Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Anglican Way

The English Reformation produced the Book of Common Prayer and the Thirty-nine Articles of Religion as its foundational documents. Both represent the more Reformed (as opposed to Lutheran) phase of the English reformation, though they are closer to patristic and medieval traditions than most Reformed documents are.

Archbishop Cranmer believed that he had to reform the worship, doctrine, and discipline of the church. The Prayer Book represents reformed worship, and the Articles contain reformed doctrine. Yet Cranmer’s reformed discipline failed to gain parliamentary approval, and that failure was a factor that led to the rise of puritanism.

The first Book of Common Prayer appeared in 1549. It contained services for daily worship, both morning and evening, and forms for the administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, along with other ceremonies that were used less often. The services were full of biblical phrases and imagery, and English people absorbed a considerable knowledge of Scripture from the Prayer Book, which was often repeated and easily memorized. The most important service was the one for the Lord’s Supper. Cranmer used traditional medieval English liturgies like the Sarum rite (“Sarum” is Latin for the town of Salisbury, in southern England), a liturgy drawn from Norman, Anglo-Saxon, and Roman traditions in the eleventh century. Cranmer restructured the old liturgies, however, in order to bring out the centrality of justification by faith alone. The communicant’s attention was directed away from the consecration of the bread and wine, which recalled the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, and refocused on his spiritual state, in line with Reformed teaching.

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Joe Mahler said...

A good article from Ligonier Ministries. The Westminster Confession of Faith are comfortable with the 39 Articles. Anglicans should embrace the Westminster Confession of Faith as an extension and expansion of the 39 Articles. If I am not mistaken Parliament did authorize the WCF in the 1649's but I don't know what was done about them after the Restoration.

Robin, do you know what the legal situation of the WCF took both during the Commonwealth and the Restoration?


Robin G. Jordan said...

The Westminister Confession was favored more by the Scottish than the English. To my knowledge only the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland adopted the Westminster Confession during the Commonwealth era. Independency, or Congregationalism, not Presbyterianism, came out on top in England at the conclusion of the English Civil War. Independency was strong in Cromwell's New Army. The Congregationalists would draw up the Cambridge Platform, which incorporates sections of the Westminister Confession, but takes a different position on church polity, and permits greater freedom of conscience. The Westminster Confession had no legal status after the Restoration. It was too strongly associated in the minds of the Restoration bishops with the Great Rebellion and Presbyterianism. While a number of Anglican divines played a role in the drafting of the Westminister Confession and it can, for that reason, be regarded as a part of our Anglican heritage, Anglicans have historically not embraced the Westminster Confession, preferring the Thirty-Nine Articles, which permits much greater liberty on secondary matters. The Westminster Confession goes well beyond the Thirty-Nine Articles in areas that the Articles permit freedom of conscience. Reformed Anglicans who have joined Presbyterian churches have found the Westminister Confession too restrictive. It is also arguable whether the Westminster Confession is an extension and expansion of the Articles. Classical Anglicanism has historically not looked to a general confession like the Westminster Confession as its standard of doctrine and faith but to a collection of doctrinal statements, to the Articles, to the Prayer Book and the appended Ordinal, to the two Books of Homilies, and to the Canons. Classical Anglicanism is confessional in so far as Convocation and Parliament adopted the Articles and Queen Elizabeth I gave them her royal assent. The Articles are a Reformation confession albeit they are the shortest of the Reformation confessions. The Church of England and the English Parliament have preferred to keep it that way.

Reformation said...

I dissent believing that vast tracts of the WCF contains stellar, unsurpassed, quality, well-examined and sustained statements of theology. Far better and far better expressed than the Articles.

I am in AB James Ussher's camp, that venerable Irish scholar and Prayer Book man.

Anglicans need to grow up--confessionally.