Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What does it mean to be Anglican? III


[Theological Theology] 20 Oct 2009--The Anglican inheritance in both doctrine and church practice is irrevocably tied to the cause of the Protestant Reformation. For all its insistence that it is genuinely catholic, that it was not another church set up as an alternative to that existing at the time but rather the true church reformed, the English church from which worldwide Anglicanism has grown was unambiguously Protestant. It embraced the Reformation doctrines of Scripture, salvation and the church. The five solas, solus Christus, sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura, and soli Deo gloria, all find expression in the Anglican formularies and are expounded in the book of homilies. The antagonism of Catholic apologists during the Elizabethan period and ever since is not simply directed to the Anglican rejection of papal primacy but also and primarily to Anglican doctrine which it sees as incompatible with the emphases of the Roman church.

Ever since at least the early seventeenth century there have been attempts to suggest true Anglicanism is not really Protestant and that aligning the English church with the continental Reformation is a mistake. Revisionist accounts of the origins of Anglicanism have glossed over the way in which, in both doctrine and practice, the English Reformers sought to align their church with the Reformation churches on the continent.

However, in more recent years even unsympathetic scholars of the Reformation have been willing to concede Anglicanism's basic Protestantism. It rejected the notion of a magisterium that stood alongside Scripture as an authority for Christian faith and life. It rejected a sacerdotal understanding of priesthood and Christian ministry. It rejected purgatory, the cult of the virgin and the use of images in worship. It clothed its clergy in a surplice rather than priestly robes (though strong voices from within its ranks argued that even this should be dispensed with).

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