Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Basic Anglican Polity

This was written by Rev. Dr. Louis Tarsitano, and sounds as if, at the time of this writing (not stated) the official Canterbury folks in America, namely The Episcopal Church, were just beginning the process that led to the formation of the ACNA, a matter that the late Fr. Tarsitano would have been asked to comment on. It seems more relevant with the passing of a few years, and helps explain why many of us are simply not moved to join this past year's development of the ACNA, and are not interested in the recent overture from Rome either. More importantly, it aids our understanding of who we are in Christ. -Fr. Hart

Basic Anglican Polity

Louis Tarsitano

As Anglicans in the United States consider the possibility of forming a new province in the Church, it might be useful to pause for a moment to consider some basics of Anglican polity.

Perhaps most important to recognize is the Anglican claim to "catholicity." When we assert that we practice a "reformed catholicism," we are not claiming something innovative or additive. We merely acknowledge that it was historically necessary to reform ourselves as local exhibits of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church. For us, "reformed catholicism" means only a return to the catholicism with which we began when the Church was first planted in Britain by God's grace.

We have no special dogmas, notes, or distinctives, other than the character that God has given us in history, through our life in particular places and times, but always within the One Church of his Son Jesus Christ. This character is revealed in the Book of Common Prayer tradition, which was not a 16th century invention, but a 16th century summary of the life of our household within the Church. Similarly, the character of the Roman and Orthodox households are made manifest in the visible forms of their spiritual life in Christ.

Precisely because we are of the One Church, we harbor no animosity towards other households of the Church. Nor do we despise or resent the grace that God has given to those whose "churches" are not churches at all, but only associations or "denominations" of Christians based on human theory rather than on the one divine foundation.

At the same time, we are obligated, by who and what God has made us, not to agree in error, wherever it is to be found, whether among ourselves or among others. We hold to the standard of the Vincentian Canon: that which was believed everywhere, always, and by all in the ancient Church. This standard is not of our own devising, therefore, but only the standard of faith and practice of the undivided Church of Jesus Christ, which the Fathers derived from the Holy Scriptures (taken in their entirety as the Word of God Written) and from the Apostles' teaching and example.

Because this standard is a given, as a part of Christian history, it is incapable of amendment. If we depart from this standard, we do not become "something new" in the Church: we only cease to be the Church.

It is also crucial to understand that for Anglicans there is no indispensable human institution. There were Anglicans before there was an England, a monarchy, or an Archbishop of Canterbury. Our household did not cease to be when the Roman and Byzantine Empires fell. The Church was present and alive in North America before there was a United States or a Protestant Episcopal Church. It is Christ who constitutes the Church, including the Anglican part of it, and not the human institutions that either the Church or the surrounding society organizes to conduct routine business.

On the other hand, certain divine givens are indispensable. To recognize the claim of another household to be truly part of the Church and truly Christ's, we look for the ancient tests restated in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral in the last century.1

No group of people, however pious, can claim to be within the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church if they do no uphold the Holy Scriptures as the authoritative basis for doctrine; the ecumenical Creeds as faithful summaries of Scriptural dogma; at least the dominical sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper administered according to Christ's ordinance; and the apostolic ministry of male bishops, priests, and deacons in a lawful succession of authority.

These tests do not constitute Anglican or any other sort of polity, in and of themselves. They are, however, the basic requirements of internal and external "communion" and "fellowship" (both of which terms translate the Greek "koinonia" of the New Testament).

Thus, an Anglican cannot be in communion with someone or some "church" that does not accept the limits of the Quadrilateral, whether that person or "church" is called "Anglican" or not. This lack of communion is not a matter of will or choice, but of strict factual impossibility. Christian reality does not permit the relation known in the Bible as "communion" apart from these divine givens.

At the same time, it is sinful for an Anglican, or for anyone else who claims to be a Christian, to be voluntarily "out of communion" with any Church or person who conforms to these divine givens. Conformity makes Christ the basis of communion, and to reject communion is to reject Jesus Christ.

It is Christian polity that fleshes out the visible, earthly details of the communion of the faithful in Jesus Christ, with the Father, and by the Holy Ghost. Anglican polity is only a subset of the general Christian polity, and it must conform to the terms of the general polity.

"Polity," then, is an "order" of life. The word is derived from the Greek "polis," for "city," and it implies not merely governance, but the entire ethos that unites individual persons in families, larger societies, and a common identity as a people or nation. It is, as St. Augustine and others have observed, the ordered life of the City of God that Christian polity expresses, and not the life of the surrounding cities of men.

Life within the City of God is not "homogeneous," but "homoousious": of one substance with the life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man. Persons and nations within Christ have their identity perfected by grace, and not obliterated.

Christ's Great Commission to the Apostles is in two parts, and neither part may be ignored (Matt. 28:19-20). First, the Apostles, and their successors in ministry and authority, are to make disciples of all nations. Second, they are to teach them to observe all things whatsoever Christ has commanded, with the accompanying promise that if they do so, Christ will remain present within the Church even until the end of the world.

Christian polity requires obedience to both elements of this commission, with the goal of remaining in communion with Jesus Christ. Any divergence from this commission and its terms causes a breach in that communion to a greater or lesser extent, and at the extremes of willful heresy and apostasy, such divergence breaks communion with Christ entirely.

Anglican polity, then, addresses both matters of doctrine and discipline. "Doctrine" refers to the unchangeable substance of the Faith, including all of the moral and ecclesiastical order given to the Church by Jesus Christ, whose Body the Church is, and whose substance the Church shares by grace and adoption. "Discipline" is a subordinate term, referring to the maintenance of doctrine, the expression of doctrine in worship and teaching, and the edification of the lives of the people of the Church within the one life of Christ Jesus.

Discipline may be amended, as long as the substance of doctrine is unchanged. Changes in discipline, however, require both testing by the Scriptures and historic Christian practice and the consent of those whom such changes will affect. If a change in discipline will affect the entire Church, only a general council and reception by the Church in general can make such a change lawful or authoritative. If a change in discipline will have the effect of changing, diminishing, obscuring, or relativizing doctrine, it may not be made at all. There is no body on earth competent to make such changes.

There is, furthermore, a "common law" of the Christian Church. The decrees of the true General Councils, the Creeds, and the general forms of Christian worship are part of this common law. So also are the collections of the ancient canon law that are the inheritance of all the Church. National Churches and Communions of national churches may amend or add to this common law, when matters of doctrine are not involved (not merely in their own opinion, but according to the general understanding of the Church), at which time the active local legislation takes precedence in the local administration of the law.

The Anglican Reformation of the 16th century, for example, rests on the ancient common law of the Catholic Church. Under this law, no universal ordinary authority, as claimed by the Bishops of Rome, was established. In consequence, the Church of England, as a national Church and a component of the Catholic Church, was competent to reform herself, as long as she adhered to the ancient constitutions and canons of the Church, and preserved the substance of Christian doctrine in its entirety.

The Church of England, however, was not competent to revise such things as the apostolic ministry or the doctrine and administration of the dominical sacraments, as many dissenters and nonconformists insisted that she do.

Furthermore, the Church of England did not, and has not, broken communion with such other national churches and communions of churches as have maintained their communion with Jesus Christ. To the extent that the Church of England is out of communion with the Churches of Rome and Constantinople, that is the decision of Rome and Constantinople. Priests of those communions, for example, are recognized as validly ordained, and may serve in the Church of England under the usual conditions for licensing clergy ordained in other churches.

To understand American Anglican polity, three historical facts are necessary. The first is the historic meaning of the phrase "national church." This phrase does not mean "the bureaucratic headquarters" or the "national convention [or synod]" of a Church, but a Christian Church in a particular nation. This is the ancient meaning of "national church," as evidenced by the writings of the Fathers, the documents of the Church of England, and the continued practice of the Orthodox Churches.

The second historical fact that is necessary to understand American Anglican polity is that national churches are communions of people, parishes, and dioceses, which come together to form one or more "provinces" of the Church, local and regional communions within the larger Church. At Philadelphia in 1789, those who reorganized the American Church after the War for Independence quite consciously understood themselves to be forming a provincial communion of local ecclesiastical jurisdictions, to be governed by a combination of local and national synods, called "conventions" to make them sound more American. This communion drew its reality from the assent and adherence of the local parishes and dioceses, rather than the local churches drawing their reality from some "national jurisdiction."

The third fact is this: the provincial communion known as the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States confirmed its communion with the Church of England by adopting the doctrine, discipline, and worship that the Church of England had received from the undivided Church, excepting only those matters of discipline that pertained to life in a monarchy rather than a republic. The Book of Common Prayer adopted in 1789 was the visible warrant of this continued communion with the Church of England, placing the Book of Common Prayer essentially above the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church in authority.

In many ways, the Book of Common Prayer is the polity of the American Church; and the various doctrinal errors and immoralities of the modern ECUSA cannot be separated from the adoption in 1979 of a replacement book. That the 1979 book was a replacement, and not simply another edition of previous books, was made clear by ECUSA's presiding bishop elect, then chairman of the Standing Liturgical Commission, at the General Convention held in Philadelphia last summer. He stated that ECUSA alone, of all the national churches in the Anglican Communion, had replaced its historic Prayer Book with a new composition.

For American Anglicans, this business of replacing the Prayer Book is a serious business, far more important than personal tastes or preferences. This action by ECUSA was a break with the communion of the past, which necessarily means a break in the communion of the present. It is no less serious than the abrogation of the federal Constitution would be for Americans in their civil life. The geography may remain the same, but the identity of the people is in jeopardy.

It is necessary, then, for faithful Anglicans in America to reorganize themselves, as Anglicans have many times in the past. Such a reorganization, moreover, cannot be "open-ended" but must follow the pattern of the English Reformation in restoring the faith and order of the Church in this nation according to the pattern of Jesus Christ and his undivided Church.

Such a reorganization should take the form of a new provincial communion within the one Church of Jesus Christ. On the grounds of a national Church's right and duty to remain faithful, the organizers should welcome into communion all faithful Anglican jurisdictions within the United States. The tests of their faithfulness should be objective and spiritual: adherence to the doctrine, discipline, and worship that were received by the American Church from the Church of England, as represented by the 1662 Prayer Book of the Church of England and the 1789-1928 American Prayer Books. If other forms of worship conformable with these standards are allowed by common consent and by lawful authority, they may be used as well, consistent with the unchangeable doctrine of the Christian Church

In the meantime, as the goal of the formation of a provincial communion is pursued, traditional Anglicans must recognize that reformation is not a seamless process in a nation as large as the United States. When the first provincial communion was formed in the United States, thirteen years had passed since the Declaration of Independence. During those years, the Churches in the various States struggled, not only for their own survival, but to find Scriptural ways of working with one another.

The same must be true today. As our fellow Anglicans struggle to survive as Anglicans in the various regions and jurisdictions within our nation, we must not abandon them to their own devices. If they are truly Anglicans, or even if they only have managed to locate themselves within the boundaries of the Quadrilateral, then we are truly in communion with them, even if the details of a better order for our common life have yet to be arranged. To be voluntarily out of communion, when Christ has provided the necessary basis for communion, is sin.


1. The documents referred to are reproduced below.

Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral

Adopted by the House of Bishops Chicago, 1886

We, Bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, in Council assembled as Bishops in the Church of God, do hereby solemnly declare to all whom it may concern, and especially to our fellow-Christians of the different Communions in this land, who, in their several spheres, have contended for the religion of Christ:
1. Our earnest desire that the Savior's prayer, "That we all may be one," may, in its deepest and truest sense, be speedily fulfilled;

2. That we believe that all who have been duly baptized with water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, are members of the Holy Catholic Church.
3. That in all things of human ordering or human choice, relating to modes of worship and discipline, or to traditional customs, this Church is ready in the spirit of love and humility to forego all preferences of her own;

4. That this Church does not seek to absorb other Communions, but rather, co-operating with them on the basis of a common Faith and Order, to discountenance schism, to heal the wounds of the Body of Christ, and to promote the charity which is the chief of Christian graces and the visibile manifestation of Christ to the world. But furthermore, we do hereby affirm that the Christian unity...can be restored only by the return of all Christian communions to the principles of unity exemplified by the undivided Catholic Church during the first ages of its existence; which principles we believe to be the substantial deposit of Christian Faith and Order committed by Christ and his Apostles to the Church unto the end of the world, and therefore incapable of compromise or surrender by those who have been ordained to be its stewards and trustees for the common and equal benefit of all men. As inherent parts of this sacred deposit, and therefore as essential to the restoration of unity among the divided branches of Christendom, we account the following, to wit:
1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the revealed Word of God.
2. The Nicene Creed as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith.
3. The two Sacraments,--Baptism and the Supper of the Lord,*--ministered with unfailing use of Christ's words of institution and of the elements ordained by Him.
4. The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the unity of His Church. Furthermore, Deeply grieved by the sad divisions which affect the Christian Church in oun own land, we hereby declare our desire and readiness, so soon as there shall be any authorized response to this
Declaration, to enter into brotherly conference with all or any Christian Bodies seeking the restoration of the organic unity of the Church, with a view to the earnest study of the conditions under which so priceless a blessing might happily be brought to pass. Note: While the above form of the Quadrilateral was adopted by the House of Bishops
it was not enacted by the House of Deputies, but rather incorporated in a general plan referred for study and action to a newly created Joint Commission on Christian Reunion.

Lambeth Conference of 1888 Resolution 11

That, in the opinion of this Conference, the following Articles supply a basis on which approach may be by God's blessing made towards Home Reunion:
1. The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as "containing all things necessary to
salvation," and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
2. The Apostles' Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian faith.
3. The two Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself--Baptism and the Supper of the Lord--ministered with unfailing use of Christ's words of Institution, and of the elements ordained by Him.
4. The Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of the nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.

* Editorial note: Before some sopmorish person decides to misread this and comment accordingly, the sentence speaks merely of the sacraments to which it specifically refers.


Unknown said...

Excellent piece; we are real fans of Dr. Tarsitano's, may he rest in peace and my his works have a long life.

Joe Oliveri said...

We have no special dogmas, notes, or distinctives, other than the character that God has given us in history

Much hay is made of Rome's invented doctrines, but I count at least two dogmas peculiar to the Church of England (and its many provinces and daughters). The one dogma is very old indeed, and is in fact an unwritten corollary of Art. XIX; and the other is a much later invention, being slightly more than a century old and a sort of residual effect of the Oxford Movement.

The first Anglican dogma, as it were, is this: In reforming itself, the Church of England was incapable of error. Art. XIX states clearly enough that the Churches of Jerusalem, Alexandria, Antioch and Rome hath erred -- and the latter "not only in their living and manner of Ceremonies, but also in matters of Faith." But the Church of England, in its singular and aggressive campaign of reform, made no error and its Formularies are subject to no reproof whatsoever touching "matters of Faith." English Calvinists found the Articles and Communion service uncomfortably latitudinarian, of course; but that was a question (in their eyes) of making a good beginning but not going quite far enough. The basic dogma remains: The Church of England hath not erred (or at least, it did not err until 1992). Any Anglican with the impudence to challenge this dogma is cast into the outer darkness and told to go to the papists.

A second Anglican dogma is this: The 39 Articles of Religion, in their "literal and
grammatical sense" (as Laud would say), are only capable of a Catholic reading.
That the Articles were patient of a Reformed/Protestant interpretation or a Catholic one was virtually unquestioned until the mid-nineteenth century; but as the Anglo-Catholic party slowly grew in influence, so did their revisionist take on the Articles. Understandably anxious to distance the Church of England from Protestantism, 19th c. Anglo-Catholics would argue that the English reformers had only reacted against Roman abuses (not against actual doctrine), and that Cranmer et al. were really Catholics in all essentials*. This view was vigorously opposed at first, as one could easily imagine; but in time it has become dogmatized, and it enjoys particular currency among the spiritual descendants of the Oxford Movement -- notably, Forward in Faith and the Anglo-Catholic (or Anglican Catholic) Continuing Anglican jurisdictions.

* While men like Froude and even Keble plainly considered Abp. Cranmer a "heretic," this view was too extreme for most Anglo-Catholics. Instead, the English reformers would eventually be reinvented as Catholics at heart.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Joe Oliveri:

Friend, I really must disagree in my usual blunt and direct style.

Your first objection, that Anglicanism teaches or ever taught the Infallibility of the Church of England, might serve you well as an emotional release. But, why should we bother to refute something that is manifestly silly? However, regrading Article XIX, to say that each Patriarchate has, at some point its own history, erred, is not only a historical fact; it serves the people of the Church in directing them to look for Antiquity and Universal Consensus (Quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est) for the truth that unfolds and opens the meaning of Scripture and that identifies the genuine Catholic Tradition, rather than looking to any one particular See to be infallible. Therefore, as the Church of England was never a Patriarchate, it does not belong on the list of Article XIX. (Perhaps Moscow should be added, inasmuch as they erred, in a sense, when their Patriarch was in collusion with the Atheist government of the Soviet Union But, that is a bit of a stretch, as it was not expressed in doctrine).

Your second point just does not work here, that is, on this blog. Of course the Articles are capable of a heretical reading; just look at how Mizz Jefferts-Schori uses their content on occasion. Even the Bible itself is not "only capable of a Catholic reading (II Pet. 3:15,16)." Neither are the Prayer Book, or even the Ecumenical Councils, that is, once we add the word "only." The human imagination, especially with demonic influence, is always capable of making anything mean something that fits a sinful agenda.

So, we do not say they are capable only of a Catholic reading. We say, rather, that the Thirty-Nine Articles are a Catholic document. We recommend the scholarship of E.J. Bicknell on that subject, not the desperate efforts of Newman (before or after his plunge). That they are capable of an erroneous reading is obvious not only by the various shades of Protestantisms inserted into them or overlaid on them, but also by the pathetic ignorance about them constantly on display among modern Anglo-Papalists, foolish enough to let the Roman Catholic Church teach them everything they think they know about Anglicanism.

And, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was certainly not a heretic-not at all. His teaching may have been unacceptable to the RCC, but it was acceptable by Patristic and Biblical standards-even by the standards of Thomas Aquinas a few centuries earlier. In isolation his teaching would be limited; but, that is why we never base anything on only one man and his teaching.

Canon Tallis said...

Father Hart, First I must thank you for disposing of Joe Oliveri's assertions who ultimate aim was an equally false assertion that neither Rome nor the popes had ever done so. I am especially pleased with the charity with which you managed to do so as I doubt that I would have been capable of the same.

On the other hand, given a choice between the Chicago - Lambreth Quadrilateral and the canons of St. Vincent of Lerins and Bishop Andrewes, I would choose the latter. I also believe that much of what Doctor Tarsitano wrote ignored the fact that both parties had grown far too used to ignoring or disobeying the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer and major portions of its teaching. In the Continuum we have gradually seem to have grown beyond that. My hope is that we will gradually grow an appreciation for knowing and obeying the fullness of the prayer book tradition is the same spirit that is shown in this blog and the high quality of the discussion that take place here.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...


Fr Hart has correctly noted that the Article you cite does not in fact argue for your supposed Anglican dogma. It says where error has occurred in the past in the Church, not where it hasn't. That would be like saying that because it didn't mention Constantinople, it was denying the heretical status of Nestorius (despite clear Anglican adherence to the 3rd Ecumenical Council). If I say Sam and Bill have added up incorrectly in a Maths class, this is not equivalent to saying John has added up perfectly.

More importantly, the judgement that the C of E did not in fact err in her binding formularies could never be a dogma in the strict sense, that is a doctrine divinely revealed and de fide. At most, such a claim would amount to a so-called "dogmatic fact". However, it should be noted that the fully binding Anglican formularies refer back to the universally accepted Catholic standards as the primary overarching rule: Scripture, the catholic Creeds, the patristic and ongoing ecclesial consensus and the Ecumenical Councils. In this it is obviously impossible for heresy to be found, as would be accepted by the RCC and EOC.

Apart from the Book of Common Prayer, which few have ever claimed contains any heretical affirmations, whatever omissions may be criticised in it, the only other purportedly fully binding statements are the 39 Articles. And these in fact were never put forward as a doctrinal test for any but the clergy, and with the understanding that even then there was no claim of absolute infallibility for them. They certainly make no such claim for themselves, but pointedly do make such a claim for the Scriptures and Creeds. So, the affirmation that the Anglican reform did not involve definitive heresy is equivalent to a firm judgement that the BCP and Articles are capable of the Catholic interpretation. There is in fact no claim that the said reform "was incapable of error" in the broad sense, as if no mistakes were made. Nor is there any claim that the BCP and Articles themselves are perfect or unable to be improved upon.

As for your second purported Anglican dogma, it ignores what Tractarian and previous High Church theologians actually wrote. The argument is not that the 39 Articles can only be understood in a Catholic way or even that the Catholic interpretation was the uniform private opinion of the Elizabethan divines. The argument is that other elements of the Anglican Formularies and Elizabethan Settlement (which were mentioned above) make the Catholic interpretation objectively correct and mandatory. This is the very argument I have reiterated here in my Apologetics section in detail. See particularly essays C.2 and C.10.

Pax et bonum,


Joe Oliveri said...

Fathers Hart and Kirby: As always, I am grateful for the responses.

I should have stressed that by dogmas here I meant pseudo-dogmas or unchallenged dogmatic facts ("as it were"). It certainly does seem that only until recently, one's interpretation of the Articles was more or less a theologoumenon unbinding on anyone else. Only of late (as far as I can tell) is the argument made that the Articles are absolutely a Catholic document -- which should mean, in theory, that they would be acceptable to the wider Church. That doesn't seem very realistic, though.

Personally, I see the 39 Articles as an historical document which, removed from its context, is only an obstacle to reunion. Granted that they may serve to protect Anglican identity; but if reestablishing full communion with the Orthodox or even Rome is an eventual goal, and if many of the underlying controversies have already been addressed, why hang onto the Articles as if Anglicanism was confessional, like Lutheranism?

I have mentioned before an ACA parish that actually removes the Articles from their BCPs, and the reaction here was quite negative. Must the 39 Articles endure then in perpetuity? I guess that is the real question.

Fr. Kirby wrote: The argument is that other elements of the Anglican Formularies and Elizabethan Settlement (which were mentioned above) make the Catholic interpretation objectively correct and mandatory.

I think I follow you. Cirlot argued along these same lines, of course (and just as convincingly -- which is to say, very).

As for Cranmer's Orthodoxy... pace Fr. Hart and others here, but I imagine it is quite impossible that any Roman Catholic or Orthodox will ever adopt your view. I stand with Keble, Cirlot, Hrauda, and other Anglo-Catholic writers on this point. Even Dom Gregory Dix had wrote: "The old 'High Church' apologetic for Anglicanism was sincere and consistent but also a little deficient not only in plausability but in candour, in its treatment of the Reformation in the time of Edward VI. It was always tempted to represent Archbishop Cranmer and his colleagues as premature Tractarians, or at all events as forerunners of the Carolines. But the written works of these men remain, in which they represent themselves as genuine Protestants, sincerely desirous of introducing Protestantism of the Swiss or 'extreme left-wing' variety into the Reformed Church of England" (The Question of Anglican Orders, p. 28), and "Cranmer personally was probably seriously heretical about the meaning of Ordination (cf. e.g., his Works, ed. Parker Society, ii, 1846, p. 116)" (ibid., pp. 30-31).

Fr. Robert Hart said...

...why hang onto the Articles as if Anglicanism was confessional, like Lutheranism?

At this point what really matters as a practical step, is to correct the misinformation by Anglo-Papalists about the meaning of the 39 Articles. Anglicans need to see why they have been seriously misunderstood by people who simply do not understand old English, and who do not know the history of theology. Discussing them theologically with the RCC and the EOC in the hope of "political" unity would require many miraculous things to happen first. The context of such discussions is, quite possibly, beyond our imagination.

Must the 39 Articles endure then in perpetuity? I guess that is the real question.

Right now they are trashed by the ignorant, and it is a symptom of having swallowed misinformation and propaganda.

(To be continued)

Fr. Robert Hart said...

I stand with Keble, Cirlot, Hrauda, and other Anglo-Catholic writers on this point.

The tendency of some Anglo-Catholics to shun Cranmer, even then, indicates that some of them had already chosen the easy route of not examining the English Reformers in the context of their own times; and that some were willing to forgo debate in the early days of the overly optimistic Ecumenical Movement.

As for Dix, though he was a brilliant man in many ways, his scholarship was sometimes rushed, and therefore flawed (facing west is the most well-known error). His use of the Tridentine Mass rather than the Book of Common Prayer, even when he was at Nashota House and could have used the American 1928 BCP, merely depresses me. It does not impress me.

charles said...

Dr. Tarsitano said, "Anglican polity is only a subset of the general Christian polity, and it must conform to the terms of the general polity."

If we define ourselves with respect to the greater polity while neglecting the lesser, then isn't this a waterdown of polity or patrimony? I am preaching to the choir, given no one on this board rejects the Anglican settlement of formularies. Nonetheless, our roots and understanding of catholicity is through these same, lesser formulas.

Fr Matthew Kirby said...


As it happens, I probably agree with you on Abp Cranmer more than I agree with Fr Hart, as has been seen on this blog not that long ago. This is an area where Anglo-Catholics have held and continue to hold different opinions. However, it is of little account for a number of reasons. First, the precise nature of Cranmer's opinions are irrelevant unless any proposed heterodox distinctives within them are unambiguously and inescapably imposed on the Church through its formularies. They are not. Second, Cranmer publicly stated his willingness to submit his opinions to the wider Church's judgement, as long as the Council determining the issue was genuinely free and representative. This manifests a formal adherence to the Catholic consensus, whatever material error we may discover. Third, Cranmer it seems was often loathe to attempt to dogmatise his more adventurous opinions. E.g., his heterodox suggestions about the sacrament of orders are made less threatening when we consider he later signed onto a document with other bishops affirming the orthodox position, if my memory serves me correctly. Given his eventual strong attraction to radical views on the Eucharist even by 1549, the very Catholic nature of a number of statements in the 1549 Mass (which pleased Gardiner so much) is interesting and suggestive. Cranmer was a wiser liturgist and (sometimes) Primate than he was a theologian.

By the way, it should be noted that the Articles are in fact not mentioned at all in the Constitution and Canons of the ACC, nor in the Affirmation of St Louis. They are, therefore, not binding or considered infallible by the ACC. Nevertheless, they maintain a certain status within the Anglican Catholic tradition due to their appending to the BCP, albeit one qualified by adhesion to Scritpure as understood by Holy Tradition.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Nevertheless, they maintain a certain status within the Anglican Catholic tradition due to their appending to the BCP, albeit one qualified by adhesion to Scritpure as understood by Holy Tradition.

That's a bit circular, insn't it? Adhesion to Scripture and holy Tradition is what the Articles teach and defend.