Extra-Mural Anglicans

I like Deborah Gyapong, and I have always found her to be a good person seeking the best for her family and for God. We had many uplifting conversations on Skype.

But certain things get up my nose – Who holds the definition of Anglican?. She can write what she likes and quote Bishop Robert Mercer.

I too will quote Bishop Mercer.

* * *


By Bishop Robert Mercer, C.R.

A lecture given on 20th June, 1987 at Saint Chad’s Church Canningham, U.K., by the Right Rev’d Robert Mercer on the occasion of the Northern Festival of the Anglican Society.

What is an Anglican? Somebody, who is in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury? Frankly I am ignorant about the state of intercommunion between the Church of England and the free churches (protestant) in this country, but somewhere in the last few years I have acquired the notion that members of the free churches are now formally and officially welcome at Anglican communion tables, though I suspect that this does not often much happen in practice.

Somehow during the last few years I have acquired the notion that the present Archbishop of Canterbury publicly received the sacrament after preaching in a famous Methodist church in London. In other words I am asking you: are the free churches now in communion with Canterbury? If they are though perhaps in a very Anglican way there can never be a very simple answer to a simple question if they are, nobody regards the free churches as being Anglican. At any rate we do know that the Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht are in communion with Canterbury, yet nobody regards them as Anglican.

And what about the Church of England In South Africa? It is certainly not in communion with Canterbury. They are, and always have been, in full communion with Sydney (Australia) and certainly their clergy and people, when they come to England, behave as if they were in communion with the Church of England, for clearly they are of British descent and origin. When Bishop Morris of Egypt, himself presumably consecrated by an Archbishop of Canterbury, accepted an invitation from the Church of England in South Africa to be their Bishop, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, wrote to tell him that by so doing he would automatically cease to be in communion with Canterbury. Fair enough! The man knew where he stood.

But did Bishop Morris thereby cease being Anglican? He continued wearing the same rochet and chimere in which he had been consecrated in Canterbury, continued to subscribe to the same 39 Articles and to worship according to the same Book of Common Prayer of 1662.

Three decades later Bishop Morris’ successor was consecrated by the same Archbishop of Sydney (an Australian called Dudley Ford). This same Dudley Ford travelled from Sydney to Cape Town carrying the same Book of Common Prayer that he always used, and subscribed to the same Articles of Religion. The Church of England in South Africa is not in communion with Canterbury, but is It Anglican? Nobody quite knows, although they are more recognisably of Anglican origin and descent than are the Old Catholics of Europe or the Independent Churches of the Philippines, who are in communion with Canterbury.

What is an Anglican?

Nobody quite knows. But it would seem that communion with Canterbury is not THE deciding factor, and there is nothing new about this. You will know. When William and Mary came to the throne, several good Anglicans, not being disciples of the Vicar of Bray, believed that their oaths to the ousted King James had to hold fast. They could not in conscience accept their new rulers. They were therefore driven out of their bishoprics and out of their parishes. They were called ‘Non Jurors”.

They continued to wear the same rochets and chimeres, or the same surplices, that they had always worn, and they continued to worship according to the same Book of Common Prayer, though being Anglicans they could never resist the temptation to improve upon it, and so some of them had a go at producing their own Improvements.

Where the “Non Jurors” Anglicans or not? Were they in communion with Canterbury if they were not in communion with Canterbury’s King? At least two of these “NonJurors” are now regarded widely as saints Bishop Thomas Ken and William Law. They are regarded as representative of all that is best in our own tradition. Can any of us dare say that because they were not then in communion with that particular Archbishop of Canterbury, they are not Anglicans?

Because some of the Scots Bishops retained a certain emotional loyalty to the old House of Stuart, William and Mary gave them a rough time. In Scotland William and Mary were officially Presbyterian. In Scotland Anglican bishops and priests were harried and hounded by Anglican soldiers of a King and a Queen, who south of the border were themselves Anglican, and they were hounded by these Anglican soldiers for the civil crime of not being Presbyterian! Were these illegal Episcopalian bishops and priests Anglicans in communion with Canterbury, if they were not in communion with Canterbury’s King?

In America in the 18th Century, loyal Anglican priests and laypeople tried to remain in communion with Canterbury. They tried to receive Episcopal ordination from Canterbury, but Canterbury spurned them, because American relations with Canterbury’s King were confused and confusing. The Americans therefore went to Scotland for their orders.

Fr. Peter W.F. Clark, S.S.M., recently deceased, said, when asked about the ordination of women, “Don’t trust the bishops”. He clearly knew his Tractarian and post Tractarian history. I suspect, that if you were to ask an older generation of American Anglicans about Archbishops of Canterbury, they would reply, “Don’t trust the Archbishops”! Far from uniting the Anglican Communion, far from holding us together, former Archbishops of Canterbury showed such loyalty to the Kings of England, that they spurned and turned their backs upon good Anglicans in American and in Scotland.

What is an Anglican? Nobody quite knows. But it would seem, that communion with Canterbury is no deciding factor. And it would seem that today’s uncertainties have some precedence in the 18th Century.

Pope Paul VI was given to symbolic gestures. An Archbishop of Canterbury paid him a formal and official visit. The Pope chose to receive him and to embrace him in public, not in Saint Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican in Rome, which symbolises the Papal claims, and which is built on the alleged site of Saint Peter’s grave. He chose to receive him in Saint Paul’s Church outside the city walls. He chose to receive him extramurally in a church which is built on the alleged site of the grave of Saint Paul.

It is almost as if Pope Paul were hinting, “Other sheep 1 have which are not of this fold”, or as if he were remembering how, when he came from Antioch, Paul withstood Peter to his face, and how Paul was right and Peter wrong as the Pope were hinting “You may be extra mural outside the walls, but you are still Catholic. You are our sister church, our equal church”.

Now really we live in an ecumenical age. We dialogue with people who are not even Christian. Baptist observers, Quaker observers, Roman Catholic observers also are invited to the Lambeth Conference, where they may meet in small groups and speak at public meetings, where they may make fellowship with, pray with and eat with Anglican bishops.

We dialogue with almost everybody, the exceptions being people like the Church of England in South Africa, of the same origin and descent as the Archbishop of Canterbury himself. Yet he spurns them drives them away.

In this ecumenical age the people with whom he most ought to dialogue, are the people closest to him. He also should make some symbolic gesture to them. He should also receive and embrace these extra mural Anglicans in some meaningful place and he should also give some hint of a greater unity beyond our present divisions. But ecumenism isn’t the work of Archbishops only.

The best things in the Church of England happen in spite of the official church, not because of it the Evangelical revival, the classical revival, the institution of theological colleges, the recovery of the religious life, the great missions overseas, the slum mission at home. All these things happened sometimes largely, sometimes entirely because of priests and people, not because of bishops.

Now things in other parts of the Anglican Communion may be different, but here at home In England you know your own custom. The people lead, and when its safe, the bishops will follow. When our Tractarian fathers had done their work the establishment graciously accepted them. And we have to go out and embrace these extra mural Anglicans, these “continuing Anglicans”, even though our bishops may not at present do so. Now who are these extra mural Anglicans?

I have already told you, there in South Africa and in Zimbabwe is also the Church of England In South Africa four square protestants, inclined to fundamentalism, though non theological factors also enter into it politics, racialism, apartheid and they are similar in many ways to a body in the U.S.A. called the Reformed Episcopal Church, four square protestants, who left the official church 130 years ago in protest against our Tractarian fathers.

Now you may say that these two groups of people are not likely partners in any future dialogue and I fear you are likely to be all too right! But this is not entirely true of the American group. One of their leading academics is an authority on and a very sympathetic admirer of Saint Thomas Aquinas. They are not fundamentalists. They have a strong sense of church order, discipline and tradition. I estimate, that they may be a good deal more flexible than the Diocese of Sydney, with which we are in communion, and perhaps a good deal more flexible than some people in the Diocese of Bradford, with whom you do presumably dialogue? 1 suspect that if we go out and embrace them and talk with them we may find that small beginnings may have great conclusions.

But more recently there have been other Anglican ‘schisms’. People in Canada and America have not known how to react to the invention of priestesses by the official Anglican provinces in those parts. Some have said “We stay in and fight.” That was a courageous and moral decision. But subsequent events have proved that to be a not very effective decision. So soon, the Anglican American Church and Canadian Church are to have women bishops. Others said thus far and no further! If our church officially and formally and flagrantly by canon embraces heresy we can only get out.” And that also was a courageous and moral decision, and I’d say that subsequent events have proved such a decision to be a realistic decision.

Those people who in recent years have left the official Anglican provinces of Canada and the U.S.A. think themselves as continuing Anglicans, though by the official provinces in those parts and by the Archbishop of Canterbury they are called schismatics, though continuing to practice the faith as our church has received it:

1. They worship according to the Book of Common Prayer, to their own edition of it.

2. They accept the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as containing all things necessary to salvation.

3. They accept the Apostles’, Athanasian and Nicene Creeds as summarising and interpreting those scriptures for us and as protecting us from other American vagaries such as those of Mary Baker Eddy and Joseph Smith (the Mormons).

4. They accept the three fold ministry of bishops priests and deacons and like our Lord and the twelve apostles and nearly 2000 years of Christian history they confine this ministry to persons of the male sex.

5. They practice the seven sacraments in all their fullness.

Dare we say that these continuing Anglicans are not Anglicans because they are not in communion with His Grace of Canterbury? Were the Non Jurors of the 18th Century not Anglicans? It is known that Bishop Ken and William Law are now recognized by Canterbury in communion with America and Scotland. In some respects Canterbury has caught up with reality, and may do so again!

These new extra mural Anglicans are people we must go out and embrace. They will be considerably easier partners in dialogue than the Church of England in South Africa or the Reformed Episcopal church.

They contain, as we do, differences in churchmanship. Some are high, some central and some low. Some are charismatics, others are not. Some like new modernised liturgy, others loath it. Some are ecumenically minded, some like to stay in their Anglican holes. So we shall be perfectly at home with each other! How can we embrace these new extra mural Anglicans, these continuing Anglicans at home and North America? (Actually they are now also In Mexico, in the Caribbean and in India and in Australia.)

1. We can subscribe to their publications.

2. We can correspond with them.

3. We can welcome them to our parishes in England.

4. We can go out to them in America and Canada and perhaps even Mexico (if we are looking for sunshine) and visit them. We shall gain at least as much as we give. They have lost money, respectability, the establishment buildings. (And it might do us no end of good to ditch all our buildings). They have the faith: and it is the faith that makes them so rewarding. Last year 1 had the privilege and pleasure of spending six weeks among them, and it is a long time since I have been so exhilarated by fellow Christians, and it may be we need them more than they need us.

Well if the Church of England invents priestesses and bishopesses. What shall WE do? Stay in and fight? That shall be a courageous and moral decision. But if the precedent of Sweden and North America is anything to go by, that will not be a very effective decision. Others of us might prefer to continue Anglican practice, even if the official C. of E. abandons it. And these extra mural Anglicans will tell us that there “are far worse things in life than not being in communion with Canterbury!”

Bishop Pike of California denied the divinity of Jesus yet he was in communion with Canterbury. Was he an Anglican In that he denied the creeds?

Mr. Cupitt of Emmanuel College, Cambridge is in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. Is he an Anglican if he denies the existence of God?

The Bishop of Durham denies, or appears to deny, the virgin birth and the physical resurrection of Jesus. He is certainly in communion with Canterbury. Does that make him an Anglican?

These extra mural Anglicans will tell us that it is not the Archbishop of Canterbury but the Lambeth Quadrilateral which makes us Anglicans Scriptures, creeds, sacraments, threefold ministry and I agree with them. After all, we have always said in our few hundred years of separation from Rome, that the decisive factor in being a Catholic is not communion with the Bishop of Rome, but our adherence to the Catholic Faith.

Now you are going to be told, ad nauseum, that in the U.S.A. these continuing Anglicans quarrel incessantly among themselves. Sadly this is true. And this they do, not because they are orthodox Anglicans, but because they are Americans! Quarreling in America is a way of life: It is an art form: it is a recreation and a hobby. Lawyers are now called “litigationists”. You have need of a litigationist more than you have need of a “shrink” or psychiatrist. And these quarrels are about personalities, about leadership struggles.

But such are not entirely unknown In the C of E. (The Barchester novels were written about England, not America!) Do we not have jockeying for position even now? It’s just that the Americans drag everything out into the open, whereas we British are more discreet about our malevolence!

In Canada there are no such quarrels. (There they refer to America as the “Excited States”). And it may be in the course of our dialogue with these continuing Anglicans that we could give them a sense of urgency about their own need for unity among themselves. Disunited we fall, and it may he we can help them to patch things up.

What is an Anglican? Bishop Pike? Mr. Cupitt? The Bishop of Durham? The Non Jurors? 18th Century Scotsmen and Americans? Can Canterbury really be the deciding factor? Well, what do you think? Perhaps, and only perhaps, the successor of Pope Paul VI will decide that the A.R.C.I.C. talks have more future with those who actually believe the creeds, who actually practise the Lambeth quadrilateral than with all and sundry who just happen, as a matter of accident, to he “in communion” with Canterbury.

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11 Responses to Extra-Mural Anglicans

  1. Dale says:

    One would think that NOT being “in communion” with the present incumbent of Canterbury is precisely what does make us Anglicans!

    • The challenge being put to us is – Become Roman Catholic or be a true Protestant or leave Christianity to be considered as sincere – if we claim to be Anglicans, we are to be trashed as “playing church” and pretending to be Catholic or Anglican. Whereupon in this tortured state, pushed into a corner, one is persuaded to join the “true church” and bolster up the position of the Ultramontanist apologists.

      Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.

      It’s all as worn out as the claims of Soviet Communism

      It’s something we will never solve, and it’s not good for the soul, so it’s better to let it go. Whatever we do in life, we get criticised and trashed – – – and it just doesn’t matter.

  2. James Morgan says:

    Hoooo! Good one!
    Loved it!

  3. warwickensis says:

    One nice little exercise in thought is to try and provide a Wittgenstein-style definition of Anglicanism using family resemblences. I have posted on this a couple of times on O Cuniculi. Perhaps I ought to give it another thought.

  4. Patricius says:

    I consider myself culturally Anglican, and I am in fact just a ”lapsed” Roman Catholic with Anglican relatives.

  5. Dale says:

    my own previous comments reminds me of what ways once said of P.J. Morgan, a filthy rich American industrialist of the last century: “Morgan is an Episcopalian with leanings towards Christianity”; in the case of so many modern leaders of the clerical establishment in England can one say that they even have “leanings to Christianity”?

    Asking forgiveness in advance…

  6. Pingback: Northern European Liturgical Patrimony, Culture and Theology & A blog for ‘shipwrecked’ priests | Fr. Orthohippo

  7. …we are a little congregation in South of France of wesleyan methodist background…we follow the theology of the Reverend John Wesley and we prefer to claim us “Anglican Methodist” which is the same as Confessing Anglican. We are not in communion with the See of Canterbury and we pray for the Chruch of England to become christian…To be Anglican is for us to follow the Holy Bible teachings, the XXXIX Articles of Faith and the Lambeth Quadrilateral…other things are a substanceless wind in the desert of the so weary human clerical institutions…

    • Would you like to send me an article about your community so that I can publish it on this blog. I imagine high-church Methodism as being quite similar in ethos to “old high-church” Anglicanism as the roots are held in common. Wesley was high-church in his theology. Some photos of the community would be appreciated. If you prefer to write in French, I can do the translation into English.

  8. Thank you, Father Anthony, for your welcoming words ! I do my best for tomorrow evening !

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