In Principles of Religious Ceremonial, the Rt. Rev. Walter H. Frere outlines several maxims regarding the application of right ritual. The Principles of Religious Ceremonial is actually an English Use manual for worship much like Dearmer’s Parson’s Guide. It is largely a study on Sarum ritual as well as the Ornaments Rubric, but it is also a criticism of anglo-papism. Frere’s work might be viewed as a reigning in of advance ritualism rather than a further extension of catholic revival. Regarding the treatment of Principles for greater ceremonial restraint, Frere comments on Anglo-catholic practices:
“At the present moment we are in the midst of a period of experiment and expansion. The result of all this is a great diversity in matters of ceremonial. There are signs, however, that the limits of this diversity have been reached; and there are hopes that the moment is coming for the attainment of a far greater measure of unity than has been possible at least during the last fifty years. If this is to be the case, the unity can only be secured through a testing of the customs in use by the standard of ceremonial principles.” (Principles, p. 140)
The call for ritual consolidation certainly pertains today as much as it did over one-hundred years ago when Frere’s Principles were first published in 1907. Most of the principle to be tested is in relation to the Ornaments Rubric and continuity with certain Sarum customs. But Frere also admits two other factors– the rule of faith as well as reasonable bishopric discretion. In discussing the role of faith there is a maxim which many Anglicans too frequently ignore, namely, ceremony informs doctrine. Of course, the reverse is also true. Regarding the regulation of ritual by Anglican doctrine, Frere says:
“A valuable method of exercising discrimination will be to test ceremonial by analogy. Is it in a right analogy with doctrine, or with the rite to which it is annexed? Ceremonial has constantly been the expression of the less educated and superstitious mind, instead of being the expression of the better educated and more reverent conscience of the Church. Ceremonial acts must therefore be continually tested, to see how far they are according to the analogy of the faith. To genuflect in honor of our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament is an act which accords duly with the reverent belief in the real presence; but such a belief does not necessitate the precision with which some on returning from communion ostentatiously direct their genuflexion towards the exact point where one or other priest happens to be administering.” (p. 139)
Frere goes on describing a number of examples where ceremony indeed conflicts with doctrine. In the description quote above, however, Frere criticizes genuflexuion that is directed toward the localized host rather than the sacramental act . This reasoning seems due to the common silence that Anglican articles often treat the mode of real presence. Hence, Frere is asking something analogous in our bodily gestures. Frere provides further commentary against frequent genuflexion by historical argument, noting the limited use of geneflexion even in the Sarum where these prostrations were reserved for a few penitential occasionals as well as at high festivals when the high altar was censed (p. 152). Regardless, Frere’s methodology is aimed against diversities (or lawlessness) in catholic revival which has become a virtually permanent feature of contemporary Anglicanism.
Bound Together: Too frequently Anglicans define their faith in terms of mere ‘practice’, as if Anglicanism has no doctrine but is simply sacramental or the mystery of prayer, rejecting anything that smacks of a logical system or summa for doctrine. Everything is consequently reduced to a ‘sacramental encounter’ and rather than talking theology, Anglicans seem to talk in a low contextual, primitive, and cultish sign language. The danger with this sort of mysticism is is that other liturgical practices that are dynamically informed by rational systems of theology inevitably find their way into Anglican belief, speaking where Anglicans no longer know how to speak. Therefore, if we refuse to uphold the standards of the Anglican Settlement as too “western”, “protestant”, or “reformed”, other confessions from places antithetical to reformed catholicism, such as Rome, Constantinople, or Edinburgh, tend to fill the gap.
It is often heard that Anglicans never had a single standard like the WCF, and consequently Anglicans can ignore the 39 Articles if not all formulae. This is a non-sequitur since no historic protestant or catholic church has ever adopted only ‘one’ symbol. Though the Anglicans took a more conservative position than continentals with respect to the Reformation and catholic past, the Settlement itself had an organization similar to Magisterial Protestant countries elsewhere. Typically they adopted multiple standards that were expected to work together, e.g., a book of worhsip, confession, longer catechism, canons, etc..
For example, the Lutherans gathered together several doctrinal formulae into their Book of Concord which consisted of at least a half-dozen ‘confessions’. They also started their reformation with hundreds of local church-orders for worship, and so diversity was much more a mark of Lutheranism than it was in Anglicanism. German and Swiss Reformed also upheld a number of symbols in the process of their disputations about catholic theology . The Dutch settled on ‘Three Forms of Unity” while German-Swiss started with the Augsburg and its Apology, adding later either the Heidelberg Cathechism or Wittenberg if not the First Helvetic Concords. As Calvin’s catechism was exported abroad in the late 1540’s, across the channel it was found bound in a single book with the Geneva bible and confession. It’s a surpise the Institutes were not included!
In England, various bindings of Anglican standards were also common, published together from time to time illustrating the interdependence of formulae. Henry VIII published the Ten Articles bound with the 1537 catechism. Elizabeth did the same with Nowell’s catechism, Jewel’s Apology and the 39 articles. The KJV at one time likewise bound the BCP calendar with lectionary, demonstrating their complementary nature. The Two Book of Homilies also contained the 39 Articles and sometimes canons. And, today the Book of Common Prayer normally includes the 1563/1801 Articles despite the technical fact neither the 39 Articles nor the Coverdale Psalter are formal parts of the Prayer Book. The compilation of these standards, especially from a catholic perspective, is justified by the fact scripture is indeed mediated by the Church. The 39 articles admit there is no such thing as solo scriptura, “the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ”. So, standards are nothing less than the witness of due ecclesiastical authority against private acts.
An Incarnational Perspective: A more anglo-catholic dislike of confessional symbols might argue mystical union against “logical” summas. But this is often a prejudice against Western scholasticism, pretending the East has none while splitting the law of prayer against the rule of faith. Perhaps a more authentic catholic answer is that the separation of symbol from liturgy is really artificial, and their division is as wrong as dividing word from sacrament. This is especially true when discussing documents that emerge from the college of bishops and ecclesiastical synod which are predicated upon submission. In this case, they are certainly born from the life and communion of the church– Christ himself– having a prophetic quality. However, without common authority, the church becomes congregationalist and the role of the bishopric as vicar effectively disappears.
An interesting argument made by the Rev. Dr. Barbaugh (19th century German Reformed Church) regarding the working together of the prophetic with priestly office was that such cooperation was the consequence of Christ’s incarnation, and that since Christ holds these Crowns, the Church ought as well by proxy. Barbaugh said,
“As in Christ, so in His Church, prophet, priest, and king are not three separate offices, but one office in a threefold form. They are all embodied in one and the same Christian minister. Their functions unite in his ministrations in very complete divine service. He is a prophet in his pulpit teaching, a priest in the altar service, and a king in the exercise of the power of the keys… Thus the church must ever embrace in its remedial activities the threefold interest of Creed, Ritual, and Government, as these find expression in Confession or Catechism, Liturgy, and Code of Laws. Hence, Church History is made up of doctrine, worship, and government; and these three, live the divine offices of prophet, priest, and king which underlie them, are one. They compliment and energize one another. They must be consistent with each other. There must ever be an inward harmony between them. As one is honored, all are honored; as one suffers, all suffers with it.” (Tercentenary Monument, p. 231)
Is the denial of discipline in the church is also a denial of the person of Christ? Unfortunately, modern Protestantism’s tendency has been to go to the other route, reducing the priestly office for sake of the prophetic, and so there is an equal danger to go the other extreme as Dr. Bardaugh remarks,
“Previous to the Reformation the prophetic office had not its full, free honor and exercise; when, as a consequence, the priestly office grew arrogant, adn the kingly tyrannical. Since the Reformation, in the Protestant Church the tendency has been the other way. The prophetic office has been plied beyond its proportion, while the priestly and kingly have suffered corresonding undervaluation, neglect, and tacit dishonor” (p. 232)
Anglicans have perhaps more standards than any other reformation or catholic church. Not only is there the 39 articles, Prayer Book, and 1604 canons but also the Homilies, Jewel’s Apology, a 1578 primer, two English bibles (1568 and 1611), and two catechisms (1571 and 1543) to guide faith and teach clergy. These were appointed to help sum faith and restore worship in England. We also seem to have the oldest set of standards amongst Protestant churches, largely unaltered since 1571. This places us in a unique relation to the earliest phase of the Reformation when divines still had one foot firmly inside the intellectual mindset and the soul of the best catholicism of the medieval church. There is much the standards offer, but when ignored or passed over the ability to regulate worship is indeed inhibited since the doctrinal basis originally attached is lost, making the curtailment of present-day abuses extremely challenging if not impossible to judge.