Salisbury’s Orb

Normally I try to stay on topic, or follow some sort of theme, but last week Anglican Rose received a very nice plug from Fr. Anthony Chadwick who’s a chaplain in the Traditional Anglican Communion serving Normandy, France. Our Pax Dei page was used at Chadwick’s blog, As the Sun in its Orb (SarumUse), to bounce around questions regarding a ‘northern catholic’ identity. Chadwick broaches this subject by asking, “What is classical Anglicanism?”

Chadwick slowly eliminates a number of possible definitions, but in the process he admits the question’s elusiveness given (what I assume is) the multi-ethnic and post-imperial character of today’s decaying Oceanic civilization. He says,

“One problem of Anglicanism is that its basis is the English Crown, and by extension, the British Empire (it still exists, but now consists only of the British Isles and a few scattered islands in different parts of the world and the extreme south of the Iberian Pen-insular). As an Erastian entity, the unity of the Anglican Church revolved around our English nationality and our language. Once that is gone, one has then to look for distinctive theological characteristics like the confessional churches of the Reformation. That is something that puts Americans at sixes and sevens as they seek to affirm their elusive identity in a nation that was designed to be a cultural melting pot.”

As politically incorrect as it may sound, perhaps the alleged disintegration of WASP ethnicity is a premature verdict; nonetheless, Chadwick’s observation is an interesting one, namely, post-imperialism has moved Anglicans to flesh forth “distinctive theological characteristics” rather than visible attributes of nationality or king. While Anglicans certainly don’t need the present-day British Crown or parliament to cease control of the church, we do need present-day bishops to value the regal accomplishments of the Tudor and Stuart regimes in the church. It’s really a honorable memory of our royal nursing parents (1532-1716), and therefore the associated texts approved, that is missing. In otherwords, the distinctive theology marking Anglicanism cannot exist outside of a royalist nostalgia.

Chadwick then adds the conundrum, “The problem of Anglicanism remains the same – is it a legitimate religious expression for people who speak English but are far from England’s ways?” Chadwick doesn’t really answer this hard question (balancing the particular to the universal), but he hopes the term “northern catholicism” provides a catharsis for sorting out what otherwise a complex historical identity.

My own take on the Crown and Empire in the church is that Anglicanism cannot afford to entirely dispensed with such. Nor is their continued lifespan merely an abstract proposition but has resonance in less explicit expressions of liturgical memory as well as episcopacy itself.  A discussion on episcopal cultus was attempted in older articles, “The Litany’s Fladstool” and the “Bishop’s Third Part“, the basic idea being the archbishop’s relative political capacity to substitute for the British king. These articles tackle “regency-in-the-church” as such might be implicit with episcopacy’s own monarchical tendency. The articles also explain how Anglicanism might lump around for some time without a Christian Prince given we still have various classes of Bishops.

Furthermore, nationality and language already possess heavy embodiment in Anglican ‘distinctive theological characteristics’, otherwise known as our “patrimony”, enshrined in texts like the Prayer Book, Hymnals, and Authorized Bible. Obviously, this only scratches the surface of how ethnicity and faith intersect and magnify, so it is odd to opt for other categories of human solidarity apart from what’s immediately to be had. To a great extent, Patrimony is cultural legacy.

Nonetheless, Northern Catholicism has several useful and highly important applications. The interchangeability of it with Anglicanism is perhaps the result of early Lutheran engagement with delegates like Heath and Fox, creating something of a concord between England and Germany that Tudors developed into the first set of standards, starting with the Ten Articles. In fact, by 1542 most of the constitutive parts of what might be known as the media via were finished– an unfortunate point missed with critics of the Henrician establishment. This is no small matter because the Henrician era provides the archetype of Northern Catholicism. Henry VIII placed the English church in a predictable ecclesiastical center that early Lutherans and Erasmusian catholics were in the process of staking out.

Northern Catholicism therefore suggests religious or theological affinities as well as certain marital and geographic sorts, and perhaps we can begin to think of European Christendom without a heliocentric Rome but having more than one center with a number of orbits between.   Certainly, this was how it appeared in the 16th century with the expectation of a Nordic-Latin general council upon the cusp of Trent. Lancelot Andrewes speaks of degrees of love (obligations in either family or church being unequal), and this might be another approach regarding Nordic vs. Latin relations, especially how 16th century ecumenicism was often determined by either love or enmity between royal families. Another useful term we might consider that touches the northern churches is “national catholicism” ? 

A final point might be raised against the myth of state corruption. As disestablishment is looked back upon, we don’t see the ‘free church’ model being any less susceptible to ‘culture’ than the stat-sponsored church. More could be said about Tractarianism’s original attitude toward the state– that higher views of apostolic succession were fleshed out partly in reaction to the advent of universal emancipation and consequent withdrawal of Crown from the church in the 1830’s. That said, disestablishment has allowed traditionalists to basically separate themselves from TEC denominational crisis, allowing small minorities to preserve a stressed but indispensable orthodoxy, hopefully good for future use and not just xenophobic.

I’m actually excited by Chadwick’s writings and with Fr. Chadwick personally am convinced Northern Catholicism desperately needs exploration, giving a certain primacy to indigenous and insular relations between German, Scandinavian, and English churches (more often expedited through royal marriages). Also, the ordinary use of the word is liberating. The term “nordic”, “german”, and “northern” have so much PC jargon and stigma weighing them, it is almost impossible to speak of them without paying tribute to Leftism. To see their rendition, no matter how timid, into a daily prose is indeed refreshing. Also, we are often victims of our (lack of) vocabulary. Terminology has power, and it is necessary we historically define or at least qualify terms like “catholic”, “protestant”, and “evangelical” in a studied manner. For me, Northern Catholic is the best way to describe an early concilar protestantism that was relatively medieval.  Indeed, I’ll dance in the streets when we finally stop calling ‘Baptists’ protestant and evangelical. We will be finally speaking clearly! Now, I ask Fr. Chadwick permission to appropriate for my Pax Dei page his terrific quote taken from Bishop Giles de Bridport . I believe the quote not only descriptive of the Salisbury rite, but it has something of a prophetic voice regarding the role of the British church, say, until the democratic onslaught of 19th century Reform bills:

“The Church of Salisbury shines as the sun in its orb among the Churches of the whole world in its divine service and those who minister it, and by spreading its rays everywhere makes up for the defects of others.”

2 responses to “Salisbury’s Orb

  1. Thank you for these encouraging words. I’ll do a little write-up on my blog.


  2. Pingback: Comment of ‘Salisbury’s Orb’ | As the sun in its orb

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