I would just like to add a little note to my previous article on ecclesiastical counterfeiting. My Bishop did observe that the use of the term Anglican Catholic by those who are not formally members of The Anglican Catholic Church is debatable. Personally, I use the term by virtue of having been formally received and licensed by Bishop Damien Mead into the Diocese of the United Kingdom of the ACC and continuing to be in good standing. In addition to my documents, the mention of my Chaplaincy and my own name in the diocesan website also establishes more than a little in the way of credentials. However, the site issues a disclaimer saying that such “descriptions do not constitute any canonical recognition of status“. All that being said, it would be known if I were claiming to be something I’m not.
If it’s not known to be true, it isn’t true. If it sounds too good to be true, it isn’t true. Secrets don’t stay secret for long. Sometimes, someone tells me about some wonderful independent church hitherto unknown – and gives me the link to their website. I then see then names of those involved and mutter “I wasn’t born yesterday“. My reaction is to ask myself how stable they will still be in five years from now. Corporate knowledge and long experience can be embarrassing. A person remains bound by his antecedents and cannot “remake” himself just by disappearing for a couple of years!
There are two national parts of the TAC using the title Anglican Catholic Church, the Anglican Catholic Church in Australia (they will change their site to anglicancatholic.com.au from next month) and the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada. This would seem to be for the historical reason that these bodies at some time separated from the Original Province of the ACC and became parts of the TAC when the latter was instituted in the early 1990’s. However, they do not use the coats of arms and other proprietary symbols of the ACC. They have their own and no one is deceived or misled.
There has been a new comment by my Bishop in his Facebook thread:
There are some genuine folk who don’t understand that the ACC is a distinct body in it’s own right and instead think of ‘Anglican Catholic’ as a generic reference to the historic meaning of ‘Anglo-Catholicism’. However, I think the reason that men like this like the name ACC and want to be identified with us is because generally they want the externals but not the internals. By this I mean they don’t want to be under authority (unless it is their own) and don’t want to be subject to any rules (unless they have written them themselves).
Indeed, this is fragile treading ground, and we have a new distinction, not between “I am Anglican Catholic but don’t belong to the Anglican Catholic Church – Original Province” (or to the two member Churches of the TAC mentioned above) but between Anglican Catholic and Anglo-Catholic. Etymologically, there can be no distinction. When I was in the Church of England, I often heard about Anglo-Catholics but never about Anglican Catholics. However, the term is sometimes brought up by Fr John Hunwicke, who is now a priest of the English Ordinariate but who was previously a priest of the Church of England. I would be grateful to know whether members of the Ordinariates in communion with Rome call themselves Anglican Catholics.
My Bishop would certainly prefer the term Anglican Catholic not to be too generic or be used by too many Anglicans not belonging to the Anglican Catholic Church, and certainly not by con-men or wannabes who would compromise our reputation through ignorance or insufficient distinction.
Certainly, our Church is distinctive as well as being a manifestation of what we would like to consider as mainstream Catholicism without any adjective. English ritualists can sometimes tend to focus on details of liturgical rites and other trappings without the theology and spirituality of traditional Catholicism anchored in the pre-Reformation Church with the positive pastoral aspects brought by the Reformation. Examples of those positive aspects are the rethinking of popular piety and the Bible and liturgy in English. Obviously, our roots are in the indigenous English Church, but also in the various Catholic movements in England from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, and this makes us stand apart from Counter-Reformation Catholicism as exemplified by the polemical wake left behind by the Council of Trent and the rise of Ultramontanism. To what extent we are an organic continuation or a grafted-on pastiche is open to question, but I don’t think it matters if the outside matches the inside.
Indeed our Bishop is right in that if we want to be known by the name of Anglican Catholic and identify with the traditions and privileges of the ACC, then we have to be ready to accept authority and follow rules. That was my intention when I made my canonical promises to Bishop Mead last April. It was reassuring as well as painful to be subjected to a good grilling by our Diocesan Board of Ministry, because the standards are high and those people expect priests of quality and loyalty! This is part of the pastoral duty of a diocesan bishop.
What’s in a name? The big problem is when a Christian community finds itself having to break away from its parent Church for reasons of conscience and continue to identify with its tradition. If we were members of the Anglican Communion, we continue to identify with Anglicanism. If we were Roman Catholics, we still call ourselves Catholics, because we understand the term in a generic way without the intention to mislead or masquerade. If we call ourselves Anglicans, the Church of England will accuse us of masquerading. If we call ourselves Catholics, the Roman Catholic Church will accuse us of masquerading. So we use an adjective to distinguish ourselves in a concern for being honest – we identify with such-and-such a tradition but we don’t pretend to belong to the Church that continues to claim a monopoly on the title.
We can go round and round in circles looking for the unique trademark that will set us apart from both the big Churches (which have modernised their liturgies, admitted women into their clergy, weakened doctrinal teaching, etc.) and the charlatans who often turn out to be bogus in terms of their lack of training and never having been ordained. There is always someone to the left and the “more legitimate” to the right. I have seen this kind of juggling for years, which is why I seek to make fine distinctions between the generic (sodium chloride being called salt) and the proprietary (sodium chloride being called Cerebos).