Friday, February 19, 2016

The View from the North End

Quite a few years ago, someone was making a bit of a to-do about celebrating Holy Communion from the north end of the Communion Table claiming that it had not been done since before 1914. I pointed out that that situation was peculiar to the USA, and that, as it happened I had celebrated at the north end regularly in England, using the 1662 BCP, until moving the USA in 1999. I think you could say he was surprised to find out that there are still places where the north end was the norm!

The actual rubric in the 1552, 1559, and 1662 Books of Common Prayer says that the priest shall stand at the north side of the Table. Between 1560 and 1645, most parishes would have been able to take this literally as the Communion Table was placed down the length of the chancel, with the ends east and west, and the communicants knelt around it, often in the old choir stalls. This method of proceeding was recommended by Parker's 'Advertisements' of 1564, though the Chapel Royal and some cathedrals continued to use the Eastward position. However, from about 1615 onwards, the fashion grew for leaving the Communion Table at the east end of the chancel, with its ends north and south, and railing it off. This meant that the 'north side' rubric could not be obeyed as originally intended. Two solutions were adopted. A few adopted the custom of standing before the altar on the gospel side, facing east, and this arrangement can be seen in a Restoration era print, but seems to have faded out of use by shortly after 1700. More commonly, priests took to the north end of the Table and celebrated from there.

The Restoration Settlement reiterated both the Ornaments Rubric, and the 1604 Canons. This essentially led to a return of the situation that had obtained in the 1630s. Communion Tables were very generally arranged altar-wise at the east end, and when Communion was celebrated, the priest took his place at the north end of the Table after the sermon, if he were a Low Churchman, and at the beginning of the ante-communion, if he were a High Churchman. Communion Tables in those days were usually about 6 feet by 3 feet, and were placed inside a railed enclosure, and furnished with a 'Laudian' frontal that completely enveloped the altar, a white linen cloth for the communion, and an alms basin and a pair of candlesticks. Altar crosses were uncommon before about 1865, and candles were not lit unless required for the purpose of giving light. The Communion plate of those days consisted of a large paten - usually on a stem, a pair of chalices, and a flagon usually made of pewter or silver, though some fine old gold plate sets still exist.

On the whole the heyday of the North end was from 1660 through to about 1900-1920, when the Eastward position became generally acceptable. However, in Ireland, in the Free Church of England, and among Conservative Evangelicals the north end position remained the norm right down to the 1990s, and even today. In England today it is probably most commonly seen in the North, especially in the Yorkshire Bible Belt, but is probably unknown in Wales and Scotland. In Ireland, north ending is commoner in Ulster than in the other three provinces, mainly due to the North's Evangelicalism. Sodor and Man had a high proportion of north enders down to the 1990s, but the trend now is to bring the Table forwards and stand in a cramped space behind it.

In the USA
North end was the norm through the colonial period and down to the 1840s, though from 1831 the BCP rubric said "right side" not "north side." This somewhat ambiguous direction seems to be a reference to the position of the vestry behind the altar in many churches, a position that would make the "north" side the right-hand side of the altar. As with England the earliest cases of eastward facing celebration occur in the late 1840s with the innovators doubtless arguing the 'right' meant 'correct' in this context. However, the major change over to 'ad orientem' celebration seems to occur between 1890 and 1914 as the old Evangelical Movement collapses. Some REC churches maintained the use of the North End, but within PECUSA it was pretty much gone by 1925. Indeed, the "before the holy table" rubric in the 1928 American BCP implicitly forbids the North end position, so its use should really be confined to the English and Canadian books.

I am going to assume that the Church is arranged with the Communion Table in the usual position at the end of the chancel, with the ends north and south, and that there is a credence Table. The priest is assisted by a deacon, there is no music, and the rite is that of 1662.

Before the service, the sufficient bread and wine are placed in the paten and chalice for the anticipated number of communicants, and placed in the middle of the Holy Table and covered with a linen cloth. Alternatively, the elements are placed on the credence together, together with some additional bread, a cruet of wine, and the collection plate or alms basin. There are Prayer Books on stands at either end of the Table, one for the priest, the other for the deacon. The clergy will be vested in cassock, surplice, tippet, and possibly hood. The surplices will be long and full.

The priest and the deacon enter, go to the rail, and pause without bowing before entering the sanctuary. The priest goes to the north end, the deacon to the south. The priest reads the Lord's Prayer, and the Collect for Purity with his hands together in prayer facing south. He then takes the book and turns to the people to rehearse the Commandments with the response being said after each commandment, or after the 4th and the 10th only.

The priest then turns back to the Table and says 'Let us pray' and reads the Collect for the Queen, and the Collect of the Day again facing south. The deacon then takes his service book and faces the congregation and reads the Epistle. Alternatively, he may go down to the chancel gates or lectern and read from there. If the celebrant is preaching, he then goes to the pulpit to read the Gospel, as the deacon returns to the sanctuary and sits in his chair on the south side of the Holy Table. The Gospel is read from the pulpit, and is followed by the Creed, notices, and sermon. At the end of the sermon, the priest reads the offertory sentence, and then returns to the Holy Table whilst the sidesmen take the offering.

The alms are presented at the altar, the deacon having collected the alms basin from the Credence before handing it to the priest who puts it on the Epistle side of the Table. After this the celebrant removes the cloth from the elements, and assisted by the deacon makes any adjustment to the quantity of bread and wine that may be required. (If the paten and chalice containing the elements were placed on the credence, then the deacon brings them to the Holy Table at this point.) The priest goes to the north end, turns to the congregation, and says 'Let us pray for the whole state of Christ's Church militant here in earth.' He then reads the Prayer for the Church. The exhortations are usually omitted, and then priest will turn to the congregation and read "Ye that... meekly kneeling upon your knees" before kneeling and letting the deacon lead the people in the General Confession. The priest then stands and raises his hand without making the sign of the cross whilst he gives the absolution. The deacon reads the Comfortable Words, after which the priest says the dialogue beginning 'Lift up your hearts,' before turning to the Table at "It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty..." The congregation joins in at either "Therefore with angels and archangels" or at "Holy, holy, holy" and recite with the minister until the Amen at the end of the Sanctus. The minister then kneels for the Humble Access, which he usually reads alone. A brief pause then follows whilst the elements are transferred to the north end of the altar for consecration. The prayer of consecration is read somewhat carefully by the priest facing the Table (i.e. south) at the north end with only those manual acts mentioned in the 1662 BCP being performed. At the end of the prayer all say "Amen" and then the clergy receive communion, followed by the laity, the priest administering the bread, and the deacon the Cup. Very often communion is administered by tables with everyone remaining in place until the minister dismisses that rail/table with a verse of Scripture.

When all have received, the remaining elements are placed in the middle of the Table and covered with the linen cloth. The clergy return to the ends of the Table, and the priest leads everyone in the Lord's Prayer. He then reads the Prayer of Thanksgiving, before all join in the Gloria in Excelsis. Lastly he gives the blessing facing the congregation with his hand or hands raised. The remaining consecrated elements are consumed after the service.

There are quite a few variants, but that is the basic format of the north end celebration. When music is used, the most common sections to be sung are the responses to the Commandments, and the Sanctus. As for hymns - at the beginning, between the lessons, before the sermon and at the collection of alms, during communion, and at the end of the service were fairly common. Also, in Evangelical parishes, it was pretty common to start the Communion service at 'Ye that do truly...' when it follows Matins or Evensong.

Final Thoughts
The north end celebration sounds a little awkward, but in fact works very well. My own point of view is that it has the advantage of allowing the people to see the manual acts without awkwardness on the part of the celebrant. It also avoids placing the presbyter 'centre stage' as happens with celebration facing the people. It emphasizes the ministerial aspect of the presbyterate, with the clergyman standing to the side, and letting the action of the Eucharist be seen. The disadvantage is that it arose by accident, and is without ancient precedent, but when celebrating the 1662 BCP Communion office it represents a valuable, historic Evangelical alternative to facing the Holy Table.

Saturday, February 13, 2016


The latest bought of meaningless oecumenicism between the Bishop of Rome and the Patriarch of Moscow got me thinking about what it means to be an Old High Churchman. At the end of the day I believe it comes down to the following priorities, some of which are theological, and others ecclesiastical, and may explain to those who are not familiar with the old High Church position why at some points it sounds Evangelical, and at others Anglo-Catholic.

I. The Scriptures
Of necessity, the first priority for the Old High Churchman is the Bible. It is God's revelation of Himself to humanity, recorded by human authors for the permanent edification of God's people. The Articles of Religion give quite a bit of attention to the importance and nature of Scripture starting with Article VI, which affirms its sufficiency as the source of dogma, then going on in Article VII to affirm the unity of Scripture maintaining, as the ancient Fathers did, that Christ is preached both in the Old Testament and in the New. The old High Church view of Scripture is a High one. We believe the Bible to be God's Word written, and any attempts to undermine the authority of Scripture needs to be examined critically. This was not even a topic for discussion for our 18th and 19th century High Church forefathers, but in the modern context we need to give some thought to Higher Criticism of the Bible. It almost seems to be the liberal orthodoxy in the USA to proclaim that the New Testament is both late and heavily Hellenized, but neither of these claims really stand up to scrutiny at the bar of history. Certainly, there is an Hellenizing element as there was in all Judaism in the first century AD, but this is neither as extensive as some claim, nor as influential as we are sometimes led to believe. It was as much as result of intellectual convergence as the clash of cultures. The dating issue is also a less serious matter than it might seem. An extremely good - I would say compelling - case, largely reassembled by liberal scholar J A T Robinson, for re-examining the dating of the New Testament. J A T Robinson did this most noticeably in 'Redating the New Testament' (1981) and the 'Priority of John' (1984) which argue for dates between 45 and 70AD for the bulk of the New Testament - i.e. between 15 and 40 years after the Resurrection.

This acceptance of an early dating for the New Testament has consequence for our understanding of Christ. If the NT was written within a generation or so of the crucifixion, then the portrait of Jesus given in there has to be accepted as being authentic. Leaving aside William Paley's argument that the Apostles would not have faced dungeon, fire, and sword for a lie, one has to accept that much of the New Testament is not a Hellenized secondary account, but the writings of a group of men, who were contemporaries of Jesus, and in many cases eye-witnesses to the events described in the New Testament. Accepting the Bible as God's Word written has some consequences for the way in which we do theology. If the Bible is the reliable, authentic record of God's dealings with man, then our dogmatic theology must necessarily be based on those same Scriptures. This in turn commits us to Biblical theology, which, not only commits us to be Biblical picture of Christ, but also, if we take St Paul seriously, means we also need to accept the five 'Solas' of the Reformation as an essential part of our theological framework.

II. The Fathers, the Creeds, and Councils
Scripture alone, does not mean Scripture only. In fact those who preach Scripture only are a bit of a menace because they exclude the witness of the Early Church, especially the Sub-Apostolic Fathers - i.e. those who had known the Apostles personally, the Apologists, the remaining Ante-Nicene Fathers, and the Doctors of the Church - as to what was taught in the first three centuries. They are essentially left with what is in the Bible, and that which is under their hat, which is necessarily of variable quality. However, we need to be a little bit cautious not to set up the Fathers as a rival to Scripture, but rather we need to use them as witness to the content of Christian teaching in the first centuries. On the whole, the old High Church scholars of the eighteenth and nineteenth century attached the most importance to the Ante-Nicene Father, and particularly to the Sub-Apostolic Fathers. For example, John Kaye, Bishop of Lincoln 1827-53, was chiefly noted for his edition of Justin Martyr, the second century Father of the Church, whilst Dr. Martin Routh (1755-1854) worked on the writings of a series of minor second and third century Bishops and theologians. The emphasis on this period came about because the old High Churchmen believed that these writers gave them access to the best witnesses to the preaching and teaching of Primitive Church.

The Creeds were also an important element in the Old High Church position. Archbishops Moore and Markham rebelled at the Latitudinarian exclusion of Nicene Creed from the 1786 draft American BCP, and sent it back for further revision. A similar refusal to compromise on the Creeds led to the old High Churchmen taking the lead in the fight to retain the use of the Athanasian Creed in 19th century Ireland and England. For the OHCs the Creeds were very much as declaration of belief, and a test of orthodoxy. Bull's defense of the Nicene Creed, and the works of Waterland defending Nicene orthodoxy against the Arians of early eighteen century Oxford and Cambridge were touchstones of the old Protestant Orthodoxy. This high regard for the Creeds was further reinforced by their Biblical basis, and their Patristic composition and approval.

The Ecumenical Councils of the Church also figure largely in the thinking of the old High Churchmen, with the first four being the usual benchmark of orthodoxy. However, we need to be a little cautious in assuming that they did not attach weight to later councils such as the second and third Councils of Constantinople, the Council of Orange, and so forth, down to about 1000AD. However, it has to be stated that the most importance was attached to the witness of the first five centuries, and so the first Four Councils were the most extensively quoted and referenced.

III. Sacraments
The old High Churchmen were strong, if not very demonstrative, sacramentalists. Baptismal regeneration, often understood in a covenantal sense, was a key plank of their platform. They understood Baptism as firstly regenerating the individual by means of water and the Holy Spirit; and secondly, as incorporating that person into Christ. The relationship was also seen as being covenantal with the faithful individual receiving the assurance of sin forgiven, grace bestowed, and eternal life vouchsafed. To my mind, the OHC position is not dissimilar to that of Orthodox Lutheranism, but this particular 'kite' needs to be investigated further.

The OHCs also took a High view of Holy Communion requiring proper preparation for worthy reception of the Lord's Supper, as per the first Exhortation in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. This exhortation, slightly modified, is to be found on page 86 of the 1928 BCP and requires of the intending communion serious self-examination; repentance; and the assurance of forgiveness of those who come to the Lord's Supper, and also provides for those who cannot quite their consciences by the usual means, the ministry of penance, though confession to, and spiritual counsel from, a priest. As a result of their rigor, celebrations of Holy Communion tended to be somewhat infrequent in traditional High Church circles with four or five times a year being the norm in rural parishes, and monthly in market towns.

In terms of their understanding of the sacrament, old High Church thought divided between those, the majority. who accepted that Christ was present in the celebration of the Eucharist, but not specifically in the elements, and was received by faith by the worthy Communicant; whilst a small minority accepted that the consecrated elements were 'in virtue, power, and effect' the Body and Blood of Christ. In so much as there was a sacrificial element to OHC Eucharistic doctrine it revolved around the offering of alms, the offering of ourselves to Christ's service, and a commemoration of Christ's saving work, especially His one sacrifice of Himself once offered upon the cross. The setting for Eucharistic worship was very simple. The communion table would be set with the necessary vessels; leavened bread and undiluted port would be the elements, and celebrant would very generally conduct the service from the north end of the Table in surplice, tippet, and hood. However simple it may have been, the Lord's Supper was a source of awe to the Old High Churchmen, and the covenant of Grace renewed.

IV. Episcopacy
There is no shying away from the fact that the old High Churchmen believed firmly in the Apostolic, if not Divine origins of the threefold Ministry, and especially of Episcopacy. Start from Cranmer's statement that the Church has had bishops, priests, and deacons since the Apostles' time, they thoroughly investigated the origins of the threefold ministry connecting it to the Old Testament priesthood, the Syngogue, Our Lord's commission to His Apostles, and the evidence contained in the New Testament. In short, for the Old High Churchman, the Episcopal form of Ministry was the only Biblical form, though they were not as quick as the Tractarians and the Anglo-Catholics to pronounce judgement on the ministries of those National Churches which had lost the historic Episcopate. That said, they were usually dead set against any sort of English Dissenters.

V. The Prayer Book
The Old High Churchmen were also warm supporters of the Book of Common Prayer, often referring to it as "our incomparable liturgy." This tribal adherence to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer was very largely a product of two things. Firstly, the old High Churchmen were formed by the Book of Common Prayer. Daily Morning and Evening Prayer at college, and in the cathedrals; the weekly canter through Matins, Litany and Ante-Communion, and Evensong in the parish church; Bishop Gibson's family devotions were their devotion guides and produced a piety which was reasonable, but did not minimize the seriousness of man's sin, nor the abundance of God's Grace. Secondly, the BCP was revered as a product of both the Reformation and the Restoration, both of which were seen as providential events for the restoration and preservation of true religion. The odd OHC might have had the warm fuzzies for the 1549 BCP, but in the main the English branch of the movement supported the 1662 BCP; whilst their Scottish and American cousins liked to point to the influence of ancient liturgies upon their Eucharistic rites. It is also noticeable that in both Scotland and the United States, the adoption of the Articles of Religion as a confessional stand (in 1804 and 1801 respectively) was led by the anti-Latitudinarian High Churchmen.

Strange as it might seem, the four principal areas with which the Old High Churchmen were concerned find their way into the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (CLQ) which defines the Catholic and Apostolic Church by the Scriptures, the Creeds, the Dominical Sacraments, and the Episcopate. However, it is often forgotten that whilst the CLQ is a statement of what Anglicans believe the Church to be, it is not an adequate statement of the beliefs of the Anglican branch of that Church. For that one must look further - to the Early Fathers, the Ecumenical Councils, the Articles, the Homilies, and the BCP.

There is a sense in which the Old High Church appeal to the Bible, the Primitive Church, and the Reformation is both as relevant today and also deeply obsolete. In a Twenty-first century seems irrevocably committed to sound bite theology, theological shortcuts, ignorance of history; and intellectual laziness, Classical Anglicanism, of which the Old High Churchmen are the chief representative, provides an intelligent approach to Christianity which is neither liberal, nor in thrall to the traditions of men. It seems to me that Classical Anglicanism, which respects the Bible, the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church, and the intellect is perhaps more necessary today than ever. The propaganda from our deeply old-fashioned Progressives is that faith is not intellectually respectable, and Fundamentalism relegates itself to irrelevance by both failing to engage rationalism, and by embracing its literalism. In a sense we need a Christianity which teaches both culture and Christ. Folks have fled the mainstream churches, very often for Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox (which have other problems) very largely because we have stopped teaching. We need to reverse that trend, and also do something very uncharacteristic for High Church Anglicans, and reach out to those who are seeking after Truth. To echo Bishop Andrewes:
One revelation in two Testament; three Creeds; Four Councils; and five centuries; that is our rule of faith

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Accidental Dissenter

For whatever reason, the habit of my political and religious thought is a mild species of Toryism - I am basically an instinctive Church and King man. Of course, that makes me a dinosaur, and I have spent a good deal of my life dealing the consequences of being a member of an endangered species - leaving the Church of England, because I held to its old theology made me an accidental dissenter. I have also become progressively more disillusioned with contemporary politics, and like many of my generation I have had to face the fact that, unless there is something close to a counter-revolution occurs, I may well live long enough to write the epitaph of classical Western Culture. However, being a Christian, I do tend to be an indefatigable optimist mainly because the Bible teaches us that God is Sovereign, and that ultimately His Will will prevail.

However, no matter how much I would like to talk about political theory and culture, I am first and foremost a Churchman, and it has been with some fascination - no, that is too strong a phrase - mild interest that I have been watching the Anglican Realignment playing out through the inevitable series of meetings, handshakes, and photo ops. Much of what is taking place is, frankly, unimportant and intended to demonstrate that 'we are doing something' whilst it is pretty much 'business as usual' behind the scenes. So let us have a look at some of what has been going on...

The Primates' Meeting
I got conflicting signals from this one. The fact that Archbishop Foley of the ACNA was present and an active participant in the debate was encouraging in that it seems to indicate that Canterbury is prepared to listen to conservative voices, even if he won't listen to orthodox ones. It was also encouraging in that TEC did receive a suspension from the ACC and the ACO, but I suspect that this was not so much for heresy and unorthodoxy, but for moving further and faster than the political centrists Anglican Communion as a whole are prepared to go. In sum, the net result of the meet was to mildly rebuke TEC, and kick the can down the road another three years, which gives the Revisionists among the political centrists in the Anglican Communion another three years to spread the pro-gay word. However, I suspect that GAFCON, although it has largely caved on the ordination of women, will not give in on homosexual practice and same sex unions, and in three years time my theory is that they - the GAFCON Primates - will be even less willing to kick the can down the road.

Continuing Shuttle Diplomacy
At the moment the Anglican Catholic Church, the Anglican Church in America, the Anglican Province in America are engaged in a goodly measure of shuttle diplomacy, and it would seem that full communion and the M-word (merger) are very much in the air these days. I suspect that much of this stems from the fact that the Episcopates of those three bodies are largely Anglo-Catholic in outlook, and therefore find their common ground in the Affirmation of St Louis rather than in Classical Anglicanism, makes this process and the exchanges that go with it much easier. Certainly some of the old bugbears, such as the San Diego and Deerfield Beach re-consecrations have been laid to rest, so the politics of what was very largely a political dispute have very largely been put to bed. Some observers are speculating that the Anglican Catholic Church may be positioning itself to absorb (the ACC does not in any real sense "merge" with anyone) the reunited ACA-APA at some point in the future, but I think they are getting rather ahead of themselves in saying that. I would be surprised if the ACA-APA merger makes any further steps forward before 2017, if then, and that any further moves will be to some extent timed with an eye to the improving relations with the ACC.

The wild card in all this has been the visits between Bishop Stephen Scarlett (ACC-Holy Trinity) and Bishop Royal Grote (REC) which has sparked a good deal of speculation. Some folks are talking about this as the great apostasy, and others as signs that the REC is coming from the cold (I am tempted to ask, what cold?) depending on their churchmanship and allegiances. Personally, I think that it is far too tempting to read far too much into this development, and we are bidden to resist temptation. However, it has given the optimists and the conspiracy theorists something to talk about, and as usual, the theory is that the Anglican Continuum is about (i.e. over the next 10 years) to coalesce into a single jurisdiction which is based on the Affirmation of St Louis. A phrase containing the words 'fat lady' - 'over' - and 'sings' springs to mind far too readily.

The Three Streams
Even though I follow ACNA and CANA with some care on the internet, I have to admit to not having a clue what is going on with those jurisdictions. I think I would have to presume that it is very much business as usual, though they seem to have their growing pains associated with Catholics versus Charismatics, and the inherent instability of the three steams approach to Anglicanism. However, ACNA is still managing to keep its internal discussions about Women's Ordination and their new BCP as discussions and not heated debates, and are displaying a degree of maturity that was sadly missing from the 1977 Continuum at this stage of its development. I cannot help thinking, though, that ACNA in particular relying a little too much on the 'three-streams' approach to diffuse (or should be defuse) any identity conflicts within the broader organisation. However, I still cannot help thinking that that theory that lies behind the three streams is more Methodist than Anglican because, through the Charismatic stream it adds 'experience' to Scripture, tradition, and reason, creating a theological wild card which could be used to liberalize ACNA long term.

Classical Anglicanism
With the "Affirmationers" and the "Three Streamers" making most of the running, it seems that what Peter Toon and others dubbed "Classical Anglicanism" has not been much thought about, let alone discussed, in the latest round of shuttle diplomacy. I think the idea of returning to the old Anglican datum points of the Bible, the Creeds, the male threefold ministry, the BCP, and the Articles is currently out of favour because the current philosophy is that Anglicanism needs to be fixed. On the other hand, there probably isn't that anyone really rejects any of these traditionally Anglican markers - well, perhaps the Articles of Religion - but there seems to be general desire for closer definition. That is precisely where lies a very definite danger that whatever one's well meaning reforms might produce, it may well not be Anglicanism but a distinct tradition of its own.

Anglicanism is at its best when it is both Catholic and Evangelical. We need both the discipline and the sacramentalism of the Catholic Church, and the Biblicism of the Evangelical Reformation in order thrive. The danger of the catholic tradition is that it become impersonal and 'churchy' - to use a vague perjorative of yesteryear, and that the influence of Christ becomes lost in the shadow of the Church. Evangelicalism can easily become too individualist and degenerate into 'me and my Jesus feel-goodery' where sacraments and intellectual rigour disappear on a tide of emotion. Catholics and Evangelicals need each other in order to stay intellectually and spiritually honest, and when the two cross fertilize, as they have often done in the Anglican tradition, what is produced is a very glorious with the beauty of holiness. However, how do we put this into words?

Back in 1870, when the Church of Ireland was abandoned to disestablishment, they were left with the task of defining who they were, and in the preamble to their Constitution and Canons they described the Church of Ireland as being 'the ancient Catholic and Apostolick Church of Ireland' but also referred to it as a 'Reformed and Protestant church' which sought to return to the faith and practice of the Primitive Church. The former reflects the interests of Tractarians such as Richard Trench of Dublin and William Alexander of Derry; whilst the latter reflects pro-reformation thinking of the Evangelicals such as Bishop John Gregg of Cork, and leading laymen such as Benjamin Lee Guinness. I often think that the Preamble and Declaration adopted by the 1870 General Convention of the Church of Ireland represents a very good working definition of what Anglicanism should in that it positively affirms both the Catholic and Evangelical streams within Anglicanism. My big fear is that somewhere in the wash, this combination of Catholic and Evangelical will be the sock that goes missing. If we do loose that balance of Word and Sacrament, Catholic and Reformed, Apostolic and Evangelical, then will have lost much of that which made Anglicanism appealing.

In the current atmosphere of rumours about big things I have this quiet fear that I may once again become 'The Accidental Dissenter' by refusing to accept the redefinition of the Church that I love - at times 'warts and all.' It is always easy to make changes, but it is far less simple to correct an error once it has been made, and I fear that where Anglicanism is concerned the cures being proposed may be almost as bad as the disease!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Bo Giertz

I think all of us have books that he have seen quoted, or have heard about so often, that we think we have read them. One of those books for me was Bo Giertz's 'Hammer of God' which he describes as 'A Novel of Pastoral Ministry.' It consists of three related stories, the first set in 1810-11; the second about 1870-1880; and the third in the 1930s. All three deal with the relationship between Pietism (in the UK, Evangelicalism) and the Church, which was a particular concern of Giertz himself, and the pressing need to reconcile the two.

Giertz was born in 1905 on the Swedish island of Öland. His father was a doctor, and a professed atheist, and his mother an agnostic, but they had their son baptized, and for traditional/cultural reasons confirmed. Giertz's father was converted to Christianity whilst attending the compulsory church services associated with his son's confirmation, whilst Giertz himself, as medical student at Uppsala, increasingly saw the disconnection between his own moral sense, and the behaviour of his fellow atheists. As a result he began attending lectures by a lay Evangelist, Natanael Beskow, who convinced him of both the existence of God, and the historicity of Jesus. As a result, Bo Giertz switched majors, from medicine to theology, and actively pursued his vocation to the priesthood. His theological mentor was the Norwegian-born Professor of Theology at Uppsala, Anton Fridrichsen, who had reacted strongly against Bultmann's attempts to demythologize Christianity, and he emerged from University in 1932 as a member of the High Church wing of the Church of Sweden.

From 1932 to 1935 he was a travelling lecturer on Christianity for the Church of Sweden's High School Students Association, and was ordained in 1934. He then went to Östra Husby parish where he encountered the sort of Pietism that had been popularized by Carl Rosenius, a mid-nineteenth century lay evangelist who was loosely affiliated with Methodism, and with the work of 18th century Swedish Pietist Henric Schartau. Unlike the High Church methods of pastoral care which tended to be purely formal and liturgical, Schartau placed great emphasis on the centrality and reality of Justification by Faith alone, encouraging his follows to abandon formalism and legalism, and embrace the historic teachings of the Church about justification and sanctification whole-heartedly. His Church-based form of Pietism became deeply entrenched in Western Sweden in the late 18th century, and laid the foundations of Church life there for the next century. In this he was influenced by Gösta Nelson (1890-1958), who had put the study of Schartua and his revival movement onto a proper historical and theological footing during the late-20s and early 30s. Like most Swedish Revivalists, the 'method for revival' was not the histrionics favoured on the American frontier, but a reengagement with the Bible, and with Reformation era writings such as Luther's Postils.

After Östra Husby, Giertz moved to Ekeby (1937/8) for a vacancy pastorate, and then as Assistant Vicar of Torpa, just outside of Gothenberg from 1938 to 1949, when he was elected Bishop of the diocese. Giertz's election was unusual in two ways. Firstly, Giertz was unusually young (43) and secondly, unlike most bishops-elect, was neither a senior diocesan clergyman, or academic. However, he was well-know as a writer, not just of 'Hammer of God' (1941,) but of 'Christ's Church' (1939), 'Faith Alone' (1943), and 'The Battle for Man' (1947). It would also seem that his long time interest in Schartauism also played well in the diocese, connecting with the dominant revival movement in the diocese.

Giertz served as Bishop of the Diocese from 1949-1970. During this time the Swedish Government pushed the Church of Sweden to start ordaining women, which occurred in 1958, and there was also a revision of the liturgy, which restored some traditional elements to the Mass, including an expanded Eucharistic Prayer. Giertz vehemently opposed the ordination of women, and founded the "Association for the Scriptures and Confession" to uphold the traditional view of the Church. On the other hand, he welcomed the conservative revision of the Swedish Church Order, and did much to promote "High Church" practices such as weekly Communion, and the Daily Office.

In retirement he continued to write, preach, and give leadership to the High Church Movement in Church of Sweden, passing away in 1998.

From my point of view, the importance of Giertz lies in his ability to reconcile the Confessional Orthodoxy with Pietism; the two major movements within the Lutheran tradition, which, since the late 17th century had so often had been at war with one another. To my mind, Anglicanism shares with Lutheranism this tendency toward Evangelical Catholicism, which means that we too face the problem of reconciling the Evangelical with the Confessional. However, if Anglican (or Lutheranism for that matter) is to be fully itself we have to be both Evangelical in our concern for souls, and Catholic is our regard for Scripture and Sacrament. The renewal of Anglicanism lies not so much in the muddy three streams theory which tries to reconcile Anglo-Catholicism, Evangelicalism, and the Charismatic Movement, but in a whole hearted return to the Bible, the Sacraments, and Confessional Documents, along with a proper Evangelical concern for souls.

As to whether or not I had read 'Hammer of God' or merely thought I had, the answer to that was that I had read the first of the three stories...

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Rabbit Tracks

One of the figures that I keep running across in my reading is Thomas Wilson, 1663-1755, Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man from 1697/8 to 1755. The eighteenth century was not an era of hard and fast party divisions, and there were some bishops of decidedly independent mind, such as Wilson slightly younger contemporary Thomas Potter, the High Church WHIG who was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1737-47, or Edmund Gibson, the Canonist, who seems to have been independent of ecclesiastic affiliation. Wilson himself seems to have been exceedingly difficult to pigeon hole, being admired by early Evangelicals and Tractarians alike. Indeed, the Evangelical, Charles Simeon (1759-1836) learned the doctrine of substitutionary atonement from a short tract Wilson had written on Holy Communion, but the standard biography of Wilson appeared from the pen of no less a Tractarian than Keble himself almost a century after his death. Wilson also appears on a lot of the Rabbit Trails of eighteenth century Church history. He was a collaborator with Oglethorpe in the foundation of the colony of Georgia. Wesley respected him greatly, and there is some evidence that Law was also favourably disposed to the good bishop. His tracts were republished by SPCK long after his death, and word that one of his Sermons in Manx was to be read in one of the Island's parish churches was sure to draw a good congregation.

So what do we need to know about Thomas Wilson?

Firstly, it is important to remember that Wilson was a farmer's son, born at Burton on the Wirral Peninsular in 1663. He was educated by the local grammar school. His family could scrape together just enough money for young Thomas to attend Trinity College, Dublin, then much favoured by folks in the Northwest of England as a cheaper alternative to Oxford and Cambridge, and he graduate A.B. in 1683, and then studied medicine for a while before being ordained, with the express permission of the Archbishop of Dublin, to the diaconate at the age of 22 [1]. After a brief period in the ministry of the Church of Ireland, he returned to Lancashire as tutor to the sons of the Earl of Derby, who was also Lord (earlier, King) of Man [2]. He appears to have served as a tutor to the Derby family for some years, but was given the Vicarage of by them in 1694. He served there for a few years, but the death of the Baptist Levinz, the largely non-resident Bishop of Sodor and Man in 1694 changed the outlook.

The Earl of Derby was in no hurry to fill the post, but after an interval of eighteen months he offered it to Wilson, who promptly refused. He tried again a year later and received the same answer, and it was only when William III (Dutch Billy) became interested in the matter - telling Derby that if the Earl did not appoint a bishop he would - that Wilson finally accepted the offer of the Diocese of Sodor and Man. Wilson was consecrated as a Bishop in 1698 by the Archbishop of York, and set off to take possession of his diocese.

Sodor and Man was the smallest Diocese in the Church of England - just 17 parishes - and also the poorest - it brought in about three hundred and fifty pounds a year. Both the compactness of the diocese and its poverty was due to the northern end of the Diocese - the Western Isles of Scotland, Kintyre and various other odd bits of Argyll - having been spun off into the Diocese of the Isles in the 15th century by the King James II of Scotland. The transfer of the Western Isles to Scotland from Norwegian suzreignity also had the effect of removing the diocese of Sodor from the ecclesiastical Province of Nidaros (Trondheim) but like the Diocese of the Isles, which quickly became part of the Province of St Andrew's, Sodor remained without a Provincial affiliation until Henry VIII placed under Canterbury in 1534, then transferred it to York in 1543.

In the 150 years after the Reformation, Sodor had become something of an ecclesiastical backwater - not that it was ever really in the mainstream. The Bishops had even started to add 'and Man' to the title because they were now uncertain that the old term Sodor included the Isle of Man or not. This process was helped along by the fact that the Isle of Man was an independent Lordship for which homage was owed to the King of England, but was ruled by the Stanley Earls of Derby. Most of the population spoke Manx, not English, and most of the clergy were home-grown, and, if they received a university education at all, received it at Trinity College, Dublin, not Oxford or Cambridge. Wilson's installation as bishop was a typically Manx affair. Wilson had yet to acquire any Manx, the Archdeacon and most of the clergy were uncomfortable in English, so the service was conducted in Latin and the sermon preached in Manx. Wilson discovered that his cathedral lacked some essential amenities - like a roof; the Episcopal house - Bishopcourt - was showing signs of only irregular occupation; and to cap it all, the provision of churches on Man was inadequate and those there were needed repair.

Wilson set about his task as best he could. His first two problems to address were the state of the Bishop's residence, and the lack of church accommodation in Castletown and Douglas. Payment of the arrears of royal bounty owing to the diocese (about seven hundred pounds) allowed him to restore Bishopcourt, and also fund the construction of St Matthew's Church, Douglas, on a constricted sites by the Market Place to replace a small chapel built a generation or so earlier. Funds from friends in England, and some surplus episcopal revenues allowed him to construct a new church in Castletown - St Mary's - to save the residents the longish walk out to Malew Parish Church - which still stands in splendid isolation at a crossroads about midway between Castletown and Ballasalla. Wilson also set about learning Manx so he could read the service and preach in the language of the people. He seems to have acquired enough competency in the language that his Manx sermons were still popular a century later. An analysis of Wilson's style reveals a preacher who was keen to lay the basic truths of the Gospel before his hearers. He was not afraid to preach about original sin, man's true condition, our need for a Saviour, and the salvation offered to mankind through Jesus Christ. This was a contrast to the dull moralism that was so often characteristic of Anglican Preaching between the Glorious Revolution and the Evangelical Revival.

Wilson also took practical steps to reconcile Dissenters to the Church of England. There were very few Popish Recusants on the Island, but there were a number of Presbyterian. The Bishop's approach here was twofold. Firstly, he did not insist on small points of ceremonial. One or two clergy had scruples about the surplice, so he insisted only that it be worn by them some times. Some lay folks had scruples about kneeling, so the bishop did not insist upon it with the result that in time most conformed to the Church. Wilson also had the good sense to address a usual Presbyterian complaint about Anglicanism - its lack of discipline. In addition to the usual cases of bastardy, matrimonial cases, failure to receive the sacrament; non-payment of tithe, and so on and so forth, the Bishop was not shy to rebuke gossips, and those who circulated scandalous books, especially those that attacked Protestant orthodoxy. His outspokenness resulted in a stretch of imprisonment in Castle Rushen during a dispute over the conduct of the Governor's wife. The imprisonment was harsh enough to leave the Bishop with only restricted use of his right arm, suggesting that he may have had a minor stroke during his incarceration.

Wilson continued as Bishop until his death in 1755. He was revered by High Churchmen and Evangelicals alike, but in his later years he had to deal with some reversals. The Governor's Household and the garrison increasingly claimed exemption from ecclesiastical discipline, with the result that Wilson's careful maintained system of oversight of religion, morals, and manners began to break down. Church attendance remained high on the island, however, and there are signs that to some extent Church life was far more 'lively' than on the neighbouring islands of Britain and Ireland. It was not until long after Wilson's death that Methodism gained a foothold on the island, and Dissent did not find its way to the Isle of Man until around 1800. The Methodists themselves did not become dissenters until 1812, but the practice of dual affiliation - to the Parish Church and to the Wesleyan meeting continued for many years. In some respects, the Wilson combination of disciple and piety made it easy for Manxmen to transition to Methodist once dull orthodox descended on the Church during the reign of Bishop Cornelius Criggan, and the unpopular George Murray. It is perhaps fitting to record that when the Bishop died, he was buried outside Michael Church in a coffin made from an elm tree he had planted when he first came into the diocese in 1698. His funeral, it is said, was attended by every able bodied male on the island, it being the custom of the islanders that women did not attend funerals.

Wilson stands out for his combination of piety, discipline, and common sense in an era when all three were in short supply, and rationalism and formalism prevailed. He preached the Good News of Jesus Christ. He took advantage of the freedom allowed by the Isle of Man's status outside of the United Kingdom to make necessary reforms, and thus reconcile tender consciences to the Church. He was also strict, but loving disciplinarian, opposed to both error in religion and viciousness of manners in an era when Church discipline had all but broken down. He seems to have been in some measure sympathetic to the Wesleys and their efforts at methodical religion, seeing it, perhaps, as a mainland counterpart to is maintenance of the old ways in his island bishop. Perhaps it would have been good for the Church of the Augustan Age if there had been a few more like him. [1] Canonical age for ordination to the diaconate is 23 in Ireland. [2] The title King of Man, or King of Man and the Isles disappears around 1509 to avoid unpleasantness with Henry VIII.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Middle Way

One of the problems that Anglicanism faces today is that no-one is quite sure what it is. Even among those of us who self-describe as orthodox or conservative; some try to make it into Catholicism with married priests; others into 'Western Orthodoxy;' a few more into the English version of Calvinism; and so on and so forth. In many respects, it is almost easier to say what Anglicanism is NOT, but I suspect that might have to do with both the 16th century need for a broadly based, national, Protestant Church, and subsequent pressures towards an inclusive orthodoxy, rather than anything inherently vague about the formularies. Certainly in the initial phase after the Marian Reaction, Elizabeth and her counsellors could not afford to exclude anyone except the diehard Papists, and the initial settlement reflected this, with the Supremacy, and the BCP being restored in 1559, but the drawing up of a confession was postponed until 1562/3, and even then it was to be 1571 before the Settlement attained the shape it was to very largely retain until modern times.

However, in order to understand where "the Settlement" came from, one needs to take a quick look at the development of the three major formularies of the English Reformation - the Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Homilies. Not one of the three falls simply into a Lutheran or Reformed model, and the three of them track slightly different developmental paths, so naturally, we have to ask ourselves what was going on in each case.

I have long since come to the conclusion - after reading both Harold Browne and W H Griffith-Thomas' commentaries on the Articles - that, because of their ancestry in the Ten Articles of 1537, and the unpublished Thirteen Articles of 1539/40, the Articles of Religion are first and foremost a descendent of the Confession of Augsburg. However, whilst the Articles follow Augsburg closely in matters such as the authority of Scripture, Baptism, Predestination, Clerical Celibacy, and Church ceremonial, they can and do strike off on their own occasionally, such as in Articles 28 and 29 concerning the Eucharist, which are clearly Reformed. Much of this has to do with the fact that when the Forty-two Articles were being drafted in 1551-53, Philippism (which sought the middle ground between Luther and Calvin) was influential, as the Gneiso-Lutheran reaction had not yet set in, and the theological tide seemed to be set in favour of Geneva at least on the issue of the Lord's Supper; an area where Calvin was at his most positive and creative. When the Forty-two Articles were revisited in 1562/3, the Convocation text promoted a High Calvinist doctrine of the Eucharist within what is otherwise an Augsburg derived document. To complicate matters further, Elizabeth I, and some of her Bishops, particularly Ghest and Cheney, were not yet ready to go that far, so Article 29 was suppressed from 1563 to 1571 in order to accommodate the 'Lutheran Tendency.' Even after 1571, the Articles cut their own path between Wittenberg and Geneva being closer to the former on Baptism and Predestination, and the latter on the Lord's Supper. Later attempts by Archbishop Whitgift to move the position of the Church of England closer to that of mainstream Calvinism fell foul of, first, Queen Elizabeth I, and then after his death of James I's reluctance to accommodate the Puritans, and Charles I's Arminianism. This left the Church of England with a confession which is Lutheran in some respects and Reformed in others.

The Book of Common Prayer presents a slightly different picture. It is true to say that it draws heavily on mediaeval texts, but more often than not, there is a Lutheran model that assisted Cranmer and his assistants in perfecting the English form of the liturgy. Matins and Evensong have clear Lutheran precedents in the form of the Schleswig-Holstein order of 1535, and in germ, in Luther's comments about the usefulness of the daily Office for scholars and clergy made in the mid-1520s. The Communion Office also has a good deal of the Lutheran about it, with even the Decalogue having a precedent in the form of the Frankfurt order of 1537. Other elements, such as the thanksgiving after Communion, derive from the Nuremberg Order of the early 1530s behind which lay Luther's 'Formula Missae.' Another major influence on the 1549 and 1552 BCPs was Archbishop Herman's 'Cologne Church Order' of 1545 - which would have been pretty much hot off the press when Cranmer was working on the Order of Communion in early 1548. The Orders for Baptism and Confirmation also have unmistakeable signs of Lutheran influence. However, many of the alterations made in 1552 came at the suggestion of Peter Martyr and Martin Bucer, and have a more clearly Reformed pedigree. However, the 1559 revision tended to play up the moderate side of the settlement, with its requirement that traditional vestments and ornaments be retained, but this proved to be a passing phase as the returning exiles were in no mood to retain chasubles, and other such manifestations of traditional religion.

The Book of Homilies is a far more frustrating creation in that it has all the hallmarks of a collection of sermons that has not been edited to produce a uniform whole. Doctrinal inconsistency, within a basically Protestant framework is its hallmark. Just to give one examples. The Homily of Justification is clearly leans more to the Lutheran than the Reformed understanding of the doctrine, not that the space between them is that great. On the other hand, the homily on 'the Peril of Idolatry' seems to come from a hand that has accepted the Reformed, rather than the Lutheran understanding of that topic. This seems to be the character of the whole work, with each writer riding his hobby horses without regard to the opinions of his fellow homilists. On the whole it is a very uneven collection, which ends up having a slight predominance of Reformed over Lutheran voices. This is probably a very accurate reflection of where the intellectual life of the Church of England stood in 1548-50.

In the end one has to accept that the Church of England, and thus the churches of the Anglican tradition, if they are going to be true to the historic formularies of the Church, have to concede that the core doctrinal position of the Church is Augustinianism, and lies somewhere between confessional Lutheranism, and confessional Calvinism in its particulars. In many respects the Articles of Religion in particular lean towards the Lutheran position, but in respect to the Lord's Supper, the Articles avoid the sort of realistic understanding of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist which is characteristic of Old Lutheranism, and lean more on the 'non-realist' passages from St Augustine's writings. Modern attempts to reconstruct Anglican orthodoxy along other lines have to be understood as exercises in Revisionism, not the Revisionism of the Episcopal Liberals of the 1960s and 70s, but that of the nineteenth century 'Catholic Revival.' In one respect, the Catholic Revival was a blessing in it delivered the Church from the rather arid Pietism and Rationalism of the late 18th century, but ultimately it had little use for the Church's historic formularies hence the attempts to downgrade the Articles into an historic document, and revise the BCP to eliminate, or at least mute, its Reformed content.

Folks often lament the fact that there is not one 'Continuing Anglican Church' but the fact of the matter is that there cannot be one church when there are (at least) two theologies. The history of Churches that have a double standard, or fail to enforce their formularies - such as the Old Prussian Union, the Episcopal Church, the Church of England, ELCA, etc. - is that they end up being, at best, a group of theological parties in search of a Church, or they lapse into liberalism, and then material heresy. However, one has to set against that the fact that over much confessional rigour tends to result in churches where the overall atmosphere is 'you and I are the only true Anglicans - and I am not too sure about you!' The best chance for Anglican union is for the Articles of Religion and the Book of Common Prayer to be used as focuses of unity, accepted because they reflect the doctrine of Scripture, not on their own merits. This is usually referred to as quia subscription. This makes a range of views possible, because Scripture is open to a certain amount of interpretation, but not to the extent that one has seen in modern times in the Episcopal Church, and other liberal provinces of the Anglican Communion. The general approach to theology suggested by the English Reformation is one based upon Scripture alone, but Scripture seen through the lens of the four Latin Doctors, the Early Fathers, and the first four Ecumenical Councils. The BCP and the Articles echo this position, which Bishop Andrewes summarized in his well-known definition of Anglicanism's rule of faith as One Revelation; Two Testaments; Three Creeds; Four Councils; Five centuries. Unfortunately, even among self-proclaimed traditionalists there is a move away from that theology today.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Revolution Before Last

One of the persistent problems for the traditional Anglican Movement has been the cleavage between the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic understandings of the Church, and the fact that is rather difficult for the two sides to find a mutual accommodation, especially given the determination of some Anglo-Catholics to make sure they are never just a 'tolerated' opinion within the Church. The opposition between the two positions stems from the fact that Evangelicals focus on the Bible, the Creeds, the Articles of Religion, and the Homilies understood in their natural and grammatical sense as their sources of doctrinal authority, with the Early Fathers and Councls being understood through the prism of the Reformation. On the other hand, Anglo-Catholics tend to want to side-line, if not totally ignore the Reformation era, and use a new declaration strongly supporting the idea of the Seven Councils as the teaching standard after Scripture as a way of placing Anglicanism into the context of Catholic Ecumenicism. Being the product of catholic-leaning Broad Churchmen and Anglo-Catholics, the Affirmation of St Louis, declares the new Anglican Church to be one that accepts the Seven Ecumenical Councils as authoritative, proclaims the Mass to be a sacrifice, teaches that there are seven sacraments, and subordinates the Thirty-nine Articles to the Affirmation of St Louis. The present Forward-in-Faith, North America declaration also goes beyond what an Evangelical can sign in good conscience, not just in referencing the "Seven and Seven," but also in using the word 'substantial' to describe the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. That provision also locks out some old-fashioned Churchmen, such as myself, who firmly believe in the real presence, but do not accept that it needs to be based on Scholastic understanding of physics, which is why I had to disassociate myself from FiFNA in the summer of 2013 following their decision to alter their Declaration!

I suppose it is not surprising that the Continuum has taken this rather catholic turn, given that it seems to be increasingly defined by the Affirmation of St Louis, rather than the Articles of Religion, and the Book of Common Prayer. The basic difficulty of the Affirmation is that the two major influences behind it - conservative Broad Churchmanship, and Anglo-Catholicism - both had a large measure of influence from the Tractarian Movement which to a certain extent wished to suppress the Evangelical side of Anglicanism in favour of the Catholic. This particular version of Anglicanism got an awful lot of traction in the USA where the Episcopal Church was not just a minority Church, but in some senses a counter-cultural church - aristocratic in a populist society; formal in a society that favours spontaneity; surrounded by a mediaeval glow in a country which always espouses modernity more than tradition. This predisposed many American Churchmen, already influenced by the Romanticism of the early 19th century, to accept the Tractarians more readily than was the case among English Churchmen. As a result, apart from a few enclaves of (liberal) evangelicalism in places like Virginia, the Episcopal Church generally divided between those who were Liberal thinkers (both Low Church and Broad Church) and those who were Catholic minded (both Broad Church and High Church.) This had the inevitable result that when the Affirmation was framed it left no place for traditional Evangelicalism, which was, as I have noted, all but dead in ECUSA and in the Anglican Church of Canada.

This brings me to the title of my post 'the Revolution before Last.' There is a very real sense in which the St Louis Congress took the path of "canonizing" the revolution before last - the "Catholic Revival" - as being the norm for Anglicanism. The Affirmation of St Louis very much reflects the position adopted by the conservative wing of ECUSA in the 1950s and 60s, which was Reformed Catholicism with the accent on the Catholicism. This should have played out well in the USA and Canada had it not been for two factors which I mentioned above - the determination of the Anglo-Catholics to have some measure of control over the new body that went beyond a veto, and the fact that the orthodox Broad Church element recognized that Affirmation of St Louis had moved Anglican teaching a long way to the catholic side of things. The break up of the original version of the Anglican Catholic Church into three jurisdictions in 1981-84 is very much a product of this awaken to the implication of what had been done at St Louis coupled to a leadership which had only limited experience and some considerable internal animosities. Deeply regrettable though this is, it was pretty much inevitable given the circumstances of the time. Some Low Church and Broad Church types felt they had been hoodwinked, whilst some Anglo-Catholics felt that the Broad Churchmen were not being sincere in their support for the ACC, or were not "real" Anglicans. As a result, the Continuum persisted in having two streams which find unity difficult to achieve mainly because neither side really wants to capitulate, though I suspect a genuine compromise might work.

Although I am quick to point out the historical bloopers in the Affirmation of St Louis, and to express my irritation as to its subordination of previous Anglican formularies to the newer text, ninety percent of it really is very good, and addresses issues that were only just beginning to present themselves in the mid-1970s. This is especially true of the paragraphs on, for example, human responsibility, marriage, and the sanctity of human life. Quite frankly, out of forty plus paragraphs in the Affirmation only three or four of them are controversial, and I am not sure that clarifying them to give a higher status to the Articles of Religion, etc., would really require the Anglo-Catholics to give up anything of any real substance, whilst opening the doors to moderate Evangelicals. For example, would altering the provision 'all previous Anglican formularies to be interpreted in accordance with these principles' to 'all previous Anglican formularies to be interpreted in accordance with the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church' - wording which Matthew Parker would have approved, in my opinion - be too high a price to pay for unity? Only time will tell.

At the end of the day, there is a sort of regret on my part that the process of reform that began in 1977 got out of hand and led to schism. Certainly, the interim period spoken of in the Affirmation of St Louis should have been much longer. I think the United Episcopal Church took a wise course in taking the Affirmation of St Louis with a grain of salt, and not incorporating it into its Constitution and Canons. The Affirmation certain represents a value position paper when it comes to affirming the central tradition of Western theology, morality and ethics in an increasingly secular and hostile world, but I do not think we should revise, reinterpret or dispense with the Articles of Religion, or the Book of Common Prayer in order to satisfy the agenda of the St Louis Congress. Anglicanism has always had an Evangelical tradition, and any document with stifles that needs to be looked at carefully, especially at a time when we are clearly moving into a post-Christian age in both North America and Western Europe.