Friday, November 12, 2010

Through a Glass Darkly—Part 4

By Robin G. Jordan

In this article we will examine three additional trends that have a strong likelihood of affecting the future of historic Anglicanism in North America. The first of these three trends is the shapelessness of contemporary evangelicalism in the North American Anglican community. Other terms that might be used to describe what passes for evangelicalism in the North American Anglican community are vague, nebulous, indistinct, and formless. Contemporary evangelicalism is so amorphous that it is questionably “evangelical” from a traditional Anglican evangelical point of view. It has few if any of the distinguishing characteristics that have historically marked out the boundaries of classical Anglican evangelicalism and set it apart from other schools of thought in Anglicanism. Rather it incorporates many beliefs and practices that are essentially incompatible with traditional Anglican evangelicalism. In the nineteenth century such latitude in belief and practice was associated with the Broad Church movement and liberal evangelicalism.

David Irish posted this description of traditional Anglican evangelicalism on his web log, Ontological Goo.

In the C of E and the C of I traditional evangelical Anglicanism (at least historically speaking) is clearly defined. The Scriptures are the final authority in all matters. The Three Creeds and the XXXIX Articles define the biblically derived summations of precise Christian doctrine. The BCP, ordered after the received theology of the Creeds and Articles, defines matters liturgical. Ceremony and clergy attire is traditionally evangelical, Morning Prayer and monthly communion…no bells or incense…no sacrificial vestments. The XXXIX Articles are more than minimally assented to, they are believed wholeheartedly. In earlier times English and Irish evangelicals would have read Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer, Ussher, and Ryle, and would unreservedly agree with Dean Litton’s assessment that (quoted by Dean Paul Zahl, in his work ‘The Protestant Face of Anglicanism’), “The Anglican Church, if she is to be judged by the statements of the Articles, must be ranked amongst the Protestant Churches of Europe.”

How many contemporary Anglican congregations and clergy in North America, which describe themselves as “evangelical” can honestly say that they fit this description? How many, if they do not use the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, use services in modern English, which adhere to its biblical and Reformation doctrine and respect its liturgical usages, and not the High Church Anglo-Catholic 1928 or 1979 Prayer Book.

The second of these three trends is that conservative evangelicals in the North American Anglican community are fragmented, isolated, scattered, weak, and visionless. Classical Anglican evangelicalism experienced something of a revival in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. However, what seed that the birds of air did not devour fell on rocky ground and sprung up only to be scorched and to wither away. Or it fell among thorns and the thorns have choked it. Instead of a harvest of a hundredfold, sixtyfold, or thirtyfold, all we see is a few struggling plants. If the seed has fallen into fertile soil, it has yet to bear fruit.

The third of these three trends is the lack of a strong voice in North America in support of authentic historic Anglicanism. The voices championing Anglo-Catholicism, liberalism, and Ancient-Future/Convergence/three streams theology are, on the other hand, very strident. They demand attention and they receive it. A part of the problem is that the Protestant character of historic Anglicanism embarrasses North American Anglicans. This embarrassment led to the Episcopal Church’s removal of “Protestant” from its name. The appeal of the phrase “Reformed Catholic” that the late Peter Toon popularized lay in its denial of the Protestantism of historic Anglicanism. However, historic Anglicanism is not only Protestant but also it is evangelical and Reformed. To deny these aspects of Anglicanism is to refuse to accept the defining characteristic of Anglicanism in terms of its doctrine and teaching, and therefore is in reality a rejection of Anglicanism itself.

This leads us to the twelfth and final major trend that can be expected to affect the future of historic Anglicanism in North America. This trend is the pronounced tendency to redefine Anglicanism and to reinterpret Anglican Church history to substitute for historic Anglicanism views that “are alien intruders into the classical Anglicanism that arose in the sixteenth century.”

All these trends are like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. As each piece is put into place the picture begins to take shape. The last piece has been fitted where it belongs and we now have a complete picture. It is not a pretty one. In fact, it is grim and disturbing. Indeed I hope that it is grim and disturbing enough to penetrate conservative evangelical complacency.

Unlike the picture in a jigsaw puzzle, this picture can be altered. We must look at those parts of the picture where it is possible to introduce change. Introduce change in one part of the picture and only that part of picture may change. Introduce change at several places and the entire picture will change.

Some of us have only a few years of our allotted span remaining to us. Sitting around on our thumbs, waiting for someone else to do something is not the best use of that time. We need to take action while we can do so. It does not do any good to beating up ourselves for what we have not done. The past is the past. God is a god of opportunities. Every day he offers us new opportunities. Let us not waste them.


Reformation said...

For fun--poking at the Anglican Amnesiacs--I post a recent entry at: They are citations by an academic.

We draw some quotes below re: George Herbert, Anglicanism and English Calvinism in the Elizabethan and Jacobean period. By way of background, George Herbert (3 April 1593 – 1 March 1633) was a Welsh poet, orator and Anglican priest. Being born into an artistic and wealthy family, he received a good education. He took prominent positions at Cambridge University and Parliament. As a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, England, George Herbert excelled in languages and music. After the death of King James and at the urging of a friend, Herbert's interest in ordained ministry was renewed. In 1630, in his late thirties he gave up his secular ambitions and took holy orders in the Church of England, spending the rest of his life as a rector of the little parish of Fugglestone St Peter with Bemerton St Andrew, near Salisbury...Herbert has a window honouring him in Westminster Abbey.

Now, for Dr. Doerksen's study.

Doerksen, Daniel W. "George Herbert, Calvinism, and Reading "Mattens." Christianity & Literature 59, no. 3 (Spring2010 2010): 437-451. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed November 14, 2010).

What you will not hear at drearisome Anglican websites, blogs or news centers, p. 438.

"Historian Anthony Milton, in an important book on the Church of England from 1600-1640, defines English Calvinism as `a general sympathy with the continental Reformed tradition in all its purely doctrinal aspects, and a sense of identification with the West European Calvinist Churches and their fortunes' (8). This definition silently acknowledges that other writers, such as Bucer and BuUinger, and of course English ones, were influential in the movement. Milton also recognizes that Calvinism, like other aspects of the Early Modern Church of England, comprised a range of views, and changed as it developed. Milton's definition of Calvinism easily includes Herbert, who had an enduring `interest in the success of international Protestantism' (Malcolmson 21) - an interest not shared by the Laudians.' More specifically, English Calvinism had a doctrinal core of Protestant theology, emphasizing God's grace."

Calvin's works, the most popular books in England, the most dominant influence at Cambridge and Oxford. What you will not hear at Anglican websites, blogs or news centers, said to include, but not limited to: David Virtue,, John Stott, James I. Packer, Anglican Mainstream, BabyblueRose, GAFCON, Anglican Things, Stand Firm, Thinking Anglican, Old High Churchman, and a host of other influential sites including American ones--AMiA, ACNA, etc. Drearisome memory loss and the above-noted are just a few.

Reformation said...


"According to Pettegree, a tally of the revised Short Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, 1475-1640 indicates that English editions of Calvin's works "easily outstripped all other continental writers, and dwarfed the production of native English theologians" (281). Pettegree reports that Leedham-Green's substantial survey of books recorded in Cambridge wills, carefully analyzed, confirms `the preeminent position of Calvin as the dominant theological influence in Elizabethan England" (280). Also, he cites Francis Higman's bibliographical studies showing that England was `far and away the biggest market for Calvin's work in translation.' Calvin's Institutes and Catechism became required reading at the universities."

Calvinism and Episcopacy, something--indubitably--one does not hear from Dutch and Scots Calvinists. p.439 (ditto from Anglican sources).

"Also, although Calvin had definite views on church structure, he did not insist that churches in Poland or England should give up episcopacy or adopt Genevan liturgy (Prestwich 2). Instead he recognized the Word preached and the Sacraments duly administered as the essentials of the church (as do the English 39 Articles), and said that other matters could be patterned differently in different nations and times {Inst. 4.10.30). Accordingly, Calvin's teachings were welcomed in England, where the leading clergy, and not just puritans, whole-heartedly accepted Calvinist theology. Still, some English clergy wanted to adopt Genevan liturgical or disciplinary practices. When Queen Elizabeth resisted such changes, puritans objected, and protested in varying degrees. Most, however, stayed within the Church of England, and when King James showed willingness to tolerate moderate puritans who were good preachers, they in turn were willing in varying degrees to accept the rule of bishops and to follow some of the Prayer Book practices. Some, like Richard Sibbes, conformed fully, in spite of their own preferences. Calvinists in the English church, both puritans and conformists, formed what has been called a `Calvinist consensus,' influential at the very center of the Jacobean church, but coming under attack by Laudians from the mid-1620s on."

Reformation said...


Most Elizabethan and Jacobean Bishops were Calvinists in the main, episcopacy excluded, 439.

"Historians have given much attention to the dissenting puritans but have tended to neglect the moderate Calvinist conformists or episcopalians in the church, who were happy with a combination of Calvinist theology, episcopacy, and Book of Common Prayer liturgy. This group included archbishops, many bishops (Collinson 82), and people like Herbert and Donne. Stanley Stewart correctly points out that Herbert differed from Calvin about Lent ("Priest" 169-71), without realizing that this does not make him an anti-Calvinist. Calvinist episcopalians, including most Elizabethan and Jacobean bishops, similarly agreed to differ with Calvin on a matter not of the essence, even if important. Calvin, as Donne knew, was a significantly undogmatic interpreter of scripture {Sermons 6.301)."

In context, some authors, e.g. in literature and history, due to an abhorrence of Calvinism, attempt to claim there were no Calvinists in the Church of England, but Daniel Doerksen affirms otherwise, 440.

"...but that is not what the historians tell us; they affirm that all the post-Reformation Archbishops of Canterbury before Laud were doctrinally Calvinist. It is probably more useful to have `true Calvinism' defined by someone not vigorously opposing it. Young speaks of Calvinist `rigor' (10), and `the most extreme Reformation tenets' (35).Undoubtedly, some Calvinists were extreme, but the Calvinism relevant to Herbert is moderate. Calvin himself emphatically taught moderation (Wallace 170-92)."

In context of a larger analysis of George Herbert, the author draws this conclusion to his article, p.446.

"Herbert is an amazing poet, never to be explained away by any reference to the backgrounds on which he draws. However, this reading should open a few doors to further exploration. Taking its title from the Book of Common Prayer, and key elements of its substance from a reading of the Psalms and Genesis like Calvin's, `Mattens' demonstrates how well English Calvinism, properly understood, could be integrated in Herbert's Church of England."

Reformation said...

A little laughter, taken three times a day with a good meal, suffices as an anti-depressant.


(Thank God for the books.)