letters to the editor

Not so erastian

From Fr William Tighe

Was there not a glaring historical inaccuracy in Bp Buchanans article 'Provincial autonomy' [November]?

I agree in general terms with his thesis that provincial autonomy' is coeval with Anglicanism and can even be considered one of its bedrock principles that set it apart from both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. But when he seems to imply that the Church of England freely embraced such a principle by writing 'from the day that Henry VIII became the Head on earth of the CofE and severed all connections with Rome (and all with Convocation's and Parliament's support), the CofE exhibited provincial autonomy' not as an aberration but as its foundation principle,' he misstates the historical facts.

When the Convocation of Canterbury accepted Henry's 'Supreme Headship' on 15 May 1532 it was endorsedby an Upper House from which most of its members had fled, with three bishops voting in favour, three in favour with reservations' (i.e., iuxta modum) and one, John Clerk of Bath & Wells, opposed.

It was never presented to the Convocation's Lower House, let alone approved by it. Only the most determined of Laodicean Erastians could infer from this action that the Church of England supported the act of force majeure by which it was turned into an arm of the Crown and of its policy. Nor was it endorsed by the Convocation of York until 1535, when refusal would have constituted an act of High Treason. Its approval in and for Ireland, by the Parliament there in 1536, was achieved only by the forcible ejection from its House of Commons of the representatives of the lower clergy who had continued to sit in it, as their English counterparts had not done since the 1330s, and who opposed the supremacy legislation and kept it from passage until their ejection.

Besides these particular arguments, one might note additionally that Henry's Supremacy was wound up in 1554 under his older and legitimate daughter, and that the one that was enacted under her half-sister five years later, although it amounted to much the same thing in practice, was established on a different theoretical basis.

However, it was no more acceptable to the Church of England in 1559 than ithadbeen earlier, for the Convocation of Canterbury rejected it, in detail and out-of-hand, with the consent of both houses, when it met from January through March of that year - and it was never presented to, let alone approved by, the Convocation of York, which did not meet at all in that year.

It was imposed regardless, of course, but to imply that the Church of England was complicit or even acquiescent in the destruction of the first clause of Magna Carta, ut Ecclesia Anglicana lib era sit, and the imposing upon it of an Erastian servitude which continues to this day (as was demonstrated by the result of the Williamson case in 1994) is to commit an injustice to the brave men who in 1532 and 1559 sought to resist Crown tyranny.

William J Tighe  
History Department,
 
Muhlenberg College,
 
Allentown, Pennsylvania

Patrimony and responsibility

From Fr Philip North

'What is the Anglican patrimony?' asks Fr Kirk in November's ND ('The Way we live now') and he gives the usual answer - Evensong, Anglican divines, nice churches, anodyne artwork and pretty music. I beg to differ.

I have just come to the end of a long, rewarding day of the kind that will be utterly familiar to every Parish Priest reading this. Mass, a school assembly, a funeral at the crematorium, lunch with a local councillor, an inter-faith forum, a community meeting, and so on. Most of the day was spent ministering to people beyond the Sunday congregation. Why? Because when the Bishop inducted me to this parish he charged me with the cure of souls of absolutely everybody who lives within its boundaries.

And this surely brings us to the heart of the Anglican patrimony in the CofE. It is not in the end about liturgy or married clergy or robed choirs... It is about pastoral practice and the evangelistic responsibility legally laid upon us for the entire population of a patch of ground.

This must be an important consideration (particularly for priests) as we consider the Holy Father's offer contained in the Apostolic Constitution. What will be the shape and substance of our ministry under these arrangements? I for one feel called to something richer than a non-stipendiary ministry to a dwindling congregation occupying the 3.30 slot at the local Roman Catholic church.

So as negotiations continue, let us be clear and confident about what we have to offer as those with an Anglican heritage. And let's be sure that our motives are not a mere longing for ecclesiastical safety, but the heartfelt desire to play a still fuller part in the re-evangelisation of our land.

Philip North

The Rectory, 191 
St Pancras Way,  
London NW19NH

 

Surely illegal

From Fr Gareth Jones ssc

Last month, as you reported, the College of the Resurrection, Mirfield released this statement, At a meeting of the College Council last week, it was decided that ordinands admitted to the College as first-year students from September 2010 will be expected to be present at College Eucharists irrespective of the gender of the presiding priest... The change to our admissions policy has immediate effect.'

In other words, those who in conscience cannot accept the sacramental ministry of a woman in Holy Orders, are now required (presumably under pain of disciplinary action), to attend services presided over by a woman priest. Those beginning their training in September 2010 will be required to agree to this as an integral part of the admissions policy. Again, presumably, if they refuse then they will not be admitted?

What is extraordinary about this ill-conceived idea, aside from the fact that it is probably illegal on a number of different levels, is the lack of pastoral thought and consideration that has gone into it. Those required to attend will do so under duress, having been bullied into attendance and coerced into capitulating to something they believe to be fundamentally wrong and damaging. The presiding female priest who will be required to minister to a significant minority whom she knows does not accept her sacramental administrations, will be placed doubtless in an equally uncomfortable and irreconcilable position.

The pseudo-liberal agenda which pursues a rhetoric of equality and inclusivity, to the exclusion of those who will not capitulate, is at work again. There is very possibly a human rights issue here, as well as a possible breach of paragraphs 2.3 and 3.2 in Guidelines for the professional conduct of the clergy 2003, as the Principal could be held to be misusing his power and influence, bullying and not offering equal respect and opportunities for all.

The reality is that the Church of England has enshrined within its legislation the statutory resolutions A and B and may well do for some years yet to come, and a viable College must reflect the Church in which its students are being trained and formed to minister. The move of the College is akin to a diocesan bishop compelling his clergy under pain of dismissal to attend a Eucharist presided over by a female priest; this would not be legal and would fall well outside of the bounds of canonical obedience.

Does the Principal really think that the forced attendance of conscientious objectors at a Eucharist where the sacramental ministry of the priest is in doubt will do anything to build a cohesive and honest eucharistic community in the College? Time will tell, but I think many of us already know the answer.

Gareth Jones  
59 Avalon, West Street,
 
Brighton BN1 2RP

 

The Five Articles

From Fr John Hunwicke

How refreshing to read Colin Buchanan yet again in New Directions. It will be a sad day when we are deprived of his knockabout rhetoric.

Nobody, however, would guess from his article that Convocation under Henry VIII was very unhappy about the Royal Headship and only reluctantly assented under much pressure, and after adding the proviso that the King was Head only as far as the Law of Christ allows: which drives a coach and horses through it.

Under Elizabeth the Headship (having been rescinded under Queen Mary) was not restored, not least because some of the Protestant exiles returning from abroad reported that Dr Calvin was most unhappy about it on the grounds (and here I am amused to find myself on the side of Calvin against Buchanan) that Christ is the only Head of his Church.

Buchanan also forgets that Henrys rupture with Rome was not the definitive break; that occurred in 1559 under Elizabeth Tudor. And on this occasion, Convocation did not content itself with timid equivocations. While Parliament at Westminster was actually processing an Act of Supremacy, Convocation, sitting in St Pauls Cathedral just down the river, courageously passed Five Articles which included an assertion of the primacy of Peters successor as Vicar of Christ, and an effective denial of the right of the Crown in Parliament to decide about matters of Faith and Worship.

I'm not sure that I agree with Buchanan in trying to find a 'foundation principle' for the Church of England but, if we have to do so, I rather think that Pope Gregorys emissary St Augustine (who was actually in on the 'foundation' of the CofE) would have preferred the Five Articles promulgated by Convocation in 1559 to the Erastian arrangements put in place by Henry's and Elizabeth's Parliaments.

John Hunwicke  
<
pp@thomasthemartyr.org.uk>

 

Red correction

From Fr David Barnes

The potter Edmund de Waal would undoubtedly be mortified to read your reviewer Owen Higgs' description of him as 'the son of the once famous 'Red Dean' of Canterbury'! The Red Dean was, of course, Dr Hewlett Johnson, who died many years before Mr de Waal's father was appointed to the Deanery in 1976.

David Barnes  
15 Meadow Lane,
 
Edenbridge TN8 6HT

Patrimony at stake

From Mr James Stephenson

We are all now asking the question 'What is our Anglican Patrimony?' If we enter the Ordinariate (and I hope to) what can we take to enrich the Church? Bishop Colin 'mad but saintly' Buchanan? Probably not. One of the great merits of ND has always been this awkward tension between Catholics and Evangelicals. We disagree, and how! But there is a mutual respect for each other that is very Anglican. Who will keep us honest, if we have to leave Bp Colin behind? 

James Stephenson 
<
jamesstephenson@live.fr>

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