Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Anglicans in Canada: Controversies and Identity in Historical Perspective

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Anglicans in Canada: Controversies and Identity in Historical Perspective

Article excerpt

ALAN L. HAVES. Anglicans in Canada: Controversies and Identity in Historical Perspective. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2004. Pp. xii + 323, introduction, epilogue, documents, bibliographic essay, index. $30.00.

"This is a book about controversy" (1), Hayes says at the outset, and he stays true to his word. It is his conviction that six key debates have "dominated" Canadian Anglican interaction from the eighteenth century to the present. So much is this the case, he argues, that "those who look for Canadian Anglican identity in a clear and constant set of views or values look in vain. It can only be found in the continuities of discussions around the six persistent questions" (9). He puts it more despairingly in his epilogue: "The ambiguity, variability, and complexity of the boundaries of Canadian Anglicanism have made controversies about its identity inevitable and agreement impossible" (203). Hayes finds the critical controversies to center on church "expansion" (which he also calls "missionary work"), the church in relation to Canadian society, ecclesiastical governance, "styles of worship and discipline," the church's response to modernization, and the significance of gender for "Anglican life" (1-2). Each chapter contains textual links to some of the fifty historical documents (illustrative of the nature of the controversies) which are found at the back of the book and together occupy fully one-third of the body of the book.

The thematic organization of the book, and Hayes' preoccupation with controversy as the interpretive key to Canadian Anglican history, by no means preclude historical analysis. Each chapter is organized more or less chronologically and unveils conventional historical explanations such as growth, evolution, and transition. Thus this summary about Canadian Anglicans: "For nearly 250 years they were beneficiaries of missionary societies, principally connected with the Church of England. From the 1880s to the 1960s they were sponsors of mission. After the 1960s they were partners in mission" (45). Hence also other pithy and quotable summaries: "By Confederation in 1867 the quasi-establishment was entirely dismantled, and the Anglican Church of Canada was legally a voluntary society" (78). Stimulating arguments of the author also come to the fore, such as his thesis about Anglicanism in relation to Canadian society. He argues that Canadian Anglicanism borrowed from English, Irish, and American models to find its own way forward. And his comments on the administrative drift of the national church office are perceptive.

One might pick a few bones with Hayes. …

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