Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Essence of English High Churchmanship

This quote from the book, "The Last of the Prince-Bishops: William Van Mildert and the High Church Movement of the Early Nineteenth Century," written by E.A. Varley, reall provides a procise summary of the essence of English High Churchmanship.

"He [Van Mildert] dreamed the Church of England as the soul of the State, as the servant of every citizen, the custodian of true learning and wisdom, as an act of loving homage offered to God in the consciousness of unworthiness but with a confidence founded on Divine Grace. Never blind to the disparities between the Church as he dreamed and as he knew her, he spent his time, energy and (when he had any) money trying to bring her into closer comformity with his vision of her true nature and mission; but he never lost the passionate love for the Church of England, her liturgy, her history, her faithful membership both lay and clerical, which first drew him into her ordained ministry."

This way of thinking about the Church of England characterized the "high and dry" churchmen who genuinely loved the Church of England in the 18th and 19th centuries. Obviously, the English situation is different from Anglicanism in the rest of the world, due to the fact that the Church of England is the established Church in that realm. The Church's status there definitely influenced the thought of High Churchmen in England. However, I would argue that there is an indigenous High Church movement in most Anglican churches. In America, that tradition was highly influenced by the Scottish tradition due to the consecration of Samuel Seabury, but strands of English High Church thought dissipated throughout the Communion.

We can look to this attitude today to appreciate our own church history. Modern, American Anglicans can look to the English High Church tradition to learn how to appreciate Anglicanism for what it is not what it could be. A high Churchmen loves the Anglican Church becausse it is sufficiently catholic and reformed. He loves its liturgy and practice. He values the Settlement as enough not needing further reform or correction. In short, he is glad to be an Anglican.

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