Friday 2 July 2010

Oxford Tractarian Movement and Afterwards

Because of matters in the background, and demands on my time, I have spent these days well ahead of the next St. Mary's Barton-on-Humber In Depth session preparing the next paper. It is now ready. It is all about the Oxford Tractarian Movement and today, and it is a somewhat critical approach.

It is on my website in the Learning Area - Religion section and down in both Anglicans and Theologians subsections.

I am liberal inclined, to say the least, and I write it, so a focus is on John Henry Newman's arguments to his Unitarian-moving brother (some of which have a sniff of liberalism themselves), and also on E. B. Pusey encountering German liberal Protestantism and first representing it reasonably well and then reacting against it.

Personally I have come to the conclusion that the main and surviving form of Anglo-Catholicism, which traditional Anglo-Catholics unkindly call 'Faux Catholicism', is so much cover for the liberality that is in its members' minds, and if too much is invested in this ritual appearance then it becomes somewhat bizarre. And when you look at Newman and Pusey as Anglicans, they didn't do the ceremonial that has later become so much the identifier of these folks.

I do see a connection between Anglican Catholics and the independent Liberal Catholics, where they start to go esoteric, because those folks have a range of druidic, Pagan, Celtic, liberal, scientific, social scientific, all sorts, views and yet maintain notions of real presence and practices that don't have the theology behind them, however artificial that theology might be if they had it. It becomes claims without substance, mysticism with nothing much to be mystical about.

I wonder how Anglo-Catholic you can be about Real Absence, for example, or the slide (for those who do it) into non-realism. What about if you have the diverse understanding of the Bible that J. H. Newman had, but frankly you don't believe in a teaching authority that artificially unifies the biblical books?

Don't get me wrong. I don't deny the value of religious and ceremonial theatrics or forms that aid a spiritual path. I just want a more critical explanation. One I offer is that of the specialising social group, where rituals of initiation, maintenance and symbolism in general are increasingly important, once the thing has kicked off via an invented tradition.

Anglo-Catholicism was an invented tradition, because it was used to make the Church distinct from the State, whereas Catholicism and Protestantism grew with the formation of empires and states and nation building. Also, it started to claim that the Reformation was a mistake, whereas previous spiritual discipline types did not think that (e.g. the Wesleys - they started high for their times, but went on to meet the Moravians and Calvinists, etc.). This was a dig into the past to gain legitimacy for a then present purpose, and such is an 'invented tradition'.

The traditionalist Anglo-Catholics have clearly run out of steam, even the high Anglicans who'd prefer to stay Anglican, with the coming ordination of women bishops. But I am also suggesting that the liberal Anglo-Catholics have, in another sense, in an intellectual sense, run out of steam too.


I have already been criticised for not using up to date material. My main source was a specialist symposium book that came out in 1996. I wonder what difference more recent material makes (I did do a look around closed web pages of academic materials) - I doubt that it makes that much difference, perhaps at the margin, but the arguments employing sociology and about present day relevance are mine anyway. The difference in my view before writing this and after is that clearly both Newman and Pusey were sensitive the the arguments of their times and both built argument 'devices' to construct their Church views. If alternative histories and analyses are suggested, there is time to take them on board, or the arguments can be made at the session.

Update Updated

My critic appeared at the Garden Party (no, not the new vicar as seen above) and said Peter Nockles is very good. Yes, he is in the symposium book I have been using. So I am sticking to my arguments.


June Butler said...

Adrian, I printed your paper on the Oxford Tractarian Movement to read, because I've never truly been able to get a handle on the essence of the Anglo-Catholicism. Even after reading your paper, I'm still not sure that I have the grasp, however I'm grateful to the movement for its far-reaching effect in furthering the Eucharist as the norm in most Sunday services in Episcopal Churches in the US. I chose the Episcopal Church as my replacement church home because of the frequent Sunday Eucharists

I moved in the opposite direction from Newman, from Rome to Anglicanism, and, for the life of me, I can't understand how he ever accommodated himself to papal infallibility. That was one of the great sticking points with me, even before I was driven out of the RCC by the local child abuse scandal and cover-up.

Pluralist (Adrian Worsfold) said...

It's not a comprehensive history, of course, just a viewpoint of an encounter of two of them mainly - mention of others - and their encounters with liberality. As for causes of the movement, it depends how much you give to sociological latent causes.

It is funny how there is an inference that as you have less time for something, you are deemed to understand it less, as if I have walked out beyond its secret gnosis. I'd like to claim I understand it more, by observation, reading and half an attempt at it, which is why I have less time for it...

Anyway, good to know that there is a member of the In Depth Group far away, with printed out script.

June Butler said...

I wish I could join the group discussion, however, it's possible that I may have plumbed my depths with my previous comment.