Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Strange Bedfellows

By Robin G. Jordan

Conservative evangelicals are welcome in the Anglican Church in North America—but not as conservative evangelicals. Their money, gifts, talents, and energy are welcome—but not their particular school of thought. They are too Anglican, if by Anglican, “of the Protestant and Reformed Church of England” is meant. They are the spiritual heirs of the English Reformation, the Elizabethan Settlement, the Glorious Revolution, and the Evangelical Revival.

What other group of churchmen has been as faithful to the principles of the English Reformation and to the historic formularies of the Protestant and Reformed Church of England—the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, the Book of Common Prayer of 1662, the Ordinal of 1661, and the homilies of Edward VI and Elizabeth I as conservative evangelicals have? The modern day Anglo-Catholics, the spiritual heirs of the nineteenth century Oxford movement with their strong affinity with Roman Catholicism cannot make this claim. Their claim that they are Anglicans is based upon the claim that their faith is that of the English Church before the Reformation, before the Reformers disowned and rejected the Roman innovations in doctrine and worship that defaced and overlaid the primitive faith in that church. They prefer the1549 and 1928 Prayer Books. They prefer the first because it is only halfway reformed and a step or two away from the pre-Reformation Medieval service books and the second because it moves the American Prayer Book closer to these service books and away from the more Protestant and Reformed liturgy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. Both of these Prayer Books they can supplement with various manuals—so-called “Anglican Missals” that bring the two Prayer Books even closer to the unreformed Medieval Roman Rite. If they take any interest in the Thirty-Nine Articles at all, it is to reinterpret them in a Rome-ward direction and then to argue that is how they should be interpreted.

The proponents of the via media school of thought also cannot make this claim. Despite their claim that their thinking truly represents historic Anglicanism, their school of thought is a relatively modern one. It has its origins in the thought of nineteenth century Oxford movement leader Edward Pusey and gained its current popularity in the twentieth century. Its proponents are likely to argue that the Thirty-Nine Articles are a thing of the past and the Anglican Church has moved on since that time. They prefer the 1979 Book of Common Prayer or the 1985 Canadian Book of Alternative Services.

In regard to its attitude toward conservative evangelicals the Anglican Church in North America does not differ greatly from The Episcopal Church. TEC welcomes conservative evangelicals as long as they keep their beliefs to themselves, acquiesce to the working theology of TEC, and do not attempt to uphold and maintain what they believe.

The fundamental declarations of the constitution of the Anglican Church in North America like the Common Cause Theological Statement from which they were adapted are intended to protect the views of the Anglo-Catholic and via media schools of thought. The first school of thought reintroduced into the Anglican Church the Roman innovations in doctrine and worship that the English Reformers disowned and rejected at the Reformation. It also introduced the innovations that the Church of Rome adopted at the Council of Trent and afterwards. The second school of thought sees Anglicanism as a middle path between Catholicism and Protestantism or a synthesis of Catholic and Protestant elements, and is open to the innovations in both categories. This particular school of thought dominated the teaching literature of The Episcopal Church in the twentieth century, and has a connection to the liberal and revisionist thinking prevalent in TEC. It can even be described as a liberal and revisionist view of Anglicanism. The theological and liturgical views of this school of thought are responsible for the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and the 1985 Canadian Book of Alternative Services.

Anglo-Catholics are willing to partner with the proponents of the via media school of thought because the latter accept some of their basic propositions and are open to others. Anglo-Catholics see it as a matter of time before they come around completely to the Anglo-Catholic way of thinking. Some of them are already halfway there. At the same time it is an uneasy partnership. Many proponents of the via media school of thought tend to have a progressive view of Anglicanism as something that is evolving and to support what are from a conservative or traditionalist Anglo-Catholic viewpoint unacceptable innovations such as the ordination of women and the divorce and remarriage of clergy. A significant number of them also lean more toward Protestantism than they do Catholicism. Anglo-Catholics perceive the inclusion of a strong conservative evangelical element in the Anglican Church in North America as a threat since the presence of that element might cause these Protestant-leaning proponents of the via media school of thought to move closer to the doctrine and practices of the conservative evangelical school of thought.

It makes no sense for conservative evangelicals to invest their money, gifts, talents, and energy in a church that has no room for their school of thought and shows no inclination to make room for that school of thought. But it goes beyond that. As James Crabtree and David Philips observe in their article, “Anglican Orthodoxy,” there are substantial differences between what Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholics believe and what the Protestant and Reformed Church of England has historically believed. There has been a tendency in recent years to gloss over these differences and to act as if they have been reconciled when they actually have not. Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholics have quite a different concept of salvation from that of the Protestant and Reformed Church of England. They preach a different gospel.

We hear a lot of talk in the Anglican Church in North America about spreading the gospel and planting new churches. But which gospel? The gospel as the Protestant and Reformed Church of England has historically understood it and as articulated in the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Homily on Justification? Or the gospel as Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholics understand it? They are not the same. In the case of the gospel as the Protestant and Reformed Church of England has historically understood it, those who hear it and believe it are saved. It is the gospel of the New Testament. In case of the gospel as Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholics understand it, those who hear it and believe it remain in their sins. It is “another gospel.” It is not only nonsensical to support a church that is spreading a false gospel, it is also “repugnant to God’s Word.” As the apostle Paul wrote the Galatians, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8-9 KJV) Paul also warned the Corinthians, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?” (2 Cor 6:14-15 KJV) What we have here is not adiaphora, secondary matters, matters indifferent to our salvation. It concerns how we are saved, how we are made right with God. On such a matter there can be no compromise. To join with Anglo-Catholics who preach a different gospel and proponents of the via media school of thought who may not have a clear gospel message is the same as joining with liberal and revisionist Episcopalians who teach all people are saved no matter what they believe. This concern cannot be dismissed as an excessive preoccupation with doctrinal purity. The doctrine in question is a matter of life and death—eternal life and eternal death!

Planting new churches to reach the lost with the gospel of life, to make disciples, to teach them, and to equip them for the work of ministry is one thing. Starting new congregations to mislead people into believing that they can save themselves through the sacraments and other good works is another thing altogether.

The Anglican Church in North America needs to sort out what gospel it is going to proclaim. It cannot proclaim two gospels. To take that position is to take the position of The Episcopal Church that it does not matter what people believe.

The challenge facing Christians today is not just maintaining decency in face of an increasingly immoral world. It is proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ to a world that has grown hard of heart. It cannot be any gospel. It must be the true gospel. Only the true gospel has power to touch hearts and transform lives.

There are those who are concerned that any division in the present alliance between Anglo-Catholics and evangelicals will lead to the victory of liberalism and immorality in the Anglican Communion. Anglo-Catholics and evangelicals, they argue, must stand together at all costs. However, the forces of spiritual evil at work behind the spread of liberalism and immorality are also going to win if Anglicans proclaim a false gospel or muddle the gospel message. Souls will be lost as they would be lost to the pernicious effects of liberalism and immorality.

Until the Anglican Church in North America has decided upon what gospel it will proclaim—and I pray that it will be the true gospel, and makes other needed changes, conservative evangelicals need to give thought to what they are going to do to spread the gospel of life. This entails more than what we do as individuals as important as that is. It also concerns what we do collectively.

Conservative evangelicals who are in the Anglican Church in North America and who believe that God has placed them there for a purpose need to organize to work together as “leaven in the lump,” yeast in the dough. They need to do everything they can to encourage the AC-NA to proclaim the true gospel. If the AC-NA does not proclaim the gospel of life, everything else it may accomplish is worthless. They cannot settle for being the faithful few who share the good news of Jesus Christ in a church that otherwise proclaims a false gospel. They should not forget the warning of the apostle John in his second letter. “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.” (2 John 1:10-11 KJV)

Conservative evangelicals who are outside the Anglican Church in North America also need to organize. They need to join forces to establish a viable alternative to the AC-NA, a church that upholds and maintains the Protestant, Reformed and evangelical character of the Anglican Church. There is more to upholding and maintaining this character than preserving a heritage and passing it on to our posterity. At the heart of this character not only is the teaching of the Reformation but also the teaching of the apostles—we are saved by grace alone by faith alone. With these principles we convey to another generation the gospel through which God gives life and gives life abundantly.


Joe Mahler said...

Robin said, "It makes no sense for conservative evangelicals to invest their money, gifts, talents, and energy in a church that has no room for their school of thought and shows no inclination to make room for that school of thought."

This is indeed true. The investment of these things in such a church is in fact the same as working toward one own destruction. The gifts that God has given us are not meant to be used for ungodly purposes. That is sin. God has given us a body. It is a good thing; it is not sin, but if we use it for fornication and adultery we have used a good thing wickedly and have sinned. If we use our bodies to promote the Gospel in faith, hope, and charity we have done a good thing. So why should the Christian support that which he does not believe and thinks to be of the nature of sin by supporting the anglo-catholics rather than supporting Biblical Christianity, which he knows is repugnant to leadership of the AC-NA. It make no sense. We are admonished to separate ourselves from the unbelievers.

Reformation said...

I won't invest a nickel of time, money and any slight talents I may have.

The leadership is little better than the TEC, without the gay ordinations.

There are no Reformed churchmen among them who are men of principle, courage, consistency, and respect.

Texanglican (R.W. Foster+) said...

Thanks for highlighting photos of our lovely church, Robin. Three of the four pictures (all drawn from the ACNA website, right?) are of St. Vincent's Cathedral in Bedford, Texas. And, in the unlikely event any of your readers would care, that's actually me directly behind the crucifer in the second photo (taken at our Sunday morning worship the day before ACNA's first provincial assembly started on our campus).

The third photo is of four of our ACNA bishops (Bishop Iker is on the right) taken last weekend at St.Vladimir's Orthodox Seminary, where they attended Archbishop Williams' speech at the invitation of Metropolitan Jonah and the seminary's leadership. As one who has much higher hopes for our relations with the Orthodox than with Rome, I was delighted to see that our ACNA leaders were welcomed so warmly and highlighted in St. Vladimir's own account of the event on their website.

I am saddened to see that you have given up on the idea at sixteenth-century style evangelicals like yourself can have a place in ACNA, sir. But I do wish you the very best of fortune in establishing your new ecclesial body for those who are uncomfortable with the via media. It will be interesting to see how many adherents rally to the "conservative evangelical Anglican" cause (though I am a little bit surprised that none of the existing continuing churches meets the bill--are they all too Anglo-Catholic?). God bless, sir!

Reformation said...

Joe, notice Ray of the REC, the Kentucky Baptist boy, turned dispsensationalist, turned ardent theonomist, turned Federal Visionist and Presbyterian, turned REC, turned, by other turns, ACNA ecumenical officer.

Flattering Jonah.

Ray the "coward" wilted in the presence of Anglo-Catholics at Oxford in the presence of a friend of mine, another doctoral student, a Confessional Reformed man---who did not wilt before the slurs.

There's never been any hope for the ACNA from a Reformed perspective. That requires exegetical prowess unbeknowst to the leaders.

I repeat what I noted earlier, to wit, "There are no Reformed churchmen among them who are men of principle, courage, consistency, and respect," said to include, but not limited to, Ray of the REC, or Sutton the Chamelion.

Robin, did you really have hope for these senior presbyters that they call "bishops?"

I never did and never was fooled by the high level incompetence. FitzSimmons is an exception. But where's the leadership?

Reformation said...


There won't be any Reformed or Protestant response. Maybe some here and there, but there's no leadership for it.

That will please your ACNA admin clerks, the bishops.

No surprises here at all.


Charlie J. Ray said...

Texas Anglican doesn't get it:) There are plenty of Evangelical denominations out there and at least they are teaching the Gospel of grace. Simply because the Anglo-Catholics have hijacked Anglcianism here in the US doesn't mean squat.

I might point out that despite the problems with the Sydney Anglicans and some of the Africans, there are still a substantial number of Evangelical and Protestant Anglicans worldwide.

I plan to teach and preach the Gospel till I drop dead:)

God bless your efforts, Robin.

In Christ,


Robin G. Jordan said...


The AC-NA leadership may be deluding themselves that their relationship with Metropolitan Jonah means that they have the recognition of the Orthodox Churches. Metropolitan Jonah and his church does not have good standing among the real Orthodox. He and his church are on the fringes of the Orthodox community as the AC-NA is on the fringe of the Anglican community.

You have in various posts on your own blog expressed concern that the AC-NA might move in a more Protestant and Reformed direction and might actually require "unfeigned assent" to the Thirty-Nine Articles and prohibit Anglo-Catholic practices such as the adoration of the sacramental species. You clearly have shown that you do not wish that conservative evangelicals should be a part of the AC-NA and to exercise any influence upon its doctrine and practice. Despite claiming that there is room for everybody, you have in your posts shown that you really do not welcome conservative evangelicals in the AC-NA.

If you have been reading the articles on my blog, you must realize that I have always advocated a two-prong approach--organization of conservative evangelicals in the AC-NA and reform of that Anglican body from within and organization of conservative evangelicals outside the AC-NA and the establishment of a viable alternative to the AC-NA that is true the principles of the English Reformation and the historic formularies of the Protestant and Reformed Church of England. I am not urging conservative evangelicals to leave the AC-NA if they believe that God has put them them in that Anglican body to fulfill his purposes but I was draw to their attention as any good watchmen should the dangers to themselves and others if their reasons for being part of the AC-NA are their own and not God's will for them. Where the people bowed a knee to Baal, God provided a remnant who did not but were faithful in their service to Him.

PaleoAnglican said...


I couldn't agree more with your analysis. My only question, regardless of whether one is inside or outside of ACNA, is who will lead a movement of Protestant, Reformed evangelicals?!

So far as I can tell, you've displayed more leadership than anyone in a purple shirt, save Fitz. And if there's no real leadership from inside ACNA, is there someone in the continuing church we should look to?

Robin G. Jordan said...

The notion that the Anglican Church is a "via media" between Catholicism and Protestantism is an erroneous concept. John Henry Newman, as you must know, rejected the idea and departed the Church of England for the Church of Rome. In classifying types of Anglicans, the literature identifies three main types of Anglo-Catholics, Anglo-papists who do not conceal that their eventual aim is to lead their flock into the Church of Rome; those who have been influenced by the thinking of the High Church Caroline divines, and those who subscribe to the views of Edward Pusey, nineteenth century Oxford movement leader who maintained that Anglicanism was a middle path between Catholicism and Protestantism but to uphold this view Pusey had to do a lot of twisting of the facts of history as well as twisting of the doctrinal views of the English Reformers and others. The alternative was to recognize as Newman had that the Church of England was not Catholic in the Roman sense and to swim the Tiber.

Before the Oxford movement came along and muddied the water, the Church of England was without any doubt Protestant and Reformed. According to its canons and formularies it still is. The doctrine of salvation by grace alone by faith alone, as articulated by the English Reformers and set forth in its formularies and especially the Homily on Justification is a primier doctrine of the Church of England. Clergy who hold another doctrine such as all men are saved no matter what they believe or that men are saved through the sacraments and other good works do not stand in continuity with the doctrine of the Church of England and from the perspective of the Homily of Justification should not be regarded as Christians, much less Anglicans. "This faith the holy Scripture teaches us, this is the strong Rock and foundation of Christian Religion, this doctrine all old and ancient Authors of Christ's Church do approve, this doctrine advances and sets forth the true glory of Christ, and beats down the vain glory of man, this whosoever denies, is not to be accounted for a Christian man, nor for a setter forth of Christ's glory, but for an adversary to Christ and his Gospel, and for a setter forth of mens vain glory."

Robin G. Jordan said...

The danger in a church that blurs together contradictory doctrine is that even though it might in part teach right doctrine, the wrong doctrine that it teaches cancels any good effects of this teaching. You can make all you want of Anglicanism being a via media but if the doctrine of justification as the English Reformers understood is not taught or other doctrines are taught that weaken or obscure that doctrine then you are leading your flock on the broad road to perdition.

There is an old saying that the road to hell is paved with lilies--bright colorful flowers that delude the lost soul into believing that he is taking the right path. One of the major weakenesses of The Episcopal Church even before the events of the last few years was that people fell in love with the church, with its ethos, with the flickering candles, the clouds of fragrant incense, the gorgeous vestments, the elaborate ceremonial, and the solemn organ music but they did not fall in love with the church's Lord. The ethos of the church became a snare for them. They became so absorbed in it that they did not look to the state of their souls.

The lilies that pave the road to hell can also be doctrinal. They lull those on that road to believe that all is well with their souls went it is not! Those who have fled The Episcopal Church have recognized the danger to their souls of one kind of lily: they now recognize that blossom for what it is--a snare. But they still do not recognize the danger of the other kinds of lilies that pave their way to perdition. And unfortunaley, clergy like yourself who do not see the danger of these blossoms themselves are telling them that they are harmless and even to seek that part of the road where they grow in most profusion. In the movie The Wizard of Oz Dorothy and her companions themselves in a field of red poppies where deadly vapors of the poppies soon overcome them and they fall asleep. The wicked witch of the west had put this field of poppies in their path to prevent them from reaching Oz. They would have died in that field if Glenda the Good had not intervened and sent a fall of snow that woke them. My prayer is that God will wake you and the other clergy of the AC-NA and the flocks you all lead before you perish.

A watchman who sees the danger to the city cannot abandon the city wall and leave the city unwarned. So I will be continuing to draw attention to the dangers in which the AC-NA lies. I will be continuing to call for reform in the AC-NA while urging conservative evangelicals within the AC-NA to do the same.

Robin G. Jordan said...


I plan to address the questions you raise in a future article. They are very important questions and deserve a thoughtful answer.

DomWalk said...

Ah, good to know that "Anglicans" Ablaze is still open for high comedy. Robin continues to rail about how the poor, oppressed "Conservative Evangelicals" are unwelcome in the ACNA.

Still no proof, however. Just hyperbole and conjecture and puffs of smoke. What's the matter, Robin? Did Iker run over your dog, or something?

I think I've finally stopped giggling about a self-proclaimed Calvinist on here claiming that he had no pride. Priceless! Roll over, John Calvin!

Anglo-Magpies love the intellectual sophistication (and superiority) that (Hyper-) Calvinism provides, and they noisily flock to a nest they haven't built and proceed to sqwak about the impurities of everyone else. Motes and beams and all that.

Most laughable, more even than the transparent dead intellectualism, is the self-congratulatory (and delusional) identification with the early English Reformers. Here's a touch of the clue stick: b*tching about Anglo-Catholics and proclaiming your doctrinal purity doesn't make you like Cranmer and Ridley.

It makes you a pharisee.

Michael Horton, the classic example of an opportunist denomination-jumper (who was sent away from Oxford sans degree, by the way) is the Anglo-Magpie poster child. The appallingly pretentious intro to White Horse Inn tells you all you need to know.


Reformation said...


You said:

"What other group of churchmen has been as faithful to the principles of the English Reformation and to the historic formularies of the Protestant and Reformed Church of England—the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, the Book of Common Prayer of 1662, the Ordinal of 1661, and the homilies of Edward VI and Elizabeth I as conservative evangelicals have?"

I repost this quote from you article.

It is a good question and is a worthy stand-alone.

The neo-Tractarians can't answer this affirmatively. That's just a matter of history.

Am attending an AMiA work. Arminian and charis-lite. I don't think they can answer this affirmatively either.

We definitively know that the REC cannot answer this affirmatively by way of steady, honourable, credible, and open asseveration.

There is a need for the recovery of these confessional doctrines, worship and piety.

Reformation said...


I was going to say something to you and then decided against it.

Notably, the silence of others to your post may have some reasons: disinterest, a snub, and a consideration that a response to it is to dignify your comments. That probably should justify furthered silence by others.

Consider those three reasons the substance of my furthered silence with respect to your histrionics.

Joe Mahler said...

Trust in your bread and wine. Bow before it; kneel before it; adore it. Worship it as your god. Trust in your sacrifices at your altars. Pray to your saints (lesser gods). You may as well worship Huitzipochtli. It didn't do the Mexicas of Tenochtitlan any good. It will do you no good as well. But try doing as Jesus Christ ordered, worship God in spirit and in truth without the inventions of man. Christ didn't let the Pharisees off the hook with their trust in their own man made up traditions. Read the second commandment. Oh! I'm sorry they have disappeared from the east walls of your Oxfordian sanctuaries. You may ignore them in your 1928 BCP by rubrical decree. Humility before God is required not slobbering on some amethyst ring. anglo-catholics are the follower of deceitful liars who played word games to try and convince the world that the 39 Articles of Religion somehow said the same thing that he roman heretics and idolaters teach. anglo-papists are as their fathers were. At least John Newman had the courage to follow what he truly believed and swim the Tiber. Oh! Isn't he now a saint to be venerated (worshiped)?

Dom, this is not about John Calvin. It is about Jesus Christ. Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin all taught the same thing concerning salvation. Pelagianism is heresy and so declared heresy. Semi-pelagianism is half heresy. Is semi-pleagianism kind of like being a little bit pregnant? Where does the Scriptures stand with you. You have a problem with Christ's doctrine? Paul's? John's? Peter's? Calvinism is a misnomer. What Calvin taught was not his own doctrine but the Biblical doctrine. Look to rome if you wish, I will look to Calvary.

Robin_G_Jordan said...


You can make light of my views and ridicule me all you like. I have heard worse.

In the sixteenth century the Church of England was greatly need of reform. It went beyond translating the liturgy into the vernacular and insisting upon a higher moral standards in the clergy. It required recovering the teaching of the Bible and making the Bible available in English to those who could read so they and those to whom they read the Bible could see for themselves that what the Reformers said was in the Bible was indeed in the Bible. Why was that so important? The reason it was critical was that everything that is necessary for our salvation is found in the Bible. By not reading the Scripture lessons in English in the Mass, by using only snippets of Scripture, by teaching the people that salvation was through the sacraments, the offering of Masses, and other good works, the English Church was withholding salvation from the English people.

Since the nineteenth century the same doctrines and practices that had come to replace the teaching of the Bible in the sixteenth century have been reintroduced into the Church of England and its daughter churches together with other doctrines and practices that are not consistent with what the Bible teaches. This has created a situation that is not too different from that of the English Church before the Reformation: people are perishing in their sins mistakenly believing that they are saved. Liberalism has made the matter worse because it has led people to mistrust the Bible.

The Anglican Church in North America has not shaken off the influence of the so-called Catholic Revival which is responsible for the reintroduction of these unbiblical doctrines and practices into the Anglican Church. It also has not completely freed itself from the influence of liberalism. The AC-NA is a church that is very much in need of reform.

What point is it to plant new churches if those churches are not gospel churches--churches that proclaim the true gospel. The purpose of planting new churches is not to make a denomination larger but to spread the gospel. If the churches of a denomination are not spreading the true gospel and the lost are not being saved, that denomination is not carrying out the mission that Christ gave his Church through the apostles. It is questionable whether it can claim to be a part of Christ's Church.

Christ died on the cross for our sins but his death was for nothing if the good news of what his death has wrought is not proclaimed, if how it opens to humankind the way to salvation is not made known. It is an act of rebellion against God. God sent his Son so that all who believe in him should not perish but have everlasting life but instead of telling this good news to those perishing in their sins, a denomination tells them something else. The Episcopal Church is doing this. A large segment of the AC-NA is also doing the same thing.

Jordan said...

I've read a few posts from this blog and I simply cannot agree with anything that is posted here. I worship at an ACNA/AMiA church in the Kentucky region. We use the 1979 prayer book and our rector wears the "mass vestments" but I hear nothing but the Gospel preached every Sunday from the pulpit and in the Sacraments administered. Sure there are Anglo-Catholics in the ACNA as there are in every Anglican province. Personally I'd rather worship with a man of God such as + Iker than to linger in the hate that permeates this blog.

Reformation said...

Michael Horton has repeatedly been, in this forum, (mal-)aligned with Pharisaicism and other ills without careful analsis or footnotes. As usual, unimpressed.

Michael speaks of the Reformation stream of evangelicalism and the "Village Green," where varied reformed streams may gather for dialogue and exchange of views.

I doubt there will be Anglicans at that Village Green.

Here are some of Michael's comments found more largely at:

Reformation said...


However, the Reformation stream in American evangelicalism hadn't dried up completely. Old Princeton was an especially fecund source for renewing and defending the legacy of true evangelicalsm. Lutherans like C. F. W. Walther, Presbyterians like Archibald Alexander, Congregationalists like Timothy Dwight, Episcopalians like Bishop William White, and Baptists like Isaac Backus could recognize a core of Reformation convictions that they shared in common, over against the rising tide of infidelity. Much good came (and still comes) out of evangelical cooperation on the mission field, in common diaconal ministries, and in faithful scholarship.

Churchmen like Warfield and Hodge regarded themselves as evangelicals in the distinctively Reformation sense and struggled to bring American Protestantism into line with this definition. They were also staunchly committed to and personally involved with the vast missionary endeavors of their denomination at home and abroad, bringing them into constant fellowship and cooperation with other evangelicals.

Nevertheless, Warfield was already beginning to see that the tension between competing visions of evangelical identity was making it more difficult to remain an unqualified supporter of the evangelical cause. In 1920, a number of evangelicals put forward a "plan of union for evangelical churches." Warfield evaluated the "creed" of this plan, as it was being studied by Presbyterians, and observed that the new confession being proposed "contains nothing which is not believed by Evangelicals," and yet "…nothing which is not believed …by the adherents of the Church of Rome, for example." He wrote,

There is nothing about justification by faith in this creed. And that means that all the gains obtained in that great religious movement which we call the Reformation are cast out of with window…There is nothing about the atonement in the blood of Christ in this creed. And that means that the whole gain of the long mediaeval search after truth is thrown summarily aside…There is nothing about sin and grace in this creed…We need not confess our sins anymore; we need not recognize the existence of such a thing. We need believe in the Holy Spirit only ‘as guide and comforter'—do not the Rationalists do the same? And this means that all the gain the whole world has reaped from the great Augustinian conflict goes out of the window with the rest…It is just as true that the gains of the still earlier debates which occupied the first age of the Church's life, through which we attained to the understanding of the fundamental truths of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ are discarded by this creed also. There is no Trinity in this creed; no Deity of Christ—or of the Holy Spirit.[4]

Reformation said...

If justification through faith is the heart of the evangel, Warfield wondered, how can "evangelicals" omit it from their common confession? He asked, "Is this the kind of creed which twentieth-century Presbyterianism will find sufficient as a basis for co-operation in evangelistic activities? Then it can get along in its evangelistic activities without the gospel. For it is precisely the gospel that this creed neglects altogether." Again, the evangel had become separated from the evangelicals. "‘Fellowship' is a good word," Warfield concluded, "and a great duty. But our fellowship, according to Paul, must be in ‘the furtherance of the gospel.'"[5]

The diagnosis of American Christianity offered by Dietrich Bonhoeffer ("Protestantism without the Reformation") after his lecture tour in the United States seems justified. He wrote,

God has granted American Christianity no Reformation. He has given it strong revivalist preachers, churchmen and theologians, but no Reformation of the church of Jesus Christ by the Word of God….American theology and the American church as a whole have never been able to understand the meaning of ‘criticism' by the Word of God and all that signifies. Right to the last they do not understand that God's ‘criticism' touches even religion, the Christianity of the church and the sanctification of Christians, and that God has founded his church beyond religion and beyond ethics….In American theology, Christianity is still essentially religion and ethics…Because of this the person and work of Christ must, for theology, sink into the background and in the long run remain misunderstood, because it is not recognized as the sole ground of radical judgment and radical forgiveness.[6]


Today, some of the ill fruit of pietism and revivalism live on. Many take it for granted that those who are most concerned about doctrine are least interested in reaching the lost (or, as they are now called, the "unchurched"). Evangelicals are frequently challenged to choose between being traditional or missional, two camps which are typically described with nothing more than caricatures. Where the earlier evangelical consensus coalesced simultaneously around getting the gospel right and getting it out, increasingly today the coalition is defined by its style ("contemporary" versus "traditional"), its politics ("compassionate conservatism" or the more recent rediscovery of revivalism's progressivist roots), and its rock star leaders, rather than for its convictions about God, humanity, sin, salvation, the purpose of history, and the last judgment.

Reformation said...

I realize that not all such "creeds" today are as minimalistic as the one evaluated by Warfield. Nor has American Christianity been without its own defenders of the faith. In its statement of faith the National Association of Evangelicals affirms the Trinity, the deity of Christ, "the vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood," and the necessity of a supernatural rebirth. However, there is no mention of justification—the article of a standing or falling church—and the only conviction concerning the church is belief in "the spiritual unity of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ." Baptism and the Supper are not even mentioned.

Ironically, genuinely evangelical faith today is often found outside of the evangelical movement, and within evangelicalism it is contested on many fronts. Increasingly, it has become common for evangelicals to question the authority (much less the sufficiency) of Scripture and the basic tenets around which evangelicals of various stripes were formerly able to unite. According to every major survey I've seen, most American evangelicals are ignorant of many of the basic truths of Christianity. Instead, there is a pervasive "moralistic, therapeutic deism," as sociologist Christian Smith has documented. The fact that people growing up in evangelical churches are as likely—and in some studies, more likely—to embrace this sort of amorphous spirituality over against the Christian creed makes you wonder what is "evangelical" about "evangelicalism." Has the evangel left the evangelicals?

At the same time, one often encounters winsome defenses of historic Christianity, including the Reformation's insights, from what might have seemed like the most unlikely sources.


For all of this, I remain convinced that there is still a place for being "evangelical." Why? Quite simply, because we still have the evangel. In my view, evangelicalism, then, serves best as a "village green," like the common parks at the center of old New England towns, for everyone who affirms this evangel. It's a place where Christians from different churches meet to discuss what they share in common, as well as their differences. They help keep each other honest.

In its present phase, the church is a pilgrim people. I think that the Reformed confession is the most faithful summary of the Bible's teachings. Yet my faith is enriched by encountering Christians from different traditions who challenge me to think more deeply and fully about emphases I might have missed.

The village green also provides a common area where Christians can witness to non-Christians concerning the hope that they share, and a common space where our neighbors in a particular community can be served by Christian love. The danger comes when the village green becomes dominated by a nearly Pelagian atmosphere and self-confidently imagines that its Big Tent is the cathedral that reduces actual churches on the green to mere chapels.

Michael Horton is J. Gresham Machen professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California in Escondido, co-host of The White Horse Inn radio show, and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine.

Robin G. Jordan said...


A number of those who leave comments in response to my articles do have strong views and let their feelings get the better of them. But I think that you are going to far if you characterize the tone of my articles as hateful. I do draw attention to the shortcomings and weaknesses of the Anglican Church in North America, and this does not sit well with those who have a stake in the AC-NA. However, there is a strong need to draw attention to these problem areas so that Anglicans outside North America have a more accurate picture of the AC-NA than the one that AC-NA spokesmen give them. The latter is naturally is going to portray the AC-NA in the most positive light and paper over how the AC-NA is flawed or lacking, how it is deficient. They may themselves be in denial about the AC-NA's defects and limitations. Those within the AC-NA also need to face up to the AC-NA's shortcomings and weaknesses and do something about them.

The pastor of your church in Lexington may preach the gospel every week. If he does, I applaud him. However, there are churches in the AC-NA where a different gospel is preached. Whether Bishop Iker is a "godly man" is beside the point. Does he preach the gospel as set forth in the New Testament and the historic Anglican formularies or does he preach "a different gospel"--that of sacramental salvation? The apostle Paul wrote that if even an angel preached "a different gospel," he was accursed. Piousness or earnestness does not make doctrine that is inconsistent with the Bible any less consistent. Bishop J. C. Ryle draws this to our attention in a number of his works and we do well to take heed to him. Only one gospel--the true gospel--God empowers to touch hearts and transform lives. Any other gospel will harm those who believe it, just as the wicked and those without a lively faith eat the sacrament of the Lord's Supper to their undoing.