The ACC as a Henrician Church

I have just found these fascinating articles dating from 2010 in Retro Church, a blog which is full of resources.

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More From Archbishop Haverland on ACC Formularies

[I won’t reproduce the comments, which can be read by clicking on the above link, other than noting that some commenters challenge the ACC to use the Sarum liturgy and colour sequence if it is truly Henrician.]

Archbishop Haverland kindly sends an occasional note, which I gratefully use (with his permission, of course) as blog material while I am mired in the busyness which keeps me from blogging regularly.

I mentioned in a previous post on Retro-Church some examples of things clearly present in the Henrician Church but not found in the Anglican Catholic Church now due to authoritative ACC formularies to the contrary or due to desuetude. In that category I mentioned ‘mandatory clerical celibacy, legally-enforceable tithing, mandatory Latin liturgy, and many other things which the ACC does not retain’.

Likewise I mention positively a number of things from the Henrician Church that the ACC does keep. These include ‘rejection of the papal office in its late medieval form; episcopal and synodal Church government; three-fold Holy Orders; the doctrinal and credal orthodoxy found in the large number of patristic authorities named in the C&C; the sacramental system which the Henrician Church retained; and large chunks of the Corpus Juris Canonici and the custom and common law of the Church’.

Some have wondered about the significance of the ACC’s canonical starting point in the Henrician, rather than Elizabethan, settlement of religion. To explain that significance it might help to expand the list of positive elements in the ACC flowing from Henrician Catholicism. An expanded list might include the permissibility of the invocation of the saints; the objective (though not magical) efficacy of the seven sacraments; baptismal regeneration; and a high doctrine of the Real Presence. These beliefs are all features of the faith of the Universal Church which were preserved in the Henrician Church and are believed in the ACC. Such beliefs are not authoritatively contradicted by anything that binds us in the ACC, whatever contrary views one might cite from some in the Elizabethan Church of England. If the Articles seem to teach something to the contrary, either the Article in question has been misunderstood or is not authoritative, since it contradicts the more central and authoritative tradition of Christendom to which it is the purpose of the Articles to bear witness. Tract 90 and Bicknell and Father Robert Hart generally would say that the Article would in such a case have been misunderstood.

I try to be an ecclesial thinker. I joined the ACC as soon as it formed and have never looked back. I begin with the actual faith and actual formularies of the actual Church in which I actually find myself. I think the faith that I hold is Anglican in a variety of ways which are very important to me. However it is much more important to me to maintain the faith of my Church and to be squarely within the consensus of the central tradition of Christendom on controversial matters. If that approach is insufficiently ‘Anglican’ in the minds of some, I am not too worried. I am more interested in being a faithful Anglican Catholic and in standing within the central tradition of Christendom than in meeting some criterion of Anglicanism that is not itself firmly rooted in the ACC’s actual formularies.

For the most part the central tradition of Christendom can be identified simply by looking for the consensus of East and West even today. I see nothing in the actual faith of the ACC which contradicts anything actually held by both the East and West. The only exception might be the marriage of bishops, but on that matter everybody admits that our position is in fact consistent with Scripture and the earliest Church, while the contrary position is a disciplinary matter rooted in no doctrinal necessity. The supposed agreement of East and West against Anglican Orders is clearly contradicted by actual Orthodox positions in the 20th century. Is there anything else held by Rome and the Orthodox but rejected by the ACC? Perhaps that there is One True Church. But as the Two One True Churches disagree about which is True and which Not, I am content with our charitable position that both are True, as are we.

Another advantage to a doctrinal starting point in Henrician Catholicism is that it historically antedates the most revolutionary claims of Roman Catholics and Protestants. Everyone now agrees, I think, that the late medieval Western Church had many serious problems, practical and doctrinal. For instance, the late medieval Church had a powerful Pelagian strand which Trent, a reforming synod in many ways, rejected as did Luther, Calvin, and the Articles. Everyone also agrees that all early modern monarchs sought to control their national Churches and to limit papal authority therein. But both the continental Reformers and Trent responded to the problems of the late medieval Church and the challenge of the monarchs by a radical abandonment of the Conciliar movement. Both radically abandoned Erasmian and Conciliarist reason, one for fideism and the other for the authoritarianism of an absolute ecclesiastical monarchy. The Henrician reformation at its best may be seen as an attempt to reform rather than revolutionize. Henry’s bishops only abandoned the effort when forced to choose between the Romanism of Mary and the new-model revolution of Edward’s later reign. But already with the Elizabethan anti-Puritans and Hooker the moderate, reasonable spirit began to revive. We in the ACC combine unambiguous doctrinal Catholicism (looking back to the Henricians and reasserted in the Affirmation of Saint Louis) with the riches of the later Anglican patrimony (literary, musical, architectural, spiritual), and the liturgical glories of the Prayer Book tradition. We have the best of all theological worlds.

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Some notes by Archbishop Haverland from 10th June 2010

The Anglican Catholic Church does not ordain subdeacons, though the liturgical function exists in parishes that celebrate Solemn High Mass. The function may be performed by layreaders or deacons or priests. Ordination of subdeacons, like the mandatory vow of celibacy taken before that ordination (as in the Roman Church between Trent and the post-Vatican II reform), is a matter firmly covered by the principle of desuetude, to which I made reference in the posted articles. I am unaware of any ACC bishop purporting to ‘ordain’ subdeacons. If one did so, it would be little more than licensing a layreader or an acolyte.

Trent occurred after the reign of Henry VIII.

Trent rejected medieval Pelagianism also, of the sort exemplified by Gabriel Biel, and asserted the unelicited character of prevenient grace. As I believe Ronald Knox once observed of his Anglo-Catholic days, the one element of the Roman system which no Anglican that one has ever heard of, no matter how spiky, ever felt the least attraction to is indulgences. The notion that any lingering elements of the indulgence system in the Henrician Church require explanation by any modern Anglican Catholic is not serious. This matter too is covered by desuetude. Indulgences have not existed in any Anglican Church for centuries, and the formularies of the ACC do not revive them. This issue strikes me as a red herring.

As for the idea that a reconstruction of late medieval vestment color schemes is important, much less central, to the identity of any Church: well, that too does not seem to me to be very serious. As Percy Dearmer and many others demonstrate, late medieval English usage in the matter was various and flexible. Many parishes did not have full sets of vestments, and the rule was that one used the best that he had for important occasions, whatever the color. Dearmer also notes that as best one can now reconstruct a color sequence in strict accordance with the Ornaments Rubric, the result ‘would differ but very slighty from the Roman sequence which is so well known at the present day.’ Which suggests that the ACC’s critic in this case need not be so worried.

Anglicanrose is mistaken in thinking that my seeking a consensus of East and West even today assumes that ‘one of the two (likely the East) have [sic] no innovation.’ On the contrary, the obvious purpose in seeking consensus (a good, Hookerian exercise) is precisely that matters of agreement are much more likely than either the East or the West alone to avoid erroneous or dubious innovations. This implies no Anglican self-negation but rather an Anglican refusal to confuse a part for the whole.

Anglicanrose’s liturgical questions simply ignore what I actually wrote about the relevance of Henrician Catholicism for the ACC. I explicitly said that in many matters, including liturgical, desuetude and positive legislation have altered matters since Henry’s reign.


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This is Fr Anthony writing – I joined the ACC on the understanding that I would conform to its usual liturgical customs when celebrating in a parish. One has to be pastoral and not rise to the dilemmas of those who say we can’t be Henrician without doing everything exactly as it was done in the 1530’s and 40’s. I believe the notion of Henricianism refers to ecclesiology rather than “the way things were done” – a kind of English Gallicanism. Many things about Henry VIII were not very nice. Look at him the wrong way and you would have got yourself strung up or your head chopped off! They were bloody times, and he sacked the monasteries no less than the French revolutionaries in the 1790’s! As far as I can see from my own time, Henry VIII was little better than a tyrant and a fat pig like Hermann Göring!

What Archbishop Haverland is getting at is the idea of the ACC being an English form of Gallicanism. One problem with Gallicanism is not having the king’s authority any more than that of the Pope, so authority in the Church is invested in the College of Bishops – conciliar ecclesiology. This ecclesiology, as any other, is imperfect – but it seems about the best tried and tested vision of the Catholic Church. The other major idea is that of an independent Catholic Church without Protestantism as was the French Church in the eighteenth century. Much was wrong, as witnessed by the fury of the revolutionaries against the Church as well as the Aristocracy and the Monarchy. From the decadence of the Gallican Church came Ultramontanism!

We need to work on these ideas and refine them. I would, in the light of my own thought and experience, and these writings of Archbishop Haverland, encourage future possibilities of reviving the Use of Sarum on an appreciable scale, reviving the Subdiaconate, the Minor Orders and the Tonsure and many other things that would bring greater depth to the ACC’s positioning as a Catholic Church.

I understand what we are trying to get at by calling the Anglican Church of between Henry’s break with Rome and the first Cramerian Prayer Book Henrician. The Anglican Church was free from Papal authority but not yet Protestant – it could be compared with the Gallican Church of Louis XIV, at a distance from Rome but without having fully broken away from Rome. We need to reflect a lot by this “reference” in our position.

Positive comments here would be most welcome.

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4 Responses to The ACC as a Henrician Church

  1. Dale says:

    Fr Anthony, I think that your comments at the end of the article are excellent. Especially in regards to reviving the sub-deaconate. I only recently learned that Rome has also abandoned this order as well; yet the Orthodox, both Byzantine as well as Oriental, believe that it is a necessary order; the Russians believe, as did Rome until recently, that the sub-deaconate is a major, not minor, order.

    On a more personal level, and this reflects my own theological training, I would like to see the confirmation of children at baptism and their receiving of communion, as in the East, and many places in the west until comparatively recently; and the dropping of the filioque from the Creed.

    I especially like Archbishop Haverland’s manner of dealing with the One, True Church problem, but he did forget that there are three historical bodies that accept only themselves as the One, True Church, he forgot the Oriental Orthodox, many do.

  2. Charles says:

    When ACC is compare to the Henrician church, it tends to be looking at Tunstall and Gardiner rather than Cromwell and Cranmer. That inconsistency is not too important for folk who enjoy the Henrician title, but try squaring the 1536 Articles and Injunctions with present practice. Note: neither the 1543 catechism or six articles say anything contrary to the earlier injunctions and articles. Rather they worked as a whole. Meanwhile, the 1536 articles and injunctions say quite a bit about the use of sacramentals, images, and justification in worship. I’ve found the 1543 catechism, contrary to popular thought, to be more protestant than the 1537. For example, there is no attempt to delineate a ‘form, matter, intent’ for lesser sacraments, and Cranmer omits the whole section on oils that the 1537 catechism includes. So, while in some areas, the Henrician retained some medieval thinking, in others it took a very Reformed position, mostly with practices associated with ceremony, making a division between rites that are edifying vs. salvific. That’s a division that carries through all later formulary and is a fundamental one. So, much is laid in the Henrician, yet I don’t see ACC keeping the fundamentals of the Cranmer-Cromwell reforms before 1544.

  3. Peter Yancey says:

    Excellent article, but it should be noted that the ACC does contain a number of Calvinist and Calvinist leaning clergy, which was certainly not the case in the Henrician church.

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