If you aren’t sure what Anglo-Catholics are all about, you’re about to discover who they are.  This isn’t intended for Anglicans as much as it is for Roman Catholics and other Christians who wonder what this world is all about.

Today’s post is a bit of a pictorial by way of a gentle introduction.  I hope the churches profiled below will not mind my having borrowed their photographs, which are too good to miss.

Church of the Advent, Boston, MA:

AC Church of the Advent Boston MA peace

Note not only the vestments but the traditional altar.  I went to a few Masses here many years ago.  If you’re in Boston or live nearby, it’s definitely worth a visit.

From the website (link above):

Worship at the Church of the Advent reflects our foundation in the tradition of the ‘Oxford Movement’. Beginning in the 1830s, several Church of England clergy, in reaction to what they perceived as the laxity and spiritual lifelessness the Church in their day, started a renewal which came to be known as the Oxford Movement (because most of them were associated with Oxford University). They advocated a restoration of the pattern of Catholic worship, devotion, and spirituality which originated in ancient times but was lost during the Reformation. The recoveries included an ornate liturgy, private confession, devotions addressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and monastic orders, as well as the use of the name ‘Mass’ for the service of the Eucharist …

In addition to ceremonial recoveries, scholars of the Oxford Movement also led a rediscovery of classical Catholic theology, which included an elevated view of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, in which we believe Christ to be really present to us in the sacramental bread and wine – His Body and Blood. From a Catholic viewpoint, worshipping Christ present in the Sacrament of the Eucharist is an experience so profound that words become inadequate and ceremonial gestures, such as the Sign of the Cross and genuflections, serve to express some of what we cannot put into speech.

St Michael and All Saints Church, Edinburgh:

AC St Michael and All Saints Church Edinburgh worship

From the website (link above):

As adherents to the Anglo-Catholic tradition, incense, bells and music play an integral part in our worship and the ritual and beauty of the liturgy is an important aid to our worship …

On the first Sunday of each month we also have a service of Choral Evensong and Benediction at 6.30 pm. Evensong is a traditional service, with readings and prayers, psalm, Magnificat, Nunc Dimittis and anthem sung by the choir. It is followed seamlessly by the service of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, when we rejoice in the Lord’s continuing presentation of himself to the world …

St Mary of the Angels, Los Angeles, CA:

AC St Mary of the Angels Hollywood sanctuarypartybishop

From the website (link above):

From her earliest days, St. Mary’s has enjoyed the full Anglo-Catholic heritage of worship and belief. Employing the Book of Common Prayer for the daily and occasional offices and the Anglican Missal for the celebration of the Mass, Fr. Neal Dodd, our first rector, set the tone for our worship which remains today.

To some, that heritage means ‘smells and bells’ — incense, beautiful vestments, and intricate ceremonial.  At High Mass or Solemn Evensong, we do cloud the church with incense, the vestments of the clergy and, in fact, all things connected with our worship, are as beautiful as our skills and pocketbooks allow.  The ceremonial that embodies our worship and the music which accompanies it, are rich and old.  It has the scent of eternity.  That’s what we believe worship should be.

Worship isn’t about us.  It’s not meant to make us feel good about ourselves, or even to feel good about God.  Its purpose isn’t to make us ‘feel’ anything.  Worship is directed not toward us, but towards God.  Catholic worship is what the Church of God does to show her love for her Lord

Other points to note, as taken from a short and highly readable essay by Bruce E Ford entitled ‘What is an Anglo-Catholic parish?‘ for the Grace Church in Newark, NJ, website:

That the Church of England was not denomination, founded at the Reformation, but the selfsame branch of the Catholic Church planted by missionaries from Rome and Ireland in the sixth century.

That Christ’s promise to lead his disciples into all truth was addressed to the whole Church, not to any single branch of it, and that the only authoritative teaching was that which had been accepted throughout the Church before the break between East and West in 1054.

That although the Church of England, reacting to increasingly extravagant claims about papal authority for which Catholic tradition provided little support, had declared its independence from Rome in the sixteenth century, it had not cut itself off from communion with the Church of Rome, but that schism had occurred only in 1570 when Pope Pius V had excommunicated Queen Elizabeth I.  

That the Book of Common Prayer ought not necessarily to be interpreted as its compilers intended, but according to the tradition of the Catholic Church.

The essay goes on to explain:

Because Anglo-Catholics view the Church as an extension of the incarnation, they have historically felt impelled to attend in Jesus’ Name to ‘the homeless, the hungry, the desolate, and the oppressed’.  In America, where in the nineteenth century Episcopal churches derived most of their income from rental of pews, Anglo-Catholic parishes were among the first to abandon it, opening the way for all to join in their worship

A long-standing Anglo-Catholic friend confirms this.  So, despite the impressive, traditional vestments, the Anglo-Catholics have been and continue to be the ones doing much of the hard graft in urban Anglican missions. 


Anglo-Catholics recognize that authoritative Catholic teaching about many matters does not exist. They confidently affirm that Christ is present in the Blessed Sacrament, but they regard all attempts to say how he is present as mere speculation.  They confidently affirm the virginal conception of Jesus; but while some believe that the Virgin Mary was immaculately conceived and that she was bodily assumed into heaven, others do not.  Popes in recent times have proclaimed both the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and the doctrine of the Bodily Assumption of Mary to be dogma, even  though theologians have debated the about both doctrines for centuries without reaching consensus. Anglo-Catholics regard papal proclamations on unsettled questions not as Catholic teaching but as examples of blatant Roman sectarianism.

Many Anglo-Catholics would nod their heads upon reading that statement.  

Tomorrow: The many facets of Anglo-Catholicism