Anglicans Online banner More about the gryphon
Independent On the web since 1994 More than 250,000 readers More than 30,000 links Updated every Sunday
Will you help support
Anglicans Online?

The Paypal logotype

Noted This Week
Sites new to AO

News Centre
News archive

News flash: a summary of the top headlines
Start here
Anglicans believe...
The Prayer Book
The Bible

Read letters to AO
Write to us

Resources A to Z

World Anglicanism
Anglican Communion
In full communion
Not in the Communion

Dioceses and Parishes
Hong Kong
New Zealand
South Africa

Vacancies Centre
List a vacancy
Check openings worldwide

Add a site or link to AO
Add a site to AO
Link to AO

About Anglicans Online
Back issues
Awards and publicity
About our logo

Our search engine

The Church EclecticHallo again to all.

In recent weeks, and in connection with some personal research, we've become enamoured of The Church Eclectic, a major periodical published from 1873 to 1908 that did much to form North Americans' conception of their belonging to an Anglican Communion.

With the subtitle A Magazine of Church Opinion, Religious Literature, and Ecclesiastical Miscellany (changed to A Monthly Magazine of Church Literature with Notes and Summaries, and still later to An Anglo-Catholic Monthly of Church Literature with Notes and Summaries), The Church Eclectic carried a wealth of original material by English, Canadian, Newfoundlander, American, German, Russian, and Greek theologians. Its readers received each month (on generous annual terms) a remarkable digest of contemporary ecclesiastical life, along with poetry, photographs, correspondence, gossip, advertisements and pointed commentary.

In addition to specifically North American content—it's the only place to find material like anniversary sermons preached at St Mark's, Philadelphia, or the number of parish churches with a celebration of Daily Mass in Chicago—the magazine reprinted vast amounts of material from the eastern side of the Atlantic. In this way, the three or four generations of clergy and lay leaders formed and informed by its pages were also readers of what the Eclectic's editors called 'morceaux' from The Guardian, The Church Times, The Church Quarterly Review, and even the Revue Internationale de Théologie. They came to believe that British church life was their church's life, and that the vicissitudes of Anglicanism in Tasmania, Singapore, British Guiana, the Cape Colony, Japan, or India mattered in Utica, Baton Rouge, Lennoxville and Perth Amboy. They came to think, as many of us do still, that 'we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread'.

Editors threeMuch of the ecclesiastical anxiety in the pages of The Church Eclectic is about topics that no longer distress us. Its authors were deeply concerned, for example, about the marriage of a man to his deceased wife's sister, the scandalous impropriety of women in church choirs wearing surplices,* the doubtful acceptability of the Revised Version of the Bible, the impropriety of evening communions, and the likelihood of Roman Catholic acceptance of the validity of Anglican ordinations. And yet there is a sense in which these fin de that siècle arguments make us think that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Today, too, we struggle about the ways in which Anglicans should best meet the needs of the world, and we argue about the different answers at which we arrive. Do they square with scripture, tradition, and reason? Do they meet or exceed standards of human rights and dignity as accepted throughout the world? Do they sing well, preach well, taste right, and do they poke holes in the darkness—to use Robert Louis Stevenson's potent metaphor—wherever darkness may be found?

Although The Church Eclectic is but a footnote today in the field of Anglican journalism, its thoughtful guides' vision is still powerful in many parts of our church. The difference now, we fear, is a paradoxical contraction of focus for much church journalism even as our access to a wide variety of information has become much easier than it was for editors William Thomas Gibson (1822-1896), Frederic Cook Morehouse (1868-1932) and Arthur Lowndes (1858-1917). In place of a church eclectic, with voices in ongoing conversation and mutual awareness, many of us would have a church dogmatic or a church narrow. We know that you know that we think such a change is not a good one. Churches eclectic can be churches organic and churches eirenic. Churches that refuse the generous spirit of eclectic reading and thinking will soon grow lethargic, and phlegmatic, and static, and tannic. Long live the memory of The Church Eclectic, and those churches eclectic who still drink from its wells of generosity and curiosity.

See you next week, as ever eclectic.

Our signature
All of us at Anglicans Online

Last updated: 26 June 2011

*The gentle and generous Isaac Lea Nicholson (1844-1906), Bishop of Milwaukee, had this to say on the subject:

'Aside from the grave impropriety of the matter, a growing evil we fear, in certain places—there arises the practical objection of the illegality of the practice, even in the eye of the civil law. Our opinion most decidedly is, that girls and women doing this would readily be liable to arrest and fine, before the civil magistrate; and any objector to this costume could easily so move, were he minded, and stir up the largest sort of an ecclesiastical rumpus. [...] Our judgment therefore would be, that females appearing in this acknowledged male attire in our public worship, are liable to arrest, and could be arrested. They might just as well, and just as lawfully, appear in pantaloons, cutaways and plug hats—parading on the public streets.' (October 1894)

We know of just a handful of churches today in North America where women may still not wear surplices.

A thin blue line
This web site is independent. It is not official in any way. Our editorial staff is private and unaffiliated. Please contact about information on this page. ©2011 Society of Archbishop Justus
. Please address all spam to