In my time as a Catholic I have discovered two things. First, that most ‘cradle’ Catholics assume that fomer Anglicans in the Ordinariate are conservative, liturgically and otherwise. Second, that the English in the Ordinariate do not grasp the importance of the Book of Common Prayer as a rallying-point for American Anglicans of orthodox belief. I want in this post to examine these issues. Clearly, I know much more about what happened in my life time to English Anglo-Catholics: perhaps others will be able to fill in my sketchy understanding of American Anglican history of the last fifty years.
The heritage of the English Prayer Books
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption … (1662 Prayer of Consecration)
I am of an age which can still recite sections of the Book of Common Prayer (sometimes known as 1662 from the year of its last revision). This is because when I was a child it was the liturgy used in every parish church. Of course, if you know anything about the C of E you will also know that the setting in which this liturgy was celebrated and belief about it varied enormously. Here is the sort of church in which I was brought up and prepared for Confirmation. You will notice that the Holy Table has books at either end. This allows for the custom (normal until the 19th century) of the priests kneeling for the Communion Service at the short end of the altar, which was known as the ‘north-end’ position. There is neither cross nor candlesticks on the altar.
Yet every Sunday in this setting, the three Prayer Book Services of Holy Communion, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer were celebrated, with little deviation from the permitted form except for the use of hymns at the two latter services. Now it is my understanding that such Evangelical Anglicanism never really existed in the United States. In England such churches were the inheritors of the Puritan tradition, who remained for various reasons within the National Church rather than forsaking it for “Dissent” in the 17th century. In spite of the Evangelical Revival at the end of the 18th century, Anglican Evangelicals became ever weaker in the 19th century, although closely associated with the establishment and producing many of the bishops. Their revival began after the Second World War and was boosted by the missions of Billy Graham and, somewhat paradoxically, by the decline of the mainline Free Churches in the second half of the 20th century.
The influence of the Liturgical Movement
So when at the age of 14 I moved to the neighbouring parish which was Anglo-Catholic, I found a huge difference in the ceremonial presentation of the services, but little difference (audibly at least) in the words. What was noticeable was that the words of the Prayer Book had been re-arranged so that the Prayer Book Communion service now took on the shape of the Eucharist as it had been known since the first centuries of Christianity. Of course, there were doctrinal issues at stake here, for Archbishop Cranmer had deliberately re-arranged the order in his Prayer Book of 1552 because he no longer believed in the Mass. From the beginnings of the 1833 revival, the Anglo-Catholics had sought to restore Catholic belief in the Eucharist, and by the end of the 19th century were expressing this in the renewed ceremonial of the service. They followed this in the 20th century with a call for changes in the rite to express what they saw as the primitive understanding of the Eucharist, beyond and behind the controversies of the Reformation. For some time Evangelical Anglicans clung to Cranmer’s rite, as expressing their reformed theology.
The English Use
In their search for the recovery of the Catholic form of the Eucharist in the Church of England, Anglo-Catholics had moved along two paths, and these are usually distinguished as ‘English’ and ‘Roman’ (though the ‘Roman’ school often called themselves ‘Western’ to avoid ruffling too many feathers.) The protagonists of the ‘English Use’ contented themselves with the Prayer Book Service clothed with ceremonial which they had borrowed and adapted from pre-Reformation England. The sanctuary above with its long, low altar, gothic reredos, and two candles, shows the ideal of the ‘English Use’. The English Use was the liturigcal expressions, by and large, of an eccesiology which understood the Church of England to be a legitimate (and independent) branch of the worldwide Church – a sort of ‘Catholicism without the Pope’ which came to be tagged ‘Prayer Book Catholicism’. (But I have become aware that those who held to the Prayer Book in the USA were doctrinally orthodox, and from among them were many who made the first moves to be received into the full communion of the Catholic Church) .
The Western Use
By contrast in the UK those who followed the ‘Western Use’ rejected the idea that the Church of England was some sort of independent expression of the Catholic Church, (with its own mind on ceremonial) standing on a par with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. (Such an ecclesiology had grown in the 19th century among some Anglicans, and was known as the ‘Branch Theory’). Rather, ‘West Use’ Anglicans believed the C of E to be two Provinces which had been cut off from the rest of the Western (Catholic) Church by the actions of King Henry VIII. They attempted to conform the English liturgy to the contemporary ceremonial of the (Roman) Catholic Church, thus looking forward to the day when the C of E would be restored to Communion with the Holy See. (This last point would become more significant during the changes of the 1970’s and 80’s. )
Below is the side altar and Walsingham shrine at St Magnus, London Bridge: it represents the ideals of the Western Use in the first half of the 20th century. But it is worth noting that churches which were refurnished in this style rarely looked like contemporary English (Roman) Catholic churches, but rather more like the parish churches of France and Belgium. They are often geogeous but rather decadent looking, and designed to be both un-Anglican and un-English!
Anglicans across the Atlantic
As I understand it, the divisions among Anglicans in the United States were different, and expressed differently in worship. There was no established Church, nor was there any history of the Catholic Church being the ‘original’ Church, as in Europe. Yet there was a great deal of church-going and a lot of money to be expended. The Episcopalians (as Anglicans are called in America) identified with the cultured, literate and governing classes and built magnificent Gothic Revival churches, (like the Cathedral in Washington) with refined English music and furnishings. Thus they defined themselves over against the immigrant working class Catholics, and the revivalist Baptist and Pentecostal denominations. No significant tradition of ‘Anglican Papalism’ grew up, as far as I am aware.
Yet I wonder whether it was the lack of such (papalist) Anglo-Catholics, as well as their opposite numbers the conservative Evangelicals, which contributed, in part, to the growth of the most extreme Liberalism in what we must now call TEC – The Episcopal Church. Vestments and banners, candles and even incense, were widely used; but under this ‘front’ of outward Catholicism TEC was losing its grip – at first on moral issues like divorce and re-marriage, then on issues surrounding Holy Orders, and finally even on baptism and the doctrines of the Atonement and the Trinity. Traditionalists in TEC took their stand over the liturgy, seeing the Book of Common Prayer as representing a norm of belief and practice which the Liberals were rapidly forsaking. They clothed the celebration of the liturgy with a rich, traditional form of ceremonial which borrowed elements of both ‘English’ and pre-Council ‘Roman’ sources – but which identified them as definitely not belonging with the new, liberal, TEC. Thus Prayer Book language and the older forms of Anglo-Catholic ceremonial became associated with orthodox belief in the Episcopal Church: modern language rites, central altars and big modern vestments with liberal belief and the new moral agenda!
Meanwhile in England …The Vatican Council was widely welcomed by English Anglicans (although Evangelicals were cautious and even sceptical about whether ‘Rome’ had really changed), and there were hints of rapprochment, and even of re-union between the Communions. The insights of the Liturgical Movement on the Continent now seemed to be coming to the fore, and the new English translation of the Roman Missal published in 1970 looked very much like the Eucharist which the C of E was moving towards. Admittedly, the Anglo-Catholic doctrine of the Mass had taken a knock when Colin Buchanan had persuaded his fellow Evangelicals (especially in the House of Laity) to vote down the use of the word ‘offer’ in the Eucharistic Prayer. And unlike 2012 and the Women Bishops Measure no-one seemed to be outraged by the laity ‘thwarting’ the ‘clear mind’ of the C of E on this issue.
But some Anglo-Catholics were unhappy about the liturgical changes now coming from the Catholic Church. The loyal papalists, of course, put away their folded chasubles (or converted them into concelebration vestments) and began facing the people for Mass. But the days of the very grand and wealthy Anglo-Catholic priests whose word was law, these days were over, and the laity were more assertive. The lack of curates had meant a generation of lay ‘sub-deacons’ at the High Mass, and these men were not going to give up their tunicles without a fight! Just at the point when the Area Bishop had been persuaded to wear gloves and read his part by the light of the bugia, these things were being abolished.
Anglo-Catholicism goes ‘gritty’ – at least in the north!
My first curacy (1974-77) was served on a huge northern housing estate, with a staff of six, and living together in a Clergy House. For my first Mass I asked the Vicar if the choir might sing a motet. He grudgingly allowed it, was gleeful when it went wrong, and told me afterwards: ‘You’ll never be any good as a priest, because you’re too Radio Three.’ (I have to tell you that I got two friends to sing the same motet for my 25th anniversary, and they too got into trouble in the middle of it! Perhaps Fr Gibbs was right about me.) Liturgy had its place, but too much interest in it was suspect. (The Kelham influence in clergy formation, of course.) Visiting, teaching and hearing confessions – as well as time spent socialising/evangelising in the Parish Club were all given high priority in terms of our daily routine. It was a success story and we were proud of it. And I’m afraid we were rather disdainful about what we regarded as the ‘all-fur-coat-and-no-drawers’ Anglo-Catholicism of London, especially.
London Anglo-Catholicism catches up
My second curacy was in London, and it came as a shock. The tiny congregation came to 11 am High Mass every Sunday, and there had been no changes, mainly because of pressure from the servers and choir (all three of them). The next Vicar was having none of this, and had a large and spacious nnew sanctuary constructed in the nave, (it was my late father’s first retirement project) introduced the Lectionary (younger clergy just cannot imagine what a joy it was to begin reading the Scriptures day by day through the year, and Sunday by Sunday over three years – in place of the Prayer Book readings repeated every day for a week!) and daily concelebrated Mass. And what ‘proved’ that the changes were ‘right’ was that the congregation grew. And when 30 years later the priest and most of the people joined the Ordinariate, Mgr Newton received twice as many people as I had known be at Sunday Mass in 1978.
A generation of ‘Vatican Two Anglicans’
Perhaps to the puzzlement of (Roman) Catholics, a generation grew up of Anglo-Catholics in England who were gladly swimming in the refreshing and sparkling waters, for so it seemed to us at the time, of the Council. We convinced ourselves that we were winning over the C of E, and that re-union was around the corner. We could see the resurgence of Evangelicalism, but we imagined that the Liberal/Establishment party was dying of dullness, and boring everyone else to death. What we had not forseen was that the issue of ‘women priests’ would unite these two groups – both of them more deeply antagonistic to each other, than ever they were to us Anglo-Catholics. Evangelicals convinced themselves that, after all the Bible did allow women to exercise leadership of the congregation, and united with the Liberals, who in turn saw this as just the issue to convince the people of England (well, Putney, Islington and the BBC) that the C of E was actually alive to the real concerns of ordinary people. Both groups, voting in favour for entirely different reasons, knew deep down that this was the one issue which would prevent re-union with the Catholics and force the Anglo-Catholics to leave or conform.
The growth of ‘Modern Catholics’
In the aftermath of the Synod vote of 1992 to allow bishops to ordain women to the Anglican priesthood, orthodox Anglo-Catholics moved into ‘semi-detachment’.
And the result was that those who defined themselves and their parishes as ‘Modern Catholic’ in the C of E were the ones who – beginning in 1994 and again from 2011 (the Ordinariate) – sought to enter the fullness of Communion with the See of Peter: they became Catholics.
The implications for the future
The Apostolic Constitution which set up the Ordinariates speaks of Anglicans bringing those parts of their Patrimony which are consistent with the Catholic faith with them into the Church. No doubt the liturgical services which have been and are being produced will be loyally used by the priests of the Ordinariate, for they are Catholic priests: they will use them appropriately, as they would both the Ordinary and Extraordinary forms of Mass which they have and celebrate with their people at the moment.
Moreover, due acknowledgement must be given to the simple fact that – in England at least – it was the celebration of the renewal of mission, life and liturgy which came to us through the Second Vatican Council – that led many Anglo-Catholics to be reconciled to the Catholic Church. It is the reason why, time and again, former Anglicans speak of ‘coming home’ and ‘feeling at home’ after their Reception.
The Anglican Patrimony then, is not something at odds with modern Catholicism, but is becoming part of the current faith and practice of the Catholic Church, which we have always seen through Anglican lenses, as it were, and now celebrate within our full Communion.