An Anglican Priest

"Protestant and Reformed according to the principles of the ancient Catholic Church." Bishop John Cosin (d. 1672)

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Anglicanism Part II: The Validity of the Anglican Episcopate

In his Preface to the Ordinal that was to be employed in the reformed Church of England, it is clearly stated clearly that:

It is evident to all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles’ time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church; Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which offices were evermore had in such reverend estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, and examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same; and also by publick Prayer, with Imposition of Hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful authority (The Book of Common Prayer 1662, 553).

Again, we see that the purposes of the Anglican Reformation were not innovation but a true Reformation of Catholicism. The ancient Orders are accepted as having been in existence from the time of the Apostles’ and hence part of the Apostolic Church’s practice. The Anglican Church saw no reason to do away with something that had been practiced by the Church in the most ancient part of her existence and that the Church of England held these offices in “reverend estimation,” whereas the bodies of the Continental Reformation either saw Orders as something superfluous or as a heretical development of the early Church that followed in absence of Apostolic oversight. Roman controversialists have sought to illegitimatize Anglican Orders on the ground that Cranmer’s revisions made them ineffectual in regards to their expressed intent (Clark 1897).

Cranmer’s revisions sought to return the rites for Holy Orders to a more primitive form, removing mediaeval accretions concerning both wording in ceremonial. A major objection made to the Anglican Ordinal was that the language used was insufficient in the consecration of bishops. The words employed in the Anglican Ordinal are: "Take ye the Holy Ghost, and remember that thou stir up the grace of God, which is in thee by imposition of hands" while the Roman Pontifical simply states "receive the Holy Ghost." If Anglican bishops are not to be accounted as properly raised to the episcopate, neither then are the Popes of Rome by the same standard so applied. Pope Leo XIII, in his 1896 Bull that declared Anglican Orders “null and void,” also objected that Anglican priests were not instructed by their Ordinal to offer the Mass for “the quick and the dead;” instead they are told to preach the Word and administer the Sacraments. As the instruction pertaining to the Sacrifice of the Mass was only added to the Roman Ordinal in the 11th Century, again it must be stated that if Anglican priests are not properly priests then neither were any of the presbyters of Western Christendom (Staley 1893; revised by Goodchild 1983). One further reason often given for the invalidity of the Anglican Orders for Priest is that a chalice and paten is no longer delivered to the man being ordained as it was in the pre-Reformation Roman ceremonial; however, this ceremony formed no portion of the ancient rite (Clark 1897, 274).

Since Cranmer’s alterations simply reformed the services to follow more ancient patterns, removing only those things, such as instructions for the offering of Masses and ceremonial for the reception of a chalice and paten, that were late additions, these objections pertaining to the validity of Anglican Holy Orders cannot be taken seriously. If they were to be taken seriously and if these additions were viewed as somehow essential to the bestowing of Holy Orders, then none of the men ordained as priest or bishop in Catholic Christianity—East nor West—would be considered validly ordained.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

isn't this the same as other things posted on this topic?

8:53 PM  
Blogger Death Bredon said...

Spot on, again!

Still, I think we need to get away from Scholastic, Latin "rules" for vailidity, regularity, etc. and take a harder look at Eastern attitudes toward "valid" consecrations.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Is that Abp Michael Ramsey of blessed memory?

10:47 PM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...

Indeed it is. The last orthodox Abp of Canterbury, I think.

6:03 AM  
Blogger Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

Roman sacramental theology has the unfortunate tendency of reading itself into 2,000 years of history. It also has the bad habit of putting its foot in its mouth.

Most of these Roman ceremonies and even the formula of ordination itself were changed in the late 1960's for many of the same reasons that Cranmer eliminated them. Granted, I am a great fan of medieval ceremonial, but to declare these orders null and void because of not having these frills is foolish Papal pride. Things are not valid or invalid just because the Pope says so. I consider every Anglican cleric I meet to be valdily ordained, except for those TEC women who like to play dress-up.

10:24 AM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...

To Anon,

I addressed the issue at least once before in the Abp. F. Temple piece and posted a good TAC/ACA article on the issue. However, I think it is an important topic given that the issue seems to come up again and again, esp from Anglican priests who have converted to Rome.


Thanks for the good points and kind comments.

10:42 AM  
Anonymous D Bunker said...

Dear AC,
Thanks for your efforts at education about Anglican orders. Our Roman brethren seem to have blinders about their own history with regard to the ordinal. And, as a listener to the local affiliate of the Relevant Radio network (a Roman outreach initiative principally centered in your part of the country) I often hear of these "wonderful" stories of Anglican clergymen who suddenly have their eyes opened and ears unstopped and are able to swim the Tiber in one stroke. They then feature prominently in the "oecumenical" programme--The Journey Home (to Rome, intended). There is never any objective discussion of the pre-Reformation situation in Western Christianity nor of the gradual but clear move of the Vatican towards Cranmer's revision of the liturgy. Unfortunately Anglicans don't possess the media bulwark of our Roman brethren to bring light to this muddle. And, with the loss of catholicity in much of the Anglican fold the Vatican will be able to find plenty of evidence to continue attacking Anglican orders (even if not being entirely intellectually honest in the historical context).

6:29 AM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...

I'm amazed and dismayed as to the lack of education and/or general knowledge about such things among Anglican clergy in general and those who convert to Rome in particular. At the most consistent, all these men could say is that their orders were not valid because they were outside of communion with Rome or because they had rejected "the true Catholic dogma" of Rome and Trent. For the converts, the Church is Rome and Rome is the Church, but they cannot say this outright, for it would un-Church the "schismatic" East. Instead, they offer the same fictions that were disproven long ago: no mention of "masses for the dead," no giving of the chalice and paten, or that the priest didn't wear a chasuble. And they trot these stories out with alarming frequency now (as you mentioned), given the current situation in "official" Anglicanism. When they are challenged, based on the arguments above, I've found they often change the subject.

7:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting topic for me. Does the traditional patristic High Church Anglican Catholic object to the belief that the priest can offer teh Holy Eucharist for the benefit of the faithful (both on earth and departed)?

Several ancient writers seem to indicated that our actions on earth(prayers, good deads, Divine Liturgy) somehow (unknown to us) give comfort and help to our departed brethrent.


10:38 AM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...


Sorry for the delay in my reply. The Caroline divines of the Anglican Church did affirm that the Eucharist is offered for the all the faithful, the quick and the dead, but that this Eucharistic sacrifice is tied to the One and Perfect sacrifice of Christ and is in no way a new offering of Christ, but the continual re-presentation of it in the life of the Church.


8:05 AM  
Blogger Seraph said...

I agree with all that has been said. But given the present disarray of Anglicanism -- lamentable apostasy in ECUSA, the waffling of Canterbury, the micro-jurisdictions of the Continuum, ordination of women now approved even for the C of E -- is the validity of Anglican orders now in danger, and how does one maneuver one's way in the search for orthodox, catholic, traditional, authentic Anglicanism?

8:07 PM  
Blogger Seraph said...

On another note, I see St. Andrew's is part of the Reformed Episcopal Church. Don't the canons and/or rubrics of the REC frown on anything smacking of sacrifice, altar flowers, etc? Does the REC accept the Real Presence of Christ in the bread and cup, or does it hold to a more symbolic view?

8:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Anglican Cleric. Though, I think that the sober minded, professional Roman Catholics and Orthodox would agree with you also.

I think the notion of 'resacrificing' Christ is more of an evidence of popular folk catholicism. I mean, I don't think Thomas Aquinas had the the exact same notion of transubstantiation as later Romans.

I suppose that the REC may have started out relatively low, but, like the Church of England after the Reformation, it later began to mature and think more objectively about these issues. Especially when we read the Scriptures in consorrt with the Ancient Fathers.

8:38 PM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...


Indeed, St. Andrew's is part of the REC, as are many of the parishes I've posted photos of: The Cathedral of Saint Matthias, Church of the Holy Communion, St. Timothy's, etc. All have crosses on the altars, flowers, some with icons, some with crucifixes, some with the Christus Rex, some with stained glass. Decades back there were rules against putting a cross or candles on the Holy Table--the cross was then usually placed above the Table and the candles placed on the sides. We've always had stained glass, so the REC has never been iconoclastic.

In the Western part of the REC there has always been a more "high church" element. Within the last 15-20 years there has been a move toward basic Prayer Book Anglicanism in the REC, leading to our full communion with the APA and other groups.

The revised canons of the REC only reject transubstantiation. The "new" Prayer Book of the REC is the 1662 with the addition of the 1928 American Eucharist.

The Real Presence in the REC is affirmed, but like the Anglicanism of old there are varied manners of emphasis. My own "view" is that of Fr. Alexander Schmemman's as presented in his text "The Eucharist." In the REC seminaries a foundational text is Bishop Browne's Exposition on the Articles, which teaches the mystical and spiritual Presence of Christ in the Communion--this text was used when I was in the ACA as well.

We reverence the elements in the Eucharist, but (with Aquinas) we do not claim a localized nor a corporal presence.

Gavin--agreed. Most Roman Catholics hold to views almost indistinguishable from the Caroline divines. I think it was only in the more heated periods of the Reformation that both sides saw the need to magnify the differences.

9:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been somewhat confused by what we mean to be localized presence. I believe that during the Consecration and Epikleis, the bread and wine are changed (objectively) into the Lord's Body and Blood. Some received them to salvation, others to damnation. I eat Christ, but, he is never consumned. Like the priests prayer says, "The Lamb, forever eaten, but never consumed."

What do you mean by local presence? Isn't saying that the bread and wine are His Body and Blood the same as saying he is present there in a manner (locally) that he isn't elsewhere? As to how is body is in many places?, I don't know. A mystery.


10:59 PM  
Blogger Seraph said...

I'm so happy to learn the REC has revised its canons! Are they available for perusing on the internet?

Meanwhile, could you encapsulate Fr. Schmemann's understanding of the Eucharistic presence in two sentences or less? :) Sounds like Gavin is interested also.

4:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think there are sufficient articles and links on this site to answer my questions.


11:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the illegitimate step child of Rome Anglicanism carries with it many of the inherent errors of Rome such as infant baptism, which derived from the heretical sect the Manacheans.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an erroneous statement. Oh, well. We Orthodox existed before Roman Catholicism, and we thoroughly condemned the Manicheans and fought consistently against them. But, we baptise infants because it was handed down since apostolic times.


6:08 PM  

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