The Landscape of Modern Anglicanism and the Ordinariate; An ex-Anglican Ordinand's perspective
by Kenneth Robinson
It seems that many do not know much about the complicated history of the Church of England - more especially about the various 'Anglo Catholic' groups. The reaction to the setting up of the 'Ordinariate' is overwhelmingly positive, but I have been more circumspect in my reaction and that is not just due to the fact that my (yes my) previous Anglican ‘patrimony’ and former ‘theological convictions’ – which actually compelled me to view the ‘Church of Rome’ as having ‘erred’ in important matters - such that separation from Rome was an absolute necessity. But even trying to see things through the eyes of Anglicans more sympathetic towards visible reunion with Rome, I am hesitant to view this as something that would be acceptable to many of those it was aimed at.
|1662 Book of Common Prayer, the Black Rubric|
However, Anglicans are simply not a monolithic bloc and (so-called) Anglo-Catholics (the only group of Anglicans who will make the move to Rome under this offer; most other Anglicans are not terribly interested in joining the Church of Rome) are no less monolithic. For evidence of this just compare the differences between 'Forward in Faith' in the UK and the US or indeed the differences among many of the "continuing" Anglo-Catholic groups. The following "field guide to Anglican churchmanship" provides an enlightening look at the differences that exist within (so-called) Anglo-Catholicism. In the opinion of that author we have:
a. Anglo-Papalist -- Tridentine
b. Anglo-Papalist -- Modern (a peculiarly English breed of cat, he uses the Novus Ordo, the current RC services)
c. Payer Book Catholic (a contradiction in terms!)
d. The modern version of Prayer Book Catholic, not papalist and using the Anglican prayer book that's the standard where he is (Common Worship, US 1979 BCP, etc.)
e. Anglo-Orthodox. Rare as hen's teeth, more so than Tridentine ACs, but they're out there. Also, c and d often see themselves as 'Western Orthodox' analogues to the Eastern Orthodox.
Groups (a) and (b) are basically already Roman Catholic in all but name and with the exception of Rome's views on married clergy would have little pangs of conscience moving to Rome -- with or without any "apostolic constitution" for former Anglicans. They have long since given up on most of their Anglican liturgical "patrimony" (to use Rome's choice of language) and are already using Roman liturgies. Groups (c), (d), and (e), on the other hand, have retained much more of their Anglican liturgical heritage and my main interest is in where they would fit in the scheme of things.
The problem for Anglicans joining the new Anglican ‘Ordinariate’ is, as I see it, at least twofold.
First, there are matters of doctrine. Unlike groups (a) and (b) there are still a few significant differences in doctrine between (c), (d) and (e) Anglo-Catholics and Rome. I'm not saying that an individual in one of these groups could not in good conscience join the Church of Rome. What I am saying is that many will not be able to. The Apostolic Constitution sets out that for all those joining the new Ordinariate -- i.e. clergy and laity -- the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the authoritative expression of the Catholic faith professed by members of the Ordinariate. Many Anglo-Catholics will have problems with some of its provisions and may not in conscience be able to join!
Secondly, there is a question of just what aspects of the Anglican liturgical "patrimony" will be retained. My initial thoughts were that much of the 1662 Prayer Book -- especially the Order for Holy Communion -- would not be acceptable to the Church of Rome and would have to be heavily edited which leaves one asking whether what is left still expresses their Anglican patrimony in a way acceptable to them. You could not simply have a formerly-Anglican-now-Roman priest run a Book of Common Prayer 1662 Communion Service since it would offend against the doctrines of the Church of Rome.
It's not just a question of cutting out a few phrases such as "by his one oblation of himself once offered" or "Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith with thanksgiving". The eucharistic theology of the Book of Common Prayer doesn't just arise from the words that are said; rather, it also arises from the structure of the service and this structure would also have to be altered in some respects for use in the Church of Rome.
A good example of a Roman Catholic liturgy approved for former Anglicans is available here (this liturgy is for former Anglicans in the United States and has not arisen out of the current announcement to set up personal ordinariates for former Anglicans). Looking at this service there are of course some clearly Anglican resonances in the wording, but unsurprisingly there are also some recognisably Roman words that offend against Anglican doctrine (which is not such an issue if you overcome the first problem I mentioned and assent to Roman doctrine). More importantly, the structure of the service has departed significantly from the classical Cranmerian approach. For some this won't present much of a problem, for others it will. One thing I would be interested to see is whether those who make the move can convince Rome to adopt an order for Holy Communion basically akin to the 1549 Order or indeed the Sarum Missal (since the Eucharistic Theology of the 1552, 1559 and 1662 Prayer Books is more explicitly Reformed than that of the first English Prayer Book of 1549 and its predecessor the Sarum Missal). Beyond Holy Communion, however, I think former Anglicans will have more success in keeping distinctive Anglican liturgy. I can imagine the Church of Rome giving permission for former Anglicans to run services of Evening Prayer with very few alterations rather than requiring them to run a Roman service of vespers. Will we see services of choral evensong in the Church of Rome? Who knows? It's a complete mess - I know that for certain.
[Mr. Kenneth Robinson has taught in Britain and France, and is currently teaching in Płock, Poland. I'm grateful for his contribution regarding this important subject.]