Monday, February 28, 2011
By Robin G.Jordan
One reader in a comment in response to the article, “St. Mary's Episcopal Church to Close Sunday After More Than 50 Years,” raised the question as to whether the revival of the practice of weekly celebrations of the Eucharist had really benefited the Episcopal Church. Episcopal churches were closing because they could not even afford to pay the salary of a part-time priest and the diocese was no longer willing or able to subsidize them. Congregations had lost members to the point that the diocese no longer regarded them as viable.
A number of factors have contributed to the loss of members in the Episcopal Church. These factors vary from region to region. The liberal policies of the Episcopal Church and its image as a gay church have negatively impacted churches across the United States, in some regions more than others, depending upon local attitudes toward homosexuality and homosexual practice. But other factors are also affecting the Episcopal Church as they are affecting a number of denominations.
Among these factors is a declining interest in the general population in organized religion. This is not to say that Americans do not have religious beliefs or even a form of spirituality. However, they see no benefit in membership in a religious community such as the congregation of a church, synagogue, or temple or in participation in corporate worship or other communal religious activities (e.g., group meditation). What needs that membership in such a community or participation in such activities might meet are met in other ways or go unrecognized and unmet.
This development has implications not only for the Episcopal Church but also for other denominations in North America. It also has implications for the Anglican Churches that breakaway groups of Canadian Anglican and US Episcopalians have formed during the last 35 years, including the Reformed Episcopal Church that was formed in the nineteenth century. With less people taking part in any form of organized religion these Churches that, like the Episcopal Church, have appealed only to small segment of the general population are going to have greater difficulty in recruiting new members. They are going to find themselves without the kind of financial base needed to maintain a building or to pay the salary, benefits package, and travel allowance of a part-time pastor, much less a full-time pastor.
The revival of the practice of weekly celebrations of the Eucharist in the Episcopal Church and the widespread sacramentalism in the breakaway Anglican Churches compounds this problem as do the expectations that the minister administering the sacraments must be seminary-trained and episcopally-ordained. Anglicans and Episcopalians have professionalized the vocation of pastor to such a degree that more and more churches are going to find it prohibitive to procure the services of such a professional. Today’s weak economy exacerbates the problem.
One proposal is that we ratchet back the professionalization of the vocation of pastor. Instead of expecting to meet a church’s staffing needs with full-time, paid, seminary-trained, professional ordained minister, we make greater use of part-time bi-vocational or retired, locally trained, non-professional ordained and licensed ministers. This entails reassessing and rethinking how much training an individual needs to function as a pastor and how he receives that training. What does he need to know before he begins pastoring and what can he pick up once he has started? This itself entails reassessing and rethinking what the function of a pastor is. It means asking the difficult question, “Are we giving too many tasks to the pastor? What tasks might the members of the congregation themselves perform?”
The role that New Testament envisions for a pastor is largely to preach, to teach, to pray, and to guide, not to administer the sacraments, to manage the church’s finances, or to carryout any number of tasks that he is now expected to perform. These tasks fell to the members of the congregation, to the church elders.
In the Episcopal Church and the breakaway Anglican Churches the administration of the sacraments is, due to the sacramentalism that pervades these churches, seen as the chief task of the pastor. He consecrates the bread and wine for the Lord’s Supper and blesses the water in the font for Baptism.
Scripture does not assign the administration of the sacraments to anyone in particular in the local church community. In the New Testament accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper Jesus in his words and actions devotes the bread and wine to a specific purpose—to serve as a memorial of himself. This is the understanding of consecration that the Scriptural narrative supports—a setting apart of the elements for sacramental use.
Some Anglicans conclude from these two facts that an ordained minister or priest is not essential to the administration of the Lord’s Supper. This view is controversial because it goes against a longstanding tradition in the Anglican Church and the sacramentalism of a number of Anglicans. In the view of the latter the valid consecration of the elements requires not just an ordained minister—the Reformed position—but also a priest ordained by a bishop in a particular unbroken line of episcopal succession traceable to the apostles—the Roman Catholic position. Otherwise, the elements will not confer the grace that they signify. This is a major obstacle to the reassignment of the administration of the Lord’s Supper to someone other than an episcopally-ordained priest. In light of the strong negative reaction to Sydney’s proposal to license deacons and lay readers to administer the Lord’s Supper, it is likely to remain a major obstacle for the foreseeable future.
The sacrament of Baptism does not present the same problem as the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Deacons and laypersons have long been recognized as proper ministers of the sacrament along with bishops and priests. The concern is that the proper form and matter should be used.
Other tasks presently assigned to a pastor, however, may be reassigned to the members of the congregation. While he was the rector of St. Aldate’s in Oxford, Michael Green appointed lay elders to work alongside him as the pastor of the church. They shared with him a number of tasks that have over time been assigned to the pastor.
The Bible tells us that New Testaments had more than one elder. They had what the Patristic writer Tertullian describes as a “bench” of elders. These elders taught and provided spiritual guidance and care. They performed other tasks, for example, anointed the sick and prayed over them.
Whether the appointment of church elders is desirable is something that every church must decide for itself. But if members of the congregation are going to take on tasks that the pastor has been performing, they do need to be equipped for such work. This raises the question of what training do they need and how are they going to receive it.
In 1984 the Diocese of Singapore launched a highly effective Diocesan Lay Training Programme. Since that time other Anglican dioceses have experimented with programs of their own. A number of these programs consist of a diocesan ministerial training school that offers classes at night or on weekends, sometimes weekly but often monthly. In the latter case the class may consist of a series of intensive weekend seminars with homework and reading assignments that the participants must complete between seminars. While these programs have brought the ministerial training school to the diocese, they have yet to bring it to the local congregation where it is most needed.
The experience of a number of cell group churches around the world show that equipping can be done in small groups at the local congregational level. It does not need a traditional classroom or lecture hall. A number of cell group churches have developed training programs for this purpose. These programs focus upon discipleship, leadership development, and spiritual formation. They are supplemented by courses on the Old Testament and New Testament and other specialty courses.
Like the Singapore Diocesan Lay Training Program the typical “equipping track” of a cell group church is comprised of a number of modules. As an individual completes a module, he moves along the equipping track. In addition to studying the material in a module and completing any additional reading, the individual meets with a mentor. The mentor provides him with guidance and encouragement and monitors his progress. The individual’s participation in a cell group is also a part of the equipping process. This approach provides cell group churches with a steady supply of leaders.
A number of the mega-churches have adapted this approach to train their own staff who are usually recruited from within the church rather than from outside it. In this way new staff has already been exposed to the culture of the church and they are familiar with how it operates. They also have connections with the community that the church serves. They do not have to spend months and even years building relationships in the community.
The days of the conventional church that can maintain its own building and pay a full-time professional to pastor it are numbered. If the Anglican Church faces a different set of conditions in North America than it does in Africa, Asia, and South America. In these parts of the world the conventional church, adapted to local conditions, may continue to flourish. But even in Africa, Asia, and South America, this is increasingly not the case, for example, in the Diocese of Singapore, and the Anglican Church is turning to other models such as the cell group church and the house church.
Unless the North American Anglican Church wrestles with these issues and adopts new approaches to “doing church,” it is likely to go the way of the dodo bird. The dodo was large flightless bird that was not particularly bright but survived as long as its environment was free from threats to its survival. It quickly became extinct when its environment became filled with such threats. North America is rapidly filling with threats to the survival of the Anglican Church and unless it shows adaptability where it counts, it will join the dodo on the extinction list.
Posted by Heritage Anglicans at 9:08 PM
Saturday, February 26, 2011
By Robin G. Jordan
One criticism that is leveled at conservative evangelicals like myself is that we make no place for the senses or creativity and the arts in worship. This I do not believe is accurate characterization of the conservative evangelical view on these particular subjects. It is certainly not mine.
I see no problem with worship as a multi-sensory experience provided that such an experience truly engages all the senses in the worship of God and is not used simply as justification for the reintroduction of ceremonies, customs, and usages that were rejected at the Reformation for valid reasons. I have no objection to the use of bright colors in the communion table cover, the pulpit and lectern falls, and the kneeling cushions. I find nothing in the Scriptures that says that the environment in which we worship must be somber or colorless. God has filled the world around us with color.
I have not objection to engaging the olfactory senses in the worship of God provided that it not used as an excuse for offering incense during the service. This is not to say that frankincense might not be burned in the worship space on a special occasion before the service to set that occasion apart from other occasions. This was the practice of the seventeenth century Anglican poet priest George Herbert at his little parish of Fugglestone St Peter with Bemerton St Andrew, near Salisbury. Or frankincense essential oil might be rubbed on the legs of the chairs in which the worshipers are to sit during the service.
If the bread used in the Holy Communion is to have strong value as a sign, it should look like bread. It should smell like bread. It should have the texture of bread, and it should taste like bread. What Jesus took into his hands when he gave thanks was not white paste wafers. It was also not modern Jewish matzo. It in all likelihood bore a resemblance to the flat unleavened breads of the Mid-East of today.
I certainly see a place for creativity and the arts in worship. Here again I must add the same caveat for multi-sensory worship experiences.
Local artisans can be used to make church furniture. They can be used to sew the communion table cover, the fair linen, the Prayer Book cushion, the pulpit-lectern fall, and the kneeling cushions. They can also be used to make the communion ware. Designs for all these items need to be carefully scrutinized for their appropriateness and their aesthetic attractiveness.
Conservative evangelicals like myself sets high value on those qualities that delight the sight or other senses or the mind. We are not devoid of an aesthetical sense. We can see beauty in the simple, clean lines of well-joined cherry wood communion table and reading desk lovingly made by a skilled woodworker in the congregation.
My observation has been that the church decorations and clergy ornaments to which a number of congregations are addicted are overly ornate and far from beautiful. They may be “traditional” but being “traditional” does not keep something from being ugly.
People give more careful attention to decorating their own home than they do the worship space of their church. Often that space resembles a Victorian parlor or a junk shop, crammed with tasteless objects that people have donated.
In my former parish we had a policy where if a family or individual wished to donate an item, we showed them a list of items that the church needed, pictures of the specific items, and where they might purchase them. We guided the donation process.
Anglican new church plants face a particular set of challenges. They are often the recipient of torn and damaged Prayer Books and hymnals, broken electronic organs, bent processional crosses, faded old-fashioned vestments, and other discarded worn-out items that churches could not bring themselves to throw away and which they gladly will donate to a new congregation under the mistaken belief that they are somehow helping them. They do not realize that new congregations in order to be successful in reaching the unchurched need new Prayer Books, hymnals, keyboards, and the like to create an attractive worship experience.
New congregations frequently worship in non-traditional settings. This often means setting up for worship and children’s ministry every Sunday and then tearing down afterwards. They must store their Prayer Books, hymnals, keyboard, and other equipment during the week. They have no room for junk!
People are also apt to have rather fixed ideas as to how the worship space ought to be arranged and these ideas are generally determined by how a particular church from their past was arranged. Often such ideas based upon the layout of “traditional” church buildings do not work well in non-traditional settings. If creativity is needed anywhere, it is in the new church plant. Indeed creativity and flexibility are musts.
When a new congregation is doing “church in a box,” evangelical simplicity is a boon. We have come to a time in the history of Christianity in North America when it may increasingly become prohibitive for a church to own its own building and a large number of churches will simply lease a building or space in a building. The number of church foreclosures has gone up.
The story of one congregation comes to mind. It was not a large congregation but it believed that it would grow over time especially if it had the right building. The congregation went deeply into debt to buy a large Gothic style church building that was on the market. This building fit the congregation’s idea of how a “church” should look. It put form before function. The congregation, however, did not grow as it had anticipated. It was not able to make the payments on the mortgage and eventually the bank foreclosed on the building and the congregation lost the building to the bank. If the congregation had settled on leasing a modest-sized building, one that may have not looked like its conception of a “church,” it would not have experienced the trauma of foreclosure. If it had grown, it could have moved to a larger building. If it had not grown, it could have downsized to a smaller building.
As far for banners and wall hangings I believe that we can learn from Islam that has a strong prohibition against images of any kind. It has turned the writing of verses from the Quran in the flowing Arabic script and simple geometric shapes into an art form. I can see how verses from the Bible, written in one of the more beautiful scripts used to write the English language, and done artistically, with the use of color, texture, and different materials, might be used to decorate a worship space. They would be pleasing to the eye and edifying to the people. If they are done with imagination and skill, they could be real works of art.
The Journey, the church with which I am presently sojourning, changes the appearance of the worship space for every sermon series. The theme of the sermon series is represented in some visual form. For the sermon series “Guardrails” corrugated aluminum panels were hung on either side of the platform in the imitation of the guardrails erected at curves in the highway. The same video clip introduction may be used to introduce the sermon throughout the sermon series. Video clips and props and even dramatization may be used to illustrate a point in the sermon.
The theme of the sermon series may also be repeated in visual form in the area in which the congregation gathers before the service. During the “Guardrails” sermon series bright orange road cones and road signs marked the way from the stairs and the elevators to the ballroom where the church’s “Sunday gatherings” are usually held. The Guest Services volunteers wore the bright orange vests that road workers wear. These visual props emphasized the sermon series’ theme—the guardrails that we establish in our lives to keep us on the road and not straying off it, as we seek to enter by the narrow gate.
Hope Church with which I previously sojourned made very effective use of video clips as the background of the lyrics of hymns and worship songs. These clips were selected for their suitability to the particular lyrics. The lyrics of a song in praise of God for his handiwork in creation might have as their background a series of images of that handiwork—flowers nodding in a breeze, rippling grass, a stream flowing over rocks, the planet Earth seen from space, a wheeling constellation.
In Creative Christian Education: Teaching the Bible through the Church Year, Howard Hanchey suggests dividing the children’s ministry year into terms and ending each term with a bang, with a celebration that involves the whole church. During the term the children make banners and other visual arts projects. They may learn a song and rehearse a drama. All these elements form a part of the celebration, which is integrated into the Sunday service. The younger children at North Cross, another church with whom I sojourned, tie-dyed large coffee filters and made them into exquisite banners during the children’s ministry time. When they joined their parents after the sermon, they brought their banners with them and the conference room in which we gathered to worship looked like it was filled with delicate pastel colored butterflies.
There are many opportunities for the use of visual arts and multimedia on Sunday mornings and at other times. All that is needed is a little imagination and creativity.
I see room for the use of a wide range of musical forms, styles, and instruments in worship. I also see room for unaccompanied singing and no musical instruments at all. Church music has unfortunately become divided into two main schools—the organ school and the guitar-keyboard-drum kit school. The school to which I belong—the eclectic school—is decidedly in the minority. God has so richly gifted the Church and the human race with all kinds of music from stirring organ voluntaries to the unadorned human voice that it is a shame not to use all of it in the worship of the gift-Giver.
I have come to view the music of the Church in a particular time and place as a part of the witness of the Church in that time and place to successive generations of Christians around the world. In the 1980s I read Betty Pulkingham’s Sing God a Simple Song. I took to heart her advice that to whomever fell the responsibility of choosing the worship music of a church should be like the householder who brought forth from his storeroom treasures new and old.
I can see a place for gestures and hand and body movements in worship, especially when young children are involved. A book that has influenced my thinking in this area is Patricia Beall’s The Folk Arts in God’s Family. I can even see a place for some forms of dance. Some folks may have difficulty with dance in worship, and I understand and appreciate their concerns. At the same time we are called to worship God with our whole being. Through dance people can present their entire selves to God. What I have in mind is the kind of dance in which worshipers join hands in a circle and move their feet to a simple folk dance step as they sing God’s praises in a joyous expression of praise to the Lord.
At one time uplifted hands would have created a stir in an Anglican or Episcopal church. It was associated in people’s minds with the charismatic movement. This gesture, which is thoroughly Biblical, is now widespread. It is found in non-charismatic churches as well as charismatic ones in a number of denominations. The orans position of the minister during the eucharistic prayer in Anglican and Episcopal churches is a survival from a time when all Christians prayed with open or uplifted hands. Many people are unaware that Puritans held their hands this way when they prayed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
In “Evangelical Religion” Bishop J. C. Ryle considers “that religion which is peculiar to those within the Church of England who are normally called ‘the Evangelical Party’.” He also draws attention to the numerous false reports spread about Evangelicals and defends Evangelicals against the many charges made against them in these reports.
7.) Evangelical Religion does not object to handsome Church buildings.Bishop Ryle makes an important point. We can become so preoccupied with the externals of worship that “the inward and spiritual character of the congregation” is neglected. The congregation’s inward and spiritual character should always be our primary focus. Our main objective should be that we worship God in the true beauty of holiness. This is the holy attire with which we clothe ourselves when we put on Christ. We may worship in the meanest hovel, dressed in rags, yet we, having put on Christ, worship at the very gates of heaven. As our Lord told the woman at the well, those the Father seeks to worship him are the true worshippers, those who worship Him in spirit and in truth.
We like well-designed and well arranged places of worship, good architecture, well ordered ceremonial and well conducted services. We dislike slovenliness, and would have all things done “properly and in an orderly manner” (1 Corinthians 14:40). But we maintain that simplicity should be the characteristic of Christian worship. Remembering the great Scriptural truth, “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7), we believe the inward and spiritual character of the congregation is more important than architecture and ornaments. Further, remembering that human nature is easily led astray, we feel that ornaments, theatrical ceremonial, and such like, only drive men away from Christ, and make them walk by sight and not by faith.
Posted by Heritage Anglicans at 8:05 PM
Friday, February 25, 2011
By Robin G. Jordan
I have a makeshift bird feeder on my front porch on which I put out wild bird seed for the birds wintering in my area. I have seen slate-colored juncos, house wrens, mourning doves, cardinals, tree sparrows, white-crowned sparrows, mocking birds, robins, and even house finches and rufous-sided towhees. House finches are usually found in the West but the cold weather and the ice and snow must have driven them to the East.
Bird watching is like observing the different groups of Anglicans in and outside of North America. Except for the occasional squirrel all the visitors to my bird feeder can be categorized as birds. If one accepts self-description as a criterion for being an Anglican, all these groups can be broadly categorized as Anglican. Just as the birds that visit my bird feeder belong to different families—warblers, sparrows, etc.—so do these groups. Just as some of the visitors to my bird feeder are difficult to identify and classify, so likewise are these groups. To my knowledge the different species of birds do not interbreed. However, Anglican groups produce all kinds of hybrids.
If one uses doctrine as a criterion, the “true gospel” and the “Protestant Reformed religion” of the 1688 Coronation Oath Act, then the number of groups that can be categorized as Anglican shrinks markedly. If one adds practice as a criterion—the bare unadorned churches, the movable wooden communion tables, and the surpliced clergy of Matthew Parker’s Advertisements and the 1604 Canons, then the number of groups shrinks even further. Of course, the different groups that claim the self-appellation of Anglican at this point will be objecting strenuously to their disqualification as being Anglican. Yet by these standards they are not Anglican—of the Protestant Reformed Church of England and the particular tradition that flows from that Church. They may represent what may have become accepted as Anglican in certain quarters of the worldwide Anglican Church but what they represent is a fiction—a falsehood that has gained tacit acceptance in these quarters.
The Global Anglican Future Conference wrestled with the problem of Anglican identity and produced the Jerusalem Declaration. Anglo-Catholics have not been too happy with the Jerusalem Declaration as it is too Protestant for their liking. Conservative evangelicals have pointed to the attention of GAFCON primates and bishops a number of doctrinal weaknesses in the Jerusalem Declaration from their perspective. The Jerusalem Declaration also does not address the question of practice.
Practice is an important issue for conservative evangelicals. They take seriously the principle “Lex credendi, lex orendi,” literally “the law of belief, the law of prayer.” How we pray expresses what we believe. It also shapes what we believe. It reinforces and strengthens our beliefs. If a minister preaches from the pulpit and teaches in the classroom the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers but wears a chasuble and stole that mark him as the priest then he is contradicting by his ornamentation his preaching and teaching. Things like vestments are considered the ornaments of the clergy. If he teaches and preaches this doctrine but does not discourage parishioners from addressing him as “Father” and signs his letters “Fr. A. B.” with a cross after his surname, he is doing the same thing.
Parishioners will see the inconsistency between what he is saying and what he is doing. It will not be lost on them. The old proverbial saying, “Practice what you preach,” has a long history. It was first written down in Piers Plowman in the late fourteenth century. It recognizes that generations of ministers have not demonstrated what they preached. They have failed to practice their own doctrine.
If a minister preaches and teaches that the Lord’s Supper is not a sacrifice in any sense other than an offering of our praise, thanksgiving, and our selves to God in response to what He has done through Christ but wears a chasuble and stole—the vestments of a sacrificing priest, then he is contradicting by his ornamentation his preaching and teaching. It does not matter that the vestments that he is wearing may no longer have that association in the minds of the congregation. They are the vestments of a sacrificing priest. They may have begun as the ordinary street wear of a presbyter but that is what they became. It is what they signify. They are not consistent with what he is preaching and teaching. The lack of consistency between doctrine and practice has become a serious problem in Anglican churches in the twenty-first century.
One argument that is made in support of questionable ceremonies, customs, and usages is that the congregation is accustomed to them. This is a spurious argument. If the congregation is accustomed to burning incenses before idols and sacrificing chickens and pigs to them do we accommodate these practices because the congregation is accustomed to them? Too often the real explanation for the retention of such ceremonies, customs, and usages is not the pastoral reasons by which the minister justifies their continuation. It is that the minister has developed an attachment to these practices and is reluctant to abandon them. In his essay “Of Ceremonies, Why Some Be Abolished, and Some Retained” in The Book of Common Prayer Archbishop Thomas Cranmer notes how we can become addicted to such practices.
Some clergy insist that what vestments the minister wears, what ceremonial he use, and what other practices he follows is simply a matter of personal taste or preference. This could not be further from the truth. I am not suggesting that they are deliberately trying to mislead people. They may believe what they are saying. They have lost sight of the connection between doctrine and practice.
Other clergy argue that their preaching and teaching blunts the effects of any messages, subtle or otherwise, that the vestments they wear, the ceremonial they use, and the other practices they follow may convey. They are fooling themselves. They are underestimating the influence of these elements. The latter are blunting the effects of their teaching and preaching.
The minister who has lost sight of the connection between doctrine and practice or who minimizes the deleterious effect of practice inconsistent with doctrine fosters a similar way of thinking in his congregation. This can have very harmful consequences for his parishioners. It makes them vulnerable to false doctrine masquerading under the guise of familiar practice.
Robert Webber and other writers have influenced a generation of clergy. They have promoted a number of practices as worship enrichments without giving any thought to the appropriateness of these practices to a particular ecclesiastical tradition or the doctrinal statements that such practices make. They have encouraged the disconnection of practice from doctrine. They have also shown themselves to have a poor understanding of how liturgy works, how the medium is indeed a major part of the message, and have treated these practices merely as embellishments of worship. They have also repeated a Laudian catch phrase, “the beauty of holiness” to justify the use of such practices as adornments of the Sunday service.
“The beauty of holiness,” however, does not refer church decorations, clergy ornaments, ceremonial, or anything of that nature. It is no justification for the beautification of churches and church services. The phrase “the beauty of holiness” comes from 1 Chronicles 16:29 and Psalm 29:2 and 96:9 in the King James Version of the Bible. The American Standard Version renders this phrase as “holy array.” The Bible in Basic English renders the phrase as “holy robes.” The English Standard Version renders it as “splendor of holiness” with the alternative rendering of “holy attire.” The only true holy array, robes, or attire that a Christian might don to worship God is Christ.
The Laudians should have known that the Hebrew did not support their interpretation of the phrase “the beauty of holiness.” If they did, they chose to ignore it. They may have depended upon a Patristic interpretation of the phrase. The Laudians were uncritical in their approach to the early Church Fathers, not submitting their thoughts to Scripture but over-relying upon their writings in the interpretation of Scripture. They gave too much weight to the rule of antiquity and not enough weight to the rule of Scripture.
The seventeenth century Laudians and the twentieth century liturgical and Ancient-Future or Worship Renewal movements are not the only ones guilty of using this phrase to justify the introduction of practices like wearing chasubles and stoles. So is the nineteenth century Ritualist movement. They all use the same language and speak of adorning, beautifying, embellishing, and enriching Christian worship and the liturgy.
Conservative evangelicals also take seriously the principle of “Let all things be done for edification” (1 Corinthians 14:26) To conservative evangelicals a number of the gestures of the priest in a traditionalist Anglo-Catholic celebration of the Mass—such as making the sign of the cross over everything and multiple signs of the cross over the bread and wine—bring immediately to mind the dark and superstitious ceremonies to which Archbishop Cranmer refers in the essay “Of Ceremonies”. They serve no purpose. They certainly do not serve “a decent Order and godly Discipline” or “stir up the dull mind of man to the remembrance of his duty to God.” They are far from edifying. Rather they resemble the kind of gestures one might observe in occult rituals in the drawing of mystical signs in the air or on the ground or the performance of a conjurer in the magical passes of his hands over an object.
Jesus simply took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to his disciples. He took a cup of wine, gave thanks, and gave it to them. He drew no mystical signs in the air nor did he make any magical passes of his hands over the bread and cup. The Book of Common Prayer only requires that the minister perform the manual acts—take the paten into his hands, break the bread, lay a hand on the bread, take the cup in his hands, and lay a hand on all of the vessels containing wine.
To the twenty-first century Anglican or Episcopalian time traveler from North America accustomed to the decorations and ornaments that the Ritualists introduced into the Anglican Church of Canada and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the nineteenth century, a typical Church of England parish church in 1904 might seem bare and its services plain. In Anglo-Catholic parishes, however, he would discover that ecclesiastical law was flouted and all kinds of illegal decorations and ornaments might be found. The latter included elaborate ceremonial and the use of incense as well as vestments.
If the time traveler went as far back as 1604, he would find the typical Church of English parish church to be even plainer with white washed walls and no wall decorations except the Ten Commandments and passages of Scripture painted or engraved on wooden boards. The services would be longer. Metrical Psalms would be sung in place of hymns and a homily might be read in place of a sermon. The time traveler, if he crossed the Channel and visited Switzerland, he would find little difference between the Swiss parish church and the English parish church—the same unadorned white washed walls. The service would be different. Continental Reformed services were based on the Medieval prone. He would sing metrical Psalms as he had in the English parish church. He would hear a sermon instead of a homily.
The Protestant Reformation swept away the cultus of the Roman Catholic Church and her innovations in doctrine and worship that had not only defaced and overlaid the primitive and apostolic faith in England and the Swiss cantons by the sixteenth century but also had to a large part replaced it. The English Reformers were guided by a third principle that conservative evangelicals take seriously. This principle is articulated in Article XXXIV.
It is not necessary that traditions and ceremonies be in all places one or utterly alike; for at all times they have been diverse, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's word.The practice of a church should be consonant with Scripture. This means that while a ceremony, custom, or usage may not be specifically prohibited by Scripture, it may not be agreeable to Scripture. While the wearing of a chasuble and a stole may not be expressly forbidden in the Bible, the doctrine with which these vestments are associated, viz., that the Lord’s Supper is a reiteration or representation of Christ’s or a participation in Christ’s sacrifice is not found in Scripture and indeed it is repugnant to Scripture. On this basis the wearing of such vestments should be avoided. Their wearing may also injure the conscience of a weaker brother or sister.
As may be seen from the following list taken fromA Protestant Dictionary, published in 1904, this principle guided the Church of England as late as the beginning of the twentieth century. This list shows what was legal at that time in the Church of England.
Images and paintings of figures that might become the object of adoration or veneration were prohibited. Paintings of historical scenes were permitted as long as no figure in the scene became the object of adoration or worship. Crucifixes, holy water stoups, processional crosses, and pyxes and other vessels for the exposure or reservation of the Host were prohibited. Wall crosses were permitted but not in close proximity to the communion table. Communion tables were to be wooden and moveable. Stone altars were prohibited. No candles were permitted on the communion table except to provide light. No crosses were permitted on the communion table or just above the communion table. The communion table was to have a cover of the best fabric in any color. The fair linen must be white and with no embroidery or lace. Pulpit and lectern falls were permitted. While gates might be installed to separate the chancel from the nave, they were required to be kept open throughout the service. Flowers might be used as decorations in the church building but not in any way in worship in or outside of church services. As for the ornaments of the clergy ministers in parish churches might wear with the requisite full-sleeved white surplice a silken academic hood and black tippet or preaching scarf that came down to their ankles. There was difference of opinion whether a tippet might be worn indoors as it was historically outdoor wear. A black preaching gown might be worn for the sermon but a surplice was required for the administration of the sacraments. Ministers in cathedrals and college chapels might wear a cope. Bishops were to wear a rochette. Albs, chasubles, and stoles were prohibited, as were crosiers, or pastoral staffs. There was debate over the permissibility of a mitre.
These three principles underlie conservative evangelical thinking on the subject of practice. To summarize them:
1. Practice must be consistent with doctrine.
2. Practice must be edifying.
3. Practice must be consonant with Scripture.
These three principles are not the only ones that underlie conservative evangelical thinking on this subject but they are the three most important. They are also a part of the legacy that the English Reformers bequeathed to posterity—our inheritance from the Protestant Reformed Church of England, our Anglican heritage.
Posted by Heritage Anglicans at 9:14 PM
Thursday, February 24, 2011
By Robin G. Jordan
This past November Treading Grain David Wood published a brief article about plans to form an ACNA diocese in the Carolinas. More recently on Baby Blue Cafe Mary Aire published an article about proposals for the reorganization of the CANA District of Virginia into an ACNA diocese. These articles document a trend in the churches forming the Anglican Church in North America to organize in territory-based judicatories.
This trend does not surprise me as a number of voices on the Internet have called for the organization of all ACNA churches in a particular geographic area into a diocese. This form of organization is the one with which the former Anglicans and Episcopalians that form the nucleus of the ACNA are the most familiar. It is the way that the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church are organized. It is how the Church of England and a number of other Anglican provinces are organized.
The diocese was the way that the feudal Medieval Church was organized, each bishop with his own fiefdom, palace, retainers, vassals, and serfs. It was also how the Roman Empire was organized. It was from the Roman Empire that the Eastern and Western Church borrowed this form of organization.
As noted in my article, “Affinity Networks,” the Celtic Church would adopt a different form of organization, a network of Christian communities that shared an affinity with each other. It was more suited to conditions in Ireland than the diocese. Patrick attempted to establish the diocesan form of organization in Ireland but it did not survive his death.
With an eye to integrating AMiA and REC congregations and clergy into the life of the diocese, the Diocese of the Central Gulf and the Diocese of the South incorporated provisions into their constitutions and canons opening various bodies of the diocese to these congregations and clergy with one exception—the Standing Committee. The hope is that such congregations and clergy will eventually unite with the new dioceses.
This call for the integration of all churches in a particular geographic area in an ACNA diocese received a rebuff when the Anglican Mission in the Americas opted to become a ministry partner to the ACNA instead of dismantling its organizational structure in order to create new ACNA dioceses. The AMiA had found that its particular form of organization was more effective for achieving its purposes of church planting and evangelism than the traditional diocese. Instead of releasing new churches to the ACNA, the AMiA has enfolded them in its own parachurch organization.
The Reformed Episcopal Church has not shown itself to be in any rush to dismantle its own organizational structure. One observer of developments in the ACNA with whom I am acquainted believes that as other founding entities of the ACNA release their congregations and clergy to ACNA dioceses, the REC will follow suit. Indeed REC will begin feeling pressure to release its churches to ACNA dioceses. While I do not rule out the possibility, I have so far not seen any signs of this development happening. I have also received reports of REC new church plants that have been enfolded into its own parachurch organization. I have adopted a “wait-and-see” attitude regarding what direction the REC will take.
This trend points to collective amnesia on the part of Anglicans and Episcopalians regarding the problems and disadvantages of this particular form of organization—the territory-based judicatory. It brings together congregations and clergy that have little in common beyond that they are located in the territorial bounds of the same judicatory. Anglo-Catholics, charismatics, evangelicals, and “mere Christians” are thrown together to make the best of a bad arrangement.
Conservative evangelicals historically have not benefited from such an arrangement. They have at times found themselves in a diocese in which the bishop is intent upon forcing the churches of the diocese into an Anglo-Catholic or liberal mold and to reshape them to his liking. This has led to serious theological disputes between the bishop and themselves. Conservative evangelical congregations have been forced to accept Anglo-Catholic or liberal clergy. Conservative evangelical ministerial candidates have been denied permission to attend conservative evangelical seminaries and theological colleges. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
Another observer of developments in the ACNA with whom I am also acquainted believes that the pending formation of these two dioceses mark a rapidly closing window of opportunity for conservative evangelicals in the ACNA to form a non-geographic diocese or other grouping in that body to enfold congregations and clergy that are committed to upholding the historic Anglican formularies and promoting the Protestant and Reformed heritage of the Church of England. He may be right. The passage of time and further developments in the ACNA will reveal whether he is.
On the other hand, there may be no real openness in the ACNA to the formation of such a judicatory. A judicatory that is more firmly committed than the ACNA to the Jerusalem Declaration would be perceived as a threat to the perception of Anglicans outside of North America that the ACNA is GAFCON in North America. It would point to the ACNA’s own token commitment to the Jerusalem Declaration. An isolated, marginalized, scattered, and weak conservative evangelical wing prevents it from playing any appreciable role in a settlement that might shape the direction of the ACNA. One element in the ACNA would prefer to keep it that way.
Conservative evangelicals have historically tended to focus upon parish ministry. The kind of organizations that they are likely to form and support are those that benefit parish ministry. The Church of England’s Church Pastoral Aid Society (CPAS) is a good example. For a good part of its history the Church of England’s conservative evangelical wing isolated itself from the life of the denomination. The result was that Anglo-Catholics and liberals would come to dominate the decision-making boards, commissions, committees, and councils of the Church of England, as well as the episcopate in the English Church. Only in the second half of the twentieth century would the conservative evangelical wing recognize the folly of its ways and take a more active role in denominational affairs.
A preoccupation with parish work is one of the major obstacles to the organization of conservative evangelicals in the ACNA and the AMiA to further their common interests. They appear set upon following in the footsteps of previous generations of conservative evangelicals. They do not seem to have learned from the mistakes of the past.
Among the other developments that weaken the cause of traditional Anglican evangelicalism in North America is a separatist tendency in those who should be championing its cause. Conservative evangelicals have since the nineteenth century been subject to pressure not only from within their own ranks but also from what are sometimes known as “the Free Churches” to break with the Church of England in the United Kingdom and the Protestant Episcopal Church in North United States and to establish a doctrinally pure denomination. They have also experienced pressure from the Tractarians, the Ritualists, and their successors to secede. The Reformed Episcopal Church and the Free Church of England are the result of nineteenth century attempts to establish such denominations. So is the Plymouth Brethren.
Bishop of Liverpool J. C. Ryle who was a leading nineteenth century conservative evangelical fought against this tendency in conservative evangelicals in his day. He urged them not to abandon the Church of England.
The events of the past 40 years has strengthened this inclination in conservative evangelicals in North America as one group after another has succeeded from The Episcopal Church over issues of doctrine and practice. Separation is no longer Plan B if Plan A fails. It has become Plan A.
The conservative evangelical focus upon parish ministry may itself be a mild form of separatism. Conservative evangelical clergy who find themselves the only Reformed minister in a judicatory are apt to keep their distance from other clergy who do not share their Reformed views. This may explain the past reluctance of conservative evangelical clergy to participate in denominational boards, commissions, committees, and councils. In their minds their participation in these gatherings would entail collaboration with ministers who were not Reformed in their views. The prospect of such collaboration evoked feelings of doubt and uneasiness about the propriety of their participation in the gatherings and caused them hesitance about taking part in them. Rather than suffer the prick of a troubled conscience they avoided gatherings of this type.
I am convinced that the future of historic Anglicanism in North America is tied that of traditional Anglican evangelicalism. If traditional Anglican evangelicalism does not have a future in North America, historic Anglicanism does not have a future either. Of all the schools of thought in the contemporary Anglican Communion, only the conservative evangelicals can truly claim a recognizable continuity not only with the primitive and apostolic Church but also the Protestant Reformation. They are the heirs of the English Reformers. They are the spiritual descendants of Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, Jewel, Parker, Hooker, and Whitfield.
I am also convinced the way forward for conservative evangelicals in the Anglican Church of Canada, the ACNA, the AMiA, TEC and other Anglican bodies in North America and those outside these bodies is to network with each other and with conservative evangelicals outside of North America. They can provide each other with encouragement, support, and assistance and work together for the furtherance of their common interests. Even if the window for a non-geographic judicatory n the ACNA closes, conservative evangelicals should organize into a formal or informal affinity network. This network should be a part of a larger affinity network that enfolds affinity networks in the other Anglican bodies and outside of them and has links to conservative evangelicals outside of North America.
One of the challenges of creating networks of conservative evangelicals is that conservative evangelicals have a tendency to look around them and when they do not immediately see other conservative evangelicals like themselves, they are apt to conclude that they are a dying breed. Because they do no see anyone within the limited range of their vision, they assume that there is no one. They surrender to hopelessness. “What is the point?” they exclaim.
Conservative evangelicals, however, are not noted for their visibility. They do not wave a flag or blow a trumpet to attract attention to themselves. Due to their particular circumstances they may prefer to not draw attention to themselves and to avoid the limelight. In North American and even in the United Kingdom they are not likely to be found in high profile leadership positions.
Those whom we should be seeking to enfold into a network of conservative evangelicals may not yet be conservative evangelicals. We should be endeavoring not only to bring into such a network those who share our views on every point but also those who might over time come to appreciate and even adopt our views and who can be encouraged to gradually move in a conservative evangelical direction. We cannot always expect people to immediately see the merit of our views. Those who are quick to adopt our position on an issue may just as quickly adopt the position of someone else.
A farmer, when he plants wheat, does not expect the seed to produce an immediate yield--to spring up right away as mature plants, the stalks bent double from the weight of the heads of grain. He knows that the seed must be allowed to sprout. The young wheat must be watered. It must be given an opportunity to grow and to mature. When it has ripened, then the wheat is ready for harvest.
We must also be wary of the very human proclivity to conclude from a handful of bruised, rotten, or shriveled apples that the whole apple crop is ruined. In our impatience we are prone to discard the good with the bad. We lump together those who eventually might support our cause with those who will always be its fiercest opponents.
Paul was an enemy of the Lord and a persecutor of the brethren. Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and changed his life. Jesus called Peter to follow him early in his ministry. Peter was a part of Jesus’ innermost circle of followers. Yet Peter did not always grasp what Jesus was saying. He fell away when Jesus was arrested. When he heard the news of Jesus’ resurrection, he did not believe. Under pressure from the Judeacizers he shunned the Gentiles. It took a vision from God to put his feet back on the right path.
We cannot expect everyone to have a road to Damascus experience—to see a bright light, to hear a voice from heaven, and to be immediately convinced of the rightness of our views. Most of people who do come to our position on key issues are going to come slowly to that position as we did.
It is also not necessary that other people share our view on every point—only on what really matters. The Protestant Reformed Church of England required uniformity on essential matters. She permitted liberty of conscience on non-essential matters, matters of indifference.
The creation of a network of conservative evangelicals like the launching of a new church or any other undertaking must begin with prayer. Only through prayer can we discern God’s will in the matter. We must ask God for guidance—to show us what he would have us do. We must also ask Him for the good will and the grace to accomplish his purposes.
The Holy Spirit was at work in the Reformation of the sixteenth century, the rediscovery of the gospel of divine grace to which the New Testament bears witness, and the spiritual movement that flowed from this rediscovery. I believe that the Holy Spirit is at work in our day, bringing about a revival of gospel teaching.
Conservative evangelicals may not be large in numbers. But God works through the weak and the insignificant. He takes those who are nothing and does great things.
I believe that the organization of conservative evangelicals into networks is God’s will. The renewal of classical Anglican evangelicalism and historic Anglicanism are more than the rebirth of a tradition. They are a major part of this revival of gospel teaching.
Posted by Heritage Anglicans at 9:22 AM
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
By Robin G. Jordan
This article was prompted by a comment that a reader left in response to one of my articles that was posted on Virtue Online. The reader was not happy with several observations about the current state of the Anglican Church in North America that I made in the article. In my use of the term “the Anglican Church in North America” in this article I am not referring to the most recent Anglican body to adopt that name but the entire Anglican community in North America. In referring to that body in this article I will use the acronym “ACNA.” In his comment the reader made reference to “orthodoxy.” I often read comments and articles on the Internet, which make reference to “orthodoxy,” “orthodox” Anglican churches, and “orthodox” Anglicans. These comments and articles raise this question in my mind—“Orthodox—by what standard?”
The reader who left the comment did not explain what he meant by “orthodoxy” except make further reference to “right belief.” Here again a question is raised in my mind—“Right belief—by what standard?”
The reader who left the comment apparently assumed that those who read his comment would know what he meant by “orthodoxy” and “right belief.” Once more a question is raised in my mind—“Can we assume others know what we mean when we make reference to ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘right belief’?”
One of the problems that affect the Anglican Church in North America is that North American Anglicans, even conservative Anglicans, do not agree on what constitutes “orthodoxy,” in particular Anglican “orthodoxy.” Historically the standard of orthodoxy for Anglicans has been the Articles of Religion of 1571, also known as the Thirty-Nine Articles. However, a number of liberal and conservative Anglicans have rejected this standard and substituted for it a different standard. For Episcopalians it is officially the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. Traditionalist Anglo-Catholics follow in John Henry Newman’s footsteps and refer to a vague body of lore known as Catholic tradition. The Common Cause Partnership drew up a standard for the Common Cause Partners and incorporated that standard into the ACNA constitution. The Global Anglican Future Conference recognized that this problem does not affect only the Anglican Church in North America. GAFCON wrestled with the question of what constitutes Anglican “orthodoxy” and produced the Jerusalem Declaration as a supplemental confession of faith to the Thirty-Nine Articles.
By the standard of the ACNA Fundamental Declarations Anglicans who are “orthodox” according to the standard of the Thirty-Nine Articles and even the Jerusalem Declaration may not “orthodox.” The ACNA Fundamental Declarations incorporate a specific position on the “historic episcopate” into its standard. It is a position associated with a particular school of thought and not a position over which Anglicans are in agreement.
On the other hand, Anglicans who are “orthodox” by the ACNA Fundamental Declaration’s standard may not be “orthodox” according to the Articles’ standard or the Jerusalem Declaration’s standard. The ACNA Fundamental Declarations infer that the authority of the historic Anglican formularies like the Thirty-Nine Articles is largely historical and belongs to the past and that other standards beside these formularies exist and may be more authoritative for contemporary Anglicans. They effectively dilute the authority of the historic Anglican formularies as the standard of Anglican “orthodoxy.” For example, a minister subscribing to the Thirty-Nine Articles would be affirming the doctrine of salvation by grace alone by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (as opposed to sacraments and good works) as the essence of Gospel teaching. A minister subscribing to the Fundamental Declarations would be free to maintain the doctrine of sacramental salvation.
In the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church are different groups of Anglicans and Episcopalians who hold widely disparate beliefs. Some have a Trinitarian view of God; others have a Unitarian view. Some believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God incarnate. Others believe that he was simply a prophet and a teacher. Some believe that we are saved only through faith in Jesus Christ. Others believe that all people are saved whatever they believe.
While there is greater agreement in the ACNA and the AMiA on basic Christian doctrines like the doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation, there is also sharp division on a number of critical issues. At the same time folks in the ACNA and the AMiA show a tendency to gloze over significant differences. The articles that refer to “orthodox” Anglican churches in the ACNA and the AMiA are an exercise in the principle of charitable presupposition. Just as the 1662 Book of Common Prayer charitably presupposes that those for whom the Burial Service is being read were believing, faithful Christians, the writers of these articles charitably presuppose that the congregations and clergy of these churches are indeed “orthodox.”
But is it wise to presuppose that such churches are “orthodox” simply on the basis that they are ACNA or AMiA? Affiliation with these parachurch organizations is no guarantee of “orthodoxy” particular as these parachurch organizations have a standard of “orthodoxy” at odds with the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Jerusalem Declaration (the ACNA) or they have an unclear standard of “orthodoxy” (the AMiA). The Solemn Declaration of Principles of the AMiA recognizes and affirms the authority of the historic Anglican formularies. Every year the clergy of the AMiA take an oath to maintain the doctrine of these formularies. In practice, however, many of them do not really subscribe to their teaching in part due to the influence of the unreformed Catholicism of the Anglo-Catholic movement, and in part due to the influence of Wesleyan-Pentecostal theology of the charismatic movement.
At best we can say is that the churches in the ACNA and the AMiA give a more central place to the Bible in their life and teaching and retain more of what Roger T. Beckwith describes as “the ancient common heritage of Christendom” than do the liberal churches in the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church. They may in this regard be viewed as more conservative than these liberal churches.
If we apply to them the standard of the historic Anglican formularies, a number of the churches in the ACNA and the AMiA may be regarded as “orthodox” as historic Anglicanism understands “orthodoxy.” Unless we adopt a post-modern view of “orthodoxy,” we cannot view the rest as “orthodox.” They may be “orthodox” by their own estimation or in the estimation of the school of thought to which they belong. But we cannot view them as “orthodox” on this basis when they fall short of historic Anglicanism’s standard of “orthodoxy.”
This is a problem that besets both the ACNA and the AMiA. It is not going to disappear if we close our eyes and pretend that it does not exist. As time passes, the problem is going to worsen. It may lead to conflicts in these parachurch organizations like the ones in the Anglican Church in Canada and The Episcopal Church.
It also raises questions about the Anglican credentials of the ACNA and the AMiA along with the credentials of these two bodies. In the not too distant future we may witness the travesty of the global South primates credentialing the ACNA and the AMiA as “Anglican” and the Archbishop of Canterbury credentialing the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church as “Anglican” when none of these bodies in the sense of full adherence to the tenets of historic Anglicanism is by no stretch of the imagination even remotely “Anglican.”
The most obvious solution to this problem is that the churches in the ACNA and the AMiA should take the historic Anglican formularies with the seriousness that they deserve. In this way these two bodies would not only be enforcing a long-standing standard of orthodoxy for Anglicans but also they would be maintaining a recognizable continuity with the reformed Church of England and historic Anglicanism. If these bodies chose to do nothing—a strong likelihood—or pursue ineffectual solutions—also a strong likelihood, they will join the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church as two more examples of the North American drift away from authentic historic Anglicanism.
Confessional Anglicans, those who uphold the historic Anglican formularies and value the Protestant, Catholic, Reformed, and evangelical character of historic Anglicanism, need to take stock of their options. They face a prospect of being a minority group in an Anglican body that is from the perspective of the historic Anglican formularies and historic Anglicanism marginally orthodox at best. They have little hope of preserving confessional Anglicanism and transmitting it to future generations without establishing the kinds of structures that the conservative evangelicals did in the Church of England. They purchased the patronages to a number of livings and the right to nominate the incumbent and established trusts. They formed church associations and pastoral aid societies, or home missionary societies. They endowed ministry training schools and theological colleges. They planted independent evangelical churches. They wrote articles, books, and tracts, gave lectures and talks, and held conferences.
All of these approaches may not be workable in North America in the twenty-first century but some of them are. Alternative approaches tailored to conditions in North America may prove more workable. Whatever the case may be, confessional Anglicans need to take steps to ensure that those that succeed them as the future pastors of their churches and professors of their seminaries believe what they believe and teach what they teach. Confessional Anglican must not become content with maintaining a handful of congregations and clergy that share their commitment to the historic Anglican formularies and authentic historic Anglicanism but must work to establish more such congregations and clergy. They must fight against complacency and inertia. If they do not take a stand for confessional Anglicanism, no one else will. They must champion its cause or accept the blame for its demise in North America. Its future is in their hands!
Posted by Heritage Anglicans at 6:31 PM
Monday, February 21, 2011
By Robin G. Jordan
Through the prompting of the Holy Spirit and from their study of God’s Word the sixteenth century English Reformers discerned that the once pristine stream of the primitive and apostolic Christian faith had in fifteen centuries become polluted. They sought to remove the causes of the pollution so that the stream might flow clear again. They established a set of standards to ensure that the stream was kept unpolluted for future generations. They were not able to remove one major cause of pollution—human nature’s inclination toward evil. Consequently that clear flowing stream has once more become polluted again. The set of standards they left to posterity have been ignored or misinterpreted. They have not been enforced. All kinds of pollutants have been allowed to befoul the stream and in some cases have been deliberately introduced.
The condition of the stream in some places is as bad as it was before the English Reformation. In other places it is even worse. A babble of voices is heard claiming that there is nothing wrong with the water in their part of the stream. The quality of the water in their part of the stream is the way the quality of the water in the entire stream should be. Yet when the quality of the water in their part of the stream is tested against the standards of the Bible and the historic Anglican formularies, its befouled state does not justify their claim.
A number of these voices attack the standards that the English Reformers left us. “They are outdated,” they maintain. “What they believed is impure water is not.” They further argue that the water in their part of the stream is safe to drink and even has health-giving properties. Yet when we examine their claims closely, it becomes quickly evident that they are made to justify certain beliefs and practices that they favor. These beliefs and practices the English Reformers had identified as pollutants and causes of pollution in the stream and had removed them for that reason.
One concept that have been used to justify the befouling of the stream is the theory of the Anglican Church as a via media, or middle path. Tractarian, later Roman Catholic John Henry Newman first proposed this theory in the nineteenth century. Tractarian Edward Bouvrie Pusey would modify it and former Unitarian and one-time Tractarian Frederick Maurice would popularize it. In his theory Newman postulated that the Anglican Church was a middle path between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. In Newman’s theory the path was actually dead center between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism but veered toward Roman Catholicism. Later Newman would reject the concept of the Anglican Church as via media as untenable, and would convert to Roman Catholicism. The Our Lady of Walsingham Personal Ordinariate in England and Wales has adopted Newman as its patron saint. In Pusey’s modification of Newman’s theory the Anglican Church was a separate branch of Catholic Christianity alongside of Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism. Maurice’s concept of the Anglican Church as a via media was more dynamic and future-oriented than Newman’s and Pusey’s. Maurice saw the Anglican Church as changing and evolving, moving progressively toward being a Church that would incorporate the best elements of the different traditions in Christianity. The Anglican Church would be the church of the future. Of the three theories, Maurice’s would grab the popular imagination.
The twentieth century would see two further developments in the via media theory. The first was the notion that was that the Anglican via media is the path of moderation between extremes. The second is the Anglican via media is open to a broad latitude of disparate opinions on all matters, primary as well as secondary and tertiary. The Anglican Church has room for all viewpoints under its very large umbrella. Liberals in the Anglican Church have promoted this concept of the Anglican via media. It might be described as the “big top” via media theory.
In its treatment of the via media theory the literature often fails to recognize the concept for what it is—a theory. Indeed the literature is apt to treat it as an accepted fact. While the concept has been repeatedly aired in sermons, lectures, books, and articles to the point that many Anglicans accept it, the via media theory is a fiction, that is, a conventionally accepted falsehood. It is the Anglican Church’s “big lie.” In Mein Kampf Adolf Hitler who is recognized for his expertise as a propagandist propounds the principle of the “big lie.” If a lie is big enough and is repeated often enough, the people will accept it as the truth, including those telling the lie.
The via media theory of the Anglican Church as a middle path of some kind has no merit. The closest thing that historic Anglicanism has ever come to being a middle path was between Geneva and Zurich. It embraced what may be described as a moderately Reformed theology.
Another concept that has been used to justify the re-pollution of the stream is what has been described as the “three streams, one river” ideology and is not peculiar to the Anglican Church. It has its adherents outside of the Anglican Church as well inside of the Church. This ideology is associated with the Ancient-Future, Convergence, or Worship Renewal movement. In its Anglican variant three traditions, “three streams,” are postulated to be converging together into one tradition, “one river,” in the Anglican Church. This convergence of traditions is seen as the next phase in a Mauricean evolution of the Anglican Church. The three converging traditions are evangelicalism, Catholicism and Neo-Pentecostalism. This description of “three streams, one river” ideology from the Anglican Mission in the Americas’ Heart of North America Regional web site is typical of those found on the websites of a number of Anglican Church in North America and AMiA churches that have embraced this ideology:
Three Streams: The Scripture… the Sacred … the SpiritOn some web sites “Sacramental” is substituted for the “Sacred;” and the third tradition converging with evangelicalism and Catholicism is identified as Eastern Orthodoxy due to its emphasis on the Holy Spirit in its liturgy. The analogy of three streams flowing into one river or flowing together as one river is used in place of three streams flowing out of one river.
In the course of Church history, three major branches have developed which incorporate a particular emphasis of belief, teaching and worship. The Anglican Mission believes that each of these traditions represents an essential element of Christian faith, worship, life and ministry. We refer to these elements using a descriptive short-hand: the Scripture, the Sacred and the Spirit, envisioning them as three streams flowing from one river – Jesus Christ and His Gospel imperatives. We believe the three streams together provide a balanced blend of the Christian faith as taught in the one holy catholic and apostolic Church. The Scripture, the Sacred and the Spirit are exemplified in our discipleship, worship, congregational life and outreach.
“Three streams, one river” ideology glozes over the serious theological differences between the three traditions that are purportedly converging together in the Anglican Church. These traditions do more than “incorporate a particular emphasis of belief, teaching and worship.” They take contradictory and conflicting positions on primary matters as well as secondary and tertiary ones. Churches that adopt this ideology are apt to espouse doctrines and practices that English Reformers rejected on solid biblical grounds. Rather than “a balanced blend of the Christian faith as taught in the one holy catholic and apostolic Church” one or two of the three traditions is likely to predominate. In some churches the dominant tradition is unreformed Catholicism.
Underlying “three streams, one river” ideology is a distorted view of Protestantism. Due to the influence of the Anglo-Catholic movement many North American Anglicans and Episcopalians have such a view of Protestantism. “Three streams, one river” ideology perpetuates this distorted view. Charles H. H. Wright and Charles Neil, the editors of A Protestant Dictionary, provide this useful explanation of Protestantism in the preface of their work:
"Protestant" and "Catholic" are terms which, when rightly understood, are not conflicting. True Protestantism holds firmly to the truths set forth in the Creeds of the Apostolic Church, and protests only against unscriptural additions made to the Primitive Faith. Protestantism is the re-affirmation of that Faith combined with a distinct protest against those errors of doctrine, ritual, and practice which were brought, as St. Peter says, " privily " into the Church of Christ (2 Pet. ii. 2), but which were accepted as " Church teaching " in mediaeval times, and are still too prevalent. The word Protestantism stands for the return to Primitive and Apostolic Christianity. It is the reassertion of " the faith once for all delivered unto the saints " (Jude 3). When Protestantism is negative in its declarations, it is only to preserve and accentuate some truth which is being perverted. Like the great " Ten Words," as the Jews were wont to term "the Ten Commandments," truths sometimes appear to be simply negations, when in reality they are very far from having that character, as our Lord s summary of that Law (Matt xxii. 36-40) abundantly proves.The Church of England did not, at the Reformation, abandon the primitive and apostolic Christian faith as her Roman Catholic detractors claimed. The English Reformers found a polluted stream and did their best to remove the pollutants and their causes. The Church of England did not break with the pre-1549 English Church except where that Church had departed from the primitive and apostolic Christian faith. They used the Bible and to a lesser degree the writings of the early Church Fathers as guides in determining the pristine state of that faith and sought to restore it to that state.
Protestantism is like a coin. Its flip side is reformed Catholicism. The coin may have different images of each side but the coin is still one coin. In The Church of England: What It Is, and What It Stands For Roger T. Beckwith briefly restates a number of neglected and forgotten truths.
What the Church of England stands for can be clearly discerned in its historic constitution. It is based upon eight principles. These are not party points, though different parties have emphasised one or another of them. They follow directly from the history and ecclesiastical law of the Church of England. Moderate members of all parties have in the past acknowledged them, and in the present confusions of the Church of England could do much to help by acknowledging them again, in a more united, emphatic and balanced way.
Beckwith goes on to elucidate:
These eight principles are partly principles of belief and partly principles of practice. On these principles the Church of England was originally founded, or re-founded at the Reformation, and it is these which chiefly link it with, or distinguish it from, other Christian churches. On the most important of the eight principles, the central place that it gives to the Bible, the Church of England is at one with the reformed churches of mainland Europe and the Free Churches of England, when they are true to themselves (and when it too is true to itself!). In its more traditional features, it is again largely at one with the reformed churches on the continent of Europe (though less so with the English Free Churches), and also, this time, it is largely at one with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. Under the authority of Scripture, these traditional features were in the sixteenth century reformed but retained, so that the Church of England maintained a recognisable continuity with the ancient national church of the land, though reformed by Scripture. In this way it kept the allegiance of the main body of the people of the realm, though teaching them better ways where tradition had become corrupted.The last of the eight principles that Beckwith identifies is that the Church of English is a reformed Catholic Church.
2.8 A Reformed Catholic ChurchHistoric Anglicanism is Protestant and Catholic. It is also Reformed. Robert Johnson, former director for the Institute for Reformed Theology, offers this definition of the term “Reformed” in his article, “What Is Reformed Theology.”
What gives consistency to the other seven principles, and sums them up, is the fact that the Church of England is a reformed catholic church. The Church of England is reformed in its emphasis on the Bible, in its 39 Articles, in its vernacular worship, and in its recognition of the royal supremacy in its government. But it is also catholic, in that it retains the ancient common heritage of Christendom, in a biblical form. The Church of England acknowledges the role of the church in interpreting the Bible correctly (Article 20), and uses the ancient catholic creeds as examples of such true interpretation. It maintains, as its practice, liturgical worship, infant baptism, episcopal ministry, parochial organization and national establishment, all handed down from antiquity. The Anglican Reformers valued this edifying heritage, well tested over the centuries, and rejected the idea of starting everything afresh, with the unnecessary controversy and practical mistakes which such a course would inevitably lead to. Instead they simply used the standard of Scripture, applied by reason, to correct whatever needed correcting in the church’s inherited forms.
… the term "Reformed" specifically designates that branch of the Reformation of the western church originally characterized by a distinctively non-Lutheran, Augustinian sacramental theology with a high ecclesiology but little regard for ecclesiatical tradition that is not traceable to the Scriptures or the earliest church.The Thirty-Nine Articles, the two Books of Homilies, and Alexander Nowell’s A Catechism are Reformed in their theology. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer is essentially the Reformed Prayer Book of 1552 and the 1661 Ordinal the Reformed Ordinal of the same year. Reformed theologians Martin Bucer and Peter Martyr Virmigli taught in the English universities. Virmigli would influence John Jewel and other exiles that fled to the Continent during the Marian persecutions. Heinrich Bullinger, who replaced Ulrich Zwingli as the lead pastor of Reform in Zurich was enormously influential in the Church of England. But it would be erroneous to conclude that the Reformed theology of historic Anglicanism was the result of foreign influence upon the sixteenth century English Church. Thomas Cranmer, Richard Hooker, and other benchmark Anglican divines were Reformed theologians in their own right, drawing similar conclusions from their study of the Bible as did the Continental Reformed theologians. Reformed theology would not disappear from the Church of England after the Restoration but continued to flourish.
As well as being Protestant, Catholic, and Reformed, historic Anglicanism is evangelical. It maintains salvation by grace only by faith only in Jesus Christ only (as opposed to good works and sacraments) as the essence of Gospel teaching. As well as exhibiting a proclivity for unreformed Catholic doctrine and practice, “three streams, one river” ideology is apt to take a reductionist view of evangelicalism that emphasizes Scripture and evangelism to the neglect of this centerpiece of evangelicalism.
A peculiarity of “three streams, one river” ideology is its identification of Neo-Pentecostalism as the third tradition converging in the Anglican Church. This is not particularly surprising because “three streams, one river” ideology is an outgrowth of the charismatic movement. Consequently it promotes a number of Neo-Pentecostal ideas and suffers from a number of Neo-Pentecostalism’s weaknesses including its tendency to accept some highly questionable interpretations of Scripture. Neo-Pentecostalism, like the old Pentecostalism, affirms Spirit baptism as a distinct post-conversion experience, universally needed and universally available to those who seek it.” Speaking in tongues Pentecostalism and Neo-Pentecostalism, claim is the usual accompaniment and sign of baptism in the Holy Spirit. Both Pentecostalism and Neo-Pentecostalism are twentieth-century developments.
In 1984, in his book Keep in Step with the Spirit, J. I. Packer wrote, “Charismatic folk everywhere stand on tiptoe, as it were, in excited expectation of great things in store for the church as the movement increasingly takes hold.” As early as 1971 Michael Harper was claiming major ecumenical significance for the charismatic movement. “This movement is the most unifying in Christendom today,” he wrote. “Only in this movement are all streams uniting and all ministries being accepted and practiced.” What is sometimes called the Convergence movement grew out of this expectation and with it emerged “three streams, one river” ideology. The unity that the charismatic movement seemed to promise did not materialize. Indeed the charismatic movement itself became a cause of division. The Convergence movement would fragment.
The Pentecostal and the Neo-Pentecostal claim of the need for a “second blessing” is not from the perspective of historic Anglicanism consonant with the teaching of the New Testament. Historic Anglicanism recognizes that the principal work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian is regeneration, illumination, sanctification, and empowerment for the work of ministry. Historic Anglicanism finds no evidence in the Scriptures for “the idea that all receiving and using spiritual gifts depend on first undergoing Spirit baptism as a second work of grace or that in the experience of Spirit baptism the Spirit himself is actually received either for the first time or in fuller measure and greater strength than was the case before.” From the perspective of historic Anglicanism charismatic experience is only theologizable, if at all, as the realization of the power of the Spirit who already indwells.
Pentecostalism and Neo-Pentecostalism also run counter to historic Anglicanism in that they are generically Arminian in their presuppositions. Pentecostalism and Neo-Pentecostalism displays a tendency “to read all details of the New Testament charismatic experience as paradigms and, in effect promises of what God will do for all who ask,” while historic Anglicanism reads them as being demonstrative of “what God can do as spiritual need requires.”
Alexander Nowell’sA Catechism was compiled by Nowell at the request of Convocation in 1563 and was sanctioned for use in English grammar schools and universities by Convocation in 1571. It is numbered among the subsidiary historic Anglican formularies, which include the two Books of Homilies, the Proposed Canons of 1571, and the Canons of 1604. In the Second Part, of the Gospel and Faith, Nowell puts these words in the mouth of the scholar:
Moreover, as he promised, (John 14:16, 26 & 16:7, 13; Rom. 5:5 & 8:9, 16; 1 Cor. 12:4 &c; 2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:17) he sendeth down his holy Spirit from heaven into our hearts, as a most sure pledge of his good will, by which Spirit he bringeth us out of darkness and mist into open light; he giveth sight to the blindness of our minds; he chaseth sorrow out of our hearts, and healeth the wounds thereof; and with the (Rom. 8:4 &c.; Col. 3:1-2; Eph. 4:22, 30) divine motion of his Spirit he causeth, that, looking up to heaven, we raise up our minds and hearts from the ground, from corrupt affections and from earthly things, upward to the place where Christ is at the right hand of his Father; that we, thinking upon and beholding things above and heavenly, and so raised up and of upright mind, we condemn these our base things, life, death, riches, poverty: and with lofty and high courage despise all worldly things.Further on the scholar says, “… Christ our Lord never ceaseth to do us good, continually to intreat for and to crave his Father’s mercy for us, to give us his holy Spirit, and wonderfully and continually to garnish his church with most liberal gifts….”
After questioning the scholar in regards to his beliefs about the Father and the Son, the master questions him in regards to what he believes about the Holy Spirit:
M. Since then thou hast now spoken of God the Father, the Creator, and of his Son Jesus Christ, the Saviour, and so hast ended two parts of the Christian confession, now I would hear thee speak of the third part, what thou believest of the Holy Ghost?In the Fourth Part, Of Sacraments, Nowell articulates historic Anglicanism’s understanding of confirmation through the words of the scholar:
S. I confess that he is the (Matt. 28:19; John 14:26 & 15:26 & 16:7 & 20:22; Acts 5:3-4) third Person of the most Holy Trinity, proceeding from the Father and the Son before all beginning, equal with them both, and of the very same substance, and together with them both to be honoured and called upon.
M. Why is he called holy?
S. Not only for his own holiness, which yet is the highest holiness, but also for that by him the elect of God and (Rom. 1:4 & 15:16; 2 Thess. 2:13; Tit. 3:5; 1 Pet. 1:2) the members of Christ are made holy. For which cause the holy scriptures have called him “the Spirit of sanctification.”
M. In what things dost thou think that this sanctification consisteth?
S. First, we are by his instinct and breathing (John 3:5; Tit. 3:5) newly begotten, and therefore Christ said that we must be born again of water and of the Spirit. Also by his heavenly breathing on us, God the Father doth (Rom. 8:15, 23; Gal. 4:5-6) adopt us his children, and therefore he is worthily called the Spirit of Adoption. By his expounding, the (John 14:17, 26 & 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:10-11, 13; Eph. 1:17) divine mysteries are opened unto us: by his light, the eyes of our souls are made clear to understand them; by his judgment, sins (John 20:22) are either pardoned or reserved; by his strength, (Rom. 8:4-5 &c., 8:14 &c., 26) sinful flesh is subdued and tamed, and corrupt desires are bridled and restrained. At his will (Acts 2:4. 1 Cor. 12:4, 7 &c.) manifold gifts are distributed among the godly.
In the manifold and divers discommodities, molestations, and miseries of this life, the Holy Ghost with his secret consolation, and with good hope, doth assuage, ease, and comfort the griefs and mourning of the godly, which commonly are in this world most afflicted, and whose sorrows do pass all human consolation: whereof he hath the true and proper name of (John 14:16, 26 & 15:26, 16:7) Paraclete, or the Comforter. Finally, by his power our mortal bodies (Rom 8:11) shall rise alive again. Briefly, whatsoever benefits are given us in Christ, all these (1 Cor. 12:4, 7 &c.) we understand, feel, and receive by the work of the Holy Ghost. Not unworthily, therefore we put confidence and trust in the Author of so great gifts, and do worship and call upon him.
M. It is so. But whereas thou didst say before, that children, after they were grown more in years, ought to acknowledge the truth of their baptism, I would thou shouldest now speak somewhat more plainly thereof.Readers who wish to become better acquainted with historic Anglicanism’s teaching on the Holy Spirit and the sacraments should also read the Homily concerning the coming down of the Holy Ghost for Whitsunday and the Homily of Common Prayer and Sacraments in the Common Tongue.
S. Parents and schoolmasters did in old time diligently instruct their children, as soon as by age they were able to perceive and understand, in the first principles of Christian religion, that they might suck in godliness almost together with the nurse’s milk, and straightways after their cradle might be nourished with the tender food of virtue towards that blessed life. For the which purpose also little short books, which we name Catechisms, were written, wherein the same, or very like matters as we now are in hand with, were entreated upon. And after that the children seemed to be sufficiently trained in the principles of our religion, they brought and offered them unto the bishop.
M. For what purpose did they so?
S. That children might after baptism do the same which such as were older, who were also called catechumeni, that is, scholars of religion, did in old time before, or rather, at baptism itself. For the bishop did require and the children did render reason and account of their religion and faith: and such children as the bishop judged to have sufficiently profited in the understanding of religion he allowed, and laying his hands upon them, and blessing them, let them depart. This allowance and blessing of the bishop our men do call Confirmation.
M. But there was another confirmation used of late?
S. Instead of this most profitable and ancient confirmation, they conveyed a device of their own, that is, that the bishop should not examine children, whether they were skilled in the precepts of religion or no, but that they should anoint young infants unable yet to speak, much less to give any account of their faith; adjoining also other ceremonies unknown unto the Holy Scripture and the primitive church. This invention of theirs they would needs have to be a sacrament, and accounted it in manner equal in dignity with baptism; yea, some of them preferred it also before baptism. By all means they would that this their confirmation should be taken for a certain supplying of baptism, that it should thereby be finished and brought to perfection, as though baptism else were unperfect, and as though children who in baptism had put upon them Christ with his benefits, without their confirmation were but half Christians; than which injury no greater could be done against the divine sacrament, and against God himself, and Christ our Saviour, the author and founder of the holy sacrament of baptism.
M. It were to be wished therefore that the ancient manner and usage of examining children were restored again?
S. Very much to be wished, surely. For so should parents be brought to the satisfying of their duty in the godly bringing up of their children, which they now for the most part do leave undone, and quite reject from them; which part of their duty if parents or schoolmasters would at this time take in hand, do, and thoroughly perform, there would be a marvelous consent and agreement in religion and faith, which is now in miserable sort torn asunder; surely all should not either lie so shadowed and overwhelmed with the darkness of ignorance, or with dissensions of divers and contrary opinions be so disturbed, dissolved and dissipated, as it is at this day: the more pity it is, and most to be sorrowed of all good men for so miserable a case.
In the 1662 Confirmation Service the bishop prays that God will “strengthen” the confirmands with the Holy Spirit and “daily increase in them “ his “manifold gifts of grace.” When the bishop lays hands on the individual confirmand, he asks God to “defend” the confirmand with his heavenly grace that he may continue God’s forever and “increase” in God’s Holy Spirit more and more, until he comes to God’s everlasting kingdom. Both prayers charitably presume that the confirmand has received the Holy Spirit at baptism (or at least at some point before or after baptism). It is the prompting of the Holy Spirit that has lead the confirmand to make a public profession of his repentance from sin and faith in Jesus Christ and to seek the prayer of the church. In the 1662 Confirmation Service the bishop lays hands on the confirmands “to certify” them, by the sign of imposition of hands, of God’s favor and gracious goodness toward them. The imposition of hands is a gesture of blessing and goodwill. Neither the Holy Spirit nor the gifts of the Holy Spirit are conferred with this gesture.
Whatever Jeremy Taylor may have taught in the seventeenth century, the Anglo-Catholics in the nineteenth and twentieth century, and charismatics in the 1970s and 1980s, it is not historic Anglicanism’s understanding of confirmation. Historic Anglicanism does not dismiss the fresh experiences of God that some Christians report but it does not attribute them to a “second blessing,” conferred at confirmation or outside of confirmation. To historic Anglicanism the gift of the Holy Spirit is a one-time occurrence.
As for evidence that a Christian has received the Holy Spirit, historic Anglicanism gives more weight to repentance, faith, a changed life, and an increasing abundance of the fruit of the Spirit than it does the “sign-gifts,” as they are sometimes called. These manifestations of the Holy Spirit can be counterfeited by the devil and sinful human nature. True godliness and holiness are indubitably the work of the Holy Spirit.
In regard to the gift of speaking in unknown tongues, historic Anglicanism echoes the apostle Paul:
But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you unless I speak to you either by revelation, by knowledge, by prophesying, or by teaching? Even things without life, whether flute or harp, when they make a sound, unless they make a distinction in the sounds, how will it be known what is piped or played? For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare himself for battle? So likewise you, unless you utter by the tongue words easy to understand, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. There are, it may be, so many kinds of languages in the world, and none of them is without significance. Therefore, if I do not know the meaning of the language, I shall be a foreigner to him who speaks, and he who speaks will be a foreigner to me. Even so you, since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, let it be for the edification of the church that you seek to excel. (1 Corinthians 14:6-12)Anglicans in and outside of North America should view the polluted state of the stream in the Anglican Church in Canada and the United States with alarm. Churches in the Anglican Church in North America and in the Anglican Mission in the Americas far from working to remove the pollutants and their causes are adding to the pollution. In future articles I will consider what they might do to clean up the stream and restore it once more to a pristine condition. I will examine how that clear flowing stream might look in the twenty-first century.
Posted by Heritage Anglicans at 10:05 PM