Saturday, 24 November 2007


I don't have a normal means of payment necessary to buy books on the Internet, but Elena in Reading can and she did agree to make an effort to purchase John P. Plummer's (2005), The Many Paths of the Sacramental Movement: A National Study of its Liturgy, Doctrine and Leadership, Independent Catholic Heritage Series, Berkeley, California: Apocryphile Press. For some reason they would not accept her purchase and send it to my address, and approaching the distributor simply produced the answer, "Amazon handle all payments."

I have an occasional correspondence with Bishop John Kersey of The Liberal Rite, and it was he who looked over my article on Independent and Free Liberal Catholicism. Here then was revealed one of the characteristics of the Independent Sacramental Movement - many of them know each other. He contacted the author, Bishop John Plummer (illustrated), who contacted his publisher at Apocryphile, Bishop John Mabry, who decided to send me his copy, which he did through the post, and most generously said I may keep it. I was thus given a practical example of gift and grace, highlighted in the other book I am intensely reading at present, Douglas Davies's (1999), Theology and Anthropology, Oxford: Berg, which discusses religion as about embodiment rather than rational ideas, and thus covers ritual, gift and exchange and sets these within the dynamic of liturgy and understanding religion on a more holistic and active level.

John Plummer can be seen talking through some of the issues of the Independent Sacramental movement. He takes a practical and realistic line and understands the flexibility its parts offer to try something different that may be taken up by the larger churches later.

His book is about the United States principally, and yet does cover historical background elsewhere in terms of the main strands of movements. The book avoids the biases of the written historical sources so far, where Anglican and Roman Catholic prejudices did come into play, as well as actual concerns that the movement has largely been able to answer via documentation (such as whether key individuals were actually consecrated).

Already I have added to my summary of Ulric Vernon Herford within the main article I have on the movement. He is clearly one of my heroes. He stands in the tradition of Martineau, and in Oxford, and developed this approach in a more explicitly liturgical and Catholic manner, and perhaps (says John Plummer) was mistaken about the theology of the Assyrian Church. Nevertheless he was consecrated, and from Ulrich Vernon Herford comes a vital connection with the Indian based Church for those seeking apostolic succession, and an attempted unity of East and West.

Many in the Independent Sacramental Movement do stress apostolic succession. There is though the more ideological and what the Church stands for connection. Thus, whilst there are some quite dogmatic and orthodox (in all senses of the word) Churches that derive from this Oxford saintly cleric, the Church connection is surely that of the liberal-liturgical, his own route to the Liberal Catholic (specifically via Unitarian Christianity rather than Theosophy), and with an important ministry to animals (especially in Oxford) and social conscience. There is an ideological connection then to Harold Percival Nicholson and his London ministry particularly concerning people and their animals, though he is from the Arnold Harris Mathew aposotolic line. Ulric Vernon Herford ordained W. E. Orchard of the Free Catholics, and they were also part of a liberal sacramental experiment, but which is remembered and returns in those movements that look back to them ideologically.

I attend an Anglican church, and this is where I form my spiritual practice. But in describing my own building blocks of experience recently, I mentioned one aid of meditation and emptying provided by staring at the Buddha, for example. So I suppose I am rather independent myself. I have never rejected the importance of contact with the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (it has its own apostolic succession equivalence argument regarding Sangharakshita with other Buddhist groups), and it is part of my personal matrix. To some extent, especially when watching institutions like the Church of England go through structural agonies, anyone who cares to think for themselves is going to be somewhat independent these days.

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