Church politics

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Church politics

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Avr 10, 2007, 3:25am

I'm hoping someone can give me some insights on the church politics that are central to The Warden and Barchester Towers. I struggled with the various clerical positions and their relationships. Despite various web searches, I haven't run across a thorough and satisfactory explanation of the church hierarchy, down to the lesser beings. For example, why was the power of the bishop so curtailed in BT? (Hey, Mrs. Proudie wanted to know too!) Having been a Catholic as a child (and not in an observant family), I couldn't quite grasp that there doesn't seem to be a clear "chain of command" in the Anglican church. What about the rural dean? Exactly who is in the chapter, and what do they do?

Modifié : Juil 23, 2007, 7:50am

Yes, I have exactly the same questions... I remember having read in The Warden thread funny things about a bishop's apron which almost rhymes with Monty Python's... Is there a Web site where such Anglican church peculiarities are simply described?

Edited PS: The best would be the availability of a Web site similar to, but more specifically dedicated to the explanation of Anglican church terms in Trollope's work...

Juil 23, 2007, 11:18am

It's a long time since I read The Warden and Barchester Towers, but I think I can briefly answer the more general questions:

Anglican pecking order, broadly speaking and ignoring all sorts of complications: archbishop, bishop, dean, archdeacon, rural dean, priest, deacon.

A priest could be rector or vicar of a parish (a rector received tithes directly; a vicar didn't) or a curate, paid to assist the rector or vicar.

Rural deans were reintroduced in 1835, having become effectively extinct in the previous centuries. A rural dean would have certain responibilities for a group of parishes within an archdeaconry.

The chapter is the "management board" of a cathedral, and consists of the dean and canons. Canons are priests who may or may not have a parish elsewhere as well as their duties in the cathedral.

Modifié : Juil 23, 2007, 11:39am

Then I guess the cathedral "chapter" is equivalent to the "vestry" in a parish? I was raised mid-low Episcopalian.

Juil 23, 2007, 12:26pm

Thanks. Are there several archdeacons per diocese? (From the first chapters of Barchester Towers, I get the impression that there is only one.) What's the chaplain (Dr Slope) doing exactly? Was there no chaplain under the old bishop Grantly?

Juil 23, 2007, 12:58pm

Also, it seems that the "pecking order" isn't exactly a chain of command, i.e., it seems that the rural dean and the archdeacon both "report in" to the archbishop, rather than the rural dean answering to the archbishop. Is that right, thorold?

Juil 23, 2007, 1:19pm

>4 Seajack:
Sort-of: as I understand it, in a 19th century parish the vestry consisted of laymen and had a local government role, mainly concerned with administering the Poor Law. The Vicar/Rector was pretty much an absolute ruler as far as Church matters went, although the local landowner could usually put some pressure on him if he chose to. The Chapter would be primarily concerned with running the cathedral itself (building, staff, services, music...).

Not completely sure, but I think there could be more than one archdeaconry in a diocese. A bishop's chaplain is a priest, presumably paid out of the bishop's own pocket, and could be anything from a secretary to a personal spiritual adviser. Slope obviously sees himself mostly as the latter, and sees his chaplaincy as a stepping-stone to higher things. If old Mr Grantly had a chaplain, he would have been too modest and unassuming to be seen.

Juil 24, 2007, 8:03pm

I've just ordered a book called "Jane Austen and the Clergy" which I hope will provide more background on the subject.

Juil 26, 2007, 12:57pm

All of this is hazy in my mind, but it's enough for me to know that the Proudies & Slope (I almost typed Snape!) are in one camp (more into keeping to the letter of the law hence conserative, yet recently on the rise as reformers) and the Grantleys, et al are in the other (more lax about church doctrine, hence liberal, but ready to rest on years of corrupting influences).

Sorry for the runon sentence!

Juil 27, 2007, 7:43am

Yes, I think that's a fair assesment, although one should probably be a bit careful with words like "reform", "conservative" and "liberal", because they change their meaning depending on whether you're talking about church or secular politics, Britain or the USA, 19th or 20th centuries...

It's a while since I studied all this, but very broadly, you've got two movements trying to change the Anglican church in the nineteenth century: the Anglo-Catholics ("high church") and the Evangelicals ("low church"). Both want to get rid of abuses and extend outreach to the working classes, but one lot want to do it by going back to Roman rituals and practices (smells and bells), the other lot by getting closer (as they see it) to the early church and the teaching of the Gospels. Slope and Mrs Proudie are Evangelicals; Dr Proudie apparently has no convictions at all, but finds it politically expedient to be Evangelical too.

Stuck in the middle you've got some people who tend to be associated with the Tory (conservative) party and want to preserve Anglican doctrine from these attacks and protect the privileges of clergy and landowners. Others don't necessarily share the doctrinal approaches of these groups, but think there should be room in the Anglican church for a range of views. These last tend to be associated with Whig (liberal) politics. All sorts of other things are tied up in this as well - Irish home rule, the campagn against slavery, the extension of the franchise, teetotalism, the exclusion of non-Anglicans from political life, etc.

Juil 27, 2007, 12:40pm

> 10 Forgive the ignorance, but I've always thought that Anglo-Catholics were outside the Anglican church, and "high church" people were inside. Have I gotten completely wrong, then?

A friend once described the Episcopal church in the U.S. as Catholic Lite: all the pomp, half the guilt.

"smells and bells" he he

Juil 27, 2007, 1:15pm

No, I think the term is normally used for the ones who stay in the C. of E.

Of course, there are plenty like Newman who started as A-C then eventually went over to Rome. cf. Wikipedia on Anglo-Catholicism .

Juil 29, 2007, 6:03pm

> 12 so that explains the shorthand referring to Roman Catholics as "R.C." which I heard while living in Toronto. Americans will say just "Catholic." Do the English use "R.C." or is that a Canadjanism, eh?

Juil 29, 2007, 6:16pm

Some Episcopal parishes are rather low. We had neither Smells nor Bells when I was a kid.
I have heard R C used in the U. S.

I guess Newman did "topple into the cesspool of Rome" (as the Trollope saying goes)?

Modifié : Juil 30, 2007, 1:32am

>14 Seajack: Of course, the Romans were famous for their sewer system . . .

I'm guessing that you heard a Canadian in the U.S. use "R.C." Growing up in southern New England, where there were plenty of Canadian transplants and tourists, not to mention Catholics, I never heard it used by any American.

I want bring up a minor thing I've been wondering about: exactly what does a bishop's apron look like? I haven't been able to find an illustration online. It's described as a shortened cassock in the Wikipedia 'Vestment' article. I'm having the greatest difficulty picturing it.

Juil 30, 2007, 2:35am

>13 stringcat3:,15
I haven't lived in the UK for a while, but my feeling is that most people would say "Catholic" (or rather "cath-lick") in everyday speech. In a more formal context, or if theological precision is important, a non-RC might say "Roman Catholic". For instance, a BBC news report would talk about "the Roman Catholic bishop of Liverpool". "RC" is the standard abbreviation, but I think only people with a particular reason for using abbreviations would use it in speech. It's quite typical of people who've been in the army, for instance, especially the WWII generation.

Definitely not an expert on vestments, and I've no idea of the history behind it, but I think archdeacons and bishops would wear a cassock that finished just below the knee, with gaiters on their shins. Maybe from the days when they had to ride around from parish to parish on horseback? You might remember the radio comedy "All gas and gaiters" about forty years ago. Then again, you probably don't! See for a whole page of gaiters.

>14 Seajack:
I hope I didn't imply that all Anglicans are High Church - I don't have any figures, but I'm pretty sure they've never been much more than a small, but vocal minority. They were interesting because of their involvement with the most innovative Victorian art and design movements (gothic revival, pre-Raphaelites, William Morris, etc.), and because they built a lot of inner city mission churches. Evangelicalism was much more widespread in the 19th century C of E, because it had a solid, anti-intellectual appeal to the middle classes.

Juil 30, 2007, 2:04pm

I would recommend the book, Glorious Battle: The Politics of Victorian Anglo-Catholicism to explain what was going on in Trollope's time. If you visit my list of reviews on LT, I reviewed it some time within the past 8-12 months.

Juil 30, 2007, 5:05pm

> 16 I followed your "gaiters" link and mirabile dictu: there's a photo of a well-fed bishop in the short cassock/apron and gaiters.

The next question is how would anyone keep a straight face when talking to a man in that get up.

(Yes, I am destined to burn)

Juil 31, 2007, 6:54am

>18 stringcat3: Which photo do you mean: that of Abp Fisher? Or could you find another one on this surprising site?

Juil 31, 2007, 2:08pm

Yes, Apb Fisher. A fine figure of an ... archbishop.

Surprising ain't in it, as they say in the Aubrey-Maturin series.

Août 23, 2007, 3:41pm

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Nov 4, 2008, 1:54am

Way back when I mentioned that I couldn't picture what a bishop's apron looked like, and while there was that photo mentioned in , I got a "live" look the other night watching a DVD from the last season of "Foyle's War." The one where there's an ecumenical peace council in Hastings - can't remember the episode name. The mapmaker gets killed - that one. Anyway, there was the Bishop of Cirencester strolling along in that singular apparel.

But why call it an apron?

Nov 8, 2008, 2:25pm

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Modifié : Nov 8, 2008, 3:48pm

#22 Stringcat, the episode of "Foyle's War" you're talking about is called "Plan of Attack" - it's the first one of what was supposed to be the last season.