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An Anglo-Catholic Responsio

Delivered by the Right Reverend Chandler Holder Jones, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of the Eastern United States of the Anglican Province of America, at a recent conference on Anglicanism held at Beeson Divinity School.  Pretty much says it all and for some of us forces the question, "how long halt ye between two opinions"?


By The Rt. Rev. Chandler Holder Jones SSC

September 30, 2018

To begin, one must say, contrary to certain assumptions, Anglican Catholicism did not arise in a vacuum; in point of fact, so-called 'High Church' or better yet, First Millennium Undivided Church Faith, Anglicanism possesses a direct and unbroken continuity throughout the history of the English Church, from centuries before the Reformation, through the Henrician, Edwardine, Elizabethan, and Stuart periods, following along with the Caroline Divines, Laudians, and Non-Jurors, to the Tractarians and Ritualists, up to today. It must be strenuously emphasised that no other claimant to Anglicanism's authenticity can demonstrate such a historical continuum. Other movements in Anglicanism have a definite beginning, de novo, at the Reformation and later points in English history. Far from being a novelty, what we today call Anglo-Catholicism is a golden thread that runs through the history and heart of the Ecclesia Anglicana. It is that to which Anglicanism, in its Prayer Book and consensus patricum tradition, has always tended. It simply is, in short, the Church - in her givenness, her inherited theological and liturgical patrimony.

Anglicanism, in all of its complexity, should not be permitted to be deconstructed into a mere 'system of thought and theology.' Rather, it is a way of life that is ordered specifically by Anglican worship, Anglican doctrine, and Anglican life. To reduce Anglican worship, doctrine, and life to the cerebral questions of thought, or theology as an intellectual enterprise, is to reduce Christianity herself to a set of propositional beliefs. Separating worship, doctrine, and life from one another distorts the essence of the Church and her divinely-revealed Deposit of Faith. The aforementioned elements belong inextricably together in one mystery. Anglo Catholicism's dogmatic and systematic theology is a mystical theology, a theology which, at its heart, lies in her liturgy and sacramental life.

Anglo-Catholics believe absolutely in propositional truth, but Anglicanism cannot be reduced to a set of propositions that once affirmed, makes one a Christian. The ancient Church, which Anglo-Catholicism emulates, had no conception of separating statements of truth from life and worship.

The Church is not a sociological entity, but the Mystical Body of Christ endowed with a supernatural reality, a supernatural society of souls effused with divine grace. The Presbyterian Church may be Calvinistic, the Lutheran Church may be Lutheran, but the Anglican Church is not Cranmerian. At her best, she professes a consentient and conciliar, creedal faith, not a confessional one, in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic constitution of Church and life.

In tracking the development of what would become known as Anglo-Catholicism, it is crucial in our study to note the influence and theological integrity of the Caroline Divines of the seventeenth century. No body of teachers or theologians has informed Anglicanism more. The Carolines shaped and fashioned the Tractarians, who were themselves no starry-eyed medievalists, but romanticists, men of earth and Altar, who envisioned a renewed life for the Church based on the Incarnation and the sacramental principle. Dr Edward Pusey developed a fifty-volume Library of the Fathers based on the Caroline Divines; the patristic resource ment, engendered by the Carolines, was and is at the centre of the ongoing Tractarian project.

Anglo-Catholics desire, not the revival of political fortunes, but the Church's self-understanding as a divine society, with a divine reality ushered into and divinising the material world. As a result of rediscovering Christian faith as an embodied, homonised, divinely conveyed gift to human beings, Anglo-Catholicism seeks to engage the secular culture in the most direct way possible, by serving the poorest of the poor. The restoration of monasticism was a concomitant development of this ministry to the suffering, the outcast, and the underprivileged. Anglo-Catholicism spawned a radical rebirth of theological and spiritual formation, of missionary work and zeal, and of Christian culture and civilisation throughout the world - in art, architecture, music, academic scholarship, and the Religious Life - because at its core pulses the Word made Flesh, the Incarnation of God the Word. Anglo-Catholicism is not so much eccentric as it is ecstatic, reaching beyond itself towards Christ in Himself and in His creation. Anglo-Catholicism is not Mere Christianity; it is More Christianity.

In the Incarnation, the form confers the substance. The Church subsists in and is forged by the sacraments, which extend and apply the Incarnation. Creation, redemption, and glorification are in their essence sacramental, the transformation of the material by the spiritual. Grace perfects nature. Supernature builds on nature. The Church is the Great Sacrament of Christ. So long as Continuing Anglican Churches exist, Anglo-Catholicism must be understood as a living reality, neither a failure nor a relic of the past.

It is indeed true that Anglicanism has never claimed to be the one true Church. Anglo Catholicism does not claim that either. But, importantly, Anglo-Catholics see themselves today as the via media between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, not between Rome and Geneva. For the Anglican Catholic, the via media is not a compromise between Catholicism and protestantism, but the central mainstream tradition of the Undivided Church shared by the Churches of East and West, what all First Millennium Christians believed and what Rome and Constantinople still possess in common today, the consensus fidelium of Apostolic Tradition. To paraphrase John Henry Newman's original meaning of the term, the via media signifies that the Anglican Church lies in-between puritanism and popery. The Anglican Church, in its received teaching and structural constitution, is neither puritan nor papalist.

Anglo-Catholic ecclesiology, believing as it does in the 'branch fact,' affirms that the Holy Catholic Church on earth is divided by human history into separate jurisdictions which may or may not be in full communion with each other, and often are separated sacramentally from one another, although all the branches, holding in common the Apostolic Succession of the Faith of the Ecumenical Councils and Creeds, the Apostolic Succession of the Sacrament of Holy Orders and the threefold Ministry male in character, and the Apostolic Succession of holiness and sanctity of life, are fully and truly parts of the One Catholic Church because they are sacramentally, dogmatically, and eschatologically one with Our Lord and the Communion of Saints

Regarding the assertion that John Henry Newman and subsequent Anglo-Catholics misunderstand the teaching of Martin Luther and of the Reformation itself, the Anglo-Catholic would most readily respond with the insights of Dr Eric Lionel Mascall. Reviewing the writing of Father Louis Bouyer, Dr Mascall submits: 'In all its positive affirmations -- the gratuitous character of salvation, the sovereignty of God, the role of faith in justification, and the supremacy of Scripture -- the Reformation was simply recalling Western Christendom to basic principles of the Catholic religion which had become obscured or ignored. 'It should be quite evident,' he writes, 'that the principles of Protestantism in their positive sense -- that most consonant with the spirit of the Reformation -- are not only valid and acceptable, but must be held to be true and necessary in virtue of Catholic tradition itself, in virtue of what makes up the authority of the Church both today and of all time.' Why, then, the reader inevitably asks, were the Protestant Reformers expelled from the communion of the Church? Bouyer's answer is simple: it is that, side by side with the positive principles which he has so enthusiastically extolled, there were in the Reformers' teaching certain negative elements, which first of all turned the Protestant system against Catholicism and then, in the next generation, turned Protestantism itself against its own scholastic system. The most devastating example of these is provided by the way in which Luther, the farther he advanced in his conflict with other theologians and finally with Rome itself, identified his proclamation of sola gratia with the particular theory known as extrinsic justification, according to which 'the grace of God envelops us in a cloak, but this leaves us exactly as we were.'' (The Recovery of Unity, Chapter 4 section iv. Protestantism -- a Critical Analysis pages 86-93).

Finally, the tangible situation of the Anglican world in the twenty-first century presents not one, but at least three, Anglicanisms. Is it not true that from the beginning there have been multiple religious expressions within the Church of England and in its overseas expansions? Is it not true that the sixteenth century attempted, with the Articles of Religion and Act of Uniformity, to incorporate different views - from Catholicism through different strands of protestantism - within a national Church, but to the complete satisfaction of none? Is it not true that Anglicanism is first attempted to be defined by the seventeenth century Caroline Divines, but that the patristic theology they espoused was not universally accepted? Is it not true that the eighteenth century saw the birth of liberal or latitudinarian Anglicanism? Is it not true that from the nineteenth century through the present day, there are three different expressions that each equally claim to be called Anglicanism?

These are, (1) the First Millennium Consensus, or Anglo-Catholicism, now mostly found in Continuing Churches, (2) Liberalism, now found in the Lambeth Canterbury Communion, and (3) Evangelicalism, mostly found in those bodies adhering to GAFCON. The Elizabethan Settlement has for all practical purposes collapsed and has ceased to exist, if it ever factually existed in the first place.

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Reader Comments (2)

I guess it's nice but redefining the Anglican project as a via media between Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy is ridiculous.

February 16, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterKen

Not so ridiculous if you ask me. There is a sense in which Anglicanism is more like Rome and a sense in which it is more like Orthodoxy. No?

February 16, 2019 | Registered CommenterEmbryo Parson

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