An Anglican Priest

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

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

High Church vs. Low Church:
Importance of Context.

The term "high church" is contextual and not absolute, as is the use of the term "low church" when used as a contrast. Hooker was "high church" in contrast to Cartwright, but many "high church" today consider him too "low church" and reject him outright as a "protestant" (and he was, but in the best sense of the term as protesting the errors of Rome and Puritan alike). The practices of the Free Church of England may be decried by "the Continuum" today as "low church" (1662 Prayer Book, surplice and tippets, etc) but in the 18th century those practices would have been considered the norm or even "high church" (continued use of the surplice when many in that time rioted against it). The Caroline divines and those who protected the BCP from the Puritans were "high church," but the use of the very Prayer Book they laid out and defended (the 1662) is considered "low church" by those who use the 1928 American or the Missals. Also, the "high church" Scottish bishops from whom we received the 1928 Eucharistic liturgy and the American succession would be considered "high" in their theology but "low" in their practice--they wore only black gowns when consecrating Seabury to the episcopate. And this is why I ask each "faction" to examine the function of why something is being done in a certain way by a certain group at a certain time and be charitable in their judgments.

That being said, when visitors from other Anglican jurisdictions (and from other countries) visit our parish, I'd like them to be able to recognize the vesture and worship as historically Anglican. Indeed, if Hooker or Laud or Wesley entered our parish I'd hope they'd feel at home with what we were doing--preaching Biblical doctrines, using the historic Prayer Book, following traditional Anglican ceremonial, etc. I'm being idealistic (and perhaps not realistic) here; ideally I'd like the minister to be wearing something readily identifiable as some form of historic Anglican vesture (something along the lines of the rubric from the 1928 English book--surplice and stole or alb and vestment/chasuble/cope), so that when someone went from parish to parish they'd see the family resemblance. Black Geneva gowns, suits and ties, lacy cottas, etc, probably wouldn't fit the bill to make this happen.

And with all that being said, a Sunday Eucharist from the historic Prayer Book with a Biblical sermon is more important than vesture.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


As you demonstrate, Churchmanship is somewhat relative to time and place. But, at the end of the day, we have enduringly recognizable and distinctly identifiable Anglican patrimony. (And it ain't either leather or lace.)

Note Bene to all self-styled Anglican traditionalist: If you want to call yourself a duck, then please make an attempt to quack occassionally.

3:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to agree that this is an excellent post.

8:51 PM  
Blogger Faber_Pecunia_Anglorum said...

I completely agree with"anonymous".

11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I walk into a church, I'd like to hear and see liturgy, vestments, and ceremony which indicate that the celebrant and congregation are aware that our Lord is objectively present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Blessed Sacrament.

9:45 AM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...

That's a wonderful sentiment, except for the fact that different traditions do this in different ways, and here I am urging Anglicans to do things in the Anglican way, not the Roman nor the Byzantine. Death Breadon can jump in here any time to clarify and expand upon this. In the Anglican Church the centrality of the Holy Table, the Throne of the Heavenly Grace, God's Board, and the reverence shown to it is the manner of honoring the Eucharistic celebration and Sacrifice. The very best way to indicate Christ's presence with and under the species of bread and wine is worthy reception of the Sacrament.


10:46 AM  
Anonymous D Bunker said...

Indeed, AC. Much better to have a Doctor Pusey celebrating in a dignified cassock, supplice, hood and stole than all the dalmatics, tunicles, chasubles and albs bedizened with lace one could find and feel that it was a show or sham and that true reverence to Our Lord was not central to the service. The Anglican way has been one of humble--at most stately, always dignified--reverence. Alas, this seems to have faded from practice. What has happened to "I must decrease, that He may increase"?

4:51 PM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...

Amen, D Bunker.

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess it is a sentimement, but it is a also Catholic doctrine; one that many low-churchmen dont believe, signifying their unbelief by eschewing ceremonies and vestments that are adopted and worn by Catholics to honor our Lord.

10:31 AM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...

Yes, the Real Presence is a Catholic doctrine, one accepted by the whole Church, always and everywhere, one should not confuse that which is Roman with that which is Catholic. The ceremony of the Eastern Church is not like that of the modern Roman Church, nor was the ceremony of the early English Church like that. Again, the bowing to the altar and the inclination of the head are seen as the equivalents of the modern genuflection. Because one bows instead of bending the knee does not mean that he does not reverence the Sacrament just as strongly. Again, the greatest reverence that can be shown the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood is in the worthy reception.

11:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose I am just not as interested in being distinctively "Anglican." The Catholic Church has existed in England since the 2nd century (I think); all of the riches of her ancient, undivided and living Tradition (currently witnessed to by Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglo-Catholic churches) ought to considered our own. If something of those riches was set aside (or outright repudiated) by the 16th century reformers in England (and others since), it is the right of every Anglican, being ontologically engrafted into the Catholic Church by means of the valid sacramental ministry, and it is the duty of our Pastors, being Bishops in Apostolic Succession, to regather what has been lost. Whether this is the faith (or ceremonial) of Cranmer, Hooker, et al, is of secondary importance (though not unimportant). I don't mind copying Rome or the East if it so happens that they do something better, or offer something more, or receive the Faith more fully, than has been traditional in "Anglicanism." Now that might be idealistic, but I consider an ideal to be, when necessary, the occasion of a reform, as did so many Catholic saints of the past. I guess Anglo-Catholics and low-churchmen simply have different ideals.

3:24 PM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...

Once again, it seems you are assuming that the ceremonial and practices of modern Rome are those of the 2nd century English Church or even the current Eastern Churches. They are demonstrably not. The more restrained ceremonial of the English Church was the norm in Western Christendom (and has more in common with current Eastern practice) up until the 10th century. Modern Anglo-Catholic practice is almost totally 19th century Roman, and most of these practices did not become "the norm" until after the Council of Trent. I agree that we ought to take up the practices of that which can be shown to be ancient and Catholic. However, too often this is confused with what is modern and Roman. When we copy the East sometimes it can be better, for most of what is maintained in the East is ancient. When we copy what is Roman we must do so with a cold eye, for the later ritualists of the Anglo-Catholic did so, and threw away much that was ancient in ceremonial and custom and took up much that was modern--assuming it ancient only because it was Roman.

You seem to be painting yourself as "Anglo-Catholic" and anyone who sees differently as "low-church." You are making the very point of the post for this discussion and also missing the main point. You have set the bar of "Anglo-Catholic" as assuming near identity with Rome, which I believe is erroneous and indeed "un-Catholic." If you are familiar with the works of great Anglo-Catholics such as Bishop Gore or C.B. Moss you must have some understanding of what I mean--there is a demarcation beyond which something stops being "Catholic" and is simply Roman. Latin masses, purgatory, transubstantiation, the Immaculate Conception, the infallible and authoritatian papacy, rituals and beliefs that emerged in the West after 1054, etc., are all un-Catholic and uniquely Roman. However, it is often these same practices that many self-styled Anglo-Catholics embrace as the marks of "true Anglo-Catholicism," and anyone who does not embrace them is labled as "low-church." This is a remarkably Orwellian use of the language.


5:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope that I did not depart too far from the context of this post with my comments. In any case, I have not asserted, nor assumed, that 19th century Roman is the standard ceremonial to be used by all Anglicans who believe what the Catholic Church teaches regarding our Lord's objective presence in the Eucharistic species.

What I am asserting is that, so far as I can tell, some Anglicans adopted those ceremonies from Rome as an expression of their belief in the Real Presence and the Sacrifice of the Mass. And, again so far as I can tell, at least some of those reverences paid to the Altar, the Body and Blood, including that which is reserved in the Tabernacle, which are ignored, dismissed and/or forbidden by the ritual notes you provided in the most recent post, are (in my experience) more expressive of adoration of, and (in my experience) lead to deeper devotion to, our Eucharistic Lord.

It is of secondary importance to me whether or not such particular acts of reverence and devotion were developed in the Roman Church of the Middle Ages, the 19th century, or any other place or time.

Undoubtably Rome, in promulgating papal claims as Catholic dogma, has erred, but I do not assume that everything distinctively Roman (post-schism) un-Catholic, which is what you assert.

Nor do I assume that everyone who eschews certain Roman Catholic reverences and devotions to the Blessed Sacrament is "low-church," by which I mean Anglicans who reject the doctrines of the objective Real Presence and the Sacrifice of the Mass.

My comments do not logically imply more than this. I nowhere say or imply that mediaeval or 19th century Roman rites are the same as Ancient or Eastern; I simply say that some things borrowed from Rome are appropriate and Catholic (in the sense of being legitimate ritual developments expressive of Catholic doctrine).

I have not set the bar of Anglo-Catholic as Roman Catholic. I have pointed out that many Anglicans borrow Roman practices for the purpose of honoring our Lord, and that some Anglicans reject those same practices because they reject the Catholic theology (objective Real Presence and the Eucharistic Sacrifice) that underlies them. This does not imply that every one who rejects those practices rejects the theology (this is basic logic).

I think that I saw your original point: terminology needs to be understood in context; I am assuming that high-church/low-church distinctions often (not always) have at their root a real difference in theology- which is important to consider if we, as you recommend, are to examine why certain things are done at certain times in certain ways. You also recommended that we be charitable in our judgments.

I ask you to take your own advice. Instead of claiming that I "seem to be" doing this that or another, you should either show the logical relation between what I actually say and what you infer, or else ask me to clarify.

In Christ,


10:29 AM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...

Andrew wrote:

"What I am asserting is that, so far as I can tell, some Anglicans adopted those ceremonies from Rome as an expression of their belief in the Real Presence and the Sacrifice of the Mass. And, again so far as I can tell, at least some of those reverences paid to the Altar, the Body and Blood, including that which is reserved in the Tabernacle, which are ignored, dismissed and/or forbidden by the ritual notes you provided in the most recent post, are (in my experience) more expressive of adoration of, and (in my experience) lead to deeper devotion to, our Eucharistic Lord."

All well and good, but those practices were introduced and indeed teach one specific doctrine of the Real Presence--transubstantiation. While you as an individual may like this doctrine, it is not wise to introduce practices that say to the faithful "this is the doctrine" or "this is the teaching of the Anglican Church" or "the Catholic Church." The ceremonies described in the article are nearer to those of the anicent Church as well as the Eastern Church--they also do not teach things explicitly rejected by our Prayer Book, by our most notable theologians from Cranmer to Moss, as well as by the Orthodox theologians.

The things that are ignored or dismissed are usually things introduced by Roman and expressive of distinctly Roman theology. The author speaks clearly of the eucharistic sacrifice and the real presence--the ceremonial is that of the English Church of the undivided period. Indeed, the real presence and the eucharistic sacrifice are clearly stated in the words of the Prayer Book. Because the ceremonial describes does not have the Roman elements that you desire in it, it is more, not less, Catholic.

What do you mean when you state "Our Eucharistic Lord"? Literally this means "Our Thanksgiving Lord." Do you mean this to be akin to saying "Our Baptismal Lord"?


11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"thanksgiving" is a noun, "eucharistic" is an adjective. so your literal translation is not literal. it would be if I had said our "eucharist" Lord.

The meaning is: Our Lord in his sacramental modality, i.e., a mode of being which obtains in virtue of sacramental signification- that unique symbolism wherein the sign and the thing signified are one. This is, of course, a mystery.

11:42 AM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...

I still trying to point out that you are using the term in a peculiar manner, even though widely accepted. I was wrong in my translation, for there is no good way to use a Greek term that literally means Thanksgiving, refer to the Christian rite of Thanksgiving, and then use the common term for the rite to modify the noun "Lord." The analogy between saying "baptismal Lord" and "Eucharistic Lord" is still apt--we speak of a baptismal font (modifying the name of the font with its use), or the eucharistic elements, or the Eucharistic celebration. My problem with the common use of the terminology (refering to the "Eucharistic Lord" rather than "The Lord made known in the Eucharist") is that it has a tendency to remove the elements from the whole of the Sacrament itself--the Sacrament is not the elements alone, but the elements employed in θεία ευχαριστία. I'm using Father Alexander Schmemman's emphasis on Christ's "presence" (or "power" as Moss prefers) in the Eucharist as the whole of the rite, for to dissect the elements of bread and wine out of the Sacrament as a whole, as much of Western theology is want to do, is to walk down a path of error and confusion, asking questions of "when did it 'become' Christ's Body and Blood?" or "When does it stop 'being' Christ's Body and Blood?" I will continue to post on the issue--the words will not be my own. Sorry for all of the cutting and pasting, or retyping from other sources, but better minds than mine have already addressed these issues, and as you can see I am in agreement with them.



2:53 PM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...

Please excuse my typos--I damaged my right hand two weeks back and my typing has fallen off at bit.


3:57 PM  

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