Building an English Folk Church




























Anglo Saxon Anglicans aims to foster strong English Christian communities within the Anglican tradition which we believe is the home of the Christian English people. We believe that all people who come to Christ form part of His body and so His Church, but that within this universal Church there is room for diversity to reflect different cultures and identities. ASA therefore promotes a Church structure which sees itself as just one part of the universal Christian Church, ministering to just one part of the diversity of human creation rather than seeking to minister to all. Churches of this nature could be described as Community or Folk Churches.




This is an ethnic and folkish view of the Christian religion. Our ‘Aims’ state: “In this way, it is hoped that it will provide a spiritual underpinning for the Anglo Saxon community to mix amongst itself, to marry within the extended community and to raise strong families within the security of the wider folk group”. There is an emphasis here on faith, family and folk. 






The Church of England used to be a Folk Church, because the English state and the English nation (people) were much the same thing. However, this is no longer the case. As society has become more diverse, the state no longer governs a single national group of the English or even people who are predominantly Anglican.         




The Church of England is strongly associated with the state. Indeed, in its modern form it was created by the state to suit its then needs. The Elizabethan Settlement was intended to create a broad national Church structure that was flexible enough to accommodate most of the different streams of Christianity current in England in those days. Arguably, it was successful in this respect, although there were always those who could not be accommodated, Protestant Non Conformists on the one side and Roman Catholics on the other. So, whilst a folk Church, in the sense that most people living in England were English, it was always a highly political organisation and closely associated with the English and then the British state.





In the 19th Century, it changed from being a genuine Folk Church of the English to a Church of Empire and in the Empire it gradually became multi-ethnic as local people were converted. In the West Indies, Africa and the Indian Sub-Continent new Anglican communities were born. In time, many of these Churches established their own jurisdictions and a new ‘Anglican Communion’ was set up to oversee them. Some of these jurisdictions are large. The Church of Nigeria for instance is by far the largest Church in the Anglican communion with about 60 million members, several times the size of the Church of England. Many of these jurisdictions, especially in Africa, have also made efforts to reflect the local culture rather than that of the former colonialists. In effect, they are trying to create new indigenous ‘Folk Churches’ within the Anglican tradition.





These changes were not widely understood by people in England itself, where the population remained predominantly Anglo Saxon English. However, the Church of England as the mother Church of the Anglican Communion did change. It began to see itself as an international Church, a universalist alternative to the Roman Catholic Church.





With the arrival of millions of people from the old Empire and beyond, new communities of Anglicans have begun to grow up in England itself. Some of these people have established their own Church groups and many others have sought to join established congregations of the Church of England. This has sometimes been a culture shock for both sides.





Increasingly, the Church of England seeks to be a home to non-ethnic English Anglicans and has begun to change culturally to attract them. Indigenous English people can find themselves in an alien environment and uncomfortable with hymns they don’t know and a more ‘charismatic’ style of worship. This is certainly going to grow over time and the traditional English Anglican is going to feel less and less at home in more and more Churches. Furthermore, the Church now preaches in favour of mass immigration and multi-culturalism and has lost any sense of being an English Folk Church.





In some respects, this is the right thing for the Church to do. If it is going to be the State Church of a multi-ethnic state, then it should reflect the population of that state. Of course this begs the wider question of how can a Christian denomination, and not necessarily the largest denomination, be ‘the’ State religion of a multi faith state. Prince Charles has sought to answer this by saying that he wants to be crowned as defender of ‘faith’ not ‘the faith’. However, whilst this may be a pragmatic approach to the role of Head of State, it makes little sense for the role as head of the Church of England. Is he going to be the defender of Satanism? Where does he draw the line? Its logic leads to the conclusion that the two roles must be separated and the Church of England disestablished. If a Church that was expressly set up as a state Church ceases in that role, it rather begs the question of what is the point of it.





And yet, the Church of England is still the religious home of English Anglicans. Its history is our history and it is the default denomination of millions of English people who hardly ever set foot inside a Church. And for most of that history, it has been closer to ASA. The organisation that is the Church of England today does not hold the values that the historic English Church held. Indeed, many of its leaders seem to be pleased with the way that traditional Christian teaching has been jettisoned in favour of a so-called ‘progressive’ secular agenda. 





There remain many traditionalists within the established Church and some traditionalist groupings such as Forward in Faith. However, these are often associated with single issues and do not seem to provide a lead for traditionalist Anglicans in general. Sadly, traditionalists in the CofE seem to be something of a ship without a rudder and many individuals feel isolated and powerless. Others have either left to form new ‘continuing’ churches or the semi-autonomous grouping within the Roman Catholic Church, known as the Anglican Ordinariate. Still others have left Anglicanism altogether. Unfortunately, this has just exacerbated the fragmentation of traditional Anglicanism and weakened any opposition to the so-called progressives. More to the point, none of these new jurisdictions show any great interest in being an ethno-religious English Folk Church – although many individuals within them are undoubtedly sympathetic to this.





This is, in effect, the mission of Anglo Saxon Anglicans. Our overarching aim is to foster a traditionalist Anglican movement that defines itself around an Anglo Saxon identity and culture. This would be a Church movement associated with a particular people and as such would be quite different to the modern ethos of the Church of England which is strongly associated with the State and the Monarchy.





To this end, I would like to see a number of things happen. The first is for a renewal of the traditionalist Anglican movement in general which seems to have become disheartened and bogged down in the debate on women priests and gay relationships.  This broad movement should aim to appeal to individuals and groups within established Anglican jurisdictions, but also wider traditionalist groups such as the Prayer Book Society, groups promoting use of the King James Bible and the Merbeque Sung Eucharist. It could also seek to revive groups such as the Ælfric Society, which focussed on publishing the works of Ælfric and other Anglo Saxon writers.





Secondly, I would like to see this traditionalist Anglican movement become much more aligned with Anglo Saxon English identity, embracing English Popular Christianity to reinforce this and appreciating the spiritual links between our folk and our English homeland. I do not mean this in any negative, aggressive or antagonistic way, but rather one which is based on the Christian notion of love for ones folk and country rather than hatred for anyone else. This would be a revival of an English Folk Christianity rather than a world-wide universalist Anglicanism which in effect was simply the British Empire at Prayer and therefore an instrument of Imperialism and Colonialism. 





Thirdly, I would like to see religious services and social events being held by groups and organisations affiliated with this traditionalist umbrella group. These could hold regular services or special ‘votive’ services held in honour of the main feasts, important national and local Saints or other important events. The movement would aim to attract people from the various Anglican jurisdictions, providing an additional layer of activity. They should not be political or require any strict adherence to all positions held by ASA or members of the umbrella group. They should be as much about community and doing things as about belief and Churchmanship. Practical acts of devotion can be as simple as lighting a candle in honour of ancestors or to commemorate an important communal or national event. These devotions should be encouraged at people’s homes and as part of social events as well as at formal services.






Fourthly, I would like to see the emergence, from these groups, of a network of small to medium sized congregations. These would be ‘Folk Churches’, strongly connected to their communities and predominantly based around small groups of extended families. There would need to be a central steering body and Episcopal oversight for these congregations, but I envisage them having a high degree of autonomy. The steering body would need some form of ‘teaching and training’ arm to encourage capable people to take up positions of leadership within the movement and prepare them for ministry and the Priesthood. A high degree of involvement by lay members is likely to be needed and this would need reflecting in any training programmes.













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