My perspective will certainly seem to some to be a little on the “innocent” side, as I have very little experience of Anglican institutional wrangling. I am isolated and have very little in the way of social connections with my fellow clergy. I have never been on a parochial church council, and I attended the TAC College of Bishops meeting in October 2007 from the point of view of an observer. We English love procedure at meetings and an appropriate length of time spent in ensuring that procedure is followed and the level of consultation is correct. I have spent more than half my life in France, in an environment of “ordered anarchy” for want of a better term. So, in these considerations, I am unqualified to enter into institutional considerations. I concentrate on properly theological and spiritual themes.
Following my last article on Post Brockton Continuing Anglicanism, I saw something glaring – the radical incompatibility between non-sacramental or minimal-sacramental Christianity and what is generally described as Anglo-Catholicism. Very often, we get hung up over meanings of words, so I’ll try to get this straight. Frequently, the term Anglo-Catholicism is taken to mean a tendency of the Church of England in the nineteenth century and onwards to our own time to aspire to union with Rome by imitating or “aping” post–Tridentine norms, and then adopting the post Vatican II changes when they were implemented. Alternatively named Anglo-Papalism, it is distinguished from the Old High Church, describing the theological movement of the Caroline Divines and the Oxford Movement and adopting a highly conservative attitude about classical Anglicanism being based on the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-Nine Articles and, in general terms, the ethos of the Reformation. Thirdly, we have a more Evangelical tendency in the ACNA. It would be interesting to know how Anglo-Catholics fare in that communion.
For the purpose of this article, I would like the term Anglo-Catholicism to describe a maturing vision of the Church in its liturgical and spiritual culture as well as its theology. With the experience of Roman Catholicism and much of Anglicanism with modern / experimental liturgies, I would like to see the promotion of traditional western forms of the liturgy and church culture, which is one of the most positive aspects of the Continuing Anglican Churches adhering to the Affirmation of Saint Louis – the Missals.
My suggestion would be to concentrate on getting the Affirmation of Saint Louis Churches to meet together and get sufficiently agreed on doctrine and liturgical usage (optional character of the Prayer Book for the Eucharist in favour of the missals) and give second priority to dialogue with the old high-church and Protestant communions. Essentially, I see a distinction to be made, as in Roman Catholicism, between conservatives and traditionalists. Labels are always dangerous, so it is always the same matter of defining words carefully. Over simplifying, conservatism is a matter of keeping things the same, with the thought that variation involves error. Whilst I have reserves about the theory of doctrinal development (what in the mind of Newman settled his cognitive dissonance on the subject of papal infallibility), what I would call traditionalism is a quest for a living and maturing tradition in the communion of the Church. It is a kind of via media between believing something because authority teaches it and has the political clout to enforce it, and refusing the Church any character of a living organism. Perhaps Orthodoxy is closer to this idea of living tradition than anything else, provided it can open up and emerge from its own conservatism. The western Orthodox idea, however well or badly it has been implemented by Eastern Orthodox authorities, would seem to be the inspiring model for the Affirmation of Saint Louis, the give-away being the affirmation of seven Ecumenical Councils and the notion of the Undivided Church.
One way forward, for some, is the Ordinariate or Western Rite Orthodoxy. Some Anglicans can find their way in either the Ordinariate or the Antiochian and ROCOR vicariates. It is a matter of individual conscience. One thing that has caused problems in the TAC is clergy and laity joining another Church and leaving their Anglican community in a weakened and fragile state. I am not going to go any further into this issue, and whilst refraining from negative criticism of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, my aim is to make positive suggestions for the future of some Anglican communities.
It seems to me that most of the Affirmation of Saint Louis Churches are Anglo-Catholic. A great point has been made – that the Anglo-Papalist dimension has been removed by the Ordinariate. What is left behind is defined by another ecclesiology and understanding of the idea of the Undivided Church. The study of Old Catholic theology (ecclesiology based on the Council of Constance) is a great help in finding a new theological synthesis.
In the USA, the Anglo-Catholic churches are mainly the Anglican Church in America (ACA), the Anglican Province of America (APA) and the Anglican Catholic Church – Original Province (ACC). The more “Protestant” churches are those that are linked to the Global South and the Anglican Communion, and of course the Reformed Episcopal Church (REC). The ACC and the TAC have a significant international presence, and there is a number of smaller continuing Anglican Churches following Anglo-Catholic principles.
The problems with a “pan-Anglican” union seem to be theological and the source of Orders, together with a fairly “Donatist” view in some communions. The ACC is strict on the point of maintaining an absolute non-communion with those who have at any time being involved in the ordination of women, or even those who are ordained outside their particular episcopal lineage. The TAC has bishops generally descended from the same lines of succession and have never been involved in ordinations of women, but there are relationships of communion with Forward in Faith which is composed of Canterbury Anglican clergy.
I would be inclined to support the ACC position to some extent whilst adopting an open attitude with the TAC member churches and the APA. There seem to be grounds for theological agreement on the basis of the “western Orthodox” position of the Affirmation. Similar liturgies are used in all three communions, usually involving the use of the pre Vatican II Roman missal translated into “Cranmerian” English incorporating material from the Prayer Book of each country in question. Use of the Sarum liturgy is rare but does not go unnoticed on the occasions when it is used.
I think there could be union at two levels: full union when there is mutual recognition of each others’ Orders and theological agreement, together with agreements at a canonical and administrative level. Then there could be some kind of ongoing dialogue between the Anglo-Catholic union (whatever it would be called) and the churches upholding a “lower” kind of ecclesiology and theological position based on the Thirty-Nine Articles. The problem for some of the low-church conservatives is that they blame Anglo-Catholicism for liberalism and what drove them out of the Anglican Communion. The barrier seems to be insurmountable.
Another important aspect is that any union of the Anglo-Catholic churches should be of an open and inclusive character, ie. not with an objective of discrediting smaller communities accused of “imitating” or being impostors or deceiving the faithful. Everyone is someone else’s bogeyman, and such a mentality is destructive.
The ideal of an Anglo-Catholic union is that it would be a single episcopal synod, where bishops get together, get their act together, and make mutual decisions about jurisdictional matters, and if necessary, a reduction of the number of bishops in proportion to the numbers of parishes in each diocese. That would be the most credible objective, but perhaps one that could be achieved in a number of stages. I don’t know how it could be made to work, but I don’t see any prospect of success when trying to resolve differences between Anglo-Catholics and central / low churchmen, at least outside the British Establishment and the old Empire.
If the TAC could get together with the ACC and the APA, that would give a large and credible communion, even better if other Anglo-Catholic communions like the Diocese of the Holy Cross can be in on it. Once stability is ensured, then perhaps there can be further stages at gaining the confidence of other Christians whether or not they identify with Anglicanism. The category of Anglicanism needs to incorporate the Old Catholic vision in terms of episcopal ecclesiology and the integrity of the local Church as in Orthodoxy.
Obviously, there have to be institutional aspects, which are way above my “pay grade”, a matter for professionals of meetings and corporate life. I would hope that such would take second place behind questions of theology and validity of Orders.
Anglo-Catholicism is now going to be more moderate with the transition of the Anglo-Papalists to the Ordinariate. I hope it will not have to be fettered to the Articles and the Prayer Book, a continuation of the old cognitive dissonance from which even moderate Anglo-Catholics have suffered in the past. I am sure that suggestions could be made of suitable formularies, like for example, the old agreements made between the Orthodox Churches and the Union of Utrecht. There are lots of possibilities.
Also, a peaceful parting of the ways between Anglo-Catholics and broad / low Anglicans would free the low churchmen from having to accept doctrines not contained in the old Anglican formularies. It would do them a favour too.
Just a few ideas…