A report on the Anglican Patrimony Conference

Apr 27, 2018 by

by David Pickering, Anglican Mainstream.

The Anglican Patrimony conference (at St Stephen’s House, Oxford, on 25-26 April) brought together a wide range of those who value the Anglican inheritance and are concerned for traditional Christian orthodoxy, not only from the Church of England, but also ACNA, the Ordinariate, and the Anglican continuum. Its stated aim was ‘to consider the inheritance of traditional Anglicanism and the contribution this might make to the renewal of the Church’, taking its cue in particular from Michael Ramsey’s classic book The Gospel and the Catholic Church (published in 1936).

Rather than setting a programme for action, the conference seemed to be more about building relationships, with, in the background, a widely shared concern regarding a perceived erosion of orthodoxy in the Church of England. An unofficial survey of conference participants found a couple simply ‘looking for a way forward’ while most talked in terms of developing friendship and support, of getting orthodox-minded people together, of ‘a greater convergence’, of their presence being ‘more about associations than endgame’. In keeping with this emphasis on relationship, the atmosphere was pleasantly relaxed. The timings listed on the conference programme seemed more guidelines than commandments. At the end of the conference, rather than announcing plans for action, its organizers asked participants for suggestions for ‘the next steps’.

There was certainly a wide range of attendees from a variety of traditionalist perspectives, including a number of bishops (serving and retired). There were Ordinariate Catholics and ordinary Roman Catholics, representatives of the Nordic Catholic Church, members of the Free Church of England and the Reformed Episcopal Church, regular Church of England Anglicans, ACNA Anglicans, and a bishop from Church of Pakistan. There was less diversity in age, with grey-haired seniors predominant, and attendance was largely from the Catholic end of the spectrum. That said, there was a smattering of evangelicals from the Church of England and the Church of Ireland, including conservative evangelical flying bishop Rod Thomas and the (also fairly aerial) GAFCON bishop Andy Lines, there to extend a hand of friendship to orthodox Anglicans from a sacramental tradition.

There was a series of scholarly talks, mostly with a strong historical accent, in keeping with Bishop Nazir-Ali’s concern that the Church of England is in danger of neglecting ‘what has been valuable in the past’, and forgetting that ‘you can’t really deal with the present and the future unless you understand, respect, and value your past.’ Michael Nazir-Ali and Augustine Di Noia provided talks on ‘Anglicans and Apostolicity’; John Hind, John Fenwick, and Mark Langham addressed the topic of ‘Anglicans and Christian Unity’; Christopher Cocksworth, Andrew Burnham, and Jonathan Goodall, ‘Anglican Worship’; Stephen Rutt, Gavin Ashenden, and John Ellison, ‘Anglicans, Culture and the state’. (For those not able to attend, most of these talks are now available on the conference website.)

Within the talks themselves, the nearest thing to an agenda for action was provided by a teasing remark at the end of Archbishop Di Noia’s address (read for him, in his absence, by Father Patrick Burke). He asked, in relation to the ‘new pathway’ opened up by the Ordinariate, ‘can we tease out and generalize the pattern of judgment’ exercised in relation to the Ordinariate’s liturgy (the first time liturgy drawn from one of the churches of the Reformation has been made officially welcome within the Roman Catholic Church) ‘and apply it to other elements of the Anglican patrimony’? Bishop John Hind picked this up as setting an agenda for what might follow the conference. It certainly introduced an element of Catholic-Anglican dialogue to the event, reinforced by Monsignor Mark Langham’s talk.

Mostly, however, the conference provided a relaxed chance for concerned Christians of Anglican heritage, representing a range of traditionalist views, to network and strengthen friendships, while enjoying erudite reflection on the heritage of Anglicanism and its value for the future.

See also: Secularism and the Church of England: the future for orthodox Anglicans, by Gavin Ashenden (Paper presented at The Gospel and the Catholic Church conference)


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