letters to the editor

 

I.T.M.A.

From Bishop Colin Buchanan

I was unsurprised that my little assertion of provincial autonomy in Anglicanism in November elicited a series of would-be rebuttals in December, and I apologise for missing the chance to reply again in January. However, I hope a letter in February will do.

I think Geoffrey Kirk (about whom I reciprocate his ‘my good friend’) has had to evade an important point (but then ‘He would do that, wouldn’t he?’). He wants to state that the ‘provincial’ changes made in liturgy by the (autonomous) Church of England in the sixteenth century were comparable to the existence of ‘local practices’ in medieval Europe, and so were not exercises in autonomy at all.

But there is one vast procedural difference which he ignores – the medieval variants were entirely contained within the fabric of papal Western Europe, but the sixteenth century Church of England was excommunicated by the Pope for its changes, and it disregarded the excommunication and continued to run itself in avowed obedience to the Word of God.

Beyond that let me point out again that each Anglican province authorizes its own liturgies, enforces its own Canons, provides its own synodical forms of church government, and exercises its own discipline. None of these conform to some worldwide norm as they do in Rome. I might not want such provinces to vary the threefold order by its own authority, but I observe that in Kenya, if not in parts of New South Wales, deacons may preside at communion, and I also observe again that the Church of England itself, with wide Anglo-Catholic approval (but no Roman approval) authorized the ordination of women as deacons. The issue is not whether there was precedent (which is argued), but whether one province was empowered to act unilaterally in relation to the matter.

I think messrs Tighe and Hunwicke are invoking a wish-world when theymake much of Convocation assertions in 1559, and in self-justification I ought to mention that I have not forgotten 1559. The Convocation was, of course, packed with Marian appointees (many of the previous holders having been burned), but the crucial point is that, having expressed their minds, they either then conformed to the Elizabethan Settlement, or they went into opposition as they continued to recognize the Pope as having jurisdiction in England. What they could not do was to assert that the Church of England was living by their findings.

History has some rough patches, but the issue today is, if they were right, why those who invoke them do not go to Rome, or if they were wrong, what is the point of invoking them at all, as they certainly did not win. Anglicans today broadly live by the thesis that in 1559 it was better to obey (whether morally, doctrinally, or prudentially) the monarch and renounce the Pope. That is the basis of our inheriting a non-Roman Anglicanism, warts and inconsistencies and all.

Will that do for the moment?

Colin Buchanan <colinbuchanan101@btinternet.com>

 

Extraordinary powers

From the Vicar of Caversham NZ

I am grateful to Fr Hunwick for acquainting us with Dom Gregory Dix’s papalism, but I am still not convinced. No doubt George Cornelius Gorham was inducted to the living of Brampford Speke by the Archbishop of Canterbury over the head of the Bishop of Exeter, but the archbishop did not claim to do so by divine right.

The pope, on the other hand claims (according to the Code of Canon Law) ‘supreme, full, immediate and universal ordinary power in the Church,’ and that he ‘can always freely exercise this power.’ The Code also says that, ‘There is neither appeal nor recourse against a judgment or a decree of the Roman Pontiff.’

Such extraordinary gifts and powers are conferred in the Catholic religionby sacramental ordination. - cannot simply be appropriated – and then justified by a rather selective use of tradition. There is no form of ordination which confers a further sacramental character on a bishop who succeeds to the papacy: he is merely elected and enthroned. He may be the most important and influential bishop in the Church, but sacramentally (and that is surely what counts) he is still just a bishop like any other.

It is thus hard to see how the papal claim to virtually absolute power, or to infallibility (however occasional), can be justified in catholic terms – a fact not lost on the Eastern Church, but one which some Anglo-Catholics are clearly unwilling to acknowledge.

Carl Somers Edgar

57 Baker Street, Caversham, Dunedin, New Zealand

 

Going nowhere

From the Revd Dr John Turner

William Temple is said both to have remarked that the Church exists for those not yet its members, and also that he believed in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, but regretted that it did not yet exist. On this basis we cannot expect to find it existing perfectly in Constantinople, Rome, Canterbury, Augsburg, or Geneva (or anywhere else). So we should not gain anything by transferring our allegiance, and that is why I propose to stay where I am. I hope all members of FiF will resolve the same.

John Turner

25 Fourth Avenue, Frinton-on-Sea

 

Saepius Officio

From the Vicar of Chorley

Congratulations to Edward Allen for his article ‘Extra-ordinarily far’ [ND January]. It reminds us that we are here to recall the CofE to its Apostolic and Catholic foundation which is not a ‘watered-down’ Roman offshoot. Christ and the Apostles is the ‘Rock from which we are hewn,’ not Rome! So who needs re-ordination? Where does Scripture promote clergy celibacy?

Surprisingly (to some of us) ARCIC will continue. There is something they can usefully do: re-visit Apostolicae Curae, put it alongside Saepius Officio, and tell us if Rome’s case for the denial of Anglican (male) Orders is based on sound or weak scholarship or simple prejudice. What an interesting outcome that would be!

Lionel Atherton
St Peter’s Vicarage, Harper’s Lane, Chorley PR6 0HT

 

Unforgiven history

From Mr Christopher Pierpoint

With regard to the Apostolic Constitution, do not underestimate the importance of history, or the importance of Christian saints from earlier centuries. We should not forget Cranmer and the other Protestant martyrs (some 300 of them, including 60 women) whom Mary burned at the stake in her short reign.

As they were burning Latimer said to Ridley his famous words, ‘We shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England as shall never be put out.’ Are we now to extinguish that candle?

Christopher Pierpoint
6 Greenway Close, Llandrindod Wells

 

How it was

From Mr Roy Cashmore

John Hunwicke’s review of Ordo Recitandi Oficii Divini Sacrique Peragendi MMX was a fine reminder of the time when certain holy days (involving suffering) were preceded by a vigil Mass on the morning of the eve. However, such holy days falling on a Monday had their vigil Mass on the Saturday.

In the early Sixties I had recently converted to Anglicanism and was delighted by the use of liturgical colours, and took to wearing a tie of the appropriate colour. I remember one Saturday morning in 1963 turning up to serve at Mass at the local parish church in Coventry. As I entered the sacristy, I noticed the priest look at my tie.

Without a word he referred to the Kalendar, put away the green vestments, replaced them with violet, made adjustments to the Missal, then when we got into church he proceeded to celebrate the vigil Mass. At no point did he make any comment.

Roy Cashmore
Church Farm Cottage, Blaston, Market Harborough

 

I am that man

From the Rector of Monks Eleigh

No, dear Father, I didn’t write my piece on an ancient typewriter: I sent it to you as an e-mail attachment [‘Elephant in the crib’ January].

The church in question is St Mary, Kettlebaston which, although obscure and remote enough for anybody, has a chapter to itself in Michael Yelton’s latest book. Dangerously icy roads and seasonal lethargy reduced numbers at the Mass of Midnight this Christmas, but we still managed to have more than the total population of the parish (which is 59).

The crib was of course there in all its eccentric splendour, although at that hour the details were a little murky – the church has no electricity – and it has naturally been taken down again now.

Brian Findlay
Monks Eleigh Rectory, Ipswich

 

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