Archive for the ‘Anglicanism’ Category

Dr. Roberta BayerI read this article in the Anglican Way Magazine and reprinting it here with Dr. Bayer’s kind permission…………

The “Deep Churchman” – Commentary on “C. S. Lewis, 20 Years After”

By Roberta Bayer

C. S. Lewis described himself as a “deep churchman,” in the passages quoted by Roger Beckwith. His avowed intent was to remedy misconceptions about the Christian past; he taught the mere Christianity of historic Christendom, considered in its unity, rather than parsed for disparities. “We are all rightly distressed, and ashamed also, at the divisions of Christendom”, Lewis wrote. But those who have always lived within the Christian fold may be too easily dispirited by them. They are bad, but such people do not know what it looks like from without. Seen from there, what is left intact despite all the divisions, still appears (as it truly is) an immensely formidable unity. I know, for I saw it; and well our enemies know it. That unity any of us can find by going out of his own age.”

What does Lewis mean by ‘going out of one’s own age’? Despite the gaps and discontinuities found within Christian theological and liturgical history, Lewis’ approach illustrates a certain unity within Christianity that is not only visible from the outsider’s broader historical perspective, but also is worthy of our attention in attempting to reconcile contemporary differences between Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic traditions through a “deeper” perspective cultivated by wide reading. Furthermore, Lewis

suggests that contemporary controversies between Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic may share a good deal more in common than they realize. Of historical ecclesiastical divisions, he writes;

“Nothing strikes me more when I read the controversies of past ages than the fact that both sides were usually assuming without question a good deal which we should now          absolutely deny. They thought that they were as completely opposed as two sides could be, but in fact they were all the time secretly united— united with each other and         against earlier and later ages—by a great mass of common assumptions.”

Lewis suggests that the only safety against blindness to the unity of assumptions that bind even the most opposed ecclesiastical groups today is to recall “a standard plain, central Christianity (“mere” Christianity as Baxter called it) which puts such controversies of the moment in their proper perspective.”

One way in which controversies of the moment can be put in their proper perspective is to read not only modern books, but also old books. “If [a man] must read only the new or the old [books], I would advise him to read the old,” wrote Lewis. “It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.” The old book puts the new book in perspective, he says, because every age has its own unique outlook. Every age is “specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period.”

In this way, ‘going out of one’s own age’ leads to a realization of the characteristic assumptions that shape contemporary discourse. Once soaked in the teachings that have been held in common throughout Christian history, Lewis writes, you will have an amusing experience if you then venture to speak. “You will be thought a Papist when you are actually reproducing Bunyan, a Pantheist when you are quoting Aquinas and so forth. For you have now got on to the great level viaduct which crosses the ages and which looks

so high from the valleys, so low from the mountains, so narrow compared with the swamps, and so broad compared with the sheep-tracks.” Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical disputants need a greater acquaintance with Hooker, Herbert, Traherne, Baxter, Taylor and Bunyan, Boethius, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Dante to afford greater knowledge of the kinds of arguments which allow one to uphold supernatural religion and the teaching of salvation (always of primary importance to Lewis), against liberal modernity.

From the ‘deep’ perspective, even the divisions of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation could be seen in a different light. Despite their deadly disagreement about the

merits of a vernacular Bible, William Tyndale and Thomas More were men of a particular age. In retrospect, Lewis wrote, William Tyndale and Thomas More had more in common than they realized and “though they were deeply divided in temper as well as by doctrine, it is important to realize at the outset that they also had a great deal in common.” “They must not,” Lewis says, “except in theology, be contrasted as representatives respectively of an old and a new order.” Both were Grecians, as he puts it, advocates of the new scholarship, and both were “arrogantly, perhaps ignorantly, contemptuous of the Middle Ages.”  Yet their age, which held to divisions that looked irreconcilable to them, in retrospect appear less than church dividing. How can, one might ask, such differences appear church dividing in light of the challenge presented to the common historical faith by the liberal theology of a Harvey Cox in Secular City?

But the object here is not to resolve the problems raised by the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, but to note what Lewis has said about contemporary divisions within Anglicanism. It is obviously wrong to suggest that Lewis belittled real theological dispute. Lewis would not suggest that Thomas More, William Tyndale, John Fisher, and Richard Hooker or the Tractarians and Evangelicals of the 19th century are unworthy of reading. Rather, his point is that they ought to be read so to better understand ourselves and our age. This is touched upon by Roger Beckwith when he urges Anglo-Catholic priests to appreciate the Reformation Formularies, the 39 Articles and the Book of Common Prayer, just as Evangelicals should drink deeply of the teaching and theology of Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Patristic and Medieval metaphorical and allegorical Scriptural commentaries.

In his Letters to Malcolm, Lewis remarked that the key to Christian unity is not to substitute religion for God. He defended the 1662 Prayer Book against the liturgical reformers who had contracted the ‘liturgical fidget,’ yet at the same time he said that matters of liturgy or ceremony are not of central importance. Rather, changes are bad because disruptive to the person praying, and prayer is what matters. “A good shoe is the shoe you don’t notice. . . . The perfect church services would be one we were almost unaware of. .  . . But every novelty prevents this.” Words should be the means to facilitate a knowledge of God. “For me”, he wrote, “words are in any case secondary.” If liturgical changes keep the stream of prayer from flowing, they are a stumblingblock for the prayerful. What is primary is nothing but God Himself.

As Roger Beckwith has noted, if Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic both willingly defend what Lewis calls supernatural religion and the message of salvation found in the church catholic, they have no reason to take issue with the historic prayer books. The eight points of disagreement noted by Beckwith are easily resolved from the standpoint of the common theological inheritance of western and English-speaking Christendom. Anglo-Catholics need to recognize the

importance of Beckwith’s first point—the ‘catholicity’ of the Protestant reformation, as church bishop Christopher Wordsworth declared, just as Evangelicals must accept that the Church of England did not come into existence in the sixteenth century. This would be a lesson for Anglicans as to the true and proper teaching of the Reformation, which established in the Church of England both the primacy of Scripture and the central historical teachings of the

Church, in a way that avoids the errors of our age.


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Supreme Rulers

Mr. John Wesley

Though the American Prayer Book has granted various civil offices different emphases in its state prayers, it’s been asked if a hasty substitution of the Presidency for Monarch might upset older notions of an Ordered Society? The potential problems invoked by such swapping has been discussed in several places, especially with respect to the Litany(1). Nonetheless, students of American church history are probably mostly familiar with John Wesley’s Sunday Service. Further discussion on the development of American state prayers allots Wesley a candidate for influence upon the United States BCP. While not comprehensive regarding the question, this post aims to open some discussion.  (more…)

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RTBP on Facebook

Things have been slow here on the blog, but we also have activity on our Face Book Page.

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Common Prayer Day

Common Prayer  Initiative 2012

Though past, St. Bartholomew’s Day marked the 350th anniversary of the 1662 BCP’s issue for public use. The 1662 BCP is understood as the ‘gold standard’ for Anglican worship, being the sealed text backed by English statute law. However, the retreat of the British Empire (and the Acts of Parliament which accompanied it) precipitated an ecclesiastical vacuum that gave opened doors to significant local variety, starting with prayer books that have historical lineages to the Scottish Episcopal Church. Can such variant liturgies be better related to the 1662 standard or the principle of ‘common prayer’? (more…)

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A number of times the question of the state prayers in American Morning office has been brought up as if this somehow invalidates certain points made criticizing the 1928 litany (see the Litany’s Faldstool— especially the comment section). The 1928 inserted a petition for the US President where the Crown and royal seed formerly stood. The problem with this insertion is it equates the US Presidency to Christian kingship.  Christian kingship not only is rooted in the king as ‘first’ member of the local church, but in the English tradition, it possesses a sacramental and ministerial character that the modern Presidency repudiates.  For classical high churchmen, there are further considerations regarding the order of the church under the dignity of Supremacy, and if this same dignity ought to be given to an office that constitutionally rejects duties in the local church and rendering it more or less unitarian in nature. Consequently, the 1892 litany was suggested as a correction to the 1928.  However, the MP/EP state prayers was not addressed.


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The Holy Kiss

the “peace plate”

One of the many liberal modifications to the 1979 prayer book was the liturgical reinsertion of the Kiss of Peace. For about six months I worshiped in an Episcopal church which often made use of the more conservative Rite 1. No matter how similar Rite 1 was to the 1928 communion office, the kiss of peace always seemed to ruin that sense of tradition. Even before I knew anything about liturgics, the kiss of peace always felt  “hippie”. At the former TEC parish, the priest and entire congregation would mingle, hug, make small talk, too often turning the Pax into an intermission. At times people would even leave to catch coffee or make a phone call outside the church. It’s only redeeming quality in my mind was its potential to provide a time to bless and usher out possible catechumens. Anyway, the Pax seemed odd, and I had to ask if it was indeed an ancient practice of the church. This also required some digging into the prayer book.  (more…)

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The Litany’s Faldstool

(A similar article dealing with the Daily Offices was also written: Supremacy in Offices) The faldstool in English ceremony was the movable seat otherwise reserved in the chancel as the chair for the visiting Bishop. From the faldstool, an Ordinary passed authority by laying on hands of both confirmed laity and clergy. But the faldstool also doubled as a prayer desk upon pentitential occasions where the bishop rested his arms upon the faldstool’s cushion while kneeling before it. The idea of the bishop’s faldstool representing a throne of authority in the church is embedded the BCP’s litany. From it we learn the peculiar order of authority within the Church of England.  (more…)

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The Altar’s North Side

an english lecturn

I’ve always considered the communion rubric for standing on the North Side of the table to be incredibly odd. It’s always very much a challenge to envision a northside celebration, especially when there are close to nil churches doing it. We either have the priest facing the people during the recitation of the canon, or the priest faces eastward. But what is ‘northside’? (more…)

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To some ears “Protestant Saints” might sound oxymoronic[1]. However, Anglicans and “high-church” Protestants during the 16th and 17th centuries often continued the medieval cults but in a ‘reformed’ manner. It should be remembered during the first generation of reform categories like “protestant” and “roman catholic” weren’t so neat and tidy. The term ‘protestant’ didn’t even exist until nine years following Luther’s 95 Theses. Until then, Swiss and English divines might interchangeably be called “Lutherans”. Many reformers, like Martin Bucer, and certainly Luther himself, initially received their religious education either as Augustinian monks or discovered the New Learning while serving as prebends, deans, professors, or in other Roman Catholic minor orders akin to academic chapters. In the early years of reform, 1520-1545, the anticipation a free general council [2] between Northern Protestant churches and Rome bred a kind of theological hesitancy if not purposed conservatism, especially in England and in Germany, where the hope of reconciliation drove policies of accommodation and continuity to certain medieval practices. Despite the Roman abuse of the medieval saint-cult, the mentioning saints in church prayers has primitive origin, dating to the second century.

Modest Reform: English divinity continued this older religious practice on the condition it was not contrary to scripture. The earlier Roman Catholic cult was distinguished by a vast and messy array of superstitions, not to mention devotional practices promoted by the Papacy that reinforced Rome’s merit theology. An alternative to abolishing the entire cultus was pruning away exagerations. English Reformers accomplished this several ways [3]. In 1538 reverencing of images by decking or prayer were banned in both public and private worship [4]. The 1536 Ten Articles rebuked those vain superstitions, “as to think that any saint is more merciful, or will hear us sooner than another or that any saint doth serve for one thing more than another, or is patron of the same” (Formularies, p. 30). In 1548 Anglicans started reform of the Salisbury mass, finishing an overhaul of the missal and its related Christian calendar which eliminated many legendary saints. In 1544 the “litany of saints” was also revised, where the heavenly saints were reduced to a single stanza while living members of the church gained the greater focus of the litany. Until 1549 this single stanza continued from the Cranmer’s 1544 litany where an invocation of heavenly saints remained[5]:


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Cranmer’s Beard

Henry VIII

Henry VIII’s biography is perhaps the most abused and defamed of 16th century reigns. Protestant scholars often treat Henry as a re-converted Roman Catholic. Meanwhile, for Roman Catholics, Henry’s several divorces preoccupy his church policy. But little is known about Henry’s genuine conviction as a churchman, much less head of the church militant in England. Like Elizabeth and James who succeeded him, Henry was an accomplished and well-read theologian in his own right, convinced of England’s catholicism. His churchmanship might be identified with those earlier Erasmian catholics– humanists who retrieved antiquity through original manuscripts, study of the fathers, and ancient texts. How Henry understood the old faith is more definitively known by his 1543 Catechism and 1536 Ten Articles, where the six articles delineate conservative (supposedly adiaphoric) boundaries on ceremony and discipline.

In a very interesting study on Henry VIII and Lutheranism (Neelak Serawlook Tjernagle, 1965), Neelak describes Henry upon his death neither professing Roman Catholicism nor Lutheranism. Henry died an Anglican:

“Henry breathed his last at Whitehall early on the morning of Jan. 1547. To prophesy the king’s death was treason in England, and therefore not until the attending physicians saw that his death was very near was it suggested that the might desire spiritual ministrations at his approaching death. Those near him might have wondered whether, in his last moments, he would call for the Catholic bishop, Stephen Gardiner, who had been the leading member of the Privy Council for the last years. They might have wondered whether he would request the formal last rites of the Roman Catholic Church and the ministrations of the foremost English son of the faith of his childhood. But there was no question in Henry’s mind. He asked that Thomas Cranmer be summoned.. When the archbishop arrived at the palace, the end was near. Cranmer asked the king to give some acknowledgement of his faith and trust in Christ. The king could only claps Cranmer’s hand. It was his last gesture. “And from that day to his own last agony the Archbishop left his beard to grow in witness of his grief”. To him alone the king had given a warm and enduring affection. ” (p. 247)

The Henrician period is formative for Anglicans. It not only severed the CofE from the Papacy, but the formulas approved by convocation and crown established a framework and substance for religion which Edward VI and Elizabeth would only slightly expand upon, namely, reforming the mass. No matter popular opinion, the standards stand above individual peculiarities– e.g., Cambridge’s calvinist faculty during the 1580’s, or, for example, Bp. Stokesley’s advocacy to realign toward Eastern churches in the 1530’s. This foundation and memory of King Henry might likewise be called “Cranmer’s Beard”. To better understand Henrician learning, I suggest this study on the Henry’s Media Via as well as the following book where the primary texts with royal seal can be read for themselves:

Various. Formularies of Faith put Forth by Authority During the Reigns of Henry VIII. Oxford, 1825.

For those interested in the Henrician Settlement’s relation to wider vera-Protestantism, see my belabored article: The Christmas Day Articles.

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