The Litany’s Faldstool

This essay was originally written for River Thames (along with Supremacy in the Offices) and, while I normally do not cross-post, this entry is part of a longer series discussing authority in a church where the Crown is absent.  It forms a whole together with Reversing Desuetude and Fighting Bishops.

The faldstool in English ceremony was the movable seat otherwise reserved in the chancel as the chair for the visiting Bishop. From the faldstool, an Ordinary passed authority by laying on hands of both confirmed laity and clergy. But the faldstool also doubled as a prayer desk upon pentitential occasions where the bishop rested his arms upon the faldstool’s cushion while kneeling before it. The idea of the bishop’s faldstool representing a throne of authority in the church is embedded the BCP’s litany. From it we learn the peculiar order of authority within the Church of England.

Though today the prayer desk has replaced the faldstool, nevertheless, in the Parson’s Handbook the Rev. Dearmer explains the Litany is to be be given in the old position of the fladstool, namely,  in the midst of the church. According to Dearmer, the Litany should be recited regularly, normally Wednesdays and Fridays as well as between morning prayer and ante-communion on Sundays. But it is especially said upon penitential seasons.

However, these many details likely escape the majority of parishioners who rarely recite the Litany, and, perhaps they never do unless it be at Lent. Infrequent exposure to the Litany probably leaves more specifically Anglican features to pass unnoticed. The prayer book Litany differs from the Latin in a number of places. But perhaps the most conspicuous difference is the absence of heavenly saints of whom Romans and Eastern Orthodox commonly invoke. Instead, the Anglican emphasis is upon an earthy kingdom, or church militant. This ought to be an interesting point for Anglicans since our suffrages beg the Church of England instead of the heavenly hosts. The 1559 version of the litany lists the estates of the church [in bold] which are thus mentioned:

“We synners do beseche the to heare us (O Lord God,) and that it may please the to rule and governe thy holy Churche universally, in the right way…That it may please the, to kepe and strengthen in the true worshipping of the in righteousnes and holynes of lyfe, thy servaunt James our most gracious Kyng and governour…That it may please the, to rule his harte in thy faith, feare, and love, that he may evermore have affiaunce in the, and ever seke thy honoure and glory. That it may please the, to be his defender and keper, geving him the victory over al his enemyes. That it may please thee to bless and preserve our gracious Queen Anne, Prince Henry, and the rest of the King and Queen’s Royal issue… That it may please the to illuminate all Byshoppes, Pastours, and ministers of the Church, with true knowledge, and understanding of thy words, and that both by their preaching and livinge, they may sette it furth and shewe it accordingly…That it maye please thee to endue the Lordes of the Counsayle, and all the nobilitie, with grace, wisedom, and understanding…That it may please thee to blesse and kepe the Magistrates, geving them grace to execute justice, and to maynteyne truthe… That it may please the to blesse, and kepe al thy people.”

From the litany we can list the estates pertaining to England’s church militant. After the church universal, measured from greatest to least, these might be:  1. the Gracious King, 2. the royal issue, 3.  the Bishops and ministers, 4. the Lords in council, 5. the lesser magistrates (governors and parliament), and 6. all thy people. Anthony Sparrow, commissioner to the 1662 BCP, while speaking of the litany’s deprecations and petitions, divided the petitions into two parts:

“The like good Order is observed in our Petitions for Good. First, we pray for the Church Catholick, the common Mother of all Christians; then for our own Church, to which next the Church Catholick, we owe the greatest Observance and Duty. And therein in the first Place for the principal Members of it, in whole Welfare the Church’s Peace chiefly consists. After this we pray particularly for those Sorts of Men that most especially need our Prayers, such amongst others, as those whom the Law calls miserable Persons.” (p. 61, A Rationale)

Thus, the litany immediately divides between catholic and national parts. Keeping in mind the part is never greater than the whole,  the petition for the church cahtolik naturally comes first.  But after the prayer for our universal body, the 1559 litany moves to the provincial or national domain. The national church, of course, begins with England’s supreme head, the Crown. Descending from there, the suffrage  pleas for his seed, often both those nearest in birth and marriage to the throne. The litany then continues downward to the Bishops, likewise greater nobility, who were next to adjure for the church. Alongside them were then the  Lords of Council who could likewise be regents or protectorates to the King either his absence or by immaturity. Then came the magistrates (judges, commons), and, last, the faithful.

However, this order of estates did not belong to the older Sarum which gave priority to the church before the state. Frere comments upon the  transposition from ecclesiastical to royal offices in the Anglican litany of 1544:

“After the suffrage for the Church, [in the Sarum] those for the ecclesiastical orders usually came first, and were followed by those for the prince and for Christian people. Yet the intercessions for rulers of the Church and of the State were occasional-ly transposed, and in 1544 the series of petitions for the King was set next after that for the Church [catholik]: and this order remains”  (p. 416, A New History)

England’s Church militant: The litany’s emphasis on the terrestrial Church, and its structure is especially interesting from the stand point of authority. In England, the ‘church’ not only was composed of clerics but also included privileged rankings of secular society. In his 1547 Homily ‘Concerning Good Order’, Cranmer gives an enlightening comparison of the celestial to earthy hierarchies that all men must obey:

“Almighty God hath created and appointed all things in heaven, earth, and waters, in a most excellent and perfect order. In heaven he hat appointed distinct and several orders and states of Archangels and Angels. In earth  he hath assigned and appointed Kings, Princes, with other Governors under them, in all good and necessary order… Every degree of people in their vocation, calling, and office, hath appointed to them their duty and order: some are in high degree, some in low; some Kings and Princes, some Inferiors and Subjects; Priests and Laymen, Masters and Servants, Fathers and Children, Husbands and Wives, Rich and Poor: and every one hath need of the other: so that in all things to be lauded and praised the goodly order of God; without the which no house, no city, no commonwealth, can continue and endure, or last.” (p. 72, Sermons or Homilies)

I believe the homily gives some insight toward Cranmer’s alteration of the Sarum litany. For Cranmer, and especially the Anglican divinity of the 17th century, the church doesn’t absolutely stand apart from the commonwealth but is a peculiar estate within. Yet, all estates are ruled by the Prince, “The King’s Majesty hath the chief power in this Realm of England, and other his Dominions, unto whom the chief Government of all Estates of this Realm, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Civil (Article #37).

Likewise, Hooker describes the church as “society”, assigning features of order normally associated with earthy kingdoms. It might be noted this description was contrary to the Puritan one which treated the church as a heavenly or invisible “mob”,

“By the Church…we understand no other than only the visible Church. For preservation of Christianity there is not any thing more needful, than that such as are of the visible Church have mutual fellowship and society one with another. In which consideration, as the main body of the sea being one, yet into a number of distinct Societies, every of which is termed a Church within itself. In this sense the Church is always a visible society of men; not an assembly, but a Society. For although the name of the Church be given unto Christian assemblies, although the name of the Church be given unto Christian assemblies, although any multitude of Christian men congregated may be termed by the name of a Church, yet assemblies properly are rather things that belong a to a Church. Men are assembled for performance of public actions; which actions being ended, the assembly dissolveth itself and is no longer in being, whereas the Church which was assembled doth no less continue afterwards than before.” (Book III, i, s. 14, Laws)

Thus, Anglican divines give a conservative order that more or less meshes laity and clergy together in a single yet ordered politic. While this sort of provincial structure for the church is not immutable or absolutely commanded either by the Apostles or God, Hooker and Cranmer both credit an ordering by the Christian king’s supremacy. Cranmer conveys the historical raison d’etre for a Christian king’s authority in the church:

“For it is out of all doubt that the priests and bishops never had any authority by the gospel to punish any man by corporal violence; and therefore they were oftentimes moved of necessity to require Christian princes to interpone their authority, and by the same to constrain and reduce inobedient persons unto the obedience and good order of the church: which the Christian princes, as God’s ministers in that part, and for the zeal they had to establishing of Christ’s religion, not only did gladly execute, but did also give unto priests and bishops further power and jurisdiction in certain other temporal and civil matters…” (p. 113, Sermons or Homilies)

Hence, the duties of Crown are not just for the material good but also the the cure and salvation of subjects. We might note the faldstool concept in Cranmer’s history. The bishops delegated powers to the Crown. Hence the Crown claims its own kind of faldstool– if not directly, then through appointed ministers. Cranmer continues describing the grand ministry of the Prince,

“And unto them of right, and by God’s commandment, belongeth, not only to prohibit unlawful violence, to correct offenders by corporal death or other procure the public weal, and the common peace and tranquility in outward and earthly things; but specifically and principally to defend the faith of Christ and his religion, to conserve and maintain the true doctrine of Christ, and all such as be true preachers and setters forth thereof, and to abolish all abuses, heresies, and idolatries, which be brought in by heretics and evil preachers, and to punish with corporal pains such as of malice be occasioners of the same; and finally to oversee and cause that the said priests and bishops do execute their said power, office, and jurisdiction truly, faithfully, and according in all points as it was given and committed to them unto Christ and his apostles” (p. 121)

Revolution and Apostasy: The American revolution changed the English transposition of church-state.  The prayer book blames the absence of royal Supremacy upon  American ‘circumstances’ (p. vi, The Book of Common Prayer). Episcopalians properly attended these ‘circumstances’ by omitting those prayers touching Crown and nobility. However, the American bcp revision of 1928 went further than baring mention of royalty from the book. Instead, the U.S. Presidency was inserted and curiously placed in the old rank of the Crown. This is wrong for a couple reasons.

In so far as we might view the suffrages of the church militant to be an outline a consecrated order for the English church, the American 1928 revision seems to wrongly conflate the estate of Christian king with that of a constitutional President. In other words, the U.S. revision makes the quality of these two estates indifferent, suggesting no substantive gap between a republican system (where the public head officially rejects a role in religion) vs. a christian monarch (where the king actively and sometimes aggressively intervenes and defends the faith). In the American system, the order is really reversed because the true sovereign is not a king but the people of each respective state who establish the pact of Union. Compare this to the litany which organizes authority in a descending where the people are the last voice in consultation. It also ignores the ancient nature of the English Crown as an anointed, quasi-sacramental office. The U.S. Presidency is more like a prime minister over a federal ‘parliament’ than an anointed king. If the 1928 was more consistent with the English 1662 litany (or even the earlier 1892 bcp), the U.S. Presidency would remain underneath the bishops, at the petition for wise magistrates.  A more correct rendition would either be:

1. re-use the1789 or 1892 versions.
2. simply re-edit the American 1928 suffrages by moving the Presidency back to its original place with common magistrates as found in the 1662 (or older bcp’s). In effect, this would make the American more ‘ catholic’ returning more or less to the same order (minus the Pope) as the Sarum where the state is below the church rather than the other way around.

Consequently, a revised 1928 might read:

“O Lord God; and that it may please thee to rule and govern thy holy Church universal in the right way…That it may please thee to illuminate our Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, with true knowledge and understanding of thy Word; and that both by their preaching and living they may set it forth, and show it accordingly… That it may please thee so to rule the heart of thy servant, The President of the United States, that he may above all things seek thy honour and glory…That it may please thee to bless and preserve Christian Rulers and Magistrates, giving them grace to execute justice, and to maintain truth…That it may please thee to bless and keep all thy people“.

While AR has no overwhelming interest in using the state prayers for monarchy,  the idea of regency within Supremacy needs to be preserved.  There is no question among conservative Anglicans today that the English Crown has become irresponsible in church responsibilities. It is also very apparent the the Primates and Archbishoprics follow a similar path.  Nonetheless, the litany’s faldstool (as a symbol of authority within the church) shows that Anglicans have a chain of command, and when the stool is abducted, their is a proper order by which a lower estate ought to function as regent or “defender of faith” until a better day.

Perhaps continuing Anglicanism have a certain excuse in their departure for the sake of a  ‘free church’.  Response to apostasy can only go down the Erastian ladder. John Keble outlines this ‘ladder’ in terms similar to the litany,

“It is very possible that I may overlook something which materially affects this question, and which may be plain enough to other persons; but it does seem to me that in the case supposed (of a public censure, and dispensation, refused), loyalty to the Church, her Creed or her Order both, could only be maintained by one of the two following courses: either we should continue in our ministry, respect, fully stating our case, and making appeal to the Metropolitan, or as Archbishop Cranmer did, to the Synod, and that publicly–which course one should be slow to adopt except in a matter which concerned the very principles of Faith and of Church Communion;–or else we should tender to our superiors our relinquishment of the post which we held under them in the Church, and retire either into some other diocese, or, if all our Bishops were agreed into lay communion. The objections in point of scandal to these two courses would be, that the former might sound under present circumstances more as a way of talking than anything else: the latter, unless the case were very amply and openly explained, would appear as if one conceded the notion of the Articles being incapable of a Catholic sense…We might be excommunicated, but we could neither join ourselves to any of the uncatholic communities around us, nor form a new communion for ourselves. We could not be driven into schism against our will. We could only wait patiently at the Church door, wishing and praying that our bonds might be taken off, and pleading our cause as we best might from reason and Scripture and Church precedents.” (The Case of Catholic Subscription to the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion”)

Obviously, Keble isn’t despairing prelacy in the Church but the danger catholicism faced after by two democratizing events: 1) parliamentary supremacy after 1700 which always threatened the church; and 2) electoral emancipation in 1833 allowing non-Anglicans to sit in parliament.

Some thoughts: Anglicanism today is likely in worst straits than at Keble’s time. The question of authority whether in the Lambeth Communion or amongst Continuing Churches is endemic. Continuing clergy over the last forty years have manage to secure (sometimes irregular) bishoprics  so laity might roost in relatively safe dioceses. Meanwhile, Canterbury-aligned churches are breaking traditional diocese boundaries by forming parallel dioceses on the basis of theological affinity rather than territory. Though we are not at the point of needing a lay communion, the Litany instructs where Anglicans might go after estates successively fail. We might also consider the rare and in extremis powers an estate may employ in lieu of another’s abduction. Thus we have a chain of command, and it might be traveled either downward or upward according to contingency. The crisis of authority is not so much that Anglicanism can’t work, but what respective estate will step-in vis-a-vis Anglicanism’s historic ‘chain of command” now that the Archbishops and Crown have created a vacuum of authority, ruling in their stead? We might call this ‘regent theory’.

16 responses to “The Litany’s Faldstool

  1. Dear Sir: How are you?

    Your old email address is no longer valid? I’d like to hear from you. You have enlightened my by this blog.


  2. Here followeth the Litany, or General Supplication, to be sung or said after Morning Prayer, upon Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and at other times when it shall be commanded by the Ordinary.

    I have included the Rubric from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer that prefaces the Litany to point out that it is the Book itself and not the Reverend Mr Dearmer that makes the requirement of when the Litany shall be used. The problem, both for the Church in England and the United States is not the liturgy but the simple disobedience of the clergy who have decided on nothing more or less than personal preference what they will and will not do in regard to their ordination oaths to keep the “doctrine, discipline and worship . . . of the church.”

    The major problem in the Church which has brought us to this present unpleasant pass has been nothing less than the willfulness of the clergy in deciding what they should or would do in terms of what the prayer book required of them. They have sworn to do one thing but done another and their bishops have failed to discipline or depose them for their failure to do precisely what they promised in order to be ordained.

    Again, is the Church really present where the daily offices and the litany are not said publicly. And however difficult that may be in the Continuum with the few places where they have building or rooms to which they have daily access, the truth must also be faced that few of our clergy truly believe they are required to keep the discipline and worship of the traditional prayer books.
    I, too, have taken the liberty of cross posting because I believe the issue is so important.


  3. “Does the Church exist where there is no liturgy?” Interesting question…

    The faldstool is a curious ornament. It is used as a throne which the Bishop sat to order the ministers of the church. But it also provides a bench for him to supplicate upon. In this way I’m reminded of Matt 26:39 where Jesus laments his election to the cross by the Father, “And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” I wonder if this is how we should treat vicarage in the church? To be ordered into the ministry is a great calling, yet the humility of the cross must be carried. Wouldn’t it thus be appropriate for all postulants to ask, “let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt”? hmm…

    Anyway, regarding a divine liturgy which never ceases… Maybe this is an argument for perpetual prayer by certain religious types? I also know there are cyprianic and augustin notions of the church. I think the later recognized the visible church by ‘marks’. Anglican divines often talk of four notes rather than three that Reformed count. The fourth note is charity which seems to translate to visible union. I first came about the fourth note reading about the Leipzig Interim. I’ve also seen it explain in the Henrician catechisms. But, after the concilarism of the 1550’s failed, most protestant churches seemed to sadly drop this note.

    I believe the spirit of the prayer book and the fact Henry tried to give monks secular callings signifies that Anglicans intended to put away the cloistered and hermitaged life. However, oblates or friars seem workable within the classical anglican framework. The most ‘anglican’ oblate/religious order I can think of belongs to the UECNA: the Order of St. Benedict. Their rule is to do morning and evening prayer from the 1928 plus a compline office. But they don’t do the litany, surprisingly. That would be a good mid-day devotion. I’m not sure why they call themselves an Order by St. Benedict given their rule is really more a local variant of it. In this sense they are more like the pre-benedictine religious order, and they don’t live separated lives but live in the world. Anyway, it’s the only oblate order that makes regular use of the prayer book rather than a Roman breviary. I think even Cosin was careful to adapt Compline and the lesser offices to the theology contained in the prayer book, etc..


  4. The four notes of the Church are those found in the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds, i.e., One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. One of the reasons that i prefer Anglicanism over either Orthodoxy or Papalism is that both the classical prayer books and the actions of the Church are much clearer about the essential unity of the Church in that fact that we all enter it via baptism with water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. This is why Anglicans have always recognized both Roman and Orthodox orders because we saw and understood that we were all doing the same thing. The Church is Holy because it is infused and governed by the Holy Spirit and its members are justified by grace through faith in the saving acts of our Lord, Jesus. It is Catholic, according to the whole, because it continues the faith and practice of the Church from the beginning. That we find in Acts 2. 42, where it is described as continuing in the Apostolic doctrine and fellowship and the breaking of bread and prayers. (No quotation marks because I am quoting from memory and not taking the time for the exact working in the Authorized Version.) But we must remember that the “Apostles’ doctrine” is exactly what they taught, i.e., what we find in the New Testament remembering that St Paul made it clear that we should never accpt a doctrine other than what he taught. The word ‘fellowship’ may also be translated as ‘communion’ which implys a common understanding and order with the worship consisting of the service of Holy Communion and the Christian adaptation of the Jewish synagogue prayer services. This was the basis for Bishop Andrewes rule of ‘one Canon, two Testaments, three Creeds, four Councils and five centuries’ because at the beginning of the sixth century the Emperor Justinian ordered that bishops be celibates so they wouldn’t have children to whom they might be tempted to reward with the Church’s property. The fourth note is ‘Apostolic’ or ‘sent’ which I think plainly refers to the Church’s evangelical mission to preach the faith to all and everyone.

    My own version of Andrewes’s Canon is “Catholic Faith, Orthodox Worship, Apostolic Order and Evangelical Mission. For me Catholic Faith means the teachings of both Testaments as interpreted by the “earliest bishops and Catholic fathers’ If we don’t find it there it lies outside the teaching of the Church. Orthodox Worship involves the daily celebration of the office by bishops, priests and deacons and the devout laity with a marker preference on that being done corporately and publicly with the Communion service being celebrated on all Sundays and Holy days as set forth by the local church. Ours need not be the same as the Russians, the Greeks or the Italians. Apostolic Order involves much more than the maintenance of the historic orders of bishop, priest and deacon in the apostolic succession but also in the Church locally and universally governing itself as the Church did in the earliest centuries, i.e., before Constantine. In the Untied States we managed to escape both imperial, Merevengian and royal governance which returned us to the status quo ante. Finally, Evangelical Mission requires us to both live and preach the faith given to us by Jesus, his apostles and the saints. And unless we live it, actually “DO” it, our preaching will be in vain. Unfortunately that seems to involve a humility which most of us lack since we seem to want to continually do our thing rather that exactly and precisely what we have been told to do!

    The Hebrew word for the Church was ‘an assembly,’ literally ‘the called out.’ And that we certainly have been. But, and recalling what Hooker wrote, we only become a ‘society’ when we are gathered for divine worship or to do the work of the Church. It is not by accident that the last book of the New Testament and the Bible contains John’s vision of the worship in heaven which by no stretch of anyone’s imagination could be called “low church.”
    Oh, on the issue of religious orders, one must remember St. Katherines’s in London in which a company of celibates continued to do the things which monks primarily do as well as the fact that until the so-called reformation of the universities in the 19th century, the fellows in college who had an obligation of the daily office in chapel were required to remain celibate. The major problem with most of the monastic orders in England and elsewhere at the time of the Reformation was that they were both wealthy and corrupt. Always remember that at this period the city of Rome was awash with teen age cardinals and what that implied about the sexual morality of the papacy and its greater churchmen at that time.



  5. Thanks Bp. Lee! Here’s Dearmer on how loyalty to the Prayer Book would actually effect that ‘one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church’:

    “If English Priests had stuck to their formularies as Romans and Easterns have to theirs, then the English Church would to-day be as marked as the Roman or the Eastern Churches are by such practices as frequent Services, fasting, the supremacy of the Eucharist, and the use of distinctive vestments for the Sacraments. Those who still fancy that obedience is insular would do well to consider seriously what alternative they have to propose. They will find that the only alternative is anarchy, under which each parson may set up his own ideas of Church order and worship; and these ideas have persistently differed, not in details only, but in essentials, from the principles of the Church Catholic. By this system; or want of system, you may have a pseudo-Romanism in one parish, a pseudo-Puritanism in another, and a decorated worldliness in another, but in few will you have Catholic worship and order. Nor will you gain the respect or trust of the rest of the Church or of the world at large… But loyalty to the Prayer Book disarms the enemies of the Church, at the same time as it restores the effectiveness of her friends. And if we set–as we should–the fortunes of the Church Universal above those of our own communion, we shall still do well to remember that the weakening of Anglicanism would remove the greatest agency which God in His providence has left in the world for the reunion of Christendom.”


  6. Pico Ultraorientalis

    Hi again Charles,
    The “Presidential” verse in the 1928 BCP certainly shows the extreme absurdity, amounting to cognitive dissonance, in attempting to apply Erastian principles to American polity. But perhaps you are a fishing expedition for installing the House of Windsor as the governors of dissaffected American Anglicans? Less dissonant albeit even more impractical. What is the point? Pan Anglo-Saxonism? How is this any better than, say, Panslavism under the “little father”? At least the Roman Catholics have an oecumenical unity which trancends the national principle. Not that I would go for “ultramontanism” myself, being an Evangelical. I would actually go for a kind of neo-Ghibelline neo-Marcellian neo-Councilarist Holy Roman Emperor…but I fear the lack of fellow travelers would consign me to the clouds of those who establish “micronations” in cyberspace!

    Perchance concience doth make Anabaptists of us all…


    • Hello Pico,

      I hope I’m not delusional about the British Monarchy or any kind of break-up of the U.S.A. No, I would not put my eggs in those baskets! I think certain liberal cultural trends as well as Pax-Americana will be around much longer than skeptics care to admit despite possible currency meltdowns, increasing moral decay, and repeated bankruptcies– try several more centuries if not an eon or two.

      Meanwhile, this ‘regent theory’ I’m proposing is mostly internal to the rule of the church. Anglicanism doesn’t quite work without a Crown that intervenes in the last instance. The english archbishops or bishop of London might have been a sufficient substitute, but they pursued a policy of licence instead. What’s the point? What I’m saying is the prayer book’s litany actually gives us a chain of authority by which we have a court of appeal. I believe Keble and Newman both understood how the English system worked, and so they followed accordingly. Thus, if the AB’s fail, we go to the bishops, and then the lesser clergy. If all fails, then the consultation to the faithful as Newman pleaded. A name for what process to follow once the Christian Crown effectively abducts might be called “regent theory” (or something akin). Nonetheless, I would like to see the 1928 bcp corrected on the proper order specific to Anglicanism. Using the 1892 or 1789 American bcp litany would suffice as a correction, especially if the collects were ranked in a similar manner.

      That said, I do believe the old ‘two sword’ theory, i.e, the secular cooperating with the ecclesiastical for the sake sanctifying a larger body politic. I don’t think we’re going to return to the caesaro-papal model. Nor would I want to see this fulfilled through the nightmare of a modern bureaucracy. However, I do think the church, especially her bishops, have a right to temporarily assume some secular power, but I don’t imagine this outside of an expanded and especially strong diaconate– e.g., repatrioting social welfare at local levels through the parochialism of the parish or diocesan church, aka. schools, hospitals, food banks, etc.. I especially like Bulloc’s ‘Return to the Land’ ideas. So, this might appeal to a libertarian ethic too. Roman Catholics in America seem to have done this very well, but, of course, they have a lot more seed money than us terribly divided evangelicals– an unfortunate turn in history. Things might have unfolded differently in the 16th and 19th centuries, but it seems hardliners prevailed. Respectively, I’m thinking of the moderates at Regensberg and the later concordant with the Prussians. I’d hate to think loyalty to the provincial church means we have to give up on the universal one, but my preference would be something the east believes a norm.

      Please explain what a neo-ghibelline, neo-marcellian, neo-concilarist emperor might look like? Maybe in Europe where old aristocratic families still exist, but in America? I think it would more viably start with something modeled from the colonial period? I do know a cleric in ACC who would like to see the U.S. military form a Franco-dictatorship, but that’s pure insanity, and I stay far away from this cleric’s political machinations although I still enjoy talking to him time-to-time.


  7. Pico Ultraorientalis

    Hi Charles,
    Thank you for your usually thoughtful reply to my usually flippant comment. I can see that I just didn’t “get” what you were aiming at if (according to my present understanding) you wanted to turn the magesterial model on its head in cases of crisis, and thus the ulimate appeal becomes not the (human) monarchy the ecclesiastical vox populi. Of course this is exactly what has happened in the history of Ecclesial polity among Evangelicals, with Presbyterians winning out over Anglicans, and subsequently Baptists over Presbyterians.

    As far as Ghibbeline etc., it was just a notion, not a proposal. What I was thinking about was the kind of polity that Luther might have had in mind before he realized that his movment had split Christendom. Luther was truely a profound spiritual thinker, but his tendency towards irracibility burnt a lot of bridges which have been hard to repair in retrospect. A lesson for all of us sinners…or at least, I know, for me.


    • Hi Pico,

      Nah, nothing flippant. Though I believe in passive obedience to secular authority and upholding our solemn vows to the U.S. constitution, I still see the church as ideally being a self-contained society and would like to see a strong Anglican parochialism emerge. While I think it important for everyone remain “loyal americans”, they can still build local christian communities on diocesan or parish levels. Nothing revolutionary.

      In fact, if you travel down the ‘chain of authority’ as found in the litany, crossing out those institutions that have either abducted or have been put aside, going to the bishops is really our only choice. We no longer have supremacy of the Crown. Even in England the Crown has effectively abandoned the church. In America there’s no privy council nor are there temporal lords in congress. So, what’s next in line but the bishops?

      The American litany’s church order did not radically break from its older erastian form until 1928. For some reason the Prayer Book revisers of the ’28 felt the US President ought to stand in the same spot as the earlier Crown making the presidency distinct from ‘all christian rulers and magistrates’. Even in 1789 the revisers might have done better to locate the petition for “all christian rulers and magistrates” where it had stood before, namely, after the clergy.

      The only reason I’m making such a fuss is because Anglicanism has an idea that the church is indeed an ordered society of grades and ranks. I’m saying we should be familiar with these grades. Of course, the hierarchical idea is borrowed from the older notion that heaven is likewise ordered, starting with the greatest angels and saints, descending down to lesser kinds. The Prayer Book litany, until 1928, pretty much preserved this notion of hierarchy but translated it to the church militant. The significance of the ’28 revision therefore implies a lower view of the church where Anglicans don’t necessarily conceive themselves as a ‘society’ but perhaps as a random assembly. The same prayer that outlined an erastian system in 1662, and to some extent in 1789, in 1928 becomes a prayer that potentially includes all kinds of dissent, especially if the presidency, open to all or no faith, is ranked above the clergy. There is also an attempt to universalize the older state prayers, believing this makes the litany more ‘catholic’.

      Consequently, you are left with a less specific idea of churhc, and this ‘disordered assembly’ probably is more the result of the effects of revivalism in the american church where worship is increasingly treated as a ‘tent meeting’ rather than as a royal court. It is also complicated by magistrates and presidency that can be baptist or presbyterian as much as Anglican. Obviously, there is much the old erastian prayers assumed and cannot be simply translated to the american situation. Consequently, I believe the 1928 is an accidental concession to Smith’s 1785 view of the church as being properly ‘broad’ rather than keeping Seabury’s more exclusive (and British) view intact.

      The last point was the litany should give us pause before complaint. Rather than posing two radical choices– either Supremacy or lay communion– the litany gives us several gradations of authority in between which faithful ought to resort before resorting to extremes. So, if we return to the older view of the litany as an erastian order, we learn something about our own church, it’s distinctive chain of command, who’s next in charge in the case of abduction/vacancy, and where do we flee in times of apostasy. I think these are valuable insights that might inform our church activism as well as retrieve a worthwhile memory of church order that is distinctly Anglican.


  8. Two corrections, I think:

    First, you say the whole is never greater than the part, but I think you mean the opposite.

    Second, you list (3) the Lords in council and all nobility and (4) the Bishops and ministers, but according to the order given in 1559, though, shouldn’t these two groups be reversed?


    • Hello Lue-Yee,
      Let me get back to you on the nature of the Crown’s powers in the externals of church. James I’s writings seem to suggest more than ‘grand warden’. Meanwhile, the “whole” would correspond to mutual workings of king, parliament, and convocation for the appointment of standards. Here, the convocation wrote and presented formulae; the parliament either accepted or rejected it, giving a measure of civil law; and the Crown could amend or, if satisfactory, give the royal seal. Ironic that this ‘erastian’ process would be considered undemocratic as it enlisted a wide field of laity?

      That said, does a “whole” need to be democratic or non-hierarchical to be a “whole” or can it have the ordering of a society? The litany outlines the hierarchy or chain of authority that normally is ascribed to the Church of England. The point of my article was to discuss ‘proper order’ when prelatic elements fail. Obviously, I’m not saying any single part has absolute power. We can always go down or up the chain, appeal matters of conscience, etc.. I believe this reasoning also led, in part, to the 1701 Act of Settlement.

      Thank you for correcting (3). The nobility also sat in parliament, but I honestly don’t know why I thought the privy council preceded the archbishops, bishops, and other clergy. I just checked the 1549 through 1662 versions, and they all rank the privy council after the clerics. That certainly throws into question exactly how protectorates related to the church while the crown was in its minority or absent. Nonetheless, it further makes the case that inserting the President of the United States where the Crown previously ranked is a misunderstanding of Supremacy and England’s polity. The contention being: the Presidency is not a christian king but a governor that enacts royal assent in proxy. Thus, he would normally stand where the Proctectorate or a lesser civil magistrate ought to be, and I wish the American prayer book was cognizant of this fact. Anyway, I went back a switched 4 for 3 and fixed a couple terms. It now reads:

      1. the gracious King, 2. the royal issue, 3. Bishops and ministers, 4. the Lords in council and court nobility, 5. the lesser magistrates, and 6. all thy people.


      • Looking at the 1789 Prayerbook, I also see in Morning and Evening Prayer that the ‘Prayer for the President of the United States, and all in Civil Authority’ precedes the ‘Prayer for the Clergy and People’, after which is the ‘Prayer for all Conditions of Men’. Do you think that order’s related to the hierarchy given in the litany?


      • Hello Lue-Yee,
        You’re right about the 1789, and this was why I said the American versions are hostile to English polity. Substituting a secular president (who is not necessarily a member of the Anglican church) in the place of the English Crown sort of undermines the whole concept of Supremacy. Not all Episcopalians were enthusiastic about the American Revolution, and I tend to think high churchmen in American reluctantly went along with it. Some of the differences over the American revolution was reflected in how the ‘local circumstances require’ clause was understood. Smith took the American Revolution as an opportunity to borrow principles from the 1689, altering the BCP along fairly broad, pan-protestant lines. Meanwhile, Seabury held a minoritorian view (sic., New England) that minimized alterations, removing only royal state prayers.

        What I’m trying to argue is the American versions from 1785 until 1928 actually go beyond the simple omission of the King by substituting the U.S President for Crown. In doing such, I believe we’re saying something specific about polity and the kind of communion that exists within our church. The 1928 goes a bit further than either the 1789 or 1892 in this respect because it makes the order of collects as found in EP/MP consistent with the Litany. What cued me in on the differences between the English and American prayers was how Frere described the development of the BCP. Evidently, it grew from the Sarum’s “Litany of Saints” which is pretty much the same as Roman Catholics use today, begging the intercessions from each rank of the heavenly order, starting with the trinity; next, angles; then, greater saints (foremost iof which is the BVM and St. John); then, lesser saints, etc..

        What the 1549 revision did was finally transfer this heavenly hierarchy onto the church militant, namely, the church in England. Thus, the new order becomes the Trinity; then the King; next the bishops & clergy; the privy council; parliament w/ lesser magistrates; and, finally, the people. The English BCP’s seem to be rather consistent with this arrangement, even in EP/MP. However, the American revolutionaries appear hostile if not indifferent to such, and by swapping the President for Crown, the previous structure essentially was usurped. If we were to continue a minimal understanding with the English on the litany, the current ranking of the Presidency might suggest this office holds some kind of precedence if not Supremacy in our church. This is rather unusual for a political office that has no test to verify if it’s indeed a member of a local church, much less an Anglican one. Furthermore, it places what the colonial system normally understood as an under-officer or arch-governor to the Crown as a kind of King.

        Therefore, looking solely at the litany (where sequence of petition seems to mean something more liturgically), the 1892 and 1789 appear less intrusive than the 1928. And, rather than demand likewise changes with the Whole State Prayer and EP/MP’s, I was intentionally narrowing the scope of criticism to the American litany, proposing the 1892 rendition superior rather than going all the way back to the 1662, almost anachronistically imagining the American Revolution never happened. That said, I think the American revision took more liberty than circumstances required, and I would simply prefer the royal prayers omitted rather than substituted with something else. In fact, New England Episcopalians did exactly this: They simply read the 1662 in the same order but skipped the royal prayers. This arrangement was preferable, imo, as I believe it was closer to the original liturgy as well as backhandedly recognizing Supremacy as it served the English church. What happened instead was the American Revolutionaries decided to take a jab at the Crown. To say the Presidency belongs in the rank of the Crown suggests the US Presidency is a kind of nursing parent for Anglicans. This is totally contrary to the “non-“religious (if not irreligious) nature of that office. That said, I also see nothing in the 1801 articles that require the civil magistrate (governor or president) to abstain itself from all church externals– only what is called “things purely spiritual”. That’s kind of interesting and might be a wink to tradition. In sum, the 1789 has some mixed opinions on civil order found therein, and I believe the 1928 litany brings them to the fore. The 1892 would ‘cork the bottle’, so-to-speak, and is the simplest route without denying true circumstance.


  9. Hi Lue-Yee, Here’s a High Church option for Morning Prayer adjusted to American circumstances: Supremacy in the Mattins. I still believe the 1892 litany is superior to the 1928, keeping in mind minimal, if not zero, change is best, so I’m not one to press this too far.


  10. Pingback: American Litany Chain Altered | Cogito, Credo, Petam

  11. Pingback: Who Heads the Church When the King Is a Heathen? | Cogito, Credo, Petam

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