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An Analysis of Anglican Concepts of the Papal Magisterium from the First Through the Tenth Lambeth Conference



by Burns K. Seeley

1.  The Oxford Movement (1833-1845)

The roots of modern Anglican attitudes towards the papal magisterium are largely found in the Oxford Movement of the nineteenth century (1833-1845). The movement’s adherents and successors, often referred to as Anglo-Catholics or High Churchmen, displayed a great reverence for the first eleven centuries of Christianity. [1] They noted that, unlike the later centuries, the Church during this period was undivided. Consequently, its teachings were kept in their integrity and were spoken with one voice, especially by means of the universal episcopate when gathered in ecumenical councils.

It was held that the evidence of the early undivided Church indicted that the bishops, as the successors of the Apostles, were entrusted with the responsibility for being the Church’s principal teachers and doctrinal arbiters. For this reason, the Roman Catholic belief in the magisterial primacy of the papacy was rejected.

The movement’s emphasis upon the teaching authority of the episcopate also sharply contrasted with views held by the other schools of theological thought within Anglicanism. The Evangelicals or Low Churchmen stressed the magisterial primacy of the enlightened conscience of the individual Christian, while the Latitudinarians, also known as Broad Churchmen and Liberals, gave prominence to reason in determining matters of doctrine.

Although the term Anglo-Catholic itself was not used until the early years of the Oxford Movement, those advocating the principles denoted by it were present in Anglicanism as early as the Elizabethan age. But during the reign of the Calvinist monarch, William of Orange (1689-1702), their numbers and influence dwindled appreciably. This state remained until the advent of the Oxford Movement.

One of the immediate causes of the resurgence of Anglo-Catholic principles in the nineteenth century was the fear of a Roman Catholic take-over in much of the British Isles. For several years, beginning in the latter part of the previous century, Roman Catholics, through parliamentary action, had gained freedom in the areas of worship, education and politics. Partially to offset this threat to the established Church of England, a group of Anglican scholars at Oxford sought to revive the Catholic doctrines and practices of the early Church, thus occasioning the Oxford Movement.

John Henry Newman [2] attributed the beginning of the movement to John Keble’s [3] famous sermons on “National Apostasy” delivered at Oxford University, July 14, 1833. The immediate occasion for the sermon was the proposed Irish Bishoprics Act of 1833 calling for the suppression of ten Anglican dioceses in Ireland. Keble, greatly concerned over parliamentary control of the Anglican Church, stressed its divine origin and apostolic rights.

The movement maintained that the Church of England was a lineal descendent of the Church of the Apostles, the Fathers and the early ecumenical councils. Both the English Church and its daughter Churches were regarded as integral parts of the Catholic Church having a Catholic ministry, Catholic doctrine, Catholic sacraments and Catholic forms of worship.

In contrast with the Latitudinarian and Evangelical tendencies to view Bishops as principally ecclesiastical administrators and Crown representatives, Anglo-Catholics taught that they were primarily successors of the Apostles. As such they were the Church’s high priests and chief guardians of the faith. They were also said to be the chief administrators of Catholic discipline.

The Anglo-Catholic doctrine of the historic Catholic episcopate, together with Anglo-Catholic financial support, contributed significantly to the substantial increase in the Anglican episcopate throughout the world during the last century. Consequently, provincial and interprovincial synods began to meet outside the British Isles. It was in these that a desire for a pan-Anglican synod arose, taking concrete form at Lambeth Palace, London, in 1867.

Most leaders of the Oxford Movement and their Anglo-Catholic successors believed that the Anglican break with Roman Catholicism in the sixteenth century was regrettable, yet justified. Among other things, they contended that the integrity of the Catholic faith was threatened by the Church of Rome’s doctrine of papal supremacy and by its over-emphasis on the Blessed Virgin Mary. Nevertheless, in their efforts to revive Catholic teaching and practice, members of the movement looked increasingly on the Roman Catholic Church as a living example of Catholic life and worship.

This interest in Roman Catholicism, and growing Crown intervention in Anglican doctrinal matters, were instrumental in bringing several movement leaders into the Roman Catholic Church. Among the most prominent were John Henry Newman and Henry Manning. [4]

Both the adherents of the Oxford Movement and Anglicans in general were shocked by these conversions. This factor, in addition to the discussions going on in Rome at the time about the immaculate conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary and papal infallibility, tended to put on the defensive those remaining in the movement. These desired to distinguish themselves anew from Roman Catholics and to affirm their loyalty to the See of Canterbury. At the same time, they wished to assert the validity of their doctrines on Church authority as opposed to those of the Latitudinarians and Evangelicals.

They reaffirmed their denial of the claims of the modern papacy, holding them to be contrary to the teaching of the early undivided Church as contained in Scripture, the Fathers and the Catholic councils. On the same basis, they also asserted the primacy of the universal episcopate in both jurisdictional and doctrinal matters.

2.  Edward Pusey

Edward Pusey (1800-1882), more than any other person, dominated Anglo-Catholic thought from the time of Newman’s departure in 1851 until the First Lambeth Conference in 1867. Educated at Eton and Oxford, Pusey became a Fellow of Oriel College, Oxford, in 1823. Ordained priest in 1828, he was appointed Regius Professor of Hebrew and Canon of Christ Church, Oxford. He had a keen interest in the doctrine of the early Church, producing a work on the early councils [5] and translation of Augustine’s Confessions.

Pusey sought to dissuade Anglo-Catholics from individually joining the Church of Rome. At the same time, he desired corporate reunion between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, writing three books on the subject. He also attempted to get the First Lambeth Conference to adopt his ecumenical outlook. However, after the Vatican I decrees on papal primacy and infallibility were promulgated, Pusey believed the possibilities for reunion with Rome were markedly lessened.

His book on Church councils was written to demonstrate the primacy of the episcopate in matters of doctrine. Besides being a response to the claims of the modern papacy and to the magisterial positions of the Evangelicals and Latitudinarians, it was also a rebuttal of the doctrinal encroachments of the Crown.

The author held that Scripture, and the patristic writings of men like Irenaeus, revealed that only the Church’s bishops, the successors of the Apostles, were dominically authorized both to determine doctrine and to teach authoritatively. The commission as doctrinal arbiters was said not to apply to individuals as such, but to the collective episcopate of the whole Church. Even the decisions of general councils could not be considered definitive unless they were received by the universal episcopate. [6]

In a book issued in 1865, Pusey dealt specifically with the problem of Anglican-Roman Catholic unity. [7] Here the magisterial primacy of the episcopal college was once more emphasized and its constituent members were limited to primarily the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox branches of the Catholic Church. [8]

This ecclesiological concept reflected the Branch Theory generally espoused by the Anglo-Catholics of the Oxford Movement and their successors. It took the position that even though Christianity was divided, various branches still constituted the whole Catholic Church, if they held the faith of the early undivided Church and maintained the apostolic succession. Accordingly, the three main branches of contemporary Catholicism were said to be the Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Communions.

Pusey taught that, unless each branch of the whole Church confirmed a doctrine through its episcopate, it could not be regarded as infallible. Consequently, papal infallibility could not be so regarded since it was not received by the Anglican and Orthodox branches. [9]

It was pointed out also that the Gallican Church rejected the doctrine of papal infallibility and that it too held that consent by the whole Church was necessary before a doctrine could be considered infallible.

Yet Pusey failed to distinguish between Anglo-Catholic and Gallican concepts of the whole Church. Gallicanism, condemned in 1690 by Pope Alexander VIII, maintained that even doctrinal teaching proclaimed by popes was subject to the judgment of the whole Church. But for the Gallicans, the whole Church was confined to those Churches in visible communion with the papal see. [10]

Pusey asserted that the papal claim of a divinely authorized primacy was not supported by the witness of the early undivided Church. Instead, the early Church was said to disclose the existence of an ecclesiastically bestowed primacy to which Pope Zosimus (417-418), for example, subscribed. [11]

In fact, however, Zosimus taught that the primacy enjoyed by the papacy was inherited from the divinely appointed primacy of the Apostle Peter. This position was particularly apparent in a letter written by the pope to the Council of Carthage in 418.

Although the tradition of the fathers has assigned such great authority to the apostolic see that no one would dare dispute its judgment, and has kept this always by the canons and rules of Church order, and in the current of its laws pays the reverence which it owes to the name of Peter, from whom it descends; for canonical antiquity, by the consent of all, has willed such power to this apostle, so that the promise of Christ our God, that he should loose the bound and bind the loosed, is equally given to those who have obtained, with his assent, the inheritance of his see; for he has a care of all the churches, especially for this where he sat, nor does he permit any of its privileges or decisions to be shaken by any blast, since he established it on the firm and immovable foundation of his own name, which no one shall rashly attach, but at his peril. Peter then is the head of so great authority, and has confirmed the devotion of all the fathers who followed him, so that the Roman Church is established by all laws and discipline, whether human or divine. His place we rule, and we inherit the power of his name; you know this dearest brothers, and as priests you ought to know it. [12]

We see therefore that, at least in the person of Zosimus, the early Church was not entirely ignorant of the doctrine of a divinely authorized papal primacy.

The remainder of Pusey’s volume was devoted to an elaboration of the belief that only the universal episcopate could ultimately judge matters of doctrine. Anglican-Roman Catholic unity was deemed impossible until this doctrine was mutually accepted.

3.  The First Lambeth Conference (1867)

The stress made by Pusey and other Anglo-Catholics upon the importance of the historic episcopate was, as already noted, largely responsible for the increase in overseas bishops. It was these bishops, many of whom were Anglo-Catholics, who sought a pan-Anglican council to act as a final spiritual tribunal whereby common difficulties could be resolved.

One of the most pressing problems facing the overseas Churches dealt with the nature of their relationship to the English Crown. Unlike the Church of England, they, patterning themselves after the practice of the early Church, possessed synodal government and were legally free from the Crown’s influence in doctrinal matters. Yet their close relationship with the established Mother Church and the fact that most of them were situated in Crown colonies, often created the false impression that they too were Crown Churches.

The Colenso Affair was one of the most prominent cases arising from this situation. John W. Colenso, a South African prelate, was solemnly ex-communicated in 1863 by his superior, the Bishop of Capetown, for teaching heresy. Colenso, however, appealed to the Crown where he received a judgment in his favor. Thus the autonomous authority of the South African Church was called into question. Anxiety over the incident, found among the overseas bishops, heightened their desire for a pan-Anglican synod.

After several appeals to the Archbishop of Canterbury for such a gathering, it became apparent that the participation in it by the Church of England would present certain legal difficulties. As an established Church, it would not be free to settle ecclesiastical matters together with its daughter Churches without parliamentary consent. And this, of course, would give the appearance that the daughter Churches as well were subject to the Crown. Consequently, it was decided that a pan-Anglican conference of bishops, possessing no binding authority, would meet instead of a synod or a council. Such a conference, however, would enable the bishops to discuss common concerns and would help maintain Anglican unity.

The conference opened on September 24, 1867, at Lambeth Palace in London. Among the seventy-six prelates present, there were approximately 30 Evangelicals, 4 Latitudinarians, and 42 Anglo-Catholics. At least forty-three bishops were from the Colonies and the United States.

Charles Longley (1794-1868), the Archbishop of Canterbury, was the conference’s presiding officer. Educated at Christ Church, Oxford, he also taught there for several years before becoming headmaster of Harrow. He later became, successively, Bishop of Ripon, Bishop of Durham, Archbishop of York and Archbishop of Canterbury. Although Longley opposed some Anglo-Catholic ritualistic practices which resembled those of the Church of Rome, he was not entirely without High Church sympathies.

In the opening address to the conference, the archbishop referred to the Protestant character of Anglicanism by speaking of the Reformed Church of England and of “the several branches of our Reformed Church.” [13] But he also made reference to the Anglo-Catholic position which contrasted episcopal authority with that assumed by the modern papacy. He said that the separate Churches of Anglicanism represented a “protest against the assumption by any Bishop of the Church Catholic of dominion over his fellows in the Episcopate.” [14]

After the address, Longley noted that some memorials had been presented to the conference for its consideration. Among them was one submitted by Pusey and other Anglo-Catholics requesting the bishops to discuss the possibility of Anglican reunion with the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches. But it was not acted upon.

Before the conclusion of the first day’s session, the prelates studied the second draft, (B), of a proposed declaration or preamble to the conference’s resolution. [15] The adoption of the final draft, (C), [16] was not made until the third day of the conference. The first draft, (A), had been sent to the bishops in July before the conference opened. [17] A composite of the three versions, shown below, reveals the interplay of differing schools of theological thought.

We, “the” Bishops of Christ’s Holy Catholic Church, (professing the faith of the primitive and undivided Church, as based on Scripture) “and” (defined by the first four General Councils,) IN VISIBLE COMMUNION WITH THE UNITED CHURCH OF ENGLAND AND IRELAND, PROFESSING THE FAITH DELIVERED TO US IN HOLY SCRIPTURE, MAINTAINED BY THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH AND reaffirmed “by the Fathers of the English Reformation,” now assembled by the good providence of God at the Archiepiscopal Palace of Lambeth, under the presidency of the Primate of all England, desire to give hearty thanks to almighty God for having thus brought us together for common counsels “and” united “worship”; secondly, we desire to express the deep sorrow with which we view the divided condition of the flock of Christ throughout the world, ARDENTLY LONGING FOR THE FULFILMENT OF THE PRAYER OF OUR LORD: “THAT ALL MAY BE ONE, AS THOU, FATHER ART IN ME, AND I IN THEE, AND THAT THEY ALSO MAY BE ONE IN US, THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT THOU HAST SENT ME”; and, lastly, we do here solemnly (declare our belief that the best hope of future reunion will be found) RECORD OUR CONVICTION THAT THE UNITY WILL BE MOST EFFECTUALLY PROMOTED, BY MAINTAINING THE FAITH IN ITS PURITY AND INTEGRITY, AS TAUGHT IN THE HOLY SCRIPTURES, HELD BY THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH , SUMMED UP IN THE CREEDS, AND REAFFIRMED BY THE UNDISPUTED GENERAL COUNCILS, AND in drawing each of us (for ourselves) to much prayer and intercession, and in the cultivation of the spirit of charity, AND A LOVE OF THE LORD’S APPEARING, and in seeking to diffuse through every part of the Christian Community that desire and resolution to return to the Faith and Discipline of the undivided Church which was the principle of the English Reformation. [18]

Draft (A) was largely by the hand of Robert Gray, an Anglo-Catholic who, as metropolitan of the South African Church, ex-communicated John Colenso. The document made reference to the bishops of the Catholic Church who professed the faith of the primitive and undivided Church. Here was reflected the Anglo-Catholic stress upon both the historic episcopate and the faith of the early Church. Emphasis was also placed upon the first four general councils, generally accepted by both Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals. The former, however, usually accepted as well the Fifth and Sixth General Councils, and some of them even accepted the Seventh.

On the basis of the teaching of draft (A), William Thompson, an Evangelical and the Archbishop of York, refused to attend the conference. In his opinion, the draft did not give adequate authority to Scripture. Consequently, he could see no difference between the document’s position on Church authority and that held by the Church of Rome. He also thought that the draft should have contained references to the Reformation, and to the Thirty-nine Articles which outlined Anglican doctrinal positions. [19]

In document (B), two major changes occurred, which were designed to appeal to the Evangelicals. One stated that the faith of the primitive and undivided Church was reaffirmed by the fathers of the English Reformation. The other said that the purpose of the English Reformation was to return to the faith of the undivided Church.

Bishop Francis Jeune, an Evangelical, regretted that the second draft accorded the general councils a higher place than it did to Scripture. Neither was he pleased with the statement that the English Reformation was a return to the faith of the primitive and undivided Church. He felt too that some reference should have been made to the Thirty-nine Articles which outlined some of the major Anglican theological positions subscribed to at the time of the Reformation. In fact, Jeune said that he perceived no difference between the document and something emanating from the pen of an Anglo-Catholic reunionist. [20] Presumably, he had in mind someone like Pusey who desired reunion with the Church of Rome.

An Irish Evangelical, Bishop Robert Daly, stated that the first sentence spoke against the Reformation. [21] Pusey, on the other hand, was dissatisfied that only the first four general councils were mentioned. Since he was not a bishop, he sought the aid of Anglo-Catholic bishops to amend the declaration to include the Fifth and Sixth General Councils as well.

The first changes contained in document ( C ) represented a victory for the Evangelicals who were led by Bishop Charles Sumner of Winchester. Sumner wanted and obtained the deletion of the document (B) references to the undivided Church and to the general councils. He did not regard the primitive Church as synonymous with deleted undivided Church. He said that the former term referred to approximately the first three centuries when the faith was kept in its integrity. The latter, which he said extended to the eighth or ninth centuries and included the councils, was held to be a period in which both faith and practice were corrupted.

Charles McIlvaine, an Evangelical and Bishop of Ohio, declared that no mention of general councils should be made in the final draft since the Thirty-nine Articles did not recognize them as authoritative. He stated that the Articles accepted the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds not because they were received by general councils but because they agreed with Scripture. Bishop Archibald Tait of London, a Latitudinarian, believed that any reference to general councils as definitive bodies would be the equivalent of adding a new article to the rule of faith. Consequently, the conference voted to delete the citation of the councils.

With the addition of the words “in visible Communion with the United Church of England and Ireland” to ( C ), it can be seen that there was no longer any stress on the faith of the primitive and undivided Catholic Church. Instead, it was now upon the faith of the Church of England. This was the faith said to be found in the Bible and maintained by the pristine Church and the fathers of the English Reformation.

A further addition to ( C ) of a passage from John 17 did not alter the sense of the earlier drafts.

Anglo-Catholic bishops were chiefly responsible for an important amendment to the document, thus helping preserve an Anglo-Catholic emphasis in this final draft. The phrase affirming the undisputed general councils was added, placing a stress once more upon the faith of the early undivided Church and upon the role of the historic episcopate.

One of the resolutions adopted by the conference recommended that a committee report, requesting Bishop Colenso’s removal from his see, be sent to all Anglican bishops for their examination. Apparently, due to the non-legislative nature of the conference, no further action was taken in this matter.

The conference’s pastoral or encyclical letter was addressed to those of “the Church of Christ in Communion with the Anglican Branch of the Church Catholic,” thereby reflecting the Anglo-Catholic Branch theory. [22]

The encyclical voiced a warning “against growing superstitions and additions with which (…) the truth of God hath been overlaid.” [23] Among these were “the pretension to universal sovereignty over God’s heritage asserted for the Church of Rome, and (…) the practical exaltation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as mediator in the place of her Divine Son (….)” [24]. Since the encyclical was addressed to Anglicans rather than to Roman Catholics, it seems that the bishops were referring to the belief and practice of certain Anglo-Catholics with a pro-Roman Catholic bias.

A further warning, contained in the last paragraph, also appears directed against the same persons. “Beware of causing divisions contrary to the doctrine ye have received.” [25] If these warning were so directed, it can be seen the belief in the primacy of papal authority was not entirely dead within Anglicanism.

In spite of the presence of Evangelical and Latitudinarian bishops at the conference, it was those of the Anglo-Catholic party who made the most significant doctrinal contributions. These prelates, aided by the writings and contacts of Edward Pusey, incorporated at least two distinctively Anglo-Catholic concepts into the proceedings. The first was that the Anglican Communion was above all a full part of the historic Catholic Church and an inheritor of the Catholic faith and practice contained in the primitive and undivided Church. (Therefore, only secondarily, could the Anglicanism be thought of as in any sense Protestant.) The second was the concept of the episcopate as a Catholic order within the historic Catholic Church. An episcopate concerned with maintaining the purity of Catholic faith and practice, and with defending itself from the encroachments of the papacy.

4.  Pusey’s Third Eirenicon

Since differing concepts of the legitimate role of the papacy lay at the very heart of the division between the Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions, many Anglo-Catholics became alarmed at the speculation that the doctrine of papal infallibility would be defined at the impending Vatican Council. From their point of view, the definition would only widen the breach. In an effort to avert this, Edward Pusey, writing principally for Roman Catholic readers, produced a third Eirenicon devoted primarily to the question of the papal teaching office. [26] Once published, copies were immediately sent to Roman Catholic bishops attending the council.

As in his earlier works, the author stressed that only the doctrine received by the whole Church was binding upon Christian consciences. [27] It was noted that this concept originated in patristic period. A famous statement of Vincent of Lerins (died c. 450) was cited as evidence. “In the Catholic Church itself we must take care that we hold that which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.” [28]

Therefore, Pusey claimed that since the Roman Catholic Church was not the whole Church, doctrines peculiar to it were not to be held as binding. [29]

The modern Roman Catholic concept of the papacy was thought to be other than that held by the early undivided Church. Pusey implied that the early Church considered the pope to be only an ecclesiastically appointed chairman or president of the episcopal college. Explicitly, the pope was said to have only a limited primacy of jurisdiction over the Church, with the object of enforcing the canons. [30] This was contrasted with an inherent ordinary jurisdiction exercised within the several metropolitan sees. Consequently, the Church of England was held to have had every right during the sixteenth century to deny the papacy an ordinary jurisdiction over England, even though the English sovereigns usurped this episcopal right for themselves. [31]

The early papacy, therefore, was not thought to include a primacy of ordinary jurisdiction, nor did it include an inherent right to be an appeals tribunal. [32] However, Pusey stated that, for reasons of expediency, the papacy acquired, through canonical legislation, appellate jurisdiction over the Church. The Council of Sardica (A.D. 342) was cited as an instance in which such legislation was passed. [33]

Pusey, however, did not consider the possibility that the Sardican canons enforced a previously existing right, acquired by the bishops of Rome as the inheritors of a divinely authorized Petrine primacy. Yet a conciliar letter addressed to Pope Julius I (d. 352) made allowance for this interpretation. “For this will appear best and fittest, that the priests (i.e., bishops) of the Lord from all the provinces should report to the head, that is to the see of Peter the Apostle.” [34]

The author noted that the concept of magisterial primacy implied doctrinal infallibility. Therefore, he reasoned, the doctrine of magisterial primacy of the papacy was untrue since history recorded instances in which popes erred in matters of faith. Liberius (352-356), for example, denounced the orthodox teaching of Athanasius (c. 296-373). [35]

It was also maintained that popes, acting in their official capacity, incorrectly assessed the orthodoxy of individuals, as when Zosimus acquitted the Pelagian Celestius of heresy. [36] These too were thought impossible, if the Roman pontiffs actually possessed doctrinal infallibility.

Pusey asserted that the testimony of the early ecumenical councils proved conclusively that the universal episcopate was superior to the papacy in matters of faith. The decisiveness of the Nicene Council’s anti-Arian doctrine (325) was “ascribed not to any special weight of the Roman see, but to this, that it was the voice of the Bishops of the universal Church.” [37]

It was also pointed out that the Council of Ephesus (431) was preceded by a formal papal judgment against Nestorianism. Yet the author held that the council rendered an independent judgment in the matter. Similarly, it was noted that the Council of Chalcedon (451), as well, was preceded by a formal papal judgment against a heresy. [38] But in this instance too, the episcopal college acted independently. [39] Moreover, it was maintained that both Ephesus and Chalcedon passed judgment on the papal decisions themselves, thereby asserting a magisterial office superior to that of the papacy.

In our examination of Pusey’s writings, we saw that the author constantly defended the Anglo-Catholic doctrine of the magisterial primacy of the universal episcopate. In contrast to his presentation of patristic and conciliar evidence on behalf of the doctrine, evidence on behalf of the Roman Catholic belief in the magisterial primacy of the papacy was said to be wanting.

We also noted Pusey’s efforts at the First Lambeth Conference on behalf of Anglo-Catholic doctrine and principles. Yet the opposition of Evangelical and Latitudinarian points of view prevented their complete adoption.

5.  The First Vatican Council (1869-1870)

Inasmuch as nearly every Anglican work, yet to be analyzed in this study, referred to the Vatican I doctrine of papal primacy, it is summarized below.

On July 18, 1870, the council declared that the pope held the primacy over the whole Church in virtue of being the successor of Peter, the divinely appointed Prince of the Apostles.

Therefore, relying on the clear testimony of the Holy Scriptures and following the express and definite decrees of our predecessors, the Roman Pontiffs, and of the general councils, we reaffirm the definition of the ecumenical Council of Florence. According to this definition all the faithful of Christ must believe “that the holy Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff have the primacy over the whole world, and that the same Roman Pontiff is the successor of St. Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, and the true vicar of Christ, the head of the whole Church, the father and teacher of all Christians; and that to him, in the person of St. Peter, was given by our Lord Jesus Christ the full power of feeding, ruling and governing the whole Church; as is also contained in the proceedings of the ecumenical councils and in the sacred canons. [40]

It was further defined by Pius IX that the pope, with divine assistance, speaks infallibly whenever teaching doctrine concerning faith or morals, in his capacity as shepherd and teacher of all Christians.

We, with the approval of the sacred council, teach and define that it is a divinely revealed dogma: that the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra, that is, when, acting in the office of shepherd and teacher of all Christians, he defines, by virtue of his supreme apostolic authority, doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the universal Church, possesses through the divine assistance promised to him in the person of St. Peter, the infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed his Church to be endowed in defining doctrine concerning faith or morals; and that such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are therefore irreformable because of their nature but not because of the agreement of the Church. [41]

Many Anglo-Catholics interpreted the above doctrine as a denial, not only of the primacy of the historic episcopate but also of the inherent powers of the episcopate. Thus it was said that Rome viewed bishops as papal suffragans rather than as successors of the Apostles.

6.  The Second Lambeth Conference (1878)

Archibald Tait (1811-1882), succeeding Charles Longley as Archbishop of Canterbury, presided over the Second Lambeth Conference in 1878. Reared as a Presbyterian, he became an Anglican while at Oxford in 1830. A Latitudinarian, Tait strongly opposed Anglo-Catholicism. He was headmaster of Rugby and Bishop of London before being translated to Canterbury in 1868.

All of the conference’s official proceedings were incorporated into the encyclical letter, which began with an affirmation that the participants were members of the Catholic episcopate. “We, Archbishops, Bishops Metropolitan, and other Bishops of the Holy Catholic Church in full communion with the Church of England (…). [42] The encyclical also spoke of the Anglican Communion as, “United under One Divine Head in the fellowship of the One Catholic and Apostolic Church (…). [43]

But both instances reflected the Anglo-Catholic Branch Theory which implicitly denied the necessity of communion with the Church of Rome for full membership in the Catholic Church.

The encyclical concurred too with the Anglo-Catholic belief that the Anglican Communion inherited the one true faith.

(…) holding the One Faith revealed in Holy Writ, defined in the Creeds, and maintained by the Primitive Church, receiving the same Canonical Scriptures (…) as containing all things necessary for salvation. [44]

The reference to the primitive Church could be interpreted in either an Anglo-Catholic or an Evangelical sense, as noted in our discussion of the First Conference.

The conference bishops stated that not only did the Anglican Communion possess the one faith, but it also partook of the divinely ordained sacraments by means of a ministry with apostolic orders. [45]

The reference to apostolic orders appears to be an allusion to the Anglo-Catholic belief in apostolic succession. But, since the term was unqualified, some prelates might have equated it as well with the ministries of Churches not professing to have the historic episcopate, that is, with an episcopate said to derive from apostolic times.

With respect to the Church of Rome, the Lambeth fathers expressed gratitude to God for Old Catholics and others who had recently left the Roman Catholic Communion in protest of the Vatican I decrees of papal primacy and papal infallibility. The bishops rejected the doctrines because they were taught to express belief that the pope was a mediator between God and man in the place of Christ.

We acknowledge but one Mediator between God and men—the Man Christ Jesus, Who is over all, God blessed for ever. We reject, as contrary to the Scriptures and to Catholic truth, any doctrine which would set up other mediators in His place, or which would take away from the Divine Majesty of the fullness of the Godhead which dwelleth in Him. (…)
It is therefore our duty to warn the faithful that the act done by the Bishop of Rome, in the Vatican Council (…) whereby he asserted a supremacy over all men in matters both of faith and morals, on the ground of an assumed infallibility---was an invasion of the attributes of the Lord Jesus Christ. [46]

Such a severe condemnation of the decrees did not really echo the thinking of Pusey and other like-minded Anglo-Catholics. The conference statement rejected the concept of an infallible human agency in matters of faith or morals. Yet, Anglo-Catholics in general had no quarrel with this since they believed in the infallibility of the whole Church militant. In the case of Pusey, this meant the universal episcopate. Doctrinal infallibility was not the exclusive prerogative of the pope, but was shred equally among all the bishops.

As was true of the first Lambeth meeting, this conference upheld the Anglo-Catholic conviction that the Anglican Communion was an integral portion of the Holy Catholic Church. Belief in other Anglo-Catholic tenets, however, such as apostolic succession and the primacy of the episcopal magisterium was not clearly evidenced.

7.  The Third Lambeth Conference (1888)

The Third Lambeth Conference convened in 1888 under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward Benson (1829-1896).

At the Eucharist opening the conference, H.B Whipple, Bishop of Minnesota, delivered the sermon. Echoing Pusey, he said that no one branch of the Church was by itself the whole Catholic Church. Therefore all the branches needed to be reunited in order to obtain the completeness of the Church. [47] He stated that belief in the theological opinions separating the branches was not necessary for salvation. [48]

Speaking to the bishops present, Whipple declared that their hearts went out to the Old Catholics in their defense of the faith. He lamented the fact that the Roman Catholic Church had separated itself from the teaching of the primitive Church by adding to the faith once delivered to the saints and by claiming attributes for the pope which belonged only to the divine Head of the Church. The Church of Rome was admonished for her lack of charity in anathematizing non-Roman Catholics who had carried the Gospel to the ends of the world. [49] In a further allusion to Anglo-Catholic doctrine, sacraments were spoken of as channels of grace. [50] It was also asserted that the reunited Church would be a historical and Catholic Church with a Catholic ministry, faith and sacraments, preserving all which was Catholic and divine.

The encyclical letter advised the readers that the committee reports, appended to the encyclical and the resolutions, expressed only the opinions of the committee members, unless specifically endorsed within the body of a resolution.

In a reference to the Old Catholic Communion, the bishops noted that it retained the episcopate as an apostolic ordinance, as did the Anglican Communion. [51] But, as in the case of the previous conference’s use of apostolic orders, the meaning of apostolic ordinance was not discussed.

It could denote the Anglo-Catholic belief in apostolic succession. Yet it could also reflect a conviction that the historic episcopate was only one of several equivalent forms of ministry ordained by the Apostles. It could even mean a form of ministry believed to be present in apostolic times, but not necessarily ordained by the Apostles. [52]

The encyclical also expressed thanks that no bars existed between the Churches of the East and the Anglican Communion such as existed between the Anglican Communion and the Church of Rome. Specifically mentioned were the doctrines of papal infallibility and the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary. Moreover, it was noted that the Church of Rome had always wrongfully treated the Eastern Churches by placing its bishops into ancient eastern dioceses and by the system of active proselytism.

A conference resolution forbade divorce except in the case of fornication or adultery. In addition, it stated that “there has always been a difference of opinion in the Church on the question whether Our Lord meant to forbid marriage to the innocent party in a divorce for adultery.” [53] Consequently, the resolution recommended that clergy not “refuse the Sacraments or other privileges of the Church to those who, under civil sanction, are thus married.“ [54]

Essentially, the problem noted here dealt with the nature of the matrimonial bond, whether it was intrinsically indissoluble or merely ideally indissoluble. It is true that Anglicanism had always been divided in the matter. But the tolerance for the latter position clearly contravened the belief, held by both Anglo-Catholics and the Second Conference, that the Anglican Communion taught only the faith of the early undivided Church. [55]

In the resolutions, the conference fathers adopted four articles which were thought to supply a basis for Christian reunion. These were to become known as the Lambeth Quadrilateral. The first three dealt with Scripture, the Creeds, and the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. The fourth required the acceptance of the “Historic Episcopate, locally adapted in the methods of its administration to the varying needs of nations and peoples called of God into the Unity of His Church.” [56] Here also, however, the precise meaning of the term historic episcopate was not disclosed.

In an unadopted committee report, it was proposed that the Gallican Articles of 1662 be received as a basis for establishing intercommunion between Anglicans and dissident Roman Catholics in France and Italy. [57] Inasmuch as the Articles, condemned by the papacy, proclaimed the superiority of general councils over the pope, the Anglo-Catholic point of view was also reflected. [58] Strangely enough, however, taken at its face value, the report also implied an acceptance of the papacy, since the Articles maintained that the papacy was essential for the well-being of the Catholic Church.

As far as our study is concerned, the most important action taken by the conference was the adoption of the Lambeth Quadrilateral. Subject to the approval of the several regional Churches of Anglicanism, the bishops had committed the Anglican Communion to seek unity only on the basis of the mutual acceptance of the historic episcopate. This meant the acceptance of an episcopate believed to be derived from apostolic times. Such a requirement would naturally appeal more to Churches already possessing such an episcopate, than it would to those without it.

The conference’s insistence on the historic episcopate, and its rejection of papal infallibility, revealed a tendency to endorse the Anglo-Catholic belief that the Anglican Communion was essentially Catholic as opposed to Protestant, and episcopal as opposed to papal.

We have noted in this chapter that the Lambeth Conferences to a large extent owed their origin to the revival of the Anglo-Catholic doctrine of the primacy of the episcopal magisterium. We have also seen that the conferences felt the personal influence of the scholar Pusey and the Anglo-Catholic bishops themselves. Consequently, the Anglican episcopate began to think of the Anglican Communion as a branch of Catholic Church, maintaining the apostolic faith and order of the early centuries. The bishops also began to think of Anglicanism as via media or middle way, avoiding the extremes of non-episcopal Protestantism and papal Catholicism.

Footnotes Chapter I

  1. For a discussion of the Oxford Movement’s respect for the doctrine and practice of the ancient Church, see an article by W.O. Chadwick, “The Study of the Fathers,” Church Quarterly Review, Vol. 153, No. 1, 1952, p. 509-514.

  2. Newman (1801-1890) was an Anglican from his birth until 1845 when he became a Roman Catholic. One of the leaders of the Oxford Movement and author of several of its theological Tracts for the Times, he ultimately rejected the position that the Church of England was a full part of the historic Catholic Church.

  3. Keble (1792-1866), a patristics scholar, was also a movement leader and contributor to the Tracts. He remained a life-long Anglican.

  4. Manning (1808-1892), educated at Oxford, was also a contributor to the Tracts for the Times. He became a Roman Catholic in 1851. Both he and Newman became Roman Catholic bishops and cardinals.

  5. E.B. Pusey, The Councils of the Church, Oxford, John Henry Parker, 1857, XIV-353 p.

  6. Ibid., p. 33.

  7. E.B. Pusey, An Eirenicon, Oxford, John Henry and James Parker, 1865, XI-409 p.

  8. Ibid., p. 34

  9. Ibid.

  10. Cf. Collectio Lacensis I. 831.

  11. Pusey, An Eirenicon, p. 67.

  12. Zosimus, Ep. 12, 1, to Aurelius and the Council of Carthage, March 21, 418 (PL 20, 676): Quamvis Patrum tradition apostolicae sedi auctoritatem tantam tribuerit, ut de ejus judicio disceptare nullus auderet, idque per canones semper regulasque servaverit, et currens adhuc suis legibus ecclesiastica disciplina Petri nomini, a quo ipsa quoque descendit, reverentiam quam debet exsolvat: tantam enim huic Apostolo canonica antiquitas per sententias omnium voluit esse potentiam, ex ipsa quoque Christi Dei nostri promissione, ut et ligata solveret, et soluta vinciret; par potestatis data conditio in eos, qui sedis haereditatem, ipso annuente, meruissent: habet enimipse, cum omnium Ecclesiarum, tum hujus maxime ubi sederat, curam; nec patitur aliquid privilegii aut aliqua titubare aura sententiae, cui ipsa sui nominis firma et nullis hebetata motibus constituit fundamenta, et quae sine suo periculo temere nullus incessat: cum ergo tantae auctoritatis Petrus caput sit, et sequentia omnium majorum studia firmaverit, ut tam humanis quam divinis legibus et disciplinis omnibus firmetur Romana Ecclesia, cujus locum nos regere, ipsius quoque potes tatem nominis obtinere non latet vos, sed nostis, fratres charissimi, et, quemadmedum sacerdotes, scire debetis.

  13. R.T. Davidson (ed.), The Lambeth Conferences of 1867, 1878, and 1888, London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1896, p. 77.

  14. Ibid., p. 82

  15. Ibid., p. 15

  16. Ibid.

  17. Cf. Alan M.G. Stephenson, The First Lambeth Conference, London, S.P.C.K., 1967, p. 210.

  18. 1. The sections common to (A), (B) and (C) are typed in the normal manner. 2. The sections found only in (B) are all s p a c e d. 4. The sections found only in (C) are all in capital letters. 5. The sections common to both (A) and (B) are enclosed in parentheses. 6. The sections common to both (B) and (C) are enclosed in single quotation marks.

  19. Stephenson, op. cit., p. 213.

  20. Ibid.

  21. Ibid.

  22. Davidson, op. cit., p. 88.

  23. Ibid., p. 89

  24. Ibid.

  25. Ibid., p. 90

  26. E. B. Pusey, Is Healthful Reunion Impossible ? Oxford, James Parker and Co., 1870, CI-354 p.

  27. Ibid., p. 36

  28. Commonitorium 2 (PL 50,640): “In ipsa itm Catholica Ecclesia magnopere curandum est, ut id teneamus, quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est.”

  29. Pusey, Is Healthful Reunion Impossible ?, p. 37.

  30. Ibid., p. 158, 172 f.

  31. Ibid., p. 158.

  32. Ibid., p. 160, 163.

  33. Cf. Mansi III, 1-140.

  34. Council of Sardica, To Julius (PL 10, 639): “Hoc enim optimum et valde congruentissimum esse videbitur, si ad aput, id est ad Petri apostoli sedem, de singulis quibusque provincilis Domini referant sacerdotes.” Some eighteenth century scholars, e.g. David Blondel and Archibald Bower onsidered this Phrase a forgery, but recent Anglian scholars such as B.J. Kidd, c.f. A History of the Church to A.D. 461, 3 vols., Oxford, 1922, and Trevor Jalland, cf. The Church and the Papacy, London, S.P.C.K., 1944, xi-568 p., accepted it as genuine.

  35. Pusey, Is Healthful Reunion Impossible ?, p. 186-189.

  36. Ibid., p. 219-225.

  37. Ibid., p. 247.

  38. Monophysitism.

  39. Pusey, Is Healthful Reunion Impossible ?, p. 257-265.

  40. Constitutio Dogmatica I de Ecclesia Christi 3 (Collectio Lacensis VII, 484): “Quapropter apertis innixi sacrarum Letterarum testimoniis, et inhaerentes tum praedecessorum Nosotrorum, Romanorum Pontificum, tum Conciliorum generalisum disertis perspicisque deretis, innovamus oecumenicai Concilii FLORENTINI definitionem, qua credendum ab omnibus Christi fidelibus est, ‘sanctam Apostolicam Sedem, et Romanum Pontificem in universum orbem tenere preimatum, et ipsum Pontificem Romanum successorem esse beati PETRI, principis Apostolorum, et verum Christi vicarium totiusque Ecclesiae caput et omnium Christianorum patrem ac doctorem existere; et ipsi in beato Petro pascendi, regendi ac gubernandi universalem Ecclesiam a Domino nostro Iesu Christo plenam potestatem traditam esse; quemadmodem etiam in gestis oecumenicorum Conciliorum et in sacris canonibus continetur.’ “

  41. Collectio Lacensis VII, 487: “Sacro approbante Concilio, docemus et divinitus revelatum dogma esse definimus: Refomanum Pontificem, cum ex cathedra loquitur, id est, cum omnium Christianorum pastoris et doctoris munere fungens pro suprema sua Apostolica auctoritate doctrinam de fide vel moribus ab universa Ecclesia tenendam definit, per assistentiam divinam ipsi in beato PETRO promissam, ea infallibilitate polere, qua divinus Redemptor Ecclesiam suam in definienda doctrina de fide vel moribus instrucam esse voluit; ideoque eiusmodi Romani Pontificis definitiones ex sese, non auem ex consensu Ecclesiae, irreformabiles esse.”

  42. Davidson, op. cit., p. 164.

  43. Ibid., p. 165.

  44. Ibid.

  45. Ibid.

  46. Ibid., p. 181f.

  47. Ibid., p. 243

  48. Ibid.

  49. Ibid., p. 244

  50. Ibid., p. 245

  51. Ibid., p. 273

  52. The latter view is contained in the preface to the ordinal in Anglican Books of Common Prayer.

  53. Davidson, op. cit., p. 277f

  54. Ibid., p. 278

  55. The consentient witness of the Fathers of the early undivided Catholic Church taught that Christian marriage was indissoluble by nature, even if adultery was present. Cf. Augustine of Hippo, De Bono Conjugali, c. 7 (Pl 40,378); De Conj. Adult, lib. i, c.8 (PL 40, 451); The Shepherd of Hermas, Mand., iv, 1,6 (PG 2,918); Justin Martyr, Apol. I, c. 15 (PG 6,349); Athenagoras, Legatio pro Christianis, n. 33 (PG6,965); Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, lib. ii, c. 23 (PG 8,1096); Tertullian, De Patientia, c. 12 (PL 1,1268); De Monogamia, c. 9 (PL 2,941); Cyprian, Adv. Marc., iv, 34 (PL2,442); Ambrose, Expositio in Lucam, lib. viii, n. 2 (PL 15,1765); Jerome Ep. 77, n. 3 (PL 22,692); Basil, Ep. 199, n. 21 (PG 32,721); Gregory of Nazianzus, Ep. 144 (PG 37,248); John Chrysostom, Hom. 62 in Matt. (PG 58,597); and Gregory I, Ep. ad Adrianum, lib. xi, n. 50 (PL 77,1169).

  56. Davidson, op. cit., p. 280.

  57. Ibid., p. 344f.

  58. Cf. Collectio Lacensus I, 831 sq.

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