Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

St Dunstan

Today is the feast of St Dunstan, Abbot of Glastonbury and Archbishop of Canterbury, who died on this day in 988. He was one of the dominant figures of the tenth century and the alliance of the Englsih Crown with the Catholic Church that created a vibrant and fertile tradition in both the ecclesial and secular world. Not least amongst his achievements is the creation of the ordo for the coronation of King Edgar at Bath in 973, usually regarded as the basis of all subsequent English Coronation rites down to that of the present Queen in 1953. 

A self-portrait of St Dunstan. 
Detail from the Glastonbury Classbook.
The MS is in the Bodleian Library.
There is a biography of him here . 
In 1988, back in my Anglo-Catholic days, I was able to attend part of the milleniary celebrations of St Dunstan at Glastonbury. The high point was the visit of Archbishop Runcie to celebrate at the Pilgrimage in honour of his great predecessor, and it was a suitably splendid occasion, with a sense of history. 
Which links me to a point raised by Fr Hunwicke on his blog, as to how St Dunstan fits with the concept of an Anglican patrimony that can be exercised under Anglicanorum coetibus. The fine tuning of that point I will leave to others, indeed those qualified to comment from their own personal experience - I am neither in orders, nor married - but St Dunstan is unquestionably part of the wider patrimony of Catholic and Anglo-Catholic England, and that fact cannot be ignored. St Dunstan typifies that partnership of Church and Crown that underlay the tenth century English achievement, and that of subsequent centuries. It was not infrequently a tense relationship, and it had one or two spectacular explosions, but until Henry VIII seized power over the Church it served both parties and the realm well. If the Anglo-Catholic claim to continuity, and indeed a patrimony, anterior to 1533 is to be made it clearly must include St Dunstan, and thereby all that is indicated by that. In such a situation, and with all respect clerical marriage is an adiaphora. St Dunstan may not have liked it, but it took another couple of centuries to deal with the issue. In the wider cause of the unity of Christ's church it can be assimilated and resolved - it should not be a stumbling block.

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