Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Thoughts on Holy Week


One of the foundational principles of Anglican liturgy is simplicity (together with comprehensibility and uniformity), that meaning that the services themselves, as well as the rules that govern them, are to be simple in the sense that the ceremonial of the service does not distract one from the worship of the one true God nor distract one from the one, perfect sacrifice of Christ.

Holy Week sadly gives us a glimpse of the (nearly) complete and total rejection of Anglican liturgics by the modern lot. The modern service books do not demonstrate these three characteristics, particularly of simplicity. Besides reintroducing non-Anglican customs such as the imposition of ashes, the distribution of palms, the veneration of the cross, amongst many other superstitious practices, the modern service books can only be seen as evidence of the gradual rejection of Anglicanism's historic doctrine, worship, and discipline.

It is interesting to compare the modern service books with the Prayer Book. When investigating our Church's historic liturgy, one finds the notable absence of many of the more popular, dramatic services. For instance, the "Sunday before Easter", not Palm Sunday, with the following days numbered sequentially without any special names.

When one compares the focus of the services, there also emerges a pattern of differences. The modern services are concerned about the ritual reenactment of Jesus' last days. The Prayer Book is concerned with prayerful remembrance and thanksgiving for Christ's sacrifice on our behalf. All of the pageantry associated with the medieval Church was purged and in its place the reading of the Bible was emphasized. Consider, for instance, the following readings assigned for the propers of the days of Holy Week (not counting the readings assigned in the Daily Office):
Sunday before Easter: Philippians 2:5-11; Matthew 27:1-54 
Monday before Easter: Isaiah 63:1-end; Mark 14:1-end 
Tuesday before Easter: Isaiah 50:5-end; Mark 15:1-39 
Wednesday before Easter: Hebrews 9:16-end; Luke 22:1-end 
Thursday before Easter: 1 Corinthians 11:17-end; Luke 23:1-49 
Good Friday: Hebrews 10:1-25; John 19:1-37 
Easter Even: 1 Peter 3:17-end; Matthew 27:57-end 
Easter Day: Colossians 3:1-7; John 20:1-10
The question as to the appropriateness of ritual pageantry is really not something that I am overly concerned about. The issue at hand is the reincorporation of prayerful thanksgiving and remembrance for Christ's Passion. The problem is that sometimes pageantry can become an end in itself, rather than a means to an end.

The specific pageantries associated with Holy Week are as follows: the distribution of palms, the washing of feet, the veneration of the cross, and the various ceremonies associated with the Easter Vigil. Many times people want direct answers from THH, so I've decided to go ahead and give them.

Distribution of Palms. I really do not see an issue with this custom, provided that the emphasis be the same as the Prayer Book's, as discussed above. I would be hesitant, of course, especially considering that these were specifically outlawed by our Church. What sorts of things go through an average churchgoer's mind in association with these symbols? Are they aids to help them remember Christ's Passion or are they some sort of magical token? What effect does a procession have on the churchgoer? These are all questions I would keep in mind and in discussion with fellow churchgoers.

Washing of feet. I do not see a problem with this tradition either. It could be very useful to emphasize the theme of humility, which is prominent in the Prayer Book's Holy Week collect and readings. Sometimes the practice of it can be overly ritualized.

The Veneration of the Cross. This practice is simply idolatry. I have no earthly idea how it ever became included in a Protestant liturgy. If I had my way, the pages that authorize its use would be torn out of every modern service book tomorrow. Since the editors of modern service books are not overly concerned with biblical fidelity or teaching, this is likely not to occur. The only alternative is for classical Anglican parishes and churchmen to avoid this practice like the plague and services that include it.

Easter Vigil Rituals. I can never really keep track of what the various rituals are that are associated with Easter Vigil. The use of candles was of major concern to our forefathers which leads me to be suspicious but I think as long as it is not accentuated and the message proclaimed that it can be done with evangelical sincerity.

That covers the majority of the Holy Week customs that have crept up over the years. Obviously, my inclination is to uphold the Prayer Book services in their simplicity but one must acknowledge that the people enjoy a show, especially recovering papists. Sometimes the truth must be presented in pomp and circumstance.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Why I am an Anglican

Over the course of interacting with various people via the World Wide Web or through personal interaction, I have come to realize that a good proportion (if not a majority) of the people in our churches have joined Anglicanism for the wrong reasons. Indeed, quite a few haven't a clue what Anglicanism is (of course, this is not their fault, how can one be expected to know what their clergy do not?). The purpose of this brief essay will be to explain the reasons for which I have embraced the Anglican tradition as my own.

1. Its doctrine conforms to the teaching of Scripture

The only reason for which one should embrace the Church's teaching is that it faithfully aligns with the teaching of Holy Scripture. This is the means by which doctrine is established in the Church of England (and, by extension, her daughter Churches throughout the world). As is prefixed to the Articles of Religion in His Majesty's Declaration:
That the Articles of the Church of England (which have been allowed and authorized heretofore, and which our clergy generally have subscribed unto) do contain the true doctrine of the Church of England agreeable to God's word: which we do therefore ratify and confirm, requiring all our loving subjects to continue in the uniform profession thereof, and prohibiting the least difference from the said Articles; which to that end we command to be new printed, and this our declaration to be published therewith...
Yet, not only are the Articles of Religion agreeable to God's Word (and for this reason, and this reason only, to be accepted by the Church) but also the acceptance of other traditional statements of faith, such as the Creed, is subjected to the same requirement:
The three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius' Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed; for they may be proved by most certain warrants of Holy Scripture (Article VIII).
God's holy and perfect Word "containeth all things necessary to salvation" and no other thing may be added to be necessary to salvation that is not contained in the Scripture, as the article continues, "so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation" (Article VI). This limits the medieval Church's (and the current Roman and Eastern Churches') understanding that the Creeds and Councils of the Church are infallible in teaching religious truth, on their own merit. They may be correct, if they agree with Scripture, and they may err, as they have, when they depart from God's Holy Word. Or as the Homily on the Reading and Knowledge of Scripture says:
Unto a Christian man there can be nothing either more necessary or profitable than the knowledge of holy Scripture; forasmuch as in it is contained God’s true word, setting forth his glory and also man’s duty. And there is no truth nor doctrine necessary for our justification and everlasting salvation, but that is or may be drawn out of that fountain and well of truth. 
The Church's own authority is determined by its faithfulness to the Scriptures so that "it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God's word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another" (Article XX). Likewise, "General [Ecumenical] Councils… when they be gathered together, forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and word of God, they may err and sometime have erred, even in things pertaining to God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of Holy Scripture" (Article XXI). Not only has the Church of Rome, and the Churches of the East, erred, but also the Ecumenical Councils have erred (such as the Seventh Council at Nicea).

Scripture is the Word of God (note, it does not only contain but is in its entirety). It is without error and leads men to all necessary things for salvation. Is the Word of God to be found in other places besides Scripture, such as the Church, Tradition, or Reason? No, these are not the Word of God but are below it and rely upon it for their authority. Is the Word of God comprehensible to the average man? Yes, it can be interpreted by even the lowest of all men for its truths are self-evident and discernible by reading the whole of it. 

These assertions show the faithfulness of the Church of England and the Anglican tradition that stems from it, to the teaching of Holy Scripture. It is for this reason that the doctrine of the Church of England may be trusted in all of its declarations.

What are these declarations? What is the Scriptural truth that our Formularies so boldly proclaim?

First, the Anglican tradition is unabashedly Protestant in its doctrine, that meaning patristic, apostolic, and Scriptural. The Protestant Reformation was a conscientiously reactionary movement to an increasingly liberal Roman Catholic Church. Its intent was to return the Church to the truth of the Scripture as found in the early Church in its faithful believers and teaching. This includes the glorious truth of the reliability of Holy Scripture, as detailed above, the marvelous grace of our God through the atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which grace alone we come to know God through Christ. Grace, as the Bible teaches, and which was so lamentably lost in the Middle Ages, is the unmerited favor of God to act on our behalf and to provide the means by which we may turn to Him, through no merit of our own but only by His power and grace. The means by which we receive him is faith, and faith alone. By faith is meant a childlike trust in God as our Father and in the work He has done for us through his Son Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. By this means, and by this alone, may we come to know Him and glorify Him through our lives.

The Anglican tradition is unabashedly Reformed, in the Calvinistic sense of the word, by its adherence to the aforementioned points and in its upholding of the biblical doctrines of predestination and election. Our Article XVII boldly proclaims the truth of this doctrine by saying most eloquently:
Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honor (Article XVII).
We should all pause and rejoice in this truth. Were it not for the unmerited favor of God in his grace towards us, there would be no hope for salvation. As the Scriptures teach, man has so wholly rejected God by his sin, intentional and unintentional, that there is no one who desires God of his own merit. For this reason, we rejoice in God's intervention on our behalf and his turning us to Him by the power of His Spirit. 

The Anglican tradition continues in its acceptance of the one true Reformed religion (as established by law in England) in its rightful teaching on the Sacraments, which are two in number, Baptism and Holy Communion, and effectual means of grace, when received worthily in faith. The Sacraments themselves are signs by which God works on our behalf. In Baptism, God accepts us as members of His Covenant and begins His work in us (completed in our response to Him in faith). In the Lord's Supper, our Church rightfully teaches that Christ is present to believers by faith (and not in the bread and wine). 

Our Church is also Evangelical in its teaching of the responsibility of personal conversion in our turning to God by grace through faith to save us by the sacrifice of Christ. The necessity of spreading the message of the Gospel of salvation by faith alone is a call to personal conversion. 


2. Its worship preserves the good of the historical Church yet it rejects that which is not Scriptural.

Not only is the doctrine of the Church of England Scriptural and worthy of belief, but its worship biblical and historical. This was the wisdom of Archbishop Cranmer in his reform of the English Church, by God's Providence.

This is often known as the normative principle of worship, as it is contained in our Church's Formularies:
It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's Word. Whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the Traditions and Ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, (that others may fear to do the like,) as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren.
This teaching gives our Church the liberty to allow diversity in worship, so long as it does not contradict the teaching of Scripture. It also has preserved the structure of the historic Church, whilst rejecting those things that had crept up into the life of the Church via foreign and pagan sources. The nature of the Church's teaching requires that what is approved by public authority be used and not that each minister be a Pope unto himself, devising liturgies as he please. Our Church is a Church of order and not anarchy.

 The nature of our worship is ritualistic but not ceremonialistic, meaning that it prescribes the exact wording of the services to be conducted in Church but does not allow for an elaborate ceremonial. The nature of our Prayer Book is simplistic, enough so that the common man may use it with confidence. The purpose is not to distract worshippers from God by showy gestures but to concentrate him on God's goodness through constant exposure to Scripture and non-superstitous ceremonial.


3. Its discipline is biblical, historical, and pragmatic

The discipline of the Church are those things that the Church requires for its worship or other matters which do not pertain to its doctrine but the manner in which it orders itself. As the Article says:
Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish, Ceremonies or Rites of the Church ordained only by man's authority, so that all things be done to edifying.
The most famous aspects of Anglican discipline are the episcopacy and liturgy. The nature of our worship was discussed above but the episcopacy has not been mentioned as of yet. The nature of episcopacy is mentioned in the Ordinal:
It is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church; Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which Offices were evermore had in such reverend Estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same; and also by publick Prayer, with Imposition of Hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful Authority. And therefore, to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed in the Church of England, no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, in the Church of England, or suffered to execute any of the said Functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto, according to the Form hereafter following, or hath had Episcopal Consecration, or Ordination.
The purpose of maintaining the episcopacy was to note that it was for the well-being o the Church in the Apostolic age and it does not contradict the teaching of Scripture. It is good the ministers have some form of oversight over their cure of parishes. The Church of England historically allows two perspectives on the nature of orders in the Church. Some accept that there are two biblical orders of presbyter and deacon. The nature of the episcopacy is presidential in function, not in essence. This means that a deacon and minister are ordained to an order but a bishop is consecrated to an office. The other point of view is that there are three distinct orders: bishop, presbyter, and deacon. The Church of England rightly rejects the sacerdotalism of pagan religion. There is but one High Priest, Jesus Christ, and all believers are his priests in the world. The nature of the ministry is presbyteral, a ministry of elders, called to teach, preach, and administer the Sacraments. This shows the wisdom of the Church of England in maintaining the ministry of bishops but rejecting a false understanding of the nature of it.

These three general principles demonstrate the faithfulness of Anglican doctrine to the Scripture, the rightness of its worship and its discipline in connecting it to the historic Church whilst rejecting the errors of Rome and the East.


Friday, March 14, 2014

Restoring Reformational Anglicanism

From the ACNA Diocese of the Carolinas, a useful summary and defense of Reformational Anglicanism.

What is Reformation Anglicanism?
Perhaps the easiest way to describe Reformation Anglicanism is simply by defining the words. By “reformation,” we mean that expression of the Christian faith that arose in the 16thcentury, commonly called the Protestant Reformation, which sought to reform the church according to the teaching of the Bible and the practice of the early church. By “Anglican,” we mean those Christian reforms that took place in England during the Protestant Reformation.

There is of course more to be said and we hope to say much more in the future. For now it may be useful to set forth a few boundary markers to help identify partners and shape future dialogue.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Anglican Separatism

There seems to be a rather peculiar breed of new English Separatists making noise in the English-speaking world, particularly North America. Unfortunately, they have a much less comprehensible vision than the original lot. This new breed wishes to criticize the mainline Anglican church, be it in England, the US, or Canada, for not being a pure church, by design obviously, yet, the new English Separatist does not willfully separate himself from the Anglican body and set up his own congregation, taking out the bits he did not like from Anglicanism, as he would have in times past. Rather, the new breed does leave but he takes everything with him, Prayer Book and all. He uses the same Prayer Book, the same surplice, the same building even, perhaps. He takes an "established" Church with him into Dissent and tries to make it into an Anabaptistic sort of sect. It is truly an odd combination, wanting to combine the means of having an "impure" Church, such as infant baptism and other things, with a separatistic tendency towards the "pure" Church concept.

I will offer two thoughts on this trajectory I've noticed. First, extending on the pure/impure distinction I mentioned in the above paragraph, I will relate this to Article 26 and the traditional and historical Anglican norm. Secondly, I will discuss a concept I call "guilt by association" which I have noticed in many of the people I've spoken with having these separatistic tendencies.

First, beginning with our Church's teaching on the nature of wicked ministers, which is contained in Article 26. This follows the traditional, Augustinian paradigm of a "wheat and tares" Church, that meaning that the visible Church will be comprised of both godly and wicked people until the return of Christ (this is not to be confused with the "invisible Church" or the Church as God sees it).
XXVI. Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.
Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ's, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ's ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God's gifts diminished from such as by faith, and rightly, do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ's institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men.
Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty, by just judgment be deposed.
The first part of this article establishes that the visible Church is comprised of both evil and good. This is due to the nature of mankind and the situation of the Church in an imperfect world. Moreover, due to the "mixed" nature of the visible Church, sometimes these wicked people will be in charge or cure of souls. However, these ministers (and all ministers) do not preach the Gospel or administer the Sacraments in their own name but in Christ's. It is for this purpose that the ministry of a wicked person is not negated because of his own name but it is effective because he works in Christ's name, this is obviously referencing the efficacy of the Sacraments. The problem of course is that the separatist is not comfortable with the mixing of good and bad (I use the word "comfortable" cautiously here, no one should be truly comfortable with this but the orthodox believer notes that the wheat and tares will share the same space until Christ's return). The separatist ideally wants a pure Church, a concept which is not attainable in this life. 

Some may say that the second part of the article requires that these ministers be deposed. Yes, it is required that "inquiry be made of evil Ministers", meaning that the believer needs to notify proper authority of these said ministers and leave the act of deposition to those in proper authority. The article does not authorize or require lay Christians to depose such ministers but to notify the authorities. Neither does it discuss what Christians are to do if an evil minister is not deposed.

The second point that separatists like to make is that of "guilt by association". This is the idea that individual Christians are personally responsible for what other Christians in their denomination, particularly leaders, have done, will do, or are doing. For instance, because I am a communicant member of an Episcopal parish, the separatist will (and have) accused me of being a godless liberal. This idea is completely ludicrous. Moreover, the separatist is not immune from this criticism himself. The teaching of the Bible is that we are responsible for our own actions and not those of others. We are to be judged for what we have done not for what our brother or sister has done. Now, if someone is in a situation where unbiblical teaching occurs or an ungodly person presides over a service or whatnot and the believer does nothing, this is something that he will be held responsible for, because it is the duty of the believer to stand up against false teaching.

The last point to be made is that being in relationship to another person (ecclesiastically speaking) does not necessarily convey complete acceptance of them or their teaching. To give an example, many in the ACNA are against the ordination of women, as a primary issue, yet they are in communion with and relationship to others who ordain women. (As an aside, by logic of the "guilt by association" argument, these people are just as guilty of sin, in their theological paradigm, as the bishop who ordains women.) If you were to approach the bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Fort Worth and accuse him of ordaining women, he would probably laugh at you. Yet, if you follow the separatist's logic, he is guilty of this, even though he has never ordained a woman. Hopefully you can see how ridiculous this type of logic is. Being in relationship to another person does not make you responsible for their actions or beliefs nor does it convey your complete acceptance of them.

I offer in closing the remarks of J.I. Packer regarding "guilt by association" in response to the call of the late Martyn Lloyd-Jones for Evangelicals to leave the "impure" Church of England and start a new, doctrinally-pure Church:
"I lived as some of you lived, through the era in which the late great Martyn Lloyd-Jones was telling us Anglicans from where he stood that we all of us ought to leave the Church of England. He had two bad arguments. He was a great man, but great men can be enmeshed in bad arguments. Bad argument number one was that if we stay in the Church of England we're guilty by association of all the theological errors that any Anglican may be propagating anywhere at all. To which of course the answer is rubbish: on that basis Paul would have been guilty of all the errors that were abroad in Corinth, in Colossae, in the Galatian churches and the Thessalonian church and elsewhere -- and of course he wasn't guilty of any of that, and why not? Simply because he entered into the discipline of debate and wrote pastoral letters to them too put them straight. As long as we are free to raise our voices against the errors and seek to correct them from within we are not guilty of them. We are negating and refusing the error, we are not acquiescing in it, we are not guilty of it. It was a sad thing that a great mind like that of the late Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones should have ever toyed with an argument as bad as this one. 
"Secondly he said, 'Don't you see that the times call us to leave all the doctrinally mixed congregations and form a pure new one.' And I and others looked around and couldn't see that the times called us to do any such thing. We asked what do the times call us to do? And it seemed clear that the times called us to stay put and work for Reformation, renewal and fresh life in the church that has this rich heritage. So when people used to ask me why are you in the Church of England when the Church of England is in such a mess today I used to reply, 'I'm in the Church of England today for the sake of what under God it might be tomorrow.'"


An Ashless Ash Wednesday for Anglicans

A reminder to Anglicans that the imposition of ashes is not associated with classical Anglicanism. The practice was banned by the Church of England under Henry VIII and not revived until the Tractarian Movement. It was the liberal service books, such as the 1979 book, that ultimately made the practice normative in the late 20th century. 

In the sixteenth century the English Reformers abolished the imposition of ashes on the heads of parishioners on Ash Wednesday due to the superstitious beliefs that had become associated with the practice. The practice was too closely tied the Medieval doctrines of attrition, auricular confession, contrition, priestlyabsolution, and penance.

The imposition of ashes was not reintroduced into the Church of England and her daughter churches until the nineteenth century and then by the Ritualists. It was one of the errors in doctrine, practice, and ritual that the Romeward Movement revived to make the Anglican Church more like the Roman Catholic Church in the hopes that they would help to affect a reunion between the Church of England and the Church of Rome.

The 1979 Book of Common Prayer popularized the practice in the Episcopal Church in the closing decades of the twentieth century.

To read more, click here.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Thirty-nine Articles and the Episcopal Church

There seems to be an idea, especially amongst Episcopalians, that the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion have no authority in the Protestant Episcopal Church, even though they were, "established by the Bishops, the Clergy, and the Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, in Convention, on the twelfth day of September, in the Year of our Lord, 1801." 

It is true that Episcopal clergy were not required to separately subscribe to the Articles of Religion, as their English counterparts did (it would have been better if they had followed English practice…), however, Episcopal ministers do have to make the following oath in ordination:
I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church.
Arguably, determining just what the "doctrine" of the Episcopal Church is can be a bit of a losing battle. Yet, the "discipline and worship" are easily discernible, as this is clarified in Article X of the Constitution, requiring the use of the Book of Common Prayer (1979) in all dioceses of this Church. Now, you may be thinking, well this establishes the authority of the 1979 Prayer Book, but what of the Articles? It doesn't mention that! Well, yes, it doesn't currently, that is true, but this does not mean that the Articles are not implied. This might sound strange, but in order to properly understand the nature of the Articles' canonical authority in the Episcopal Church, one has to do a bit of research (probably an intended consequence of some General Convention resolutions…)

The original title of the (now official) 1979 Prayer Book was, "The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, together with the Psalter or Psalms of David, the Form and Manner of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, the Form of Consecration of a Church or Chapel, the Office of Institution or Ministers, and Articles of Religion," when it was adopted in the same year. However, if you open up any copy of the 1979 book, you will not find these words on the title page (or anywhere else). What happened was in 1985, the General Convention decided to shorten the title of the book by deleting a majority of that text to include what is now standard, "The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church Together with The Psalter or Psalms of David According to the use of The Episcopal Church." The relevant sections of the Constitution (Art. X) and the Canons (Title II, Canon 3, Sec. 1) were edited accordingly in resolutions 1985 A029 and 1985 A010. Here is the text of A029:
Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, That Title II, Canon 3, Sec. 1 be amended to read as follows:
Sec. 1. The copy of the Book of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, according to the Use of the Episcopal church, together with the Psalter or Psalms of David, the form of making, ordaining, and consecrating Bishops, Priests, and deacons, the form of consecration of a Church or Chapel, and the office of institution ministers, and Historical Documents of the Church, including the Articles of Religion, accepted by the General Convention of this Church, in the year of our Lord 1979, and authenticated by the signatures of the Presiding Officers and Secretaries of the two Houses of the General Convention, is hereby declared to be the Standard Book of Common Prayer of this Church.
We are assured in the explanation to this change:
Resolution A010 Amended, adopted by the 68th General Convention, amended the title of the Book of Common Prayer as found in Article 10 of the Constitution. Lest any question be raised concerning the effect of this Amendment on the Articles of Religion, the drafter of the original Resolution A010, the Very Rev.Orris G. Walker, Jr., member of the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons, stated on August 29, 1985: "As a member of the Standing Commission on Constitution and Canons, I was responsible for drafting the part of our report now entitled A010. It was not my intention, nor that of the Commission, to repeal the Articles of Religion by the proposed Amendment. Since this is a Constitutional change, I am sure my fellow Commission member, Fred Scribner, Chairman of the House of Deputies Committee on the Constitution, will make note of our intention. We simply wished to bring this language into conformity with the title in the present Prayer Book." Fred Scribner was, unfortunately, unable to attend the 68th General Convention, and the Constitution Committee of the House of Deputies was chaired by Mary Lou Crowley, who, together with the Chairman of the Constitution Committee of the House of Bishops, the Rt. Rev. William C. Wantland, concurred in the statement of intention of the author of Resolution A010. This intent is reflected in the wording of Resolution A133 of the 1979 General Convention, as found on page C-9 of the Journal, which incorporates the Articles of Religion in a shortened title "The Book of Common Prayer."
To me, this points out that the Articles of Religion are still canonically normative in the Episcopal Church. The question is a matter of enforcing the Church's own standards. However, some might point out that the Articles are to be found in the "Historical Documents" section of the 1979 book. Does this not negate their authority, if they are just "historical documents"? My response to this is twofold, first, by way of analogy, you should note that the infamous Lambeth Quadrilateral is also just an "historical document", a simple Google search will show you how this is viewed as having authority in PECUSA. Secondly, in order for the placement of the Articles in the "Historical Documents" section to be an act of invalidating their authority, there must be some record and explanation of this either in the rubrics, or in a GC resolution or even in the canons, but there is not. The fact remains that holding the position that because the Articles are in the Historical Documents section means that they have no authority is a matter of pure speculation and not subject to any legitimacy by the Church's standards.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

What do I Mean by "Classical Anglicanism"?

It has come to my attention that when I use the term "classical Anglicanism" to describe something that this is not a mutually understood term. This simply means that this term requires some interpretation. I hold that classical Anglicanism is something that is definable, meaning it is not abstract, but normative and clear. 

Classical Anglicanism is a buzz-word these days, especially among Anglicans. Perhaps it should be a buzz-word and it should be what we strive to as Episcopalians and Anglicans. The problem is that it seems that most people bypass the historical standards of classical Anglicanism in order to arrive at a definition of what that system actually is. I think there are a plethora of problems with this method, most notably the arrival to a faulty conclusion, but also it is a fanciful method of interpreting historical documents. Given the disparity between classical Anglicanism and the various ways in which it has been "interpreted", I've come to the conclusion that it is probably something radically different from what most claim it is. In light of this, I have come up with five points which I think faithfully summarize the key points of classical Anglicanism.

The only documents I will refer to here are the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, the Prayer Book and Ordinal of 1662, and the Homilies of 1547 and 1571 because these are the historical standards of Anglicanism and subsequently define Anglicanism. A failure to grasp the meaning and teaching of our formularies is one of the key problems that we have in modern Anglicanism. 

There are many other works which are helpful in understanding the nature of Anglicanism, partially due to their official status by public authority. Such works include the Canons Ecclesiastical of 1604, Nowell's Catechism, Jewell's Apology, among other 16th and 17th century documents, printed by royal authority. These documents provide additional perspectives on the nature of Classical Anglicanism, which has been obscured by a number of things, most notably a faulty interpretation, when considering the Prayer Book and Articles or downright rejection, when considering the Homilies. 

In addition to these official works, I think other documents can be helpful in understanding the plain teaching of the formularies. For instance, Thomas Rogers' commentary on the Articles of Religion, The Catholic Doctrine of the Church of England, is very helpful in understanding how the Articles were understood at the time (and likely intended to be understood perpetually). In contrast to the formularies and those other documents listed above, this work was not regarded as authoritative in the same sense, yet I find it helpful for the reasons I have just mentioned. 


Generally Protestant



Anglicanism is classically Protestant, implying all things that that word implies. It accepts wholeheartedly the five solas, without question. "Generally" here refers to the acceptance of general or universal Protestant doctrine, not specific to any one Protestant tradition.
VI. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church. 
X. Of Free-Will.The condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith; and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will. 
XI. Of the Justification of Man.  
We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification [You will find this in the Books of Homilies as "Of Salvation" -- I encourage readers to read this homily]. 
XV. Of Christ alone without Sin.Christ in the truth of our nature was made like unto us in all things, sin only except, from which he was clearly void, both in his flesh, and in his spirit. He came to be the Lamb without spot, who, by sacrifice of himself once made, should take away the sins of the world; and sin (as Saint John saith) was not in him. But all we the rest, although baptized and born again in Christ, yet offend in many things; and if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 
This is obviously only a small sample of the Reformation teaching present in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Prayer Book, and the Ordinal. The Protestant Reformation in England brought about a complete rupture with the medieval Church, though, without destroying the Church, in the form of a return to the faith of the Bible and early Church. The Reformation was a true reformation in England, completely purging the English Church of Romish superstitions, yet not setting up a "new" or rival Church.

The English Reformers completely rejected the Roman distortion of the Gospel by reaffirming the sole possibility of our salvation in the grace of God alone. One notes the monergism of the Reformation ("synergistic" Protestantism did not arise until the 17th c. generally speaking), denying any ability of man to save himself or even turn to God without his grace. The English Reformers equally denied erroneous teachings on the nature of justification, instead affirming the formal cause of justification as the imputation of Christ's righteousness to the believer, received by faith alone. 

Moderately Reformed or Calvinistic 

The English Reformation, while having early Lutheran influence, gradually sided with the Swiss Reformation, making it broadly Reformed. The use of terms can be confusing. The way I am using these terms is in reference to sacramental theology, particularly the nature of Christ's presence in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper (as an aside, many times the word "Lutheran" was used, especially in the early parts of the 16th c. to refer to those who subscribed to justification by faith alone, in this sense Anglicanism is "Lutheran" but the term has come to be equated with a certain type of theology of Eucharistic presence). Secondly, it historically sympathized with Calvinistic predestinarianism, although not falling into a strict scholasticism that occurred later on the Continent. 

Firstly, dealing with the English Reformation's context within the broader Swiss Reformation, I point out the English doctrine of the real partaking of Christ in the Lord's Supper. I have written extensively on the English doctrine of the presence of Christ in the Sacrament elsewhere on this blog, so this will be a briefer treatment of the subject than can be found in other places. Three crucial things that identify the Church of England as a Protestant, Reformed Church are first the denial of the oral manducation of the body and blood of Christ as seen below in Article XXVIII, "And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith." The second thing is the assertion that the wicked do not receive the body and blood of Christ as in Article XXIX. The third point is the assertion that Christ's local presence is at the right hand of God in heaven, not in the bread and wine. This is found in Black Rubric.


XXVIII. Of the Lord's Supper.The Supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather it is a Sacrament of our Redemption by Christ's death: insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.
Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.
The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after an heavenly and spiritual manner. And the mean whereby the Body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper, is Faith.
The Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, lifted up, or worshipped. 

XXIX. Of the Wicked, which eat not the Body of Christ in the use of the Lord's Supper.The Wicked, and such as be void of a lively faith, although they do carnally and visibly press with their teeth (as Saint Augustine saith) the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ; yet in no wise are they partakers of Christ: but rather, to their condemnation, do eat and drink the sign or Sacrament of so great a thing. 
These doctrinal points clearly locate the English Reformation within the broader Reformed movement on the Continent, albeit with its own nuances (which we will discuss below). The other point I wish to make is that Anglicanism is moderately Calvinistic, meaning accepting of predestination to life confessionally. This is a tough issue for many to accept because they have a faulty understanding of Calvinism and probably of Anglican history as well. First, I invite the reader to consider the affirmation of predestination as found in Article XVII:

XVII. Of Predestination and Election.Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.
As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.
Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.
However, the relationship of the Church of England to the "five points" is a bit more complex. Firstly, the "five points of Calvinism" are a response to the five points of the Remonstrants [=Arminians] (which were condemned to be preached upon publicly in England by James I). The Reformed Churches gathered at Dort to discuss the Remonstrants' teaching. King James I sent an English delegation to refute the teachings of the Remonstrants, which they did. It must be remembered that the Synod of Dort enacted the Canons of Dort, which were binding to the Dutch Church. It would have been inappropriate for the English Church to submit to Dutch canons (and breaking with our own standards in Art. 37, which denies foreign powers in the Realm of England). However, the English delegation, under the authority of the monarch, agreed with the Dutch canons as being representative of the doctrine of the Church of England.

[As another aside, there has been a long tradition of hypothetical universalism (in relation to the question of the extent of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross) in the English Church.]


The English Reformers affirmed wholeheartedly the total depravity of man and his inability to turn to God on his own. We turn to Article IX (and Article X posted above):

IX. Of Original or Birth-Sin.Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek, p¢vn├Ža sapk¢s, (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh), is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized; yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.
This condition of man necessitates the action of the God for our salvation, which is expressed above in the article on predestination. The thrust of this article is the goodness of predestination to life as a demonstration of God's mercy, grace, and love towards us. The article does not discuss reprobation or the predestination to death. Later theologians tried to include a specific mention of reprobation in the English Confession but it was not enacted. I think this allows for a bit of latitude on this point (others may disagree).

The issue of the other points (limited atonement, effectual calling, and perseverance of the saints) is not discussed in detail in the Articles, partially because they were not yet contentious issues. I do think they are affirmed in the Formularies but this is best left to a future post.


Nationally Erastian

The word "Erastian" has acquired a particularly nasty significance by moderns and especially of Anglicans. Erastian solely refers to the role of the Christian monarch (or magistrate) in the life of the Church. Any student of history will clearly see that the English Reformers believed that the monarch had an incredibly important role to play in the visible Church in earth. The Reformers believed that the monarch was the rightful "head" (later softened to "governor") of the Church of England and not the Pope. For this reason, Henry VIII was given such power. For the Reformers, this was a restoration of the rightful place of the English King over the English Church, which had been usurped from the Bishop of Rome. The King was head (or governor) over all matters temporal and ecclesiastical, on earth. The question of proper authority was a crucial one at the time of the Reformation, whilst it is oftentimes left out nowadays, I think it is useful to remember this as an important part of our history.

This principle of "sacral monarchy" can easily be seen in the original Article XXXVII (the issue of the 1801 American Revision is a different issue):
Queen's Majesty hath the chief power in this realm of England and other her dominions, unto whom the chief government of all estates of this realm, whether they be ecclesiastical or civil, in all causes doth appertain, and is not nor ought to be subject to any foreign jurisdiction.
Where we attribute to the Queen's Majesty the chief government, by which titles we understand the minds of some slanderous folks to be offended, we give not to our princes the ministering either of God's word or of sacraments, the which thing the Injunctions also lately set forth by Elizabeth our Queen doth most plainly testify: but that only prerogative which we see to have been given always to all godly princes in Holy Scriptures by God himself, that is, that they should rule all estates and degrees committed to their charge by God, whether they be ecclesiastical or temporal, and restrain with the civil sword the stubborn and evil-doers.


The Bishop of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realm of England.
The Laws of the Realm may punish Christian men with death for heinous and grievous offences.
It is lawful for Christian men at the commandment of the Magistrate to wear weapons and serve in the wars.
This article reinforces the notion that, according to classical Anglicanism, the King (or Queen) is the supreme governor of all "estates of this realm" both temporal and ecclesiastical. This gives the monarch an authority in the Church, yet not giving sacramental function to them. The latter portion of the article is key as well, "The Bisho of Rome hath no jurisdiction in this realm of England," I've often wondered if there is significance in the use of italics here. I think it means to say that foreign bishops do not have authority in countries or jurisdictions outside of their own. To put this in modern terms, the Church of Nigeria does not have any authority in the United States, according to the reading I am using of this article.


Pragmatically Episcopal


This next point might be a bit tough for some to grasp, it was for me for the longest of times. The classical Anglican position in regards to the episcopacy is the bene esse position, as it has been commonly called. This means that the English Reformers retained episcopacy, not because it was necessary for the existence of the Church, but because it was ancient and also of the well-being of the Church, meaning that it had served the Church well, and there was no scriptural warrant against it, so it was retained. Yet, none of the Reformers affirmed that episcopacy was necessary for the existence of the Church. As the Ordinal states:
IT is evident unto all men diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church; Bishops, Priests, and Deacons. Which Offices were evermore had in such reverend Estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same; and also by publick Prayer, with Imposition of Hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful Authority. And therefore, to the intent that these Orders may be continued, and reverently used and esteemed in the Church of England, no man shall be accounted or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest, or Deacon, in the Church of England, or suffered to execute any of the said Functions, except he be called, tried, examined, and admitted thereunto, according to the Form hereafter following, or hath had Episcopal Consecration, or Ordination.
Now, there are some important observations to be made in regards to the retention of episcopacy in the English Church. First, as stated above, this was for the well-being of the Church. There seems to be some confusion over the nature of the retention of episcopacy in England and how that related to the validity of orders of other Churches, for example, in Scotland. This confusion results from the last sentence above, which many read to be an endorsement of only episcopally-ordained ministers. However, this is not a statement of Anglican doctrine but of discipline. The English Church retained episcopacy for itself. The requirement of episcopal ordination is a requirement for the Church of England and not a statement on the validity of other ministers. Second, the retention of episcopacy in the English Church was not connected to "apostolic succession". The English Reformers flat out denied any necessity of succession of ministers, moreover, they rejected the transferral of powers via the laying on of hands. For them, the real apostolic succession, that mattered, was in the transferral of apostolic doctrine through the preaching of the Gospel. The Church of England maintained an historical succession as a link to the apostolic church but denies any sacerdotal function in notion with this chain of succession. Thirdly, in relation to the previous point about Erastianism, for the majority of Anglican history, bishops were seen as ministers of the Crown, not apostolic shepherds.

For this reason, many American churchmen did not want bishops at the organization of PECUSA, it was only the staunch high churchmanship of Samuel Seabury that guaranteed an episcopacy for America. It was also the American Church which championed the "apostolic paradigm" of bishops in opposition to the Erastian paradigm of the English Church. Consequently, the American Church rejected the monarchical episcopacy and diocesan system (in the beginning). American bishops were rectors, just like other presbyters, with really only the authority to confirm and ordain added to their responsibilities. American "dioceses" were not called such until the 1830's and cathedrals were non-existent until the latter half of the 19th century, the first of which being constructed in Albany, NY, in 1888 (other parish churches were "upgraded" to cathedral status before this).


Commonly Liturgical

The last point has to do with the concept of "common prayer", which is a foundational, Anglican principle. It should be noted that the Church of England is a ritualistic (="liturgical") and not a ceremonial Church, meaning the Church of England established a ritual, or set words, for its worship, not allowing much deviation from them, and a minimalistic set of ceremonial actions to go with the Liturgy (i.e., the manual acts, signation in baptism, etc.). The use of Liturgy as a vehicle for reform was a common solution in the Reformation, yet the English situation was particularly notable in our retention of many of the ancient customs, albeit reformed to teach the Reformed faith. Now, there exists a common misconception about what common prayer entails for Anglicans worldwide. It seems that many interpret "common prayer" to mean "universal prayer", however, this is not the case. The Liturgy of the Church of England is the standard for all Anglican liturgies, yet it is not the universal liturgy of the Anglican Communion (as the Ordinary Form is in the Latin Church). There seems to be some allowance for national Churches to construct their own liturgies, agreeing in theology with the English liturgy, however, I admit that there is not much reason to want to change the English liturgy, personally.

This principle is summarized 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. Whosoever through his private judgement willingly and purposely doth openly break the traditions and ceremonies of the Church which be not repugnant to the word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly that other may fear to do the like, as he that offendeth against common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the magistrate, and woundeth the conscience of the weak brethren. Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish ceremonies or rites of the Church ordained only by man's authority, so that all things be done to edifying.
Conclusion

I write all of this as a summary of sorts. I see this as a summary of a culmination of five years of serious study on Anglican history, theology, and, most importantly, identity. I am as convinced as I can be of these propositions, of course, always with the realization I could be wrong. However, the evidence I have seen for these propositions is thoroughly clear to me to be able to make these claims. The more important issue for me is basing any definition of classical Anglicanism on anything other than the standards of the Church of England. Many look to one or more theologians to construct something else which they style classical Anglicanism, which, in actuality, is nothing more than their imagination. The definition of classical Anglicanism must be by its own standards, which are the historical Formularies, anything else is not to be regarded as classical Anglicanism but something alien and to be avoided.