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Bridge churchman

09 August 2013

This priest's life recalls  a vanished era, says Bernard Palmer

Priest who crossed swords with Athelstan Riley: Fr Fynes-Clinton, from the cover of The Anglican Papalist

Priest who crossed swords with Athelstan Riley: Fr Fynes-Clinton, from the cover of The Anglican Papalist

The Anglican Papalist: A personal portrait of Henry Joy Fynes-Clinton
A. T. John Salter
Anglo-Catholic History Society £20* (978-0-9560565-2-8)
Church Times Bookshop £18 (Use code CT485)

THE flavour of ecclesiastical battles long ago is conjured up by this personal memoir of one of the ant-agonists involved. The priest, Henry Fynes-Clinton (1875-1959), was a leader of the so-called Anglican-Papalist movement in the Church of England between the wars. He saw his mission as to fight for the defence of Catholicism in the C of E, which he saw as being undermined in all sorts of ways.

After education at the King's School, Canterbury, and training for the ministry at Ely Theological College, he was made deacon in 1901, but served as a curate in various parishes for 20 years before his appointment in 1921 to the prestigious City living of St Magnus the Martyr, London Bridge. From the start of his incumbency, he used his church for lunchtime services - one of the first London priests to introduce what is now common practice.

He loved playing at church politics, for which his particular interest of Anglican Papalism gave him full scope. He found himself very much in tune with the Orthodox, and knew many foreign royals. He also made friends with Alfred Hope Patten of Walsingham; and, as John Salter shows in his book, the two clerics spent many happy hours together planning the furnishings and ornaments of the restored Shrine Church. "Their ever-fertile imaginations ran riot in romantic projects which could be put into practice unhampered by faculties."

The author devotes a chapter to what he calls "the great Fynes-Clinton row". This concerns a clash between two rival Anglo-Catholic factions: one headed by Fynes-Clinton and the other by Canon J. A. Douglas and Athelstan Riley. The Church Times - which receives frequent mention in the book - was on the side of the Douglas-Riley angels; but then it was never overtly sympathetic to the Anglican Papalist movement, and refused at first to advertise its activities.

Fynes-Clinton was a larger-than-life character who did much good in his City parish but also frittered away much of his time in extra-parochial activities. This memoir about him is likely to appeal more to Anglican Papalist enthusiasts than to the general reader. There are too many pages of long verbal quotes about, e.g., the manifesto issued in 1933 to mark the centenary of the Oxford Movement. Even Fynes-Clinton's last will and testament is quoted in full. But there are some fascinating glimpses into what now seems a vanished age, in which well-known figures of the past such as the Abbé Couturier and Dom Gregory Dix are suddenly introduced. Even Dr Beeching makes a guest appearance - for closing Walsingham railway station and thereby enabling a Russian Orthodox chapel to be set up on its platform.

At least Fynes-Clinton was accorded a graceful obituary column in the Church Times.

Dr Palmer is a former editor of the Church Times.

*This title can be obtained from the Anglo-Catholic History Society, 24 Cloudesley Square, London N1 0HN.


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