Moravians and Anglicans
Compiled by Richard J. Mammana Jr.
Project Canterbury, pp. iv + 206, $19.99
Intercommunion Between the Episcopal Church and the Polish National Catholic Church
An Introduction and Sourcebook
Compiled by Richard J. Mammana Jr.
Project Canterbury, pp. 131, $15.99
Reviewed by Stephen Platten
A noble cluster of buildings at Fulneck, to the west of Leeds in northern England dating back to 1744, is the most significant evidence of the Moravian Church in Britain, and comprises a school, a chapel, and housing. Moravians arrived in the United States at about the same time.
Fulneck is but one example of the 18th-century renewal of the Moravian tradition throughout the world. Moravians trace their origins to 1457, well before the 16th-century Lutheran reformation. The seeds of the tradition lie in the Bohemian reformer Jan Huss and his followers. Close links remain with the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren. Moravians number about 750,000 adherents worldwide and 60,000 in the United States.
The church is interesting from a scholarly, historical, and ecumenical perspective. Within Moravians’ tradition, there are parallels with Anglicanism, through their three orders of ministry — deacons, presbyters, and bishops — and a strong sacramental emphasis.
This collection of documents assembled here will be of great value to ecumenists. In 1995, the Fetter Lane Agreement was signed between the Church of England and the Moravian Church of Britain and Ireland. The Church of Ireland has since allied itself to this agreement, in which the two churches have achieved significant theological convergence and recognize each other as churches.
This collection includes two American documents dating to the late 19th century and six English and German documents from the early 20th century. Finally, a chronological bibliography gathers supporting documents from John Amos Comenius in the 1660s and more recent material, including Colin Podmore’s very useful critical supportive work.
The Polish National Catholic Church largely parallels Old Catholics in Europe. European Old Catholics issue from the Declaration of Utrecht in 1889, from which emerged the Union of Utrecht. This now comprises Old Catholic churches in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, the Czech Republic and the Polish National Catholic Church. Effectively, it was the declaration of papal infallibility that caused the schism of these churches from the Holy See. These churches are all in communion with the Anglican Communion.
The Polish National Catholic Church in the United States (PNCC), however, is not in communion with the Union of Utrecht and generally espouses a more conservative theological stance. The documents gathered in this volume cover the conversations relating to intercommunion between the PNCC and the Episcopal Church from 1947 to 1976.
Warren C. Platt provides an introduction on intercommunion. At a 1955 meeting in Buffalo, the PNCC stood back from that part of an earlier agreement between Old Catholics and Episcopalians allowing intercommunion.
In 1955, however, intercommunion was established between the PNCC and the Anglican Church of Canada. Platt’s essay details the complex web of discussions, which were further complicated by the Episcopal Church’s decision to ordain women. A further hindrance has been the PNCC’s willingness to engage in conversations with continuing Anglican churches in the United States.
Both these collections are useful for ecumenical theological dialogue and for scholars of ecclesiology and church history. The Moravian volume would have been much enriched by an essay similar to Platt’s in the PNCC collection. Those wishing to use the historical material here should read Colin Podmore’s useful essays noted in the bibliography.
The Rt. Rev. Stephen Platten is the retired Bishop of Wakefield.