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Saturday, October 24, 2009

How not to regulate worship and liturgy


The Reverend Arthur Tooth 1839-1931
Cartoon by "Spy"


After Newman left the Church of England to become a Catholic, the Oxford Movement continued in the Church of England.

The so-called "Second Generation" Anglo-Catholics remained in the Anglican Church and began to develop Catholic practices in liturgy and ritual("Ritualism")

From the 1850-1890s several liturgical practices espoused by many Ritualists led to some occasional and intense local controversies.

Those considered most important by adherents of the Catholic movement were known as the "six points":

the use of Eucharistic vestments such as the chasuble, stole, alb and maniple;

the use of a thurible and incense ;

the use of "lights" (especially the practice of putting six candles on the high altar) ;

the use of unleavened (wafer) bread in communion and eastward facing celebration of the Eucharist (when the priest celebrates facing the altar from the same side as the people, i.e. the priest faces east with the people, instead of standing at the "north side" of the "table" placed in the chancel or body of the church, as required by the 1662 Book of Common Prayer) ;

making the sign of the cross ;

the mixing of sacramental wine with water ;


Other contentious practices included:

the use of bells at the elevation of the host;

the use of Catholic terminology such as describing the Eucharist as the "Mass" ;

the use of liturgical processions;

the decoration of churches with statues of saints, pictures of religious scenes and icons ;

the veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the practice of the invocation of the saints;

the practice of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament;

the use of the words of Benedictus at the end of the Sanctus in the eucharistic prayer ; and

the use of the words of the Agnus Dei in the Eucharist


In 1874 the Anglican bishops decided that they had to impose uniformity in worship and uphold the post-Reformation practices.

On 20 April 1874, the then Archbishop of Canterbury introduced into the House of Lords a private members Bill: the Public Worship Regulation Bill.

The Report of the debate in the House of Lords is instructive. It is on the web here.

The intentions of the Archbishop of Canterbury were to help bishops to curb ritualistic practices in the Church more effectively than before.

However, the Bill was taken up by the Government of the day under Benjamin Disraeli. It became a party issue "to put down ritualism".

Through amendments of the Bill by Lord Shaftesbury and the Government, the Bill was altered to provide an effective mechanism to put down Ritualistic practices through a secular court with full powers of a secular court to compel obedience to its orders.

Many clergy were brought to trial and five ultimately imprisoned for contempt of court

In 1888-90, Edward King, Bishop of Lincoln, was prosecuted under the Act

In 1887 Bishop King was denounced as celebrating the Liturgy with practices not permitted by the directives in the Book of Common Prayer and elsewhere governing Anglican worship.

Specifically, the charges were

(1) having lighted candles on the altar;
(2) facing "eastward" (that is, toward the altar and with his back to the congregation) during most prayers;
(3) mixing a little water with the wine in the chalice (done chiefly because the ancients--Jews, Greeks, and Romans alike--regularly diluted their wine with water just before drinking it, but also understood by many as a symbol of human nature being incorporated into the Divine Nature as we are united with Christ through the Sacrament);
(4) using the Agnus Dei ("O Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us") as a hymn just before the receiving of the Holy Communion (this hymn is traditional, but had been omitted from the Book of Common Prayer in 1549 because Cranmer transferred the Gloria to a position at the end of the service, and the words of the Agnus Dei are included in the Gloria, so that it seemed repetitious to have them both within a few minutes of each other);
(5) making the sign of the Cross when blessing the congregation; and
(6) making a ceremony of cleansing the Communion vessels after the service.

None of these practices is particularly controversial today, but they were then thought by some to be signs of inclination to the views--and the company--of the Pope.

King was tried by a Church Court presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The decision of the Court forbade some of these practices, but permitted others while specifying that they had no theological significance. Thus, lighted candles were to be permitted on the altar, but only when needed for purposes of illumination. The Times wrote of the judgement:

"The Ritualists are to have their way in the chief practices Impugned--the other party are diligently assured that there is no such significance as has hitherto been supposed in such practices. The Ritualists...are given the shells they have been fighting for, and the Evangelicals are consoled with the gravest assurances that there were no kernels inside them. "

It was a pragmatic judgement in an attempt to secure peace.

However public outrage grew at the blatant interference in religious matters by secular courts.

In 1906, a Royal Commission effectively nullified the act by admitting that more pluralism in public worship was needed.


For more see:

The Public Worship Regulation Act 1874

Ritualism

Alexander Heriot Mackonochie

Arthur Tooth

T. Pelham Dale

Edward King 1829-1910

Sidney Faithorn Green (who was imprisoned for three years)