The Old Catholic Churches and Anglican Orders
By the Rev. C. B. Moss.
The Christian East, January, 1926, pp. 216-218.
THE question of Anglican Orders was not raised in Holland before the Vatican Council. No doubt the Church of Utrecht assumed that the Roman practice of re-ordaining converts from the Anglican churches was justified.
Ignatius von Döllinger, the leader of the opposition to the Vatican decrees, believed that Anglican Orders were valid. The Anglican Bishops of Ely, Lincoln, and Maryland were present at the first Old Catholic Congress in 1872. Many Anglican bishops and theologians, of whom the best-known was Dr. Liddon, attended the Conferences held at Bonn under the presidency of Dr. von Döllinger in 1874 and 1875, together with theologians of the Greek, Russian, and Rumanian Orthodox Churches. The discussions were on questions of doctrine, especially the "Filioque": the subject of Anglican Orders was not discussed.
In 1878 Bishop Herzog visited England at the invitation of the Bishop of Winchester. In 1879 Bishop Herzog confirmed some candidates at Paris for the Anglican Bishop of Edinburgh: and on August 10th, 1879, Bishops Reinkens and Herzog and the Bishop of Edinburgh communicated together at Berne. In 1880 Bishop Herzog visited America, and sat in the General Convention of the Anglican Church as an honorary member.
It appears that in 1883 the German and Swiss Old Catholic Churches offered the privilege of Communion to any Anglican who should ask for it.
On the other hand, in 1878, the Lambeth Conference expressed its desire to help the Old Catholics; in 1888 it offered the privilege of Communion to all Old Catholics in good standing, who should not have contracted marriages contrary to the laws of the Anglican Churches: and in 1897, 1908, and 1920 it renewed this offer. The Old Catholic Church of Holland, however, was still doubtful about the validity of Anglican Orders. A commission appointed about 1894 to enquire into the matter came to no conclusion. A new commission appointed after the War reported that Anglican Orders were undoubtedly valid: and this conclusion was formally accepted, first by the Old Catholic Bishops of Holland, and then by the whole body of Old Catholic Bishops assembled at Berne in 1925. The relations between the two Communions are thus described in a paper published by the Society of St. Willibrord about 1910: "Intercommunion between the Anglican and Old Catholic Churches as organised bodies is at present incomplete; but individual members of either communion are officially allowed by the authorities of both communions to receive the Blessed Sacrament in each other's churches. The bishops or other ruling authorities on either side of course reserve to themselves the right of judging the fitness of any person to be admitted to communion. This statement applies as much to the Church of Holland as to the other Old Catholic bodies."
From the appended documents it will be apparent that, since the Old Catholics of Holland have now accepted Anglican Ordinations, a great advance to formal intercommunion has been made.
REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE OF THE LAMBETH CONFERENCE OF l888.
"We see no reason why we should not admit their clergy and faithful laity to Holy Communion on the same conditions as our own Community, and we also acknowledge the readiness which they have shown to offer spiritual privileges to members of our own Church. We regret that differences in our marriage laws, which we believe to be of great importance, compel us to state that we are obliged to debar from Holy Communion any persons who may have contracted a marriage not sanctioned by the laws and customs of the Anglican Church. Nor could we, in justice to the Old Catholics, admit anyone who would be debarred from communion among themselves."
Lambeth Conference of 1888, Resolution 15.
(a) This Conference recognises with thankfulness the dignified and independent position of the Old Catholic Church of Holland, and looks to more frequent brotherly intercourse to remove many of the barriers which at present separate us.
(b) We regard it as a duty to promote friendly relations with the Old Catholic Community in Germany, and with the Christian Catholic Church in Switzerland, not only out of sympathy with them, but also in thankfulness to God, Who has strengthened them to suffer for the truth under great discouragements, difficulties, and temptations: and we offer them the privileges recommended by the Committee under the condition specified in its report.
(c) The sacrifices made by the Old Catholics in Austria deserve our sympathy, and we hope, when their organisation is sufficiently tried and complete, a more formal relation may be found possible.
(This resolution was renewed in 1897, 1908, and 1920).
OLD CATHOLIC DOCUMENTS.
I. Letter of the Archbishop of Utrecht to the Archbishop of Canterbury--
Reverendissimo Domino Archiepiscopo Cantuarensi salutem in Domino.
Felices nos habemus qui gratum Tibi nuntiare valemus. Ecclesia vetero-catholica Ultrajectina usque adhuc hsesitabat de validitate Ordinum Anglicanorum. De facto consecrationis Parked non dubitabat, sed de virtute ritualis Eduardi VI., anxia an illud rituale fidem catholicam satis redderet. Post longam inquisitionem seriam-que deliberationem, clero nostro consulto, consilium cepimus, quod Tibi hisce litteris notum facimus.
Credimus ecclesiam Anglicanam regimen episcopale antiques ecclesiae semper tenere voluisse atque rituale Eduardi VI. consecrationis formulam validam aestimandam esse. Ideo ex animo-declaramus successionem apostolicam in ecclesia Anglicana non defecisse.
Magnam gratiam Tibi deprecans. salutat Te in Domino,
Archiepiscopus Ultrajectinus. Datum Ultrajecti, die II. mensis Junii,
Anno Domino MDCCCCXXV.
II. Resolution of the Tenth International Congress of Old Catholic Bishops, Berne, 1925, as regards relations with the Church of England.
(1) The Congress is glad to be able to state that friendly relations, with the Church of England have been renewed. The question of the Apostolic Succession does not hinder a closer contact of both churches, as the Church of England did not wish to interrupt that succession. The ordinal of King Edward the Sixth can be accepted as a valid rite of consecration.
(2) The Congress requests the supreme ecclesiastical authorities of all Old Catholic Churches to pass a general resolution regarding the validity of the Anglican rite of ordination.
III. Statement of the Conference of Old Catholic Bishops regarding the Validity of Anglican Ordination.
The Conference of Old Catholic Bishops united in the Convention of Utrecht, assembled in their session of Sept. 2nd, 1925, at Berne, in taking notice of the acceptance of the Orders of the Church of England by the Church of Utrecht, fully stands to that decision, which corresponds to former declarations made by Old Catholic Bishops and savants of Germany and Switzerland, and gives expression to the fervent hope of a future more intimate and powerful contact with the Church of England and her daughter churches on a truly Catholic basis.
By order of the Secretary of the Conference,
(Signed) BISHOP ADOLF KURY, D.D Berne, Sept. 2nd, 1925.