The Twentieth Century

An International Communion 

By the end of the nineteenth century, English colonialism had produced daughter Churches throughout the world, including the Episcopal Church in the United States and Anglican Provinces in Africa, Australia, Canada and elsewhere. Anglicanism had become more than just the national Church of England. 

Anglican Orders

Near the close of the nineteenth century, a number of English and French Churchmen held a series of unofficial meetings with the aim of bringing about a better understanding between the English and Roman Catholic Churches.  Those meetings gave rise to a discussion about Holy Orders and the continuity of the Apostolic Ministry.  In the past, there had been in the English Church a good many rebellious Puritans who were opposed to its having an Apostolic Ministry, and said much against retaining that heritage.  So the question was raised:  had English Churchmen been able to continue the Apostolic Ministry despite the efforts of the Puritans to do away with it?   To satisfy the French Churchmen, Pope Leo XIII was asked to give his opinion on the matter.

Leo consented to appoint a committee to look into the mutter. The committee was reported to have been at first about equally divided in its opinions.  This was problematic for English Roman Catholics, who believed that a favorable judgment would put them at a disadvantage in gaining converts.  If the Pope should decide that the Anglican Orders were valid, then Roman Catholics who were dissatisfied with their own Church might be encouraged to go over to the Anglican Communion.  When the Pope rendered his decision, though, he took the position that the English Roman Catholics had hoped he would make: he claimed that the continuity of the Apostolic Ministry in England depended upon the sufficiency of the revised Ordinal of 1550, called the Edwardian Ordinal.  This was the rite used in the consecration of Archbishop Parker in 1559 and other bishops down to the year 1662. Leo found no fault with the Ordinal as revised in l662, but held that the revision came too late. He assumed that In the meantime the English Church had lost its Apostolic Ministry, and so no longer held, in 1662 any validly consecrated bishops who could in turn confer valid Holy Orders.

The Pope claimed that the Ordinal of 1550 was deficient in "form" in the words used by the bishops at the time of the laying on of hands.  He mentioned also the omission of ceremonials which would not now be regarded as essential, as they were also omitted in earlier consecrations in the Roman Church. Leo said further that even if the form of the Ordinal were valid, Parker's consecration would still be insufficient to confer valid Holy Orders because of the lack of proper “intention.” That is, he claimed that the bishops who consecrated Parker did not believe in the necessity of Apostolic Orders, and therefore really had no intention of conferring them. His condemnation of the Edwardian Ordinal and the validity of Parker's consecration under that form, resulted in a careful study of the form of the Ordinals used in consecrating bishops in the early years of the Church.  These inquiries found that there had been a number of changes in the first thousand years of the Church. Earlier Ordinals were seen to have the same “deficiency of form” alleged against the 1550 Ordinal.  It was also found that Archbishop Cranmer had taken the Anglican form from a Pontifical used earlier by the Church, so if the lack of “form” took away the value of Anglican Orders, then it necessarily did the same to Roman Catholic Orders.

In denying proper “intention” in Parker's consecration, the Pope had made reference to the Puritan party in the Church of England. When Pope Pius V excommunicated Elizabeth, he charged her with being Calvinist. He accused her of "participation in the impious mysteries of Calvin,” and thus classed her with the Puritan party. The Puritans regarded the Holy Orders of the Church as “popish,” and therefore were opposed to continuing them. However, the historical fact is that the Puritans were not the whole Church, and their opinions could not prevent Matthew Parker's proper consecration.  All that history tells us about the four bishops who took part in that ceremony, and about Elizabeth, leaves no doubt that they had every intention of continuing the true Apostolic Ministry of the Church. The preface of the Ordinal of 1550 stated: “The Church of England intends to continue the orders which have been in Christ's Church since the Apostles’ time.”

A Church in Conflict