30 January 2017

An Anglo-Papalist Liturgist in the time of King James II

The Revd Edward Stephens, who died in 1706, was a late Stuart Anglo-papalist; he wrote that 'the dignity of the Church of Rome, and the authority of the Bishop of Rome, as the chief patriarch in the Kingdom of Christ, I do heartily embrace, and am resolved, by the grace of God, to assert against all schismatical acts whatsoever' (although he was a less extreme papalist than the Master of Sidney Sussex College Cambridge, the probable author of A Proposal for Catholic Reunion in 1704). Stephens also was a keen advocate of the Daily Mass ("Certain it is that the taking away of the Daily Sacrifice is as notorious a Mark of the Spirit of the Antichrist ... as any "). He composed a pamphlet called The Cranmerian Liturgy, Or, The subtilty of the Serpent in corrupting the True English Liturgy, by Cranmer and a Faction of Calvinists. He rather neatly wrote of the Prayer Book as 'hug'd [by the C of E] like a Bastard Child by a silly abused husband'. You can find his liturgies, and copious extracts from his writings, in the 1958 volume of the Alcuin Club Collections, Anglican Liturgies of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, by Jardine Grisbrooke ... a lovely exploration of the protohistory of Anglican Catholic and Ordinariate worship.

Stephens was quite rhetorician ... and what a superb blogger he would have made (he wrote about the Church of England's "execrable Schism and Separation from the Whole Catholic Church of all Ages").

As well as a liturgy to be used privately (rather Eastern in style), he produced one for public use which owed a lot to the book of 1549. In this he sharpened up Cranmer's English by writing 'who made there by his own oblation ...' (a modification made easier by the fact that the English word 'one' had not yet universally acquired the pronunciation wun). He justified his divergences from the Book which he had, by his oath of canonical obedience, promised to use, with the words 'we must obey God rather than Man, and prefer the Authority of the Catholick Church before that of any particular Church whatever'; a very typically Catholic Anglican observation. I am sure he would have been with us in the Ordinariate.

The admirable game of making Cranmer's texts less heterodox continued in the Scotch Liturgy of 1764. As well as incorporating Stephens's emendation 'own', 1764 omitted the word 'there', so that the Sacrifice of Christ was not limited to his Crucifixion.

All these attempts at a specifically Anglican and Catholic Liturgy are but ancestors and antecedents of our splendid Ordinariate Missal. Ecclesiologically, they demonstrate that as soon as Anglicans started studying the early history of Christendom, they realised the appalling mistake which had been made in the casting off of papal authority; and as soon as they began to study the actual evidences of 'primitive' worship, they were not slow to understand that  the Cranmerian inheritance had been, essentially, a disaster.

Except for its linguistic register and its Divine Office and its collects and some particular gems.


Joshua said...

While still at University, I read Grisbrooke's Anglican Liturgies of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries: a marvellous if bizarre read...

Stephens was a wonderful eccentric - his works are available online…


A brief biographical note I had saved about him:

Edward Stephens (1633- April 1706); married Mary Hale, daughter of the Lord Chief Justice; had five sons and at least one daughter; Stephens was a barrister, but after about 1660, devoted himself more and more to the church; in 1694, organized a CofE priest to celebrate daily; took orders himself in 1695/6, when aged about 62/3; died aged 73.

Tee Pee Gee Eff said...

" I ... am resolved, by the grace of God, to assert against all schismatical acts whatsoever." This is a serious question: why did he not remedy schism in his own self and become a Catholic?

Hrodgar said...


Perhaps that he would say that he WAS a Catholic, incardinated under an unfortunately heretical bishop? It is not too different from what many of us have to deal with on a daily basis, except for formal schism, which may not be too long in coming in some places.