Page 4, 8th August 1952

8th August 1952
Page 4
Page 4, 8th August 1952 — CRISIS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND
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CRISIS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

By HUGH ROSS WILLIAMSON

ST. JOHN FISHER'S cry to his apostate colleagues: "The fort is betrayed even of them that should have defended it" is a reminder of a primary truth about the Reformation in England. That catastrophe was brought about not by the external assaults of heresy, but by the accommodation of the Catholic Bishops who explicitly repudiated the Papal supremacy and ordered the clergy to follow their example.

If I had to epitomise the situation in the Church of England today, it would be in an answer to the saint across the centuries: "The fort is still held. even by those who are disinherited."

With the memory of the penal centuries when, to the Roman Catholic, the Church of England must have appeared as little but an heretical and Erastian instrument of persecution, it may require almost superhuman charity to see it in another light. It is to that charity I appeal for a moment, asking that it extend also to an acknowledgment of the good faith of AngloCatholics in their belief that they possess valid orders and sacraments and in their assertion: "I believe that the Church of England is an integral part of the Catholic Church: that its present separation from Rome as an administrative entity is a political accident for which it is not responsible and that such of its characteristics as are sub-Catholic were imposed upon it by the State by force."

For the history of the Church of England—and especially its history at this moment of crisis—can only be fully understood in terms of the Anglo-Catholic struggle to keep it true to its Catholic centre.

Newman's precursor 11ETWEEN the 17th century— when, disastrously, disastrously, the work of Henrietta Maria's confessbr, Francis a Sancta Clara (Christopher Davenport), in showing that the Thirty-Nine Articles could be interpreted in terms conformable with Latin orthodoxy came to nothing—(the political tensions and the Civil War utterly changed the situation)—to the 19th century, when Newman in Tract XC followed in his footsteps, the greatest Anglican figure is John Wesley.

That the shortcomings of the Anglican episcopate caused him to lose patience and to make a crucial mistake on the questions of orders, so that after his death his followers seceded. should not obscure the fact that he was the centre of the Anglo-Catholic resistance, that from the Wesleys' Eucharistic hymns a devotional commentary on the Mass can be made which any Catholic can use, that he died as a loyal member of the Church and that he was the real precursor of Newman and the Tractarians.

Persecution

WHE 191.li century is a story of perseciition—not merely that of Newman and his friends, which is too well known to need re-telling, but of their followers.

Tait, who was one of the attackers of Newman at Oxford over Tract XC, devoted his energies when he became Archbishop of Canterbury to the rooting-out of Catholicism in the Church of England. In 1874 he and Disraeli made their Public Worship Regulation Act the law of the land. As one writer has put it "It is still on the Statute Book, but the accommodation of the prisons would not suffice to give shelter to the number of priests who now defy it. Convocation was not consulted and the Act created a new court . . . (which) . . . holds the unique position of never having had a defendant before it, for ac During the past years the Established Church has been moving towards a serious crisis which in a year or two may lead to a considerable AngloCatholic secession.

Since this situation cannot but have great importance, one way or another, for us, we have asked the Rev. Hugh Ross Williamson' leading AngloCatholic clergyman and writer, to explain the situation.

Mr. Ross Williamson naturally uses terms which ue would put otherwise, but we print his article exactly as he wrote it.

cused clergy refused to appear." Many were imprisoned for contempt, one for as long as 595 days.

Tait's work was taken up by his chaplain, Randall Davidson, when he in turn became Archbishop of Canterbury. From the beginning of his primacy in 1902 to the Parliamentary rejection of the new Prayer Book in 1928, his object, like Tait's, was to destroy Catholicism. The new Prayer Book (which might be described as "cleverly pseudo-Catholic" and which no Anglo-Catholic priest will use) was directed to this end, and was the culmination of the Royal Commission on Ecclesiastical Discipline set up in 1904 and reporting in 1906—Davidson's child, as the Public Worship Regulation Act had been Tait's.

'Liturgical chaos'

HE excuse for these measures was —and is—that "liturgical chaos" in the Church of England must he ended. But that is merely a diplomatic pretence.

To quote from the historic reply of "the 21"-2I London clergy who refused to obey their Bishop when he ordered them to cease Devotions to the Blessed Sacrament: "The people in our parishes . . . are aware that every form of doctrinal irregularity and liturgical vagary is not only tolerated, but blessed by the Bishops, save that which brings the Church of England into unmistakable conformity with the rest of Catholic Christendom. They arc alive also to the fact that it is not only the doctrine and practice of the Church that are in danger, but that the very foundations of Christian ethics are being shaken . . . The young men in our parishes, who have a clear consciousness of vocation to the priesthood, are hanging back in bewilderment at the prospect of ministering in a Church whose rulers have sacrificed the principles of true government to considerations of sentiment and expediency."

in a year or two

"QENTIMENT and expediency" "--7rather than a deliberate attack on the Faith underlie the new move which will come to a head in a year or two.

Four Anglican dioceses in South India have been allowed to lapse into schism by uniting with those who, being Protestant Nonconformists, do not believe in Holy Orders, to form a new "Church of South India." With this body, the Church of England is not in communion—for obviously to be so would be to deny that episcopacy is an essential mark of the Church.

But although the Anglo-Catholics, in a bitter struggle "behind the scenes." managed to prevent the Lambeth Conference of 1948 recommending intercommunion, Convocation only postponed the decision for a few years. In 1954 or 1955, the matter will come up again for final judgment and one Bishop has publicly said that as a result the AngloCatholics will be driven out of the Church of England.

If, indeed, intercommunion is allowed, they will have no alternative to leaving the body which sanctions it, for that body will clearly be something other than the Catholic Church.

No compromise

THE very short time left deter mines a policy which, to one outside the Anglican Communion, may seem puzzling. But, in fact, many apparently unconnected happenings can be seen as interrelated, once the key is grasped.

The Anglo-Catholics must be represented by those in authority as a narrow, intransigent minority determined to sabotage "Christian reunion" instead of what they are —an effective, if not a numerical "nominal C. of E" majority who cannot compromise the principles of Catholic Order which (they believe) have been kept unimpaired in spite of the Reformation and whose surrender would fatally imperil any subsequent corporate approach to the Holy See.

Hence, the virulent attack on them in the preface of this year's Crockford: the Archbishop's attempt to stifle an enquiry into the compatability of Freemasonry with the uniqueness of the Christian revelation; the minimising of the Creeds and the introduction of non-Anglican (and even antiAnglican) speakers and preachers to the pulpit which is the distinguishing mark of St. Paul's Cathedral at the moment; the great publicity given to the 1952 Conference of the World Council of Churches (which is a purely Protestant federation) and the increasing power of the British Council of Churches which is allowed to cornmit the Church of England to interdenominational services, such as that which provoked a protest from the London Anglo-Catholic clergy during the Festival of Britain; the official overtures to Nonconformity which are not matched by any comparable move in the direction of the Vatican—all these facets of "official" Anglican policy have the same basis in paving the way for a Pan-Protestant Federation led by an "undogmatic" and "tolerant" Church of England.

Plea to Catholics

MEANWHILE, episcopal poli cy endeavours to break the AngIo-Catholic clergy one by one.

In one diocese, the Bishop refuses to allow deacons to be licensed to any incumbent who has Devotions to the Blessed Sacrament or Benediction—so that here the faithful are breakingdown from overwork. In another, the Bishop refuses to institute incumbents who will not use the illegal and uncanonical Prayer Book of 1928 but insist on saying the canonical Mass. In another, the Bishop puts into traditionally Catholic livings the type of "pseudo-Catholic" or "Protestant in chasuble" who teaches something other than the full Faith, and gradually empties those churches with the result that "the failure of Anglo-Catholicism" can be advertised.

In a year or two will be decided the fate of the Church of England. The repercussions cannot be without some effect, one way or another, on the Church of Rome.

In the interim period, might Anglo-Catholics ask of Roman Catholics, not indeed either agreement or sympathy—for that would be unrealistic—but an understanding that they are not merely "Rome-crazy cranks" (as I have heard them described) but inheritors of a long and honourable historic tradition and—perhaps—the defenders against Anglican Bishops of a fort which, long ago, was betrayed by Roman ones?




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