provided, along with service books, a chalice and paten, and registers. As for ceremonial, the sign of the cross, and the ring are explained, and bowing at the Holy Name of Jesus is required. The result ceremonial is austere, but reverent. On the Catholic end is the Ornaments Rubric of the 1559 BCP which was reiterated in 1662. This particular rubric is a bit of a mystery wrapped inside of a riddle, but the Royal Commission of 1906 seems, for very good reasons, seems to have concluded that the 1559 BCP's rubric was intended to reinstate the vestments used under the 1549 BCP, though if you take its wording literally, you will discover that the 1549 BCP was actually introduced in the third year of King Edward the Sixt. However, in addition items mentioned above, the alb, chasuble, and cope are legal, along with the bishop's crozier, mitre and almuce.

Whilst I tend to prefer a simple liturgy, I have no quarrel with those who prefer the Alcuin Club, and Percy Dearmer, called the 'English Use.' This adapted late mediaeval ceremonial to the Book of Common Prayer (note order of priority) taking into account the decisions of the competent courts. In some respects, the most enthusiastic adherents of this approach were the cathedrals, and the greater parish churches simply because it stood for ENGLISH or Prayer Book Catholicism against the values of that eccentric communion with its headquarters on the Vatican Hill. Certainly, in places like Lincoln Minster in the 1980s, the ceremonial used had a certain massive dignity, but it was not fussy. The altar party entered in albs, and apparelled amices, with the celebrant, deacon, and sub-deacon in copes. Other cathedrals used chasubles, dalmatics, and tunicles, but at Lincoln it was the cope. On arrival at the altar all bowed with the celebrant going to north side of the altar, and the deacon going to north side, and subdeacon to the south side of the broad step now inhabited by the Novus Ordo coffee table of more recent usage! The celebrant would read the service at the altar facing East, first at the north side, then from the middle; with the subdeacon and deacon stepping out to read their own particular elements of the liturgy, the Gospel being accompanied with lights and cross. Little more was done in the Prayer of Consecration than to do the manual acts prescribed by the BCP, and everyone retired again at the end of the service in good order. Matins and Evensong appeared rather more austere - I used to refer to the 'off duty' clergy as the 'Black Pudding Club' as they would attend in cassock and gown, not cassock, surplice, and tippet - and the officiating clergy kept their movements to a minimum. The overall impression was one of the BCP being done decently, and in order.

On the other hand, I do tend to think that Low Churchmen can drop into sloppiness if they do not watch it. I tend to prefer "Central Churchmanship" in parish churches, even though I think something a bit more elaborate is appropriate for cathedrals. Surplice and stole or a simple set of Eucharistic vestments for the Communion service, and surplice and tippet for Matins and Evensong is my usual comfort level, but I am not really that hung up on ceremonial, except that my "Anglo-Irish" ancestry gives me a hearty aversion to ceremonial exuberance. What I am hung up on is loyalty to the Book of Common Prayer as written. Unless one's bishop has authorized additions such as the Benedictus qui venit, they really should not be used, and even then, there is a lot to be said for following the BCP as written, not least of which is that it cuts one free from the liturgical fidgets. Certainly, when I encounter an (over) elaborate service where the former Congregation of Rites has as much, if not more, influence than the BCP, I am inclined to want to cross the threshold again. We had a Reformation, and the rite which was reformed was in many respects much simpler than that of 16th century, never mind 19th century, Rome, to which some folks spend so much time and energy trying to approximate the reformed rite of the BCP.

I really do not want to be prescriptive about ceremonial, but I do think we need to keep two ideas before us. Firstly, we are Anglicans, not wannabe anything elses. Secondly, the function of worship is to offer glory and praise to God, so every time we approach the altar or the reading desk we need to remember "I must decrease; He must increase!" That means that the church's ceremonial should minimize the individuality of the priest, and take him into the liturgy as an integral part thereof as the 'minister' and not the focus of public worship. For this reason I object in the strongest terms to the westward facing position at communion, and to the practice of individualizing or omitting the accustomed vestments. The minister should stand at the Lord's Table or the reading desk not as Pastor Bob or Fr. Jim, but as just another minister of Word and Sacrament.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Nineteenth Century Revolution in Public Worship

I have before me is an 1820s pew plan of my home parish church. It was drawn just after a reallocation of seats in 1823, and a partial re-seating of the church. Visible in the minds eye are the groined plaster vault added in 1803; the high backs of the box pews, some of which incorporate mediaeval bench ends; the three decker pulpit attached to the second nave pier almost halfway down the nave; a few memorials and benefaction boards, along with some painted texts showing through later coats of whitewash; and the lower part of the chancel arch is filled with a good 15th century screen with the Royal Arms. The Decalogue, the Lord's Prayer, and the Apostles' Creed, are on boards at the east end of the chancel, where there is a wooden communion table with a marble top (no worries in those days about stone altars!) surrounded on three sides by a rail. The chancel has two pews in it for the families from the two big houses on this side of the parish, and the rest with benches for the Communicants at the monthly communion service. Velvet cushion adorn the pulpit and a frontal of the same material covers the Communion Table. There are candles and candlesticks on the Holy Table, but they are never lighted. The whole impression is one of both the dignity and the sleepiness of the late Georgian Church.

Barton was a High Church parish, or at least so the parsons liked to think. Matins, Litany, Ante-Communion and a sermon were offered in one church in the morning, and Evening Prayer and a Sermon in the other in the afternoon every Sunday. Morning service was also offered on Tuesdays and Fridays, presumably a sort of echo of the Wednesday and Friday services required by early Georgian visitation articles, with the resident gentry of Barton providing the attendance for these service. Unusually the church has an organ - a small two manual instrument without pedals - which is sited in the western gallery, with the singers and accompanies the metrical psalms, the occasional new fangled hymn, and the limited number of rustic anthems familiar to the St Peter's musicians. As services alternate between the two churches, both are probably used four times in two weeks, with the curate living in the little double fronted vicarage in front of the Church. Within a couple of years the curate will be the nephew of the Vicar, who will move to the more palatial surroundings of the former Rectory, Bardney Hall, on his accession to the incumbency, and let the Vicarage to his aging mother.

Morning service would have been a fairly sombre affair. The bells would start ringing at 10.00am, and would give the countdown to morning service. If you lived on the Waterside you had better grab your hat and go as soon as you heard the bells, as it is fully a mile to the parish church. Closer residents could wait for the 15 or even 5 minute signals. Just before 10:30am a voluntary would be played by the organist, and the clerk and minister would take their places on the lowest, and middle levels of the three decker pulpit and begin wait to begin the service. The minister would give out a sentence or two of Scripture, read the exhortation at the beginning of Matins, lead the General Confession, give the Absolution, and then the Lord's Prayer would follow. Matins proper would begin with "O Lord, open thou our lips" and it is likely that few besides the clerk would make the response "And our mouth shall shew forth thy praise." And so it would continue through the Venite, the Psalms, the first lesson, the Te Deum, the second lesson, and so on, until the third collect. At which point the service may have been punctuated with a Metrical Psalm. After that, the Litany, another Psalm, and then the ante-communion ending with a psalm during which the parson changed from surplice to gown, the sermon, and another psalm or hymn before the blessing, after which another voluntary was hear from the organ, and all departed.

Once a month, the minister would go to the altar after the sermon, where bread and wine had been placed before the service. Whilst this took place, most of the congregation would exit, with the Communicants gathering in the chancel for the Communion service. The minister would return to the vestry and exchange gown for surplice, and then stand at the north end of the Table to lead the Communion. He would lead the congregation in the general confession, with the first rail of communicants already knelt at the rail, then after the Humble Access he would remove the linen cloth from the elements, move them a little to the north end of the altar, and whilst reading the Prayer of Consecration, perform the manual acts. The communicants would then receive the consecrated leavened bread, and the undiluted port before being dismissed with a sentence of Scripture and returning to their seats. The ceremonial would be simple, even bare, with the communicants departing quietly after the blessing. The services had been this way for a hundred years, maybe longer, and although parsons came and went in their generations, folks thought that things would continue pretty much the same way forever.

If we return to the same church, fifty years later (1873), the place had been revolutionised! Parson Hogarth has been there some 15 years, having arrived hot foot from the Tractarian fever swamps of London. When he had arrived in 1858, he inherited a restoration programme that had completely altered the church inside. Dear, kindly, affectionate, ineffectual Parson Holt had decided to have the church made over more-or-less according to the Ecclesiologists principles, and the leading men in the town had raised funds for this to happen. A London architect had been consulted, but he wanted London fees, so the work had gone to a Cuthbert Brodrick, a Yorkshire architect with offices in Leeds and Hull. Out went the plaster vault, the box pews, the gallery, even the old altar, and organ, and in came the new. The pews were uniform in design and height, which had led to the destruction of all but one of the surviving mediaeval bench ends. The organ now stands at the east end of the north aisle behind the newly minted choir stalls, and the reading desk and pulpit have been split and now stand south and north of the chancel arch respectively. The local builders had knocked out the bottom panels of the fifteenth century screen, whilst beyond the old red clay pavers, and white wash have given away to three colours of glazed tiles, with some almost convincing pseudo-mediaeval choir stalls for the Communicants. The old stone and wood communion table has been replaced by an altar table raised on two steps, whilst the east end has encaustic tile up to widow bottom level. The new five panel reredos contains the Lord's Prayer, Commandments 1 to 4; a sacred symbol in Gothic Letters; Commandments 5 to 10; and the Creed, whilst underneath it runs the legend - again in tile "THIS DO IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME." All very different to 1823, and moreover, there is now gas lighting in the church in the form of trident burners over every third pew, so service can be held in the evenings.

The services have also changed. Communion is now twice a month, and it is also twice a month at the Waterside Mission. Matins, Litany, and Sermon follow at 10:30am and Evensong and Sermon at 6:30am. Services are also held morning and evening at the Mission room. The services themselves have also changed. Metrical psalms have largely gone, replaced with Hymns Ancient and Modern. The first attempts are being made at chanting the services, somewhat marred by the raw voices of the choir. However, parson Hogarth moved too far too fast when he first came to the parish, so has been forced to revert to celebrating at the north end after a premature experiment with the eastward position. His celebration of Holy Communion in association with the burial of the dead five years since had also proved to be 'too far; too fast' for the locals, and prompted some of the locals to join the Church Association, or transfer their allegiance to the Methodists, not to mention the adverse articles and letters in the newspapers of the time under headings such as "Ritualism in Barton." However, being a canny Scot, the Rev. Mr. Hogarth has abstained from pushing his luck since then, and the Vicarage his home to him, his wife, and their brood of children, one of whom, David, is to become an archaeologist and associate of T. E. Lawrence. Curates come and go, and doubtless he discusses various plans for the future with his wife, and curate, but for the time being, things will remain as they are. He can rest content that having introduced daily offices and more frequent celebration of Communion he has made a good beginning at bring Barton into line with Tractarian ideals. It will be up to his successor, Canon Moore, to complete the revolution that Hogarth started. By the end of the century, the other church, St Mary's, will have been restored, and there will be two celebrations of Holy Communion on Sundays, a celebration on Thursdays, and also on Holydays. A surplice choir will have appeared, and a new organ will have been installed in both churches. By 1914, Eucharistic vestments will have been introduced, but Matins and Evensong will remain the main services down the 1960s when the Parish Communion Movement comes to Barton to effect the next revolution.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The View from the North End

Quite a few years ago, someone was making a bit of a to-do about celebrating Holy Communion from the north end of the Communion Table claiming that it had not been done since before 1914. I pointed out that that situation was peculiar to the USA, and that, as it happened I had celebrated at the north end regularly in England, using the 1662 BCP, until moving the USA in 1999. I think you could say he was surprised to find out that there are still places where the north end was the norm!

The actual rubric in the 1552, 1559, and 1662 Books of Common Prayer says that the priest shall stand at the north side of the Table. Between 1560 and 1645, most parishes would have been able to take this literally as the Communion Table was placed down the length of the chancel, with the ends east and west, and the communicants knelt around it, often in the old choir stalls. This method of proceeding was recommended by Parker's 'Advertisements' of 1564, though the Chapel Royal and some cathedrals continued to use the Eastward position. However, from about 1615 onwards, the fashion grew for leaving the Communion Table at the east end of the chancel, with its ends north and south, and railing it off. This meant that the 'north side' rubric could not be obeyed as originally intended. Two solutions were adopted. A few adopted the custom of standing before the altar on the gospel side, facing east, and this arrangement can be seen in a Restoration era print, but seems to have faded out of use by shortly after 1700. More commonly, priests took to the north end of the Table and celebrated from there.

The Restoration Settlement reiterated both the Ornaments Rubric, and the 1604 Canons. This essentially led to a return of the situation that had obtained in the 1630s. Communion Tables were very generally arranged altar-wise at the east end, and when Communion was celebrated, the priest took his place at the north end of the Table after the sermon, if he were a Low Churchman, and at the beginning of the ante-communion, if he were a High Churchman. Communion Tables in those days were usually about 6 feet by 3 feet, and were placed inside a railed enclosure, and furnished with a 'Laudian' frontal that completely enveloped the altar, a white linen cloth for the communion, and an alms basin and a pair of candlesticks. Altar crosses were uncommon before about 1865, and candles were not lit unless required for the purpose of giving light. The Communion plate of those days consisted of a large paten - usually on a stem, a pair of chalices, and a flagon usually made of pewter or silver, though some fine old gold plate sets still exist.

On the whole the heyday of the North end was from 1660 through to about 1900-1920, when the Eastward position became generally acceptable. However, in Ireland, in the Free Church of England, and among Conservative Evangelicals the north end position remained the norm right down to the 1990s, and even today. In England today it is probably most commonly seen in the North, especially in the Yorkshire Bible Belt, but is probably unknown in Wales and Scotland. In Ireland, north ending is commoner in Ulster than in the other three provinces, mainly due to the North's Evangelicalism. Sodor and Man had a high proportion of north enders down to the 1990s, but the trend now is to bring the Table forwards and stand in a cramped space behind it.

In the USA
North end was the norm through the colonial period and down to the 1840s, though from 1831 the BCP rubric said "right side" not "north side." This somewhat ambiguous direction seems to be a reference to the position of the vestry behind the altar in many churches, a position that would make the "north" side the right-hand side of the altar. As with England the earliest cases of eastward facing celebration occur in the late 1840s with the innovators doubtless arguing the 'right' meant 'correct' in this context. However, the major change over to 'ad orientem' celebration seems to occur between 1890 and 1914 as the old Evangelical Movement collapses. Some REC churches maintained the use of the North End, but within PECUSA it was pretty much gone by 1925. Indeed, the "before the holy table" rubric in the 1928 American BCP implicitly forbids the North end position, so its use should really be confined to the English and Canadian books.

I am going to assume that the Church is arranged with the Communion Table in the usual position at the end of the chancel, with the ends north and south, and that there is a credence Table. The priest is assisted by a deacon, there is no music, and the rite is that of 1662.

Before the service, the sufficient bread and wine are placed in the paten and chalice for the anticipated number of communicants, and placed in the middle of the Holy Table and covered with a linen cloth. Alternatively, the elements are placed on the credence together, together with some additional bread, a cruet of wine, and the collection plate or alms basin. There are Prayer Books on stands at either end of the Table, one for the priest, the other for the deacon. The clergy will be vested in cassock, surplice, tippet, and possibly hood. The surplices will be long and full.

The priest and the deacon enter, go to the rail, and pause without bowing before entering the sanctuary. The priest goes to the north end, the deacon to the south. The priest reads the Lord's Prayer, and the Collect for Purity with his hands together in prayer facing south. He then takes the book and turns to the people to rehearse the Commandments with the response being said after each commandment, or after the 4th and the 10th only.

The priest then turns back to the Table and says 'Let us pray' and reads the Collect for the Queen, and the Collect of the Day again facing south. The deacon then takes his service book and faces the congregation and reads the Epistle. Alternatively, he may go down to the chancel gates or lectern and read from there. If the celebrant is preaching, he then goes to the pulpit to read the Gospel, as the deacon returns to the sanctuary and sits in his chair on the south side of the Holy Table. The Gospel is read from the pulpit, and is followed by the Creed, notices, and sermon. At the end of the sermon, the priest reads the offertory sentence, and then returns to the Holy Table whilst the sidesmen take the offering.

The alms are presented at the altar, the deacon having collected the alms basin from the Credence before handing it to the priest who puts it on the Epistle side of the Table. After this the celebrant removes the cloth from the elements, and assisted by the deacon makes any adjustment to the quantity of bread and wine that may be required. (If the paten and chalice containing the elements were placed on the credence, then the deacon brings them to the Holy Table at this point.) The priest goes to the north end, turns to the congregation, and says 'Let us pray for the whole state of Christ's Church militant here in earth.' He then reads the Prayer for the Church. The exhortations are usually omitted, and then priest will turn to the congregation and read "Ye that... meekly kneeling upon your knees" before kneeling and letting the deacon lead the people in the General Confession. The priest then stands and raises his hand without making the sign of the cross whilst he gives the absolution. The deacon reads the Comfortable Words, after which the priest says the dialogue beginning 'Lift up your hearts,' before turning to the Table at "It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty..." The congregation joins in at either "Therefore with angels and archangels" or at "Holy, holy, holy" and recite with the minister until the Amen at the end of the Sanctus. The minister then kneels for the Humble Access, which he usually reads alone. A brief pause then follows whilst the elements are transferred to the north end of the altar for consecration. The prayer of consecration is read somewhat carefully by the priest facing the Table (i.e. south) at the north end with only those manual acts mentioned in the 1662 BCP being performed. At the end of the prayer all say "Amen" and then the clergy receive communion, followed by the laity, the priest administering the bread, and the deacon the Cup. Very often communion is administered by tables with everyone remaining in place until the minister dismisses that rail/table with a verse of Scripture.

When all have received, the remaining elements are placed in the middle of the Table and covered with the linen cloth. The clergy return to the ends of the Table, and the priest leads everyone in the Lord's Prayer. He then reads the Prayer of Thanksgiving, before all join in the Gloria in Excelsis. Lastly he gives the blessing facing the congregation with his hand or hands raised. The remaining consecrated elements are consumed after the service.

There are quite a few variants, but that is the basic format of the north end celebration. When music is used, the most common sections to be sung are the responses to the Commandments, and the Sanctus. As for hymns - at the beginning, between the lessons, before the sermon and at the collection of alms, during communion, and at the end of the service were fairly common. Also, in Evangelical parishes, it was pretty common to start the Communion service at 'Ye that do truly...' when it follows Matins or Evensong.

Final Thoughts
The north end celebration sounds a little awkward, but in fact works very well. My own point of view is that it has the advantage of allowing the people to see the manual acts without awkwardness on the part of the celebrant. It also avoids placing the presbyter 'centre stage' as happens with celebration facing the people. It emphasizes the ministerial aspect of the presbyterate, with the clergyman standing to the side, and letting the action of the Eucharist be seen. The disadvantage is that it arose by accident, and is without ancient precedent, but when celebrating the 1662 BCP Communion office it represents a valuable, historic Evangelical alternative to facing the Holy Table.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


The latest bought of meaningless oecumenicism between the Bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Moscow got me thinking about what it means to be an Old High Churchman. At the end of the day I believe it comes down to the following priorities, some of which are theological, and others ecclesiastical, and may explain to those who are not familiar with the old High Church position why at some points it sounds Evangelical, and at others Anglo-Catholic.

I. The Scriptures
Of necessity, the first priority for the Old High Churchman is the Bible. It is God's revelation of Himself to humanity, recorded by human authors for the permanent edification of God's people. The Articles of Religion give quite a bit of attention to the importance and nature of Scripture starting with Article VI, which affirms its sufficiency as the source of dogma, then going on in Article VII to affirm the unity of Scripture maintaining, as the ancient Fathers did, that Christ is preached both in the Old Testament and in the New. The old High Church view of Scripture is a High one. We believe the Bible to be God's Word written, and any attempts to undermine the authority of Scripture needs to be examined critically. This was not even a topic for discussion for our 18th and 19th century High Church forefathers, but in the modern context we need to give some thought to Higher Criticism of the Bible. It almost seems to be the liberal orthodoxy in the USA to proclaim that the New Testament is both late and heavily Hellenized, but neither of these claims really stand up to scrutiny at the bar of history. Certainly, there is an Hellenizing element as there was in all Judaism in the first century AD, but this is neither as extensive as some claim, nor as influential as we are sometimes led to believe. It was as much as result of intellectual convergence as the clash of cultures. The dating issue is also a less serious matter than it might seem. An extremely good - I would say compelling - case, largely reassembled by liberal scholar J A T Robinson, for re-examining the dating of the New Testament. J A T Robinson did this most noticeably in 'Redating the New Testament' (1981) and the 'Priority of John' (1984) which argue for dates between 45 and 70AD for the bulk of the New Testament - i.e. between 15 and 40 years after the Resurrection.

This acceptance of an early dating for the New Testament has consequence for our understanding of Christ. If the NT was written within a generation or so of the crucifixion, then the portrait of Jesus given in there has to be accepted as being authentic. Leaving aside William Paley's argument that the Apostles would not have faced dungeon, fire, and sword for a lie, one has to accept that much of the New Testament is not a Hellenized secondary account, but the writings of a group of men, who were contemporaries of Jesus, and in many cases eye-witnesses to the events described in the New Testament. Accepting the Bible as God's Word written has some consequences for the way in which we do theology. If the Bible is the reliable, authentic record of God's dealings with man, then our dogmatic theology must necessarily be based on those same Scriptures. This in turn commits us to Biblical theology, which, not only commits us to be Biblical picture of Christ, but also, if we take St Paul seriously, means we also need to accept the five 'Solas' of the Reformation as an essential part of our theological framework.

II. The Fathers, the Creeds, and Councils
Scripture alone, does not mean Scripture only. In fact those who preach Scripture only are a bit of a menace because they exclude the witness of the Early Church, especially the Sub-Apostolic Fathers - i.e. those who had known the Apostles personally, the Apologists, the remaining Ante-Nicene Fathers, and the Doctors of the Church - as to what was taught in the first three centuries. They are essentially left with what is in the Bible, and that which is under their hat, which is necessarily of variable quality. However, we need to be a little bit cautious not to set up the Fathers as a rival to Scripture, but rather we need to use them as witness to the content of Christian teaching in the first centuries. On the whole, the old High Church scholars of the eighteenth and nineteenth century attached the most importance to the Ante-Nicene Father, and particularly to the Sub-Apostolic Fathers. For example, John Kaye, Bishop of Lincoln 1827-53, was chiefly noted for his edition of Justin Martyr, the second century Father of the Church, whilst Dr. Martin Routh (1755-1854) worked on the writings of a series of minor second and third century Bishops and theologians. The emphasis on this period came about because the old High Churchmen believed that these writers gave them access to the best witnesses to the preaching and teaching of Primitive Church.

The Creeds were also an important element in the Old High Church position. Archbishops Moore and Markham rebelled at the Latitudinarian exclusion of Nicene Creed from the 1786 draft American BCP, and sent it back for further revision. A similar refusal to compromise on the Creeds led to the old High Churchmen taking the lead in the fight to retain the use of the Athanasian Creed in 19th century Ireland and England. For the OHCs the Creeds were very much as declaration of belief, and a test of orthodoxy. Bull's defense of the Nicene Creed, and the works of Waterland defending Nicene orthodoxy against the Arians of early eighteen century Oxford and Cambridge were touchstones of the old Protestant Orthodoxy. This high regard for the Creeds was further reinforced by their Biblical basis, and their Patristic composition and approval.

The Ecumenical Councils of the Church also figure largely in the thinking of the old High Churchmen, with the first four being the usual benchmark of orthodoxy. However, we need to be a little cautious in assuming that they did not attach weight to later councils such as the second and third Councils of Constantinople, the Council of Orange, and so forth, down to about 1000AD. However, it has to be stated that the most importance was attached to the witness of the first five centuries, and so the first Four Councils were the most extensively quoted and referenced.

III. Sacraments
The old High Churchmen were strong, if not very demonstrative, sacramentalists. Baptismal regeneration, often understood in a covenantal sense, was a key plank of their platform. They understood Baptism as firstly regenerating the individual by means of water and the Holy Spirit; and secondly, as incorporating that person into Christ. The relationship was also seen as being covenantal with the faithful individual receiving the assurance of sin forgiven, grace bestowed, and eternal life vouchsafed. To my mind, the OHC position is not dissimilar to that of Orthodox Lutheranism, but this particular 'kite' needs to be investigated further.

The OHCs also took a High view of Holy Communion requiring proper preparation for worthy reception of the Lord's Supper, as per the first Exhortation in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. This exhortation, slightly modified, is to be found on page 86 of the 1928 BCP and requires of the intending communion serious self-examination; repentance; and the assurance of forgiveness of those who come to the Lord's Supper, and also provides for those who cannot quite their consciences by the usual means, the ministry of penance, though confession to, and spiritual counsel from, a priest. As a result of their rigor, celebrations of Holy Communion tended to be somewhat infrequent in traditional High Church circles with four or five times a year being the norm in rural parishes, and monthly in market towns.

In terms of their understanding of the sacrament, old High Church thought divided between those, the majority. who accepted that Christ was present in the celebration of the Eucharist, but not specifically in the elements, and was received by faith by the worthy Communicant; whilst a small minority accepted that the consecrated elements were 'in virtue, power, and effect' the Body and Blood of Christ. In so much as there was a sacrificial element to OHC Eucharistic doctrine it revolved around the offering of alms, the offering of ourselves to Christ's service, and a commemoration of Christ's saving work, especially His one sacrifice of Himself once offered upon the cross. The setting for Eucharistic worship was very simple. The communion table would be set with the necessary vessels; leavened bread and undiluted port would be the elements, and celebrant would very generally conduct the service from the north end of the Table in surplice, tippet, and hood. However simple it may have been, the Lord's Supper was a source of awe to the Old High Churchmen, and the covenant of Grace renewed.

IV. Episcopacy
There is no shying away from the fact that the old High Churchmen believed firmly in the Apostolic, if not Divine origins of the threefold Ministry, and especially of Episcopacy. Start from Cranmer's statement that the Church has had bishops, priests, and deacons since the Apostles' time, they thoroughly investigated the origins of the threefold ministry connecting it to the Old Testament priesthood, the Syngogue, Our Lord's commission to His Apostles, and the evidence contained in the New Testament. In short, for the Old High Churchman, the Episcopal form of Ministry was the only Biblical form, though they were not as quick as the Tractarians and the Anglo-Catholics to pronounce judgement on the ministries of those National Churches which had lost the historic Episcopate. That said, they were usually dead set against any sort of English Dissenters.

V. The Prayer Book
The Old High Churchmen were also warm supporters of the Book of Common Prayer, often referring to it as "our incomparable liturgy." This tribal adherence to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer was very largely a product of two things. Firstly, the old High Churchmen were formed by the Book of Common Prayer. Daily Morning and Evening Prayer at college, and in the cathedrals; the weekly canter through Matins, Litany and Ante-Communion, and Evensong in the parish church; Bishop Gibson's family devotions were their devotion guides and produced a piety which was reasonable, but did not minimize the seriousness of man's sin, nor the abundance of God's Grace. Secondly, the BCP was revered as a product of both the Reformation and the Restoration, both of which were seen as providential events for the restoration and preservation of true religion. The odd OHC might have had the warm fuzzies for the 1549 BCP, but in the main the English branch of the movement supported the 1662 BCP; whilst their Scottish and American cousins liked to point to the influence of ancient liturgies upon their Eucharistic rites. It is also noticeable that in both Scotland and the United States, the adoption of the Articles of Religion as a confessional stand (in 1804 and 1801 respectively) was led by the anti-Latitudinarian High Churchmen.

Strange as it might seem, the four principal areas with which the Old High Churchmen were concerned find their way into the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (CLQ) which defines the Catholic and Apostolic Church by the Scriptures, the Creeds, the Dominical Sacraments, and the Episcopate. However, it is often forgotten that whilst the CLQ is a statement of what Anglicans believe the Church to be, it is not an adequate statement of the beliefs of the Anglican branch of that Church. For that one must look further - to the Early Fathers, the Ecumenical Councils, the Articles, the Homilies, and the BCP.

There is a sense in which the Old High Church appeal to the Bible, the Primitive Church, and the Reformation is both as relevant today and also deeply obsolete. In a Twenty-first century seems irrevocably committed to sound bite theology, theological shortcuts, ignorance of history; and intellectual laziness, Classical Anglicanism, of which the Old High Churchmen are the chief representative, provides an intelligent approach to Christianity which is neither liberal, nor in thrall to the traditions of men. It seems to me that Classical Anglicanism, which respects the Bible, the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church, and the intellect is perhaps more necessary today than ever. The propaganda from our deeply old-fashioned Progressives is that faith is not intellectually respectable, and Fundamentalism relegates itself to irrelevance by both failing to engage rationalism, and by embracing its literalism. In a sense we need a Christianity which teaches both culture and Christ. Folks have fled the mainstream churches, very often for Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox (which have other problems) very largely because we have stopped teaching. We need to reverse that trend, and also do something very uncharacteristic for High Church Anglicans, and reach out to those who are seeking after Truth. To echo Bishop Andrewes:
One revelation in two Testament; three Creeds; Four Councils; and five centuries; that is our rule of faith

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Accidental Dissenter

For whatever reason, the habit of my political and religious thought is a mild species of Toryism - I am basically an instinctive Church and King man. Of course, that makes me a dinosaur, and I have spent a good deal of my life dealing the consequences of being a member of an endangered species - leaving the Church of England, because I held to its old theology made me an accidental dissenter. I have also become progressively more disillusioned with contemporary politics, and like many of my generation I have had to face the fact that, unless there is something close to a counter-revolution occurs, I may well live long enough to write the epitaph of classical Western Culture. However, being a Christian, I do tend to be an indefatigable optimist mainly because the Bible teaches us that God is Sovereign, and that ultimately His Will will prevail.

However, no matter how much I would like to talk about political theory and culture, I am first and foremost a Churchman, and it has been with some fascination - no, that is too strong a phrase - mild interest that I have been watching the Anglican Realignment playing out through the inevitable series of meetings, handshakes, and photo ops. Much of what is taking place is, frankly, unimportant and intended to demonstrate that 'we are doing something' whilst it is pretty much 'business as usual' behind the scenes. So let us have a look at some of what has been going on...

The Primates' Meeting
I got conflicting signals from this one. The fact that Archbishop Foley of the ACNA was present and an active participant in the debate was encouraging in that it seems to indicate that Canterbury is prepared to listen to conservative voices, even if he won't listen to orthodox ones. It was also encouraging in that TEC did receive a suspension from the ACC and the ACO, but I suspect that this was not so much for heresy and unorthodoxy, but for moving further and faster than the political centrists Anglican Communion as a whole are prepared to go. In sum, the net result of the meet was to mildly rebuke TEC, and kick the can down the road another three years, which gives the Revisionists among the political centrists in the Anglican Communion another three years to spread the pro-gay word. However, I suspect that GAFCON, although it has largely caved on the ordination of women, will not give in on homosexual practice and same sex unions, and in three years time my theory is that they - the GAFCON Primates - will be even less willing to kick the can down the road.

Continuing Shuttle Diplomacy
At the moment the Anglican Catholic Church, the Anglican Church in America, the Anglican Province in America are engaged in a goodly measure of shuttle diplomacy, and it would seem that full communion and the M-word (merger) are very much in the air these days. I suspect that much of this stems from the fact that the Episcopates of those three bodies are largely Anglo-Catholic in outlook, and therefore find their common ground in the Affirmation of St Louis rather than in Classical Anglicanism, makes this process and the exchanges that go with it much easier. Certainly some of the old bugbears, such as the San Diego and Deerfield Beach re-consecrations have been laid to rest, so the politics of what was very largely a political dispute have very largely been put to bed. Some observers are speculating that the Anglican Catholic Church may be positioning itself to absorb (the ACC does not in any real sense "merge" with anyone) the reunited ACA-APA at some point in the future, but I think they are getting rather ahead of themselves in saying that. I would be surprised if the ACA-APA merger makes any further steps forward before 2017, if then, and that any further moves will be to some extent timed with an eye to the improving relations with the ACC.

The wild card in all this has been the visits between Bishop Stephen Scarlett (ACC-Holy Trinity) and Bishop Royal Grote (REC) which has sparked a good deal of speculation. Some folks are talking about this as the great apostasy, and others as signs that the REC is coming from the cold (I am tempted to ask, what cold?) depending on their churchmanship and allegiances. Personally, I think that it is far too tempting to read far too much into this development, and we are bidden to resist temptation. However, it has given the optimists and the conspiracy theorists something to talk about, and as usual, the theory is that the Anglican Continuum is about (i.e. over the next 10 years) to coalesce into a single jurisdiction which is based on the Affirmation of St Louis. A phrase containing the words 'fat lady' - 'over' - and 'sings' springs to mind far too readily.

The Three Streams
Even though I follow ACNA and CANA with some care on the internet, I have to admit to not having a clue what is going on with those jurisdictions. I think I would have to presume that it is very much business as usual, though they seem to have their growing pains associated with Catholics versus Charismatics, and the inherent instability of the three steams approach to Anglicanism. However, ACNA is still managing to keep its internal discussions about Women's Ordination and their new BCP as discussions and not heated debates, and are displaying a degree of maturity that was sadly missing from the 1977 Continuum at this stage of its development. I cannot help thinking, though, that ACNA in particular relying a little too much on the 'three-streams' approach to diffuse (or should be defuse) any identity conflicts within the broader organisation. However, I still cannot help thinking that that theory that lies behind the three streams is more Methodist than Anglican because, through the Charismatic stream it adds 'experience' to Scripture, tradition, and reason, creating a theological wild card which could be used to liberalize ACNA long term.

Classical Anglicanism
With the "Affirmationers" and the "Three Streamers" making most of the running, it seems that what Peter Toon and others dubbed "Classical Anglicanism" has not been much thought about, let alone discussed, in the latest round of shuttle diplomacy. I think the idea of returning to the old Anglican datum points of the Bible, the Creeds, the male threefold ministry, the BCP, and the Articles is currently out of favour because the current philosophy is that Anglicanism needs to be fixed. On the other hand, there probably isn't that anyone really rejects any of these traditionally Anglican markers - well, perhaps the Articles of Religion - but there seems to be general desire for closer definition. That is precisely where lies a very definite danger that whatever one's well meaning reforms might produce, it may well not be Anglicanism but a distinct tradition of its own.

Anglicanism is at its best when it is both Catholic and Evangelical. We need both the discipline and the sacramentalism of the Catholic Church, and the Biblicism of the Evangelical Reformation in order thrive. The danger of the catholic tradition is that it become impersonal and 'churchy' - to use a vague perjorative of yesteryear, and that the influence of Christ becomes lost in the shadow of the Church. Evangelicalism can easily become too individualist and degenerate into 'me and my Jesus feel-goodery' where sacraments and intellectual rigour disappear on a tide of emotion. Catholics and Evangelicals need each other in order to stay intellectually and spiritually honest, and when the two cross fertilize, as they have often done in the Anglican tradition, what is produced is a very glorious with the beauty of holiness. However, how do we put this into words?

Back in 1870, when the Church of Ireland was abandoned to disestablishment, they were left with the task of defining who they were, and in the preamble to their Constitution and Canons they described the Church of Ireland as being 'the ancient Catholic and Apostolick Church of Ireland' but also referred to it as a 'Reformed and Protestant church' which sought to return to the faith and practice of the Primitive Church. The former reflects the interests of Tractarians such as Richard Trench of Dublin and William Alexander of Derry; whilst the latter reflects pro-reformation thinking of the Evangelicals such as Bishop John Gregg of Cork, and leading laymen such as Benjamin Lee Guinness. I often think that the Preamble and Declaration adopted by the 1870 General Convention of the Church of Ireland represents a very good working definition of what Anglicanism should in that it positively affirms both the Catholic and Evangelical streams within Anglicanism. My big fear is that somewhere in the wash, this combination of Catholic and Evangelical will be the sock that goes missing. If we do loose that balance of Word and Sacrament, Catholic and Reformed, Apostolic and Evangelical, then will have lost much of that which made Anglicanism appealing.

In the current atmosphere of rumours about big things I have this quiet fear that I may once again become 'The Accidental Dissenter' by refusing to accept the redefinition of the Church that I love - at times 'warts and all.' It is always easy to make changes, but it is far less simple to correct an error once it has been made, and I fear that where Anglicanism is concerned the cures being proposed may be almost as bad as the disease!