Bishop Steven Lopes, Liturgy, and the USCCB

[Image: Bishop Steven Lopes surrounded by (clockwise from upper left) Archbishop of Canterbury Michael Ramsey, the Canterbury Cross, St. Jerome in the Bodleian Library (representing the importance of patristic literature/spirituality in Anglicanism), Richard Hooker, and St. Augustine of Canterbury]

As is already well-known by now in the Ordinariates blogosphere, the USCCB today (16 November 2021) elected Bishop Steven Lopes of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter chairman-elect of the USCCB’s Committee of Divine Worship.  Congratulations to Bishop Lopes and to the USCCB and to the OCSP, etc!

I dare to hope that the vote of the bishops is a statement many of them did not know they were making concerning the importance of liturgy in Anglican spirituality and what this means in strengthening bonds ecumenically.  I also hope that Bishop Lopes, though not originally from an Anglican background, has by now absorbed enough of what he himself refers to as the Anglican patrimony’s “intangibles” to bring an important Anglican perspective to his role in the USCCB.  That perspective is what might be referred to as the symbiosis of liturgy, theology, and spirituality.  This is far from claiming it cannot be found in the Catholic context.  (Monasticism is where it should be effortlessly present.)  But this symbiosis has historically been pervasive in, and essential to, the Anglican way of praying, thinking theologically, and living the Christian life.

Something of this Anglican emphasis can be seen in words Archbishop Michael Ramsey (archbishop of Canterbury from 1961 to 1974) wrote.  Lauding the “close connection between theology, doctrine, and Christian worship” in the writings of Richard Hooker—which have continued to influence Anglicanism into our own day—Ramsey noted that this leaves Anglican theologians open to the charge that they conduct theology “to the sound of church bells,” as “rigorous” German theologians had commented.  “Well,” responded Ramsey, “continue to do theology [this way], for that is what Christian theology really is all about—worshiping God the Savior through Jesus Christ in the theology of the apostolic [and patristic] age.”  (Ramsey attests to the importance of patristic theology—and the importance of liturgy in the patristic era—not in this particular sentence but in other places.  Here too is one of the centuries-old ties between Anglicanism and Catholicism.)  Michael Ramsey, The Anglican Spirit (New York: Church Publishing Incorporated, 2004), 8-9.

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