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).