The Study of Anglicanism, Excerpts

Along with my first-ever set of gaming dice I recently ordered and received The Study of Anglicanism (1988), an anthology, edited by Stephen Sykes and John Booty, of articles on Anglicanism. Three or so years ago my then-priest recommended it along with A Passionate Balance as a way of getting to know the tradition better. Now that I have begun to read it, I thought I would write brief responses to its articles.

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Photograph my own.

Part I of Study is called The History of Anglicanism, with two articles: William P. Haugaard’s “From the Reformation to the Eighteenth Century” and Perry Butler’s “From the Early Eighteenth Century to the Present Day.” As it happens, I have little to say about these two articles now, or perhaps at all. It is only having reading Part II, consisting entirely of Louis Weil’s “The Gospel in Anglicanism,” that I might be able to draw anything from them, though I think the true relationship is in the other direction: knowing something of Anglicanism’s history informs Weil’s article, especially the latter half. I’ll discuss that at a later point.

In the meantime, there are two excerpts I would like to share from Part I. Both piqued my interest, suggesting a greater story than the article explored. Here is the first, from Haugaard’s “From the Reformation to the Eighteenth Century”:

Anglicanism was present beyond England in the rest of the British Isles and some overseas territories. The four Welsh dioceses were integrally part of the English province of Canterbury, but the Welsh translations of the Bible and Prayer Book and Elizabeth’s appointment of Welsh-speaking bishops had given a cultural identity to Wales which subsequent sovereigns failed to nurture.

Perhaps there’s no point in asking counterfactuals of history, but I wonder what would have happened, what distinct culture of Anglicanism could have developed in Wales, had subsequent sovereigns given it support. (Indeed, even so, I assume the Church of Wales has its distinctives, as all Anglican provinces do.)

The second excerpt is from Butler’s “From the Early Eighteenth Century to the Present Day”:

[Anglo-Catholicism] attempted to teach the Tractarian understanding of sacraments and priesthood through the eye by the introduction of the eastward position, candles, eucharistic vestments and even incense. Some priests in slum areas saw it as a way of evangelizing the unlettered. It did, however, destroy liturgical uniformity within the Church and met with open hostility from Protestant-minded Anglicans.

A Royal Commission on Ritual reported inconclusively in 1867 and the Public Worship Regulation Act of 1874 aimed to destroy what Disraeli the Prime Minister called the ‘Mass in masquerade’. But the subsequent imprisonment of four ritualist priests helped change opinion, and in the late 1880s the trial of the saintly Bishop Edward King of Lincoln for ritual irregularities added to public disquiet.

While reading the articles I was uncomfortable with the Church of England’s status as a state religion, both for the sake of the state and for the sake of the religion. Nonetheless it is remarkable to me that priests would be willing to go to jail for a question of liturgy, or that politicians would be willing to take a bishop (who, I suppose, in the Church of England of the 1880s, was also a politician) to court over “ritual irregularities.” This signifies a radically different world than the one I know, and I find the idea of it fascinating and unsettling.

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One thought on “The Study of Anglicanism, Excerpts

  1. Pingback: A Glut of Tradition | Accidental Shelf-Browsing

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