Monday, November 08, 2010

Through A Glass Darkly—Part 1

By Robin G. Jordan

“Historic Anglicanism” is definable as an ideology, that is, a system of ideas, which is traceable to the English Reformation. It includes what may be described as an original school of thought and a number of subsequent revisionist schools of thought. The search for “historic Anglicanism” does not fall into the same category as the search for the historic Jesus. There is ample primary material supporting the development of a particular system of ideas in the sixteenth century and its transmission through successive generations to our day. The Coronation Oath of 1688 describes this system of ideas as the “Protestant Reformed Religion,” clearly recognizing its Protestant and Reformed character.

What may be described as authentic “historic Anglicanism,” the peculiarly English conservative form of evangelical Protestantism that was for more than three centuries the faith of the reformed Church of England and her formularies, does not appears to have a large following in North America. In the last two centuries the Oxford movement, Anglo-Catholicism, Broad Church movement, liberalism, modernism, ecumenism, the liturgical movement, the charismatic movement, popular American evangelicalism, the Ancient-Future or Convergence movement, the emerging church movement, and post-modernism have reshaped the faith of the North American Anglican community. Cafeteria Christianity has replaced the evangelical Protestant faith of the reformed Church of England and her formularies. North American Anglicanism has no Thirty-Nine Articles and no subscription canons. The Articles are dismissed as a relic of the past. Everyone does what is pleasing in his own sight. All four of the most commonly used service books embody a modified doctrine of eucharistic sacrifice and countenance liturgical practices that the Reformers rejected and disowned as being unscriptural at the Reformation. The Reformers did not find any basis for the doctrine of eucharistic sacrifice in Scripture or the practices associated with it. Nor did they find this doctrine and its associated practices to be consonant with the teaching of Scripture. All four books are open to interpretation as teaching the substantive presence of Christ in the eucharistic elements. Any family resemblance between these books and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer—the GAFCON-recognized standard of Anglican worship and prayer—is certainly not doctrinal. The recent use of Roman Catholic ritual in the consecration of Foley Beach, in the anointing of the forehead and hands of the new bishop, shows how far ordination practices in the Anglican Church in North America depart from the 1661 Ordinal. Archbishop Bob Duncan who used this ritual claims that the Anglican Church in North America is preserving Anglicanism. As a bishop of long standing he knows that such ritual has no place in an Anglican episcopal consecration and its inclusion in Beach’s consecration weakens his credibility.

In the ancient Celtic tradition November marks the beginning of the New Year. The festival of Samhain was a particularly auspicious time for foretelling the future. Since both of my parents have Celtic ancestry November may be as good a time as any to peer into the future. I do not as a Christian claim the gift or curse of the Second Sight that is supposed to run in my mother’s family. At most I can do is look at various trends and developments and weigh what they may hold for the future. What I do see does not inspire in me much confidence in Archbishop Duncan’s talk of the renewal of Anglicanism in twenty-first century North America. Bob Duncan’s notions of Anglicanism and my own are poles apart.

The best place to start is to briefly examine the make-up of the North American Anglican community. This offers clues to the future of North American Anglicanism. Since the 1970s we have seen the migration of a substantial number of Episcopalians first into the Continuing Anglican Churches and then into the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Mission. For a large segment of these Episcopalians normative Anglicanism is Catholic in doctrine and practice.

Five groups of Anglo-Catholics may be identified in North America. The first of these groups, which also may be the largest, are affirming Anglo-Catholics, Catholic Modernists, or liberal Anglo-Catholics. This group is found largely in the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church in the USA but also elements of this group are found in the Anglican Church in North America. Archbishop Duncan in his support of the ordination of women may be classified as an affirming Anglo-Catholic, a classification that he may himself reject but which describes his position on women’s ordination. The position of this group upon women’s organization is one of its major distinguishing characteristics.

The second of these groups, which, while not largest, has been receiving a disproportionate share of media attention lately, are the Anglo-Papists. They are, for the most part, found in the Anglican Church in North America and the Continuing Anglican Churches. This group is taking advantage of the formation of a personal ordinariate for Anglicans in the Roman Catholic Church. The elements of this group that do reconcile with the Church of the Rome and the Pope will be assimilated into the Roman Catholic Church and will become Roman Catholics.

A third group consists of those who identify with the Caroline High Churchmen and see themselves as the successors to the Laudians. They share the Laudians’ fascination with the post-Apostolic church and the early Church fathers. They also identify with such early Anglican breakaway groups as the Non-Jurors. Members of this group who embrace Roman Catholic doctrine and practice especially from the Counter-Reformation on disqualify themselves from this group since the Caroline High Churchmen were not Romanists. They were opposed to the Church of Rome, papacy, and Romanism. They modeled their doctrine and liturgical usages upon what they believed were the theology and practices of the “primitive Catholic Church,” the Church of the first five centuries of undivided Christianity.

The size of this group is unknown. Members of this group are likely to use the 1928 Book of Common Prayer or the 1962 Canadian Book of Common Prayer.

A Protestant Dictionary, edited by Charles Wright and Charles Neil, and published in 1904, was produced under the auspices of the Protestant Reformation Society and addresses a number of questions on the Book of Common Prayer that “interest peculiarly the Evangelical members of the Church of England.” In an article titled “Laudian Theology” A Protestant Dictionary notes that the Caroline divines of the seventeenth century carried High Churchmanship as far as it is admissible in the Church of England. It further notes that Laudian theology, whether it is right or wrong, does not justify “the modern Ritualist school.” It goes on to note the significant differences between the Ritualists and the Caroline divines. At least one contemporary Anglo-Papist writer has criticized the Caroline divines as being insufficiently Catholic on the basis of their rejection of papacy and the doctrine of Transubstantiation.

A fourth group subscribes to Edmund Bouvrie Pusey’s theory of the Anglican via media as a third Catholic stream alongside Roman Catholicism and Eastern orthodoxy. Its members generally use the 1979 Book of Common Prayer or the 1985 Canadian Book of Alternatives Services.

A fifth group are the Anglo-Catholic traditionalists or the traditionalist Anglo-Catholics. This group is largely found in the Anglican Church in North America and the Continuing Anglican Churches. It is also represented in the Anglican Mission. It largely uses the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, supplemented by the American or Anglican Missal. It is close to the Roman Catholic Church in doctrine and practice, primarily differing in the area of papal infallibility and supremacy.

A sixth Catholic group has begun to migrate into the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Mission. This group originally began as charismatics and evangelicals who were attracted to the liturgical worship of the Episcopal Church and especially to the 1979 Book of Common Prayer. They were influenced by the late Robert Webber and the Ancient-Future or Convergence movement. Some members of this group initially joined the Episcopal Church and then withdrew to form their own denominations. Others joined these denominations after their formation.

In doctrine and practice this group is independent Catholic, as they are in their orders. Their orders, while considered valid by a number of Roman Catholic theologians, are regarded as irregular due to the episcopi vagantes lineage of the particular succession of bishops. Their orders are not officially recognized by the Roman Catholic Church albeit there has been at least one notable exception. The 1958 Lambeth Conference adopted Resolution 54 that recommends against Anglican provinces and dioceses’ recognition of their orders. This group has also been strongly influenced by the charismatic movement. They do not qualify as Anglo-Catholics as they do not come from an Anglo-Catholic background. The Anglican Church in North America recognizes their orders and has admitted two of their bishops without consecrating them sub-conditionally.

An influx of congregations and clergy from this group into the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Mission could move these parachurch organizations in a more Catholic and charismatic direction than they are presently heading. This group has no roots in the English Reformation. It adopted a number of practices that the sixteenth century Reformers put aside as conflicting with or incompatible to Scripture—such as displaying the consecrated Bread in a monstrance for adoration. The parachurch organizations that this group has formed have been far from conflict-free, and have tended to fragment like the Continuing Anglican Churches. This group does include supporters of women’s ordination as well as opponents. While women’s ordination runs counter to Catholic tradition, it is not inconsistent with Pentecostal tradition in which women have been ordained on the basis of the mix of spiritual gifts they evidence. The group’s interpretation of Scripture is also problematic.

Outside of the six groups identified so far the membership of the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Mission is something of a mixed bag. I will try my hand at sorting out the different groups. They have loose boundaries and they often overlap. The members of these parachurch organizations that fall roughly into one of two groups:

The first of these two groups are the charismatics. The charismatics include members of the six Catholic groups that I have identified. They include former members of the Third Wave and Vineyard movements and former Episcopalians and others influenced by the late John Wimbar and these two movements. They include former Episcopalians and others influenced by the Ancient-Future or Convergence movement and who do not identify themselves as Catholics. The charismatics also include those influenced by popular North American evangelicalism as well as the charismatic movement. They subscribe to classical Pentecostal theology, Third Wave theology, or other variants of charismatic theology. They may or may not exercise the sign gifts in their worship—speaking in tongues with interpretation, prophesying, healing, word of knowledge, etc. They include those who identify themselves as evangelicals.

The second group is the self-identified evangelicals. This group falls roughly into three sub-groups. The first sub-group might be described as Broad Church or Liberal Evangelical in practice. Doctrinally they show the influence of popular North American evangelicalism more than they do classical Anglican evangelicalism. The second sub-group tends to be more Low Church in practice. This observation must be qualified. This sub-group is Low Church in practice by contemporary standards, not by nineteenth century Evangelical standards. For example, a white cassock alb may be worn in place of a surplice and brightly a colored stole in place of a black tippet or preaching scarf. A red chimera may be worn in place of black one. The third sub-group may be described as confessional or Reformed in doctrine. Their theology may range from early Reformed theology of the Thirty-Nine Articles to the ultra-Calvinism of Theodore Beza. Practice also varies. This sub-group falls into two sub-groups—those who lean toward liturgical forms of services and those who lean toward local patterns of worship. There is overlap between the three main sub-groups as there is between the latter two-sub-groups. The self-identified evangelicals may also be grouped by their background—those who come from an Anglican background, those who do not, those who come from a non-Reformed background, those who come from a confessional or Reformed Anglican background, and those who come from a Presbyterian or other Reformed background.

Members of the foregoing groups are found in the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church in the USA. They are also found in the Continuing Anglican Churches and non-Anglican denominations.

Only a few of the self-identified evangelicals use the 1662 Book of Common Prayer or an alternative rite or a local worship pattern based upon its doctrine and liturgical usages. Most use the 1979 Book of Common Prayer or the 1985 Canadian Book of Alternative Services. A few use the 1928 Book of Common Prayer or the 1962 Canadian Prayer Book. All four service books are Catholic and liberal in doctrine and liturgical usages in varying degrees.

The more radical liberals are found in the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church in the USA. In the former they come from an Anglo-Catholic, Broad Church, or Evangelical background; in the latter they come from an Anglo-Catholic, Broad Church, or Low Church (but not Evangelical) background.

As we can see, the make-up of the North American Anglican community is diverse. Despite this diversity a number of trends and developments can be identified that are likely to play a major role in the shaping of Anglicanism’s future in North America. I will begin my examination of these trends and developments in the next article in this series.

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