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Pioneer Anglican Unity

Pioneer Anglican Unity

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Published by TheLivingChurchdocs
If the ardent spirits of youth brought Henry Caswall to America, a more mature Romanticism later channeled them into a hopeful vision of a worldwide communion of Anglican churches.
If the ardent spirits of youth brought Henry Caswall to America, a more mature Romanticism later channeled them into a hopeful vision of a worldwide communion of Anglican churches.

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Published by: TheLivingChurchdocs on Jun 19, 2012
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34
THE LIVING CHURCH • July 1, 2012
By Peter M. Doll
W
hat else other than an adventurous, roman-tic temperament would have prompted a privileged18-year-old English youth of good family and prospects to have left all behind in1828 to follow Bishop Philander Chase to his nascentcollege in the frontier wilderness of Ohio? Or tomarry the bishop’s niece, Mary Chase Batchelor,when he was only 20?Or to go on to serve as mis-sionary, then parish priest, and then teacher at achurch school in St. Louis? If the ardent spirits of  youth brought Henry Caswall to America, a moremature Romanticism later channeled them into ahopeful vision of a worldwide communion of Angli-can churches. He manifested a focused determina-tion to do all he could to lower the structural andinterpretative barriers to understanding betweenthe Church of England of his baptism and the Epis-copal Church of his ordination.Caswall was the son of the vicar of Yately inHampshire; his great-uncle was Thomas Burgess,who as Bishop of St.David’s founded St.David’sCollege, Lampeter, and therefore strongly supportedthe efforts of Bishop Chase to found his own “west-ern seminary.”Henry’s younger brother Edward alsogained renown as a translator of ancient hymns andas a follower of John Henry Newman to Rome andthe Birmingham Oratory. The Caswall family hadthe advantages of wealth and influential connec-tions, but both brothers defied convention in theways they fulfilled their vocations to the priesthood.If he chose to defy convention, Henry neverthelesshad in abundance the confidence imparted by hisfamily’s station in the world. He negotiated with pre-cocious aplomb the grueling journey by ship, riverand canal boats, stagecoach, and farmer’s wagonfrom England to Gambier, Ohio. If he ever regrettedexchanging the cloisters of Oxford for the frontierhardships of Gambier, he gave no clue.He imbibedthe democratic spirit of Americans and engaged eas-ily with people of all sorts of backgrounds and reli-gious persuasions. In the first edition of his book
 America and the American Church
(1839), Henry(writing in the third person) summed up his earlyexperiences:
He has resided nearly ten years in the United States,and has travelled no less than eight thousand mileswithin their spacious boundaries. As a student, hehas mingled with students, as a teacher with teach-ers, and as a clergyman with clergymen. He has seensociety in the log-cabin as well as in the drawing-room, while in his pastoral capacity he has beencalled to study the foibles of his parishioners, noless than their excellencies.
In each edition of 
 America and the AmericanChurch
(second edition, 1851),Caswall sought toinform a British audience about the nature of theEpiscopal Church and its distinctive history, char-acter, witness, context, and vocation, as well as to
Henry Caswall
Pioneer for Anglican Unity
ORDERLYCOUNSEL
Henry Caswall
 
July 1, 2012 • THE LIVING CHURCH
35
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.
C
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.”
C
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)
 
36
THE LIVING CHURCH • July 1, 2012
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It was to exclude the damaging effects of “merelylocal and temporary influences” that Caswall arguedfor “Synodal Action on a grand scale” to unite thechurches of England and America and to accruegreat advantages to both. If the relative balance of influenceshe perceivedbetween the churches nowfeels dated, there is an enduring wisdom in his pas-sionate desire that the churches should recognizetheir mutual interdependence on one another:
We should not be so much in danger of “measuring our-selves by ourselves, and comparing ourselves amongourselves.”Each portion of the Church might supply tothe other many of the very elements of which it is par-ticularly in need. It cannot be doubted that variouscauses, historical and otherwise, retard the advance-ment of the Church of England, which might be moreclearly manifested to us by the unbiased discriminationof our western brethren. On the other hand, we mightcontribute our part in elevating their standard of judg-ment on various important points of doc-trine and of practice. We might increase theirfeelings of reverence and respect for antiq-uity, and in return receive from them a por-tion of their elasticity, their perseverance,and their energy.
Caswall loved passionately both of these churchesand their individual expressions of the Anglican tra-dition,but more than anything he longed for the unityof the whole Church, knit together by the episcopate joined by a great synod:
Then it would appear that neither the local influence of Rome, or of England, or of America, is essential to theefficiency of that spiritual society, which is built on thefoundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christhimself being the chief corner-stone. The same Epis-
Caswall dedicated the remainderof his life to strengthening the bondsof union between the churches and nations.
(Continued from previous page)

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