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Archives: Anglo-Catholic Congress Meets, July 1920

The Anglo-Catholic Congress of the 1920’s and 1930’s has been described as the “high water mark” of the catholic movement within Anglicanism. The first congress, held in London during the week before the 1920 Lambeth Conference, celebrated the remarkable spread of the Oxford Movement’s influence throughout the world, as shown by the diverse array of bishops who shared in its proceedings. The 1920 congress inspired a series of successor events in various parts of the Anglican Communion, including a 1926 congress in Milwaukee, in which The Living Church played a leading role. The following articles from the TLC Archive were printed on July 24 & 31, 1920.

The Living Church News Bureau, London, July 1 & 9, 1920.

By George Parsons

The presence of so many bishops and other ecclesiastics in the streets of London during the last few days must have conveyed even to the least observant of individuals the that something Churchy was on. It is no exaggeration to say that the Anglo Catholic Congress has afforded to the inhabitants of the metropolis an object lesson in the way of stately ceremonial, with fervor and enthusiasm on the part of its supporters, such as has not been witnessed since mediaeval days.

The great outdoor procession of bishops and priests to attend the High Mass at St Alban’s Holborn on Tuesday morning (June 29), took place under the most favorable conditions, and naturally much popular interest. Twelve hundred priests, four abreast, headed by a great crucifix, made up the body of the procession; each priest being uniformly vested in cassock, surplice, and biretta. Following these came twenty bishops in copes and mitres, each attended by two deacons in dalmatics, with crucifer and thurifers preceding them. The bishops taking part in the procession were the Bishops of Antigua, Labuan, Nassau, Atlanta, Kalgoorlie, Barbadoes, Accra, Zululand, Grantham, the Bishop of Coadjutor of Capetown, the Bishops of Corea, Pennsylvania, Argyll and the Isles, Kimberly, Northwest Australia, and Bishops Hook, Goldsmith, and Hornby; the place of honor being accorded to the Metropolitan of Cyprus.

The Mass was rendered with all the pomp and circumstance for which St Alban’s is famed, the music being heartily joined in by the congregation, composed entirely of priests. The aged Bishop of Salisbury [Frederick Ridgeway] preached the sermon, as courageous as it was inspiring, and one that will go far to achieve that heartening of Catholics which is a part of the purpose of the Congress.

At St. Paul’s Knightsbridge, the same morning, High Mass was celebrated, with the Bishop of Milwaukee [William Walter Webb] as the preacher. His Lordship recalled all that had happened as we looked back over the past three quarters of a century. Only a short time ago, but few churches had even a weekly Mass. Archdeacon [Robert] Wilberforce said every three months was rare in his day. In how many churches the Daily Sacrifice was now offered. How seldom did one find Reservation [of the Blessed Sacrament] a few years ago; now in most of the churches in his own diocese, said the Bishop, there was Reservation. How seldom used Unction to be administered; now in most of the Cathedral churches of America, the oil was blessed for that sacrament. How much we should thank God again that in so many churches the Holy Sacrifice was offered with all the ancient ritual.

And in this revival also was the strong evangelical note, the personal relation of the individual to God. We should strive to show thanks for all that the Catholic Faith had done for us, for all that Penance meant to us, for all the Masses offered on our altars.

The Bishop described how during the past week he had been going from one cemetery to another in France. As we thought of those crosses over the boys lying there, we should show our thankfulness for victory by bearing the cross better in our own lives. The Holy Eucharist was a perpetuation of the Incarnation and the Atonement, the central act of Christian worship pleaded before God by His priests through the ages. Our Lord’s presence vouchsafed to us in that great Sacrament was as real and true as when He lay in the manger and hung on the Cross.

The first session of the Congress was held at the Albert Hall on Tuesday afternoon, under the presidency of the Bishop of Zanzibar [Frank Weston]. The spacious building was crowded, the laity being admitted, and most of the clergy occupied seats in the orchestra. The subject considered was “The Message of the Church,” and four papers were submitted dealing with its various aspects.

Dr. Weston said that those who joined the Congress had not the least intention of exercising any pressure on the episcopal body. Again there was no idea of having any demonstration to maintain the Catholic Faith. The supreme reason of the Congress was this: They were all conscious that the Holy Church of Christ on earth was losing the allegiance of men and women in the world and they wanted to put themselves at the feet of Jesus Christ and ask Him, “What wilt Thou have me to do?”

Professor C. H. Turner (Ireland Professor of Exegesis, Oxford University) read the first paper, the subject of which was “The Faith and Modern Criticism.” The Bishop of Zululand [Wilmot Vyvyan] followed with an address on “The Faith and the Evangelization of the World.” The position of the Church of England in the bondage of State control was responsible, the Bishop said, for much misunderstanding. They who were there that day did not believe in a State Church at all. The Bishop pleaded for further workers, especially in the Universities Mission to Central Africa. Besides workers, money was wanted, and he asked that there should be made before the end of the Congress, before the Lambeth Conference began, an offering for missions which would be a real proof to an unbelieving public that the Catholic movement was not dead, but alive and moving…

The Bishop of Nassau [Roscow Shedden] presided over the evening session. The Rev. E. M. Milner-White, King’s College Cambridge, in a paper on the Roman Catholic Church, said that however many it took to make a quarrel, it took but two to make a peace. The existing union between Rome and Canterbury was, he thought, under-estimated. It was a living power, which had survived the starvation and isolation of three centuries.

The Rev G. C. Clayton of Peterhouse, Cambridge, spoke on “Reunion with other Christian Bodies.” After referring to the manifest inconveniences of disunion among English-speaking people, he said that our primary reason for desiring union with Nonconformists was that we have both received the Holy Spirit and should therefore be one body. No reunion could, however, be thought of which was false to Catholic order. He held that formal recognition or non-recognition were not necessary.

“Could we not put all our orders beyond dispute by submitting to conditional ordination at the hands of Bishops of the Orthodox Church of the East?”

Then came a highly significant suggestion one that gives much food for reflection. Mr. Clayton said that he, for his part, was willing, without abating in the least degree his belief in his own orders, to submit to conditional ordination, if by so doing, he could help to heal the wounds in the Body of Christ. Could we not put all our orders beyond dispute by submitting to conditional ordination at the hands of Bishops of the Orthodox Church of the East? “For the sake of reunion,” declared Mr. Clayton, “we are willing to sacrifice everything except the religion by which we live”…

Bishop [Charles] Gore, who presided at the concluding session on Thursday evening [July 1], said there was a widespread moral revolt against marriage, but they must stand by the law of indissoluble marriage, and bear constant witness against what was euphemistically described as “birth control.” Outside and inside marriage that practice was sinful and would ruin any nation in the long run which allowed it. They had also to bear constant witness to the duty and possibility of self control and against the necessity and legitimacy of fornication.

Anglo-Catholic Congress Ends [July 9]

Now that the Anglo-Catholic Congress is over, it may be permissible to indulge in a brief retrospect of that splendid gathering of some fourteen thousand ardent and enthusiastic Church people. It has been indeed a triumphant success all along the line. The minds of certain pessimists (a rapidly diminishing number, it is true) will surely be disabused of the idea that the force of the Oxford Movement is spent, and that Catholicism in the Church of England is a thing of the past. The Congress has shown that the Catholic party is very much alive, and is strong, both intellectually and numerically. Those who took part in the proceedings are not likely to forget very soon the amazing scenes of enthusiasm for a great cause, prompted by an intense devotion to our Blessed Lord and a firm determination to uphold the principles of the Catholic Faith. The meetings throughout were characterized by intense fervor, the great Albert Hall being thronged day after day with priests and lay folk, young and old, fired by a common purpose

Certain conclusions may be deduced from the Congress. The first is that Catholics will not tolerate any proposals for intercommunion which are inconsistent with the principles of the Church, or any experiments which would place obstacles in the way of real reunion with the Churches of the East and of the West. Secondly the Congress has declared its unshakable belief in the indissolubility of marriage and pledged itself to resist all attempts by the State to force upon the Church laws inconsistent with her own standard of belief and discipline.

And this brings us to the third conclusion, which may not commend itself to the majority of the bishops now assembled at the Lambeth Conference. It is that her connection with the State is an undoubted hindrance to the development of the Church’s life and mission, and that any sacrifice must be willingly made in order to win that complete freedom which is essential to a true witness for her Lord. English Catholics may not actually invite disestablishment, but it has been made abundantly clear that when the next political move in this direction takes place, they will not offer much resistance. The Lambeth Conference has been given a lead; the considered opinions of the Anglo-Catholic Congress are before the assembled bishops and may have a greater influence upon their deliberations than most people anticipate.

 Congress Raises £30,000 for Missions

A remarkable feature of the Congress was the response to the Bishop of Zululand’s suggestion made on the opening day that as a thank-offering, English Catholics should set to work to raise a large sum of money for the support of missions abroad. The executive committee followed up the Bishop’s suggestion with enthusiasm, the chairman stating that an attempt would be made to raise £50,000 before the Congress ended. The result was that at the closing session on Thursday evening, the gratifying announcement was made that over £21,000 had been received in cash; there were outstanding promises of a further £4,000, and in addition an immense quantity of jewelry and other valuables estimated to realize at least £5,000. Not a bad start, certainly.

Closing Service.

The Congress was brought to a close on Friday evening [July 2] by several thanksgiving services, the chief being at Southwark Cathedral, where people assembled four hours before the service. Several who were unable to gain admittance sang hymns outside, rather to the disturbance of preacher and congregation. The nave was filled with priests, and some twenty bishops were present, vested in cope and mitre. The sermon was preached by the Bishop of St. Albans [Michael Furse]. At the close of the service, the bishops passed out through a congregation kneeling for their blessing, and the denizens of the borough must have been surprised at the unwonted sight of pavements lined with kneeling Catholics waiting to receive the blessings of the bishops.


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