This is something I should address as unofficially as possible, therefore in my personal blog. I stumbled across a blog with which I was not previously familiar, and which published The Conciliar Anglican (Fr. Jonathan) on The Rise of Parties.
It really is the “old problem”, which we are not going to solve here. So, I will just offer a couple of reflections in the knowledge that I will be shot down. I have no personal experience of American Anglicanism, either in TEC or the Continuum. There are big differences between our “English” way and the “classical Anglican” ethos in America.
My experience of Anglicanism was for the most part outside the “spikey” parishes of London and the South Coast. I developed something of an interest in Christianity from my time at school. It was public school (English “public” school that is, not American) religion – broad, liberal, doctrineless and passe partout. We in the choir had blue cassocks and surplices. The musical repertoire was everything that was most ordinary in Anglicanism, and sometimes we got some “smells and bells” at York Minister in the days of Dean Alan Richardson who had followed in the footsteps of Dean Milner-White. What is Anglicanism to a cradle Anglican? Probably something like Roman Catholicism to a cradle Roman Catholic. It’s something you go along with until you have enough awareness to seek an identity or reject it altogether as irrelevant to the rest of our existence.
I was not conscious of belonging to any kind of “reform” movement. I was just in the Church of England and developed an interest in church music. As I found “bells and smells” at York Minster, I came across Evangelical parishes in our city and some boys at my school who wanted to spice up chapel services with their guitars and catchy songs. By 1973, our chaplain introduced Series III and the first modern-language services that needed special compositions and not the classical repertoire we had been doing. This was my first notion that different “tendencies” wanted to do different things with the Church.
As time went on, I read something about Methodism, since we occasionally had ecumenical services with them. Their churches were so different, usually with a big central pulpit and the organ behind, with a little wooden table in front and the communion rail with little holes for the individual communion glasses. We Anglicans had a central altar (eastward facing or facing the people), the pulpit off to one side and we were given communion from a common chalice. This was so of the most Evangelical parishes.
One impression we English Anglican boys got was that it was a matter of taste and what felt best with. We chose our church because the music was good, because there was a fine organ, because we liked the Vicar, the services, whatever. No one I knew liked to be pressed into any one mould of conformity. With very little doctrinal basis, as with Roman Catholic youngsters, most of us would just “grow out” of religion.
Did we have an idea about Anglicanism having to be distinctive? I preferred Anglican churches to the non-conformist style, and I didn’t find myself attracted to the kind of piety I found in Roman Catholic churches where I occasionally played the organ, surrounding Saturday afternoon confessions and evening Rosary. As for doctrinal formularies, I hardly knew what the Thirty-Nine Articles were – and we still had the Prayer Book for Evensong. Actually in the choir, we didn’t use prayer books, but pointed psalters, a hymn book (Ancient and Modern Revised) and printed sheet music for the versicles and responses, the Magnificat and Nunc dimittis and the Anthem. We had the services as we were used to them, but without self-consciousness.
In my Anglican life in the late 1970’s, I wandered into some very “spikey” churches in London on my many “organ crawls”. I was reminded of the York Minster choir and our school choir processing up opposite sides of the Minster, led by acolytes in dalmatics swinging thuribles for the Epiphany 1973? We sang the lovely old carol O’er the hill and o’er the dale. The “spikey” churches reminded me of all that. It was in 1979 when I discovered an Anglican parish using the Novus Ordo Roman rite. That was at St Alban’s Holborn, up at the high altar and using sung settings with the Prayer Book texts, or even Latin as when using compositions by Mozart, Haydn, Byrd or others. I drew the line when I heard an East-End vicar talking about putting in an altar facing the people to conform to Roman Catholic norms!
I preferred the Prayer Book texts from the point of view of musical settings and an eastward-facing Eucharist rite. On the other hand, I witnessed a north-end 1662 service in one of London’s City churches and found it bizarre. I only went into the place on account of the fine eighteenth-century organ in a church that was not bombed during the Blitz in 1940. I began to hear about comprehensiveness, but that seemed to go with ecumenism, and I remember deeply offending a clergyman because I confused the two terms. The poor man understood that I sinned through ignorance, and I was just a lad of my time.
In time, I assimilated notions about the Tractarians and the Oxford Movement, and even about the London slum priests going to prison in the 1860’s for Ritualism. I didn’t have the impression of men “playing at religion” even if there were some very “camp” homosexual men around. That was and is London and places on the South Coast like Brighton.
I don’t think I ever heard of Hooker until I had become a Roman Catholic and was nostalgic about Anglicanism, and therefore read about it. Newman was supposed to be the great hero of converts, and it seemed strange he took so long to work everything out! Coming to the point, some of the identitaire articles floating about have no bearing on the Anglicanism I knew badly but of which I was a part.
My Roman Catholic experience marked me deeply, perhaps to the extent that I was too Anglican to be a good Roman Catholic and too influenced by the Tridentine forms I sought out to be a good Anglican. I sought out a third way in the light of my experience in France in parishes like that of Fr Montgomery-Wright. That way would be the pre-Reformation, medieval and conciliar tradition of Catholicism. I was struck by the quip by Oscar Wilde in his famous letter to his boyfriend about the meaninglessness of reformations. There is something so tedious about being reformed – it’s all about having to put on one’s Sunday best rather than enjoying life! I was always interested in seeing Catholicism as it “naturally occurred” in countries like Italy, a phenomenon of increasingly rarity.
So, comprehensiveness based on “reformed Catholicism” was never much of a priority for me.
This article to which I make reference assimilates me to “modern” Anglo-Catholicism, perhaps something like St Alban’s Holborn, St Mary’s Cable Street or Bourne Street. Lots of lace and big six? I have nothing against, since I was a seminarian at Gricigliano and unashamed baroque Catholicism seemed a good contrast with the more dour and humourless traditionalists. Since then I dropped the lace and took the plunge with the Sarum liturgy, whether others are interested or not – it makes no difference here in France.
Blog articles and comments of modern Anglo-Catholic clerics such as Chadwick and Haverland…
I am indeed flattered to be compared with my Metropolitan Archbishop who is an excellent theologian and an erudite man.
Was comprehensiveness really an ideal with the Tractarians? Perhaps it was, but this is the first I hear of such a notion. I would not dare to speak for Archbishop Haverland, but I have not jettisoned anything that was never a part of my religious baggage. Am I playing church? Am I wanting the church I want and forgetting the Church which God wanted. So, my Archbishop, I and others are not only “modern” Anglo-Catholics but also sectarians! I have a feeling or surreality, as if someone were calling me a pink elephant and I were looking over my shoulder to see whether the description fitted me or someone standing behind me.
Strangely, I am not really interested in a “church I want”, but more in finding the Church at all. Where’s the comprehensiveness in indicting our intentions and interior motives? What is not sectarian is seeking to base comprehensiveness on a narrow and intellectually unsatisfying ideology? It is a bit like trying to examine current social issues in the light of Marx and Lenin rather than the research of those with the benefit of more relevant data?
What makes them so sure that God wants something based on Reformation-era ideas and reactions against the Roman Catholicism of the time? Has God ever expressed any preference for any “type” of Church? The binary thinking (which is not merely for pedagogical purposes) is quite astounding. Only if you’re “modern Anglo-Catholic” are you seeking a “pure” Church consisting on bits and pieces chosen from the “cafeteria”. Now where have I heard that one before? Oh! Of course! From the conservative Roman Catholic apologists.
So, we “modern Anglo-Catholics” are bound to die out eventually. Isn’t that rather obvious? We’re all going to die one day! But, the idea of Anglicanism as “conciliar Catholicism” rather than Protestantism with the hard edges filed off seems still to be going more or less well. People have been going to Rome and Orthodoxy since the days of the Oxford Movement – and they were hardly “modern Anglo-Catholics”. Some Evangelicals have also gone to Rome and Orthodoxy, as they still do. It is not because of “modern Anglo-Catholicism”, but because a particular person or group believes that this is the right thing to do.
It is manifestly silly to blame “modern Anglo-Catholicism” for people being “bled off”. Perhaps “they” should blame Tractarianism and not only “modern Anglo-Catholicism”. Well, before Tractarianism, Anglican pottage was latitudinarian and an affair of country squires and the Establishment gentlemen sporting their facial hair in their Clubs.
So we “modern Anglo-Catholics” have “no real understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ” and are merely “camp” aesthetes! It’s a point of view… It’s time to question this term “modern Anglo-Catholicism”. If this were an accurate way to describe us, then why are we using old liturgical forms rather than the Novus Ordo? Perhaps “modern” means anything since the sixteenth, seventeenth or eighteenth centuries. It’s all rather slippery.
It comes to another consideration which is no less than a “true church” claim and the correlative intolerance. It strikes me that such intolerance and branding of ones “adversaries” will do more to discredit the Church and alienate seekers than either the importing of “foreign” traditions or reviving “obsolete” customs.
I wish all the best to all groups of Christians in their endeavours to bring about unity between themselves. I sincerely hope for their success in making their message more credible to tired, cynical and alienated people of our time. Perhaps only in America can any kind of Christianity make any claim to worldly success. That being said, I am hardly naïve about the fact that the greatest oppositions between Continuing Anglican factions are in America.
For my part, I am not jealous about the label Anglican. When I was a boy, it meant being in the Church of England. I quoted Bishop Mercer’s piece about extra-mural Anglicans a while ago. We all have difficulties in defining our identity or our particularity, and we squirm about using the title Catholic for fear of offending the Roman Catholics. Orthodox is even further away from our horizon as a word. Do we define ourselves by the institutional body we belong to or by our belief and praxis? It is a tendency among many independent Catholics to use special adjectives so that they don’t fall foul of accusations according to which they are misrepresenting themselves as other kinds of Catholics. This is a big problem.
What do we do? Go away and let the strongest stake their claims to the exclusion of all others? If that the Church God wants?
It strikes me that the goal should not be one of gathering all the little Anglican communities and making a big and politically powerful institutional body, but rather tolerance and recognising Christ in other people and the groups they belong to. Anyway, I could go on about this forever, and those who are convinced need no convincing, and those who are not convinced will never become so. I leave off this little article with the famous quote:
For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.