Edward Bouverie Pusey, Priest and Teacher of the Faith

         O God, our Heavenly Father, you raised up your faithful servant Edward Bouverie Pusey to be a pastor in your Church and to feed your flock:  Give abundantly to all pastors the gifts of your Holy Spirit, that they may minister in your household as true servants of Christ and stewards of your divine mysteries; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

NEARLY SIX YEARS AGO, shortly after his election as Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), Foley Beach was interviewed on a range of topics related to his vision for our province.  One question asked then — and a question that seems always in the forefront of Anglican discussion — concerns Anglican identity.  Who are we as Anglicans?  What is distinct about us?  Here is an excerpt from that interview.

Q: How would you define the Anglican identity”? What does ACNA distinctively have to offer both Christians and non-Christians in America? Should Anglicans have more of a “confessional” identity? Is the new catechism an attempt to develop a more confessional identity, especially given Dr. Packer’s recommendation to teach it in ACNA parishes at the Provincial Assembly?

Abp. Beach: Let me answer that last question first. I think a lot of us get in trouble when we think we have the Anglican identity, because we’re a diverse lot. From our formation days back in the Reformation, we’ve been a diverse group. Currently—and this is something I think that’s very distinctive about who we are— we are a group that is Anglo-Catholic, Evangelical, and Charismatic. Some call that the ‘Three Streams,’ and that’s a simple way of explaining it. But, even some of our most Anglo-Catholic folks would be more charismatic than I am. All of us tend to have those three streams somewhere in our mix.

I think that’s very unique for American Christianity today. All of us have our core; my core would be evangelical. Although I have the other two pieces, my core or default is evangelical. But, these streams enable us to bring the richness of the breadth of Christianity, and it’s truly powerful when these streams are together.

In its best moments, the ACNA particularly, and Anglicanism generally, can be described as unity in diversity.  There is a core deposit of the faith contained in Scripture, Creeds, and Church Councils; on this consensual faith we must all agree.  This faith once delivered to the saints is embodied and lived sacramentally in Baptism and the Eucharist; in these we must all participate.  The fullness and authenticity of that faith is taught, protected, and defended by the godly historic Episcopate — by our bishops, and by those entrusted by them to be teachers of the faith; in this lies our connection to the Apostolic faith.  This faith is expressed for worship, tradition, and order in the Book of Common Prayer, including the Ordinal (the services for ordinations) and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion (a brief exposition of some disputed points of doctrine).  In all of these lies the unity of Anglicanism.

But there is diversity in the way we understand, practice, and embody this one faith.  This diversity is largely a matter of emphasis — more stylistic differences and differences of interpretation than fundamental differences — though there are some substantive disagreements.  This diversity is often characterized as the three streams of Anglicanism that Archbishop Foley mentioned:  Evangelical, Anglo-Catholic, and Charismatic.  Painting with a very broad brush, I might describe these three streams as Word, Sacrament, and Spirit.

The Evangelical Stream shares the Reformers’ emphasis on the Word of God and the necessity of a personal faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  I share that emphasis.

The Anglo-Catholic Stream shares the Reformers’ emphasis on the faith as understood and practiced by the earliest Church Fathers — those closest to the Apostles — and on the power and effectiveness of the Sacraments (Baptism, Eucharist, and others, as well).  I share that emphasis.

The Charismatic Stream shares the Church’s emphasis on the continuing presence and activity of the Holy Spirit, not least through the gifts the Spirit provides the Church:  vocations, administration, discernment, faith, healing, knowledge, teaching, tongues, interpretation of tongues, and more.  I share that emphasis.

This diversity, when held together, strengthens the whole Church.  And, as Archbishop Foley mentioned, “all of us tend to have those three streams somewhere in our mix.”  Apostles Anglican Church does.  I do.  Most every Anglican I know does to some extent.  And I think that is a good thing, a spiritually healthy thing.

But, as our Archbishop also mentioned, we all tend to favor one stream a bit over the others; think of our preferred stream as our native language of faith.  We “speak” it fluently and without thinking while we must translate in all the other streams.  The man whose feast we celebrate today, Edward Bouverie Pusey, was Anglo-Catholic, perhaps the most influential Anglo-Catholic spokesman ever to grace our church.

Before we look a bit at Pusey’s life and influence, I should say a word about the term catholic.  When we say in the Apostles’ Creed, “I believe in the holy Catholic Church,” or in the Nicene Creed, “We believe in the one holy catholic and apostolic Church,” we are not referring to the Roman Catholic Church.  The catholic church of the Creeds is the universal church — that is what catholic means — the church spread throughout the world and throughout time.  It is a way of stating that there is only one Church of our Lord Jesus Christ, passed down to us through the Apostles, governed by Scripture, guided and protected by bishops, nourished on the Word and Sacraments.  The Roman Catholic Church is one family of members of that Church, as is the Orthodox Church, as is the Anglican Church.  Our branch of the family grew up in England — that’s what Anglican means — and its children moved to many other places throughout the world, including those Colonies that became the United States.  So, the term Anglo-Catholic simply means the English branch of the one, universal Church.  In that sense, all of us who are Anglicans are Anglo-Catholics.  This was one of Pusey’s insights and emphases, an earlier version of the ACNA notion of three streams.  He considered the one holy catholic and Apostolic Church as a great river flowing in three branches:  the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Church, because these three have preserved the fullness of the faith.  This meant that, unlike many of his Anglican contemporaries, Pusey did not view the Roman Catholic Church in apocalyptic terms as Babylon or the Pope as the Antichrist.  As the Articles of Religion state, Rome has erred.  But Pusey still considered it as a branch of the true Church.

Now, just a bit of biography.  Pusey was born in 1800 to a lower-level, upperclass family.  His parents were devout, but strictly so in the sense of a severe and rigorous practice of the faith.  Pusey carried that demeanor with him throughout his life.  His parents provided him an excellent education and Pusey emerged as a recognized scholar in theology and in Semitic languages (languages of the Old Testament).  At age twenty-seven he was appointed Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford.  A year later he was ordained to the priesthood and appointed as Canon of Christ Church Cathedral at Oxford.  He served in both of these positions until his death at age eighty-two.

Around the time of his ordination, Pusey began to associate with and share the views of John Henry Newman and John Keble.  To understand these views, we need to look at the purpose and consequences of the English Reformation.  The initial purpose of the Reformation in the sixteenth century was to purify the Roman Catholic Church of errors in and additions to the faith.  The way the Reformers proposed to do this was through an appeal to Scripture and to the faith and practice of the early church, before the Church had split into its Eastern and Western branches.  The Word and the Fathers:  these were to provide the pattern for right faith and worship.  As the English Reformers considered the state of the Roman Catholic Church they recognized that some elements of Roman faith and practice had to be retained, some had to be reformed, and some had to be rejected.  For example, the orders of deacon, priest, and bishop had to be retained as the Biblical and historical practice of the Church.  The Eucharist — both its theology and its liturgy — had to be reformed.  The very notions of purgatory, indulgences, and the treasury of merit of the saints had to be rejected.  Retained, reformed, rejected:  this was the process of the English Reformation.

The English Reformers were quite zealous for this work and quite anxious — both for religious and political reasons — to define the English Church in stark contrast to the Roman Catholic Church.  The process of reform was not always charitable and not always faithful to its original intent.

So, some three hundred years later, Newman and Keble — both at Oxford University — began to reassess how well the Reformers had accomplished their task.  In retaining, reforming, and rejecting elements of faith and practice, how true had the Reformers been to their guides of the Word and the Fathers?  Newman and Keble felt that, in many cases, the Reformers had been overzealous, that they had thrown out the proverbial baby with the bath.They were concerned that the Reformers had so emphasized the Protestant nature of the English Church — a nature different than the Roman Catholic Church — that they had forsaken its catholic identity, its unity with the one, holy, catholic and Apostolic Church.  So they began to move for a reclamation of the catholicity of the English Church.  Because of their association with the university, their movement became known as the Oxford Movement.  Pusey “joined” and became influential in the movement, so much so that detractors of the movement began to refer to its members as “Puseyites.”

So, what changes did the Oxford Movement — and particularly Pusey — want to see?

The first was simply a change in perceived identity:  less Protestant and more catholic (with a little c, not Roman but universal).  They felt the English Church had overemphasized its continuity with Reformers like Luther and Calvin and had underemphasized its continuity with the historic Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches, the historic, universal church.

There were specific theologies, practices, and structures that also required reconsideration and, in some cases, reappropriation.  Under Henry VIII, religious orders had been eliminated and monasteries looted and destroyed.  Pusey was quite intent on re-establishing religious orders, and the Oxford Movement resulted in this, for both men and women.  The practice of auricular confession — confession by an individual to a priest — had been largely rejected by the English Church.  Since Pusey found warrant for it both in Scripture and in the Fathers, he sought its restoration.  That we accept that practice today is largely a result of the Oxford Movement.  Pusey was also concerned that the English Church had lost the sense of  importance — the centrality — of the Eucharist.  It was celebrated infrequently in the English Church; Pusey and the Oxford Movement pushed toward greater emphasis and more frequent celebration of the Eucharist.  Part of his legacy is our weekly celebration of Holy Eucharist.

Pusey was equally concerned about the sacrament of Holy Baptism — not about its practice, but about its theology.  What happens in baptism?  He felt that the English Church had lost its convictions about baptismal regeneration:  about new birth, forgiveness of sin, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that comes in and through baptism.  Pusey wrote this:

Our life in Christ is, throughout, represented as commencing when we are by Baptism made members of Christ and children of God.  That life may through our negligence afterwards decay, or be choked, or smothered, or well-nigh extinguished, and by God’s mercy again be renewed and refreshed; but a commencement of life in Christ after Baptism, a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness, at any other period that at the one first introduction into God’s covenant, is as little consonant with the general representations of Holy Scripture, as a commencement of physical life long after our natural birth is with the order of His Providence” (Pusey, Tracts, 5, 28, see also 172).

His language is not our language, but his meaning is clear enough.  You are born again, cleansed of sin, and made the child of God by adoption through the Holy Spirit in baptism.  To say that all these occur only later — when you repent and confess faith for example — is like saying you are born only when you are old enough to blow out your own birthday candles.  Baptism is not the end of our salvation, but it is the beginning of it.

In all these matters, Pusey was moving the English Church toward a reclamation of its catholic identity (with a little c, not Roman, but universal).  He always based his theology in Scripture and in the practice of the universal church.  He always pursued a Biblical Catholicism.

Pusey, along with Newman, Keble, and others in the Oxford Movement published their ideas in short articles called Tracts for the Times.  Because of this, the Oxford Movement is sometimes called Tractarianism.

Pusey continued his work at Oxford University, his writing and editing, until his death in 1882.

His legacy to us is a re-emphasis on the common faith and heritage of the church, and his conviction that the Anglican Church is one of the three, great branches comprising the one, holy, catholic and Apostolic Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.  From Pusey we get the understanding that the English Church is certainly reformed, but that it is Reformed catholicism (with a little c, not Roman, but universal).  For that, we celebrate Pusey’s life and influence and give thanks to God for his servant Edward Bouverie Pusey.  Amen.

About johnaroop

I am a husband, father, retired teacher, lover of books and music and coffee and, as of 17 May 2015, by the grace of God and the will of his Church, an Anglican priest in the Anglican Church in North America, Anglican Diocese of the South. I serve as assisting priest at Apostles Anglican Church in Knoxville, TN, and as Canon Theologian for the Anglican Diocese of the South.
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1 Response to Edward Bouverie Pusey, Priest and Teacher of the Faith

  1. Dave says:

    Excellent! I was not very familiar with him prior to reading this but I have a much greater appreciation of him now and am intrigued to learn more. I definitely identify as an Anglo-Catholic (my “native” tongue) but have also been greatly influenced by the Evangelical and charismatic movements in the Church. Your “Word, Sacrament, Spirit” comment deeply resonates with me. Thank you for your wisdom and insight, Father!

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