The following exchange is posted here with the agreement of my correspondent.  It may shed some light at least on my understanding of what is sometimes called Old High Churchmen and, more generally, on the matter of continuity (and discontinuity) between classical Anglicanism and the Continuing Church.  +MDH

Name: N.N.

Email:  **************

Comment: Dear Archbishop Haverland,

I have enjoyed reading a number of your blog posts and was interested in your views on a number of questions and issues for contemporary Anglicanism.  As I understand it, the ACC would fit quite closely with a Tractarian understanding of the Anglicanism represented at a more theological level by Pusey and, at a more catechetical level, by, for example, Vernon Staley’s ‘The Catholic Religion’.

Following a reading of David Nockles’ book on the Oxford Movement, one of the important points he makes in this book, it seems to me is the existence of an ‘Old High Church’ (OHC) tendency preceding the Tractarian theologians (which according to him included groups like the Non-Jurors). I have found Daniel Waterland’s work quite useful in providing a coherent and systematic exposition of the positions on soteriology and the sacraments that would appear to characterize this perspective.

In broad terms, it seems that this movement had a broadly ‘forensic’ approach to justification and a ‘spiritual communion’ view of the Lord’s Supper, but that, unlike the confessional Reformed, it rejected the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints as formulated by Westminster and Dort and emphasized Baptism as the primary instrument of ‘initial justification’. Underlying this, however there appears to be a broadly Protestant view of grace as (partially) renewing nature but not as imparting supernatural virtues in distinction from natural virtues.

I was wondering what view the ACC would have on Nockles’ historical thesis about the existence of this pre-Tractarian position and its validity (or otherwise) as a live option in contemporary Anglicanism. It seems that there is some on-going interest in it such as the blog ‘Laudable Practice’ and in the broader Anglican Communion at present.

All best wishes,



On May 30, 2020, at 3:48 PM, ************* wrote:

Dear Mr. N.,
Please pardon if I have addressed you incorrectly.  And thank you for reading the blog.  I am glad you have found my posts enjoyable.
The Staley book is a standard introduction from the Anglo-Catholic wing of the Church of England.  I have done a similar book (Anglican Catholic Faith and Practice), which deals also with newer issues (ordination of women, abortion, artificial insemination, etc.) and does not assume the establishment of the Church or the cultural milieu assumed by Staley.
Waterland’s Eucharistic theology was fairly typical of Anglicans in his era.  I think you characterize it fairly accurately.  You might call it a high Calvinist view – there is a Real Presence (a ‘virtualist’ Presence of God’s grace and power) but also a real absence as compared to Catholic and Orthodox views.  I hold to a more realist view.  But I also believe that the virtualist view can, and should, lead to the main thing:  which is great devotion in the matter of receiving Holy Communion.
There is a fairly broad spectrum of views on soteriological matters within the Western tradition, both before and after the 16th century.  Anglicans always in official statements declined to endorse the developed Calvinist views (including, as you note, the perseverance of the saints).  Insofar as the Articles on the subject address the matter, Calvinist readers sometimes think they hear Calvinism, but there is an explicit refusal to address matters that ‘curious and carnal’ folk would like to have addressed.  The Calvinism of Elizabeth’s bishops gave way to the anti-Calvinism that is pretty clear in Lancelot Andrewes but already implicit in Hooker.  But, again, I don’t think Anglicans were interested in pinning the soteriological problematic down in detail.  In my view, such detail is usually pastorally and evangelically barren and breeds needless disputes and divisions.
The ACC sees itself as rooted in a Catholic stream of faith and practice that embraces Henrician Catholicism, the theological method of Hooker and the Carolines, the piety and learning of Andrewes, the recovering liturgical practice of the Non-Jurors, the Oxford Movement, through the Ritualists, to modern Anglo-Catholicism.  With the demise of the Latitudinarian stream into modernism and then secularism, and with the essential Protestantism of much of the old Evangelical wing, I think we are (or soon will appear to be) the last man standing.  But as you read my blog most of these views will appear.
I don’t think, then, that the ‘old High Churchmen’ present much of a live option now.  In the last 50 years the old Anglican Communion has consistently preferred its own, eccentric, often heretical views and rejected the central tradition of the Church for the sake of embracing those views.  The only way, I think, for Anglicans now to find security is to return self-consciously and consistently to that central tradition, not as Romans or Orthodox, but as Anglicans.  That is what, I believe, the ‘Affirmation of Saint Louis’ calls us to do, and it is what the Continuing Churches do endeavor to do.  The old Anglican option has been rendered unavailable by the intervening collapse.  The neo-Anglicanism of ACNA shows how unlikely a return to the status quo ante is – since folk in ACNA are deeply divided about when (and what) the ante should be.
On the ‘quest for Catholicity’, you might be interested in a book (of that title) by a  sympathetic Roman Catholic – Georges Tavard.
In Christ,
—–Original Message—–
From: N.N. <************ >
To: *****@*******
Sent: Sat, May 30, 2020 4:57 pm
Subject: Re: From Haverland
Dear Archbishop Haverland,
Having read Daniel Waterland, I think there is a fairly strong case that can be made that he did ‘codify’ a coherent and distinctive type of Anglican theology that resists being folded back into a five point-type Calvinism.  In that sense, it might be said to be a ‘typical’ form of Anglican theology, perhaps in a more sociological or historical sense.
However, it appears, after the Synod of Dort, the OHC position  perhaps came to be seen as difficult to reconcile with the the broader Reformed tradition.  Jay T Collier’s recent book on Debating Perseverance provides a good account of how pivotal Dort was in defining the theological agenda for the reception and interpretation of the Reformed tradition in Anglicanism.

This leaves what might be termed, in a broad sense, the Catholic side of the debate.  Aside from the papacy point with the RCC (shared with the EO and ACC), my sense is that the Old High Church ultimately disagreed with three aspects of Catholic tradition.  In basic terms, and perhaps stated a little baldly, in line with the broader Reformed tradition, they didn’t accept the seventh ecumenical council, they had a receptionist view of the Eucharist and they didn’t cultivate devotion to saints and the BVM.  I’m not sure how the discussion of these points is sensibly advanced though it might be that the root of the problems may lie in a deeper set of presuppositions.

Thanks again for your patience, and for the time you have taken to respond to these points as it has been very useful and instructive.
All best wishes,
N.N. (Dr.)
Dear Dr. N.,
Thank you for considering the possibility that I might include an ‘anonymized’ version of our conversation on my blog.  I agree that nothing should be posted by me until you’ve had the chance to review and revise what you have written and until and unless you have explicitly given me permission for its posting.
I do think some of the issues we are discussing might be of interest to others.  The conversation, as you will have seen from reading things already posted by me, may help me express some of what I mean in a different and perhaps useful fashion.
You mention the seventh ecumenical council, the invocation of the saints, and a virtualist (and ambiguously realist) understanding of the Real Presence.  On these points I think you certainly are correct that most Anglicans historically would have found my own position too, well, something – probably too Roman Catholic.  I agree that the ACC’s position, and that of ‘The Affirmation of Saint Louis’, is an advance on the common Anglican understanding in times past.
I say that while also agreeing that the ‘Old High Churchman’ position – certainly a classically Anglican position – cannot be reduced to the Reformed or Lutheran positions.  It is its own thing.
Nonetheless, I think my position is truest to the principles on which Anglicans classically stood and to which they appealed in order to distinguish themselves from Lutherans, Calvinists, and Roman Catholics.  To defend this assertion, I refer to a statement from Canon A.M. Allchin to which I often return:
….The position of the seventeenth-century Anglican theologians is, and in the opinion of the present writer must remain, of real importance for all Anglican theological thinking.  But this emphatically does not mean that we have to follow them in every particular, nor that we are limited by their positions and conclusions.  What it does mean is that we may find in them certain attitudes, certain approaches to theological problems, which are still valid for Anglican thinking to-day and, we would dare to say, still of value for Christian thinking as a whole.  By their constant appeal to ‘the Scriptures interpreted by the perpetual practice of God’s Church’, to use the words of Herbert Thorndike, they provide us with a method and a starting point for our own researches.  But they do not give us a complete and finished system.
(This occurs in an essay by Allchin called ‘Our Lady in Seventeenth-century Anglican Devotion and Theology’, which was printed in a collection called The Blessed Virgin Mary: Essays by Anglicans.  Ed. by E.L. Mascall & H.S. Box.  London:  Darton, Longmans & Todd, 1963.)
What is permanently valuable and true about Anglicanism? so valuable and true that it deserves to be preserved, even in the light of the wreckage that is most Anglicanism since the 1970s?  Certainly there are the enduring fruits of the Anglican patrimony:  the poetry, devotional writing, literature, theology, music, piety, buildings, and so forth.  There is the evidence of a theological position that is generous without being indifferentist, traditional without being sclerotic, reasonable without being rationalistic.  There is the fact of a Catholicity that asserts that Rome and the Orthodox, the Two One True Churches, render each other’s more aggressive and exclusive claims implausible, but without denying that there is an essential minimum without which the full essence of Church is absent from an ecclesial body.
Above all, Allchin asserts the importance of a theological method which is always present in the best of Anglicanism.  That method impels us to what we may call a fulfilled Anglicanism, such as that of the ‘Affirmation’, and which asserts that the historical doubts of many Anglicans about those matters that you mention are mistaken.
The essence of the Church is not undone by such doubts.  Sacramental theology is, historically speaking, something that develops late in the day.  The sacraments were celebrated long before the theology of the sacraments was thematized.  We find not a word in Scripture about invocation of saints or the icons.  These are secondary or tertiary issues in se.  But once the Church clearly understands the imperative need to adhere to the central tradition of the great Churches over time, as an anchor against modernist drift, these issues become more important.  By using a theological method and approach that rules out, e.g., the ordination of women and recent errors concerning sexual morality, we find that we have rejoined the central consensus of East and West on the three matters you mention.
Considering the matter more narrowly, I think when looking at the 16th century in particular, there was a tendency to reject as medieval accretions things that in fact were quite ancient and had a solid ecumenical consensus.  Because the Tudors were so Western and so wrapped up in late medieval and Reformation problematics, they sometimes adopted positions that did not necessarily follow from their principles.  Already by the 17th century, when the Greek Fathers were much more familiar, there was movement away from positions adopted by the Tudors.  I see that process as reaching a logical conclusion in the ‘Affirmation’ and Continuing Church.
I believe that without such clarity and catholicity in theological method the ‘conservatism’ of, say, ACNA on sexual morality or of a traditional Old High Churchman on the ordination of women will prove to be merely the slow lane to the destination already reached by TEC, the CofE, and the Anglican Communion in general.  I conclude, therefore, again that the position of the ‘Affirmation’ and of the ACC, or something rather like these, is probably the only form in which orthodox, catholic Anglicanism can endure.
Yours in Christ,

2 thoughts on “Old High Churchmen and Continuing Anglicans

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s