Thursday, July 09, 2020

On the Tracts for the Times

The Anglican Province of America has no official position on the Tracts for the Times, although they play a pivotal role in the history of orthodox Anglicanism from the nineteenth century. As a Continuing Church in full sacramental communion with the Anglican Joint Synods (G4), the APA embraces in spirit and in practical application the Affirmation of Saint Louis (1977), which document in turn is entirely dependent upon the theology and doctrinal teaching of the Tracts. 

One trusts it would be accurate to say that the Continuing Churches enjoy a great deal of flexibility and variation in matters liturgical and ceremonial (as long as the orthodox Prayer Books are used), but share at their core a common adherence and allegiance to the Tractarian theological vision. 'In essentials, unity; in unessentials, liberty; in all things, charity.' 

An express Tractarianism, or Catholic theological doctrinal system, is what sets the G4 apart from other self-identified modernist/liberal and evangelical/protestant Anglican groups and bodies. As we are wont to say these days, there are not one, but three, Anglicanisms. The Elizabethan Settlement on a theological level has been shattered. We have 1. liberal revisionist Canterbury, 2. evangelical protestant GAFCON/ACNA, and 3. the Catholic Continuum. Again, this state of affairs is on the theological, not necessarily liturgical, level. 

Below we take the liberty of sharing a few paragraphs about the Tracts, the Movement that produced them, and the results. 

As was once written for a children's lesson: 'The story of the Catholic Revival continues when a meeting of clergy was held in a town in England called Hadleigh. The Priests who gathered there agreed to teach the Catholic Faith and to show what the real teaching of the English Church is. To do this, a series of popular little books or tracts was put out at Oxford with the title of Tracts for the Times. Our four leaders, Keble, Newman, Pusey, and Froude, were among the first authors. The teaching of the Prayer Book and of the Anglican Fathers of the 1500s was put forward. These men also published a series of books called The Library of the Anglo-Catholic Fathers. This series showed that the Anglicans of the 1500s and 1600s taught the same beliefs that were taught in the ancient Church of the 300s and 400s. The Church's teaching is always the same.'

And a little more substantially: 

The nineteenth century British Prime Minister William Gladstone could write in 1842, ‘Great Catholic principles distinguish our Church [of England] from many other Protestant bodies: such, for instance, as the doctrine of grace in Baptism, of the real sacramental Presence in the Eucharist, of absolution, of universal or Catholic consent, of the Apostolical foundation of the Episcopate, and of its being the source of lawful Church power and of a valid ministry’.

An Anglican John Henry Newman, the principal architect of the Tracts for the Times and the most influential mind of the Oxford Movement, explains that the whole purpose of the Catholic Revival, and of the famous Tracts in particular (for which the Movement is often given the name Tractarian), is simply ‘to stir up our brethren to consider the state of the Church, and especially to the practical belief and preaching of the Apostolical Succession’. The initial purpose of the Catholic Movement is to restore to the living memory and practice of the Church of England and her daughter Churches her own ancient and Catholic roots, her apostolic lineage, and her unbroken continuity with the Church of the Apostles, which she perpetuates through the Apostolic Succession of her episcopate, priesthood, and diaconate. 

The Tracts concern ‘the practical revival of doctrines, which although held by the great divines of our Church, at present have become obsolete with the majority of her members’. Newman and his colleagues in the Movement do not claim in any way to introduce new doctrine or novel ideas into the English Church - their goal is to revivify and renew the tradition and practice of an Apostolic Church, a Church whose authority, grace-filled sacraments, and teachings derive, though obscured through the course of history, directly from the Apostles themselves. 

The Catholic Revival is, according to its progenitors, not the creation of a new system of doctrine and belief; it is the restoration of the original Faith and concomitant practices of an Apostolically-commissioned Divine Society. The Church of England is not an Eratsian, state-controlled institution or an organ of the state. Rather, it is, essentially, a part of the Body of Christ, founded on the Apostles and Fathers of the Primitive Church. It is the Catholic Church of the English-speaking world. Thus, the clergy of the English Church should not rest on the authority of the state, their own personal gifts, or on their own convictions, but rather on that essential quality which sets apart the priest from the layman: ‘our Apostolical Descent.’ Here is the beginning and the end, the whole purpose, of the Oxford Movement - to reassert the true Catholic Apostolic nature of the Anglican Church and her ministry as given by God, not man. Newman describes the Orders and Sacraments of the Church as the ‘keys and spells’ by which men are brought into the presence of God’s saints. The Church functions as the Great Sacrament of Christ, in her life, ministry, and worship. 

Newman envisions the Church as the school for saints, edified by the sacraments, ministry, and creeds of the one Church; an early Newman perceives the Anglican Church’s appeal to the antiquity of the first four centuries of the undivided Church as of the essence of Anglicanism - for him, the via media, the defining theological path of Anglicanism, consists in the English Church’s steadfast loyalty to the ancient Tradition of the earliest Church, as opposed to the rigid systematising of Rome and individualistic and atomising tendencies of protestantism. For Newman, the via media is, simply, appeal to the mantra, the well-repeated war-cry of the Anglican settlement, ‘the ancient and Undivided Church.’ ‘Ancient Consent, is, practically, the only, or the main kind, of Tradition which now remains to us’. 

The Anglican Newman readily identifies the Anglican via media with the Church of Antiquity, which alone, he originally believes, possessed the fullness of Catholic consent, conciliarity, and truth.

John Keble is clear on the exact meaning of the reality of Church of Christ and where it fully subsists, as he proclaims, ‘Christ’s Holy Catholic Church is a real outward visible body, having supernatural grace continually communicated through it by succession from the Apostles, in whose place the bishops are’. Nowhere could a more succinct and profound definition of the Church be found in the history of ecclesiology. Keble effectively binds together all the essential characteristics of the Church in her sacramental or outward and visible quality. It almost goes without saying that for the Oxford Movement fathers, the divine Life of Christ is intimately connected to and instrumentally transmitted by the Church’s sacraments, orders, and ministry, for the Church is nothing less but the very Body of Christ, the extension of the Incarnation. 

Such a strongly-worded sentiment is unequivocally echoed by the Saint Louis Affirmation. According to the great Tractarian father and theological leader of the Oxford Movement, Dr Edward Bouverie Pusey, ‘the English Church preserves the entire faith, such as Our Lord left it with the Apostles, to evangelise the world. She believes all which the undivided Church believed, as of faith.’ 

Neither papal nor protestant, the Anglican via media becomes ‘Holy Tradition, apostolic and orthodox, as ecclesial authority’ in the fullest meaning of the phrase. One controversial manner of describing this Tractarian appeal to the undivided Church would be: ‘where Rome and Orthodoxy agree together, there Anglicanism squares with them.’ Anglo-Catholicism’s closest relative, doctrinally speaking, as opposed to historically, would therefore be the Chalcedonian Churches of the eastern patriarchates. Anglicanism, thus self-understood, discovers herself to be the western counterpart to the Eastern Orthodox, or, to be indulgent, the Orthodox Church of the West, or ‘Western Orthodoxy.’ The position renders Anglicanism the sole Patristic Church of the West. Such confidence in the Anglican Catholic position led Pusey to quip, ‘The Church of England has been placed as the single guardian of the Catholic truth in the West’. 

Triumphalistic as it may sound, the Catholic Revival engineers stalwartly believed Anglicanism to be the unique Church, defender and transmitter of ancient and Apostolic Tradition, in the West, opposed to the theological innovations of Rome and the theological subtractions and omissions of extreme protestantism. Her doctrinal authority is the same as that of the Apostolic Church from the beginning. Consistent with his Anglican theological formation, Pusey strongly asserts that the branches of the one Catholic Church, although divided hierarchically and administratively, still possesses the sacramental and spiritual unity of the Body of Christ: the so-called ‘branch theory,' the Branch Fact- ‘Well then may we believe that the several Churches, owning the same Lord, united to Him by the same sacraments, confessing the same faith, however their prayers may be hindered, are still one in His sight.’ 

Since 1833, when British clergy led by John Keble began the Oxford Movement at that University, the name 'High Church' was used often of the Catholic Revival within the Anglican Church. J. H. Newman and E. B. Pusey were its leaders. It was dubbed Puseyism, and often Tractarianism because of ninety famous tracts spread widely to propagate its principles. The opinions of newer High Churchmen were close to those of the earlier men of the same nickname, although closer to the pre-reformation Church in ceremonial observances. They have long since grown away from conservative loyalty to royalty and outmoded political views. Archbishop Tait of Canterbury wrote in 1882: '. . . powerfully had the early teaching of Newman represented English High Churchmanship as the best barrier against the Church of Rome.' In 1845 Newman did go to Rome, and a trickle of others have done so; nevertheless an equal if not greater group join us from there. The true position of this part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church as Catholic but not Roman is the strongest one in Christendom.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Postponement of 2020 Anglican Province of America Synods

Dearly beloved in Christ,

The global coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, continues to produce a severe impact on our lives, our Churches, our clergy, our faithful, our families, and our Dioceses and Province. We have just received news that the hotel chosen to host our 2020 Diocesan and Provincial Synods is canceling our meetings, a decision based on recent directives from the government of North Carolina. It has been determined that All Saints’ Church, Mills River, will not be able to accommodate the 80 or more people who planned to attend Synod at its facilities; it is no longer possible for All Saints’ parish to comply with the imposed restrictions, social distancing, and additional directives from the Governor of North Carolina.

Given the extreme circumstances in which we are placed by the pandemic, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to postpone the Diocese of the Eastern United States (DEUS) 2020 Synod in addition to the previously announced postponement of the Provincial Synod and alternatives for the DMA and DOW Synods. We now plan instead to meet in 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. The next Synods will be sponsored by Saint Barnabas Church, Dunwoody, Georgia. If the pandemic situation improves, and alternative plans can be safely put in place for our clergy, our lay delegates, and our families, we shall consider a date earlier than the summer of 2021 for the rescheduling of the Synods. We have considered other options for our 2020 meetings, and have subsequently decided that there is, at this time, no other practicable solution.

The hotel has canceled all reservations under our group, so there is no need to call and cancel your reservation. Registration fees for the Synods will be refunded to you – information on that process is forthcoming.

In order to plan for the coming year’s DEUS Diocesan budget, we will be sending out an email notice in the next 2 weeks to the DEUS churches regarding the process for our parishes and missions to submit their financial pledges. We are working on a method that will be as effective and convenient as possible.

In the interim, the necessary business of the Diocese of the Eastern United States will be conducted by the Standing Committee (SC) on behalf of the Diocesan Synod until the next Synod can be safely rescheduled and convened. The Standing Committee will hold its next regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, August 4, by Zoom in order to conduct the business of the Diocese.

The DEUS Board of Examining Chaplains (BEC) will conduct its business, examinations, and interviews by Zoom on the same dates as originally scheduled, Monday, August 3, and Tuesday, August 4. All those to be examined or interviewed will receive information about connecting with the BEC (and SC if applicable) via Zoom at the times already scheduled. Zoom details will be shared with those participants in the near future.

We offer our profound thanks and gratitude to Archdeacon Erich Zwingert and the entire congregation of All Saints’ Church, Mills River, for their hard work and dedication in preparing for this year’s Synods. We look forward to another Synod hosted by All Saints’ Church in the future.

Let us all continue to pray for our beloved Church, for our faithful, and our nation and world.

The Most Reverend Walter H. Grundorf, D.D.

The Right Reverend Chandler Holder Jones, SSC

On the Tracts for the Times

The Anglican Province of America has no official position on the Tracts for the Times , although they play a pivotal role in the history of ...