2006 Conference - The English ReformationDeep in History

A Convert Looks Back at the Church of England – Fr. Ray Ryland

September 27, 2016 No Comments

In this lecture from our 2006 Deep in History Conference, former Episcopalian priest Fr. Ray Ryland looks back on his journey into the Catholic Church, especially in regard to his perspective on authority in the Church.

Fr. Ryland argues that all efforts to organize Christianity outside of communion with Rome have the following features: an attempt to recapture a ‘golden age’ of the Church (which differs depending on the form of Christianity), all are highly selective about which elements of that ‘golden age’ they choose to retain, all appeal to a new and subjective authority (usually a certain person’s interpretation of Scripture),  all presuppose a corruption in the Church which they claim to have corrected, and all bring into their reconstruction innovations that were not part of the ‘golden ages’ they claim to hearken back to.

While Fr. Ryland critiques this approach to authority, he also looks at the features of community and fellowship common to these groups of Christians that Catholics would be wise to learn from.

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Study Questions:

-Why does Divine Revelation necessitate an authority of interpretation, according to Fr. Ryland? Do you agree?

-What point does Fr. Ryland (and G.K. Chesterton) make about reconstructionism? Why is this important?

-What is the “gist” of the Catholic Church?

-What is the main flaw in the Eastern Church’s belief that the final authority lies in ecumenical councils?

-What questions did Fr. Ryland ask as an Anglican about “heretics”? What did he learn?

-What does Fr. Ryland say about “two-way traffic”?

-What point does Fr. Ryland make about “possessing truth”?


Reconstructionism: The appeal of believers to a “Golden Age” of authentic Christianity, which they have chosen to recapture (Utopianism). Reconstructionists are highly selective in what they retain from the “Golden Age” they have
chosen, appeal to a new and unfounded authority, presuppose a decay or corruption in the church which they claim to have corrected, include innovations and features that were not present in the “Golden Age” to which they appeal, and appeal to discontinuity (a break with the past to blaze a new path).

Anglican “Comprehensiveness”: The belief of tolerating different views on secondary issues as long as there is clear agreement on the essentials of the Anglican faith.

Branch Theory: The Catholic Church is now divided into three, equally catholic branches: the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Anglican Church. This theory is central to Anglo-Catholicism.