9 September 2009


Anglicanism is a nonsense religion, a dim, pathetic, ridiculous superstition, developed within the last 150 or so years. It relates to what is doctrinally distinctive about those in communion with the See of Canterbury. Sometimes it is expressed in terms of a via media: some sort of Middle Way between the excesses, on the one side, of Protestantism, on the other side, of Popery. Sometimes it appears in the form of an idea called the Branch Theory, in which Christ's Church is composed of three Branches: the Roman; the Greek; and the Anglican. No explanation is ever thought necessary as to why the 'Monophysite' Syrian Orthodox Christians who meet in S Thomas's are not a 'branch', or why the Methodists, or the Swedish Lutherans, or the Moravians, are excluded. Little consideration is ever given to the possibility that the Great Latin Church of the West might be deemed a Via media between those Western ecclesial bodies, including the Anglicans, who were exposed to the 'Reformation' with its radical denials of Tradition and of Sacramentality, and the Orthodox.

Sometimes this 'Anglicanism' is constructed by looking at the Prayer Book and the Articles. Sometimes, by examining carefully the writings of those divines, Caroline or Tractarian, who attempted to modify the damage done to the Provinces of Canterbury and York by the 'Reformation'. In each case, the unspoken assumption is that Anglicanism started with the breach from Rome. You have the bizarre situation in which Anglicans cheerfully claim to be the ancient Catholic Church of this land, yet if you asked any of them "Who founded the Church of England?", 95% would reply "Henry VIII". (I regarded it as a triumph of my 6-year ministry in Devon that, after I put that question onto a pub-quiz, my parishioners were a little uncertain whether the answer on Father's answer-sheet would be S Gregory or S Augustine.) The legal position in English law of the Church of England is that she was founded in 596; yet pretty well anybody would tell you that she started with the breach from Rome.

Funnily enough, there is a distinctive doctrine of the poast-Reformation Church of England, yes, just one; or rather, there was until comparatively recent times: the doctrine of Royal Supremacy. In a raw and murderous form under Henry VII, this meant that the Monarch could change the doctrine of the Church upon a moment's whimsy or confiscate the chalice in each parish church if he found himself strapped for cash. In the more gracious period of the Stuarts, when the C of E, instead of resenting the tyranny of the Tudors, rather welcomed the patronage and protection of a kindlier dynasty, this transformed itself into the dogma of Passive Resistance: that even a bad monarch ought to be resisted by nothing more violent than passive non-collaboration. This is what distinguished Anglicans from both Protestant and Popish dissent. Neither Catholics, nor Evangelicals, nor Liberals, make this the basis of their understanding of 'Anglicanism' nowadays.

The sooner that 'Anglicanism' is shovelled into the trash-can of History, the better.

I have one footnote to add to this tomorrow.


Unknown said...

Father - I agree with what you say about Anglicanism. It is a nonsense and the Anglican church is in an unholy mess although we should console ourselves that we are by no means the only demonination in Western Christianity that is an unholy mess. Any church is, to a certain extent, going to be in an unholy mess because it is always going to be run by fallen humans, albeit and ostensibly under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and only God is perfect.

There is currently a lot of criticism of Anglicans both within our own ranks and outside. However, hardly anything is totally bad. Where the Anglican church excels is in having, particularly in the Catholic wing, clergy who go to indordinate lengths to give pastoral care and support to their flocks and who put the good of those people and their souls before worrying about petty rules and regulations. Very little in this world is totally black or white; most things are actually a shade of grey and we must be very grateful that the Anglican church realises this and applies it to caring for people.

Rubricarius said...

Henry VII?

Fr. John D. Alexander said...

The matter has also been complicated by the legacy of British colonialism, beginning with the use of the Book of Common Prayer by English settlers in Virginia (Jamestown) in 1607 or so. The attempt to define an Anglican identity has been greatly spurred by the coming into conscious existence (in the late 19th century) of this worldwide phenomenon calling itself "the Anglican Communion." It's one thing for members of the CofE to claim that they are nothing more than the ancient Catholic Church in England. But in places like the USA, Canada, Australia, and Africa, where Anglicans live alongside RCs, Orthodox, and Reformed of various stripes -- and often as a tiny minority as here in the USA -- the question of what it means to be "Anglican" becomes acute; and the pressure is great to define the distinctive markers of that identity in denominational terms. By contrast, when I lived in England some years ago, it struck me that people didn't worry so much about Anglican identity as we colonials do -- it was just part of the air they breathed. (I expect, however, that this may have changed since the 1980s.)

Anonymous said...

Manifest Destiny hovers about the Anglican melting pot - ALA the racist heresies of British-Israel, dispensationalism and Zionism. Anglicanism is as deadly a weight as these other intellectual mill-stones. It is no wonder that the boldest advocates for it are canon law Pharisees. Whited sepulchers.

As you observe, Fr. H, the Stuarts were different; they paid a severe price for their toleration/celebration of conscience. I think this is why theirs was the golden age of the arts in England.

Your post is a triumph of the spirit! And you wear your tribulation like a rose! I am glad that you serve with a bishop of the spirit of Wilberforce as opposed to Gilbert.

Chris said...

Pardon my curiosity, Father, but if the Church of England is so bad, why are you still a par of it?

Reformation said...


I agree with your question, to wit, why the Padre continues in C o E.

As a Confessional, Calvinistic and Reformed Prayer Book man, I must agree with the Reverend. Anglicanism is a mishmash or muddleheaded chaos.

But I love the BCP and can't leave it behind.

Conchúr said...

Anglicanism is a fond thing, vainly invented.

Father Seraphim said...

Anglicanism? What is this?

Reformation said...


Humoured by the "vain and fondly invented" comment.

I continue to wonder "what is it?"


William said...

Who got out of bed the wrong side this morning?

I hope I'm misunderstanding you, Father, as this little rant seems uncharacteristically incoherent.

So "95% would reply 'Henry VIII'" if asked "Who founded the Church of England?" Just as 95% of Roman Catholics think that the dogma of Papal Infallibility means that if the Holy Father wakes up and says it's going to be a fine day and it actually pisses down all day then that disproves the dogma. Or the same proportion think that the Immaculate Conception means that Joachim and Anna didn't have sexual congress when Our Lady was conceived. (One could go on ad nauseam.) Since when did the ignorance of no matter how large a majority impact upon the truth of an issue? (I've never understood how Augustine's "Securus iudicat orbis terrarum" ["Let's just go along with what everybody else thinks!"] somehow clinched the matter in Newman's mind.)

I'm not entirely clear whether, in excoriating "Anglicanism", you're having a go at the notion of a Worldwide Anglican Communion (which is, I grant, a comparatively recent invention), doctrinally distinctive but in principle on a par with other such Communions; or the notion that the Church of England, no matter what horrendous upheavals it may have undergone in the 16th century, is essentially continuous in identity with the Church founded in 596/7, and so with that founded c. AD 30 (give or take). If the latter, then in what do you consider that this "nonsense religion" Anglicanism, "developed within the last 150 or so years", consisted at the time of (say) the Caroline divines? In short, what are you actually rejecting?

Patrick Sheridan said...

I can't personally understand why anyone would remain an Anglican while clearly having an eminent knowledge of Liturgy and Church history. My hero, J.R.R Tolkien (who converted to the True Faith in the Year of Our Lord 1900), despised the C of E, calling it a ''pathetic and shadowy medley of half-remembered traditions and mutilated beliefs.''

I have spoken to many Anglicans in my time (I also did my ''work experience'' at St Paul's Cathedral/Museum) and I have all found them rather lukewarm Christians. One elderly woman, when I asked her about the Thirty-Nine Articles, said they were ''centuries out-of-date.'' She also claims to be rather ''high church'' and yet is well in favour of women clergy and other liberal/apostate nonsense - in other words, she is enamoured of tomfool English ritual - the mere window-dressing and affectation of a shallow faith - truly pathetic.

Another man I spoke to once I found even more irritating. We went through the Nicene Creed together, and the only article upon which he did not ''humm'' and ''harr'' was ''crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato.''

A prominent literary Anglican, the famous C.S Lewis, while said to have been ''high church'' was nothing of the sort. To do away with this prejudice, I'd admonish anyone reading this comment to read his most militantly anti-Catholic work Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer - a work Tolkien found ''distressing'' and ''horrifying.''

I appreciate that I have only mentioned three people, but this is a comment, not a treatise on the Via Media of Anglicanism, which amounts, incidentally, to nothing more than a compromise between Protestantism (dressed up a bit with the bare bones of Catholic ceremony) and thorough apostasy.

Reformation said...

As an American, I find this quite interesting. I once sailed with a Royal Navy Chaplain. I asked him about the Thirty-nine Articles and he spoke similarly, to wit, they were irrelevant today.

I have no dog in anyone's fight, just delighting in reading another perspective.

Anonymous said...

Looking forward to tomorrow's "footnote". :)

Canterbury Anglican said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Canterbury Anglican said...

"Sometimes this 'Anglicanism' is constructed by looking at the Prayer Book and the Articles. Sometimes, by examining carefully the writings of those divines, Caroline or Tractarian, who attempted to modify the damage done to the Provinces of Canterbury and York by the 'Reformation'. In each case, the unspoken assumption is that Anglicanism started with the breach from Rome."

I think this a little unfair. To hold to the Prayer Book and the writings of those such as the Carolines or Tractarians is not to say that Anglicanism began with Henry VIII but to acknowledge that the English Reformation did produce the 'Reformed Catholicism' (we had to have it before we could reform it!) that the CofE still (technically) espouses.

Come to think of it, I probably have more confidence in 'Anglicanism' (as described above) than the Church of England!

Fr Edward

Robin Ward said...

It is a privilege of catholic monarchs to confiscate church plate in time of peril, always allowing one paten and chalice in each parish church for the exigencies of the cult. That is why there is hardly any French church plate left which dates from before the War of the Spanish Succession.

Anonymous said...


Independent said...

Anglicanism when it started was the religion of a Protestant Church recognised as such by all other Protestany Churches as one of them, all its bishope with one exception, he was a Lutheran, were Calvinists, and it had a liturgy intended to express a Zwinglian eucharistic doctrine although made up of traditional prayers suitably adapted.Its Confession of Faith, the 39 Articles, was included in collections of such confessions published at the time. The BCP of 1559 had a few alterations intended to facilitate negotiations with Lutherans.

But much has happened since then as religious institutions do develope, often is ways which might surprise their founders. I think Fr Hunwicke, that compared to a catholic author, such as Fr Aidan Nicholls in "The Panther and the Hind", who sees three Churches in one state structure with much good in each, you are unduly harsh.

Independent said...

Apologies for the typing mistakes in my last post. May I add that Henry VIII is irrelevent for a discussion of the genesis of the C of E, as Mary Tudor undid his breach with Rome and when Elizabeth became queen the Two provinces of York and Canterbury were in full Communion with Rome and clearly held its faith. Nor are his morals , which he copied from contemporary rulers and renaissance popes ,of any weight in discussion.

William Tighe said...

"all its bishope with one exception, he was a Lutheran, were Calvinists"

You must mean Richard Cheyney of Gloucester (d. 1579). A lot of work has been done on him over the past 20/25 years, notably by Caroline Lietzenberger, one of Patrick Collinson's American post-graduate students in Cambridge in the 80s, and it appears pretty certain now that he was one of those rare "Henrician Catholics" who obtained high office in Elizabeth's church. (He was unmarried, conformed and was even promoted under Mary, and preached against some Protestant ideas.) Rather like Andrew Perne of Peterhouse, except that Cheyney managed, exceptionally, to become a bishop. Describing him as a Lutheran -- I can't recall whether it was Bishop Guest or some other bishop who did so -- was in the circumstances more of an attempt to "sweeten" his opinions in the eyes of the world, than an accurate description of them.

Sir Watkin said...

It was Jewel, in a letter to Bullinger, who wrote of Cheyney, ‘one alone of our number, the bishop of Gloucester, hath openly and boldly declared in parliament his approval of Luther's opinion respecting the eucharist’.

Reformation said...

My understanding is that both Guest and Cheyney were Lutherans amongst the Calvinistic Bishops.


Again, thanks for the delightful reading.


William Tighe said...

Cheyney's views on the Eucharist seem to have been more-or-less identical wuith those of Jewel; certainly, and like Jewel, he disapproved of vestments, the use of wafer bread in the Eucharist, and the like (all this despite the fact that he "laid low" in England during Mary's reign, rather than gong to Switzerland) -- Reformed, in other words, rather than "Lutheran" -- but he seems to have been rather more "broad-minded" or accomodating than many of his brethren as regards the formulation of Articles 28 and 29 articles in 1562, as well as in expressing his desire in 1571 that Article 29 (which had been omitted in 1563) not be added to the 38 that had been promulgated in 1563.

Reformation said...

My understanding is that Cheyney swallowed the Reformed loaf with Articles 28and 29.

Any clarification is appreciated.



Sir Watkin said...

"Cheyney's views on the Eucharist seem to have been more-or-less identical wuith those of Jewel; [...] Reformed, in other words, rather than 'Lutheran'"

(Presumably "Cheyney" is lapsus calami for "Guest".)

It seems hard, however, to reconcile Guest's words in his famous letter to Cecil, referring to Cheyney, with a Reformed view of the Eucharistic presence:

"For I said unto him, though he took Christ's Body in his hand, received it with his mouth, and that corporally, naturally, really, substantially, and carnally, as the doctors do write, yet did he not for all that, see it, feel it, smell it, nor taste it."

From a Calvinist/Reformed point of view one does not take Christ's body in one's hand, one only takes bread.

William Tighe said...

Archbishop Parker excommunicated Cheyney for refusing to subscribe to one of the Articles relating to the Eucharist. I don't have the material to hand, but I think it was over Article 29 in 1571 or 72. Eventually the censure was lifted, but there's no evidence as to whether Cheyney submitted and subscribed, or whether he was allowed to escape without submission.

The Queen herself had rejected the Article in 1563, in order not to give offense to Lutherans, so it's a bit of a puzzle why she accepted it in 1571, especially as Guest appealed to her to reject it.

William Tighe said...

I take Guest's "though" as meaning "even if" (i.e., "even if you, as you believe, take ..."). And, yes, I meant "Guest" when I wrote "Cheyney."

For Guest, see his letter to Cecil in the Parker MSS at Corpus Christi, Cambridge (Parker MS 106, f. 84ff) which was reprinted in Strype. This has most frequently been dated to 1552 and taken to be Guest's explanation or rationale of the changes between the 1552 Communion Service and that of 1549, but more recently it has been dated to 1559, and taken to be a kind of rationale for a revision of the 1549 rite undertaken in that same year (?at the Queen's behest) to make it minimally acceptable to those who preferred 1552; certainly, the rite whose principal features Guest is at pains to justify in the letter seems to be rather different fro both 1549 and 1552. The letter seems to demonstrate that Guest was thoroughly "Swiss" in his liturgical sensibilities, whatever the nuances of his doctrine.

The date and provenance of the letter is discussed at some length in Roger Bowers' article on the 1559 Settlement and the Chapel Royal which appeared in *The Historical Journal* in 2000.

Reformation said...

Under this framework, is it a fair question or view to say that Canterbury's "via media" was between Wittenburg and Zurich on the Lord's Supper?

William Tighe said...

I agree completely and totally with the last comment/query.

And what, for some of the returning exiles in 1559 was smack-down right in the middle? Genava.

See also that 1989 Grove Books republication *Calvin and Bullinger on the Lord's Supper* by Paul Rorem (Rorem is a slightly sardonic Lutheran), which clearly demonstrates that in the *Consensus Tigurinus* between Zurich and Geneva on the doctrine of the Lord's Supper it waa Calvin who made all the concessions (to his futile subsequent regret) and bullinger who made few or none.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

First-time blog visitor.

Experiencing a bit of severe whiplash given that I've just visited the Anglican Continuum and read these two posts there which stand in stark contrast to what Fr. Hunwicke has written here:

(1) http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2009/09/still-i-say-swim-tiber-without-me.html

(2) http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/2009/09/important-odds-and-ends.html

Independent said...

Article XXIX Of the wicked which eat not the Body of Christ in the use of the Lord's Supper.

The wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith , although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth(as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing".

Such a belief was conpatible with the Receptionist doctrine common among the Laudian Divines and among High Churchmen until well into the time of the Tractarians.What it clearly rules out is any real objective presence other than to the faithful.

The Tractarians did not follow a tradition, they transformed it.

Independent said...

During the Reformation period it seems that everybody claimed to be catholic, Luther, Calvin,Cranmer, Jewel et al. The mere claim does not mean that they were. So many adherents of the accepted Anglican sub -Tractarian historical mythology regarding the Reformation fail to realise this fact.

Sir Watkin said...

'I take Guest's "though" as meaning "even if" (i.e., "even if you, as you believe, take ...").'

I thought you might!

Sir Watkin said...

"Such a belief was conpatible with the Receptionist doctrine common among the Laudian Divines and among High Churchmen until well into the time of the Tractarians.What it clearly rules out is any real objective presence other than to the faithful.

"The Tractarians did not follow a tradition, they transformed it."

Yes and no.

My comments on this point became rather lengthy, so I have posted them here:


Independent said...

Sir Watkin - I have read your extended post but remain unconvinced. The Laudians were much more Protestant than is popularly regarded. The Tractarisn soon gave them up as a point of reference.More modern Anglo-Catholics such as eg High Ross Williamson were aghast when they researched some of the ideas and actions of Andrewes. PB Nockles "The Oxford Movement in Context" does an excellent job in pointing out how revolutionary were the Tractarians.

Sir Watkin said...


I suspect that we are seeing (and even saying) the same thing, but our perspective is different.

Thus, I read Nockles as shewing continuity as much as revolution, opposing a conventional view (one that I grew up with) which saw the Oxford Movement as almost wholly a new thing (tho' with some vague precedents in the seventeenth century).

The orthodoxy amongst twentieth century Anglo-Catholics (Stone, Dix, Williamson, et al.), which had a low view of the Caroline Divines, whilst a necessary correction to an overly sanguine view of their Catholicism, itself needs correction.

Andrewes is a case in point.

I'm not aiming to disagree with you, rather to find common ground, but if you don't want to ....

William Tighe said...

Anthony Milton's book is well worth reading on this subject; yes, they were "more Protestant" than the Tractarians, but they represented in many respects as radical a break in their context with the theological outlook that dominated the Church of England from 1559 onwards, as the Tractarians and "ritualists" did in theirs.

Here is my brief review of Milton's book from 1998:


Reformation said...


Thanks for the amplification, to wit, the "via media" of the Elizabethan Compromise as one between Zurich and Wittenburg...with the former prevailing.

Still attemoting to sort out Ridley's view from his trial and examination by Bonner and Gardiner.

Thanks for the book recommendation.


Sir Watkin said...

Reflecting on this discussion I'm reminded of the two studies into discipline in an English diocese (was it Lincoln?) on the eve of the reformation.

The basic facts were not at issue: there were X serious offences, Y lesser offences, prosecuted etc. etc., but the authors took diametrically opposed views of them.

The pro-protestant author was shocked that there were as many as X+Y offences, and no doubt many more that had not come to light. Clearly a corrupt diocese in a corrupt church, ripe for reformation.

The pro-Catholic author took the view that there were only X+Y offences (many not serious). Plainly there were no serious problems, and the fact that those offences that were committed were being tackled shewed that the system was working well. A well-ordered diocese in a well-ordered church - no need for reformation.

Is your glass half empty, or half full?

In either case, your good health! Iechydd da!!

Independent said...

Sir Watkin - our differences are probably merely ones of emphasis, as my upbringing was rather different from yours , we certainly read Nockles differently. However I am sure were we to meet we could probably resolve them. I still encounter Anglo-Catholics who regard Cranmer as merely a translator, as the Reformation being merely about the matrimonial difficulties of Henry VIII, and the Elizabethan Settlement as being a compromise betweem Rome and Protestantism.At least one Continuing Anglican Bishop still holds these views. They have not yet got as far as the Stone, Dix,Williamson view.