This blog gives a tremendous amount of insight into the world of American Continuing Anglicanism: a post-Reformation neo-patristic vision combined with the nobler elements of post-patristic and medieval Catholicism. There is something about this vision to which I warm.
Anglican Rose is a quest for magisterial Protestantism within the context of antique orthodoxy and medieval Catholicism. It is an exploration of our roots, particularly amongst northern Protestant & Erastian churches, where early Anglicans aimed for something older than Papacy – a Conciliar West which fostered the national within the catholic. Here, early Protestants negotiated a balance with Rome and Eastern churches by way of secular monarchs, confessions, and convocations. They did not wish to overthrow Doctors or Fathers but restore primitive religion by them. Much of this blog is a consideration of these intentions and how Northern Catholicism, more particularly, the Elizabethan Settlement– that “Occidental Star”– might restore Christendom through her many sprigs.
It is a vision denied to us by most churches around us, as they position themselves for the most part into the ‘conservative’ and ‘progressive’ camps with little care for the aspirations of a past age. In the early days of the ecumenical movement, the ideal seemed to be embodied in the Old Catholic reaction against Ultramontanism and the appeal to the consensus of the Fathers, an Orthodox and conciliar ecclesiology. On this ‘conservative’ point, the Orthodox, Anglicans and Old Catholics would agree. Then ‘liberal’ ideology entered the picture, and only the Orthodox seem to continue in their traditional world view.
Continuing Anglicanism seems to have tried to recapture this vision that more or less died with the ordination of women and the movement for affirming homosexuality. Strangely a highly conservative movement based on the immobilism of St Vincent’s Quod ubique, quod semper… gave way to an evolutionary ‘development’ theology akin to that of Rome but much more radical. Things tend to happen by pendulum-like reactions in the Hegelian dialectics of history.
What is classical Anglicanism? It is a concept I have been battling with, not when I was a choirboy and church organist as a young man in the Church of England, but when I had ‘bought’ the sales pitch of the apologists in the early 1980’s and become a Roman Catholic and faced the bigotry I found in the traditionalist world. I was an Anglican seeing Anglicanism from the outside, living in an ecclesial context that wanted me to renounce Anglicanism as an animist in Africa has to reject his idols to become a true Christian monotheist. Most of my religious life as an adult has been a quest for a lost paradise, which some people tell me never existed.
It is fashionable among conservative Roman Catholics to ‘trash’ Continuing Anglicanism and attribute the disunity of the ‘alphabet soup’ to an intrinsic fault in the very foundation. One problem of Anglicanism is that its basis is the English Crown, and by extension, the British Empire (it still exists, but now consists only of the British Isles and a few scattered islands in different parts of the world and the extreme south of the Iberian Peninsular). As an Erastian entity, the unity of the Anglican Church revolved around our English nationality and our language. Once that is gone, one has then to look for distinctive theological characteristics like the confessional churches of the Reformation. That is something that puts Americans at sixes and sevens as they seek to affirm their elusive identity in a nation that was designed to be a cultural melting pot. Unfortunately, some Anglicans are defined by their conservative reaction to post-modern liberalism. Such zeal often mutates into bitter bigotry and hatred – and then the entire spirit of Christ is lost.
Anglicanism as ‘anglicised Old Catholicism’? That idea is to be found in some points of the Anglican Rose blog. That is an idea I find interesting, but which Old Catholicism? There are essentially two: the old Church of Utrecht that got sidelined by Rome in the early eighteenth century because of Jansenism and found its own means to have its Archbishop consecrated – and the German / Swiss alliance of anti-Ultramontanist historians and theologians, but who were also guided by the principles of Febronianism (a Germanic form of Erastianism) and theological liberalism. Too many political and theological issues get mixed up together as so many accretions and overgrowth. It is not easy to be non-English and Anglican! It is hard enough for us English (some of us as expatriates).
Many people in the world speak English, but very few are culturally English. This is not to claim any superiority, for our lot in the days of Empire were often arrogant and cruel, especially when we consider the British invention of the concentration camp in South Africa and ‘blowing away from cannon’ of Indian rebels in the 1850’s. England has much to answer for! The problem of Anglicanism remains the same – is it a legitimate religious expression for people who speak English but are far from England’s ways? And, of course I don’t think only of England in our own time or in the Victorian era, but also going right back into the Middle Ages and far beyond to the days of the Celtic Church. Some of it has rubbed off onto Anglo-Saxon America, especially in the northern States.
Some of the vagueness can be remedied by referring to a ‘Northern Catholicism’, which is the essential theme of this blog. Some might be tempted to think of Eastern Orthodoxy, Old Catholicism and Anglicanism as a kind of ‘Counter Rome’. I think that would be a mistake. Pax Americana, Pax Romana and Pax Britannica have always been short-lived and were not always based on the human spirit at its noblest or most altruistic.
In spite of so many shortcomings and imperfections, Anglicanism or ‘Northern Catholicism’ needs to be explored and lived, not as an absolute but as a means to the end of attaining the Beatific Vision of God and a higher reality. When Churches become ends in themselves or exist to serve worldly politics, then great evils arise. It was Fr. Seraphim Rose who is quoted as having said – In the end, ALL the Churches will serve Antichrist. Such a statement is open to the ravings of conspiracy theorists and those professing the kind of Anti-Semitism that reigned in Europe in the nineteenth century. Nevertheless, there is a profound vision in such a saying. Churches often forget their spiritual mission, and thus drift from their fidelity to the New Testament.
I also find his article Reversing Desuetude of particular interest when considering matters like doctrinal formularies, the minor orders and subdiaconate not in use in any of the Continuing Anglican Churches and the Use of Sarum itself. Very often, a usage is revived illegally and the Church authority ends up allowing it, an example being the ‘Tridentine’ rite in the Roman Catholic Church. We find ourselves in the world of principles of canon law, and someone says in a comment:
It is well known that certain ceremonial actions were strictly banned by the old BCPs and never authoritatively restored. Yet, priests took it upon themselves to revive these ceremonies. It all reminds me of the verse in Judges: “In those days, there was no king in Israel; every man did that which was right in his own eyes”. We live with this attitude to this very day.
There is a fine dividing line between putting oneself above the law and the Church and the old problem of the law being used to negate its very purpose in the hands of perverse men with the responsibility of applying the law, the extremes of anarchism and Pharisaism. The reflections are interesting. Comment if you like, but keep it clean!
Anglican Rose is a nicely put-together blog, and most of the comments I read are level-headed and contribute to our reflection.