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Anglican Patrimony

5 April 2011

Since the publication of Anglicanorum coetibus and the creation of the Anglican Ordinaria of the Latin Church (Roman Catholic Church) a new term has entered the lexicon of Anglicanism and ecumenical dialogue between Canterbury and Rome: Anglican patrimony. A recent post on the blog Pro Unione: Working for Christian Unity from the heart of Rome by A.J. Boyd described a meeting of Anglican and Roman Catholic canonists on Anglicanus coetibus and the now-forming Anglican Ordinaria and their relation to this notion of ‘Anglican patrimony.’ Anglicanorum coetibus refers several times to this very inchoate notion, never actually seeking to define beyond making some inferences about what it is not (see below), but the term and its implications remain fairly mysterious. Does it refer to the theological emphases of Anglicanism or the traditions of Anglican liturgy? When traditional features of Anglican thought and worship conflict with Roman ones will they be treated as equally valid expressions of Christian faith and life?

Whatever ‘Anglican patrimony’ is, from the perspective of the Catholic Church, the Anglican understanding of the priesthood is not a part of it. Though married Anglican priests who join the ordinaria will be allowed to remain married new priests within the ordinaria will be expected to maintain the clerical discipline of the Latin rite and there will be no married bishops. It likely goes without saying that there will be no women amongst these priests. Anglican sacramentology is likely also out. Though, as Boyd points out, in ARCIC one the Anglican side recognised a ‘sacramental’ hierarchy with the dominical sacraments of baptism and Eucharist at the top and the other being of some lower dignity amongst the sacramental acts of the church this position is far from standard and throughout the majority of the Communion one will find the dominical sacraments strongly emphasised.

An important, though oft-overlooked, factor in the discussion is that Anglican patrimony cannot be confined to the churches of the Anglican Communion. There have for over a century existed other churches which share in the Anglican tradition, largely originating in schism with the Church of England and the Episcopal Church. These traditions, such as the Orthodox Anglican Church, the Continuing Anglican Movement, the Traditional Anglican Communion, and the recently-founded Anglican Church in North America, all have claim to Anglican patrimony and the distinct expressions of the Anglican tradition to be found in their churches must be counted part of what it can mean to be Anglican, if not the Anglican mainstream.

The precise nature of an ‘Anglican identity’ is elusive, even, or perhaps especially, to Anglicans. Anglicanism lacks en eponymous founder whose work can be turned to and pored over or a normative confession whose dictates define in no uncertain terms what Anglicans believe. The historical import of the Thirty-Nine Articles cannot be overlooked, but these were never binding upon lay parishioners and are no longer even binding upon the ordained. Once upon a time Richard Hooker’s Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity enjoyed a status close to that of a confessional norm, but those days are long since past. The term “doxologial method” has sometimes been employed when describing the Anglican take on constructing a denominational identity. Within this conception Anglicans are united by how they go about worshiping rather theology.

Certainly Anglicanism includes any number of distinctive, or at least peculiar, realities which mark out Anglicanism as a distinctive tradition and more than simply a via media. The choral tradition, especially prominent in those churches that descend principally from the Church of England, and its ultimate expression in Choral Evensong, is a proud mark off Anglican identity for many. The tradition of the Book of Common Prayer is extremely influential for those churches of the Communion that stand in the English strand of the tradition (as opposed to the distinct but not discrete Scottish-American strand).

However Anglicanism does have doctrinal distinctives, distinctive more because of their combination than their novelty, which set it apart from other traditions. The Church of England (Anglican’s mother church) was the lone church of the reformation to maintain apostolic succession and reject the priesthood of all believers, though the former has now been re-acquired by some Lutherans. Anglicans thus have a distinct theology of ministry, particularly as the only church maintaining apostolic succession to the exclusion of the priesthood of all believers (which even those Lutheran churches maintaining apostolic succession affirm) ordaining women. Anglicanism retains a heavily sacrificial Eucharistic theology, more so than any Protestant church, but rejects the offering of Christ in the Eucharist and Eucharistic adoration, which are identifying features of Catholic theology.  Anglicanism also rejects the ability of the Eucharist to propitiate sins, accepting salvation only by faith in the propitiatory sacrifice on the cross, though that issue has been addressed to a large degree in ecumenical dialogue. Anglicanism maintains a distinctive canon of 75 books, including an Apocrypha of 11 books and four Apocryphal additions to books of the Old Testament (generally known as “Greek ‘name of book in question,'” eg “Greek Esther”), making the Anglican Apocrypha longer than the Roman Catholic Deuterocanon but shorter than any of the eastern Deuterocanons.

Whatever ‘Anglican patrimony’ is finally understood by Rome to be, it will likely be marked by compromise as the traditions of the Latin Church encounter Anglicanism’s distinctive practices and approaches. This process of adaption of the Anglican tradition by the Catholic Church will result in a new and distinctive incarnation of Anglicanism, unique to the Anglican Ordinaria, which will constitute in itself a distinctive Anglican patrimony. By way of conclusion to this essay this closing thought from Boyd’s post is well worth pondering over:

Final comments came from two Anglicans. The first shared that he had initially thought this “pastoral response” was anything but ecumenical, but as he reflected on it, the idea formed that the Anglican patrimony to be received by the Catholic Church in the Ordinariates was the people themselves. In this way, by receiving them, we are receiving some part of Anglicanism, and this may eventually turn out to be one more way in which the ground was prepared for the full-scale reception of each other in full communion down the road.

See the original discussion here: Colloquium on Anglican Patrimony in light of the Apostolic Constitution: A Canon Law Perspective

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. 12 April 2011 8:56 pm

    I was going to read the whole thing before I commented, but I really can’t go on without pointing this out: it is an ‘Ordinariate’ that has been formed for the former Anglicans; I do not know what an ‘ordinaria’ might be.

    • Matthew SG permalink*
      13 April 2011 8:39 am

      ‘Ordinaria’ would be the plural from the particular Vatican document I found when looking for the plural of ‘Anglican ordinariate.’ Though it sounds odds it is parallel to ‘metropolia.’

      • 13 April 2011 3:02 pm

        I hope you kept the link handy, because this I need to see. And ‘metropolia’? Really?

      • Matthew SG permalink*
        14 April 2011 9:24 am

        I did not I am afraid. I will attempt to retrieve it again and post it.

  2. 15 April 2011 8:13 pm

    I must confess that, before I began my current round of studies, I had given hardly any thought at all to the Church of England (aside from the specifically Roman Catholic hagiography deriving from the days of the initial break with Rome), and knew even less about Anglicanism as it has developed to the present day. Now it is a daily topic of concern, investigation, and persistent hope for renewed communion between the English and Roman traditions in the Catholic Church.

    I thank you for your reflections here, giving me pause to reflect further for myself on what the ‘Anglican patrimony’ may be, what value it will be given by the Church of Rome, and how it may add to and enrich the living tradition of the Christian Church as its members continue to grope their way, as individuals and in groups, toward a day when all might in some way be more fully one.

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