I would like to draw your attention to the article Divided we Stand. Some of the comments to this blog post reflect some of the feelings I have had on reading this book by Douglas Bess, which I finished last night before dropping off to sleep.
The tendency is critical, something I can understand having known one or two of the episcopal players in the 1990’s. The agonising problem is situating the Anglican idea between comprehensiveness and a fairly “Tridentine” Catholic vision. I have joined the ACC in agreement with our Church’s adherence to the Affirmation of Saint Louis rather than to the Thirty-Nine Articles (though some of our clergy favour the latter). We in England have followed much of the English tradition of Anglo-Catholicism by using the English Missal and the Anglican Missal. In England, the ACC suffered in the late 1990’s from the somewhat excessive demands for liturgical uniformity by Bishop Leslie Hamlett.
Douglas Bess’ book goes into detail, and sometimes his use of terms like the Southern Phalanx, until you discover an appendix containing an explanation, is confusing. This term would denote the low-church tendency that objected to bishops and churches wanting to be exclusively Anglo-Catholic. The issue of comprehensiveness was a dividing issue in the 1990’s, because some bishops wanted more of it, others less. Eventually, men like Bishop Hamlett would leave the ACC because it was too “comprehensive” and inclusive of more Reformation ideas than he could tolerate. However, it wasn’t only a problem of theology and praxis, but also of small-minded and parochial men lusting after power and influence.
Nowadays, the Continuing Anglican Churches are finding their alliances and making their peace with each other, though dividing lines are fortunately not excessive. For example, the Church led by Archbishop Peter Robinson, of more central churchmanship, is in communion with the Anglican Catholic Church and the Anglican Province of Christ the King. Bonds of unity and friendship are strengthening between this alliance and Churches like the Anglican Church in America (TAC) and the Anglican Province in America (APA). The latter two are Catholic, but more comprehensive in their outlook.
Bess’ writing is subtle, and he made the effort to avoid dualistic or binary thinking. Many ACC and APCK parishes, like that of Fr Robert Hart in South Carolina, avoid the Missals and prefer the 1928 American Prayer Book and seek a distinctly “classical Anglican” expression. Continuing Anglican is thus not divided along a high-church and low-church line, since many of the “classical” Anglicans distinguish the notions of old high-church and Anglo-Catholic, identifying the latter with more Tridentine practices. It is a form of English Use, but without actually using the pre-Reformation rites such as Sarum.
The idea of actually reverting to the Use of Sarum as used prior to the first Prayer Book of 1549 has never really taken off. I find this unfortunate. There are published books containing the authentic Sarum texts published in the nineteenth century (Latin and English) and in 1911 (Canon Warren in English), and much of the ecclesiological movement in those days of early Ritualism restored the pre-Reformation English style of church furnishing. Percy Dearmer went as far as dressing up the Prayer Book Communion Service to look like a Sarum Mass, and the effort was most laudable at a time when priests could get into very serious trouble for taking liberties with the lawful rites of the Church of England. Developing this tendency would be a good subject of discussion in the light of the Roman Catholic Church allowing more diversity of western liturgical forms.
To what extent does difference justify schism and aloofness? This will always be a problem in Continuing Anglicanism without a secular authority imposing acts of conformity, comprehensiveness and tolerating diversity of emphasis, liturgical usage, theology and piety. The real rift has always between between Catholic only and comprehensive.
The writer of this article, himself in the more Prayer Book and Thirty-Nine Articles perspective, identifies Calvinism as the point of division. That is an interesting point, and perhaps that tendency is more widespread in American Continuing Anglicanism than in England. It would seem to be more wise to base comprehensiveness on different forms of Catholic expression but without the thorn in the side of Calvinism.
There is still a long way to go, perhaps along the lines of full communion between Catholic jurisdictions of different tendencies (old high-church and Tridentine) and an ongoing dialogue with the low-church (Calvinist) jurisdictions – a two-tiered approach to make progress possible. Doubtlessly, this has already been thought of and presently in progress.
The idea that there would be an irreducible number of two Continuing jurisdictions is cogent. There may be charitable and friendly relations between Catholics and Calvinists, but they are mutually exclusive if either tendency is true to itself. I myself would find it difficult to swear by the Thirty-Nine Articles – which we don’t in the ACC in England (we swear to uphold the Holy Scriptures and the Affirmation of Saint Louis – containing profession of the seven Ecumenical Councils).
The unity movements are happening right now, and progress is being made. It seems likely that however far we get, there would always be two Anglicanisms and two foundational visions – one of Calvinism and the other of reformed (in relation to the excesses of the medieval situation) Catholicism.
Interesting. Comments are welcome, but please be courteous and positive in discussing how we can move together and be true to what we believe in our hearts.