by the Right Reverend James Bromley
An Ancient Church
The word “Anglican” means English. THE ANGLICAN CATHOLIC CHURCH is so called because it adheres to the Catholic Faith as it was received by and from the CHURCH OF ENGLAND in the days of its orthodoxy. To understand this, it is necessary to recall the origins of Christianity itself. Founded within Judaism by Jesus, the Christ (or “Messiah”), the Christian Church quickly came to embrace Gentiles into its fold. Endowed by Christ with the Apostolic Ministry, it survived the destruction of the Jewish Temple in AD 70, when the Jewish priesthood came to an end.
During its very first century, the Church came to describe itself as Catholic. In the ordinary sense this word means “universal”. In Church usage, however, it means “orthodox”. This meaning is clarified in what is known as the Canon of St. Vincent of Lerins, who defined the Catholic Faith as, “That which has been believed everywhere, always and by all.” (i.e. universally) within the undivided Christian Church.
The Catholic Faith is, therefore, that Faith foretold by the ancient prophets, revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, proclaimed by his Apostles, recorded in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, taught by the early “Fathers” of the Church (many of whose splendid writings still exist), defended by the seven great Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church, and expressed in the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the creed of St. Athanasius.
THE GREAT SCHISM
Until 1054 there was only one Christian Church – the CATHOLIC CHURCH. Its leadership was centered in five great Patriarchates – Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople in the East, and Rome in the West. After the Roman Empire became Christian, some bishops increasingly became involved in political matters, and the bishops of Rome in particular began to claim power over the whole Church. This led to a tragic division in the Church, the “Great Schism” of 1054, when it split into the “Orthodox” East and the “Roman Catholic” West.
Not directly involved in that split was the Church in England, which the Bishops of Rome were determined to claim – especially after 1061, when a rival Papacy in Lombardy claimed allegiance from the See of Canterbury. In 1066, the Duke of Normandy (William “the Conqueror”), with the support and formal blessing of Pope Alexander II, invaded England. After seizing the English Crown, William replaced all but one of the English bishops with Norman bishops loyal to Rome. The CHURCH OF ENGLAND was to remain under Papal jurisdiction for nearly 500 years, until the reign of King Henry VIII.
THE CHURCH IN ENGLAND
As the ANGLICAN CATHOLIC CHURCH is derived from the CHURCH OF ENGLAND, it is necessary to look briefly at the origins and development of English Christianity.
In its infancy, the early Church spread from Jerusalem around the Mediterranean regions, and then to other parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe. Britain was, at that time, a part of the Roman Empire, and Christianity probably arrived with merchants and seafarers. By early in the 4th century the British (Celtic) Church was sufficiently strong to have a number of bishoprics: in the year 314 three British bishops participated in the Council of Arles, summoned by the Emperor Constantine.
Upon the departure of the Roman Legions in the 5th century, the southern parts of Britain were invaded by pagan Angles and Saxons, who drove the Britons and their Church into the safety of the western hills (Wales) and Cornwall. Although actually seven different kingdoms, from this time the south east sector occupied by the Anglo-Saxons began to be called “Angle-land” (later contracted to “England”).
In 597 a new Church mission headed by St. Augustine arrived from Rome. Augustine’s claims to jurisdiction were rejected by the British bishops, but he succeeded in re-establishing Christianity in parts of the south of Britain. Meanwhile, Christianity was being spread in the north by Celtic missionaries – notably St. Columba of Iona and St. Aidan of Lindisfarne.
Representatives of the Celtic missions in the north and the Latin missions in the south of England met at the Synod of Whitby in 664, and amalgamated to form a single Church – the CHURCH OF ENGLAND, with dual primacies at Canterbury and York. The unity achieved was particularly due to St. Hilda, Abbess of Whitby, a remarkable scholar at whose monastery the synod was held.
For the next 400 years the CHURCH OF ENGLAND (like the Eastern Orthodox Churches) remained in communion with, but not under the formal jurisdiction of, the See of Rome. Although imposed by military force in 1066, papal jurisdiction brought certain benefits and so for a time was accepted. These benefits included a revival of scholarship, efficient administration, and international support for the bishops when they found themselves in conflict with the state.
A Restored Church
Early in the 16th century northern Europe was swept by the Protestant “Reformation,” widespread and intense demands for the correction of abuses which had crept into the Western Church during the Middle Ages. The CHURCH OF ENGLAND was profoundly affected by the recovery of Biblical scholarship and other aspects of this movement, but nonetheless remained firmly Catholic in its Faith and Order.
At particular issue, once again, were the claims of the Bishop of Rome to universal jurisdiction over the whole Church, which had been firmly repudiated by the Eastern Orthodox Churches in 1054. In 1534 the CHURCH OF ENGLAND also repudiated Papal jurisdiction and recovered the autonomy it had enjoyed prior to the Norman Conquest.
Contrary to widespread belief, the circumstances of the annulment of the marriage of King Henry VIII to Catherine of Aragon were merely the occasion, but not the cause, of this break with Rome. Henry founded no new Church; he merely restored rightful autonomy to an old one.
During Henry’s reign there were no radical alterations in English religion. The clergy remained unchanged and the Church’s principal service, the Mass, continued to be in Latin, although Henry supported the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer, in ordering the use of English for the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Bible Readings.
Although no longer under the jurisdiction of Rome, the CHURCH OF ENGLAND remained thoroughly Catholic, and continued to be in communion with the See of Rome during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary Tudor, and Elizabeth I until 1570. Since then, the CATHOLIC CHURCH has been not all “Roman”, but has subsisted in three main groups of jurisdictions: Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and ANGLICAN.
Henry VIII died in 1547 and was succeeded by his son, Edward VI, during whose reign a number of reforms were introduced into the CHURCH OF ENGLAND. In general these reforms were rather less radical than those introduced into the Roman Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council in modern times.
In the 17th century civil war erupted, culminating in 1649 with the execution of King Charles I and the abolition of Anglicanism. The parish churches were handed over to Presbyterians or Congregationalists, and for eleven years Anglicanism went underground. Politically and spiritually this was a disaster, and most Englishmen rejoiced when both the Church and the Monarchy was restored in 1660. The Evangelical Revival of the 18th century and the Catholic Revival (Oxford Movement) of the 19th century also brought renewed vigor to Anglicanism.
The 20th century has seen the rise of utilitarian education, mass consumerism and an insatiable quest for novelty. Much of world Anglicanism has responded suicidally by abandoning its Catholic heritage and actually adopting, rather than seeking to transform, the secular spirit of the age (Zeitgeist). By contrast, the ANGLICAN CATHOLIC CHURCH stands fully restored in the constant tradition of the undivided Church: the only sure basis for Christian unity.
An International Church
Following the discovery of the “New World”, Anglicanism spread to the Americas, Asia, Africa, and Oceania (the central and south Pacific). Some 37 national and regional Anglican Churches were established in various parts of the world, which together became known as the Anglican Communion.
The Anglican Communion has no constitution, governing body, central authority, or common liturgy. It is merely a loose association of autonomous Churches with similar origins. Since 1970 it has been disintegrating, as some member churches have brazenly tampered with essential elements of the Faith and can no longer claim to have the same Scriptures, Creeds, Sacraments, and Ministry as the rest of the CATHOLIC CHURCH. Since 1987 those Churches have included the CHURCH OF ENGLAND herself.
THE CONGRESS OF ST. LOUIS
In 1977 an international congress of nearly 2,000 Anglican bishops, clergy, and lay people met in St. Louis, Missouri, to take the actions necessary to establish an orthodox jurisdiction in which traditional Anglicanism would be maintained, by returning to the fullness of the Faith of the undivided CATHOLIC CHURCH. Acting according to the principles determined by the seven great Ecumenical Councils of the ancient Church and adopting initially the name “Anglican Church of North America”, they placed themselves under the jurisdiction of the retired bishop of Springfield, Illinois, the Right Reverend Albert Chambers.
In January 1978 Bishop Chambers expanded that jurisdiction and devolved it upon others, by taking order for the consecration of four more bishops. From these four bishops have come two jurisdictions, the Anglican Catholic Church and the Anglican Province of Christ the King, which now maintain orthodox Anglicanism in North America and beyond.
Bishop Chambers died in 1993. His steadfast faith and courage earned him a notable place in the history of world Anglicanism.
The ANGLICAN CATHOLIC CHURCH is a world-wide body. Since 1978 it has expanded to include dioceses in the Americas, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand, South Africa, and in Haiti. In 1984 the historic Church of India (Anglican) was received and constituted as the Second Province; today it has five dioceses.
Faith, Ministry, and Worship
In the ANGLICAN CATHOLIC CHURCH the whole Catholic Faith is maintained, without any Roman additions or Protestant subtractions, as received by and from the CHURCH OF ENGLAND in the days of its orthodoxy.
As indispensable elements of this faith, we have inherited essentially the same Scriptures, Creeds, Sacraments, and Apostolic Ministry which the Catholic Churches of both East and West possess. This bears witness to our historic continuity with the Church of Jesus Christ and the Apostles, the orthodoxy of our doctrine and worship, and our fundamental unity with the wider CATHOLIC CHURCH. Such continuity is crucial, since it is upon this Faith that the assurance of salvation in Jesus Christ depends.
In obedience to the example of Christ and the Apostles, the teaching of Scripture, and the faithful tradition of the Church over 2000 years, the ANGLICAN CATHOLIC CHURCH is governed by bishops in the Apostolic Succession, and maintains the male three-fold Order of bishops, priests, and deacons.
From the very first Christian century, the visible Church has been defined in terms of a communion of mutually recognized regional “dioceses”, each consisting of a Bishop surrounded by his clergy and the faithful in that place.
In each local parish there is a priest, who exercises the Church’s ministry of the Word and Sacraments (including pastoral care of his people) as the delegate of the Bishop. In aspects of this ministry he may be assisted by a deacon; and in some (especially administrative, pastoral care, teaching, and counseling) he may be assisted by a deaconess or other authorized lay person.
These are aspects of the Church’s formal ministry. “Ministry”, however, means “helping people”. In an informal sense, all baptized Christians are called in daily life to minister to others. We are all endowed with certain gifts and grace for that purpose. Scripture itself teaches, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2)
The official standards of worship in the ANGLICAN CATHOLIC CHURCH is the seminal (1549) edition of the famous Book of Common Prayer and certain authorized revisions recognized as conforming to that standard: viz., the American revision of 1928, the Canadian revision of 1962, and the Indian revision of 1963. The traditional Eucharistic rites of the Missal, which conform to that standard, are fully authorized by the canons.
Briefly banned in the 17th century by the Puritans in their attempts to destroy the CHURCH OF ENGLAND, the Book of Common Prayer is deeply Biblical in character (some 80% of its contents are drawn directly from Scripture) and its liturgical forms are based on those of the early, undivided Church. It is also a guide to the pastoral work of the clergy and the common life of the Church. Preserving all the essentials of the Catholic Faith and its worship, it is expressed in majestic language and has had a profound impact on the culture and spirituality of all English-speaking peoples to the present day.
The Church’s central act of worship is, of course, the one appointed by our Lord Himself, the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper, commonly called the Mass. In each parish (unless no priest is available) the Eucharist is celebrated every Sunday and Holy Day, if not daily.
Clergy are also required daily to say the offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, which include reading aloud through the entire Bible in the course of each year, reciting all of the Psalter each month, and each day offering prayers for the general and particular needs of the Church, her people, and the wider community.
Whenever possible these offices are said in the parish church, and lay people are welcome to join the clergy in this worship.
Initiation into membership of the Church is by the rites of Baptism and Confirmation. Other Sacraments are for those in particular conditions of lite, namely Marriage, Penance (often called “Confession”), Holy Unction (anointing of the sick), and Ordination.
In addition to regular Sunday worship, clergy and lay people alike are encouraged to develop a disciplined personal devotional life including daily prayer, regular Bible study and meditation, fasting and abstinence on Fridays and during Lent (unless medically inadvisable), occasional retreats, and a pledge of weekly financial support to the Church.
Via Crucis, Via Lucis
The Christian way is the way of the Cross. By dying on the Cross and rising to new life, Jesus Christ defeated the powers of death and hell. It is the same victorious Christ who today calls us all to repentance and faith, and to share in his victory.
Salvation is to be found in Christ alone. Every Christian is baptized into a special relationship with Christ, such that his Light may be reflected in our own lives, and expressed in loving service to God and neighbor.
The CATHOLIC CHURCH alone was founded by Christ, endowed with the Apostolic Ministry, empowered with sacra mental grace to offer full assurance of the forgiveness of sins and restoration to fellowship with God, and commissioned to carry the message of salvation to a broken and divided world. Only thus may the world be rescued, healed, and restored to true fellowship with God, its Creator.
Proclaiming and giving effect to this divine message is the sole mission of the Church. Herein lies the only hope of the glory God calls us to share. Won’t you join us?