The Real Anglican Patrimony

There has been much discussion of just what the "Anglican Patrimony" consists.  Is it the beautiful tradition of hymnody, the choral tradition, and the Book of Common Prayer?  Is it all the delightful English cultural traditions — Oxford and Cambridge and the country church, the crumbling, romantic monastic ruins, the magnificent cathedrals and "is there honey still for tea?"  Just what is the Anglican Patrimony?

I would not like to dismiss all the things I've mentioned above — and as a hopeless Anglophile, I could add a list of many more.  However, these things are not the only elements of the patrimony of Anglicanism.  Part of the patrimony lies in the spirit and sincerity of the Reformers.  It is true that they were the pawns of a wicked king.  It is true that they fell into heresy and schism.  It is true that the were sometimes unscrupulous and manipulative.

But there are some qualities there we can admire, and which remain part of the patrimony.  They loved Christ and his Church.  They loved the people of God and worked for the salvation of souls.  They had an evangelical spirit.  They were willing to risk all for Christ and his gospel.  When people are divided by polemical words and ideas it is easy to forget the goodness and graces of 'the other side.'  But Anglo-Catholics, if they are to embrace their Anglican Patrimony, must see that the good things they love within that patrimony have, as their starting point, these more indefinable qualities of Christian zeal, love of the Sacred Scriptures, love of the church, and love of truth. The martyrs on both sides of the conflict exhibited these traits.

If these qualities are at the heart of the Ordinariate, then it will succeed beyond everyone's wildest imaginings.  It will become a dynamic and lively force of reconciliation and unity in Christ's Church.  It will burgeon and spread throughout the whole of the Anglican world — bringing into unity Anglican brothers and sisters not only from the Anglo-Catholic wing of the church, but also from the Evangelical.  It will bring in not only those Anglicans in the Western church, but Anglicans in the developing world.

As I attend the inaugural Mass of the Ordinary here in Houston this morning, this is my prayer — that Anglicans coming into full communion will not only bring to the Catholic Church their beautiful language, liturgy and music, that they will not only bring their prayer books and poetry books and high culture — but that with all these things they will bring their love of Christ and his gospel — and a burning zeal to spread that gospel and renew Christ's Church with the fullness of their gifts of grace.

Author: Fr. Dwight Longenecker

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England. After graduating from the fundamentalist Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson on the Isle of Wight. Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the Catholic Church. He spent the next ten years working as a freelance Catholic writer, contributing to over twenty-five magazines, papers and journals in Britain, Ireland and the USA. Fr. Dwight is the editor of a best-selling book of English conversion stories called The Path to Rome -- Modern Journeys to the Catholic Faith. He has written Listen My Son -- a daily Benedictine devotional book which applies the Rule of St Benedict to the task of modern parenting. St Benedict and St Thérèse is a study of the lives and thought of two of the most popular saints. In the field of Catholic apologetics, Fr. Dwight wrote Challenging Catholics with John Martin, the former editor of the Church of England Newspaper. More Christianity is a straightforward and popular explanation of the Catholic faith for Evangelical Christians. Friendly and non-confrontational, it invites the reader to move from 'Mere Christianity' to 'More Christianity'. Mary-A Catholic Evangelical Debate is a debate with an old Bob Jones friend David Gustafson who is now an Evangelical Episcopalian. Fr. Dwight’s Adventures in Orthodoxy is described as ‘a Chestertonian romp through the Apostles’ Creed.’ He wrote Christianity Pure&Simple which was published by the Catholic Truth Society in England and Sophia Institute Press in the USA. He has also published How to Be an Ordinary Hero and his book Praying the Rosary for Inner Healing was published by Our Sunday Visitor in May 2008. His latest books are, The Gargoyle Code -- a book in the tradition of Screwtape Letters -- and a book of poems called A Sudden Certainty. His book The Romance of Religion will be published in 2012 along with a new edition of Adventures in Orthodoxy. In 2006 Fr. Dwight accepted an invitation from the Bishop of Charleston to serve as Chaplain to St Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville, South Carolina. This brought him and his family back, not only to his hometown, but also to the American Bible Belt, and hometown of Bob Jones University. In December 2006 he was ordained as a Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican clergy. He is now parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville. Fr. Dwight enjoys movies, blogging, books, and visiting Benedictine monasteries. He’s married to Alison. They have four children, named Benedict, Madeleine, Theodore and Elias.

37 thoughts on “The Real Anglican Patrimony”

  1. Thank you Fr. for a fine article. I would agree with you that whatever is positive and authentically Christian about the English reformers must be considered part of the patrimony. I would further agree the items you mention in that category are essential for our future success. Though raised in the "High Church" wing of Anglicanism, I came to appreciate the goodness, value, and sincerity of Anglican Evangelicals.

    I do not think you intend this, but i should add that I would not limit the "true patrimony" to this. At least as important, I would say, and certainly undoubtedly Catholic without any of the qualifications one would need in dealing with the reformers, is the spirit of Mediaeval British Catholicism, a lot of which survived the Reformation. This is sometimes discussed under the title of "English Spirituality". This spirit includes the qualities of domesticity and the sanctification of the ordinary in life; pastoral moderation, realism and common sense; charity, courtesy, and gentlemanliness; a workmanlike attitude towards the Christian life; and a restrained and simple approach to beauty as an aid to the vision of God in Christ.

    Of course these qualities, unless grounded in sound scriptural, Christian doctrine and evangelical zeal can be degraded, and were degraded in the history of Anglicanism, which is why I think your reminding us of what is good about the reformers is so important.

  2. It was great to see you here at the Mass of Installation, Father and get the chance to say hello. Keep up all the good work.

  3. I'm one of those odd Christians who is equally happy in a very traditional High Church setting – or at one of the happy clappy charismatic ones.

    In fact, my ideal would be some kind of service that contained a ritual choir singing plainsong, with a rock band doing a set of contemporary worship songs as a warm up act.

    (I said I was odd…)

    1. Well, I would not mind this either! I wouldn't mind seeing separate times for contemporary praise and worship, especially to attract and keep young people—who could then be exposed to the beautiful and good traditional stuff, too.

      1. "Contemporary" praise and worship music actually tends to do the reverse – drive young people away. It becomes dated and anachronistic very quickly. The wise words of Hank Hill come to mind:

        "You're not making Christianity better, you're just making rock n' roll worse."

    2. and not properly Anglo-Catholic! 😉

      Have no worries. I attribution your—and my—appreciation of odd combinations to our shared name.


    3. You are not odd and you are not alone! I am a founding member of Our Lady of Walsingham parish in Houston. I dearly love our wonderful Anglican patrimony. But we must recognize and encourage the artistic contributions of each generation without loosing the treasures of the past. If the Ordinariate is to survive it must not only preserve the past but contribute to the future. As a parish priest I strive to carefully assess the appropriatness of the texts of all the hymns and songs we use in worship and second to that I attempt to employ various styles of music so that there is something for everyone as often as possible. There are indeed some very beautiful contemporary hymns that affirm the ancient faith and encourage a new generation to follow Christ. This should be normal in all Catholic parishes. "Themed" Masses divide a parish and therfore divide the people of God. We must demand the best of every style and see that each is executed to the best of our ability. In this way we can all learn to appreciate the vast beauty available to us with which to offer fitting praise to Almighty God. By the way… the choirs at Msgr. Steenson's installation are to be commended for their beautiful contribution to the worship. It was heavenly!

    4. I don't think you are alone or weird. I like the High Latin Mass and I like a Charismatic Mass and the Eastern Masses as well as the more High Church Anglican style Mass. The Mass is the Mass is the Mass. In fact I even like our daily low Mass which is very simple with no music.

  4. "The true patrimony lies in the spirit and sincerity of the Reformers. It is true that they were the pawns of a wicked king. It is true that they fell into heresy and schism. It is true that the were sometimes unscrupulous and manipulative."

    The above quote makes me a bit uncomfortable, Father. Can you elaborate. I always thought the connection was more to men like Becket, More and Fisher (and later, Newman) who held to their Faith and their "Englishness" in proper priorities. I am not being "snarky" and asking a question to make a point. I am very excited about this historic development but your comment made me pause for the first time and I would enjoy hearing further from you on this.

    God bless,
    Dan Hoffman

  5. Dear Father Dwight,

    I was present at your splendid sermon at Mt. Calvary in Baltimore on "LIttlemore."

    But I want to take issue with your praise of the English "reformers." I am re-reading Philip Hughes's three-volume work on "The Reformation in England," and I can't help saying that the English "reformers" were in fact heretics, and the true heroes of the Engish "reformation" were not these men, but Queen Mary Tudor and her great lieutenant in the attempted restoration of the Catholic Church in England, Reginald Pole. On the list of Archbishops of Canterbury carved into a pillar at Westminster Cathedral, Cranmer is listed as "deposed for heresy" and Pole is the last name–after that, the words, "See Vacant." Cold as it is, I think we should accept that.

    Yours in the Lord, Carleton Jones, OP

    1. Cranmer was more than deposed for heresy. He was burned at the stake! However as the heretic he was, it is still a mystery that his Book of Common Prayer managed to preserve the Catholic way in the Church of England and the Anglican Communion, through the centuries of persecution.

      Also I think Thomas More and John Fisher are the heroes of this unfortunate period in English history. More and Fisher agreed that the Church is in need of Reformation, and that Reformation is really bringing people nearer to Christ and in communion with the Pope, more than the political restoration of the Roman Church in the English state.

      What would Thomas Cranmer think that his magnificent prose has essentially done that? Is the Reformation really over and that we need another Reformation?

      1. I've read somewhere — Diarmuid McCullough's History of the Reformation? – – that Cranmer would have been appalled at how his daily offices would have been maintained with such musical and ceremonial splendor in cathedrals, royal chapels, and places like Westminster Abbey – – that this development was largely an accident of history that took place after Elizabeth acceded to the throne. If so, a happy accident or, perhaps, an example of Divine Providence in some respect.

        1. Professer MacCullough is hardly a disinterested voice in this so wouldn't take his reading of the situation as "gospel". I am not sure it would be correct to see Cranmer through a Calvinist prism and spendour in prayer would not have been anathema to him.

  6. There is another figure that should receive recognition and devotion by the English Ordinariate. She is almost forgotten now, alas. She rests at Peterborough. I propose that the English Ordinariate should arrange pilgrimages there in remembrance of her steadfast courage in the face of great adversity and affliction as well her devotion to the English Church and people.
    I refer, of course, to Queen Catherine of Aragon. Recently, I finished reading the old Garret Mattingly biography of Catherine. I commend it to all. Go to Peterborough, where she rests. Pray for her repose. Continually place fresh flowers at her grave. Keep her in loving remembrance.

  7. Dear Friends, just a note to call to your attention the most recent issue of "Salve!", the parish newsletter of Saint Mary the Virign Parish in Arlington (TX), with a very good piece from, I'm sure, Fr. Hawkins, on preparing for Lent. You can access it here:

  8. Totally off subject, I think it's time this blog is retired. It's purpose is complete, there are other blogs and on-line groups to post on. This one has been a great resource in the past but has grown stale as of late, sorry. Anglo-Catholics now have a choice, the line has been drwn, it's up to each individual as to what to do.

    1. I anticipated a comment of this kind. I think the blog should continue! Life in the Ordinariates is just now getting started, and there is an important public relations campaign that needs to continue into the foreseeable future. So long as CCCC is willing to keep it going, let it go! My wife wants me to say I spend too much time here, so perhaps it would be a benefit to my family life…but i disagree.

      1. Well, the Ordinariate Portal did continue after the ordinariate of OLW was erected in England, and is now one of the 2 biggest purveyor of ordinariate news alongside the official website. Why couldn't the Anglo-Catholic become such a semi-official media?
        However, I agree that this website has probably insufficiently followed the major events of the last 2 months.

        + PAX et BONUM

  9. I disagree, Matthew.

    Matthew, what are the 'other blogs' that are up to this standard? Perhaps you can list them for us to check out.

    As Andrew said, the Ordinariate is just up and running – this could be a great place to share information about the different 'Ordinariate-bound' communities around the country (and in Canada).


    1. Sirs,

      I really like this blog and find it helpful and enjoyable. I enjoy the exchanges.
      However, for more comprehensive coverage, the Anglican Use Society site is very good.

      God bless,
      Dan Hoffman

  10. I guess it's the name of the blog "THE ANGLO-CATHOLIC" that has worn thin with me. Let the "Anglican continuers" have it.

  11. I couldn't agree more Dr Tighe; this Ordinariate offer is the conclusion of the Catholic movement in Anglicanism and it IS Anglo Catholic. If one claims to be a Catholic then the Anglican Church is no longer the place for you, be it in terms of theology of priesthood, the Real Presence, marriage, the sanctity of life and on ….. and on, there is no consistent teaching from the C of E, TEC, ACiC, Anglican Church in Australia, Church of Wales, Episcopal Church of Scotland, Church of Ireland or the Anglican Church in New Zealand.

    1. As for this site; it is quiet because it is drawing breath. Something other sites might consider before quick and ill-tempered rushes to condemn.

  12. Might I suggest that there is a continuing need for this and other similar blogs. The official establishment of an Ordinariate for the USA (and pro tempore for Canada) is of vast significance, just as was the establishment a year ago of the Ordinariate for England and Wales (and pro tempore for Scotland). But the Ordinariates are essentially missionary – to bring back into full communion with the Holy See those separated as a consequence of some historical events so long ago in Tudor England. It is a mammoth task. – there are an estimated 80 million members of the Anglican Communion worldwide.

    As part of that missionary activity, a goal is to preserve and develop for the benefit of the whole Chuch (and in particular for the English speaking world) all that is best in the Anglican patrimony.

    This week 100 Ordinariate clergy and laity led by Monsignor Newton are in Rome on a thanksgiving pilgrimage. Thus far, Anglican Chant has been sung at the Basilica of St Mary Major with Cardinal Bernard Law, and Evensong at Santa Maria in Trastevere, Monsignor Newton has said mass at the Church which was Cardinal Newman's titual church and there he confirmed two former Anglicans. There have been prayers for Christian unity at the tomb of St Paul and as I post Cardinal Levada is celebrating mass for the pilgrims in the company of the CDF team responsible for the implementation of the Ordinariates. For those who are interested, the Ordinariate Facebook and Twitter pages are giving an account as it happens.

    Every single means of bringing the events of this great adventure to the knowledge of the wider community is worthwhile. This blog has a continuing role to play.

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