AKC, MLitt, FRHistS, Hon Fellow of St. Chad’s College Durham, Patron of the Society of King Charles the Martyr
Andy Hawes writes:
Following the vote on the ordination of women in 1992, Arthur Middleton found himself drawn out of his parochial base in Boldon, County Durham, into the centre of the newly-formed national movement Forward in Faith. In the summer of 1993 FiF organised a national conference at York University. This gathering had two functions: first, to provide an opportunity to discuss the national and local structure of FiF, and secondly to revisit the fundamentals of the orthodox position in Scripture and Patristics. Arthur was given the task of providing an overview of orthodox Ecclesiology and Christology. Here Arthur wore his scholarship lightly but displayed his genius in revealing the patristic roots of Anglicanism and opening up themes he would often explore in New Directions: faith and practice rooted in the Incarnation and the essential relationship between worship, prayer and learning.
Arthur, despite his role at St Chad’s Durham, was not primarily a lecturer. His real strength lay in retreat ministry, spiritual direction, and working with individuals and small groups as a tutor. Nevertheless, he found himself giving series of lectures and retreats in Australia, Canada, and the United States. His lectures and retreat addresses were reworked into a series of substantial books. ‘Towards a renewed priesthood’ (1996) ‘Fathers and Anglicans’ (2001), ‘Prayer in a Workaday World (2006), and ‘Restoring the Anglican Mind’ (2008). If Arthur’s lectures were slow paced, lengthy and sometimes a difficult listen, his writing was fluent, imaginative and full of passion. He had a wonderful gift for a phrase or illustration. He was, without doubt, a priest of profound prayer. Throughout this purple period, he was a parish priest. I asked him how he managed to keep up with his reading, his reply ‘In the smallest room in the house’.
It was through New Directions and his monthly column ‘Faith of our Fathers’ (Foof to its friends) that Arthur reached a wider audience, and it was through the monthly meetings of the editorial board that I came to know Arthur. They were a rich experience from 12 noon until 3 o’clock on the first Thursday of the month. A collection of lay and ordained, evangelical and Catholic, from all parts of the country, in discussion, argument and exploration. They were times of deepening fellowship salted with hilarity. Through New Directions, FiF seized the imitative in the ongoing debates and often put the establishment on the back foot: Arthur kept us rooted in both parochial realities and Anglican Patrimony.
Arthur and I would travel together up and down the East Coast mainline to King’s Cross. Without fail Arthur would soon be in conversation with fellow passengers. Without religious regularity, he always insisted that we had a pint before we caught the train. He had a great gift of empathy and always a sound word of advice. He often stayed with us at Edenham Regional House, giving quiet days and talks, fully at home in a family of rowdy teenagers. We would have liked him to be our priest!
Latterly, he moved with Jennifer to Chelmsford to be nearer their two sons and their families, of whom he was very proud indeed. He was content to retreat to his study. I would speak to him on the phone from time to time. ‘I’ve just spent the day with John Chrysostom,’ he would say. Last Lent he spent with William Laud. The Anglican Divines were his companions on the way: he was intimate with them. They were his soul friends. He was thoroughly secure in being an Anglican and was rather dismissive of, and not a little angry with, the dominance of metropolitan Anglo-Papalism in the Catholic Movement. Last December he sent me an (unpublished) critique of the contemporary Catholic scene in the Church of England. His last words ‘The Church, if it is to win the fight against modern paganism, and not only win the fight but heal the wounds inflicted on man’s nature, needs a re-integration, a new wholeness in which the dogma, the prayer and the life form a living unity. Within the Anglican Patrimony can be found such a re-integration centred in the dogma of the Incarnation.’
Arthur Middleton was one of the most steadfast contributors to New Directions from its earliest days as a supplement in the Church of England Newspaper. He also brought academic rigour and intellectual depth. His Faith of Our Fathers column which ran for over 25 years was a pithy look at Anglican patrimony and its genesis, seeking always to prove the Church of England had not been deracinated by the Reformation but actually renewed in its historic identity through the Anglican Divines. In the early days he did not write each column himself but soon came to, often finding journalistic hooks such as national anniversaries and commemorations. Latterly, it became difficult for him to file as regularly as he once had, and his final piece is now published in this issue on p42. As he wrote in the very first standalone New Directions in June 1995: ‘For Augustine as for Julian of Norwich, the discovery was that hope, as a purely human aspiration, has no future until it rests in something outside ourselves, in the divine life that Christ lives with the Father. Only as we root our lives in the life of the Blessed Trinity will we find a peace, and it is a peace that passes all understanding.’ May Arthur rest in peace and rise with Christ in glory. Editor.