July 1, 2012 • THE LIVING CHURCH
entertain them with accounts of the natural wondersof North America and of the vigorous progress of “civilization” there. He also wanted to shake theEnglish church out of its introverted complacency byshowing the power and effectiveness of reformedepiscopacy in the new world: “The contemplation of a remote branch of the English establishment risingfrom its ruins, and not merely sustaining itself, butincreasing with unprecedented rapidity, will induceEnglishmen, it is hoped, to prize more highly thoseblessings which they now enjoy, and which so manyin America are labouring to extend.”Each edition also had a particular polemical focus,the different emphases between the two testifying tothe speed with which the reality of an Anglican Com-munion was developing in this period. In 1839Caswall drew his readers’ attention to the anom-alous division between the ministries of the twochurches. The Episcopal Church was establishedby the Church of England, which also consecratedbishops for the newly independent American church.They shared a common liturgical tradition and prin-ciples of church government, but the priestly ordersof Caswall, an Englishman ordained in the EpiscopalChurch, were not recognized in the Church of Eng-land. American clergy could not even preach in Eng-lish pulpits. He wanted to raise an Anglican con-sciousness, a sense of common purpose acrossnational divisions, the better to share the blessingsof the Anglican tradition in a global context.
aswall was not shy about acknowledging thestrong differences between English and Ameri-can churches and governments. On the contrary, heinsists not only that the differences between themare appropriate but also that this diversity con-tributes strength and flexibility to the whole. The Anglican Church could never become universal if itcould coexist with only one form of civil governmentor culture. He is never more eloquent than when herejoices in the breadth of the Anglican witness:
As [the author] may appear to speak occasionally likea republican, he deems it incumbent on him to state,that he regards the American form of government asbeing, on the whole, well adapted to the present con-dition of the people, and to the independence whichnaturally belongs to the possessors of a territorymore than sufficiently ample for the population. But,though he may be a republican in America, he is sat-isfied that he never could become a republican inEngland. In like manner, he admires the popular con-stitution of the American Church, chiefly on accountof its fitness to the peculiar habits and feelings of thenation. It is a beautiful scheme by which, on the onehand, the proper influence of the three orders in theministry is maintained; while, on the other hand, the voice of the people not only receives due respect, butexerts as much authority as the most democraticChristian could desire. Although the author consid-ers that many regulations similar to those of the American Church might be adopted in England withsafety and advantage, he believes it must be plain,that a large portion of the peculiarities of the systemare exclusively American, and would be exotics inany other portion of Christendom.
Here surely is an important reminder for Chris-tians today, that the faith is inculturated in differentsettings in individual ways and that unity in faithdoes not depend on uniformity in practice.Even if Caswall recognized the need for nationalchurches to have their own customs and peculiari-ties, he was no advocate of an ecclesiastical free-for-all. With the second edition of 1851, he had returnedto England and become Vicar of Figheldean in Wilt-shire,having obtained a private Act of Parliament passed on his behalf recognizing the validity of hisorders. The greatest issue for Caswall was now “Syn-odical Action.” The Church of England, though stillestablished, needed to recognize that it was no merecreature of the state and to be weaned from anysense of Erastian dependence on the state.Caswall’s American experience was instrumental:“While cor- porately identical with the Church of England, itwill appear that the American Church has, bydegrees, formed for itself a system of legislationadapted to its position, and favourable to its growth,without the slightest interference on the part of anysecular authority.”
onvocation had not yet been re-established inthe Church of England, butdisestablishment of colonial Anglican churches in Canada, Australia,and New Zealand was inspiring the desire for synodsand indeed for a great synod which would unite allthe churches of the English Reformation. ForCaswall, synods were no panacea; he was alive to thedangers of political institutions in the life of theChurch, to the divisive power of “local feelings and party prejudices. … In times of controversial excite-ment, American Churchmen look forward to themeetings of their Conventions with anxious appre-hension, and regard them as a subject of earnest prayer and supplication to the Almighty.” Neverthe-less the benefits of such institutions far outweighedtheir disadvantages.
(Continued on next page)