The old label thing…

The subject keeps coming up, especially when it’s a question of “You’re a false one masquerading as one of us true ones“. In the heyday of vagante churches, would-be prelates would invent all kinds of combinations of names to try to describe what they wanted to be and to distinguish themselves from what they were not. It all has a weary effect. The Church to which I belong had to combine the words Anglican and Catholic to come up with some description. To most people, Anglican means Church of England or some foreign member Church of the Lambeth Conference communion. My father doesn’t even use the word Anglican, but simply says “I’m Church of England“. To most people, Catholics are those who are in communion with the Pope through their parish and diocese. Labels and titles are very imperfect things.

I have already written about another neologism, independent sacramental, which is generic. However, one wouldn’t say “I belong to the Independent Sacramental Church“. I used to peruse websites and Facebook pages of those who seemed to have something of an original idea rather than ape what they couldn’t belong to for whatever reason. Most of those sincere men seem to have tired of it all and present a secular image of themselves. Had I been down that path, I fear I might have gone the same way.

Here on the internet and in the blogs, such discussions often revive old passions and press old hot buttons – as when I re-stirred some old TAC embers. The problem is always the same: either the Church is defined by the country where you live and it merely pays lip service to the old Christian idea: it becomes an influence for moral living and conformity with social norms. Alternatively, as in the ideas of old high-church divines, Methodism and the Oxford Movement, there is a higher spiritual ideal and space for human inspiration and initiative. The theme is always the same. Those involved did not want to set up a new church, but a new movement to influence the mainstream church in which they had always lived and ministered.

Anglicans belonging to the kind of Church to which I belong are conventionally called Continuing Anglicans. We continue the way of our old mainstream church, but we belong to separate institutional bodies. There is the old overtone of comprehensiveness, relativism, indifferentism, latitudinarianism you name it – which is appealing to those who are tired of sectarian conflict. We in the ACC tend to be more than simply high-church in the way Wesley and the Caroline Divines were. Most of us tend to look like traditionalist Roman Catholics with the exception of using English in the liturgy. I am too untypical and eccentric to be considered as any kind of reference, influenced as I am by French Catholicism and flights of the imagination into Sarum dreamland!

It is good to think about the various things that mark us out and give us some kind of foundational myth and reason for existence.

The negative rejection of why we left the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church or whatever tends to come to the fore, and that is unfortunate. It is a part of our human nature. We reject a church that has become an inhuman and anonymous bureaucracy, which in many ways emulates the eighteenth-century church in its secular moralism, materialist rationalism and political commitment. The ordination of women and the acceptance of the LGBT movement are only symptoms of a wider malaise.

In positive terms, we tend to identify with a Church of the people, a notion of serving ordinary people and helping those whose needs are not served by the Welfare State. Like the Methodists, we in the ACC do not belong to any elite club. Rather, we are considered as challenges to the established order and social conformity. Firstly, there is the priority we give to the sacramental and spiritual dimension, taking inspiration from monasticism.

Another aspect is that we are not into historical reconstructions, not even myself with the Sarum Use and my copies of nineteenth century editions. Sarum is no different from the wider tradition of the western Church of before the Counter-Reformation, when some correlation could be made between the western Church and Eastern Orthodoxy, a kind of “natural” religious lay of the land. Communities of traditionalist Roman Catholics living in places like Milan or the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland have successfully revived the Ambrosian Rite. A few Dominicans use their old rite. In both these examples, there was a clear break, albeit a short one. The French diocesan uses are gone other than Lyons (Ludonensis) and nothing remains of the Norman uses that were so similar to pre-Reformation English usages. I “do my own thing” and no one cares. Why should they? At the same time, I just try to keep things going.

We believe in the need for a Church structure. The ACC has a very solid basis in an ecclesiological theory that is very similar to Eastern Orthodox conciliarism. We are heading towards having three Provinces, and therefore a Holy Synod – something like the Russian Church outside Russia – no Patriarch but a governing Synod of Archbishops and Bishops. This confers ecclesiastical legitimacy on the whole and each part. The Communion of the Church is rebuilt from the base and on the Bishops consecrated by the mainstream Church via a documented lineage of episcopal consecrations. At this early stage, we are free from self-serving bureaucracy and the weight of structures that preserve corrupt humanity and evil. That is a blessing, but it won’t last forever.

Modelling diocesan or parish life on monasticism has its limits, since not all can be called to a particular vocation. Another thing that is clear with us in the ACC as in the Church of England some decades ago is that we are not stuck in the Reformation polemics or the ideal of defining ourselves with professions of faith like the 39 Articles or the 1662 Prayer Book. We have clearly moved into a generic mainstream Catholic style of life and worship. It would be good simply to be able to call ourselves Catholics without incurring accusations from those in canonical standing with the Pope. It all seems to be without any solution.

In the ACC and some other Continuing Churches, we tend to call ourselves Anglican Catholics. We have the Anglican Catholic Church, and restrict the use of this label to those who are actually members of our institutional body. On the other hand, if someone says I am an Anglican Catholic, the term becomes generic like Ibuprofen, a remedy against pain and inflammation which is sold under several trade names. We see the analogy. It should be possible for us to call ourselves Catholics, as in generic Catholics, but most Roman Catholics object to what they consider as people abusively claiming to be them.

Continuing Anglicans seems to be good, just as long as it doesn’t get monopolised by low church people opposed to “Roman” or “Sarum” Anglican Catholicism. There is a problem of conventional usage.

Some ideas might come in useful…

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22 Responses to The old label thing…

  1. Stephen K says:

    It seems to me, Father, that you are looking for a proper name but have to use words in the public domain: sooner or later you will be edged out and further along perhaps where you don’t feel right, or lose your distinctive meaning.

    Are you a Christian? Why not cut the Gordian knot and simply refer to this core concept? You’re a Christian who organises his religious life around traditional pre-Reformational forms of English worship and piety. Your preferred rite is Sarum usage but you lose sight of what you are in the very essence if you describe yourself as a Sarum Anglican or a Sarum Catholic.

    Your liturgical manners and accoutrement may be Roman-esque but you are not a Roman Catholic. Your sympathies are Anglican but in a fuller Catholic sense.

    No, the more I think about it, this proper labelling is a nightmare and a self-defeating vortex. If someone asks you, why not simply assert your Christianity, and let others work themselves into a frenzy trying to find a reason to criticise or exclude you!

    • Very sensible advice. I think more and more that in the future, we will simply identify as Christians and keep our differences to ourselves between Christians “of the Book” and sacramental Christians. There are the liturgical and doctrinal particularities, and then there is the distinction between the “democracy” and “aristocracy” of the spirit (spirituals, intellectuals and materialists). Most of us have a foot in all camps and have no reason for pride. Some of us will have a better intuitive understanding of things through insight and experience.

      I think it is normal to give a name to the institutional Church one belongs to, knowing that the truth transcends all institutional boundaries. It is good to have structure, discipline and doctrine, but also to be able to get out of the Matrix…

    • I received an e-mail from my Archbishop. I quote:

      1. In regard to Stephen K.’s comment about terms in the public domain: ‘Anglican Catholic’ is not in the public domain. The term is the property of the Anglican Catholic Church, at least in U.S. law. It is a Registered Service Mark of the ACC, and we can and do limit its use. At the time of the Ordinariate debates this was made clear to Roman Catholic authorities, and they understood the situation immediately. Others may consider themselves Anglican and Catholic, but they are not Anglican Catholic. The Roman Catholic Church failed to obtain rights to the term ‘Roman Catholic’, and so many organizations with no ties to the pope are pleased, for some odd reason, to call themselves Roman Catholic (as in the Old Roman Catholic Church). Rome can do nothing about that. The ACC was more careful about protecting our name.

      2. About your use of the word vagante: dear Father, there is no such word. A single wandering bishop is an episcopus vagans. More than one wandering bishops are episcopi vagantes. The singular form of vagantes is not vagante, but vagans. Who is or is not vagans may not be agreed by all. But that nobody is vagante is clear.

      Yes he is right because these are Latin words and they decline as such. The fact that many use the neologism vagante as an adjective is no excuse. Sorry for the laziness! It is clear that the Anglican Catholic Church is a legally protected proprietary name. Can the adjective Anglican Catholic be used generically? Frankly I wouldn’t advise it for anyone not belonging to a body with the official name Anglican Catholic Church with whatever words might follow.

      I know that my own Bishop has had issues with men calling themselves Anglican Catholic (without being in our Church) and thus causing confusion. Perhaps this subject of titles and labels is best avoided.

  2. ed pacht says:

    Labels are ultimately imposed by others. To myself I am “I” – as a body we are “us”. That’s approximately the situation found in the Book of Acts. When we read that Antioch is the first place where we were called “Christians” was that a label the church put on itself? I don’t think so. I have long been of the impression that the local unbelievers (Jewish or Greek) began calling us that as an insult, much as happened with Lutherans, Calvinists, Mennonites, or any of the early heresies, such as Marcionites, Nestorians, Monophysites, and the host of others. None of these names were initially accepted by their adherents, but were imposed by outsiders, who used them to emphasize that “these are not us”. Early Christians used adjectives or generic descriptives (The way, the church, the brethren, etc.) until their enemies felt the need to label them. Catholic and Orthodox seem to have become labels in a similar way. This all makes me wonder about our insistence on (and jealousy concerning) the names we choose for ourselves. It’s often more self-referential, prideful, and ultimately divisive than truly helpful. And, you know, people will call us (and each other) what they will — unless we try to stop them by taking legal action. trusting authorities outside ourselves (and often opposed to much of what we value). Is this what we want to do?

  3. Fr. David Marriott SSC says:

    You state: ‘We reject a church that has become an inhuman and anonymous bureaucracy, which in many ways emulates the eighteenth-century church in its secular moralism, materialist rationalism and political commitment.’, and comment on the negativity of this. I agree, but it can be amended to reflect the positive healthy rationale: ‘We embrace a church which accepts God’s words as true, and which does not attempt to reinterpret that which we have been given to suit the fashions of the era.’ As Mr. Pacht writes: we are Christian.

    • Stephen K says:

      “We embrace a church that accepts God’s words as true….”
      Father Marriott, I feel this is both an unobjectionable – what church would not accept God’s words as true? What God would it be whose words were not true? – and a profoundly problematic statement at the same time.

      The problem is three-fold: (1) all churches claim that what they say is God’s word and is true, and disagree about that and amongst themselves; (2) consequently, to embrace a particular ‘church’ because it accepts God’s words as true is ultimately to embrace a church because you think its words are God’s true words, which is a subjective exercise; and (3) to think in terms of embracing a church whose teachings pass one’s personal criteria is typically what we all mostly do, I suppose, but draws us into the risk of an exercise in idolatry.

      Faith is both a simple and a complicated thing. Christian faith centres very much on love for the other but with a clear focus on the relationship of self with God. To think of “Church” as the result of people loving each other in faith, and not a thing we adopt, may, I suggest, be a useful and healthy counter-balance to our usual way of thinking about it. This subject is about labels and names which mark off one thing from another – the danger of labels in a Christian spiritual sense is that they often and indeed usually work to strike at the very heart of the New Law the Christian ‘Way’ represents – the unity of other-love, not the divisiveness of pride and self-love.

      I am, of course, only too aware that we find it probably difficult, if not impossible, to think outside categories and divisions, let alone actually put into practice the challenge of Christian love, but the more we think of one church as an ultimate or uniquely possessing repository of ultimate truth, we more we will find it difficult to humbly accept the idea that in God’s eyes we are no better than anyone else.

      I sometimes think that the idea of being a Christian is an oxymoron or an impossibility, but then I remember that ‘being a Christian’ is not an identical term to ‘being perfect’ but signifies a process, a ‘way’ to God who is Complete and Perfect.

      • Fr. David Marriott SSC says:

        Stephen, I agree that the first part of the statement is not adequate, but the second part is an attempt to define more clearly what core theological principles form a foundation for the teaching of the church, its liturgy and worship….so that matters dependent on this foundation, such as ordination of women & expression of a variety of sexual proclivities, are seen by clergy & laity for what they are in the teaching of the church, not for what commentators on the wider secular society imply that they are.

  4. Neil Hailstone says:

    Although now, with peace of mind, a member of an orthodox Old Catholic jurisdiction I retain friendships with priests and laity of the Society of St Wilfrid and St Hilda. In the recent past I attended Holy Mass in a church affiliated to the Society. In the village pub afterwards I remember some describing themselves as ‘Anglican catholic’ or using the term adjectivally in the course of a wide ranging discussion.

    Members of the ACC reading this may wish to avoid weeping wailing and the gnashing of teeth as the term ‘Catholic Anglican’ appears to be gradually replacing this usage. Thankfully the laws to which my friends are subject are those of the United Kingdom and the European Union. Although elements of the United States Government and Judicial System would much like to have universal jurisdiction, thankfully they do not.

    I sought the advice of a Solicitor friend about the matter. She confirmed my understanding that there is no reason in the laws to which we are subject here in the UK why Anglo Catholic christians of any denomination should not so describe themselves. It is most unlikely therefore that any of my SSWSH friends will be disturbed by the crash of battering rams against their front doors and folk attired in black uniforms screaming ‘ Get on the Ground!’

    • I don’t know enough about the law either side of the Atlantic concerning the protection of names of organisations. Archbishop Haverland tells me (see the quotes from his e-mail) that American law is strict once the name of the organisation has been filed. The principle is the same for commercial brands, copyrighted books, musical recordings, films and patents for new inventions. This is a question of intellectual property, to prevent theft in the case of an invention, trademark, book, etc. In the case of a Church, what is at stake is the reputation and integrity of that body. I can use the title Anglican Catholic Church, because I am a licensed priest of that jurisdiction.

      The conventional (but not official) term for those belonging to the Church of England is Anglo-Catholic (with or without the hyphen). The member Churches of the TAC in Canada and Australia bear the name Anglican Catholic Church. Presumably, they were once member Churches of the ACC Original Province and kept the title when they split away and later joined the TAC. How legal this was, I have no idea, and would need another answer from our Archbishop.

      Generally, the best thing – whether or not it is legal in the country where you are – is to avoid provocation by the abusive use of proprietary titles.

      The question of “generic” adjectives needs to be cleared up. After all, in the ACC, we call ourselves Anglicans and Catholics and it is clear that we are not claiming to belong to the Lambeth Conference Anglican Communion or the Roman Catholic Church. Perhaps someone with legal knowledge could comment on this.

  5. ed pacht says:

    I am a Catholic, but my use of the term does not constitute a claim to belong to the organization that calls itself the Catholic Church. I am a member of the Church of God (so say several prayers in the BCP) but not of any of the several organizations calling themselves that. I am an Anglican Catholic and called myself that back in my Episcopal days of the 60s and 70s and will still sometimes refer to myself in such a manner. This does not identify me with a body that has appropriated that label for itself. I am a member of the Anglican Church in America, which does indeed have sister churches in Canada and Australia who do use that label, Anglican Catholic. Yes, there is confusion arising from the use of such labels, but the confusion is not one of names, but of existence – a symptom of our deep-seated sins of disunity. Face it, we are separated because we have decided to be separated, and that is NOT as Our Lord would have it be. Instead of fighting over names (and among Christians this is incessant) we need to be finding ways to live together as brethren. As I recall, the NT has some rather harsh words for those who would drag our inner disagreements as Christians into the secular courts, and give authority over our inner workings to unbelievers. Frankly, I believe the wrangling over the legal status of names is, at best meaningless, and can rise (or fall) to the level of evil. I have not the slightest respect for such goings-on – and neither do those we should be evangelizing. It makes us look like hypocrites or fools.

  6. Neil Hailstone says:

    Ed – I totally agree with what you have written here. I am myself a strong advocate of unity among all Catholic Anglican christians across every jurisdiction. Yet more, I hope, and there are good grounds for believing this will happen with some of us sooner rather than later,, that intercommunion will be formally established between catholic anglicans and orthodox Old Catholics.

  7. Neil Hailstone says:

    Father Anthony – If I may I would like to offer further thoughts to add to my last post. I do not wish to overuse your thought provoking and challenging Sarum Use blog and will withdraw for a while.I accept that I am straying from the original theme by posting further on the subject of Unity among Catholic Anglicans and orthodox Old Catholics. I respect your Moderation and would have no hesitation in accepting your decision should you consider this further post unacceptable.

    I would ask all of us to lay aside our text books, such intellect and learning as we individually possess and our set approaches to Unity. Rather in this matter of Unity between ourselves I would point us all in the direction of the Holy Gospel according to St John in Chapter 17.
    Should we not in our minds eye attempt, of course imperfectly, to picture and relate to the actual event ?

    The Saviour of the world, Incarnate Deity, praying for Unity among us, knowing that in Himself He was about to take on the sins of the world and atone for all of them. I am close to all of this because I thought that two of my personal sins were unforgivable. Thanks be to God that two learned Confessors convinced me otherwise and pronounced the Lord’s total forgiveness. Indeed on the second occasion I remember my Confessor stamping his foot more than once and loudly proclaiming ‘This has been taken off of you!I was advised to go out and live! We share so much in common Is not the present situation of disunity between us grievously and wickedly sinful? Do we not share the Holy Gospel and Holy Mass?

    This blog is influential and read by Bishops, priests and members of the Holy Laity.May I plead with all in positions of influence to seek to obey Our Lord’s prayer for Unity. Indeed could all of us whoever we are and whatever our position in Christ’s Holy Catholic Church kneel before our Crucifix and our Icons and Pray for Unity?

    Thank you Father and I will be very sparing in my further access to Sarum Use.

    • These are good and sincere thoughts, and I thank you. One theme that came out of my Diocese’s Synod last Saturday was our awareness that we are emerging into a new period of the history of continuing Anglicanism. Many of the woes of the past have been caused by bishops, but we are all responsible for helping our bishops make the right decisions for the right governance of their flocks. This is certainly the basis of peace and unity within any one institutional Church. We in the ACC might seem aloof at times, but there are limits to institutional unity. We have found a warm consensus of agreement in our appreciation of Archbishop Haverland in his balanced way of relating to other Churches and his fatherly role in our Province. He is constantly meeting with bishops, priests and laity of other continuing Churches and seeking out pathways to reconciliation wherever possible.

      Dark and bleak days lie ahead for Christianity in general as jihadist Muslims are resolved to kill Christians and destroy all record of history in the territories they have conquered. We also live in the Orwellian and materialistic world of the west. Our future is certainly the catacombs and tiny communities worshipping in little improvised chapels. We cannot re-conquer the world, but I am confident that God will give us the strength to withstand and keep going, however futile it seems.

      Perhaps adversity will bring us together like the British people who faced Hitler in the 1940’s.

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Neil Hailstone,

      Could you tell and/or direct us to more about “orthodox Old Catholics”? The late Dr. Orzell had an informative and saddening article in the May 2004 issue of Touchstone (now available online at their site) called “Disunion of Utrecht” which may give some of the context, but a lot has happened in 11 years, a little of which I know and probably much of which I do not.

  8. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    In a footnote of his book, Anglicanism (Penguin, 1958), Stephen Neill writes, “The history of the words ‘Anglican’, ‘Anglicanism’, etc., still remains to be written. The first citation for ‘Anglicanism’ in the Oxford English Dictionary is from Charles Kingsley in 1846! I do not know when the term ‘Anglican Communion’ was first used” (p. 302). I don’t have access to any post-1958 OED. What has been done, there or elsewhere, since 1958 towards writing such a history? Neill, writing of 14 July 1833 and Keble’s Assize Sermon on ‘National Apostasy’ says that Newman considered and kept it ever after “as the start of the religious movement of 1833”, adding “The Anglo-Catholic movement had been born” (p. 255). But where can we conveniently learn more of the history of that term, ‘Anglo-Catholic’ and related forms? I can imagine the uses of ‘Catholic’ may be indebted to classic Greek and Latin versions of the ‘Nicean Creed’, though I may be guessing wrong. Herbert Thurston has a typically learned and enjoyable article, “Roman Catholic” (1912), in the old Catholic Encyclopedia.

    • William Tighe says:

      In one of his linked articles which I placed on a recent thread here, Prof. Diarmaid MacCulloch claims that the first use of the word “Anglican(e)” was by James VI of Scotland in or around 1598. Wishing to restore ecclesiastical authority to Scottish Protestant bishops (who for some years had had none whatsoever, simply sitting in the Scottish Parliament, when it met, without any other functions) the king assured his suspicious clerical audience that he was not intending to have “popish or Anglicane ” bishops. The first use of the term “Anglicanism(e)” may have been in a work of Catholic polemic by one Thomas Harrab of ca. 1618 who contrasted it with Lutheranism and Calvinism as having no one person for its “author,” but rather the Prince and the State. I cannot recall the title of Harrab’s polemic, though I remember reading about it in Julian Davies’ book *The Caroline Captivity of the Church* which was published in 1992 by Oxford University Press.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        Thank you!

        I have seen various discussions of “Gallicanism” – such as Antoine Dégert’s for the old Catholic Encyclopedia – that compare English and French medieval developments, as when he begins a paragraph, “At the opening of the fourteenth century, however, the conflict between Philip the Fair and Boniface VIII brings out the first glimmerings of the Gallican ideas” and ends it “The most that we can admit is, that the same ideas received parallel development from both sides of the channel.”

        I do not know when the term “Gallicanism” was applied to this, however, and whether “Anglicanism” has ever been (retrospectively?) used in a similar way. I wonder (in my large ignorance) if ‘things had gone differently’ whether the Church in/of England might not have ‘enjoyed’ a ‘peculiar’ relationship with the Pope similar to that which the Church in/of France long seemed to.

      • William Tighe says:

        Harrab’s name may have been a pseudonym; the title of his polemic was *Tessaradelphos, or the Four Brethren.*

  9. Caedmon says:

    “Ecclesia Anglicana’ was being used in Latin at least as early as Magna Carta

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Yes. Among the interesting questions is when and how that was ‘Englished’, with what sense(s) or shades of meaning.

    • William Tighe says:

      Indeed it was: the first provision of Magna Carta runs “ut Ecclesia Anglicana libera sit,” which in the context meant free from royal control and exploitation, and free to communicate with the See of Rome. It was the great achievement, three centuries later, of Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell to render this provision effectively null.

      • Dale says:

        One could say just the opposite actually. “Free to communicate with the See of Rome” must be understood in the context of the time. One could posit that it certainly does not refer to the ultramontane character of modern Rome.

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