Martin Thornton, by Deborah Yetter

“Catholic and Anglican: The Motif, Model, and Operations of Martin Thornton’s Theology”

In my continuing efforts to awaken public interest in this Anglican priest’s remarkable theology, I am happy to make available my master’s thesis on Martin Thornton. It completed my M.T.S. degree from Nashotah House, and is the result of several years of prayer and dedicated research—including my month of pilgrimage in summer 2014 spent in England and Wales, when I met with Monica Thornton, Martin’s wife, along with Dr Rowan Williams, Sr Benedicta Ward, Dr George Westhaver, and others.

I share this with many thanks to my advisers at Nashotah House, Fr Steven Peay and Fr Andrew Grosso. I also thank Richard Mammana for hosting the thesis on Project Canterbury. It is available to download here (PDF):

For a more extended introduction to this thesis, see here.

The purpose of this Thesis is to explicate the principles at play in Martin Thornton’s theology. Martin Thornton wrote thirteen books and numerous chapters and articles that explored the theological nature of corporate prayer, its relationship to doctrine, tradition and scripture, and the overall scope of discipleship and obedience to Christ that begins in this life and continues into the next. The first section of the Thesis describes the underlying theological motif and the resulting theological model. That is, the motif of “Every truth flowing from the Incarnation must impinge upon our corporate prayer life” discloses the dynamic model of total, corporate spirituality Thornton calls “Ascetic.” The next section outlines the Thornton’s varied articulations of Ascetic seen as operations with respect to scripture, doctrine, and tradition; and such operations are properly called Thornton’s “Ascetical Theology,” all of which demonstrate Thornton’s mode of ressourcement within a 20th-century Anglican context. Overall this Thesis hopes to demonstrate that Thornton’s motif and model affirm a Catholic conviction, and his operations an Anglican context—the “English School of Catholic spirituality” being the underground yet regnant dynamic within Anglican tradition including present day—and that his theology as a whole remains relevant, useful, and pastorally attuned for use today, in parish life particularly as well as in wider ecumenical discussions.

Drawing by Deborah Yetter.