Northerness Redux

elizabeth engraving

Elizabeth, the Occidental Star

Happily, the Most Reverend Peter Robinson, UECNA archbishop, recently wrote a piece titled Northerness, regarding the affinity of high church Lutheranism to Anglo-catholic worship. Robinson’s essay touches upon a subject I hope central to Anglican Rose, and this is the  possibility and emergence of a “Northern Catholicism”. Northern Catholicism is interchangeable with a concilar Protestantism in dialogue with the Augsburg Confession, so an inquiry into high church Lutheranism is surely welcomed.

Perhaps the great disappointment of the Reformation was the ecclesiastical stillbirth of a Northern Church rooted upon a common confession and concilar polity. History provides several junctures where a Northern Catholic church might have emerged which any student of Reformation should familiarize themselves. Pusey spends a good deal of time discussing some of these confluences in his book on the Real Presence, particularly with the short-comings of the disputation at Worms. Other junctures revolve around intermittent Anglo-german relations, often anticipated by royal marriages between English and German families, where each typically represented the head of a national-church. Not surprisingly, the Anglo-german policy was first a Tudor one, beginning under the Henry VIII. It continued through the Elizabethan and Jacobean regimes (James I married his daughter to the elector Palsgrave), finally hitting something of a crescendo upon  Hanoverian succession.

Unfortunately, the Hanoverian era is better known for its latitudinarian bishops rather than the persistence of a vibrant high church tradition earlier preserved by Elizabeth and then Stewart royals.  Though Anglican high churchmen were diminished after the expulsion of non-juror clergy in 1690, albiet still kicking during Queen Anne, the fortunes of the old high churchmen followed  success of Toryism in Parliament– a trend happily revived by George III. However, the late-18th century Hanoverian “restoration” was short-lived given the arising strength of popular forces Edwardian society, eventually precipitating the 1832 Reform crisis. Interestinlgy, Tractarianism was a misguided effort to compensate the loss of the Crown in the church, dealt a critical death blow by 19th century democratic reform movements.

Nonetheless, Hanoverian succession did something unprecedented and startling. It made the British crown an Elector within the Holy Roman Empire. At this point, it might be said England ruled three empires– the ancient English one, Scotland’s much smaller dominion over some of the isles in the Northern Sea, and finally holdings in Germany that gave Britain potential rights to the throne in the HRE. Together with  Hohenzollerns, the tide in post-Napoleonic Europe shifted against the old Catholic League in favor of the known Evangelical or Northern Catholic-Protestant states. This realignment was more apparent when Austria demoted herself to partner status alongside major powers at the Congress of Vienna.

Yet, between Evangelical-magisterial states, the church agreement stood to historically include: 1. subscription to the Augsburg Confession alongside the 39 Articles; 2.  in exchange for accepting the Augsburg, Canterbury would regularize Prussian ‘superintendents’, making a historic episcopate for Germany. This goes without discussing Scandinavia’s preservation of apostolic orders from the very start of the Reformation.

Also proposed was a common Jerusalem episcopate, rotated between Germans and English. Curiously, the primacy of a Jerusalem patriarch had been a request presented by non-jurors to the Greeks a hundred years prior. In 1841 it appeared Anglo-German churches were indeed fulfilling something of the non-juror mandate. Moreover, by 1841 the beginnings of a canonical Northern Catholicism was being drawn having Canterbury at its head, a Jerusalem Patriarch as a common Anglo-german ecumenical symbol, with broad agreement upon the Augsburg Confession– the Augsburg itself considered the most catholic of Lutheran confessions and therefore agreeable to the 39 articles.

One might wonder how a United Northern Catholic church, backed by two very powerful British and German Empires, might have impacted later talks with less politically significant Rome, Moscow, and the rest of the Latin-south and christian East?  It certainly challenges claims that Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism are normative for dogma. It’s my personal belief that the vision of a united North led by England can be traced through old Evangelical Unions back to Henry’s marriages. Nor were the specifics of this ecclesiastical proposal unfamiliar to the English church given it had already asked the same from Scotland upon reign of James I. More so, the Thirty-Nine Articles was well-attenuated by Tudor ministers, namely, Cranmer and Parker, for a broad confessional harmony with Rhineland churches who already signed the Augsburg.  Thus “Northerness”  has an equally doctrinal as well as ceremonial component– something Pusey was well aware of while defending an objective real presence  of the sacrament. This doctrinal aspect is what I wish  to hear more upon from the Most Reverend Peter Robinson as he compares commonalities of Anglicanism to the rest of historical Protestantcy.

Northern Catholicism is an idea that certainly deserves study. Below, I hope to add links (some of my own) that further explores efforts to make a non-papal, concilar North. In this alternative universe, Anglicanism was much more than a ‘bridge church’. It also was a historic center of regional primacy in both doctrine and episcopacy. In discussion precedents of succession, Robinson already noted,

““However, as a counterbalance to this there is some evidence that in the case of the Gallican and English Churches there was a certain amount of local autonomy.  Local councils were held – such as the English Council at Clovesho in the 10th century – to resolve local difficulties and make Canons.  We also have that somewhat cryptic letter of St Gregory to St Augustine of Canterbury referring to the later as “‘Patriarch’ of the other orb.”  Implying that the Archbishop of English Church had a certain degree of independence from Rome and was to make his own decisions in keeping with the Catholic and Apostolic faith.  He was perhaps also expressing a hope that the Archbishop of Canterbury might one day become a Patriarch to the Germanic peoples of Northern Europe.”

Needless to say, I was very happy to read the Archbishop’s fine essay on high church German ceremony. Further links on the important idea of Northern Catholicism, closely tied to future of Christendom itself, can be read here:

  • Northern Catholicism by Fr. Anthony Chadwick (on the thoughtfully cautious side but important, Fr Chadwick draws Northern Catholicism from more medieval roots)
  • Christmas Day Articles by C. Bartlett (the best testimony of early Anglo-German relations is comparing the Henrician formulae with early Lutheran. This speaks volumes).
  • Independent Catholicism by Fr. Victor Novak (the second half discusses Anglican Rite recognition by the East, Rome, and Polish National churches. It deserves vital consideration. The first half is de-mythologizes the “orthodoxy” of neo-episcopalians, an expose that Fr. Novak has likely just begun).

12 responses to “Northerness Redux

  1. Pingback: New Article about Northern Catholicism | As the sun in its orb

    • Fr. Chadwick is very kind. In his article introducing Northern Catholicism, I suspected a hesitancy to correlate ethnicity with ecclesiastical polity, though it seemed a relation hard to escape through any national church. As I re-read Fr Chadwick’s essay, I jumped to a hasty conclusion. He really said nothing against a broadly ethnic church as normative. I’ve rewritten the commentary which he took issue with accordingly. My apologies.


  2. Thanks for the excellent historical overview Charles! Here is an article on developments of realignment in the Northern Lutheran churches which I found pretty interesting.


    • Nice, Jesse. The Lutheran Church of Norway seems to have suffered the same hardships as the Church of England and disestablished Episcopal Church in the USA. Social democrats seem to be a recurring problem. The chronic anti-ecclesiastical tendencies within Lutheranism, imo, seem to come from two developments: first, how the German reformation began from a patchwork of principalities and cities, transpiring in a bottom-up, decentralized fashion. Thus, it lacked a general uniformity upon its formative period. Second, and corollary to the above point, the Lutheran notion of common order and ‘adiaphora’ tends to indeed be more individualistic than the English. We have the BCP, a great monument to a uniform liturgy by canon and statute law, while the German was much more patterned according to a voluntary movement. However, I am surprised this was true for more centralized states like Sweden and Norway. I thought the Scandinavian nations were akin to England, the reformation happening under the authority of a single Crown rather than multiple nobles?

      Meanwhile, here’s a little history on the origins of Sweden’s primary church order, from Nigel Yate’s Liturgical Space. I’d love to get my hands on Petri’s 1571 Church Order, and, from the quote below, it sounds like the process which bore Sweden’s order was more like the uniform adoption which made the BCP in England,

      “The first liturgy in Swedish had been produced by Olavus Petri and was officially published in 1531. It was based on Luther’s Formula Missae of 1523 and Andreas Osiander’s Nurnberger Messe of 1525…In 1571 Olavus Petri’s brother, Laurentius Petri, archbishop of Uppsala from 1531-1573, concerned about the growing influence of Calvinism on some sections of the Swedish Church, produced a new Church Order, designed to steer a middle path between Roman Catholics and Reformed Protestants. This provided for the confession to be said in both Latin and Swedish, for the Latin introits and graduals to be replaced by Swedish hymns, for the pre-Reformation sequences for festivals to be reintroduced, for the creed to be sung in Latin rather than Swedish on certain feast days and for a degree of liberty to be permitted in ceremonial matters, such as the elevation and the use of eucharistic vestments, altar cloths and lighted candles.

      Petri’s church order was in turn replaced by the Red Book of 1576, a liturgy which reflected the Catholic tendencies of John III. It restored both the priest’s private devotions and vesting prayers before the beginning of the public liturgy; it also restored the offertory and made provision for a simplified version of the pre-Reformation canon. Although this liturgy was met with grudging acceptance by the bishops and clergy it was rejected at the Uppsala Mote of 1593, which ratified the Church Order of 1571 as the official liturgy of the Swedish Church…the church order of 1571 remained in use [even after the reign of Charles IX who was a convicted calvinist].” p. 29


  3. Thanks for your reply Charles. The example of the Nordic Catholic Church is an interesting one to me because I’m unsure as to what they have conceded in order to accept PNCC provision. Are they still a Lutheran Church which is now in communion with Scranton? or are they a “Lutheran Rite” Old Catholic church? As Anglicans find themselves in a similar bind with regards to WO, I imagine this discussion will become more important. Maybe this is particularly pertinent in the UK where the Continuing Church is much smaller. Personally, I think anything more than the “Bonn Agreement” and we will have given too much, it would become “Anglican Rite” Old Catholicism and exclude many historic forms of churchmanship by definition.


    • Yes, Flemestad gave a rather evasive answer to churchmanship. My guess is the NCC is an imagined Old Catholic jurisdiction. I’m making this assumption based upon Flemested’s stereotypical views about Lutheran ‘confessionalism’; namely, that it is book-biased and such is automatically alienated from practice. He seems to be confusing piestic or revivalist-evangelical movements with16th and 17th-century Lutheranism. Furthermore, does his prejudice against longer catechisms equally apply to the Catechismus Concilii Tridentini or that of the Orthodox Eastern Church by Ignatius Moschake? When doctrine is transmitted in written form by a “summa” rather than liturgy, does this nullify its ability to instruct or guide faith? More often than not, views like Flemestad’s have anti-intellectual overtones as if God refuses to work through the academics of divinity. I believe in England the symbolic works produced during the “catholic” Henrician Church (Ten Articles, King’s Book) were drawn in the 1530’s while the liturgical reforms happened afterwards in the 1540’s. Perhaps this English chronology says something about about the importance of intelligently clarifying doctrine before reinforcing and embedding it into prayer? Anyway, I am surprised how the history of the Scandinavian to the English church is very parallel.


  4. “When doctrine is transmitted in written form by a “summa” rather than liturgy, does this nullify its ability to instruct or guide faith?”
    No, I don’t think it does, my hesitation though is that such documents become “infallible” sources which are less reformable than the Papacy. I’m all for scholarship and academia but I think the Church’s extra-biblical pronouncements need to be careful and simple. I think in Anglicanism today, as in all the Protestant churches in the 16th century, there is a move towards writing more cannons or a larger “confession” in order to prevent the apostasy of the past. I don’t think that’s the answer, it didn’t help the ACC and it really avoids the true issue, which is human sin. A failure to instruct the faithful and a desire to be married to the age, has led to a failure at faithfulness and a secular church. As Fr. Hart said, recalling C.S. Lewis’s famous words, “Anglicanism has been found difficult and left untried.”

    My insistence on the Bonn Agreement honestly comes from a desire to keep our Anglican formularies. If we add to them or subtract from them there is a potential of losing our identity. “Our” identity may be the most precious thing we have to offer to future generations, which is why I really want to work towards unity between Classical Anglicans.

    With regards to the NCC it seems the “Declaration of Scranton” is pretty short and simple.
    I am curious to know more, but it may be possible to maintain a Reformational identity within that body whether Flemested is interested in that or not. Anyways it’s all very interesting, but I remain committed to the task at hand. Evangelism in the community and teaching classical Anglicanism (the catholic faith) in North America.


  5. “One might wonder how a United Northern Catholic church, backed by two very powerful British and German Empires, might have impacted later talks with less politically significant Rome, Moscow, and the rest of the Latin-south and christian East? It certainly challenges the notion that Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism are normative for dogma. ”

    Charles- while I admire TREMENDOUSLY your work for giving Anglicanism some of its ‘stupor mundi’ back, you are seriously engaging in ‘What ifs?’ with this column. And, as my wife (a teacher) is saying all the time. “We don’t DO ‘what ifs’ in this class!”

    I cannot see how ANY of this even remotely challenges the a priori existence of a continuous valid Apostolic Succession among the Orthodox- for while the Caroline divines used Byzantine thought forms to justify their existence in England, post-Rome, they did not avail themselves of the ‘laying on of hands’ to make the potentiality, actuality.

    I think part of the great lack in the Church of the West, is that you still are operating under filioquist paradigms, and, therefore, are still in schism- just as Rome is- with the other 4/5ths of Christendom, for which you say you long to belong.

    Now, as I am both an avid Anglophile, a Nordicist, and a [Western Rite] Orthodox cleric, I cannot have it thrown at me, that I am just a ‘biased Byzantine.’

    But until the trad. Anglicans approach Orthodoxy with a desire for ‘regularization’- and not Rome’s recent backhanded offer- we’re not talking turkey… as much as I love what Anglicanism stands for, BCP and all.


  6. Just as a point of clarification, I linked to your post on the right side of the page under ‘Orthodoxy’ and looked at the “Tighe vs. Tikhon” post, and thought: “What a bitter, vindictive individual, to disparage the real and honest events that transpired back when PECUSA still had Anglo-Catholic clerics who WANTED to be Orthodox.” This entire article (Tighe) smacks of that schismatic, hyper-protestant mindset so typical of the modern multicultural, that says ‘only I am right, you all can go to …. ( and then you fill in the blank).’

    It is THIS aloof mindset that troubles Anglicanism, far, far more than any wish or desire to either mesh with Rome, or come home to Orthodoxy. I am appalled that such specious scholarship and vituperative dialogue is even on such a blog as this. While I may be critical of Anglicanism in its misguided attempts at saying ‘We’re catholic’ when you folks are all over the map, liturgically, I still honor Cranmer and the BCP- or the Missal, in my own way. But this article by Tighe? Utter rubbish.


  7. Dear Fr. John,
    Tighe does have an axe to grind given he’s a Uniate catholic. BTW. I ran across this event at the Fellowship of Saints Alban & Sergius. It seems the geographic relation to the bishop is melting away, replaced by cultural and theological affinities. Do you have any way to access any notes or audio files from the lecture below?

    “Culture and Mission in Eastern and Western Catholicism—can Bishops Represent Cultures rather than Territories?”
    Lecture, Wednesday 14th November 2012, to be given by Professor Allen Brent, Professor of Early Christian History and Iconography, King’s College London. Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, Duke Street, London W1

    I believe ACNA has already crossed the line into ethnic dioceses given their approval of the Missionary Diocese of the Trinity.


    • ‘It seems the geographic relation to the bishop is melting away, replaced by cultural and theological affinities.’

      This would make sense, in that filioquist caesaro-papal Rome, in confusing the ‘Ecumene’ (the inhabited European ‘world’ of the first century- and thus, the only ‘world’ Our Lord was talking about, when He gave the Great Commission) with the entire GLOBE, would eventually come to deny the particularism of the racial element of the a) Chosen People, b) Holy Land, and c) incarnational racial/ethnic uniqueness of the Incarnation, itself!

      For the construct of dioceses within Christendom meaning ‘defined geographical entities,’ finds its immediate parallel in the boundaries of the 12 Tribes within Ancient Israel- that should be patently obvious. While no ‘mamzer’ was to be allowed into the Holy People as a covenantal/racial equal, for ten generations in O.T. Israel-’s-own-damnation/

      the corollary should be, that the same covenantal exclusion should be applied (or seen to be applied) within the pages of the N.T. to the ‘Israel of God,’ [ Gal. 6:16] and seen, in the traditional boundaries of the Church/ Christendom- and it was, and is, if one is aware of it, in both the pages of Holy Writ, and in the praxis of the first millennium of the Church.

      No one is more bigoted, therefore, than a Uniat, who both has traded in their theological racial ‘calling and election’ for the Whore of Babylon’s open arms (and legs.)


  8. Pingback: The Lutheran Reformation | Gornahoor

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