By Robin G. Jordan
Editor's Note: The terms "apostasy" and "apostate" used in this article are used in a technical, non-pejorative sense. They are not intended to disparage or belittle the ecclesial bodies in connection with which the these terms have been used.
At a conference of Reform UK in June 1995, J.I. Packer delivered an address in which he described Anglicanism as Biblical and Protestant in its stance, Evangelical and Reformed in its doctrine, and liturgical and traditional in its worship. At the Global Anglican Future Conference in June 2008 Anglican bishops, clergy, and laity from around the world adopted the Jerusalem Declaration. In the Jerusalem Declaration they rejoiced in the gospel of God through which they had been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. They upheld the Thirty-Nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s word and as authoritative for Anglicans today. They upheld the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer and the classical Anglican Ordinal as an authoritative standard of clerical orders. In September 2009 the GAFCON Theological Resource Group issued a commentary on the Jerusalem Declaration, in which the group stated “that we are justified by faith, as a Article XI of the Thirty-nine Articles affirm, ‘a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort.’” They further stated that acceptance of the authority of Thirty-Nine Articles is “constitutive of Anglican identity,” and that “central to our common identity as Anglican Christians is the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.”
How will bringing into the Anglican Church in North America independent Catholics who are Roman Catholic, except in name, in their doctrines and practices help the ACNA maintain its Anglican identity? They preach the gospel of sacramental salvation. The Articles, the Prayer Book, and the Ordinal mean nothing to them. The historic Anglican formularies are not for them authoritative standards of faith and worship. The Prayer Book has never been a part of their identity.
How will bringing into the ACNA charismatic Convergentists who are also Roman Catholic, except in name, in their doctrines and practices help the ACNA to uphold historic Anglicanism? They also preach a gospel of sacraments and good works. As in the case of their independent Catholic brethren with whom they share the same orders, the Articles, the Prayer Book, and the Ordinal mean nothing to them. Like their independent Catholic brethren, the historic Anglican formularies are not for them authoritative standards of faith and worship. The Prayer Book has never been a part of their identity either.
Both groups never have been and never will be Anglican Christians. The ACNA leadership may spin this development however they please but they cannot change the facts. What we are witnessing is leaders whose own connection to historic Anglicanism is tenuous at best welcoming into the ACNA bishops, clergy, and congregations who have no connection to historic Anglicanism whatsoever. These same leaders who wish to rip the Anglican mantle from The Episcopal Church and to don it themselves are no more authentically Anglican than the leaders of TEC. One church is moving in a conservative charismatic Catholic direction and the other in a liberal affirming Catholic direction but neither is moving in an Anglican direction. They have both abandoned the evangelical Protestant faith of the reformed Church of England and her historic formularies and in that sense they are as equally as apostate.
This defection was not sudden. It did not take place overnight. It has been generations in the making. It began in The Episcopal Church when it was still the Protestant Episcopal Church and from which the bulk of the members of the ACNA come. It has taken generations to bear fruit, but bear fruit it has. The church that broke away from what it viewed as an apostate body was apostate itself! The spiritual forebears of most of its congregations and clergy long ago fell away from the evangelical Protestant faith of the reformed Church of England and her historic formularies if they ever held to that faith. They embraced a different faith and a different gospel.
The GAFCON Primates affirm the ACNA as “a genuine expression of Anglicanism” and “authentically Anglican.” This not only raises serious questions about the extent of their knowledge and understanding of the emerging character of the ACNA but also the character of African Anglicanism itself.
In their “Response to Offer of an Apostolic Constitution to Anglicans” in November 2009 the GAFCON Primates made this statement:
“We believe that this offer is a gracious one and reflects the same commitment to the historic apostolic faith, moral teaching and global mission that we proclaimed in the Jerusalem Declaration on the Global Anglican Future and for this we are profoundly grateful.”
In a subsequent letter to the GAFCON Primates Church Society Council drew to their attention of the problematic nature of their statement:
We write regarding the “Response to offer of an Apostolic Constitution to Anglicans” issued on 10 November 2009.
We share your concern regarding the impact of theological liberalism on the Anglican Communion and the need to uphold Biblical faith and practice. We are painfully aware of brothers and sisters in Christ who have left the Church of England and the Anglican Communion because they could no longer tolerate such liberalism. However, we were deeply concerned about the opening paragraph in your letter.
You state: We believe that this offer is a gracious one and reflects the same commitment to the historic apostolic faith, moral teaching and global mission that we proclaimed in the Jerusalem Declaration on the Global Anglican Future and for this we are profoundly grateful.
The Jerusalem Declaration purports to stand for the historic faith of Anglicanism and in particular not just Scripture and the Creeds but the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion as a succinct summary of Biblical teaching. We stand wholeheartedly by the Thirty-Nine Articles and Church Society has upheld their truth and integrity for the last 175 years. We cannot however see that your description of the Roman Catholic Church is compatible with the Articles.
For those who have not read the Church Society Council letter to the GAFCON Primates I have reproduced the rest of the letter below. It draws a number of important points to the attention of the GAFCON Primates.
A number of points might be made but the most obvious are as follows:
Our Articles reject the claims of universal jurisdiction made by the Papacy (Article 37). The Church of England rightly broke from Roman servitude in 1534. We do not believe that the Papacy has significantly changed its stance since and the claims of universal primacy, let alone universal jurisdiction are historically unjustifiable. The accompanying claims to the authority of the Papacy are profoundly unscriptural.
Our Articles uphold the glorious teaching of Scripture that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Article 11). We have elsewhere called attention to the failure of the Jerusalem Declaration and the Commentary on the Declaration to stand by historic Anglicanism on this point. Yet the Roman Catholic Church still rejects these truths and has never withdrawn its anathematising of those who uphold them. We have been distressed over the years, and have regularly drawn attention to the liberal led dishonesty of the ecumenical movement in misrepresenting Anglican teaching and in using ambiguous language in pursuing structural rather than confessional unity. Sadly the same thing was evident in the Evangelicals and Catholics Together movement and we are fearful that GAFCON is following the same course. The doctrine of justification is not a minor side issue. The churches of the Reformation, which includes the Anglican churches, have agreed with Martin Luther that it is the "article of the standing and falling of the church.".
Our Articles explicitly subject the Church to Scripture (Articles 19-21). Theological liberalism has set the authority of the Church, in the guise of Synods and human wisdom above Scripture. But our Articles state plainly that it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to Scripture and that Synods do err (Articles 19 & 20). The Roman Church by contrast claims an authority which is above Scripture. The full fruit of this error has not been seen until the last century or so in the issuing of dogmatic statements about Mary which anathematise those who do not hold them. There is no Biblical basis for this dogma and it serves in fact to lead people away from Christ.
We might go on. Our Articles specifically reject the Roman system which makes its followers beholden to the church hierarchy rather than to Christ. They reject the Roman doctrines of the sacraments, the real presence, purgatory and so on. We say again, these are not secondary issues: they concern the heart of the gospel, the means of salvation, the way to heaven. Anglicanism rejected the errors of the medieval Roman Church and sought to return to Biblical teaching, reflective of ancient practice, but always putting Scripture first.
In the light of this we believe your claim that the Pope’s offer “reflects the same commitment to the historic apostolic faith” is gravely mistaken. We plead with you to recognise that authentic, historic Anglicanism, does not agree with Roman Catholicism on fundamental truths and in particular on the nature of authority and the means of salvation.
Article 12 of the constitution of the Anglican Church of Rwanda affirms “the Articles of Religion as adapted through the ages.” Title II, Canon 12, Section 1 of the Rwandan canons states:
The Creeds and Thirty Nine Articles of Faith statements found in the Prayer Book of the Church of Rwanda are not different from the doctrine of the Anglican Church of Rwanda.
Section 2 of the same canon further states:
The Book of Common Prayer and Administration of th e Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church, together with the Psalter or Psalms of David, the Form of Making, Ordaining, and Consecrating Bishop, Priests, and Deacons, the Form of Consecration of a Church or Chapel, and an Office of Institution of Ministers, and Articles of Religion based on the 1662 Book of Common Prayer are the standards for this Church as set forth in the Solemn Declarations of the Provincial Constitution. The Church of Rwanda affirms the liturgy found in the Book of Common Prayer as being based on the Word of God.
However, the title of Title I, Canon 11, Section 2 of Rwandan canons refers to matrimony as a sacrament. Title II, Canon 15, Section 2 (2) identifies “Holy Unction, Holy Matrimony, Confirmation, Reconciliation of a Penitent,” and “Holy Orders” as “sacraments of the church.” Title II, Canon 16, Section 1 teaches the Roman Catholic doctrine of baptismal regeneration.
Baptism, the gateway to the sacraments, is necessary for salvation, either by actual reception or at least by desire. By it people are freed from sins, are born again as children of God and, made like to Christ and are incorporated into the Church.
The teaching of Title II, Canon 17, Section 1 is certainly not that of authentic, historic Anglicanism, which rejects its view of eucharistic presence and eucharistic sacrifice.
The celebration of the Eucharist is an action of Christ himself and of the Church. In it Christ the Lord, through the ministry of the priest, offers himself, substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine, to God the Father, and gives himself as spiritual nourishment to the faithful who are associated with him in his offering. In the Eucharistic assembly the people of God are called together under the presidency of the Bishop or of a priest authorized by him, who acts in the person of Christ.
Neither is the teaching of Section 2 of the same canon.
The only minister, who, in the person of Christ, can bring into being the sacrament of the Eucharist in this Church, is a validly ordained priest so licensed.
This, along with the teaching of the preceding section of the canon, is the dogma of the Council of Trent—the doctrines of sacrifices of Masses and Transubstantiation.
Title II, Canon 18, Section 1, as do the foregoing examples, point to the primary source of the doctrine, language, norms, and principles of the Rwandan canons—the Roman Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law.
The sacrament of confirmation confers a spirituality whereby the baptized continue their path of Christian initiation. They are enriched with the gift of the Holy Spirit, and are more closely linked to the Church. They are made strong and more firmly obliged by word and deed to witness to Christ and to spread and defend the faith.
Title III, Canon 22, Section 1 is almost word for word taken from the Roman Catholic canons.
By divine institution some among Christ's faithful are, through the sacrament of order, called and claimed by God and are thus constituted sacred ministers; thereby they are consecrated and deputed so that, each according to his own grade, fulfill, in the person of Christ, the offices of teaching, sanctifying and oversight, and so they nourish the people of God. These orders held by the historic church are the episcopate, the priesthood and the diaconate.
So is Title III, Canon 23, Section 1.
By the tradition of Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, Bishops succeed the Apostles through the grace of the Holy Spirit who is given to them. They are constituted as chief pastors to the Church, to be the teachers of doctrine, the priests of sacred worship and the ministers of governance.
Roman Catholic doctrine of apostolic succession, holy orders, and ordination is implicit in their provisions.
The GAFCON Primates’ response to the papal offer of an apostolic constitution for Anglicans and the constitution and canons of the Anglican Church of Rwanda cause heritage Anglicans like myself to question the qualifications of the GAFCON Primates to judge what is genuinely Anglican. Their own commitment to the New Testament gospel, the doctrine of salvation by grace by faith alone in Christ alone, the historic Anglican formularies, and authentic historic Anglicanism must be questioned.
If the Protestant Reformation in England and Europe was the work of the Holy Spirit, restoring the gospel and the Bible to the Christian Church, as Anglicans have historically believed, why would the Holy Spirit be undoing in the twenty-first century what he wrought in the sixteenth century, as Convergentists would have us believe? It makes no more sense than the claim of affirming Catholics in The Episcopal Church that Holy Spirit has revealed to them a different understanding of human sexuality than that in the Bible, which Anglicans have historically recognized as ultimately authored by the Holy Spirit.
In affirming Catholicism, Anglo-Catholicism, and Convergentism is observable the same tendency—that is, to shrug off the beliefs and principles of authentic historic Anglicanism, to substitute a different set of beliefs and principles in their place, and to promote them as genuine Anglicanism. But in so far that all three ideologies have abandoned or never embraced the beliefs and principles of authentic historic Anglicanism, they must be regarded as different expressions of apostasy from the Anglican tradition. They represent disparate and divergent traditions that are seeking to claim the Anglican brand name for themselves, to redefine Anglican beliefs and principles and to change Anglican identity. They highlight the pressing need for a truly orthodox Anglican province in North America, which stands in continuity with the reformed Church of England and her evangelical Protestant faith and upholds and maintains the Biblical and Reformation teaching of her historic formularies.