Sunday, December 9, 2007

What is "Anglo-Catholic"?

An important term in the Anglican church is the term “Anglo-Catholic,” but it seems to be used by different people to mean different things. These are some of the (implied) definitions that I have seen

  1. Intellectual followers of the Oxford movement that created the 19th century Anglo-Catholic revival. The problem is that few understand the movement in depth, let alone adhere to all its tenets — but they still want to claim the movement’s mantle and its theological legitimacy.
  2. The Elizabethan (or Henry VIII) definition, i.e. Catholic but without a pope. Surely there are many Anglicans whose doctrines on real presence, apostolic succession, even the seven sacraments are identical to the Church of Rome, but refuse to join the world’s largest Christian denomination over married priests or the claims of authority (or infallibility) by the Bishop of Rome. This seems to fit the OED definition.
  3. Episcopal (or ex-Episcopal) traditionalists who are high church: i.e., the Nashotah alumni, not those from Trinity. If you go to Anglican blogs in the U.S. like VirtueOnline this is the most common meaning.
  4. High church Anglicans in general, no matter what their doctrine. In this view, if you adhere to traditional ritual — preserving the “bells and smells” — it doesn’t matter what your theology is.
  5. Anglican rite Catholics, typically led by married PECUSA priests who’ve fled PECUSA for the RCC.
Today I came up with a sixth definition: Anglicans who like to add Latin to their service. This was brought to me while attending a service at the most Anglo-Catholic church in all of Los Angeles: St. Mary of the Angels, the former parish of Cecil B. DeMille whose 1930 sanctuary was funded by Mary Pickford. The church left PECUSA in 1977 and managed to keep its building.

The 10 a.m. service was a triple-header, as proclaimed by the cover of the 24-page seat bulletin:
The Institution
of the
Reverend Father Christopher Pierce Kelley, SSC
as the fifth Rector
in the ninety year history
of the Parish Church of
Saint Mary of the Angels,
with administration of the
Sacrament of Confirmation ...
Solemn High Mass
for the
Second Sunday in Advent

These are the Anglican who are more Catholic (at least in ritual) than today’s American Catholics. They long for the pre-Vatican II days, or, as the new rector remarked afterwards — “what Pope Benedict calls the ‘classic’ liturgy ... as in ‘Coke Classic.’ ” It doesn’t hurt that St. Mary’s is a member of the Traditional Anglican Communion, which is seeking to enter into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. (Confusingly, the TAC’s US branch is called the ACA, or Anglican Church in America).

The 11-member choir sang an entire mass (the Mass in A minor by Harold Duke), as well as separate anthems for the offertory and communion, in addition to the prelude (a Bach air on organ and cello). During communion, bells rang not only on the altar steps but in the bell tower. (Alas, the two pew hymns did not include any of the great Advent hymns in the 1940 Hymnal.)

At its peak, the altar party had 11 men, including five with purple Advent robes: the bishop (Rt. Rev. Darren Williams), two priests (Rev. Kelley and the bishop’s chaplain), two ordained deacons. The six laymen included dueling thurifiers. (A friend suggested that “tandem” is probably a better modifier than “dueling” for a dual-thurible ceremony.) No matter what you call it, a service with five purple robes, dual (duel) thurifers and plenty of Latin would seem to fit a definition of “Anglo-Catholic.”

Many of PECUSA’s fleeing Anglo-Catholics (definition #3 above) are affiliating with other provinces of the Anglican Communion. For the Diocese of San Joaquin and Bp. John-David Schofield (Rev. Kelley’s former boss), yesterday’s historic vote to leave PECUSA (TEC) was followed by a vote to temporarily affiliate with the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone of South America under Primate Greg Venables.

The oversight by foreign primates has certainly infuriated TEC leaders, but the hope is that it will allow the ex-TEC parishes (and now dioceses) to continue to participate in the Anglican Communion. Meanwhile, TAC is going the other way — seeking communion with Rome and not Canterbury. Perhaps we could say that one of these is Anglo-Catholic and the other Cathlo-Anglican. But which one?

Interestingly, Episcopalian-turned-Orthodox blogger Terry Mattingly once predicted that the Anglo-Catholics will be in communion with Constantinople before Rome:
One of my very first exposures to Orthodoxy, outside of a history textbook, was actually in the Episcopal Church, in which it was explained to me that there are many people within Anglicanism who think of the Church of England as the Orthodox Church of England, from before the Schism. Part of the tension between Anglicanism and Rome was that the Celtic church was such a consciously separate unit to itself. It had so many things in common with Orthodoxy as opposed to the Roman way of doing things. Primarily with regard to monasticism—they had the emphasis on monasticism as opposed to the more political Roman system of dioceses.

So it was in that context that I first heard a quote attributed to Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey. He was a very Anglo-Catholic, very conservative, traditional Anglican. He said that the mission of Anglicanism was to become Orthodoxy in the West and seek union with the Church of the East. Now I had always heard ecumenism in an Anglican context discussed in terms of ecumenical work with Rome. That was the first time I ever knew that there was a stage when ecumenical ties with Orthodoxy were actually much greater.


Jeff said...

I think you have the variants of AngloCatholicism about right. Therein lies a huge problem. High Church Calvinists vs. High Church Romanists (for want of a better phrase).

Of note is another Dr. Ramsey quote: "The Orthodox said in effect: "...The 'tradition is a concrete fact. There it is, in its totality. Do you Anglicans accept it, or do you reject it?' The Tradition is for the Orthodox one indivisible whole: the entire life of the Church in its fullness of belief and custom down the ages, including Mariology and the veneration of icons. Faced with this challenge, the typically Anglican reply is: 'We would not regard veneration of icons or Mariology as inadmissible, provided that in determining what is necessary to salvation, we confine ourselves to Holy Scripture.' But this reply only throws into relief the contrast between the Anglican appeal to what is deemed necessary to salvation and the Orthodox appeal to the one indivisible organism of Tradition, to tamper with any part of which is to spoil the whole, in the sort of way that a single splodge on a picture can mar its beauty." ['The Moscow Conference in Retrospect', in Sobornost, series 3, no. 23, 1958, pp. 562-3.]"

9.West said...

Even though Hooker didn't have a 3-legged stool many Anglicans still act as though this is primal COE doctrine.

In your description of the Orthodox faith, your tradition leg seems a lot bigger than that for the COE/Anglican Communion. Do you think that for Orthodoxy tradition is more important than reason or scripture? Or do you think it's that the COE (even among Anglo-Catholics) does not really intend for tradition to be co-equal with scripture and reason?

Jeff said...

I think the best way to describe it is that the Orthodox don't have a 3 legged stool, but rather the seamless garment. Tradition is the whole thing. Scripture, the teachings of the Fathers, the Liturgy, and certainly reason as a part of it (although Theology in an Eastern sense is knowing God, not knowing about Him).

So, as you put it, Tradition would be a bigger leg in some ways. It is the context in which we understand Scripture, but it is not something that could stand in opposition to Scripture in any way.

Jeff said...

Oh, and I don't think most of the CoE intend Tradition to be at all important. At best, they may mean tradition, as in the way we did it growing up, or in a more extreme case with Peter Toon, who means "since the English Reformation," but it is a rare individual who wants Tradition to mean "since the early Church."

9.West said...

How Catholic is no longer Anglo-Catholic? Citing Richard Hooker, Peter Toon of the Prayer Book Society argues that splitting with Rome is just as valid today as it was 400 years ago.

It seems to me that salvation by works is no longer a Reformation-derived church, and thus there is a bright line between Catholic and Anglo-Catholic. Since many Protestants seem to share this belief, perhaps works salvation is not a strictly "Catholic" belief.