Martin Thornton and Anglican Ressourcement  

Posted by Joe Rawls

Fr Matthew Dallman is an Episcopal priest in the Diocese of Springfield (USA).  He heads up Akenside Press, an imprint devoted to Anglicanism's Catholic heritage.  Particular emphasis is placed on the writings of Martin Thornton (1915-1986), a priest of the Church of England  perhaps best known for English Spirituality.  Thornton's writings can be considered a ressourcement, a return to the Catholic wellsprings of Anglican theology and spirituality.  Dallman has condensed these sources into a very useful diagram reproduced above.  Below can be found some explanatory material on the chart taken from the Akenside website.


I would propose that Martin Thornton has given Anglicanism a permanent gift, which is his book, English Spirituality. This book is already well-loved and appreciated in Anglicanism, certainly in the United States. It is the go-to book to discuss ascetical theology and is a resource for pastoral theology. But I would argue that neither application exhausts the book’s gift. No, its true significance is more profound: it is nothing less than a thorough map of Anglican theology in its lineage, prepared for ressourcement. That is to say, from Thornton, we have a clear sense of what the core curriculum of renewal is, and should be, for Anglican theology. His might be the very first instance that the contours of our school of theology have been thoroughly and concisely articulated.
Thornton never used the term ressourcement, but I doubt he would disagree strongly with this analysis of his work. (My  master’s thesis is on his corpus.) In any event, all are advised to pull out their copy of English Spirituality and give it serious attention in this new light. I will not rehearse here the extended argument that Thornton makes, because it is nuanced and does require participation in Anglican liturgical and sacramental life to fully appreciate (as any school would require).