Saturday, May 29, 2004

Further Anglican Difficulties...

Via Don Jim and Pontifications I came across the following lecture by Edward Norman.

Edward Norman first came to my attention in this Daily Telegraph article. This prompted me to buy his new book Anglican Difficulties - A New Syllabus of Errors.(With a title like that, Canon Norman's conversion is hardly a surprise!)
I'm ashamed to say that I derived quite some pleasure from reading the book - Anglican-bashing is a vice I fall into all too easily. Still, as one can imagine, this former Chancellor of York Minster and Fellow of Porterhouse has written a very erudite presentation of his thesis, i.e. that Anglicanism lacks a coherent basis of authority.

The book itself, in its arguments, is an expansion of Norman's essay above and is peppered with dry observations regarding Anglicanism's seemingly pathological aversion to conflict and the exercise of authority. It is interesting to note how much emphasis he puts on the loss of the Book of Common Prayer as the standard for Anglican Worship as being both a symptom of an exacerbating factor with regarding to Anglicanism's dissolution.

We are well aware of Anglicanism's current difficulties with regard to homosexuality amongst the laity and the episcopate. Norman takes up this point and unsurprisingly fingers the 1930 Lambeth Conference's position on contraception as being a key step in Anglicanism distancing itself from traditional Christian morality. He also mentions the lesser known 1958 Lambeth Conference which explicitly promoted 'responsible parenthood'.
He continues:
Debate on these occasions was much hedged about with consideration of possible medical conditions, or the size of exisiting families. After 1958, however, there was a rapid advance to the seperation of sexual relations within marriage from moral constraints of any sort, and in the era of AIDS, from the 1980s, churchmen were reccomending contraception to those engaging in promiscuous sexual encounters with no reference to married life at all. For a couple of years after the 1958 Lambeth Conference the largest manufacturer of contraceptives in England included the Lambeth resolutions in each packet - perhaps the last occasion in English history on which the Church will receive the endorsement of the popular culture. (Anglican Difficulties, 57, emphasis mine)

Whilst it may be more enjoyable to smirk over Anglicanism's confusion in the sphere of sexual morality, this, of course, isn't the key issue at all. When one considers the consecration of Gene Robinson for example, from a Catholic point of view the fact that he is a practicing homosexual is certainly a great scandal, but the consecration of notorious sinners as bishops is not without precedent and should not affect the validity of the 'ordination'. (I don't admit the validity of Anglican orders, but if one did one could hardly deny the fact of Robinson's ordination.)

To my mind, more telling issues (and Norman discusses these too) are the Gorham Judgement and the Jerusalem Bishopric controversy. This latter was a proposed alliance (for political reasons) between the Church of England and the German Lutherans (who had no episcopacy!) to erect a common see at Jerusalem. The occupancy of the see would alternate between the Anglicans and the Luterans. For obvious reasons this plan pressed Newman to consider that the bishops of the Church of England, by their behaviour, were revealing themselves not to be true successors of the apostles. As Newman descibes in his Apologia pro Vita Sua:

I think I am right in saying that it had been long a desire with the Prussian Court to introduce Episcopacy into the new Evangelical Religion, which was intended in that country to embrace both the Lutheran and Calvinistic bodies. I almost think I heard of the project, when I was at Rome in 1833, at the Hotel of the Prussian Minister, M. Bunsen, who was most hospitable and kind, as to other English visitors, so also to my friends and myself. The idea of Episcopacy, as the Prussian king understood it, was, I suppose, very different from that taught in the Tractarian School; but still, I suppose also, that the chief authors of that school would have gladly seen such a measure carried out in Prussia, had it been done without compromising those principles which were necessary to the being of a Church. About the time of the publication of Tract 90, M. Bunsen and the then Archbishop of Canterbury were taking steps for its execution, by appointing and consecrating a Bishop for Jerusalem. Jerusalem, it would seem, was considered a safe place for the experiment; it was too far from Prussia to awaken the susceptibilities of any party at home; if the project failed, it failed without harm to any one; and, if it succeeded, it gave Protestantism a status in the East, which, in association with the Monophysite or Jacobite and the Nestorian bodies, formed a political instrument for England, parallel to that which Russia had in the Greek Church and France in the Latin.

Accordingly, in July 1841, full of the Anglican difficulty on the question of Catholicity, I thus spoke of the Jerusalem scheme in an Article in the British Critic: "When our thoughts turn to the East, instead of recollecting that there are Christian Churches there, we leave it to the Russians to take care of the Greeks, and the French to take care of the Romans, and we content ourselves with erecting a Protestant Church at Jerusalem, or with helping the Jews to rebuild their Temple there, or with becoming the august protectors of Nestorians, Monophysites, and all the heretics we can hear of, or with forming a league with the Mussulman against Greeks and Romans together."

I do not pretend, so long after the time, to give a full or exact account of this measure in detail. I will but say that in the Act of Parliament, under date of October 5, 1841, (if the copy, from which I quote, contains the measure as it passed the Houses,) provision is made for the consecration of "British subjects, or the subjects or citizens of any foreign state, to be Bishops in any foreign country, whether such foreign subjects or citizens be or be not subjects or citizens of the country in which they are to act, and … without requiring such of them as may be subjects or citizens of any foreign kingdom or state to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and the oath of due obedience to the Archbishop for the time being" … also "that such Bishop or Bishops, so consecrated, may exercise, within such limits, as may from time to time be assigned for that purpose in such foreign countries by her Majesty, spiritual jurisdiction over the ministers of British congregations of the United Church of England and Ireland, and over such other Protestant Congregations, as may be desirous of placing themselves under his or their authority."

Now here, at the very time that the Anglican Bishops were directing their censure upon me for avowing an approach to the Catholic Church not closer than I believed the Anglican formularies would allow, they were on the other hand, fraternizing, by their act or by their sufferance, with Protestant bodies, and allowing them to put themselves under an Anglican Bishop, without any renunciation of their errors or regard to their due reception of baptism and confirmation; while there was great reason to suppose that the said Bishop was intended to make converts from the orthodox Greeks, and the schismatical Oriental bodies, by means of the influence of England. This was the third blow, which finally shattered my faith in the Anglican Church. That Church was not only forbidding any sympathy or concurrence with the Church of Rome, but it actually was courting an intercommunion with Protestant Prussia and the heresy of the Orientals. The Anglican Church might have the Apostolical succession, as had the Monophysites; but such acts as were in progress led me to the gravest suspicion, not that it would soon cease to be a Church, but that, since the 16th century, it had never been a Church all along.

On October 12th I thus wrote to Mr. Bowden:—"We have not a single Anglican in Jerusalem; so we are sending a Bishop to make a communion, not to govern our own people. Next, the excuse is, that there are converted Anglican Jews there who require a Bishop; I am told there are not half-a-dozen. But for them the Bishop is sent out, and for them he is a Bishop of the circumcision" (I think he was a converted Jew, who boasted of his Jewish descent), "against the Epistle to the Galatians pretty nearly. Thirdly, for the sake of Prussia, he is to take under him all the foreign Protestants who will come; and the political advantages will be so great, from the influence of England, that there is no doubt they will come. They are to sign the Confession of Augsburg, and there is nothing to show that they hold the doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration.

"As to myself, I shall do nothing whatever publicly, unless indeed it were to give my signature to a Protest; but I think it would be out of place in me to agitate, having been in a way silenced; but the Archbishop is really doing most grave work, of which we cannot see the end."

I did make a solemn Protest, and sent it to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and also sent it to my own Bishop, with the following letter:—

"It seems as if I were never to write to your Lordship, without giving you pain, and I know that my present subject does not specially concern your Lordship; yet, after a great deal of anxious thought, I lay before you the enclosed Protest.

"Your Lordship will observe that I am not asking for any notice of it, unless you think that I ought to receive one. I do this very serious act in obedience to my sense of duty.

"If the English Church is to enter on a new course, and assume a new aspect, it will be more pleasant to me hereafter to think, that I did not suffer so grievous an event to happen, without bearing witness against it.

"May I be allowed to say, that I augur nothing but evil, if we in any respect prejudice our title to be a branch of the Apostolic Church? That Article of the Creed, I need hardly observe to your Lordship, is of such constraining power, that, if we will not claim it, and use it for ourselves, others will use it in their own behalf against us. Men who learn whether by means of documents or measures, whether from the statements or the acts of persons in authority, that our communion is not a branch of the One Church, I foresee with much grief, will be tempted to look out for that Church elsewhere.

"It is to me a subject of great dismay, that, as far as the Church has lately spoken out, on the subject of the opinions which I and others hold, those opinions are, not merely not sanctioned (for that I do not ask), but not even suffered.

"I earnestly hope that your Lordship will excuse my freedom in thus speaking to you of some members of your Most Rev. and Right Rev. Body. With every feeling of reverent attachment to your Lordship,
I am, &c."


"Whereas the Church of England has a claim on the allegiance of Catholic believers only on the ground of her own claim to be considered a branch of the Catholic Church:

"And whereas the recognition of heresy, indirect as well as direct, goes far to destroy such claim in the case of any religious body:

"And whereas to admit maintainers of heresy to communion, without formal renunciation of their errors, goes far towards recognizing the same:

"And whereas Lutheranism and Calvinism are heresies, repugnant to Scripture, springing up three centuries since, and anathematized by East as well as West:

"And whereas it is reported that the Most Reverend Primate and other Right Reverend Rulers of our Church have consecrated a Bishop with a view to exercising spiritual jurisdiction over Protestant, that is, Lutheran and Calvinist congregations in the East (under the provisions of an Act made in the last session of Parliament to amend an Act made in the 26th year of the reign of his Majesty King George the Third, intituled, 'An Act to empower the Archbishop of Canterbury, or the Archbishop of York for the time being, to consecrate to the office of Bishop persons being subjects or citizens of countries out of his Majesty's dominions'), dispensing at the same time, not in particular cases and accidentally, but as if on principle and universally, with any abjuration of error on the part {146} of such congregations, and with any reconciliation to the Church on the part of the presiding Bishop; thereby giving some sort of formal recognition to the doctrines which such congregations maintain:

"And whereas the dioceses in England are connected together by so close an intercommunion, that what is done by authority in one, immediately affects the rest:

"On these grounds, I in my place, being a priest of the English Church and Vicar of St. Mary the Virgin's Oxford, by way of relieving my conscience, do hereby solemnly protest against the measure aforesaid, and disown it, as removing our Church from her present ground and tending to her disorganization.
"November 11, 1841."

Looking back two years afterwards on the above-mentioned and other acts, on the part of Anglican Ecclesiastical authorities, I observed: "Many a man might have held an abstract theory about the Catholic Church, to which it was difficult to adjust the Anglican,—might have admitted a suspicion, or even painful doubts about the latter,—yet never have been impelled onwards, had our Rulers preserved the quiescence of former years; but it is the corroboration of a present, living, and energetic heterodoxy, that realizes and makes such doubts practical; it has been the recent speeches and acts of authorities, who had so long been tolerant of Protestant error, which has given to inquiry and to theory its force and its edge."

As to the project of a Jerusalem Bishopric, I never heard of any good or harm it has ever done, except what it has done for me; which many think a great misfortune, and I one of the greatest of mercies. It brought me on to the beginning of the end.

The Gorham judgement of 1850 (i.e. after Newman's conversion) was a decision of the Privy Council to overturn a judgement of a Church of England ecclesiatical court on a doctrinal matter - viz. whether a Church of England clergyman need hold to baptismal generation. This judgement resulted in a further stream of conversions to Catholicism, amongst them Henry (later Cardinal) Manning.

In addition to the above, Norman also tackles such issues as liturgy, leadership, relationships within the Anglican communion and provides an interesting take on establishment and the desacralization of society. His overall message for the Church of England is bleak - he predicts a merely skeletal remenant will survive 'in small numbers, mostly unnoticed'.

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