As I reported earlier today, the Anglican Use Society (AUS) – based in the USA – is in the process of regrouping and redefining its mission. A glance at the AUS website will make it clear just how necessary this is if the Society is to continue and prosper.
The “old” AUS saw its principal purposes as supporting the liturgical use of the “Book of Divine Worship”, both communally and as an individual prayer resource, and encouraging and facilitating the reception of groups of Anglicans into full communion with the Catholic Church by the formation of local Anglican Use Societies. This was supplemented by profound spiritual and theological reflection on the nature of the Anglican Patrimony and its incorporation into the Catholic Church, specifically by the means of the AUS journal “Anglican Embers”.
Roman Catholics were admitted to full membership and other baptised Christians to associate membership.
With the advent of the Ordinariate and the gradual development of the Ordinariate Use liturgy “Divine Worship” several of these functions have become superfluous or need revising.
The ecclesiological role of the AUS (exploration, church planting, group building) has naturally been taken over by the Ordinariates themselves. The drafting, implementation and further development of the liturgy are the responsibility of the relevant dicasteries in Rome, the “Anglicanae traditiones” commission and the Ordinariates. It is also a question as to whether the encouragement of the use of “Anglican Use” liturgical resources also for individual or group prayer does not fall within the province of the Ordinariates, c.f. the encouragement by the Ordinariate in Australia of the formation of Sodalities of Our Lady of the Southern Cross as well as official and unofficial spiritual initiatives elsewhere (such as the current Called to be Holy Novena and the Ordinariate Expats cycle of Prayer, to name just two).
Thoughtful reflection on the nature and role of the Anglican Use and Anglican Patrimony is, however, an area where there is a very obvious need and to which the AUS could profitably direct its main focus.
Although I claim no specific expertise and possess no academic experience beyond theological studies for the priesthood, I have been reflecting for some time on a possible redefinition of the role of the Anglican Use Society, expecially since I was consulted at the beginning of the restructuring phase some six months ago. Since then I have myself spoken with several other people in the UK Ordinariate and Ordinariate Expats, and through them with a wider circle, and have made a number of suggestions to AUS board members, which I should like to share with you here.
- The “new” Anglican Use Society could profitably become first and foremost a trans-national, movement-wide forum and advisory group (I have often used the term “think tank”), whose function would be primarily on an academic, theological level. In essence this would involve the study and identification of the Anglican Patrimony, the gift which the Anglican Use and now specifically the Ordinariates bring to the Church as a treasure to be shared. And this would lead logically to practical questions of implementation of this Anglican Patrimony (in the areas of liturgy, ecclesiology, pastoral theology, spirituality, etc.) and the role of the Anglican Use movement in the New Evangelisation and in ecumenism.
- The AUS would encourage research in these fields, working together with academia, would hold conferences and seminars, establish working parties and above all publish journals and tracts on these subjects. It would be important to try to win the support of those priests and others who have already carried out academic study of this kind and written significant theses, many of whom are already friends or priests affiliate of the Ordinariate.
- This work could be very important for the development of the curriculum for the formation of Ordinariate priests in Anglican Patrimony, as specifically foreseen by the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus. I can even see individual AUS members being involved with these formation programmes, maybe as guest lecturers. Additionally, the new AUS board has already decided to take on a fund-raising role to support the formation of future Ordinariate clergy.
- Wherever this is feasible, the AUS should try to cooperate with open-minded and willing friends from the Anglican churches, not least in order to ensure the authenticity of our definition of the Anglican patrimony.
- There is also a creative role which the AUS has fulfilled in the past (for example, the compilation by C. David Burt of the Anglican Use Gradual) and which could profitably be continued and expanded on. A revision of the Gradual will be necessary following the completion of the Divine Worship Missal. Musicians could be encouraged to compose new settings for the Ordinariate Use Mass, anthems for Evensong, etc.. Artists, poets, spiritual writers should also be encouraged and perhaps sponsored where possible.
- There is also a movement-wide communications role which the AUS has carried out in the past in the form of Steve Cavanaugh’s blog “The Anglican Use of the Roman Rite”. There is a need for an international news blog (combining Steve’s blog and elements of our Ordinariate Expats News blog, perhaps along the lines of the former “Anglo-Catholic” blog with its pool of contributing authors). An internet discussion forum of some kind (maybe a facebook group) for internal exchange would also facilitate the exchange of ideas between the members of the Ordinariate movement.
- The Anglican Use Society should be very closely linked to the Ordinariates (who should be informed and consulted on all important matters) but I believe it should retain a certain academic and organisational independence. Its role vis-à-vis the Ordinariates would thus be of an advisory nature, and its results and conclusions would not commit the Ordinariates in any way.
Who might one try to win as members of the AUS?
- Ordinariate and Pastoral Provision clergy, religious and lay people
- other Catholics outside the Anglican Use structures, among whom there might be: former Anglicans; cradle Catholics with an interest in the movement; former members (incl. clergy) of other Christian churches; members of Eastern-rite Catholic Churches
- Anglo-Catholics and other Anglicans
- members of the academic professions (University and college professors and lecturers)
- (post-graduate) students researching on aspects of the Anglican Use
- artists, musicians, authors
- etc., etc.
I am sure that the new board of the Anglican Use Society would be very grateful to read any comments you may have to make, criticisms, suggestions, preferably before the June 15th meeting.
If you would like to contact the AUS personally, you can write directly to the President, Steve Cavanaugh, at email@example.com .