Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Which Anglican Patrimony Do You Prefer?

Until we hear more from Mrs Bush, Mr Andrews, and Bp Marsh, let's return to Allen Guelzo's For the Union of Evangelical Christendom, his history of the Reformed Episcopal Church. A very illuminating point he makes for me is that the Evangelical movement that caused explosive growth in TEC in the early 19th century had very little to do with what we would now call "low church" -- in my time as an Episcopalian, I went to parishes high, low, and broad, but with few exceptions, the parish and clergy were essentially with the program. There might be no stained glass in New England, but there were stations of the cross on the wall. Or the architecture could be 1950s yucch, but the clergy were vested as usual, and whether the eucharist was Rite One or Rite Two, it was from the prayer book.

The Evangelical Episcopalians of the early 19th century had much more in common with what we would now call "non-denominational" Protestant churches. Liturgy and doctrine were seen as unnecessary impediments to the working of the Holy Spirit. The Evangelical Episcopalians had a very Reformed outlook on the sacraments; they did not effect any spiritual transformation. Baptism was effectively going through motions of what would hopefully occur later on, the direct "born again" experience. Communion was in effect no different from a Civil War reenactment, simply a historical exercise meant to make something more vivid.

A major point of contention was wording in the prayer book and the XXXIX Articles on whether baptism makes the believer "regenerate". There was particular objection to the prayer book passage that read, "We call upon thee for this Child (or this thy Servant), that he, coming to thy holy Baptism, may receive remission of sin, by spiritual regeneration." According to cases discussed by Guelzo, it was common for Evangelical TEC clergy simply to omit the sentences in the baptismal service that used the word, and bishops tended to look the other way.

This is in contrast to more recent opinion that "low church" Anglicans take the XXXIX Articles seriously (or literally), while high- and broad-churchmen ignore them. The 19th century Evangelicals felt they contained latent Catholic doctrine and rejected them. For that matter, the Evangelicals tended not to use the BCP liturgy at all, preferring more free-form prayer meetings.

The Oxford Movement, however, gained immediate acceptance in many TEC circles when it began to emerge in the 1830s, a time that in the US corresponded with Andrew Jackson's presidency from 1829 to 1837. While the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 and the Reform Act 1832 influenced the rise of medieval romanticism and Anglo-Catholicism in the UK, Jackson's populism had a very similar impact in the US. Frontiersmen, immigrants, small farmers, and the working class tended to favor Jackson, while respectable middle class and establishment people favored the Whigs, who eventually became the contemporary Republicans. Similar divisions in the US persist, reflected in more recent strong feelings over figures like Franklin Roosevelt and Donald Trump, both of whom had and have strong populist appeal.

Guelzo points out that much of the nascent Anglo-Catholic style that developed over the mid-19th century had an element of deliberately baiting the Evangelicals. There were also equivalent movements in both the US and the UK to revise the prayer book (and in the UK, the law) to prohibit Anglo-Catholic vestments and rubrics. In TEC, the matter came to a head in the case of Charles Edward Cheney, an Evangelical rector of a Chicago parish, who was suspended, tried, and depoased in 1869 for telling a Baptist colleague that he deliberately omitted the wording about regeneration in the baptismal rite.

His bishop, a contradictory figure who had favored the Confederacy in the war but who had begun to adopt a Republican Anglo-Catholicism, rigged the trial to ensure Cheney's conviction. Cheney and his attorneys argued that it wasn't unusual at all for Evangelical clergy to omit wording in the baptismal rite, but bishops normally looked the other way over it. The bishop prevailed, but it caused a rift in TEC that led to the formation of the REC.

Regardless of the outcome, this provides additional support for Frederick Kinsman's remarks two generations later that as a practical matter, Anglican bishops were unable to enforce doctrine. And unquestionably, in the view of the CDF, clergy applying to become priests in the OCSP from either the REC or TEC are equally Anglican. One might answer that these are old controversies that no longer interest anyone, but as Fr Longenecker points out, a more realistic view would be maybe they do, maybe they don't. What do the OCSP candidates who went to Reformed seminaries actually believe, anyhow? Do we care?

So which Anglican do we prefer, or are we in the end broad-church? And if so, why are we bothering to become Catholic?