17 NOVEMBER 1961, Page 13


Share My Chalice Rev. Hugh Montefiore,

Professor G. W. H. Lampe, G. W. R. Thomson

The Untruth about Beethoven John Hearne The Reinhart Collection Dr. Armin P. Mose Edible Fungi Rosemary Goad Trail Sinister Robert Pitman

Ronald Knox's New Testament Quentin de la Bedoyere,' Alan Stubbs

Von Hofmannsthal Raimund von Hofmannsthal British Made D. R. Vickers .`The House' V. C. Earl The Lost Tribes of Reading H. Barnett Selby R. P. Bonington Marion Spencer


Sia,—Anyone who writes controversially on religious matters is asking, for trouble. Swiping at Monica Furlong's article, 'Share My Chalice,' in last week's Spectator, might easily do as much harm as the article itself. Yet one who has chortled at her previous articles cannot help asking, as she did, 'Is she is, or is she ain't?'—only here 'she' means Monica Furlong herself, and the question refers to her ability to interpret the mind of the Church of England on this matter.

The `Open Letter to the Archbishops on Inter- Communion' was not intended to provoke this kind of thing. It was a sober ('overzealous'?) attempt by some thirty-two theologians to state a position which they and others conscientiously hold. (Inci- dentally, there was little collaboration: I did not know, for example, the names of the co-signatories until I first saw the printed letter.) A Very High Ecclesiastic is said to have remarked that he was surprised that so many theologians had thought it necessary to publicise a position that he had always known to exist in the C of E; but, to judge from much of the reaction, most people are more surprised at the contents' of the letter than at the fact of its publication. The signatories ask for regulations Permitting a greater degree of intercommunion between the Church of England and the Free Churches.

Nobody knows what support this request has from clergy and laity. Monica Furlong believes that the Church of England is moving along behind a large centre group containing young people of 'virility and razor-sharp intelligence,' and that it is moving along 'the Tractarian track.' What is the evidence? I should like to think that there is a large central body of opinion (but not, please God, an ecclesias- tical party). As for 'the Tractarian track,' I am incredulous; and I should have thought that, to judge from the proportion of young clergymen from low church' backgrounds, Conservative Evangelica- lism is a considerable force in the Church. None of these signed the Open Letter: all, I suppose, would agree with its contents `Share My Chalice' raises some fundamental questions. What is the nature of the C of E? Monica Furlong writes of the 'intolerable narrowness of a national church.' (I don't think I'm quoting her unfairly out of context.) Usually the charge is that the C of E is too broad, not too narrow; but there's little substance in that. I belong to the C of E because it is meant to be the spiritual home of Englishmen, because it can contain both Catholics and Protestants, because we can all learn from one another, because we have freedom in which to breathe. Do the new Reformers regard this freedom as a constriction? In an age of change our freedom within the national church is one of its most precious assets.

The second question raised by 'Share My Chalice' concerns the exercise of conscience within the Church of England. Of course Anglo-Catholics have consciences, tender ones too, which must be respected by those who belong to the same church but do not share all their convictions. But they are not the only people with consciences. The signatories of the Open Letter (and those for whom they speak) also have consciences. Why cannot theirs also be respected? After all, they do not ask that any Anglo-Catholic should go to any service against his conscience: they do ask for permission to hold and to attend services of intercommunion (when pastorally expedient) to satisfy the demands of their own convictions. If the Church of England is to remain a comprehensive Church—and some of us think that this is its glory—should there not be 'give' as well as 'take'?

I believe that the future of the re-union move- ment as a whole is at stake. The date of the publication of the Open Letter was fortuitous but timely, coming as it did so soon after the Church of England had refused to enter into relations of full communion with the prospective new united Church of Lanka in Ceylon. This is a church whose intention is to be a true part of the catholic church and which will have real bishops and episcopacy and all that. Now if uniting churches are to remain true to their past, you simply cannot have an inauguration rite which lacks anomalies or ambiguities. But the in- auguration rites of Lanka were not approved.... The decision to refuse full communion is recent. It took people by surprise, largely, I think, because the Church Times backed the new Church. The Open Letter has come as a tonic to responsible Free Churchmen who were despai-ing of the Church of England after this decision. In 1923 Anglicans officially declared that Free Church ministries were `real ministries of Christ's Word and Sacraments in the Universal Church.' The Open Letter re-affirms this.

Monica Furlong's oddest and least pleasing remarks concern the theologians' theology; I mean phrases like 'shifting of ground' and 'ominous hint of the short cut.' Less strange than the innuendo about intellectual honesty—Christians, have never been immune from questioning the honesty of their opponents—is the suggestion that the thirty-two theologians have allowed their hearts to run away with their heads. This is not something for which theologians are usually noted! But why should the proposed intercommunion be thought to be a 'short cut'? Why should it be anything like marrying a girl before having actually met her? To a convert to Christianity these arguments sound extraordinary. More important, personal experience verifies the conclusions of theology that intercommunion is a means towards, not the goal of reunion. Short cut, indeed! In my college we have for many years taken advantage of the Convocation Resolution which permits us to invite a communicant Free Churchman to the Holy Table. We have learnt to know one another by this means in a unique way. It has affected Free Churchman and Anglican alike. Here is an extract from a letter which I received last month from a man who went down last summer :

In my own case the experience was particu- larly rewarding, for my Anglo-Catholic zeal needed the tempering influence of a more liberal and tolerant atmosphere, and my years in the college showed me not only the treasures of traditions different from my own but also the real—as opposed to the superficial—sources of Catholic devotion. I thank God for those three years and I pray that others may also be privi- leged to share the blessings which I so richly enjoyed.

Controversy so often stirs up the deadly virus of odium theologicum. Differences of opinion are usually caused by underlying presuppositions. Often these can only be dislodged by such personal experience.


Gonville and Coins College, Cambridge