Lambeth Palace ... the London home of the Archbishop of Canterbury also gives its name to the Lambeth Conference (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2011)
Many students and ordinands are not what is often called “cradle Anglicans.” But this is true too of many of the serving clergy in the Church of Ireland, and is true too for an ever higher proportion of people in the pews on any given Sunday in Church of Ireland parish churches throughout the island.
Rather than being an embarrassing point of difference, or a point that raises questions of loyalty, we should remember that in the Church of Ireland there should be no “insiders” and no “outsiders.”
Anyway, these are categories that begin to break down when we start to talk about, analyse and diagnose Church membership. There is an interesting letter in this week’s edition of The Church of Ireland Gazette [16 September 2011] from the writer, poet and bookseller Louis Hemmings, who describes himself as “a recently-returned member of the Church of Ireland” who has “been outside the Anglican Communion, in house Churches and Christian fellowships.”
We can never assent to or acquiesce in a concept of two-tier Church membership, those who are born into the Church and those who are members of the Church by choice.
Nevertheless, for those who return to the Church of Ireland, those who become members of the Church of Ireland, and for many who grew up in the Church of Ireland but were often simply passive church-goers, there is often little awareness of wider Anglican identity beyond the Church of Ireland, of the wider Anglican Communion, and what it means to be an Anglican.
Louis Hemmings says: “It is a cultural shift coming back.”
What is the wider Anglican Communion?
And how do we define Anglicanism?
What does it mean to be an Anglican in the wider context?
And, can we speak about an Anglican culture?
The Church of Ireland as an Anglican Church
Who are we?
The West Door, Saint Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny … the Preamble and Declaration of 1870 says the Church of Ireland is “the Ancient Catholic and Apostolic Church of Ireland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2010)
The Preamble and Declaration adopted at Disestablishment by the General Convention of the Church of Ireland in 1870, offers us a four-point “solemn” definition of the Church of Ireland on behalf of “the archbishops and bishops of this the Ancient Catholic and Apostolic Church of Ireland, together with the representatives of the clergy and laity ...”
1, The first point says the Church of Ireland:
(1), accepts and believes all “the Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, as given by inspiration of God, and containing all things necessary to salvation,” and continues to profess the faith of Christ as professed by the Primitive Church.
(2), continues “to minister the doctrine, and sacraments, and the discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded; and will maintain inviolate the three orders of bishops, priests or presbyters, and deacons in the sacred ministry.”
(3), as a reformed and Protestant Church, reaffirms “its constant witness against all those innovations in doctrine and worship” that have “defaced or overlaid” the “Primitive Faith” and that were disowned and rejected at the Reformation this Church did disown and reject.
2, Secondly, the Church of Ireland receives and approves:
● The 39 Articles;
● The Book of Common Prayer;
● The Ordinal.
3, Thirdly, the Church of Ireland is committed to maintaining communion with the Church of England, and with all other Christian Churches agreeing in the principles of the Declaration, and seeks “quietness, peace, and love,” among all Christians.
4, Fourthly, the General Synod, consisting of the archbishops and bishops, and of representatives of the clergy and the laity, is the chief legislative and administrative power in the Church of Ireland.
[See: The Book of Common Prayer (2004), pp 776-777.]
Does that tell the casual reader of The Book of Common Prayer enough about the Church of Ireland and what it is to be an Anglican? Does it spell out what is Anglican identity?
The Church of Ireland has two archbishops, ten bishops, two provinces and 12 dioceses
On the other hand, in a perhaps more exhaustive way, the website of the Church of Ireland describes this Church in the following way:
The Church of Ireland:
● is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion which has 70 million members in 164 countries.
● is an apostolic church, maintaining an unbroken link with the early apostles and drawing on the apostolic faith in its teaching and worship.
● is a Catholic and Reformed church.
● is able to trace its roots to the earliest days of Irish Christianity.
● is a church with three orders of sacred ministry – Bishops, Priests and Deacons.
● has services which follow an accepted liturgical form and structure.
● has one prayer book – The Book of Common Prayer (2004) – plus other services authorised for use by the General Synod.
● keeps a balance in doctrine and worship between Word and Sacrament.
● has the Holy Communion or the Eucharist as its central act of worship.
● is one church embracing Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
● has 390,000 members – 275,000 in Northern Ireland and 115,000 in the Republic of Ireland.
● has two provinces, Armagh and Dublin, each with an Archbishop.
● has 12 dioceses, over 450 parochial units and over 500 stipendiary clergy
● is a representative church, with each diocese electing those who will represent them at the General Synod, the ‘Parliament’ of the church.
● has in its General Synod a House of Bishops which has 12 members and a House of Representatives which has 216 clergy and 432 laity.
● also has Diocesan Synods where representatives of the parishes meet usually once a year.
● has a parochial system where decisions at local level are made by Select Vestries whose lay members are elected each Easter by the people of the parish.
Is that a good enough, concise and precise, summary of the Church of Ireland?
Would you list all these points if family members, friends, neighbours, strangers asked you what is the Church of Ireland, what is it to be an Anglican?
How were you introduced to the Church of Ireland?
There are other definitions of what it is to be an Anglican. And you shall encounter some of these later in the course on Anglicanism as we look at the wider Anglican Communion.
The Anglican Communion
The compass rose, the symbol of the Anglican Communion, signifying its worldwide membership and decentralised organisation. It is surmounted by a bishop’s mitre, in the centre is the cross of Saint George, and the Greek motto, Ἡ ἀλήθεια ἐλευθερώσει ὑμᾶς (“The truth will set you free”) is a quotation from John 8: 32.
The Anglican Communion is a communion of churches spread across all the inhabited continents, bound together through a number of instruments.
Traditionally there have been four instruments of unity, now known as the “Instruments of Communion,” that have held these churches together
● The Archbishop of Canterbury, who calls and convenes the Lambeth Conference and the Primates’ meetings, and who is often referred to as a “focus of unity.” He last visited Dublin earlier this year.
● The Lambeth Conference, first called in 1867 and now meeting every 10 years – the last meeting was in Canterbury in 2008.
● The Anglican Consultative Council, formed in 1968. Its last meeting, ACC-14, was in Kingston, Jamaica, in 2009. The Church of Ireland members of the ACC are the Revd Dr Maurice Elliott (Director of the Church of Ireland Theological Institute) and Ms Kate Turner (Belfast).
● The Primates’ Meetings, which take place every two or three years. The last four meetings were in Dromantine, near Newry (2006), Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (2007), Alexandria, Egypt (2009), and in Swords, Co Dublin (2011) – I was the chaplain at that last meeting.
In addition, there are roles in maintaining Anglican unity for:
● The Standing Committee of the ACC, increasingly being referred to as the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion. This is a 14-member group (15, if the Archbishop of Canterbury is present): seven elected by the ACC; five from the Primates’ Standing Committee; and the elected Chair and Vice-Chair of the ACC. It defines its function as assisting the Churches of the Anglican Communion in advancing the work of their mission worldwide.
● The secretary of the Anglican Communion Office, at present Canon Ken Kearon from the Church of Ireland.
● The Mothers’ Union.
● The mission agencies, although they have no instrument of unity that holds them together.
The debates within the Anglican Communion and on the Anglican Covenant now include discussions about the instruments of unity and the discipline needed to hold together the Anglican Communion and to deal with any breaches of the Covenant after it is ratified. And there are questions about the continuing place within the Anglican Communion of those provinces or dioceses that fail to, or refuse to, sign up to the Covenant.
What is the Anglican Communion?
The Anglican Communion is made up of about 80 million Christians who are members of 44 different churches. It is the third largest communion or denomination of Christians, after Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox Churches. The Anglican Communion is made up of 34 provinces, four United Churches, and six other churches across the globe.
These include four united churches in the Indian sub-continent (Bangladesh, North India, Pakistan and South India), four national churches (Spain, Portugal, Sri Lanka and Bermuda) that are so small that they, along with Anglicans on the Falkland Islands, accept the Archbishop of Canterbury as their Metropolitan.
Ten Anglican churches in the Caribbean, Central and Latin America have special links to the Episcopal Church in the US (TEC). For example, the Diocese of Haiti is the largest diocese, in terms of numbers, in TEC.
The newest Anglican province is the Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui, with three dioceses (Hong Kong Island, Eastern Kowloon, Western Kowloon) and one missionary area (Macao).
Saint George’s Anglican Church in a quiet corner of Salamanca in Madrid (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2009)
Many of the dioceses in these churches are small compared with those in the Church of Ireland. Others are vast: the Diocese in Europe alone, which is part of the Church of England, stretches from Morocco in North Africa to Vladivostok in Siberian East Asia. There have been Anglican churches on Continental Europe since the early 17th century, but the diocese dates from the establishment of the Diocese of Gibraltar in 1842, and its territorial embrace overlaps with a number of other Anglican churches and dioceses:
● The Convocation of American Churches in Europe, which is part of TEC and has its own bishop, a cathedral in Paris and churches and missions in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland;
● The Spanish Episcopal Reformed Church;
● The Lusitanian Church (Portugal).
The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East is spread across three continents, from Libya in North Africa, to Cyprus in the Mediterranean, to the Gulf States and Iran, to Ethiopia in the Horn of Africa.
As Mark Chapman says in The Anglican Covenant (p. 2):
“Anyone who travels across the world will soon realize that in some ways Anglicanism is a bit like Microsoft or any other global brand – in that it covers most of the inhabited world, and is the third largest Christian denomination after Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, with perhaps 80 million members. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, may not be quite as well known as Bill Gates, but I would guess that his beard and his eyebrows command a pretty high degree of international recognition.”
The Anglican Church in Bucharest ... a variety of languages reflecting the origins of the Anglican community in the Romanian capital (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
English is a minority language in the Anglican Communion. A variety of languages is in use throughout the Anglican Communion, both in the liturgy and in the common, spoken language of the people. In the Church of the Resurrection in Bucharest, I have heard prayers in English and Romanian, the walls of the church are decorated with icons with inscriptions in English, Greek, Romanian and Church Slavonic. The chaplain is the Revd Patrick Irwin, from a well-known Irish clerical missionary family.
The linguistic riches of the Anglican Communion include:
● Portuguese in Portugal, Brazil, Mozambique and the new Diocese of Angola;
● Spanish in Spain, Mexico, much of Central and Latin America, and also in the Philippines and in many parts of the US;
● French in Rwanda, Burundi and DR Congo;
● A mixture of Arabic and English in Sudan, Egypt and throughout the Middle East.
● A variety of languages in the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, including Greek, Turkish, French, Arabic, Ethiopic, and languages from the Indian sub-continent and the Philippines.
● There are Anglican dioceses where the first languages are Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Swahili, &c.
The origins of the Anglican Communion
Mark Chapman says that in the days of the British Empire there was an obvious connection between Anglicanism and England … But while many of the member churches in the Anglican Communion claim a direct link with the Church of England, and see this as an important element in what defines them as Anglican, it is not always so, and has not always been so.
There are four Anglican churches on these islands:
● The Church of England,
● The Church of Ireland,
● The Scottish Episcopal Church; and
● The Church in Wales.
These four churches have distinctively different origins. The Church of Ireland, the Church in Wales and the Scottish Episcopal Church can assert the origins of Christianity in their countries predate the mission in England of Saint Augustine of Canterbury, who was sent from Rome in the year 597.
The Church of Ireland claims to be the successor to the ancient Celtic and Anglo-Norman churches. In the late mediaeval period, the churches in the dioceses in the ancient Viking cities of Ireland, including Dublin, Waterford, Cork and Limerick, sometimes continued to look to Canterbury for their episcopal orders and succession.
The reformation in Scotland was followed by turmoil over whether the reformed church should be episcopal or Presbyterian in its style of church government. After the Episcopal Church was disestablished in 1689, it suffered under penal laws in force from 1746-1792. This church developed its own (high) liturgy; it had strong links with the dissenting, high church Nonjurors of the Church of England, and did not adopt the 39 Articles until the end of the 18th century.
Historically, there have been strong links not only between the Church of Ireland and the Church of England, but there have also been strong links between the Church of Ireland and the Scottish Episcopal Church.
At the restoration of Charles II, and the restoration of the episcopal model of church in the Church of Ireland in 1660, four of the eight remaining bishops of the Church of Ireland were of Scottish birth, or of immediate Scottish ancestry. Later, when it came to framing its own Ecclesiastical Canons, the Episcopal Church of Scotland looked not only to the 1603 Canons of the Church of England, and the 1636 Canons of the Church of Scotland, but also to the 1634 Canons of the Church of Ireland.
Just as it would be wrong to define the distinctive characteristics of the Church of Ireland or the Scottish Episcopal Church within the strictures of our links with the Church of England – in so far as it is missing a lot of the subtleties and salient facts – so too the Anglican Churches around the world cannot be defined as Anglican solely because of their links, directly or indirectly, to the Church of England.
Bishop George Berkeley … an early missionary from the Church of Ireland
Initially, it may be said, Anglicanism of the English variety followed not only the colonial flag, but also trade and commerce, and the penal system. But it soon started to spread too due to the endeavours of the missionary societies, including the Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge (SPCK, 1698), the (United) Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (SPG, 1701; now USPG – Anglicans in World Mission), and the Church Mission(ary) Society (CMS, 1799).
But some Anglican churches also trace their episcopal succession, their liturgies, their ways of doing theology and their stories, to the Episcopal Church of Scotland, including the Episcopal Church in the US (TEC), which in turn introduced Anglicanism to many parts of Latin America, to Korea, to Japan and to many parts of China.
In addition, some churches in the Anglican Communion are indigenous churches that grew up in special circumstances, and looked not to the Church of England, but to the US or even to Ireland for episcopal succession:
Mexico: The Anglican Church of Mexico originated indigenously in 1810, and sought orders from the Episcopal Church in the US.
Spain: The Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church arose through the work of a former Roman Catholic priest. At first it was under the pastoral care of the Bishop of Mexico, but it received its episcopal orders from the Bishop of Meath in 1894, and was not fully integrated into the Anglican Communion until 1980. Is it Anglican? Is it indigenous? Is it a daughter church of the Church of Ireland?
Portugal: the Lusitanian Church (the Portuguese Episcopal Church) was formed by dissident Roman Catholic priests who formed congregations and adapted the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
India: The Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar in India, although not a full member of the Anglican Communion, is in full communion with all the member churches, and sends its bishops to the Lambeth Conferences. Yet its origins are to be found in the Syrian Orthodox Church in India.
These churches in the Anglican Communion display diversity in language, culture, origins, and ethnicity. So to be Anglican is not to share a common English heritage, culture, or liturgy, nor is to look to the See of Canterbury as the source of Episcopal government.
So, it would be wrong to equate Anglican with some form of ecclesial “Englishness,” and it would be wrong to assume that the Anglican Communion finds its identity through links with the Church of England.
● What do we mean by Anglican?
● What do we mean by the Anglican Communion?
● Where did those terms “Anglican” and “Anglican Communion” originate?
● How did the first Anglican churches outside these islands spring up?
The term ‘Anglican’
If the English language or some links with British sovereignty do not define “Anglicanism,” then adherence to the Book of Common Prayer or the 39 Articles do not provide that definition either.
The Scottish liturgy, which was considerably “higher” than the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, influenced and shaped the liturgy of the Episcopal Church in the US (TEC); for a long time, the 39 Articles were not part of the tradition of the Scottish Episcopal Church until 1811, and when they were adopted by the Episcopal Church in the US, they were modified to delete all references to the English sovereign.
The terms Anglican and Anglicanism derive etymologically from the Latin anglicanus, meaning English. It is a term that predates the Reformation, that had medieval usage, and that can be found as early as the 13th century, when the Magna Carta in 1215 refers to Anglicana ecclesia, the English Church. The same phrase is used again at the time of the Reformation – in 1534 in the act confirming the royal supremacy, and in 1562 in John Jewel’s defence of the English Reformation, Apologia Ecclesiae Anglicanae.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, however, the term “Anglican” begins to refer more specifically to a distinct theological position. The Dublin-born political philosopher Edmund Burke refers to “Catholicks, Anglicans or Calvinists,” and the historian Thomas Babbington Macaulay to Anglican doctrine. The French form anglicanisme occurs, it seems, for the first time in 1817, presumably by analogy with gallicanisme, and John Henry Newman uses the phrase “Anglicanism” from 1838 on.
Origins in disputes
A world map showing the Provinces of the Anglican Communion (blue), as well as the Churches in full communion with the Anglican Communion: the Nordic and Baltic Episcopal Lutheran Churches of the Porvoo Communion (green), and the Old Catholic Churches in the Utrecht Union (red)
The term “Anglican Communion” is only first used in 1851, and eventually is used as a defining term at the first Lambeth Conference in 1867.
The origins of that Anglican Communion as we have come to know it can be found in two legal battles and a doctrinal dispute that rocked the Anglican churches in the 1850s and 1860s. The first of these legal battles became known as the Eton College Case. In 1857, the courts ruled that the established Church of England could not exist in those colonies where there was a local legislature.
A year earlier, the Bishop of Cape Town, Robert Gray, called a diocesan synod in 1856 – a synod that preceded by 12 years the first diocesan synod in the Church of England, which was held in the Diocese of Lichfield in 1868.
Some years after his synod in Cape Town, Gray – by now accepted as Archbishop of Cape Town and Metropolitan – attempted to depose the Bishop of Natal, John Colenso, for heresy in 1863. Colenso appealed to the Privy Council in London, which ruled in March 1865 that Gray and his synod could only exercise authority over those who voluntarily accepted it. It also held that the letters patent issued to the bishop were invalid because the Cape Colony had its own legislature.
By the time the judgment was issued, Gray had tried Colenso on the grounds that Colenso had sworn canonical obedience to him as metropolitan, thus voluntarily accepting his jurisdiction. The rulings from Gray and the Privy Council left a complete mess. The letters patent were invalid, bishops had been appointed by patents issued in London and yet there was no established church for them to serve in because the colony had its own legislature.
It was a difficult mess from which the churches in the colonies would find it even more difficult to disentangle themselves.
The crisis over the deposition of Colenso and the problems it left inspired the Irish-born Bishop of Ontario, 40-year-old John Travers Lewis (1825-1901), and the Provincial Synod of the Anglican Church in Canada in 1865 to issue a formal request to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Longley, asking him to call a General Council of the Anglican Communion “in every land.”
The invitations to that first Lambeth Conference went out to “the bishops in visible communion with the United Church of England and Ireland” to a meeting under the Presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury in Lambeth Palace. The invitations were sent to 150 bishops, and the first Lambeth Conference met in September 1867.
In their resolutions, the bishops described themselves as the “Bishops of Christ’s Holy Catholic Church in visible Communion with the United Church of England and Ireland.” And so, and the Anglican Communion was formally established because of a dispute involving a church that traces its origins to an Irish missionary, and because of the response to that dispute by an Irish-born bishop in Canada, John Travers Lewis.
Canterbury Cathedral .... the Lambeth Conferences are called by the Archbishop of Canterbury
Achievements and failures
The first Lambeth Conference failed to achieve any great accomplishments. Its significance is found not in the reports and resolutions but in the very fact that it met. The Anglican Communion, a concept only first articulated in 1851, was given visible unity in the forum of the Lambeth Conference. This unity would be maintained despite the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland.
A second Lambeth Conference met in 1878, and the conferences have met since then at roughly 10-year intervals. In all, there have been 14 Lambeth Conferences: the last one in Canterbury in July and August 2008. Will there be another one in 2018?
Whatever happens, the Lambeth Conference has developed into a deliberative body, convened solely at the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It still has no canonical or constitutional status, although it has enhanced the archbishop’s primacy within the Anglican Communion.
William Reed Huntington (1838-1909) ... he inspired the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral
Before the next conference in 1878, two other important events in the life of the Anglican Communion took place: the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland; and, in 1870, the publication by an American Episcopal priest, the Revd William Reed Huntington (1838-1909), of his book, The Church Idea, An Essay toward Unity.
Huntington later became rector of Grace Church, an influential New York parish. Although never a bishop, he had more influence on the Episcopal Church – perhaps even on the Anglican Communion – than most bishops.
Huntington’s proposals in the Church Idea were aimed initially at moving towards union between Anglicans, Roman Catholics and the Orthodox Churches. But his proposals eventually helped the formulation of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, which summarised four elements that would help both define what an Anglican Church is and what Anglicans would accept as the basis for talks on Church unity.
Huntington was worried about what the word Anglicanism conveyed, and its nostalgic appeal. “The word brings up before the eyes of some a flutter of surplices, a vision of village spires and cathedral towers, a somewhat stiff and stately company of deans, prebendaries and choristers, and that is about all.” [The Church Idea, p. 124].
And he warned:
“If our whole ambition as Anglicans in America be to continue a small, but eminently respectable body of Christians, and to offer a refuge to people of refinement and sensibility, who are shocked by the irreverences they are apt to encounter elsewhere; in a word, if we are to be only a countercheck and not a force in society; then let us say as much in plain terms, and frankly renounce all claims to Catholicity. We have only, in such a case, to wrap the robe of our dignity about us, and walk quietly along in a seclusion no one will take much trouble to disturb. Thus may we be a Church in name, and a sect in deed.”
His vision of the Church was formed by a very deep theology. He wrote:
“But if we aim at something nobler than this, if we would have our Communion become national in very truth, – in other words, if we would bring the Church of Christ into the closest possible sympathy with the throbbing, sorrowing, sinning, repenting, aspiring heart of this great people, – then let us press our reasonable claims to be the reconciler of a divided household, not in a spirit of arrogance (which ill befits those whose best possessions have come to them by inheritance), but with affectionate earnestness and intelligent zeal.” [p. 159.]
And so, in pursuit of those claims, Huntington laid out four principles:
● The Holy Scriptures as the Word of God;
● The Primitive Creeds as the Rule of Faith;
● The two sacraments ordained by Christ himself (i.e., Baptism and Holy Communion); and
● The Episcopate as the keystone of Governmental Unity.
Huntington’s proposal stood for almost a century and a half as a cornerstone of Anglican ecclesiology and Anglican ecumenical endeavour. They were eventually adopted at the 1888 conference, and the formula has become known as the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.
But before Huntington’s quadrilateral came before the worldwide Anglican Communion, the bishops met once again at the second Lambeth Conference in 1876.
There were few momentous decisions. But calling a second conference turned the Lambeth Conference from an occasion into an institution.
Meanwhile, Huntington’s ideas expressed in his quadrilateral were stirring responses in the US.
Dante described Peschiera as a fortress beautiful and strong ... it is one of the four Italian fortress cities inspired Huntington’s numbering of his principles (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
Huntington’s numbering of his four principles was inspired, he said, by the four fortress cities in the Veneto and Lombardy – Mantua, Verona, Peschiera and Legnano – which had provided the Hapsburgs with the means of keeping control of northern Italy from 1815 to 1859.
But in essence the political climate that helped Huntington to develop his ideas was the new unity in America brought about by the end of the Civil War in 1865.
His Quadrilateral was adopted overwhelmingly by the American House of Bishops in Chicago in 1886. However, the Chicago resolution added the word “historic” to the fourth point about the “episcopate,” and from the US bishops those four points were passed on by to the third Lambeth Conference in 1888.
Lambeth 3 (1888):
At Lambeth 3 in 1888, Huntington’s quadrilateral was adopted and endorsed, as Resolution 1, with a number of other alterations in addition to those made at Chicago:
The Lambeth Quadrilateral (1888):
● The Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament and New Testaments, as “containing all things necessary to salvation,” and as being the rule and ultimate standard of faith.
● The Apostles’ Creed, as the Baptismal Symbol; and the Nicene Creed, as the sufficient statement of the Christian Faith.
● 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 the elements ordained by him.
● 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
Point 1, on the Holy Scriptures, was embellished with material from Article 6 in the 39 Articles.
Point 2, on the Primitive Creeds, was embellished with material from Article 8.
Point 3, on the Sacraments, was rephrased with material from Article 25.
Interestingly, the Lambeth Conference did not change the wording of Point 4, leaving intact the term “historic episcopate,” even though it would have been possible to draw from Article 36.
When the American General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the US met in Chicago in 1895, it adopted the Lambeth revision of the quadrilateral, so that it has since become known as the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral.
What is the status of the Quadrilateral?
The resolutions of Lambeth Conferences are not binding. The only moral authority they have is that they may be considered as the mind and thinking of the majority of the bishops then attending a Lambeth conference. In that sense, the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral does not have a guaranteed place in fundamental Anglican canon law.
Nevertheless, in 1979, the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral was bound in with the American Book of Common Prayer as one of the “Historical Documents of the Church,” along with the Definition of Chalcedon, the Quicunque Vult (the Athanasian Creed), the Preface to the first Book of Common Prayer, and the Articles of Religion.
In the Anglican Church in Japan, the Quadrilateral is included in the “General Principles in common with the Holy Catholic Church throughout the world.”
In Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada has entrenched in its constitution what amounts to a fuller form of the Quadrilateral.
The English theologian Paul Avis and the American J. Robert Wright have described Huntington’s book and the way it helped to shape the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral as “probably the most significant Anglican work on ecclesiology.” According to Avis, the teachings of the Lambeth Conference merely “supplement the Quadrilateral.”
For over a century, therefore, Huntington’s Quadrilateral, as altered at Chicago and at Lambeth, has defined the distinctive characteristics of Anglican ecclesiology. It remains the Anglican basis for discussing unity with other Churches and remains the cornerstone and standard by which the Episcopal Church (TEC) and many other member Churches in the Anglican Communion approach questions of unity with other Churches.
Subsequent Lambeth Conferences
The “irregular” ordination of eleven women as priests in the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia in 1974
In all there have been 14 Lambeth Conferences between 1867 and 2008. A number of events between the Lambeth Conferences might have threatened Anglican unity, and political events interrupted calling Lambeth Conferences. But the conferences continued, and Anglican unity, though never anything but imperfect, has been maintained. These potentially disruptive events included:
● The disestablishment of the Church of Ireland (1869-1871).
● The decision by Archbishop Plunket of Dublin, Bishop Stack of Clogher and Bishop Welland of Down to consecrate a bishop for the Spanish Episcopal Reformed Church, despite strong opposition from the Church of England (1894).
● The Kikuyu Conference (1913).
● World War I (1914-1918).
● World War II (1939-1945).
● The formation of the Church of South India (1947).
● The ordination of women, first in ECUSA (now TEC) and then in other Anglican churches, and the subsequent formation of “continuing” churches.
● The consecration of the first women bishops.
● The consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire (2003).
● The approval of the blessing of same-gender unions in the Diocese of New Westminster in Canada.
Contraception and family planning
Today’s debates on human sexuality and homosexuality are posing the latest threat to Anglican unity. But how has difference been handled in the past?
In 1958, the Lambeth Conference gave guarded approval to family planning and contraception, declaring “self-discipline and restraint are essential conditions of the responsible freedom of marriage and family planning …”
Fifty years earlier, in 1908, the bishops expressed alarm at the increasing availability of the “artificial restriction of the family.” The 1920 Lambeth Conference expressed grave concern and issued an “emphatic warning” against contraception. There was noticeable shift in attitude in 1930. However, by today’s standards, the 1958 resolution must be regarded as ground-breaking, coming ten years before Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae.
The 1968 Lambeth Conference noted the publication of the encyclical and, while expressing its appreciation of the Pope’s deep concern for the institution of marriage and the integrity of married life, it disagreed with his views on contraception and affirmed the two relevant resolutions passed 10 years earlier.
These statements show how the Lambeth Conferences can move on moral issues from total opposition, to qualified acceptance, and then full acceptance. The change also reflects the changing of status of women in the world, and also within the Anglican churches.
In this change of opinion and teaching on contraception, we can see how the Anglican Churches rely on the experience of the faithful members in working out its moral judgments. According to a leading Anglican ethicist, Professor Gordon Dunstan, it “exemplifies an instance in which the magisterium of the Church formulated and ratified a moral judgement made by a sort of Consensus Fidelium, for which a good theological justification was worked out ex post facto.”
As the former Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries, has pointed out, this is a crucial indication of the nature of Anglican moral judgments. They are not simply laid down from on high. The official pronouncements of the Church must reflect the tested experience of the wider Christian community, particularly the experience of lay people.
Shortly after the 1968 Lambeth Conference, the ordination of women threatened a major rift within the Anglican Communion. Women were ordained in Hong Kong in 1971, in Canada in 1976 and in the US (after several irregular ordinations starting in 1974) and in New Zealand in 1977.
The 1978 Lambeth Conference was unable to do more than accept that there was a variety of practice while affirming its commitment to the preservation of Anglican unity.
On the eve of the 1978 Lambeth Conference, Stephen Sykes published The Integrity of Anglicanism, a book that marks the beginning of the current preoccupation with Anglican identity.
In the practice of Eucharistic hospitality, Anglicans show that we believe that the common baptism we share calls for unity in the Eucharist – for that is where the Body of Christ, to which we already belong by baptism, is most fully known.
The Eucharist, or Holy Communion, is the paradigm of koinonia and this concept – so fruitful in current ecumenical work – is particularly congenial to Anglicans. Anglicans have contributed to the ecumenical theology of communion, and this theology is particularly reflected in the document of the 1988 Lambeth Conference, The Truth Shall Set You Free.
The growing strength and confidence of the Anglican provinces in the developing world has intensified the centrifugal forces within the Anglican Communion.
At the 1998 Lambeth Conference, the battle lines were drawn up between first and second world liberals and third world conservatives over human sexuality, and the chasm opened even wider two years ago at the 2008 Lambeth Conference.
Ridley Hall Cambridge ... the Ridley Cambridge Draft was finalised there in 2009 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)
The stresses within the Anglican Communion have been increased by the different speeds at which the Anglican provinces are ordaining women as deacons, priests and bishops.
The acceptance of the notion of “impaired communion” between provinces that no longer enjoy a full, mutual recognition of ministries, because of this issue, called into question the reality of a coherent and unified Anglican identity. The possibility then arose of a diversity of interpretations of Anglican identity emerging within the Anglican Communion.
In addition, there have been serious questions about the continuing value of the Lambeth Conferences as they have evolved: their expense; their practical ineffectiveness; the English or Anglo-Saxon domination in the proceedings; and their limitation to bishops only. But as the conference came into being through a desire for consultation on common problems, we have not yet seen another effective way in which mutual responsibility can be totally exercised by the bishops of the Anglican Communion.
But given the present difficulties, can Anglicanism persevere?
Indeed, we might ask, can it survive?
And what is holding Anglicanism together at this present moment?
Today question marks hang over the future of the Anglican Communion, and these include the following issues:
● Whether the Anglican Covenant is in danger of creating a two-tier Anglican Communion.
● Whether the Anglican Covenant is in danger of creating an Anglican ‘Curia’.
● The role of the Archbishop of Canterbury as the focus of unity for the Anglican Communion.
● The future of the Lambeth Conference as a purely Episcopal gathering.
● The status, role or authority of Lambeth Conference resolutions.
● The tension between maintaining theological diversity and unity in communion.
● The possibility of a future Anglican Congress that is representative of the laity.
The Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the United States (TEC) continue, in many ways, to dominate the agenda, the budgets and the ethos of the Anglican Communion. But Professor Alister McGrath pointed out at a conference in Oxford on the “Future of Anglicanism”: “On any given Sunday there are more Anglicans attending church in the west African state of Nigeria than in the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and Australia, taken together.”
Anglican Churches are thriving and growing in many parts of Africa and Asia. But Anglicans appear to be in decline, numerically, in the traditional Anglican heartlands such as England, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In America, the decline of Anglicanism or Episcopalianism is in sharp contrast to the rise in membership of pentecostal and evangelical churches. Alister McGrath claims: “The implications for the future direction of Anglicanism are momentous.”
Many other questions still remain about the future of the Anglican Communion:
Will any intervention by the Joint Standing Committee, now known as the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion, help heal the divisions or simply delay them?
Is the Standing Committee likely to become a new ‘Instrument of Communion’ within the Anglican Communion?
Will we end up with a more-closely bound Anglican Communion or a looser Anglican Federation?
Or will we end up with a two-tier Anglican Communion with two categories of membership?
Current theological developments
If there is too much emphasis on law and legalism, perhaps we could take a more optimistic approach to the future by suggesting the future of Anglicanism rests not only on these debates, but on the vitality of its worship, spirituality and theology.
There have been exciting developments in Anglican theology recently.
Some important, relevant, recent publications contributing to exciting new developments in Anglican theology include:
Duncan Dormor, Jack McDonald and Jeremy Caddick (eds), Anglicanism the Answer to Modernity (London: Continuum 2003) (right). Duncan Dormor is Dean of Saint John’s College, Cambridge, and this collection of essays is an attempt by eight Cambridge college deans and chaplains to tackle the questions of religious identity that they believe are central to the way that the 21st century unfolds, and they regard their book as a bold attempt to address the future of Anglicanism in a confident way.
Robert Hannaford (editor), The Future of Anglicanism (Canterbury Press/Gracewing, 1996). This is another collection of essays looking at the future of Anglicanism and the serious challenges facing our communion.
Paul Avis, The Identity of Anglicanism: Essentials of Anglican Ecclesiology (London: T&T Clark/Continuum, 2007). This is the most comprehensive contemporary study of Anglicanism today that is both rigorous and provocative, exploring and explaining the identity of Anglicanism.
Mark D. Chapman (editor), The Anglican Covenant: Unity and Diversity in the Anglican Communion (London: Mowbray/Continuum, 2008). This is a collection of essays from a wide range of perspectives on the proposed Anglican Covenant, with a clear examination of the structures of authority within Anglicanism.
Philip Groves (editor), The Anglican Communion and Homosexuality (London: SPCK, 2008). Canon Groves is the Facilitator for the Listening Process at the Anglican Communion Office. He has been a CMS mission partner in Tanzania and is on the council of Saint John’s College, Nottingham. In this book, bishops, clergy and lay people with a diversity of views discuss the topic that has become the focus of divisions within Anglicanism. The book was sent to all bishops ahead of last year’s Lambeth Conference.
Jonathan Clark, The Republic of Heaven (London: SPCK, 2008) ... the chair of Affirming Catholicism makes an honest assessment of his own tradition and challenges that Catholic tradition within the Church of England and within Anglicanism to face the future.
Some questions for discussion:
Alex Wright, in his Why Bother with Theology? (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 2002) – while making strong criticisms of current theology – offers positive criticism and hope for Anglicanism. He singles out, for example, what is known as Radical Orthodoxy.
Are you familiar with any of these writers or schools of thinking?
Is the Church of Ireland vital at the moment?
Has the revision of The Book of Common Prayer helped to instil new vitality in parishes and congregations?
Is the current debate in Anglicanism about sexuality or about authority?
What is the appropriate balance between the competing claims for the authority of scripture, tradition and reason?
Do you have a vision for the future of Anglicanism and the Anglican Communion, and the place of the Church of Ireland within that?
Is there an Anglican culture?
Is there an Anglican culture? (Photomontage: Patrick Comerford, 2011)
If you talk about Woody Allen, Fiddler on the Roof, Karl Marx and Leonard Cohen, then it may be possible to talk about a distinctively Jewish culture.
Culture is the ways we transfer to others and through generations the shared values and memories of a particular group of people.
These vehicles include, for example, literary fiction, poetry, music, architecture, drama (stage, television and movies), and even comedy.
What role in preserving and handing-on Anglican identity has been played by each of these?
Fiction helps construct our view of reality, and popular fiction can convey the reality of present Anglican debates
For literary novels, think of Trollope’s Barchester Chronicles, Rose Macaulay’s The Towers of Trebizond, Susan Howatch’s serial trilogies, or the novels of Catherine Fox or Joanna Trollope.
For poetry, think of the poems of George Herbert, John Donne, or TS Eliot.
For music, think of our hymns, the settings for hymns by Vaughan Williams, the compositions of John Rutter … or think even of the place in our tradition of listening each Christmas Eve to the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols from the Chapel of King’s College, London.
For architecture, think of how a Gothic English cathedral frames and shapes our standards and expectations for church buildings to this day. Is your parish church Gothic, Classical, modern …? Have you noticed?
For drama, think of the role of the various vicars and how they are portrayed in EastEnders or Four Weddings and a Funeral, or the portrayal of the defrocked priest in Tennessee Williams’s play and movie The Night of the Iguana/
For comedy, think of the Vicar of Dibley or how we react to comedy scenes when Mr Bean goes to church.
Canon Patrick Comerford is Lecturer in Anglicanism and Liturgy, the Church of Ireland Theological Institute. This essay is based on notes were prepared for a workshop with Year II and Year III MTh students on Saturday 17 September 2011
Thanks for an interesting post! I very much enjoy reading your blog. I live in Canada and go to a small parish Anglican church, and am also a member of a Quaker meeting. Thanks for putting such interesting information on the web!
The first 'regular' female priest ordinations in Anglicanism were in the Diocese of Hong Kong and Macao, not in TEC. So HK had the first 'irregular' in Florence Li, and the first 'regular' in Jane Hwang and Joyce Bennett.
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