12 January 2009
Anglo-Catholicism: relevant after 175 years?
One of the early historians of the Oxford Movement, S.L. Ollard, describes the story of the Oxford Movement as one that captures “every sort of interest”: “It is exciting, romantic, chivalrous, like the story of a crusade. It has its humour as well as its tragedy. And the actors in it were among the most spiritual men who have ever lived …” He includes “poets like Keble, Newman, Isaac Williams, and Faber; men of letters like Newman and Dean Church; preachers whose sermons are read today, divines and theologians whose fame will last as long as Christianity endures. So that a more interesting subject hardly exists in the whole of Church history.”
However, this evening I want to move away from the language of romance and chivalry, and certainly to distance myself from drawing parallels with the crusade. Without giving a history of the Oxford Movement or of Anglo-Catholicism, I want to attempt to make an honest assessment of the Oxford Movement, whose 175th anniversary we have been celebrating in recent months, and more particularly of Anglo-Catholicism. In particular, I would like to look at their impact on the Church of Ireland, more generally at the legacy they have left the wider Anglican family, and to ask what is the relevance of both in our lives today.
I would like to avoid being too limited by definitions and terminology and to accept from the beginning that there is a continuum, a living thread, an unbroken chain, that links Hooker with the Caroline Divine, the Nonjurors, the High Church tradition that became distinct in the reign of Queen Anne and the Hanoverian Georges, the Oxford Movement and the Tractarians, and for the entire Catholic Revival in the Anglican Communion in the 19th century and even after that, including especially the Anglo-Catholic movement.
The Oxford Movement changed not just the Church of England, and also the Church of Ireland, but the wider Church. For the Oxford Movement was a movement of Christian renewal – theological, liturgical, pastoral, and spiritual – and it was missionary in nature, demanding conviction and courage and exerting an influence on the whole Church.
Anniversaries and commemorations
There’s an Irish and an Anglican propensity to indulge ourselves in commemorating anniversaries. In the past few months, in very appropriate ways, we have been commemorating the ninetieth anniversary of the end of World War I, the seventieth anniversary of Kristallnacht, and the fiftieth anniversary of the death of the composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. At the other end of the scale, on one forum, in recent weeks, there’s been a discussion about how to mark the forty-fifth anniversary of Dr Who and the Tardis.
But what are the appropriate multipliers that make an anniversary worth commemorating? Do they always have to end in zero or five? Why do 90 and 70 appear to be fine, but 45 has an air of frivolity to it?
We commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Oxford Movement in 1938, and the 150th anniversary in 1988. The Centenary Congress in 1933 heard two papers on “The Next Hundred Years,” one from the Revd Dr N.P. Williams of Christ Church, Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity at Oxford, the other from the Revd Dr David Rosenthal, Vicar of Saint Agatha’s in Sparkbrook, Birmingham, wondering what the next 100 years would hold for the Oxford Movement. Well, 75 of those years have passed. So, why are we bothering to mark the 175th anniversary in 2008? Have we made any progress over those years? Is there anything to look forward to for their heirs of the Oxford Movement over the next quarter century, never mind the next century?
I associate anniversaries with recalling the memory of the dead, rather than giving fresh impetus and new life to the living. I certainly felt that many of the television and magazine features on the 40th anniversary of the events of 1968 made me realise how much we had discarded the values and hopes of that year of protests … we had packed them away up into the attic along with flared trousers, flowery shirts and our vinyl copies of Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band from the year before.
So is there life in the spirit and values of the Oxford Movement that is still relevant to us today? Is there something more than heritage to take out and dust down this evening? Is there a common thread that has continuity over the past 175 years that not only gives us hope and inspiration but that also offers us challenges?
This evening, I think it is important to begin by dispelling a few misconceptions: firstly, that the Oxford Movement had little to do with the Church of Ireland and that it had little impact on the Church of Ireland; and secondly that the Oxford Movement was all about smells and bells – that it was some sort of frivolous Tardis, that was all about appearances but with little relevance to life on this planet.
I would like then to look at some of the achievements of the Tractarians and their heirs in the Anglo-Catholic Movement, to ask about the impact and relevance of those achievements; and then to develop some ideas about the relevance in general of that movement today, especially for Anglicans and for us in the Church of Ireland.
This evening, I want in particular to discuss five ways in which the Oxford Movement changed Anglicanism:
1. This movement renewed Anglicanism so that we are not only the heirs of the reformation, but the repository and guardians of Catholic order, sacraments and doctrine.
2. This movement brought about a renewal in liturgy, worship and sacramental theology in the Anglican Church. The Oxford Movement taught the Anglican Church as a whole to be more Eucharistic in worship.
3. This movement was, essentially, a renewal of our understandings of spirituality and personal holiness, involving a renewed self-sacrificing ideal of priesthood and pastoral ministry, resulting in new lay organisations, and new ways of engaging with devotion, service and missionary outreach.
4. With this movement, we experienced a revival of the religious life, including monks and nuns, friars and sisters.
5. Finally, as Father Steven Salmon has argued in a recent paper, at the heart of the Catholic Revival in Anglicanism is the conviction that the Church should be fun! God is good, and he loves us. If the world is to be reached with the Gospel it badly needs Christians who can laugh at ourselves, show confidence in ourselves and in God, and know that it is always his mission we are involved in, not our own.
The Oxford Movement, Ireland and the Church of Ireland
The assumption that the Church of Ireland was almost devoid of a high church element and that it was unreservedly hostile to Tractarian claims has been questioned by historians such as Peter Nockles. He has shown clearly that there was an influential High Church tradition within the Church of Ireland that looked to English Tractarians for support in the 1830s and the 1840s.
And so the first myth I want to dispel is the one that the Oxford Movement and later Anglo-Catholicism had little to do with the Church of Ireland.
1, The University Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, Oxford: John Keble’s Assize Sermon here in 1833 criticised legislation on changes in the Church of Ireland and marked the beginning of the Oxford Movement (Photograph © Patrick Comerford, 2007).
I am sure we are all aware of the claims that even before John Keble’s Assize Sermon in Oxford in 1833, there were leading High Church figures in the Church of Ireland, including bishops such as John Jebb of Limerick, and leading members of the laity such as Alexander Knox who were precursors of the Oxford Movement.
But it was events affecting the life of the Church of Ireland that provided the immediate impetus for the Oxford Movement. The Erastian reforms introduced by the Whigs in the early 1830s questioned the very raison d’être of the Church of Ireland. The objections to the decision by the government to reduce by ten the number of Episcopal sees in the Church of Ireland following the 1832 Reform Act were founded not on ignoring the fact that structures of the Church of Ireland needed to be reformed, but that they were being introduced for reasons of fiscal probity as much as for structural reform, and because the state saw the Church as merely one other department of government.
Tractarian rhetoric stressing apostolic descent and continuity was echoed by High Church figures in Ireland in their concern to demonstrate that they belonged to a Church that was not a creature of the state and was no mere Protestant sect. But, while they held many theological and spiritual ideals in common with the early Tractarians, they nevertheless guarded their independence.
And so, because of key events in the Church of Ireland, the Oxford Movement is traced to the Assize Sermon in Oxford 175 years ago in 1833, when John Keble condemned these proposals as “national apostasy.” As Peter Kerr says, “the ‘spoilation’ of the Irish Church in 1833 provided the initial rallying cry for the Oxford Movement.” In the decades that followed, the movement’s leaders went on to attack liberalism in theology, but they also revived a scholarly interest in Christian origins and in the Fathers of the Early Church (patristics), which led them to reconsider the relationship of the Church of England with the wider Church, especially the Roman Catholic Church.
2, John Henry Newman: spent much time in Dublin after leaving behind his Tractarian friends.
Of course, John Henry Newman, took his own arguments further than he expected, and became a Roman Catholic in 1845. He was followed later by other Tractarians and their supporters, including G.K. Chesterton, who, like Newman, would spend a lot of time later in Dublin and with him was closely associated with the establishment of what has since become University College Dublin and the National University of Ireland.
Rooted in the Church of Ireland
As Peter Kerr points out, it can be argued that Tractarianism “was not something which Newman, [Richard Hurrell] Froude and Pusey attempted to graft on to the Church of England and Ireland, but was indeed the flowering of a deeply rooted tradition within classical Anglicanism.” The deep roots of that tradition were firmly planted in the Caroline Church of Ireland by bishops such as Jeremy Taylor (1613-1667) and Archbishop John Bramhall (1594-1663).
Kerr states that “neither Tractarian spirituality, theology nor its later liturgical innovations ever really took any serious hold.” But is difficult to move from this overstatement of an observation to claim, as Peter Kerr does, that “Tractarian principles were more generally rejected” by the Church of Ireland. Nor can it be said with any conviction that the impact of the Oxford Movement and later Anglo-Catholicism on the Church of Ireland was confined to those with an eclectic interest in liturgy and architecture or to a handful of churches in Dublin, including Saint Bartholomew’s, Saint John the Evangelist in Sandymount, and All Saints’, Grangegorman, and a limited number of churches outside Dublin, such as Saint George’s in Belfast.
But in the first half of the 19th century, this movement was already having its impact on the Church of Ireland, even among the bishops. Indeed, I would argue that at disestablishment it was because of the High Church party that our liturgy, our ecclesiology and our social witness were saved for the Church of Ireland.
Three examples from the bench of bishops in the 19th century are worth citing as I attempt to introduce this argument: Richard Mant, Richard Trench and William Alexander.
Richard Mant (1776-1848) was Bishop of Down and Connor (1823-1848, Dromore was added in 1842) during the rise of the Oxford Movement, and he constantly asserted his anti-Tractarian and pro-Protestant principles publishing a critique of several of the Tracts in 1842. Yet Mant was unequivocal about his High Church allegiance. In his Bampton Lectures in Oxford in 1812, he argued that the doctrine of baptismal regeneration was both scripturally based and crucial to the Church’s teaching, and later he was sympathetic to the emphases of the second generation Tractarians, and did not disguise his tolerance for much of what the Oxford Movement stood for. He later argued that episcopacy was the lynchpin of his ecclesiology, concurring with Ignatius that “without the bishop nothing should be done in the Church.”
3, Bishop Richard Mant: his interest in church architecture and hymn writing set him in the Tractarian High Church tradition.
He took a sharp and critical interest in liturgy in his dioceses, taking issue with infrequent communion, extemporaneous prayer, private baptisms and sloppy baptisms. This led him to issue detailed regulations and instructions to his clergy. And his interest in church architecture and hymn writing eventually set him in the Tractarian High Church tradition. He was a patron of the Cambridge Camden Society, also known as the Ecclesiological Society, founded in 1839 by John Mason Neale and others with the Tractarian objective of returning the Church to the “Catholick” religious splendour it saw in the Middle Ages. The society has been closely identified with the work of A.W. Pugin, but more particularly with the work of William Butterfield (1814-1900), who designed both the chapel of Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham (1880), and the chapel of Keble College, Oxford (1876), as well as All Saints’, Margaret Street, London (1859) and Saint Mark’s, Dundela (1899). In his own dioceses, Mant organised a society with similar objectives, the Church Architecture Society.
Mant’s successor, Robert Bent Knox (1808-1893), later Archbishop of Armagh (1885-1893), was tolerant of ritual innovation, condemned as narrow-minded those who complained about ritualism in Dublin churches, and dissented from a judgment against the erection of a cross here in Saint Bartholomew’s.
4, Archbishop William Alexander, who came under the influence of Newman while he was an undergraduate at Oxford.
William Alexander came under the influence of Newman while he was an undergraduate at Oxford, and it is said he almost followed Newman to Rome. It was Alexander who famously recalled how after the passage of disestablishment, how he “reeled out into the cool air almost hearing the crash of a great building.” The day disestablishment came into force, his wife, Cecil Francis Alexander, caught the mood of despair and disdain in the church in lines sung in her husband’s cathedral:
“Look down, Lord of heaven, on our desolation! Fallen, fallen, fallen, is now our Country’s crown. Dimly dawns the New Year on a churchless nation, Ammon and Amalek tread our borders down.”
As Nockles has pointed out, Disestablishment paved the way not for a high church “restoration” on the Caroline model, as Irish high Church leaders hoped and as early Tractarian rhetoric assumed, but for the completion of an evangelical ascendancy rooted in the Irish Articles of 1615 and the church of James Ussher.
After Disestablishment, Alexander demonstrated his definite Catholic preferences in the controversy over the proposed revision of the Book of Common Prayer. He sided with Archbishop Trench against those who wanted a Protestant purge of the Book of Common Prayer. In opposing those proposals, he stressed the authority of the unchanging inheritance of the Christian tradition, “the dogmatic faith from which the Christian Church had for ages looked upon whole generations passing away.” He was particularly grieved by the canon that forbade placing a cross on the altar.
Although he was in great demand as a preacher in Oxford, Cambridge, and cathedrals throughout the Church of England, Alexander was rarely invited to preach because, his daughter believed, of fear of what he might say as a “High Churchman.” In 1895, he was forced to concede to opposition and withdrew an invitation to the great Irish-born Anglo-Catholic slum priest, Father Dolling, to speak at a Church congress in Derry.
Yet, his Tractarian sympathies were not enough to prevent him from being chosen as Archbishop of Armagh a year later in 1896, and throughout their lives, both the Primate and his wife kept in constant touch through letters and through visits with Keble, Pusey, Manning and Samuel Wilberforce.
But even before Alexander, Richard Chenevix Trench (1807-1886), Archbishop of Dublin (1864-1886) at the time of Disestablishment and known to his detractors as “Puseyite Trench,” is the nearest the Church of Ireland had to a Tractarian bishop.
5, Archbishop Richard Trench, known to his detractors as “Puseyite Trench,” is the nearest the Church of Ireland had to a Tractarian bishop.
With Disestablishment, Trench told Archbishop Tait of Canterbury that he feared the “very worst for the future” and a “very dismal catastrophe” for the Church of Ireland. In his first charge to his diocese after disestablishment, Trench expressed fears that the Church of Ireland would cut itself off from other Anglican churches, casting itself off from the rest of Catholic Christendom and splitting “first into two or three, and then probably into a thousand fragments.”
Trench wished to avoid a revision of the Book of Common Prayer, which was proposed with the intent of removing portions used by High Church clergy to justify their ritual practices and of removing other portions seen as obstacles to Protestant non-conformists, such as Presbyterians or Methodists, joining the Church of Ireland. In 1874, Plunket proposed removing the damnatory clauses of the Athanasian Creed, recognising liberty in the understanding of baptism, particularly in regard to baptismal regeneration, and rubrics forbidding eucharistic adoration, omitting the ornaments rubric, enjoining celebration at the north end, and prohibiting bowing or making the sign of the cross. In addition, he sought safeguards against the introduction of the confessional and wanted to omit the sentence in the ordinal conveying authority to forgive sins.
Trench feared that if the demands for revision succeeded, the Church of Ireland could cut itself off from its own history and from other members of the Anglican Communion, and he feared that Church of Ireland might “turn out after all to be no Church, but only a Protestant sect.”
Some clergy refused to accept any revision of the Book of Common Prayer, including William Lee, Archdeacon of Dublin, and William Maturin of Grangegorman. Lee, who refused to recognise the authority of the general synod, appealed for help in England to build a new church in Dublin where only the unrevised Book of Common Prayer would be used, and he received support from Pusey and Liddon.
In the end, due to the efforts of Trench and Alexander, few significant changes were made to the Book of Common Prayer, although a new preface and a number of new prayers and thanksgivings were placed in the new edition, more flexibility was permitted in the use of the liturgy, and a new hymnal and new lectionary were approved. The fears that the Church of Ireland would sever itself from the rest of the Anglican Communion were not realised, but new canons were introduced in 1871, forbidding the use of vestments (Canon 4), instructing the celebration of the Holy Communion from the north side (Canon 5), forbidding the use of lamps or candles except when needed for light (Canon 35), forbidding the placing of a cross on or behind the communion table (Canon 36), and prohibiting the use of the mixed chalice (Canon 37).
But this debate and controversy strengthened High Church opinion within the Church unexpectedly, so that the evangelical or Protestant majority came to recognise there was another view besides its own in the Church, and the debate forced most members to examine the principles and doctrines of their Church and to affirm them.
Side-by-side with the debate over liturgy and the prayer book was the debate over the constitution of the Church of Ireland. Many see the constitution as it was adopted as a victory for the more Protestant constituencies in the Church, with major concessions by the High Church, Tractarian and Anglo-Catholic constituency. But I venture to disagree. And I’ll tell you why.
The ethos of American Episcopalianism was shaped and formed by the Scottish Episcopal Church, a Nonjuring Church that was Catholic in its tradition and in its liturgy throughout the centuries.
6, Bishop George Selwyn’s tomb in Lichfield Cathedral: he influenced the drafting of the constitution of the Church of Ireland (Photograph © Patrick Comerford, 2007).
The constitution of the Episcopal Church inspired Bishop George Selwyn (1809-1878) when he drafted the constitution of the newly autonomous Anglican Church in New Zealand between 1854 and 1859, providing for governance through a general synod made up of bishops, priests and representatives of the laity. When Selwyn returned to England in 1868 as Bishop of Lichfield, he called a diocesan synod, the first of its kind in the Church of England.
Meanwhile, a year before disestablishment, William Sherlock, curate of Bray, Co Wicklow and later Archdeacon of Kildare, published a pamphlet – The Constitution of the Church in the United States of America, in Canada, and in New Zealand – sketching the constitutions of other non-established churches in the Anglican Communion, and making suggestions for future arrangements for the Church of Ireland. Sherlock’s pamphlet was heavily influenced at a personal level by Selwyn, who read the proofs in Lichfield and added his own comments.
I also wanted to challenge the myth that Tractarian and Anglo-Catholic liturgical influences were confined to Saint Bartholomew’s and to Saint John the Evangelist in Sandymount. Bence-Jones told Archbishop Tait of Canterbury that there were only two ritualists in all of Ireland, but both before and after Disestablishment, there were liturgical controversies in three Dublin churches – Saint Bride’s, Saint Bartholomew’s, and All Saints’, Grangegorman.
In his 1866 charge, Trench condemned the disturbances at Saint Bride’s and praised the work being carried out at All Saints’. At Saint Bride’s, William Carroll had introduced a choral service. In regard to Saint Bartholomew’s, the complaints amounted to no more than objections to “coloured cloth” in front of the altar, flowers on the altar, and a ledge at the back which was described as “a super altar.” William Maturin, the Tractarian incumbent of All Saints’, was charged in the archbishop’s court in 1872 with saying public prayers with his back to the congregation, with intoning the liturgy, with bowing to the altar, and with having “an embroidered lace and striped cloth on the table.”
In addition, following the publication of a booklet of short prayers by the Revd G.R. Portal, and their use by one of Lee’s curates in Saint Stephen’s, Dublin, Lewen Burton Weldon, in 1870, a protest to Trench was signed by 82 clergy, and 78 regretted his refusal to condemn Portal’s book.
Key figures later
Apart from the High Church, Tractarian and Anglo-Catholic figures at home here in Ireland, Irish priests from this stream made an impact on Anglicanism in both England and Scotland. I think, in particular, of Father Robert Dolling, Bishop John Dowden, Bishop Henry Montgomery, and Archdeacon George Carleton; and we should not forget the Irish influences on and the primarily Irish identity of both Dean Richard Church and Bishop Charles Gore.
Robert William Radclyffe Dolling (1851–1902), of Saint Agatha’s, Landport, known to all as Father Dolling, is often described as English, perhaps because he was educated at Harrow and Cambridge. But he was born at Magheralin, Co Down, and for a time had links with All Saints’, Grangegorman.
He is known for the sanctions and prohibitions he incurred from Randall Davidson for his liturgies. But this Anglo-Catholic Irishman was the quintessential East End slum priest, heading up Saint Martin’s mission in Stepney, and working with the Winchester Mission in the slums of Portsmouth before moving to Saint Saviour’s in Poplar. Alexander was thwarted in his plans to invite Dolling to speak in Derry diocese in 1895.
7, John Dowden, the Cork-born church historian, became Bishop of Edinburgh.
John Dowden (1840-1910), the Church historian and Bishop of Edinburgh (1886-1910), was born in Cork, educated at TCD and ordained in the Church of Ireland, but is yet another Anglo-Catholic who found his career outside the Church of Ireland. He succeeded Weldon as curate at Saint Stephen’s (1873-1874), but moved to Scotland in 1874. He returned to Ireland regularly, as Donnellan Lecturer (1884) and Select Preacher in TCD (1886, 1894, 1895), but is best remembered for two major contributions to Scottish church history: Mediaeval church in Scotland: its constitution, organisation and law (1910) and Bishops of Scotland: being notes on the lives of all the bishops, under each of the sees, prior to the Reformation (1912), both published posthumously but laying the foundations for mediaeval Scottish church history.
8, Archdeacon George Dundas Carleton played a key role in organising the 1923 Anglo-Catholic Congress and worked as the Anglo-Catholic Congress Missioner.
Archdeacon George Dundas Carleton (1877-ca 1961), from Dublin, was educated at Benson’s school in Rathmines and at TCD, where he was auditor of the College Theological Society. An early tutor at Kelham Theological College (1902-1914), Carelton was involved in a dispute that almost split the Kelham community. As a missionary in South Africa (1915-1923), he was Warden of Modderpoort Theological College (1918-1923) and Archdeacon of Modderpoort (1922-1923). After leaving the Kelham Fathers, he played a key role in organising the 1923 Anglo-Catholic Congress and for a year worked as the Anglo-Catholic Congress Missioner (1923-1924), when he published The King’s Highway: a simple statement of Catholic belief and duty (1924, republished in 1973 by Canterbury press in the series of Classics of Anglo-Catholic Devotion), before working briefly for SPG (1925) and then going into parish ministry in the Diocese of London (1926-1948).
Richard Church (1815-1890), Dean of Saint Paul’s Cathedral, historian of the Oxford Movement and an intimate friend of Newman, was the son of a Cork merchant, Christopher Church, and a nephew of the leading Irish Philhellene, Sir Richard Church, after whom he was named.
9, Bishop Charles Gore’s statue outside Birmingham Cathedral … he was born to Irish parents and was the leading intellectual light in the second generation of Anglo-Catholics.
And Charles Gore (1853-1932), the leading intellectual light in the second generation of Anglo-Catholics, was proud to point out to visitors to Westminster Abbey a memorial to an ancestor, one of the Earls of Kerry, on which the highlighted words were “hang all the law and the prophets.” Gore is often overlooked as being another son of the Church of Ireland: his parents were both Irish-born, and his father was born in the Vice-Regal Lodge, which is now Arus an Uachtarain.
I hope come to Montgomery in a moment. But when it comes to naming key Irish figures within the Anglo-Catholic tradition in England, how could I avoid mentioning Dolling’s friend George Tyrrell (1861-1901), the modernist who was forced to leave the Jesuits, but who was a child of All Saints’, Grangegorman, where he had been nurtured in the Anglo-Catholic tradition? He converted to Roman Catholicism at the age of 18 through the influences of Newman.
The legacy of a movement
If we are to catalogue or identify the achievements of the Oxford Movement and the Anglo-Catholic Movement over the past 175 years, then we find their relevance and their legacy in what have bequeathed to Anglicanism in liturgy, hymnody, education, mission, the very formation of the Anglican Communion itself, and the reawakening of Anglican social conscience:
Reshaping the Liturgy
Perhaps the most visible and controversial contribution by Anglo-Catholicism over the years has been the reshaping of Anglican liturgy, and this reshaping of the liturgy brought with it a renewal in church decoration, spirituality and other aspects of Anglican life.
The Oxford Movement and the later Anglo-Catholics brought about a renewal in liturgy and worship in Anglicanism, with a renewal of the importance of the sacraments, and a renewed beauty and renewed sense of God’s mystery in worship. With that came renewal in church music, architecture and art, and in time this movement also taught the Anglicanism as a whole – including Evangelicals – to be more Eucharistic in worship.
One approach to this renewal came from Prayer-Book Catholicism, which tried to cultivate an “Olde English” style of worship as it tried to demonstrate that Catholic worship was entirely compatible with loyal conformity to the Book of Common Prayer. “Prayer Book Catholics” tried to reconstruct late mediaeval English (or “Sarum”) ceremonial, vestments, and church decoration, strictly following the Book of Common Prayer, with congregational singing of English plainsong Mass settings, and the clergy wearing full-cut gothic vestments or long, flowing surplices.
The Missal Tradition emerged in the early 20th century, when many Catholic-minded Anglicans were tempted to “go over” to Rome, and many priests cited pastoral reasons for trying to demonstrate that that everything Rome had to offer could be found within Anglicanism. They replaced the neo-gothic with baroque and rococo altars and church furnishings, used the Anglican Missal instead of the Book of Common Prayer, and wore Roman-style vestments such as “fiddleback” chasubles, birettas, and short cottas richly trimmed with lace, as well as introducing popular devotions such as the Rosary and Benediction.
From the 1930s on, a third approach, “the Parish Communion Movement,” or “the Liturgical Movement,” gained influence. Reaching back beyond both the Book of Common Prayer and the Missal, this movement sought out the liturgical ethos and practices of early Christianity. They argued that earlier Anglo-Catholics had reduced the congregation to the role of passive spectators, and so they tried to increase lay participation in worship, celebrated facing the people, introduced congregational (as opposed to choral) singing of the Mass, simplified ceremonial, and revised liturgies to bring them more into line with ancient Christian patterns.
It is this third phase that has made Anglo-Catholicism’s greatest contribution to Anglican liturgy today. Many of the goals of the Liturgical Movement were achieved in the liturgical revisions of recent decades, including the 1979 Prayer Book of the Episcopal Church, the 1980 Alternative Service Book in the Church of England, and, in the Church of Ireland, the Alternative Prayer Book in 1984. Indeed, virtually everything the Liturgical Movement advocated can be found in the 2004 Book of Common Prayer of the Church of Ireland.
Nevertheless, there are some critics who would say the new ways have tended to focus the congregation’s attention on itself, making the liturgy more of a human-centred “celebration of community” than a God-directed offering of worship.
We should never forget that this contribution to the wider church came at a price. At an early stage, priests who were regarded as ritualists were suspended, dismissed, assaulted and even jailed for practices that are now the norm, including the use of lighted altar candles. Eventually even a bishop – Edward King of Lincoln – found himself in court defending his practice of the Catholic faith and his efforts to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.
O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
From the Wesley brothers to Graham Kendrick, the impression is often given that hymn-writing and hymn-singing is the preserve of evangelicals. Yet the greatest treasury of Anglican hymnody must be the one stacked high with the works of the Tractarians and Anglo-Catholics, including John Henry Newman, John Keble, John Mason Neale and Percy Dearmer.
Just think of how many evangelicals are happy to sing: Praise to the holiest in the height (Newman, Irish Church Hymnal, 108), despite its suggestion that there is “a higher gift than grace”; Firmly I believe and truly (Newman, ICH, 320), as they repeat “I hold in veneration … holy Church as his creation, and her teaching as his own”; or Lead kindly light (Newman, ICH, 653), written just a month before Newman heard Keble preach his Assize Sermon 175 years ago, with its hope of seeing “those angel faces”? But then, of course, long before the Tractarians, Richard Baxter (1615-1691) had written Ye holy angels bright (ICH, 376), with its invocation of both the “holy angels bright” and “the blessed souls at rest.” And Baxter was a Puritan who eventually resigned his Anglican orders to become a Nonconformist minister!
We have four hymns by Keble in the hymnal: New every morning (ICH, 59), whose tune, Melcombe by Samuel Webbe, originally bore the heading, “At Exposition, Elevation or Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament”; Sun of my soul, thou Saviour dear (ICH, 72), Blessed are the pure in heart (ICH, 630), with its subtle Marian undertones; and Hail gladdening light (ICH, 699).
And we have 24 hymns by John Mason Neale – twice as many as the hymns by Graham Kendrick. Neale, who was a leading light in the Cambridge Camden Society, was suspended by his bishop for 14 years for his “ritualism” and used that time to make some of the finest hymns of the Orthodox Church and of Thomas Aquinas accessible to the English-speaking parts of the Church.
It would be impossible for any of us to organise a carol service during Advent or Christmastide without including hymns by Neale. And it might be difficult too to avoid some of the well-loved carols from a Church of Ireland hymn-writer in the Tractarian and Anglo-Catholic tradition, Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895).
10, Cecil Frances Alexander … one of the great hymn-writers of the Oxford and Anglo-Catholic movements.
Her religious work was strongly influenced by her contacts with the Oxford Movement. Those who were particularly influential included Dean Hook of Chichester, who later edited her Verses for Holy Seasons (1846), and John Keble, who edited one of her anthologies, Hymns for Little Children (1848). The Church of Ireland once carefully edited her Once in royal David’s city, changing her words “lowly maiden” to “lowly mother” for fear of implying Mary’s perpetual virginity. But have returned to the original phrasing in the current edition of Irish Church Hymnal (177).
She was a contemporary of John Monsell (1811-1875), best remembered as the author of O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness (ICH 196), written in 1861, which might possibly be the contender for the anthem of Anglo-Catholicism. Monsell, who began his ministry as chaplain to Bishop Richard Mant, was a brother-in-law of brother of Mother Harriet Monsell (see below) and a first cousin of William Monsell (1812-1898), Lord Emly, one of the founders of Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham (see below).
11, Percy Dearmer … influenced Anglicanism through his books of hymns and bo0ks on liturgy.
I cannot understate the Anglo-Catholic contribution to Anglican hymnody, which owes so much to Percy Dearmer (1867-1936), who collaborated with Ralph Vaughan Williams in editing the English Hymnal (1906, 1933), as well as editing the Oxford Book of Carols (1928) and Songs of Praise (1925, 1931) – Songs of Praise, the very name of that book tells us of the lasting contribution of the Anglo-Catholic movement to hymn-singing throughout the English-speaking world.
But the Anglo-Catholic contribution to our hymnody and our choral heritage goes beyond the words of the hymns, for it also includes the music, with much loved tunes such as Cuddesdon (693), used for Glory in the highest (ICH, 693), but written for At the name of Jesus, and Wolvercote, written for O Jesus, I have promised (ICH, 593), both by W.H. Ferguson (1874-1950), who was an ordinand at Cuddesdon, and Coe Fen, written by Kenneth Naylor (1931-1991) for How shall I sing that majesty (ICH 468).
12, The chapel at Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham.
Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham, was founded in 1843 by Lord Emly, Lord Adare (later Lord Dunraven) and the Revd Dr William Sewell with the intention of training Irish-speaking missionaries within the Tractarian tradition. When, through the influence of Newman, both Dunraven and Emly became Roman Catholics but Sewell remained an Anglican, he was dubbed “little pig” in Latin, a pun on his name, because “he refused to go the full hog.”
The Tractarian and Anglo-Catholic influence was, of course, particularly notable in Trinity College Dublin, which, according to Herring, counted nine Tractarian clergy among its graduates up to 1835, and at least 43 in the period 1836-1870. In addition, Trinity developed its own missionary society with Anglo-Catholic leanings with the formation of the Dublin University Mission to Chota Nagpur in 1890.
Canon John Charles Forrester from Cork was a missionary with the Dublin University Mission to Chota Nagpur (1907-1920) before coming back to Ireland as Warden of the Divinity Hostel (1922-1927). His successor, Canon William Vandeleur (1875-1965), was an SPG missionary in Southern Africa (1902-1909), secretary of DUMCN (1915-1924) and a short-term DUMCN missionary (1916), before becoming warden of the Divinity Hostel (1928-1934).
Mission and the Anglo-Catholics
As Sykes and Gilley say, the Anglican Communion as we know it today exists primarily because of the missionary impulses that can be traced to the Oxford Movement. They trace this back to the understanding of the episcopate that was pioneered by the Oxford Movement in 1830s, and the massive reinforcement the Tractarian Movement gave to the existence of the episcopate beyond the boundaries of the Church of England.
In particular, they note the high impact the Tractarian and Anglo-Catholic movements had on Anglicanism in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada – places where Irish High Church, Tractarian and Anglo-Catholic missionaries were most active. The best-known of these was, undoubtedly, “Father Pat” or Henry Irwin (1859-1902), who worked in Canada.
13, Henry ‘Father Pat’ Irwin … one of Ireland’s best-known SPG missionaries.
Father Pat, who has been described as a “Father Dolling of the West,” was educated at Saint Columba’s College, Rathfarnham, and Keble College, Oxford, and was invited to the Canadian frontier by Bishop A.W. Sillitoe of New Westminster. His worked as an SPG missionary, and his life was notable for its hardship, the tragic death of wife and child, and his unwavering, selfless dedication. He died in Montreal as he was planning a return journey to Ireland. His brother, Father Edmund Alexander Irwin, who also went to Keble College, Oxford, was an SPG missionary in Southern Africa (1897-1908), and returned to Ireland briefly as curate of Saint John’s, Sandymount (1908-1909), before moving to England.
Bishop Harry Vere White (1853-1941) of Limerick may be better known to many here this evening as a former Vicar of Saint Bartholomew’s (1905-1918), but before that he had been a key SPG missionary in building up the Church in New Zealand (1880-1895), before returning to Ireland to work with SPG (1894-1900). Coincidentally, while he was working for SPG, he lived at 3 Belgrave Road, Rathmines, and years later what I presume was his dining room served as my office when I was the Southern Regional Co-ordinator of CMS Ireland.
At the time of Disestablishment, the Irish branch of SPG had fewer resources and a smaller staff than CMS, yet SPG had a longer history than CMS, had sent twice as many missionaries overseas from Ireland, and they had reached more colonies, more countries and more continents than their CMS counterparts. SPG in Ireland could also claim to have nurtured more colonial and missionary bishops and church dignitaries. So we should not neglect the influence of the Irish High Church, Tractarian and Anglo-Catholic tradition on the formation of the Anglican Communion through the work of Irish SPG missionaries.
CMS, in its evangelical tradition, stressed individual conversion, while SPG, with a more high church or “catholic” position, emphasised Church planting. T.E. Yates, in an essay, “Anglicans and Mission,” quotes with approval the common assertion that while CMS was the society for the propagation of the Gospel, SPG became the Church missionary society.
SPG’s Irish branch was founded in 1714 and by the time of Disestablishment SPG had sent up to 150 missionaries from Ireland – all men – to Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Canada, Crimea, Hawaii, India, Jamaica, Newfoundland, New Zealand, the Pitcairn Islands, Saint Helena, South Africa and the US. The high number of Irish missionaries who worked in Canada led Gavin White, in his essay “Collegiality and Conciliarity,” to assert that the Church of Ireland had a marked influence on the ecclesiology of Canadian Anglicans.
The Irish officials of SPG have included the Revd Robert Alexander, father of Archbishop William Alexander, who was the most ardent supporter of SPG among the Irish bishops. In principle, all the bishops of the Church of Ireland were associated with SPG. In 1851, Alexander and his wife contributed to a volume of missionary hymns marking the 150th anniversary of SPG. In 1891, he presided at the society’s 190th anniversary celebrations in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin, and as Archbishop of Armagh, he rejoiced when his cousin, Bishop Henry Montgomery, became the organising secretary of SPG in 1902.
The great and influential SPG missionaries from Ireland included: George Berkeley, who went to Rhode Island with hopes of working with SPG in Bermuda; Charles Inglis from Co Donegal, Bishop of Nova Scotia (1787), who was the first Anglican bishop consecrated for work overseas; John Inglis, Bishop of Nova Scotia (1825); Davis George Croghan, who became Archdeacon of Bloemfontein and Dean of Grahamstown; Francis Balfour (1846-1924), from Townley Hall, near Drogheda, who was educated at Harrow, Trinity College Cambridge, with Father Dolling – at one time he was the only Anglican priest in Mashonaland (now Zimbabwe), and as bishop suffragan of Bloemfontein was the first bishop for Basutoland (now Lesotho); and Nelson Fogarty (1871-1933), the son of poor Irish emigrants to England, who became the “pioneer Anglican bishop of Namibia” as first Bishop of Damaraland (1924-1933).
SPG supporters in Ireland also developed their own Irish university-based mission with the foundation of the Dublin University Mission to Chota Nagpur in 1890.
Mission and the formation of the Anglican Communion
As I said, Sykes and Gilley have shown that the Anglican Communion as we know it today exists primarily because of the missionary impulses that can be traced to the Oxford Movement, the understanding of the episcopate that was pioneered by the Oxford Movement in 1830s, and the massive reinforcement the Tractarian Movement gave to the existence of the episcopate beyond the boundaries of the Church of England. As they summarise it in the title of their conference paper: “No Bishop, No Church!”
And it was proposals in 1865 from one Irish-born Tractarian bishop in Canada, John Travers Lewis (1825-1901) from Co Cork, who was Bishop and later Archbishop of Ontario, that led to the calling of the first Lambeth Conference in 1867.
Lewis faced a “patient struggle” when the Bishop of Huron challenged Trinity College, Toronto, on its leanings towards Rome, although, as Gilbert Parker says in his preface to Lewis’s biography: “No one ever went to the Church of Rome through the teaching of Trinity, Toronto.”
A key role in the later shaping of the Anglican Communion was played by another Irish High Church bishop, Henry Montgomery (1847-1932), from Moville, Co Donegal, who was at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge, with Balfour and Dolling. After 12 years as Bishop of Tasmania (1889-1901), he became Secretary of SPG (1901-1918) in London. He inspired and directed the Pan-Anglican Congress of 1908; and was secretary to the 1908 and 1920 Lambeth Conferences.
If the Catholic revival in Anglicanism reshaped Anglican missions and consequently gave shape to the Anglican Communion as we know it today, then the reshaping of Anglican mission through the Catholic revival is also directly connected with the revival of religious life within Anglicanism.
One of the first Irish women to work as an SPG missionary was Trench’s daughter, Edith Chenevix-Trench (1844-1942), who was an organising secretary for SPG in Ireland, worked in the Diocese of Bloemfontein, and later married Reginald Stephen Copleston (1845-1925), the missionary bishop of Colombo (1876-1902) and Calcutta (1902-1925). Missionary work in South Africa also played a role in bringing the small number of religious communities to Ireland. Mother Isabella Maffett, a Winchester deaconess who had been strongly influenced by Father Dolling, came to Dublin with the encouragement of Canon Richard Travers Smith of Saint Bartholomew’s, to found a women’s religious community to work in the Diocese of Bloemfontein. That community later became Saint Mary’s House, Pembroke Road, Dublin.
The reintroduction of religious life in Anglicanism can be traced to 1841, when Pusey heard the profession Mother Marian Hughes, the first profession of a nun in the Church of England for three centuries. In 1852, the widowed Harriet Monsell (1811-1883) was professed a religious by Canon T.T. Carter, the “Last of the Tractarians,” and became the first superior of the Community of Saint John the Baptist at Clewer, near Windsor. Mother Harriet was born in Dromoland Castle, Co Clare in 1811, a sister of both Lord Inchiquin and the Irish Patriot, William Smith O’Brien, and sister-in-law of the Irish Tractarian hymn-writer John Monsell.
14, Harriet Monsell from Dromoland, Co Clare, became the first superior of the Community of Saint John the Baptist at Clewer.
Three years after her profession, the Society of the Holy Cross was founded by Charles Lowder in 1855, drawing inspiration not from pre-reformation mediaeval Catholicism but the work of Saint Vincent de Paul in 17th century France and from contemporary Catholicism. In founding the Society of the Holy Cross, Lowder attempted to give substance to Saint Vincent’s ideals in an Anglican context. The objects of the Society were “to defend and strengthen the spiritual life of the clergy, to defend the faith of the Church, and to carry on and aid Mission work both at home and abroad.”
Since then, the role of Anglican religious orders in mission has been immense. They include most notably the Society of Saint John the Evangelist or the Cowley Fathers, founded by Richard Benson in 1866, the Community of the Resurrection, or the Mirfield Fathers, founded in 1892 by Charles Gore, and the Society of the Sacred Mission, or the Kelham Fathers, founded a year later in 1893 by Father Herbert Kelly in 1893. Contemplative orders such as the Benedictines at Alton Abbey, Burford Priory, Edgware Priory, Elmore Abbey, Malling Abbey, and other places, have fostered holiness and scholarship, and through visitors and their networks of associates and oblates aided the spiritual lives of countless people.
It is one of my real regrets that the religious communities never really found firm roots in the Church of Ireland. But Anglican religious life, while it may be declining, remains a counter-cultural sign in our materialist and secular societies of discipleship and service.
Slum priests and Anglo-Catholic socialism
These professed men and women quickly turned their attentions to the problems of the industrial working class in their slum parishes. Their liturgical and sacramental life gave them fresh insights into desperate pastoral needs. Priscilla Sellons’s Devonport Sisters of Mercy worked with the clergy of Saint Peter’s, Plymouth, in the cholera epidemics of the late 1840s. The parish priest, Father George Rundle Prynne, celebrated the Eucharist each morning to strengthen them for their work – and so began the first daily Mass in the Church of England since the Reformation.
In Leeds, the clergy of Saint Saviour’s laid what medicines they had on the altar at each morning’s Holy Communion, before carrying them out to dozens of parishioners who would die of cholera that very day. One of the best known slum priests in the next generation was the Irish-born Father Robert Dolling (1851-1902), who fought against the evils of slum life while he was working at Saint Agatha’s, Landport.
In the East End of London, the “slum priests” were known for their audacity and their piety. In places such as the mission church of Saint George’s in the East, thuribles were swung, genuflecting was encouraged, the sign of the cross was made frequently, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament was taken for granted, confessions were heard, and holy anointing was practised. But, as he lived out his Anglo-Catholic principles and ideals, Father Charles Lowder also knew the poor must be brought the ministry of Christ in the celebration of the sacraments and the preaching of the Gospel. Beauty and holiness had to be brought into the midst of squalor and depression, as a witness to the Catholic faith in Jesus Christ, the incarnate God, present and active in his world. The sick and the dying were to receive this sacramental presence as far as was possible; deathbed confessions, the oil of unction, even occasionally Holy Communion from the reserved sacrament, became the priests’ weapons against the horrors of the cholera epidemic in East London in 1866.
The social conscience of Anglicanism
As the Anglo-Catholic slum priests brought the slum dwellers and the working class a taste of the beauty and the holiness of the kingdom of God in the midst of their squalor, and brought it out into the streets, liturgically and practically, they were posing a sacramental challenge to the ugliest expressions of industrialisation and capitalism. And in this, they restored a social conscience to Anglicanism.
Decorous restraint and academic discourse were equally out of place in the slums. Mystery and movement, colour and ceremonial were more powerful. The sacramental sign could speak more strongly than the written word.
But if these were the characteristics of worship influenced by the Oxford Movement, that worship impressed through the devotion and holiness of life and pastoral concern of the priests who led that worship. Geoffrey Rowell, in The Vision Glorious, writes:
“The legend of the Anglo-Catholic slum priest is not without foundation … they maintained that the richness of Eucharistic worship was not only the legitimate heritage of the Church of England, but that which embodied as nothing else could the sense of the reality of Divine grace in a way which could be grasped by the poor and unlettered.”
The slum priests were determined that sacramental worship should be the centre of the Church’s ministry in areas of urban deprivation. The foundation of churches such as Saint Saviour’s, Leeds, Saint Alban’s, Holborn, and Saint Peter’s, London Docks, and the work of priests like Alexander Heriot Mackonochie, Charles Lowder, George Rundle Prynne, and Robert Dolling provide outstanding examples of such heroic attempts.
15, Robert Dolling: ‘I speak out and fight about the drains because I believe in the Incarnation.’
Maurice Reckitt comments on the “ritualism” of the Anglo-Catholic slum churches of Dolling’s generation: “The ‘Ritualists’ were teaching not only through the ear but through the eye – even in ‘extreme’ cases through the nose – an illiterate race of social outcasts who could learn only with difficulty by more intellectual means amidst the hideous and odoriferous squalor of such places as London Docks and Miles Platting. The worship of God in which they joined was, by the violent contrast to all else in their lives, at once a vindication of the other-worldliness of their faith and an implicit condemnation of the filthy environment amid which the social sin of an acquisitive and complacent ruling class had condemned them to live. So regarded, the ritual, which mainly centred round the Presence of our Lord amid surroundings more hostile than those of his very Nativity itself, was not ‘empty’ but full of a profound significance; not ‘meaningless’ but clamouring for an interpretation even more far-reaching than most of those who practised it knew how to provide.”
His biographer, C.E. Osborne, has this to say about his social convictions: “His attitude … was the same as that of a well-known London priest of similar convictions, who, when accused of using his office as a spiritual teacher to interfere in merely secular matters, said: ‘I speak out and fight about the drains because I believe in the Incarnation’.”
Father Henry Stanton, of Saint Alban’s, Holborn, once told an audience: “As the only thing I care much for is Socialism, I am a very dangerous lecturer.” He strongly sympathised with the Paris Commune of 1871, referred to himself only half in jest as “Citizen Stanton,” and was inspired by the “clubs” of the Paris Commune to form his Brotherhood of Jesus of Nazareth for working-class men and boys.
16, Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott … combined his Anglo-Catholicism with his Christian Socialism.
Bishop Brooke Foss Westcott, one of the founders of the Christian Social Union, almost echoed Marx in 1890 when he wrote: “Wage labour, though it appears to be an inevitable step in the evolution of society, is as little fitted to represent finally or adequately the connection of man with man in the production of wealth as in earlier times slavery or serfdom.”
Around the same time, Stewart Headlam was speaking about “Sacramental Socialism,” and wrote: “In the worship of Jesus really present in the Sacrament of the Altar before you, all human hearts can join, and especially secularists, for when you worship him you are worshipping the Saviour, the social and political Emancipator, the greatest of all secular workers, the founder of the great socialistic society for the promotion of righteousness, the preacher of a revolution, the denouncer of kings, the gentle, tender sympathiser with the rough and the outcast who could utter scathing, burning words against the rich, the respectable, the religious.”
Bishop Charles Gore was a leading figure in the Christian Social Union too. He always said that his passion for social justice dated from a tour of the slums of Oxfordshire with the trade union leader Joseph Arch. His socialism was cautious – he indicated that he would probably prefer to stop somewhere this side of full-fledged socialism, but he always added that we have a very long way to go before we get there.
Members of the Community of the Resurrection, founded by Gore in 1892, consistently demonstrated a strong Christian social commitment. Some of its priests, like Father Paul Bull, played a major role in the Church Socialist League in the early 1900s and in supporting the Independent Labour Party.
Politically, Dearmer too was an avowed socialist, serving as secretary of the Christian Social Union from 1891 to 1912. He underscored these values by including a “Litany of Labour” in his 1930 manual for communicants, The Sanctuary. After his appointment as a canon of Westminster Abbey in 1931 he ran a canteen for the unemployed from the abbey.
17, Bishop Frank Weston: ‘You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the tabernacle, if you do not pity Jesus in the slums.’
It was the combination of incarnational and sacramental theology and social concern which was the keynote of Bishop Frank Weston’s address to the Anglo-Catholic Congress in 1923 in words which have become justly quoted. He believed that the sacramental focus gave a reality to Christ’s presence and power that nothing else could. “The one thing England needs to learn is that Christ is in and amid matter, God in flesh, God in sacrament.” And so he concluded:
“But I say to you, and I say it with all the earnestness that I have, if you are prepared to fight for the right of adoring Jesus in His Blessed Sacrament, then, when you come out from before your tabernacles, you must walk with Christ, mystically present in you through the streets of this country, and find the same Christ in the peoples of your cities and villages. You cannot claim to worship Jesus in the tabernacle, if you do not pity Jesus in the slums … It is folly – it is madness – to suppose that you can worship Jesus in the Sacraments and Jesus on the throne of glory, when you are sweating him in the souls and bodies of his children.”
The relevance of Anglo-Catholicism today
The Oxford Movement tried to recapture a vision and identity of Anglicanism as Catholic – Catholic not just in a broad and general way, but as holding the faith of the universal Church, not that of a sect: the catholic scriptures, creeds and doctrines as defined by the Councils of the early undivided Church, the Catholic ministry and order of bishops, priests and deacons, the sacraments of the Catholic Church, and our continuity and communion with the early Fathers and the Catholic faith.
The authority for the theological basis for the Oxford Movement was historical, biblical and patristic. As Bishop Frank Weston said at the 1920 Lambeth Conference, “Why am I obliged to take my view of the Church’s teaching from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries when the Church is 1,920 years old?” Of course, it worries me, therefore, that some examples of contemporary Anglo-Catholicism seem stuck in a time warp, concerned with the trappings and ephemera of what is known in England as Anglo-Papalism, or with the gender or sexuality of those who may or may not be ordained.
As I come to a close, I might ask, what are we left with as the essentials of Anglo-Catholic spirituality? I would go a long way with John D. Alexander in identifying the following “high” views:
1, A High View of God: Anglo-Catholic worship at its best cultivates a sense of reverence, awe, and mystery in the presence of the Holy One.
2, A High View of Creation or a delight in the beauty of God’s creation: The Anglo-Catholic view of the world is highly sacramental, seeing signs of God’s presence and goodness everywhere in God’s creation. In worship, the best of creation – as reflected in art, craftsmanship, music, song, flowers, incense, etc – is gathered up and it is all offered back to God.
3, A High View of the Incarnation: Our salvation began when Christ took flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary. God became human in order to transform human existence through participation in his divine life. The Collect of the First Sunday of Christmas expresses this Anglo-Catholic vision perfectly:
O God, who wonderfully created us in your own image, and yet more wonderfully restored us (here TEC says “the dignity of human nature”) through your Son Jesus Christ: Grant that, as came to share in our humanity, so we may share the life of his divinity; who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever (The Book of Common Prayer 2004, p. 247).
4, A High View of the Atonement: Evangelical detractors often overlook the fact that authentic Anglo-Catholicism looks not only to Christ’s Incarnation but also to his Sacrifice. Anglo-Catholic spirituality entails a lifelong process of turning from sin and towards God. And so, many Anglo-Catholics find the Sacrament of Penance an indispensable aid in this process.
5, A High View of the Church: We come to share in the divine life of the risen and ascended Christ by being incorporated through Baptism into his Body, the Church. And so the universal Church is neither an institution of merely human origin, nor a voluntary association of individual believers, but is a wonderful mystery, a divine society, a supernatural organism, whose life flows to its members from its head, Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
6, A High View of the Communion of Saints: The Church includes not only all Christians now alive on earth (the Church Militant), but also the Faithful Departed, who continue to grow in the knowledge and love of God (the Church Expectant), and the Saints in Heaven, who have reached their journey’s end (the Church Triumphant). And so, we have fellowship with all who live in Christ.
7, A High View of the Sacraments: Christ really and truly communicates his life, presence, and grace to us in the Sacraments, enabling us to give our lives to God and our neighbour in faith, hope, and love. Baptism establishes our identity once and for all as the children of God and the heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven, even though we can freely repudiate this inheritance. In the Eucharist, Christ becomes objectively present in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood.
8, A High View of Holy Orders: Since the days of the Oxford Movement, Anglo-Catholicism has borne witness to the threefold ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons in Apostolic Succession. The validity of our sacraments, and the fullness of our participation in the life of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, is intimately linked to the faithful stewardship of this gift.
9, A High View of Anglicanism: The Anglican Churches are truly part of Christ’s one, holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Anglo-Catholicism has borne a prophetic witness to the catholicity of Anglicanism. Since the days of the Oxford Movement, the standard has been the faith and practice of the ancient, undivided Church, holding ourselves, and our Anglican institutions, accountable to the higher authority of the universal Church.
To this list I would add three more:
10, A High View of Mission: others may argue which came first, mission or the Church. But Anglo-Catholicism brought both together, for the church could not be confined to the boundaries of the state, any more than it was a department of state, and so, as a consequence gave us the world-wide Anglican.
11, A High standard of hymnody: what ever you think of Songs-of-Praise type services, where would we have beeen last Christmas without Fanny Alexander’s Once in David’s royal city or John Mason Neale’s Veni Emmanuel?
12, A Highly-tuned social conscience: if the Church is the sacrament of the Kingdom of God, then those who are nourished by its sacramental life must seek incarnationally to provide sacramental signs of the kingdom today.
The rediscovered emphases on apostolic succession and the Catholicity of the church, on priesthood, on sacrament and sacrifice, on prayer, holiness and the beauty of worship, are the legacy left by the Tractarians and the Anglo-Catholic movement. They were the most important religious reawakening in these islands in the 19th century, giving rise to a renaissance in spirituality, theology, scholarship, liturgy, music, art, and architecture, and to the revival of religious orders and communities.
The legacy of the Oxford Movement is a living faith in the incarnate Lord expressed in sacramental worship and self-sacrificing love for others. This is the meaning of the Gospel and the Catholic Faith. May it find forms and expressions that will enable it to continue to bring God’s love to people in our own day.
Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This lecture was given to the Dearmer Society in the Church of Ireland Theological Institute, Dublin, on Monday 12 January 2009 as part of the celebrations marking the 175th anniversary of the Oxford Movement.
Bibliography, reading and sources:
E. Alexander, Primate Alexander, Archbishop of Armagh (London, 1913).
(Revd) John D. Alexander, What is Anglo-Catholicism? A Response in Six Parts, printed in his parish newsletter at the Church of the Ascension, Staten Island, 1999; see: http://anglicanhistory.org/alexander/.
Peter F. Anson, Building up the Waste Places: the Revival of Monastic Life on Medieval Lines in the Post-Reformation Church of England (Leighton Buzzard, 1973).
T.G. Barnard and W.G. Neely (eds), The Clergy of the Church of Ireland, 1000-2000 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2006).
George D. Carleton, The King’s Highway: A simple statement of Catholic Belief and Duty (London, 1924, reprinted 1956).
Owen Chadwick, The Spirit of the Oxford Movement, Tractarian Essays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).
Michael Chandler, An Introduction to the Oxford Movement (London: SPCK, 2003).
John R. Griffin, The Oxford Movement 1833-1983, A Revision (Edinburgh: Pentland Press, 1984).
George Herring, What was the Oxford Movement? (London: Continuum 2002).
(Dom) Anselm Hughes, The Rivers of the Flood (London, 1961).
(Bishop) Kenneth Kennedy, Fifty Years in Chota Nagpur (Dublin, 1939).
Ruth Kenyon, ‘The Social Aspect of the Catholic Revival,’ in Northern Catholicism; Centenary studies in the Oxford and parallel movements (ed. NP Williams and Charles Harris, London: SPCK, 1933).
S. Peter Kerr, “Tolerant bishops in an intolerant church: the Puseyite Tradition in Ulster,” in Studies in Church History, pp 343-355.
R.B. McDowell, The Church of Ireland 1869-1969 (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1975).
(Mrs) Jerome Mercier, Father Pat: A Hero of the Far West (Gloucester: Michin and Gibbs, 1909).
(Revd) C.E. Osborne, The Life of Father Dolling (London, 1903).
Peter Nockles, The Oxford Movement in Context: Anglican High Churchmanship 1760-1857 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).
Peter Nockles, ‘Church or Protestant sect? The Church of Ireland, High Churchmanship, and the Oxford Movement, 1822–1869,’ The Historical Journal, 41/2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, June 1998), pp. 457-493.
S.L. Ollard, A short history of the Oxford Movement (Oxford: Mowbray, 1983, revised to mark the 150th anniversary).
H. Patton, Fifty Years of Disestablishment (Dublin: APCK, 1922).
W.S.F. Pickering, Anglo-Catholicism: a study in religious ambiguity (London: SPCK, 1989).
John Shelton Reed, Glorious Battle: The cultural politics of Victorian Anglo-Catholicism (London: Tufton Books, 1998).
Report of the First Anglo-Catholic Congress, London, 1920: with a Preface by the Rev’d Darwell Stone DD (London, 1920).
Geoffrey Rowell, The Vision Glorious: Themes and Personalities of the Catholic Revival in Anglicanism (Oxford, 1993).
Geoffrey Rowell (ed), Tradition Renewed: the Oxford Movement Conference Papers (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1986).
S.W. Sykes and S.W. Gilley, ‘No Bishop, No Church!’ The Tractarian impact on Anglicanism, pp. 120-39 in Rowell (ed), 1986.
Nigel Yates, Anglican Ritualism in Victorian Britain 1830-1910 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999).
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