Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Anglican Myths 8: Churchmanship?


Perhaps the title is a bit misleading – I am not implying that churchmanship in its entirety is unAnglican, but, rather, that a certain manifestation of it is wholly foreign to the nature of Anglicanism.  This aberration of true churchmanship is misleading because it misunderstands and perhaps willingly distorts the nature of the Church of England and her daughter Churches in the Anglican Communion.  

Before I begin, I must note that I will not be covering in much detail the modern liberal (often termed revisionist) “party” in mainstream Anglicanism.  First, I have doubts about the Christianity of said group and really couldn't comment on how (or if) such a theology could be construed of as Anglican in any sense, much less any successor to the Latitudinarian party.  Second, I will not be discussing the “charismatic' movement in Anglicanism.  I am not wholly sure of it myself and have done next to no research on it, meaning I have no real knowledge of it, not even enough to briefly summarize its origin or fundamental concepts.  

The concept of churchmanship has been misused and misunderstood in increasing years, yet beginning in the latter part of the 19th century, as a way of denying the Protestant and Reformed nature of the Church of England, of course, all in my own opinion.  This faulty notion of “churchmanship” (I will use this nomenclature hereafter), is a technique used by some in our Church to assuage the, rather plainly obvious, Protestantism of the formularies and in the writings of our divines, by claiming that there has always been a reformed party in the Church of England, equally as there has always been a “Catholic” party in her.  There are two fallacies in this argumentation that I will discuss below.  First, this notion of “churchmanship' misunderstands what a church party is, in its proper sense.  Second, it misunderstands what Catholicism is, as properly defined.  

First, the notion that there was a Reformed party and a Catholic party (note, by this is meant “Romanist” party or unReformed party, not a true Catholic party) in the Church of England is simply ludicrous.  The reforms of Henry VIII and especially Edward V and Elizabeth I severed the ties of the English Church to the tyranny of Rome, both in jurisdiction and doctrine.  The English Church was regarded by its members and by those in the Continent as a fully Reformed Church, in the Swiss meaning, and in a generally “Calvinist” bent (although, the English Church did not accept the Canons of Dort to their fullest extent, officially adopting Amyraldism, under the influence of Davenant and other English bishops in attendance at said Synod).  The Church of England was fully Protestant in that it accepted all of the solas, repudiated the doctrines of Rome, and broadly accepted Reformed Christianity, albeit in a more “suave” way than later Westminster divines.  (As in the former post in this series, there was a group in the Church that thought this reform only 'half-done” and wished for furhter reforms along the “regulative principle” or Genevan model).  To deny the Protestant and Reformed nature of the Church of England is simply historical revisionism and ludicrous.  

[An aside point, historically there were recusants, i.e. Romanists who “conformed” to the national church in Elizabeth's reign.  These recusants were regarded as outsiders, meaning that they were secret Papists, who didn't want to pay extra fines or be hanged for attending Mass, so they went to the Established Church, (usually for Mattins and slipping out at Communion) to maintain their heads and pocketbooks.]

Secondly, the notion that Rome has any claim to catholicity is simply false.  This is according to simple fact by examining the primitive Church and also in accordance with the plain and unified consensus of our Fathers in the Church of England.  The doctrinal accretions of the Middle Ages brought Rome further and further away from the pure truth of the Church Catholic.  The Protestant Reformation began in 1517, formally, to protest the accretions of the Middle Ages and to eschew such innovation and return the Church to her Catholic past.  It is important to remember that the Reformation beginning in 1517 was only one among many Reformations.  The reforming spirit can be seen as early as 1,000 AD, first in advocates for moral reform of the clergy and then, around 1300 AD in doctrinal reform in groups such as the Waldensians, Lollards, and Hussites.  The Reformation's only intent was to return the Church to the pure doctrine of Scripture, i.e. Catholicism.  The fault of “churchmanship” is in associating unReformed doctrines with Catholicism in such that by adopting these “Catholic” practices, these “churchmen” become unCatholic.  In simple terms, to be Catholic is to be Protestant and to be Protestant is to be Catholic.  To be Romanist or unReformed is to be in error by ignoring the plain teaching of Scripture.  

As you may (or may not) have gathered, the locus of errors in these “Anglican Myths” series rests in attempts to distort the history of the Church of England and her daughter Churches in such manner as to deny or weaken the Protestant and Reformed nature of our Church.  For this reason they are myths, they have no basis in reality, only in ignorance.  

The real basis of churchmanship is the Protestant and Reformed nature of the Church.  This is where real church parties come into play.  Starting with the Protestant identity, the historical parties differed (mostly) in emphases.  The historical Low Church party, which was originally Latitudinarian, emphasized the similarities with other Protestants, such as the supremacy of Scripture, etc. to forge relationships with them.  The historical High Church party emphasized the uniqueness of the Anglican Church among Protestants in her historic liturgy and episcopacy.  Another way of looking at is from the Evangelical-High Church vantage point with the the former emphasizing the invisible church and internal conversion.  The latter emphasized the visible church and means of grace, etc.  

The way I view Anglican history, defining the “classical period” from 1559, with the Elizabethan Act of Uniformity and Supremacy to the 1829 repeal of the Test Acts, thus allowing Dissenters and Romanists to sit in Parliament, thus destroying traditional (English) theories of church and state.  The period from 1829 to the present day has seen the gradual fall of classical churchmanship and the increasing polarization of new “church parties”.  Another important note that I would like to leave with folks as they read this piece is that in the classical period (as I understand it) church parties were much more flexible than they are now and also there was much more doctrinal consensus than now.  For instance, most churchmen would have understood the Eucharist in a high receptionist (i.e. Calvinist) sense (see Waterland's Review for a centrist position), the only way I can think of to accurately describe it is to say that what is now “Low Church Evangelicalism” was rather standard across the board, in most churchmen's minds and in most places, except Scotland, which has a unique history (and really wasn't regarded as “Anglican” by many churchmen, historically speaking).  There was increasing polarization just before the Oxford Movement but not in the sense that has developed sense then.  


epeuthutebetes said...

Bishop Davenant was a hypothetical universalist but not an Amyraldian.

Fr. Jonathan said...

It's interesting that as we both continue to walk down this path towards classical Anglicanism, reading presumably many of the same source materials, we are coming to such starkly different pictures of what classical Anglicanism is. For what it's worth, here are a couple of things that went through my head when reading this post-

I agree whole heartedly about the Liberal and Charismatic "parties" in modern Anglicanism, which seem to have appeared out of nowhere.

I also agree that it is strange to refer to a Reformed Party and a Catholic Party, as if those two things are mutually exclusive. However, I think it is fair to say that the Church of England has always had different voices, some in sync with the Reformed Catholicism of the formularies, many not. I will sometimes use the term "classical High Churchman" to describe myself, but by that I do not mean that I subscribe to the High Church "Party" and not to the Low Church "Party." Rather, by that I mean that what became known in the 18th century as "High Churchmanship" actually is Anglicanism and what was then known as "Low Churchmanship" is not.

Of course, when reading that, it is easy to mistake what I'm saying for a statement about the way those parties have developed. I think it's a mistake to equate modern Anglican Evangelicalism with Low Churchmanship or modern Anglo-Catholicism with High Churchmanship. They are related movements, but they are not the same.

Which is kind of why I'm puzzled by your statement that "hat is now 'Low Church Evangelicalism' was rather standard across the board, in most churchmen's minds and in most places, except Scotland, which has a unique history (and really wasn't regarded as 'Anglican' by many churchmen, historically speaking). I would quibble with your assessment of Scottish Anglicans as being insufficiently Anglican, but I'm downright shocked that anyone would equate what is called Anglican Evangelicalism today with the High Churchmanship of the past, given that modern Anglican Evangelicalism is, charitably speaking, confused about the sacraments and church order and largely seeks to emulate non-Anglican Evangelicalism, making it indistinguishable from Baptists or Pentecostalism. Modern Anglican Evangelicalism is at least as divorced from classical Anglicanism as is Anglo-Papalism, if not more so.

Furthermore, I don't understand why you see Puritans as truly Anglican if you don't see Recusants in the same light. After all, both Recusants and Puritans made a pretense of staying in the Church of England while believing doctrinally that she was insufficient. Personally, I would count neither as being truly Anglican, in the classical sense, for just that reason, but if you're going to give a place to the one you might as well also give it to the other.

Finally, I think that if we're going to talk about a date when Anglicanism started to go off the rails, we have to go back a lot further than 1829. Remember, Anglo-Catholicism started out as an Anglican renewal movement, aimed at bringing people back to the prayer book and the 39 Articles. Early Anglican Evangelicalism was similar under men like Charles Simeon and William Wilberforce, but quickly goes off the rails with the Wesleys and the rise of Methodism. Whatever was in the water that was poisoning the Anglican well was there long before Newman and friends burst onto the scene.

Anyhow, that's just my ten cents. I'm tempted also to quibble with the description of Anglican Eucharistic theology as "High Receptionist Calvinist," but we'll leave that one for another day.

The Hackney Hub said...

Fr. Jonathan,

I wanted to respond in full to your comments. I think partly the way in which I have written this series may cause some confusion. I'm attempting to write in a more controversial manner and a "matter of fact" style to get people thinking and (hopefully) investigating the sources on their own.

First, I wish to respond to when you say, "I think it is fair to say that the Church of England has always had different voices." I would agree with this statement and I am not trying to assert in this piece that there is only one type of churchmanship. Rather, I say that these voices stem from a common understanding of the C of E as a Protestant and Reformed Church. From that source, we have classical High Churchmanship and Low Churchmanship, with varying shades of opinion within each camp. What I am saying is that there were not two churchmanships which had a radically different understanding of the nature of the Church, that being one camp which espoused the Reformation and another which was essentially a non-Papal, unreformed Church, this is nineteenth century revisionism, in my opinion.

I think you've misunderstood what I meant by "Anglican Evangelicalism". I wasn't referring to Sydney or Holy Trinity Brompton style evangelicalism but rather, classical Evangelicalism. I was thinking Free Church of England, the Reformed Episcopal Church, etc. A good test for this assertion is to compare the REC 'Declaration of Principles" with eighteenth century divinity. Consequently, I do not advocate the "Anglo-Reformed" movement in any sense, as I would view it as a form of radicalism, akin to Anglo-Papalism.

I would quibble with one thing that said about Puritans. Technically, they did not regard the C of E as doctrinally insufficient but ceremonially half-reformed. This is why I am more willing to regard Puritans as somewhat more "Anglican" than recusants. Although, I am uncomfortable saying this since Puritanism was not a monolithic movement and it's really rather difficult to say such a thing.

The reason why I say 1829 is that it removes the fault entirely from Anglo-Catholicism, i.e. saying 1833 as the "beginning of the end". The reason why I say 1829 is because it formally ended traditional theology of church and state. Tractarianism was very much a response to that collapse. You do bring up a good point with Methodism, which was "Evangelcial Ritualism" in the sense that it was the point when Evangelicals began to go off track (obviously using the term "Ritualist" very loosely here).

I think the problem with "high receptionism" is that it is not very well understood. It's often assumed by that to mean Bullinger's receptionism, which is the form adopted by most Reformed folks today. Calvin's receptionism is much more realist. A good book on Calvin's thought is "Given For You" by Keith Mathison. Antoher good essay is "Daniel Brevint and the Eucharistic Calvinism in the Caroline Church of England" this paper convinced me of what Anglican eucharistic theology really involves.

I hope I've cleared up some things with this response.

Anonymous said...

I read both this blog and the Conciliar Anglican. It doesn’t seem to me that the difference between you two is so much in what you think Classical Anglicanism is, but in how you see it relating to what is going on the church today. When Hackney makes his comment about “what is now Low Church Evangelicalism,” he is not so much being puzzling, as just plain wrong. I have never read anything on this blog that struck me as any type of what anyone means when they say “Evangelicalism.“ It is helpful that he has clarified this by indicating that what he actually meant was “Low Church Evangelicalism” as it existed in the 19th century Episcopal church. I don’t feel the need to opine on his view that this breed of Anglicanism was once standard fare, but what I take particular issue with is his use of the word “now.”
I hear people talk all the time about Churchmanship using terms like “High Church”, as though the 19th century churchmanship divides still existed. Maybe there is such a thing as “Low Church Evangelicalism” in England, but I am not sure that there is in this country. People act like we are still living in the midst of the 20th century, but can anyone actually point to an example of a real parish that is still “Low Church” in the 19th century sense?

The Hackney Hub said...

I could point to many. Virtually all of the Free Church of England, many REC parishes, there's quite a few in places like the Diocese of Texas and Dallas and probably South Carolina.

My statement could have been better worded "what is now 'called' Low Church Evangelicalism, & etc." by this I mean the host of doctrines which are "commonly called" Low Church, such as receptionism, been esse episcopacy, two sacraments, rejection of Roman distinctives, etc, etc. These are regarded today as some form of extreme "low churchmanship" when they were standard a century ago.

I don't think classical churchmanship terms are really all that useful anymore, because we don't share a common foundation. "High Church" in relation to what? That's the question now. When the BCP and Articles were commonly accepted as Formularies it was easier to identify a High Churchman as one who had a high regard for the uniqueness of Anglicanism in relation to other Protestant Churches. Now, that's nearly impossible.

Fr. Jonathan said...

Thank you for those clarifications. They're very helpful, and they make me see that we're not as far apart as I had thought, although there is still a growing distance that exists. I would agree, for instance, that the REC of yester-year is closer to classical Anglicanism than the modern Evangelicalism of the Diocese of Sydney or the kinds of Willow-Creek-esque churches that are popular in parts of the Church of England and in parts of the ACNA. Nevertheless, I don't think you can find a less authentically Anglican document than the REC Declaration of Principles which explicitly denies the necessity of the episcopate and baptismal regeneration while endorsing the 1785 BCP, a document that was downright unitarian in its theology and disturbed the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time so much that his caution against it was enough to make the early American church scrap it without ever putting it into use. On the other hand, the modern REC seems, at least from the outside, to be much more thoroughly Anglican, having re-interpreted the Principles in such a way that they really cannot be taken to be authoritative any longer.

You said, "When the BCP and Articles were commonly accepted as Formularies it was easier to identify a High Churchman as one who had a high regard for the uniqueness of Anglicanism in relation to other Protestant Churches." But I would submit that if we do not see any difference between Anglicanism and the Reformed churches of the continent on doctrine, only on style, than High Churchmanship in even the classical period becomes utterly incoherent. There is no reason to argue for Anglican distinctiveness, even to the point of expulsion, if there is no real distinctiveness to speak of.

The Hackney Hub said...

Fr. Jonathan,

In a spirit of charity, I think you and I need to hammer out our differences, at least to some form of agreement, since we are the only (That I know of) voices for classical Anglicanism from within the Episcopal Church online.

I think I could clarify more on the RE Declaration. It has its faults and it is Latitudinarian (as you point out), in referencing the 1785 BCP. The overall point I was making is that the views in the Declaration were fairly commonplace at one point and not extremely "Low". I suppose the point I want to make is that views that were historically "advanced" or Tractarian are being presented as mainstream Anglicanism, which is something I cannot agree with, not out of spite but of appreciation for the Divines. I acknowledge there is a classical churchmanship that is "higher" than I am but I have a tough time putting a border around that (personally). I am fine with the esse position and a little bit higher of a eucharistic doctrine, so long as it is presented as a party doctrine and not the mainstream of classical Anglicanism. Take the esse position, which has a long history in Anglicanism but it has not had the nearly universal acceptance as the bene esse position has. Nearly all of the classic divines held to the latter, however, many significant divines held to the esse position. I'm fine with people holding to and promoting the esse position but I don't like it presented as the norm, when it really hasn't been or isn't (based on numbers, the GAFCon provinces don't hold to this doctrine, etc. etc.).

I would say that the Church of England differed significantly from the Continental Reformed Churches but not in essence. The C of E obviously maintained episcopacy (so did Poland and Hungary) and a normative approach to liturgy, among the more distinctive things about Anglicanism. These are significant differences (especially to other Reformed people) and one can point to the Puritans (as well) to prove this. But I don't think that divorces us from Reformed Christianity. The real indication of our "Reformed-ness" is our sacramental theology. Another key difference is the lack of Dortian Calvinism in our Formularies. I think those are distinctive enough.

Anonymous said...

There were obviously two major interpretations of Anglicanism, as defined by the formularies, within the Church of England during its classical period. The reason that these were not “parties” is because those that held to both schools of interpretation were satisfied that their views were wholly compatible with the formularies, had much shared understanding on the essentials, and were content to share the same practices with one another in the same church. There were however a few key ways in which how they understood this “Classical Anglicanism” was fundamentally irreconcilable.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the REC Declaration of Principles, the Hackney Hub, or the Conciliar Anglican, if you take the position that there is only room within Classical Anglicanism for one of these two traditional understandings, then you have effectively created “parties”, whether you like it or not. I see a gap, but I am not sure it’s widening, I rather suspect that it just “is”, and I might add, I don’t think you two are the only people out there who are standing on one side or the other. It is really an old gap, and I think the real question is whether people today can be “Classical” in how they decide to deal with it.

Fr. Jonathan said...

I appreciate the conversation. And perhaps what might be helpful is for a full disclosure of first principles. My sense of classical Anglicanism includes the formularies as an accurate rendering of the teaching of the faith, but the fundamental grounding of that is a fidelity to Scripture that attempts to reform along intentionally patristic lines. The use of the formularies is to share us in that faith and to give us a way of seeing and experiencing it that doesn't require us to have the entire patristic library memorized.

To that end, I see the purpose of the formularies being very similar to, though ultimately subordinate to, that of the creeds, not as an absolute nailing down of every detail of the orthodox faith but as a way of communicating the breadth of that faith and laying out where the boundaries lie. This is particularly true of the 39 Articles, which are mostly negative descriptors of where the line exists between Anglicanism and other traditions, not a comprehensive confession like those employed by the continental Protestants.

What does that mean practically? It means certainly that there are boundaries to what can and cannot be called Anglican. In the case of Eucharistic doctrine, for instance, the teaching of the articles allows for what might be considered an Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, or high Calvinist understanding of the Real Presence. Not that it promotes any of those particularly, but it only rules out transubstantiation and bare memorialism, leaving open a rather large question as to what is mean by "spiritual." The prayer book helps to put a lot of the meat back onto it, but ultimately it's the teaching of the patristic witness, as the Fathers understood the Scripture, that should guide our interpretation of the formularies, not what may or may not have been in the mind of any individual Anglican Reformer. Cranmer was a great man in many ways, but I think he would be shocked and dismayed to find that his word was being taken for Catholic over and above that of the undivided Church.

Again, on the issue of the necessity of the episcopate, there is a certain flexibility, at least in the Reformation period (if one accepts the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral as binding, which I do, then that flexibility has been somewhat diminished). Many early Anglicans were willing to say more than simply that episcopacy is old and therefore to be venerated, but that it is in fact of divine origin, though they stopped short of saying that the continental churches that lacked episcopacy were not true churches; their situation was simply irregular. I don't think that the classical Anglican understanding of the episcopate was either esse or benne esse but rather plenne esse: It may not be true that every church which lacks episcopacy is not a true church, but it is true that episcopacy is necessary for the fullness of the Church and it is the responsibility of the Church of England (and her daughters) to maintain true episcopacy as a gift to give back to the Church at large. And I would personally submit that if episcopacy is not divine, then we really have business being separated from our brethren as there is nothing particularly good about episcopacy as a simple human organizing tool. It's either divine, or we're guilty of a terrible hubris and ought to repent.

Again, though, in all of the above, the teaching of the formularies is given its color and depth by the scriptural teaching of the Fathers. Take that away and it does indeed become a free for all with not much real content to it. For those like you and I who are interested in studying the classical Anglican faith, the great divines provide a tremendous amount of insight, but the real starting place and ending place is not in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but in the first, second, third, fourth, and fifth.