Project Canterbury




APRIL 25, 1949


Canon of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine


Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2013

THE greatest of all the Bishops of Rome once protested that any Bishop of Rome, or elsewhere, should ever take to himself the title and name of Universal Bishop, and another Pope of Rome in the first quarter of the Fifth Century wrote a sharp letter to the Bishops of Vienne and Narbonne for "devoting themselves rather to superstitious observances in dress, than to purity of heart and faith. We should," he says, "be distinguished from the common people, or from all others by our learning, not by our dress; by our habit of life, not by our clothing; by the purity of our minds, not by the cut of our garments."

These two quotations are of use only in reference to the historical background attendant upon some modern Roman Catholic requirements; they may not be used to prove that the Church of Rome as she exists today maintains the same attitude as the body presided over by St. Gregory and Pope Celestine. In similar fashion, whenever Methodists and Anglicans get together, someone is sure to observe that Wesley lived and died a member of the Church of England and said, "none who regard my judgment will ever separate from it."

Generally, this is said by a Methodist while the Anglican will point out somewhat apologetically the famous phrase one Anglican Bishop wished to have included in the Litany. All of which proves exactly nothing, for whatever the original intention may have been on one side or the other, the Methodist Church in this country stands as a great and powerful body, suffering none of the inferiority complex which besets some of the English Wesleyans. As you well know, our Trans-atlantic brethren misunderstand gravely the American relationship of what they would call Church and Chapel. Indeed, in all honesty, many of our Cis-atlantic brothers mistake the relationship. Up to a few years ago it was generally held that the Methodists controlled Main Street, while the Episcopalians controlled Park Avenue. [3/4] I point out, without attempting to draw any conclusions, that the Methodists now have two churches on Park Avenue while the Episcopalians have only one (unless, as some of Paul Wolfe's critics maintain, Brick Church may be counted as Crypto-Episcopal.) You Methodists now have within your own body High Churchmen, Low Churchmen, Conservatives, Liberals, Broad Churchmen, Evangelicals and all the other numerous varieties of men which cause the tensions of a living body. As an Anglican, I am not permitted the condescension of praising you, but as your half-brother in Christ, once removed, I am not willing to bury you.

I wish to talk to you first about these tensions which, in the world's opinion, seem to imperil the peace of the Church, and then I want to pause for a moment to consider what you and I are called on to do about them.

For centuries we have recognized that the difference between the Eastern Church and the Western Church is the difference between Mary and Martha—the mystical and the practical. Along with it, however, has gone the somewhat over-simplified notion that Mary never washed and that Martha never prayed. The real trouble is that most individuals are a combination of at least two contrasting virtues. Thomas Aquinas, for example, was both poet and logician; the logician dominated and left the Roman Church saddled with one of his two contrasting gifts. This is a great loss, for the amazing thing is that his poetry conveyed ideas which his thinking only confused. O Saving Victim and Tantum ergo are of devotional use to all orthodox Christians, whereas the doctrine of Transubstantiation is tenable only by the Roman Catholic Church.

A man's chief contribution, however, is that which we must consider, and these various contributions I maintain are the basis of the abiding tensions by which Christ's Body moves and acts. The categories in which I have placed the men chosen as illustrative of a point of view are arbitrary: there are good grounds for disagreement over some of them, and there are enormously important groups which have been neglected entirely. The important thing is to show the [4/5] continuity of separate muscles in the body, rather than to bog down over the individual tabulation.

The first division which comes to mind is that which Gilbert enshrined in his liturgical antiphon:

I often think it comical
How nature always does contrive
That every boy and every girl,
That's born into the world alive,
Is either a little liberal
Or else a little conservative.

The Conservatives are by gift of nature the least glamorous element in the Body of Christ. They are almost always forced into a position which is not particularly to their liking; which has no romantic appeal; no dash; no bravery and no adventure; and yet without which the values inherent in the past—the corporate memory of the experience of mankind—would disappear. Whether it be St. Clement of Rome or St. Matthew or Cardinal Mercier, the Conservative seems often to be a cold man and one little concerned with the weaknesses and frailties of human beings. On the positive side, however, it must be remembered that he derives his conservatism from our Lord himself, who came not to destroy the law but that it might be fulfilled. Those elements in religion which have demonstrated themselves to be of sound value are regarded by the Conservative as indispensible, not in the slightest degree subject to any modification or change. The position is a difficult one but if we consider these examples alone, it has been responsible for much that we treasure. St. Matthew keeps ever before the Christian world the ancient vocation of Israel. His pro-Jewish Christianity did much to carry over the values of the old covenant into the new. St. Clement of Rome who quotes St. Paul regularly without (as nearly as one can gather) once understanding him, nevertheless did much to transmit the heaven-centered responsibility of the ministry from the purest days of Israel to the purest days of Christianity. The very thing which made Cardinal Mercier unloving, unbending, cold and severe with poor Father Tyrrell was that which made him [5/6] uncompromisingly magnificent when a cruel foe tried to enslave his people. God gave certain values to men and no one might violate them. Almost every young parson in this country has been touched directly or indirectly by the innate Conservatism of Karl Barth. More than any other thinker today, he is responsible for an adequate notion of the transcendent majesty of the Lord our God. Yet, by making clear that our Lord in the incarnation is the meeting place of God's transcendence and his imminence, he has done much to restore Christian humanism in its classical sense. He has restored self-respect to Protestantism. He is an example of the austere Conservative prophet who ever seeks to return to first principles and distrusts all later accretions.

The High Churchman is one whose Conservatism is institutional rather than theological. The High Churchman is possessed of an overwhelming sense of the corporate welfare of the Body of Christ. Discipline, law, order, efficiency, personal holiness are his characteristics. He will appear unbending for the very same reason that the theological Conservative does, but every church in the world which has roots and continuity has time after time been saved by its High Churchmen—men who, in the phraseology of the Oxford Movement, thought "highly of the Church". St. Gregory the Great, St. Cyril, and St. Theodore of Tarsus are ancient examples of this. Laud and Bishop Manning are modern examples. In fairness, it is likely that St. Thomas a Becket was such a man. The unfortunate fact that he was a first-rate man dying in a second-rate cause has done great damage for—as is true in all cases of martyrdom—the second-rate cause for which he was battling picked up first-rate credit from his death. Henry the Second was trying earnestly to have one law apply to all men in England—priests and laymen alike. Becket regarded this as an infringement on the hard won rights of the Church and the absurd dénoument was this great man being put to death by some courageous, but equally mistaken, knights over a row which, believe it or not, centered in whether the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Archbishop of York was [6/7] to have the right of crowning the King. Gregory and Cyril were canonical geniuses who concentrated on getting things done. To Theodore of Tarsus, every Anglican clergyman and, indirectly, every Methodist, owes something of his training and background; for the enduring basis of English canon law is due to this great Greek Archbishop of Canterbury. Archbishop Laud was an amazing combination of official pride in the dignity of his See and personal humility and holiness. Laud took his consecration vows seriously and was not in the slightest degree patient of corporate attacks on his flock. It must be remembered that Laud was friendly and the soul of kindness itself towards all the continental Protestants who had been deserted by their bishops, but that he was absolutely inflexible about permitting Puritans and Independents any chance to deprive the Church of England of the benefits of its hard-won Reformation. For Laud the Church of England was the one and only church of the English people, founded by God's providence and purified by God's grace, a precious heritage which was not to be dissipated by the splintering individualism of the Independents and Puritans.

Donald Aldrich in his Golden Book of Prayer has this to say. "William Laud was executed on Tower Hill for his unyielding allegiance to the government and liturgy of the Anglican Church. As Bishop and Archbishop, undiplomatic, tactless, altogether blind to the contribution of nonconformity, he insisted on conformity. Of deep personal piety and supremely unselfish, 'liturgical prayers were the language of his soul.'" The simple fact is that Laud saved the free Catholic heritage for the Western world. Laud made a Wesley possible. Those of us who know Bishop Manning well, will agree that he, too, is an extraordinary example of official inflexibility and personal charm, loving kindness and genuine holiness. It has been said that a great man is one who views his office objectively and himself with humility. This is the High Churchman's singular virtue.

The Evangelical, on the other hand, has a profound concern for the rightness of an individual's relationship with his God. [7/8] St. Patrick, St. Columba, St. Francis of Assisi, Wesley and Simeon are to be thought of chiefly in this connection. Dean Spence once summarized their contribution magnificently in his picture of Celtic Christianity:

"The Celtic man of God, the missionary of the type of Columba and Aidan, exercised evidently a peculiar fascination over the child-like minds of the North-folk, fresh from their wild, uncultured life among the fjords of Scandinavia and the forests of northern Germany. These half-savage North-folk, though often cruel and vengeful, often swayed hither and thither by fatal passions, were in many ways generous and noble; they were simple, untaught children, waiting for someone to lead them and guide them into the better way. On these untutored hearts the cold and calculating, highly cultured Italians, austere and pure, but often self-seeking and proud, made but little impression. The stateliness of their worship, their splendid organization, their love for order and obedience, failed to touch the Northman's heart. The beauty of holiness had to be presented in another form, before these untaught children of the North—for they were little more—could recognize its power and desirableness.

"Just what Augustine and Paulinus and their followers lacked, Columba and Aidan and the Celtic school of teachers possessed. The ineffable and tireless tenderness, the deep and wide human sympathy of the Irish and Scottish preachers, at once found the hearts of Engle and Saxon. That mighty, tender love kindled by the love of the Crucified, which burned in the hearts of men like Aidan, a love which flowed over the souls of men to all that the Crucified made—beasts of the field and birds of the air—a love which claimed kinship and brotherhood with all things created, a love which understood and chose to share the lot of the poor, the weak, the wretched; this it was which comforted so many stricken souls with its boundless sympathy. Their awful severity towards all wrong-doing, their terrible sternness, alternated with this deep tenderness in its numberless forms, literally took the impressionable hearts of these North-folk by storm; [8/9] and the conquest of hearts was completed by the contrast which the Celtic preachers presented in their own lives, coloured with rigid asceticism, prolonged fasting, cruel penances, countless vigils, long night watches, ceaseless prayer. The Celtic missionaries would have naught to do with land or gold or honours. They wanted nothing, asked for nothing, but the hearts of the men of war, to whom they told the story which they accepted themselves with a passionate belief—the story of the cross and the passion of the Christ, and His blessed work of redemption among men." I don't need to press the point. This same Celtic devotion is shown in the hearts of St. Francis and John Wesley—it is the one aspect of Christianity conspicuous by its absence today.

The Reformer is a de-personalized evangelical. He is passionately devoted to the situations which make it possible for men to be holy rather than to the holiness of the individuals themselves. Hildebrand, St. Bernard, Wyckcliff, Savonarola, Colet and Luther were all passionate men devoted exclusively to cleaning up the spiritual stables in which people were forced to live. Most people are acquainted with the speeches of Bernard, Wykcliff, Savonarola, Wesley and Luther; I quote, therefore, from the great Dean Colet's convocation sermon of 1512.

"Fathers, you are come together today to hold a council. I wish that at length you would consider the reformation of ecclesiastical affairs, for never was it more necessary. Never did the state of the church more need your endeavours, for the church is become foul and deformed . . .  Nothing has so disfigured the face of the church as the secular and worldly way of living on the part of the clergy . . . What eagerness and hunger after honour and dignity are found in these days among ecclesiastical persons! What a breathless race from benefice to benefice, from a lower to a higher! . . . The main part of priests give themselves up to feasting and banqueting, spend themselves in vain babbling, . . . are drowned in the delights of this world, patronize those who cater for their pleasure . . . We are troubled in these days with heretics, [9/10] but this heresy is not so pestilential to us and the people as the vicious and depraved lives of the clergy; for as Bernard, that holy father of so great and ardent spirit, told his people there were two kinds of heretical pravity, one of perverse doctrine, the other of perverse living, of which the latter is the greater and most pernicious. Such wicked priests are by so much worse than heretics, as actions are stronger than words. Reformation must needs begin with you, our fathers, and then afterwards descend upon us, your priests, and the whole clergy. To you we look as waymarks for our direction . . . Greater care should be taken in admitting persons to holy orders, for here is the source whence other evils flow. Hence proceed and emanate those hosts of both unlearned and wicked priests which are in the church. For it is not enough, in my judgment, that a priest can construe a collect, propound a proposition, or reply to a sophism, but much more needful are a good and pure and holy life, approved morals, moderate knowledge of the sacraments—above all, fear of God and love of the heavenly life."

That is a reformer speaking, and the fact that his message is unpleasant must never let us forget the truth he utters.

The Missionary is almost of necessity a one-sided man. Intellectual tolerance leads to a laissez-faire attitude. The Eastern Church is the greatest example of this. Believing, as it does, that any man shown a more excellent way will automatically follow it has resulted in few converts, but believe me, those few are distinguished ones. Your real Missionary is almost always a bit of a zealot, not only considering himself right but regarding himself as exclusively right. St. Wilfred's gloomy, burning devotion; St. Boniface's scorn for any form of syncretism; St. Francis Xavier's apparent desire to teach orientals how to meditate; Ignatius Loyola's well-drilled, utterly devoted, zealous Papal army; St. Dominic's Hounds of God, and Asbury's sweeping missionary zeal which carried all (including a few jaws) before it are characteristics hard to live with, but, let us be perfectly frank, we can't live without them. As has been pointed out within recent times, the reason the Southern [10/11] Pacific islanders fed our men rather than feeding on them is because of the 19th Century Anglican missionary's unquenchable thirst for the salvation of these people.

It is difficult in these days to talk about a Liberal man because the adjective has suffered so terribly; but the real liberal has always been one who refused to permit any preconceived notion to interfere with the consideration of newly revealed truth, and we can't do without him. The first and greatest Liberal was St. Paul. Apparently he was the first man to recognize that by fulfilling the law, Christ had, in reality, done away with it and substituted the single principle of love; a principle interpreted by the Spirit—not by the law. It has been said (and I am afraid, said fairly) that to date the Christian Church has largely done as St. Clement of Rome did—quoted St. Paul often without understanding him once. St. Clement of Alexandria, by contrast, stands on the shoulders of St. Paul and St. John and with quiet reverence explores every facet of the universe that comes before his reverent gaze. To some it will seem strange, but we must include Phillips Brooks and Gore's Lux Mundi school as Liberals in this sense. Gore, in his old age, could still describe himself as a free-thinker and though his gift was theology as over against Phillips Brooks' incredible gift as a preacher—after the superficial differences of theological language have been eliminated, the thinking is strangely alike. Gore's sacramentalism ends up in mysticism [*Possibly Paul Elmer More's favorite word mystihood would be a better description of the thinking of both men.] and Brooks' mysticism ends up in sacramentalism. With either one the average orthodox Christian is happy.

The Intellectual suffers from an expert's dis-association with the practical exigencies of living. St. Thomas Aquinas, Erasmus, Calvin, Cranmer, and Gilson are all men who, like St. Augustine, think through magnificent schemes to guide the intellectual considerations of busy parish priests trying to meet their budgets, do their work, and at the same time comfort women in childbirth. St. Augustine had preserved the common touch because he still felt a deep kinship with [11/12] the rest of the world's sinners, but not so these cool intellectuals that followed him. Of all necessary parts of the body, these men are the most difficult to appreciate. One is tempted to say, "It must needs be that thinking come, but woe to that man by whom the thought cometh." The value of their thinking, however, is shown in the lives of those who carry these thoughts into action; for the Church's zeal in social service is nothing other than the fruit of such thinking. Without St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas there would have been no Bernardino of Sienna or Vincent de Paul, just as without Cranmer, Erasmus, Tauler and Butler there would have been no Elizabeth Fry or William Wilberforce.

The Broad Churchman must be considered as the first of the artists. He is a man who paints with ideas and experiment with intellectual light and shade; whether it be Origen or St. Theresa, Böhme, Von Hugel, Evelyn Underhill or Bulgakov, the result is the same. To the pedestrian, they seem terrifyingly amoral—even to the most kindly disposed they seem occasionally to by-pass the Christian tradition; but this is because they are artists—not because they are conscienceless or intentionally heterodox. They merely use all the spiritual light and shade and colour available in the universal palette. Like all art, some of it will be Christian and some of it sub-Christian; some of it beautiful and some of it bizarre; some of it lovely and some of it downright ugly—for the artist has a self-critical faculty not common to most people. Abbé Suger is the real father of Gothic building, but you find in the man's writings a saving distrust of his own work.

Not all poetry utters the poet's cry. Aurelius Clemens Prudentius wrote scores of poems which have disappeared in their own darkness but that is not a sad fate for one who has left us Of the Father's Love begotten and Earth has many a noble city. Of the hundreds of hymns by Isaac Watts, only eleven are now in common use, but should nine of these eleven perish, no man's life is wasted who has left the world When I survey the wondrous cross and O God, our help in ages past.

[13] The Musician, too, experiments with colour but in his case it is tonal colour. The results have often been as disturbing as the speculations of Origen. How poor we should be, though, had the Church decided that Ambrose and Gregory were enough and that no Palestrina, Bach, or Mendelssohn or Gretchaninoff or Archangelsky or Vaughan Williams were needed.

If, perchance, I have been able to make my point clear that these tensions not only abide in the Church; but that they ought to abide in the Church, and must abide in the Church if the Church is to be a living body—then I shall have demonstrated the principle reason for the reunion of Christendom.

As matters stand now, no single Christian body has enough tensions in it. As an Anglican, I would maintain that my own church was a truly Catholic one in that it tolerated within its structure the greatest conceivable theological diversity of opinion, but this is an over-simplification in that, no matter how great the theological differences, there is always a deep underlying cultural unity and a profound sense of hierarchical control. This latter is all the more amazing when one remembers that the most effective theological writers we have are laymen; C. S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers, Evelyn Underhill, T. S. Eliot and Toynbee. We have done almost nothing about reviving the minor orders to make possible an effective lay ministry.

It is very hard to be an Anglican if you are basically a legalist or an Aristotelian. It has been rightly said that "Anglicanism is more a loyalty than a doctrinal position." As an Anglican, I want for the church that wonderful Celtic passion for holiness which is still the strength of Methodism at its best.

It is not by accident that Wesley's great work was done chiefly in Celtic Cornwall and Wales and in the North country which had originally been converted to Christianity by Celts.

It seems to me that steps towards Christian union must be taken first by those bodies temperamentally and historically [13/14] most closely connected. It is worth remembering that, unlike some other Christians in the 19th Century, you people have always had good relations with the Eastern Orthodox. Their basic Platonism, the austere piety of their clergy and their Bible-soaked simplicity, make them singularly attractive to you, and in your Anglican-Celtic background staunch peoples like the Serbs and the Greeks recognize a kindred love of freedom and an equally fierce sense of personal independence. Wesley, in his development, owed much to Lutheranism and I think it may fairly be said that you and I, who come from the same stock, recognize in continental Lutheranism both the free sense of personal holiness which comes as the fruit of faith in Jesus Christ, and the corporate sense of that responsibility to and for the whole body which revolves around common sacraments and liturgy.

All thoughtful men agree that there is nothing to be gained by setting up a religion the standard of which is the lowest common denominator of the several confessions represented. There can be no union worthy of the name which asks men to sacrifice honest convictions. Therefore, if we would come together in that oneness which Christ demands, it must be on the basis of contribution rather than compromise. Inter-communion comes as the result of theological agreement. Under no circumstances will the reversal of this procedure do anything other than confirm each man in his own prejudices. The advantage of talks among the four churches I have mentioned is that basically they all believe in the same kind of God. The problem lies in what may be considered an adequate definition of the church in the fullest intention of its divine Head. Little is accomplished by debates on validity and regularity. Indeed, the Eastern Orthodox Church would hold that, did we arrive at theological agreement—true orthodoxy—all the matters of ancient canonical legislation, regularity and validity, might easily be adjusted on the basis of the doctrine of economy. No single one of the four churches mentioned is caught up in the hypocrisy of denying to separated brothers [14/15] those gifts of the Spirit which are manifest to the whole world.

To such a union you Methodists have much to bring. I wonder if you know what it is as well as those who gaze at you from the outside. What is the theological position of the Methodist church today? What is its attitude towards the sacraments? What official statement of its polity and attitude towards Holy Scripture may be referred to as binding upon all loyal Methodists? Disregarding for the moment things as they are, how do you think things ought to be? You are nine million strong in this country alone. Upon you depends the grave choice whether we are to go forward towards the recovery of a world wide church for all races and peoples, a church which preserves the values of the Reformation but does not deny the abiding gifts of the Spirit from which that Reformation sprang, or whether you are to come to terms with an exclusive Pan-Protestantism concerned chiefly with Anglo-Saxon North European political and economic pressure. As one greatly indebted to you and one who has genuine affection for you, I think you will be in no doubt as to my earnest hope in this matter.

Our zeal for this must not be because we think that such a re-united Church may save money or that it may be powerful or unified—in some ways it will be far less uniform than anything we can now discern, but, rather, because each component part of Christ's Body must learn the grim realism and truth of St. Paul's analysis of that Body:

"But now hath God set the members every one of them in the Body, as it hath pleased him. And the eye cannot say unto the hand I have no need of thee; but God hath tempered the Body together—that there should be no schism in the Body; but that the members should have the same care one for another."

Project Canterbury