Viability

My domesticated challenge and antithesis has kindly commented on a synodal address given by Bishop Paul C Hewett on 27th April 2018. On reading this address, I had a positive impression of it all, a frank awareness of our fragility and our ability to do something about it by breaking down the barriers towards full sacramental and even organic unity. Here is the article – “Continuers” Retrench, Maybe

We have a very honest notion of all this. In particular the role of the Holy Spirit to give substance to what we represent as sacramental communities and the fact that none of us can go it alone and expect to be able to bequeath something to our posterity as we face our own mortality. We Anglicans are often accused by RC “true church” apologists of being a bogus substitute of the “real thing” they claim alone to represent. John Bruce needs to come and spend time in France and see the “viability” of parishes in certain rural areas in this country. As things are at present, it is something like the latter part of the eighteenth century.

Bruce’s Schadenfreude is thinly disguised, and he relies on his “masculine Catholicism” he seems to be able to find in his part of the world. Perhaps his evaluation on the realism of our being able to negotiate with the PNCC and the NCC is not far from the mark. I would like to see things move ahead if they can. I promised my Bishop that I would help in any way possible, but the authority to act is vested in our Metropolitan Archbishop for these matters. We little priests and laity can only pray for this intention and not add to the obstacles. Alrerady, the G4 moved ahead last October, and this is a huge encouragement in place of the fragmentation and frittering away that have been inevitable over the last few decades.

In the end, we might indeed have to face our mortality, not only as human persons, but as something that represents a culture that can no longer live in a world of modernity and post-humanism. If we are Christians, we can accept our mortality in the hope of another and more beautiful world, where there are more important things than churches and ecclesiastical politics. If our Churches are called to die, so be it, and such a prospect is not going to force us into someone else’s “true church” that cares no more for us than does the modern world.

Before accepting this bleak prospect, we are not called to “convert” to the “totalitarian system” Bruce represents, but to do all we can to encourage the movement that has begun and shows every sign of continuing. We can pray, give theological and philosophical advice, find ever more profound meanings of the concept of the Church and the incarnate Mystery of Christ. It may not be “realistic”, but it is certainly an ideal. Perhaps the modern romantic movement I am working on will help to form a new cultural base and soil in which Christianity can grow and flourish.

I may be wrong, and have to come to terms with a bleak and dark material universe that offers no respite from our present nihilism. There was in the Book of Ezekiel a wonderful image of bare bones in the desert and God’s promise to breathe life into them. That is my hope and my faith.

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English Spirituality

I came across an interesting blog posting which made me think of something to add to the subject of Anglican patrimony. It is not only the Romantic paradigm with which I myself identify, but also a distinct spiritual tradition going back far beyond the Reformation.

The article in question is Crazy King Henry: Did Anglicanism begin with lust and divorce? I owe the hat tip to Embryo Parson’s Anglicanism Didn’t Begin With Henry. It looks a tad on the polemical side with an apologetic approach to the history of Henry VIII. That bit doesn’t interest me, but what the author expresses further down on the page.

A distinctive spirituality

Martin Thornton argues in his English Spirituality (Wipf and Stock, 1986) that by the fourteenth century England had developed a distinctive spirituality. This was the first golden age of what he calls the “English School” of spirituality. It was an “ascetical theology,” which means that it carries doctrine into prayer as the basis for life. Thornton says this approach is rooted in the synthesis of doctrine and prayer taught by two Christian greats: Augustine of Hippo, the great theologian whose Confessions are an extended prayer, and Benedict of Nursia, whose monasteries modelled the Christian life as work amidst liturgical prayer. English Christianity has been deeply influenced by both Augustine and Benedict.

Anselm was the father-founder of this English spirituality, which Thornton argues has six characteristics:

A speculative-affective synthesis. This is the conviction that our spiritual experience should always be guided by what the Church has taught in doctrine, and that doctrine should be lifted up in prayer and meditation. It is “the insistence that prayer, worship, and life itself, are grounded upon dogmatic fact, that in everyday religious experience head and heart are wedded”. We see this spiritual harmony in Anselm’s treatises and also in Julian of Norwich’s (1342-c.1416) Revelations of Divine Love, where “every distressing detail of the Passion [is related to] almost a treatise on the doctrine of the Atonement.”

Unity of the church militant. There is a deep, “family” relationship between the most prominent Church leaders and its most humble parishioners. The Book of Common Prayer is used by both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the schoolgirls confirmed yesterday. Anglicans have a deep-rooted distrust of clericalism, the attitude that only the clergy make up the “real” Church.

A unique humanism and optimism. This is the biblical virtue of hope in the midst of the endless details of everyday life. It maintains cheerfulness despite setbacks because it knows that God loves his people and will bring them to victory in the end. Margery Kempe, another important 14th-century Anglican writer, can be agonizing at times in her penitence, but she shares Julian of Norwich’s all-conquering hope: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

The foundation of Christian life is the liturgy. This is the worship in which we participate at Sunday Eucharist and also in the Daily Office (Morning and Evening Prayer in the Prayer Book). These have come down to us from the early church and have been steeped in prayerful meditation and theological precision. They teach us how to pray. All of these prayers and meditations are biblical, either by direct quotation or indirect reflection. You see these biblical roots in the 14th-century “meditation” on the gospel story from the Bible, and the 17th-century Caroline return to the principle of liturgy—rooted in Scripture–inspiring devotion. The Caroline divines were the Anglican writers such as Lancelot Andrewes and Jeremy Taylor who preached and wrote in the 17th century during the reigns of Kings Charles I & II.

Habitual recollection. This is the thinking and doing during one’s day that meditate on and are inspired by the liturgy in Morning and Evening Prayer.

Spiritual direction. This is the English tradition of getting spiritual guidance from an individual who is further along the pilgrim road. Anselm was a renowned spiritual guide. So were Margery Kempe, Julian, and all the Caroline divines. Thornton himself was a famous spiritual director, known for leadership of retreats and personal guidance of many Anglicans.

I find a tremendous insight in this passage. Kindness and optimistic humanism was not limited to England. It is found in great saints like François de Sales and Filippo Neri. During my seminary years in Italy, I found a tremendous amount of resonance between the Italian humanists and English spiritual writers. The contrast is with the classicism of Cartesian and Jansenist France where everything had to be so much more systematised. Yet, the English divines were Augustinians and sought high standards of integrity and morality. Implicit in this quote may be an idea of contrast between a devout piety based on the liturgy, Scripture and the Fathers on one hand and sentimental devotions with more apocryphal underpinnings.

The critical mind can always reply by asking what is peculiarly English about all this? St Augustine came from a part of the Roman world that became Muslim and latterly a part of the French Empire in North Africa. St Benedict was Italian. Is it perhaps the way those spiritual references tie in with the northern dimension of our English way? Ascetical theology (spirituality) is a large subject and a true discipline in any theological faculty. It merits further study.

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Dan Brown’s “Origin”

My visit to England gave me plenty of time for reading Dan Brown’s new novel Origin. My attention was drawn to it by learning that it featured the Palmar de Troya cult in Spain, something that always attracted my curiosity through its grotesque extravagance. The central theme was that of an eccentric billionnaire claiming to have scientific proof that life evolved from inorganic matter by the laws of physics alone, excluding any intelligent design or prior consciousness – and that humanity would be made extinct by technology by the middle of this century.

This author wrote the famous Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons, which I have read for entertainment. I also have the films on DVD. We all need our lighter moments and respite from our intellectual work. We also need to be challenged in our certitudes, though the challenge is not serious. If you have not read the book and wish to do so, read it before reading any further here, because I have no scruple about expressing what amounts to a spoiler.

The dominant theme reflects Stephen Hawking who was an atheist and a materialist, and warned us that we humans would have to find another planet to live on. Dripping with sarcasm, I would hail him for his practical sense! I know of no regular bus service to the nearest habitable planet, which must be a few thousand light years away. Then we learn from the murdered billionnaire that we would become extinct by 2050 (it seems to be a safe bet that I would be extinct by then, or 91 years old). Artificial intelligence would take over in the form of the most powerful quantum computers and stuff out of the Terminator films.

I read the so-called “scientific proof” last night of man’s origins and demise without God and it reminded me about the scientific proof of climate change. One bit of irrefutable scientific proof contradicts another bit of irrefutable scientific proof, at least the way it is presented to us non-scientists. Whatever happened to Aristotle’s principle of non-contradiction? It sounds more like ideology to me than science. Science is supposed to be certitude of knowledge obtained by repeatable demonstration and experimentation. You begin with a theory in the domain of physics, chemistry and biology, and then you verify that theory by repeatable experiments. Then all this has to be accurately related to the public without some agenda or ideology modifying the results of the experiments.

Apparently what Edmund Kirsch (the murdered billionnaire) did was to prove that if chemicals in the sea were left to react for billions of years, order would emerge from chaos like the formation of rock crystals. If you waited for long enough, life would be produced by these random events without any consciousness or intelligence being involved. He claimed to have modelled this process on a quantum computer. I don’t know if any scientist in real life has tried this, but it hasn’t come to my attention. If this is possible, I would still not be convinced that life emerged from inorganic matter without consciousness being involved.

Dan Brown is portrayed by several articles and interviews as not being an atheist, but rather someone who has had a bad experience of religion. He is not pushing atheism, but his way of building suspense (this is a novel) is to make exaggerated claims about the scientific finding that would put an end to all religion. It reminds me of the YouTube video that is making outlandish claims and is “banned” in nearly all countries. See it before it disappears! The gullible viewer is made to feel that he is privy to a secret. It is a great piece of manipulative psychology. When the story about where we are coming from and where we are going comes out, we are hit by the anticlimax.

Perhaps my Christian belief makes me sceptical about the atheist’s claims. In reality, the atheist’s claims are not proven to me, because I am only hearing a second-hand account. The other thing that is suspect is the main monotheistic characters in the novel, a Spanish naval officer become adept of Palmar de Troya, a fanatical archbishop of the official Church and lackey of the Spanish royal family, a murdered rabbi and an equally dead imam. Their behaviour faced with the supposed refutation of all they believed in is not what we would expect from the present Pope or other leaders of any Church.

I have always esteemed Massimo Introvigne, the Italian cult specialist, who was certainly intrigued to find Palmar de Troya featuring in a novel by such a popular author. The article in question is Origin: Dan Brown vs the Pope of Palmar de Troya. According to him, and I concur, Brown only has a very superficial notion of world religions and their clergy. The theme of the novel is atheism, but I fail to see (at 90% though the book according to my Kindle mobile phone app) any consideration given to the more serious theses of intelligent design, biocentrism or other theories of consciousness preceding matter based on quantum mechanics. Those too are scientific theories with some degree of experimental verification. My own reaction early in the book about the final irrefutable proof that there was no God was that it would have to be good to persuade me to commit suicide out of despair of having my entire life paradigm changed. But, I am a Christian with a difference: I go through life with an open and enquiring mind, and I am also a Romantic.

Stuff has been published for years about artificial intelligence, “post” and “trans” humanism, refinements of Darwin’s theories, anything to try to refute religion in the belief that religion alone is the source of trouble in this human world. It isn’t religion that is the problem, but our notion of truth, just as I have been studying in German Idealist epistemology (and I still have a lot to learn). If we possess truth like we possess our wealth, then we will compete for it. If truth is above and beyond us, something to be longed for and sought by all, then surely there is enough for all of us, like the rays of the sun. If some bling-bling hyper-modernist character came out with something like this today, I would brush it off, because his “proof” would be no proof at all. The onus would also be on him to disprove biocentrist points of view as well as the theologies of religious traditions.

Introvigne gives a spoiler about the remaining 10% of the novel I have not yet read. The world religions fail to disappear as expected. Why would such a possibility be seriously entertained in a novel? Sensationalism? The Palmar cult is given much more importance than it really has, especially since the death of Clemente Dominguez y Gomez in 2005. He makes the point that Brown should have been more broad in his choice of sources about Palmar de Troya, especially those written by Magnus Lundberg and Jean-François Mayer.

After all, it is a novel, so one doesn’t have to be too rigorous about the rules of evidence and proof for this or that thesis.

I had a disturbed night with my mind working on fragments of these ideas together with other incoherent elements produced by the dreaming brain. I seemed to have a tablet made of some unknown material with three columns of words, and I was trying to decipher the meanings of these apparently random words. It was all about trying to understand my own identity. It was very strange. As I woke up this morning, the incoherent fragments dissipated as I thought soberly about the implications of what things would be like in such an atheistic paradigm.

We are influenced by scores of science fiction and catastrophe films since the 1950’s, themes running through Star Trek and the Terminator among so many others. I have already mulled over the idea of just being a clod of matter, without a soul, just a kind of biological computer that is thrown away when it no longer works. It is the depressing narrative of Stephen Hawking together with his insane idea of travelling to a planet that man could colonise. (Wouldn’t the indigenous aliens have something to say about that?) Atheism is a dinosaur that knows its days are numbered.

Atheism and the dystopia it evokes would be a dream for the next little Austrian corporal with a Charlie Chaplin moustache and failed art student – in other words for the worst of human nature and the brute struggle of the strong getting rid of the weak and the “trash of sub-humanity”. That is what it would come to. Mankind without a divine judge would judge and condemn himself. The idea is depressing and revolting, an epitaph for mankind about to become a fleet of “assimilated” machines and cyborgs, the ultimate nightmare of the Romantic science fiction writer like Mary Shelley.

Perhaps this idea that there is no God or consciousness giving reality and order to matter is like standing a steer in front of the gates of the slaughterhouse. Does this idea enslave us or emancipate us? Many of our contemporaries have had bad experience of religious institutions. I have. But it isn’t God’s fault. It is our fault for failing to understand, hope, love, reach for the light. The spirit of God and our own consciousness bring us hope, freedom and warmth, a reason to stay alive and do good. The emptiness of atheism can only bring us to do evil out of despair and madness. That is what the Spanish Inquisition and the Nazis had in common. This is the nihilism that brought Nietzsche to his final agony.

I remember from my first-year philosophy days that one piece of evidence of God is our desire for him. Why would we have such a desire if it were futile? Why is humanity endowed with culture, intelligence and art if our value is no more than an animal about to be killed for food? I thank God for the gift of the Romantic paradigm and the ability to see science as only one aspect of our human culture and not as the only thing of value. Perhaps this challenge – always challenges – will be the salutary medicine of the soul we need.

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Anglican Patrimony Revisited

After the Oxford Conference I would almost call this famous expression Anglican patrimony a kind of “self-consciousness”. I was intrigued to find it coined by Pope Paul VI according to the talk by Archbishop Augustine de Noia of the Roman Curia. De Noia wrote:

The recognition that there is a unique English tradition worthy of preservation was affirmed by Blessed Paul VI in 1970 when he canonized the forty English and Welsh martyrs. On that occasion he praised “the legitimate prestige and worthy patrimony of piety and usage proper to the Anglican Communion” (Homily 25 October 1970).

Diplomatic or sincere? It seems to have been a quid pro quo by Paul VI in exchange for the canonisations of a number of priests ministering to recusants and executed for “high treason” by some of the most twisted psychopaths of history on a par with Robespierre. Someone like Topcliffe the priest hunter would have been an Anglican, but we tend to think of the Anglican way as being more to do with the best and highest virtues of Christian humanity rather than man’s inhumanity to man.

In the context of Anglicanorum coetibus and the Ordinariates, it had to represent a way of providing Anglicans with a means of becoming Roman Catholics without the worst of neo-scholasticism, totalitarianism, sentimentalism and a generally Cartesian kind of philosophy imported from French Catholicism. Certain characteristics needed to be identified, and this would prove difficult with Anglo-Papalist clergy who had been using the modern Roman rite for years! And so, the Ordinariate liturgical books had to be based on the Book of Common Prayer and the English Missal. Is the liturgy everything?

Over a year ago, I wrote The Elusive Anglican Patrimony. One thing we have to observe is the extreme diversity of Anglicanism. Most English Anglicans do not call themselves by that title, but usually Church of England or C of E. Only a minority are Anglo-Catholics. For most, it is little more than a museum piece, civic religion, even a butt of jokes. There is every kind of churchmanship from near-Calvinism to happy-clappy Evangelicalism, modern Convulsionaries of Saint Médard to the stiff British middle-of-the-road. It is a world with which fewer and fewer people identify. It is essentially a clerical world. I may be conceding something in the direction of our friend John Bruce! Am I? I spent a day last week with an old friend of mine who is now Vicar of All Saints in Sutton. In a strange sort of way, those Forward in Faith parishes are the last remnants of Christian civilisation, something of the old order and harmony between civic life and religion. They lack the self-consciousness of continuing Anglicans or traditionalist Roman Catholics. They are still parishes in spite of their precarious canonical status in the Church of England. Perhaps Anglican Patrimony is simply English suburban life. Keep the Aspidistra Flying! There must be more to this particular philosopher’s stone.

I felt amazingly validated by Msgr Burnham’s talk, especially when he asked the rhetorical question of why he was “not content with the noble simplicity of mainline Anglicanism” and surmised that the answer was what was driving the Catholic movement from the nineteenth century was the romantic movement. He added “In that sense æsthetics led theology by the nose“, which shows a limited understanding of Romanticism, especially the German Idealist schools. The notion of Romanticism as a basis for a particular Anglican patrimony merited a passing reference in this talk, and it certainly struck me more that the other listeners. However, it is not the patrimony of Anglicanism as a whole, but only of a particular mindset or part of the clerical world.

The term Anglican Patrimony seems to refer to liturgical practices and justifying their not being abandoned by those becoming Roman Catholics. Certainly, there would be many attempts to extend the term to other aspects of Anglicanism: theology and other academic achievements, pastoral care of the laity, another notion of clericalism, willingness to discuss and debate rather than have the strongest impose the “truth”. It is of more relevance in relation to the Roman Catholic world than ours.

Certainly what I would see as the essence of our aspiration is too esoteric and elitist for most people to whom churches minister. The notion of a “spiritual nobility” can seem very proud and arrogant when humility is taught as a virtue. The concept I discovered in Berdyaev suggested a kind of “orthodox gnosticism”, the creative side of humanity which is the domain of the individual person rather than the group. All churches have treasures that have been contributed by individual creators, whether they be Michelangelo, Palestrina, Bach, Jakob Böhme the mystical cobbler, the many theologians and philosophers, each leaving their indelible mark. It is human to identify with what we feel to be ours rather than be told it was all worthless and that we have to conform in every detail to the “true church” micro-management. What we call “patrimony” is something that is bequeathed by individuals to their heirs, in this context, cultural values and monuments. We hope each one of us to leave something to the world, a few writings or pieces of music. It is a part of our hope for immortality beyond our inevitable bodily death.

I sat for many hours in this church. It is the church of St John the Evangelist in Oxford, the Cowley Fathers church and joined by a cloister to St Stephen’s House, the high-church seminary of the Church of England. It is a Bodley church, built in 1896. To me, it is an expression of the Romantic medievalism of the broader Oxford Movement. The proportions are almost perfect, apart from the west tower being a little squat. The rood screen is exquisite. The altar is more Roman than English and the steps are too high in relation to medieval ones. The Gothic script on the wooden vault and the organ case suggests a German influence which goes down beautifully with my tastes. Northern Catholicism indeed! This building has much in common with some of the smaller cathedrals and collegiate churches in France like St Bertrand de Comminges, with the added advantage of sobriety. Architecture is another expression of the “patrimony” concept, but many churches on the European continent have choir screens, choir stalls and liturgical altars. Anglicanism has resisted the debasing of churches from the standards of the 1890’s more than Roman Catholicism, where emphasis was on devotions. However, I have been shocked to see some very radically “wreckovated” Anglican churches from a “modern” liturgical point of view.

What about the future? No one is certain about anything. The present arrangements for the Forward in Faith parishes are quite precarious, falling short of the hoped-for Third Province. The ecclesiology justifying such an arrangement is weak but enables those parishes to continue in their “natural state”. The Ordinariates do not seem to be threatened at present by the post-Benedict XVI era, but opportunities for many things have been passed over – not only liturgy-wise but an offer of a large building in greater London for a school. The Continuing Anglican Churches are still very small and self conscious like the traditionalist Roman Catholics. In England, we are a bishop, twelve priests and only about one hundred and fifty lay members and communicants. The Nordic Catholic Church under Bishop Roald Flemestad, part of the PNCC Union of Scranton, also has a small presence in England comparable with our own. Current dialogue between it and other Churches seems to indicate that priority should be given to solid theological principles rather than unity / intercommunion for its own sake. I do know that the Union of Scranton is interested in “doing business” with the G4 (union of the four main continuing Anglican Churches last October in America). This is encouraging but it will all need a lot of work. It is the notion of what we can bequeath to posterity. It strikes me that the same questions about patrimony are being asked by people in all churches, be they Orthodox, RC, Anglican, Lutheran or anything.

I also saw something very clear in the Oxford conference: an opposition between the current tendencies of “identity politics” and cultural Marxism, on one hand, and reactionary authoritarianism on the other. The latter is very American but is to be found in England. Romanticism has brought me to reject both this modern form of Jacobinism and the collectivist notion of humanity expressed by ideologies close to Fascism. Romanticism took up some of the earlier and higher aspirations of the Jacobins but kept the primacy of the human person over collectivism and all forms of tyranny. Romantic aspirations are wild! They go beyond the confines of any human institutions like Churches, though they aspire to the highest ideals of Christ and the many saints who were distinguished by their virtues and love of God and humanity. I think we all need to have this attitude in order to keep a critical mind and not be bogged down in a quagmire that inspired a friend of mine to write in a private e-mail to me:

I think that here can be a nasty feel about many religious and (sad to say) Catholic establishments in England. there can be an atmosphere of spying, lack of trust, outward conformity and externalism. The seminarians were treated like children (unhealthy) and there were stupid rules about where and when you would wear your hat out and where you could “take tea”. Bruno Scott James in his superb autobiography Asking for Trouble says that some of the really nastiest people he met were “religious”.

I return to John Bruce, not on any intrinsic importance he might represent, but a contradictory mind who presents a challenge, as did various heretical tendencies at the early Ecumenical Councils. One always needs an antithesis to make progress. He eschews any form of medievalism or romanticism. The only alternative he can propose is corporate collectivism, the abolition of the person to “feed” the “system”. At least this is the way he comes over. Eyeballs rolled upwards when I mentioned his name to those I met in Oxford and for whom the subject was relevant, including a few Americans and Canadians. That is his notion of the Church he embraced, and we can only imagine the spirit of Allen Hall seminary in the 1940’s and 50’s! Comparatively, Gricigliano was a more pleasant experience, even with some of the catty goings-on at times.

In the end, we need to turn our thoughts upwards and beyond. We will never find satisfaction in this world. Even in that beautiful church from 1896, there are nasty demons hiding behind the pillars to ruin the dream! I speak figuratively. We can attend Evensong in a great cathedral, but still the organist might play a bum note or the choir might be a little off key in a very difficult piece. Imperfection is human. We look for perfection but it doesn’t exist here. We look for beauty, but it is marred. There are people who believe that harmony and beauty should be abolished because of our collective sins. Whatever we have that is good is only of relative importance, relative to the life and world we yearn and hope for after our bodily demise.

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My first time at our new Pro-Cathedral

My Bishop invited me to preach at his Mass at our Pro-Cathedral in Painters Forstal near Faversham, Kent. It was Easter IV, Sunday 29th April 2018, and I expanded on the theme of the need of the Ascension of Christ for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

This was my very first time at the new church. I had seen many photos of the work and the finished church. I was truly impressed. Another “first” is Andy Hall (far left in the second photo) serving Sunday Mass for the first time. With Andy Hall, was Rev’d Rich Mulholland the parish deacon, Bishop Damien Mead, myself and Roy Hipkiss.

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Msgr Andrew Burnham and Romanticism

One of the loveliest talks I heard this week in Oxford was that of Msgr Andrew Burnham of the Ordinariate in England – Reply to Bishop Christopher Cocksworth’s ‘The Character and Gifts of Anglican Worship’. The following passage particularly impressed me:

For myself, looking back I sometimes struggle to understand how and why, for sixty years, I looked for and rejoiced in Roman and Latin liturgy and music in the Church of England. Why was I not content with the noble simplicity of mainline Anglicanism – the weekday surplice and stole Communions I served at in my youth, and the daily glories of choral Evensong? Why abandon The Shorter Prayer Book of 1946, only 314 pages long, and go back to the situation which Thomas Cranmer so acutely describes: ‘to turn the book only was so intricate a matter, that many times there was more business to find out what should be read, than to read it when it was found out’? The answer, I think, is that what drove High Churchmen, at least from the nineteenth century on, at least in part, was the romantic movement. In that sense æsthetics led theology by the nose. For me, it was growing up at Worksop Priory (founded in 1103), singing as a schoolboy at Southwell Minster (founded in 956), and then attending daily Evensong at New College (founded in 1379). Though the Sarum loyalists with their reconstructed liturgies disagreed with the Ritualists and their holiday imports of statuary and vestments from across the channel, all were driven by the longing to re-inhabit these and similar buildings with what Geoffrey Rowell described as the Vision Glorious.

Of all the prelates of the Ordinariate, Msgr Burnham seems to be the one who “gets it” the most. He distinguishes himself from the usual Anglo-Papalist line of following the reforms of Vatican II and Paul VI as I so often saw in London in the 1970’s. However, Romanticism was not mere feeling or aesthetics, but also a philosophical paradigm that changed Anglicanism and gave it something it did not have in its Reformed ethos. Is it dishonest then to speak of Anglican Patrimony? Some would say yes! Romanticism had far-reaching roots in Anglican history and spirituality.

Msgr Burnham might speak of longing for being a part of the Roman Catholic Church. For a Romantic, one would be yearning for very little! I remember those days well, and my correspondence with erstwhile Bishop Burnham before the Ordinariate was established. It was a feverish time for us all. I disagree with Msgr Burnham in that becoming a Roman Catholic is hardly a subject of Romantic Sehnsucht. I had my own experience of swimming the Tiber both ways!

The article needs to be read with great attention, and several other talks are available on the site. More will certainly be added in time.

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Conference in Oxford

I am still in England after having been at my Diocesan Synod in Westminster, served our little mission in Bristol, spent a day with a dear friend who was recently inducted as a parish Vicar, enjoyed precious time with another dear friend who is a medical doctor, a modern-Romantic philosopher and father of five lovely children together with his Italian wife, attended the famous conference in Oxford, The Gospel and the Catholic Church, A conference discussing Anglican Patrimony today. After the Conference, I came up north to spend some precious time with my family. Tomorrow, I will have a long drive southwards to be with my Bishop near Faversham in Kent, and will see his new pro-Cathedral for the first time where I will have the privilege of preaching a brief and pastoral homily at Mass. Later on Sunday, I will have my ferry to catch at Dover to return to France.

The Conference itself was a very rich time, though some talks were slightly less relevant to the real theme, or were from quite diverse theological points of view. It was all held in the beautiful church of St John the Evangelist attached to St Stephen’s House in Oxford. This was the first time I had seen the buildings of “Staggers” as this seminary has been called. For this evening, still at my father’s house in Kendal, I will simply outline some of the things that most struck me, and may go into some details in the coming weeks. I am told there will be some texts of talks on the website, some of which I am eager to have.

One of the finest talks was by Msgr Andrew Burnham of the Ordinariate, in which he identified one of the roots of Catholic Anglican identity / patrimony. That was Romanticism and longing. In his perspective, the longing was for unity with the See of Rome. Such an aspiration is not wrong, because some form of primacy of the Church of Rome was always expressed in some way by the Fathers and early Councils of the Church. However, we may not always be agreed on the mode of this aspiration or the possibility of its realisation in our particular time in history.

Roman Catholic speakers including Msgr Mark Langham, who is undoubtedly a fine priest in his Church, but did not fail to express a strong notion of authority and obedience. He contrasted the continental influence in English Roman Catholicism and the neo-medieval ethos of Anglicanism. He even mentioned the Sarum Use! They all talk about it but stop at actually using it. The comparison is certainly simplistic, and he would be more nuanced in his other writings and ministry.

A priest of the Free Church of England was forthright in his criticism of liberalism and modern agendas, and struck me by his (what I would call) reactionary authoritarianism.

Dr Gavin Ashendon was present and also spoke on the roots of cultural Marxism and the Frankfurt School. He too was forthright with his authoritarian sympathies. As I listened to him, my thoughts became very strong about the need for a third way between this new form of Jacobinism (as I would characterise it) and the authoritarian reaction it begets.

There were other clerics who gave talks – Roman Catholics, Anglo-Catholics and a few Evangelicals. Was this some effort to unite the “remnant”? Certainly the Conference had the noble and holy purpose of healing the breaches between all Christians. I failed to detect any note of desperation but rather a message of trust in divine providence.

I noted the discreet presence of Bishop Roald Flemestad of the Nordic Catholic Church and his clergy in England. I was very encouraged to note the desire of the PNCC in America and the Union of Scranton to dialogue with the “G4” (intercommunion of the four main Continuing Anglican Churches achieved last October in America) rather than with the ACNA. These matters are in the hands of our Bishops and those they appoint to assist with the process of dialogue. On meeting Bishop Flemestad and his priests, I could only say what was on my mind, that we must be clear and transparent at all times, because this is the only way we can make progress.

I was apprehensive about meeting some of those men, but I am thankful to accomplish this task of giving a face to my name for those who read this blog and appreciate what I am trying to do. I was pleased to see Msgr John Broadhurst again after all these years since my TAC days, and I personally thank Msgr Andrew Burnham for his profound and sincere words. They are good men, and I have every respect and esteem for the Ordinariate and for everything it is trying to do in the face of indifference and frequent hostility caused by crass ignorance.

My own thoughts have been enriched and I find myself confirmed in my desire to work for a new way above materialist rationalism and religion based on bigotry and “appropriation of truth”.

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