Dr William Tighe on the Continuing Anglican Churches and Doctrine

I just received this from Dr William Tighe and his permission to publish it here.

* * *

I wrote the piece [Can the Thirty-Nine Articles Function As a Confessional Standard for Anglicans Today?] more with Continuing Anglicanism in mind than “Canterbury Communion Anglicanism,” which has reduced the articles to, at best, one selection from an a la carte menu.  Specifically, I had my one-time friend (and I suppose we are still friends, although we have had no contact for a couple of years) Fr. Robert Hart in mind, and his various shiftings-of-position since I first met him around 2001.  (Then, he occupied a theological position quite similar to what I discern to be your own, although with a more “mythological” view of the English Reformation; he once actually told me that “Anglicanism, as I see it, begins only with Lancelot Andrewes; everything earlier after 1559 I ignore.”  Subsequently, though, he has moved to a “Reformed Catholic” position, I suspect under the influence of Lawrence Wells and Peter Robinson, in which the 39 Articles and an essentially Protestant-but-with-real-bishops ecclesiology are the palladium of “Anglicanism.”  At the same time, he moved from the tiny and, after 2002, isolated “Diocese of the Chesapeake” [in which he was one of the clergy involved in vain discussions with the Polish National Catholic Church aimed at bringing that diocese into the PNCC as an “Anglican Rite” diocese] into the Anglican Catholic Church, in which he, together with Fr. Wells, form part of a small, but loud, group that wish to represent the Articles as just as authoritative for “Anglican identity” as “the King’s Book” of 1543, which the ACC seems to regard as the most authoritative statement of its doctrinal position; and they are certainly opposed to the ACC becoming a kind of “Anglican Old Catholic Church,” such as you, and Mr. Hailstone, seem to favour in your recent posting “Comprehensiveness, on whose terms?”).  If I were to rewrite the article with the ACC in mind, I might devote some space to “the King’s Book,” and question how coherent a doctrinal position it enunciates (not to mention its thumping defense of obligatory clerical celibacy; although Bp. Haverland himself once wrote somewhere that the ACC regards the KB as authoritative in the doctrine it teaches, but not the discipline).

* * *

Naturally, I don’t want to re-ignite old fires with Fr Hart, who is a respected member of the clergy in the Diocese of the South under Archbishop Haverland.

When I entered the English diocese of the ACC, I was made aware of Archbishop Haverland’s book, Anglican Catholic faith & practice, which is recommended for all incoming clerics and laity. The Affirmation of Saint Louis is the foundational document of most Anglican Catholics in the ACC, the TAC and most other Continuing Churches.

The King’s Book of 1543 (the Use of Sarum in Latin was still the official liturgy in England) is a source that bears looking at in the perspective of defining ourselves as Anglicans as opposed to independent Catholics. I have yet to read this historical work together with the earlier Bishops’ Book of 1537. Like any other formulary, these are historical documents of comparative interest, and need to be read in the light of historical knowledge and more recent theological developments.

I am indeed careful not to want to identify the ACC with the Dutch or Germanic Old Catholic positions of the late nineteenth century, but rather with a much earlier reference, namely the time of Henry VIII and before. The idea is not an exact reproduction is all aspects, but a general reference from which our identity is established. Indeed, we are Anglicans and not Old Catholics, but the Old Catholics have one thing in common with us – the Conciliar ecclesiology of the Council of Constance and the priority of the Episcopate over the Roman Curia and the Pope. The difference is subtle but real.

We obviously tolerate Protestant opinions in our midst without allowing them authority to dominate our whole Church at the expense of Anglican Catholic doctrine and praxis.

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10 Responses to Dr William Tighe on the Continuing Anglican Churches and Doctrine

  1. Michael Frost says:

    Fascinating as always! But whoa, rather obscure? The changing theology of Henry’s independent Anglican Church from 1535-1545, involving thoughts toward or against the RC Church, Greek Church, and Lutheran Church:

    – The 10 Articles of 1536.
    – The Bishop’s Book of 1537.
    – The 6 Articles of 1539.
    – The King’s Book of 1543

    Makes me wonder who we might nominate and eventually crown as the “last true pre-Reformation thinking Anglican of the Henrician Period”? Though pre-Reformation and Anglican tend to be somewhat oxymoronic? Or if we could even identify such a person? Would it be Moore? Henry VIII? Bishop Gardiner? Cardinal & Archbishop Pole? Mary I? Henry and Stephen represent the independent wing. The others the RC wing. Archbishop Cranmer and bishops like Latimer, etc. are men of the Reformation.

    • William Tighe says:

      The first three of these four formularies were at best semi-official, as the king did not endorse them. The fourth did receive his endorsement, and seems to have been intended to be the lasting foundation of a “Henrician Settlement.”

    • Personally, I think it would be better to take our reference from before Henry VIII, but we are still in a pick&mix paradigm. Contemporary Roman Catholicism is as far from that general praxis as Reformed Anglicanism. Perhaps we can’t win and the view out of the window is bleak, or we can fragment through interior conflict, or try to reconstruct something. Can’t do better than that – and forget Orthodoxy outside the USA!

      It’s not very strong intellectually, but yet nothing is. Perhaps Christianity engages something other than the rational faculties and a certain amount of incoherence has to be accepted for a greater good.

      In the end, we need to go less for precise documents than knowledge of the general praxis of a period when everything was no more perfect than now, but which forms a base that had been destroyed by a revolution like the Reformation, the French Revolution or the aftermath of Vatican II. I suppose it’s a bit like the 1930’s or the 19th century for the RC traditionalists. It’s a whole, and not something as sharp and precise as a formulary. The instinct is to seek to return to something “safe” before building on it in view of modern pastoral needs.

      • Michael Frost says:

        Hmmm… “I think it would be better to take our reference from before Henry VIII”… So that has me leaning toward either Henry II or Thomas Beckett… One or the other or somewhere betwixt and between! That has you post-1054, post-1066, in the period of Peter Lombard yet pre-Aquinas, and pre-Reformation. 🙂

      • OK, you’ve got me in a corner. Perhaps I should go happy-clappy? 🙂

        Seriously, weren’t the 19th century Ritualists doing the same thing too? Picking and choosing from the cafeteria?

      • Michael Frost says:

        Fr. Anthony, One does have to keep a sense of humor, even in these things. Which is why I appreciate the periodic comedic references, say to Monty Python. And be able to relate life to other, sometimes more mundane things, like boating. Which is why I even skim the boating articles to appreciate life from that perspective (one I have limited immediate experience with).

        It does help to have some common frame of reference. Some precision. Some definitions. Even by way of analogy. Or past historical reference. Otherwise people either think they are agreeing when they are not or think they are disagreeing when they are not. Or they aren’t even on the same page in the discussion and don’t realize it. This seems especially true for Anglicanism, which has such imprecision at times and so many potential ambiguities. So many variants and differing forms. And a certain need for precision is especially true for those Anglicans attempting to recover or rediscover some past, some perceived halcyon bygone day. Otherwise is just an individual ephemeral paradise, rather than a real living solid collective place, that one is going to achieve?

      • Michael Frost says:

        Fr. Anthony, I do suspect that a strong point of divergence between us is in our view of the time period from about 1000 AD to 1500 AD. You often appear to me to view it as the zenith of Western Christendom. I tend to view it as the nadir of Christendom, Western and Eastern. For example, I’m not much of a fan of Gregory Palamas’ ideas. And Dix, Reed, and so many others do a great job pointing out the vast liturgical, devotional, and doctrinal accretions of the period (mainly Western). And the political and religious machinations all across Europe make one almost sick viewing through today’s eyes. If I had lived in the Holy Roman Empire in 1531 and my only two choices were Rome or Wittenberg…I think I would’ve gone north. I suspect you might’ve prefered a slightly warmer climate? 🙂

  2. William Tighe says:

    When I wrote this:

    “I wrote the piece [Can the Thirty-Nine Articles Function As a Confessional Standard for Anglicans Today?] more with Continuing Anglicanism in mind than “Canterbury Communion Anglicanism,” which has reduced the articles to, at best, one selection from an a la carte menu”

    I had in mind whatseems to be the obvious fact that all “Continuing Anglican” bodies cannot avoid considering the question “what is Anglicanism” or “what constitutes the ‘Anglican orthodoxy’ or ‘orthodox Anglicanism’ which they wish and claim to ‘continue’;” or at least they cannot do so with any sort of integrity or credibility. They cannot, in other words, “sweep under the rug” questions of this sort, as “official” Anglican bodies in such places as the British Isles, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States, and perhaps South Africa have done, preferring to rely instead on such factors as institutional loyalty, financial endowments, theological ignorance or blithe unconcern on the part of their members, and the hope of attracting semi-Christian, or resentful, “Liberal Christians,” or perhaps simply “Liberal Religionists,” from more conservative milieux, both Catholic and Protestant. Since “Anglicanism” is, and always has been, so contested and protean a thing, to grapple with these questions will almost inevitably produce various and incompatible answers — and, no doubt, strife and division. It makes me wonder why “Continuing Anglicans” of a serious and informed Catholic temperament should even wish to continue to embrace the word “Anglican,” except perhaps as a kind of historical “marker;” and certainly I see no reason whatsoever to embrace the concept of “Anglicanism.” Bodies such as the ACNA may well wish to do so, since so many of its adherents seem to believe that WO can be included within the wide and blowsy notion of “Anglican orthodoxy,” while SS (let the reader understand) cannot — but with groups of this sort I have little interest and less concern. My own concern, as an historian as well as a papist, has been to search out and destroy what my fellow historian Professor Diarmiad MacCulloch once termed (in an article of that title of which I believe I once sent you a photocopy) “The Myth of the English Reformation” (Journal of British Studies v. 30, n. 1 [January 1991], pp. 1-19), which opens: “The myth of the English Reformation is that it did not happen, or that it happened by accident rather than design, or that it was half-hearted and sought a middle way between Catholicism and Protestantism; the point at issue is the identity of the Church of England.” But, as the future Cardinal once wrote on the same issue:

    “I have said, we must not indulge our imagination in the view we take of the National Establishment. If, indeed, we dress it up in an ideal form, as if it were something real, with an independent and a continuous existence, and a proper history, as if it were in deed and not only in name a Church, then indeed we may feel interest in it, and reverence towards it, and affection for it, as men have fallen in love with pictures, or knights in romance do battle for high dames whom they have never seen. Thus it is that students of the Fathers, antiquaries, and poets, begin by assuming that the body to which they belong is that of which they read in times past, and then proceed to decorate it with that majesty and beauty of which history tells, or which their genius creates. Nor is it by an easy process or a light effort that their minds are disabused of this error. It is an error for many reasons too dear to them to be readily relinquished. But at length, either the force of circumstances or some unexpected accident dissipates it; and, as in fairy tales, the magic castle vanishes when the spell is broken, and nothing is seen but the wild heath, the barren rock, and the forlorn sheep-walk, so is it with us as regards the Church of England, when we look in amazement on that we thought so unearthly, and find so commonplace or worthless. Then we perceive, that aforetime we have not been guided by reason, but biassed by education and swayed by affection.” (Difficulties of Anglicans [1850], Lecture 1)

    • Perhaps I could try this: take the empty shell of the Anglican establishment and graft some version of Catholic ideal so that it is independent of the Papacy. When that establishment goes so far that this is no longer envisagable, then establish independent Churches to try to continue the same aspiration of restoring a less bureaucratic and centralised form of Catholicism. I believe the ACC is getting there after years of illusions and blind alleys.

      Either the future is black jagged rock and like the North Yorkshire Moors in January, or the possibility to build anew from the ruins. You are probably not far from the mark by calling “Anglicanism” a “historical marker” so that we’re not masquerading as anyone else. Catholic would be better, but we would be accused of masquerading as Roman Catholics. That would be worse than using a name that is far from perfect and loaded with historical difficulties, but which give some distinctiveness.

      Being a European, I only see a dark veil coming over us, and the future for us might be something like that of the Petite Eglise until the lights go out once and for all.

      Talking from a personal point of view, which is usually forbidden in any discussion, nothing attracts me in the Roman Catholic Church. I am deeply alienated from most of Christianity, but I seem to have found a tiny home in Anglican Catholicism. If that is also forbidden to me, then I must look for the life of the spirit elsewhere than in Christianity.

      Don’t break the bruised reed or quench the smoking flax!

    • Dale says:

      My problem with so much of what you have written and applied to Anglicanism can justly be applied to most national churches in some form or another, be it Anglicanism, Romanism, Gallicanism, or Byzantinism. The attempt to live in myth that you mention and seem to apply only to Anglicanism can be found just as alive in well in those Romans who attempt to see 19th century papalism in the Medieval Church, or even those truly lost in the world of ecclesiastical myth, the church of the Apostolic age.

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