Divided we Stand

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.

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6 Responses to Divided we Stand

  1. Michael Frost says:

    My very first impression while reading this was…the more things change, the more they stay the same. It feels like the muddled history of the Elizabethian Settlement? Could be describing the sides that James I dealt with? Factions interacting during Laud’s time? The later Non-jurors? Wesley and Methodism? The Oxford Movement? Ritualism? The English Prayer Book war of the 1920s? And, sadly, the CofE couldn’t figure a way to keep either Wesley’s or Newman’s movements within.

    The Continental Reformation primarily ended up involving 3 clearly identifiable groups: RC, Lutheran, and Reformed. The CofE as a State-controlled, State Church started off with these 3 groups internally but primarily ended up with mainly RC- and Reformed-thinking “wings”. They have been in conflict ever since they were forced into the same National Church and local churches. Thus one gets High Church vs Low Church, Anglo-Catholics vs Evangelicals, etc. Only disestablishment will likely settle the question once and for all, and that civil war would probably run for decades. Not unlike what America saw with the Southern Baptists and LCMS internal theological “wars of cleansing” of the 1970s-1980s. Guess this is one reason why in USA, there is both ECUSA and the messy masses of Continuing Anglicans of various and sundry inclinations.

    Being EO, I’m not sure I’d say the Anglo-Catholics in USA are really all that clearly and definitively Rome-oriented in their core way of thinking. Those that really were, now likely are in Ordinariate. But my interactions with them over the past 3 decades has usually shown them to have a rather natural affinity for the ecclesiology of Constantinople. They may like the liturgics, prayers, and hymns of the West (both Reformation and Counter-Reformation oriented at times), but their view of “The Church” seems positively Eastern? And I’ve yet to encounter many who argue in favor of the filioque or reject the EO views on soteriology and the eucharist. They seem to gravitate rather naturally to an apophatic, mystical way of viewing so much of theology (which does allow for a lot of official theological ambiguity). Ask them about the inter-related RC dogma tied to purgatory, indulgences, the super treasure of merit, and eucharist sacrifice for the dead…and I can’t usually tell they aren’t EO. The times I talk theology with the local Continuing Anglican Archbishop in my area, I find our ways of thinking to be rather irenic and harmonious. If only my canon law let me receive communion there, I’d have no problem. 🙂

    • We need to be able to define a proper identity and be based on a tradition rather than a particular institutional church other than our own dioceses and colleges of bishops. We need to be focused and develop a sense of unity, not from constraint, but from understanding what we are and loving what we have as an expression of the same love of God as everyone else.

      I think the lesson of Pope Francis is not itching to change from one Church to another – but to make the Church to which we already belong manifest the universality of Catholicism in our local tradition. For myself, the experience of the Ordinariate, Archbishop Hepworth and the TAC has been most illuminating and salutary. We can’t be bitter about it – we have to learn.

  2. Here is a comment from Archbishop Mark Haverland sent to me by e-mail. I was inaccurate in some factual aspects, and I am grateful for this imput from someone who really knows about the history of Continuing Anglicanism from the inside.

    * * *

    A few notes on your recent post.

    Father Robert Hart is in North Carolina, not South – S. Benedict’s, Chapel Hill, NC. And his parish and he use the Anglican Missal. While Father Hart is much more enamored of the Articles and Tudor divines than I, he also is a firm adherent to the Affirmation of Saint Louis, seven Councils, and seven Sacraments, and understand the Articles more along the lines of Bicknell than of others we might name.

    Bess’s book is interesting, but has major flaws. It is filled with minor inaccuracies – names wrong, years wrong, etc. I made a schedule of such errors when I read the book, and it was very extensive. So extensive that one would have to question the scholarly reliability of its author’s judgements.

    The other main problem you touch on – the whole idea of a Southern Phalanx. I lived through the events in question, and the heuristic value of the term is nil. Forcing events into the bifurcation that term implies makes me a ‘Southerner’ and a Protestant in the fuss over my consecration, but I was on the other side during almost all important ACC controversies. And how can one use such a term when thinking about Mote and Morse? Bishop John Charles, during the late 1990s fuss, told me it was disorienting after 30 years as episcopus obscurantus to find himself over night considered a dangerous liberal. In fact, it all was about control of the ACC. Soon after the split, the three American bishops who left the ACC with Hamlett stopped talking about the issues that supposedly were vital in 1997….

    There was prior to 1983 a body of ACC members, particularly in the Virginia area and in the southwest U.S., who were not really committed to the Affirmation and were more in line with the Low Churchmanship then embodied in the Clavierist body, the American Episcopal Church. Defectors that year removed from the ACC, and thereafter most fusses in the ACC involved conflicting individual personalities. In the early 1990s Archbishop Falk wanted to alter the polity of the ACC (to turn it from a Church to a mere national body within a new Communion, the TAC). The majority resisted, not least because of (well-founded) doubts about Clavier, and that led to the split at Deerfield Beech.

    Somebody needs to do an improved history. Alas, I don’t have time….

    In Christ,


  3. ed pacht says:

    I don’t wish to bring up old controversies here, but wish to mention quietly that the statements of Archbishop Haverland (for whom I have boundless respect), particularly with regard to Archbishop Falk and the TAC, are merely one side of an ongoing debate. I, with most of the TAC, would characterize the events rather differently. My conviction is that we simply need to leave all this behind and find ways to come back together in the here and now and start over.

    • Dale says:

      I agree completely with Ed on this one; let us all please move on.

      • Michael Frost says:

        Ed & Dale, In that light…Was nice to see the aforementioned Archbishop this afternoon at the spring yard clean up. As always, he was in good spirits. As was his lovely wife. Was a bit weird to see an Archbishop wearing civvies and doing yard work. (Bishop Strawn is visiting tomorrow, so we need to clean up. I do hope he gives something like a TAC and ACA update tomorrow.)

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