Tuesday, January 04, 2011

A New Threat to Historic Anglicanism

By Robin G. Jordan
“This pope understands Anglicanism better than any other pope. He sees clearly that ecumenism with the Church of England is dead. The ordination of women, the consecration of women bishops, the rationalization of homosexual unions, the doctrinal apostasy and the openly moral degeneracy has led Benedict XVI to conclude that the new ecumenism is not a diplomatic building of bridges, but a bold establishment of a new kind of Anglicanism within the greater fold of the Catholic Church. The Ordinariate will begin small and it will be persecuted. There will be difficulties and defections. There will be many problems, but history will show that the Anglican Ordinariate will provide for the ultimate preservation of the Anglican patrimony….”

In the twenty-first century the Roman Catholic Church is launching a new attack upon historic Anglicanism. This attack masquerades as “the new ecumenism,” and involves the establishment of personal ordinariates within the Roman Catholic Church composed of defectors from the Anglican Church—Anglo-Catholic converts to Roman Catholicism. Since the nineteenth century the Anglo-Catholic movement has sought to represent its beliefs and practices as the only genuine form of Anglicanism and to appropriate the Anglican brand name for itself. It has sought to undo the English Reformation and to change the identity of the Church of England and her daughter churches. The idea was to introduce and promote Roman Catholic beliefs and practices in the Anglican Church so that it would eventually become acceptable to the Pope and he would readmit the Anglican Church back into the Roman fold.

The new attack takes Anglo-Catholic defectors from the Anglican Church and forms them into their own jurisdictions within the Roman Catholic Church. It proposes to use them to do what the Anglo-Catholic movement did in the last two centuries—to represent their “new kind of Anglicanism” as the only genuine form of Anglicanism and to take possession of the Anglican brand name. The Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus and its Complimentary Norms and the personal ordinariates they erects join the list of threats to historic Anglicanism along with Anglo-Catholicism, Convergentism, liberalism, modernism, the normalization of homosexuality, the ordination of women, pluralism, and syncreticism.

Those who desert the Anglican Church for the Roman Catholic Church abandon any claim to being seen as Anglican in any way whatsoever. They have become Roman Catholics. They take no Anglican patrimony into the Roman Catholic Church with them. They have turned their backs on that patrimony. Let them not delude themselves or seek to delude others. The moment they were received into the Roman Catholic Church they ceased to be Anglicans if they were ever really Anglicans in the first place. In embracing Roman Catholic beliefs and practices before their reception, they had already adopted an identity that was at odds with historic Anglicanism. They had already distanced themselves from the Anglican tradition. The Anglo-Catholic via media theory was an attempt to justify claiming to be Anglican while maintaining Roman Catholic beliefs and practices. It was a fiction that was entirely unconvincing those who were well read in Anglican Church history. Like a sieve pierced with many holes it did not hold water.

I am not suggesting that all who subscribe to High Church principles are not Anglican. Being High Church is not necessarily synonymous with being Anglo-Catholic albeit since the Oxford Tractarian movement it has often been the case. My point is that the Anglo-Catholic who embraces Roman Catholic beliefs and practices places his Anglican identity in question. The more he embraces these beliefs and practices, the less he can be regarded as an Anglican. He comes to a point where he ceases to be an Anglican and becomes a Roman Catholic in the Anglican Church. The Roman Catholic Church may not recognize him as such but that is what he is. He is confronted with a choice. He can back away from Roman Catholicism or he can embrace it fully and become a Roman Catholic both in faith and in name.

Before the nineteenth century and the Oxford Tractarian movement High Churchmen, like their Evangelical brethren, regarded themselves as Protestants. They upheld the Catholic heritage of the Anglican Church but did not confuse Catholicism with Romanism. They had a high view of bishops and the sacraments but they did not unchurch the Continental Reformed Churches because they lacked the historic episcopate. They recognized the orders and the sacraments of these churches. While they viewed episcopacy as a divine institution, they held that it was of the fullness of the Christ’s Church, not of its essence. While some of them subscribed to the views of Arminius and his disciple Grotius, others were Reformed in their theological outlook.

The establishment of the so-called Anglican personal ordinariates in the Roman Catholic Church, while it presents a new threat to historic Anglicanism, can also be viewed as a positive development. Anglo-Catholics who sought to move the Anglican Church Romeward no longer have any justification for remaining in the Anglican Church. With the issuance of the Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus and its Complimentary Norms the Vatican has signaled that the Pope is not going to accept the Anglican Church back into the Roman fold. The Holy See welcomes Anglo-Catholics who convert to Roman Catholicism and offers them a place in the Roman Catholic Church but that is far as it is going. Anglo-Catholics who do not accept the papal offer must come to terms with being Anglican and Protestant. They cannot go on acting as if they are the Roman Catholic Church in the Anglican Church. They can explore the Anglican Church’s heritage of Protestant High Churchmanship and become its modern day representatives. They can make inquiries into classical Evangelicalism and join the ranks of conservative Evangelicals in the Anglican Church. Or they can succumb to the pressures of liberalism and modernism and become a part of a problem instead of a part of the solution.

It is this writer’s considered opinion that the best defense that the Anglican Church has against this new attack from Rome is an alliance between a revitalized Protestant High Church party and a revitalized conservative Evangelical party in the Anglican Church. These two parties have historically been committed to the classical Anglican formularies and opposed to Roman designs on the Anglican Church.

Where does this leave those who have been influenced by the charismatic movement and the Ancient-Future movement? They need to decide where their loyalties lie. Are they committed to the Protestantism/Reformed Catholicism of the Anglican Church or the unreformed Catholicism of the Independent Catholic Churches and ultimately the Roman Catholic Church? Choosing the first means trying everything by the test of Scripture—antiquity, personal revelations from the Holy Spirit, tradition. It also means giving much thought to how we interpret Scripture to ensure that we arrive at the true meaning of a passage and its possible applications. Choosing the second means following a different path from the Anglican Way, a path that leads away from Anglicanism.

Things cannot go on as they have been. At one time all clocks measured time, using clockwork, a mechanism of wheels and springs or weights that caused the hands to move around the face of the dial and to mark the hours and the minutes and sometimes in tower clocks the halves and the quarters. Clockwork consisted of interlocking cogwheels, wheels with projections on their edges that transferred motion by engaging with the projections on other such wheels. If one cogwheel moved so did the others. While clockwork is not as common as it once was, things are still interlocked much in the same way as the cogwheels of an old-fashioned clock. The establishment of the personal ordinariates will affect everybody in the Anglican Church or in any way connected with Anglicanism. It is unavoidable. It will also affect those have no connection with Anglicanism.

Those contemplating a new life in the Roman Catholic Church are not the only ones facing a choice. We all are—everyone of us. The future of Anglicanism hangs in the balance. Will we make the right choice?


Joe Mahler said...

High Church / Low Church situation is perplexing to me. High churchmen will always tend to be seduced by Romanism. The low churchman will not regard high church bishops and ministers in the way that the high churchman desires, but Romanism is built around promoting a high church vision of deference to the hierarchy. Long live the hierarchy!!!!

Robin G. Jordan said...


In the seventeenth century the Laudian High Churchmen were strong defenders of the Church of England against papistry and Romanism. They were ritualists and Arminians but they were not papists and Romanists. Laud twice turned down a cardinal's hat. He may have had a more realist view of the eucharist presence but he did not subscribe to the doctrine of transubstantiation as his enemies claimed. His diary fell into their hands and they altered it to make it look like he did. However, the court refused to find him guilty of teaching that doctrine. They were forced to obtain a bill of attainder from Parliament to secure his execution for treason.

The 1640 canons created a furor at the time that they were promulated but the changes they imposed were quite modest in comparison to the changes that the later Tractarians (or post-Tractarians) introduced. They also have a strong anti-Romanist and anti-papist provisions.

During the Great Rebellion Bishops Cosin and Bramhall made an a valiant attempt to prevent the young princes from falling under the influence of the Roman Catholic Queen Mother during their exile in France.

The Non-Jurors' refusal to take the oath of loyalty to William and Mary had to do with their understanding of the divine annointing of kings and the binding nature of an oath to a particular monarch and not James II's Roman Catholicism. Mary, the new queen, was a Stuart so it was not a question of loyalty to the Stuart dynasty. The Non-Jurors would split into two factions--the Non-Usagers and the Usagers--over certain practices. The Non-Usagers was the largest group of Non-Jurors and used the 1662 Prayer Book while the Usagers experimented with their own liturgies and became increasingly more ritualistic.

From the late seventeenth century to the early ninteenth century the High Churchmen subscribed to the historic Anglican formularies and had a Protestantist and anti-Romanist identity. They had a high view of bishops and the sacraments but they were not the ritualists that the Laudians had been. As I noted in my article, a number of them were Reformed in their theological outlook. They certainly did not support the imposition of a papal system in the British Isles.

In the nineteenth century the Tractarians sought to appropriate exclusively to themselves both the Anglican and the High Church labels. In an earlier age they might not have attracted the following and received the public support that they did. But the Victorian era was characterized by Romanticism, Medievalism,and antiquarianism. Attending early Mass became the latest fad among the wealthier classes.

The Tractarians, while they did not succeed in changing the identity of the Church of England did transform the identity of the High Church party. The Tractarians did not so much make converts among the existing High Church groups as marginalize the non-Tractarian High Churchmen and seize the leadership of the High Church party. They did this by vicious attacks on rival High Church leader and by claiming to be the only true High Church group and representative of the Church of England's Catholic heritage. They even savaged those High Church leaders who had supported the movement at an early stage. They were notorious backbiters, slandering their friends behind their backs as well as their enemies to their faces when it suited them.(Later generations of Anglo-Catholics would romanticize the Tractarians but they were thoroughly nasty people.) They then proceeded to redefine that Catholic heritage and sought to equate Catholicism in the public mind with Romanism. What you are responding to is their legacy.

Fr. Steve said...

Robin, you should check out Bishop Peter Robinson's blog. He's attempting to revive the "Old High Church" ideals. In fact, that's what his blog is called, the "Old High Churchman". You can probably find the link from The Continuum Blog.

At any rate, I appreciate this article. It makes some very valid, and very hard points. I don't always agree with you, but I think articles like this is why I keep coming back for more.

Robin G. Jordan said...


I have created a link to his web log from Anglicans Ablaze for my readers who might like to read his articles.

Joe Mahler said...

"They were ritualists and Arminians but they were not papists and Romanists."

But in this your statement you see the romeward move. Arminianism equals semi-pelagianism. One is simply the "Protestant" version of the papist version. Ritualism is a great part of that which is romanism. But the high churchman was also more ceremonial than the low churchman. All of this puts them on the unreformed side of the Protestant Reformation. But the early high churchmen were in fact different from the ones. The Anglo-catholic movement was certainly not evangelical. In the united States the high churchmen stepped aside and did very little to oppose the Tractarians; they left it to the evangelicals or low churchmen. The sometimes animosity between the high and low church certainly has not been very good for Anglicanism. But the cherished doctrines of high church allow them to be more open to Roman ideas.

Now the REC was low church. It is now high church. It tolerates Anglo-Catholics and their practices. History keeps repeating itself.

High churchman-ship seems to me to be a snake-in-the-grass of Anglicanism.

Jordan said...

What would classify as acceptable High Church practices/

Joe Mahler said...

What would classify as acceptable high church practices?

In as much as the high churchman agrees with the low churchman in the authority and primacy of Scriptures and seeks to follow those practices, they are acceptable.

The defense of Anglicanism in and of itself would be just a defense of a tradition and of some interest. But the defense of Anglicanism is in fact much more than that. It is a defense of the Bible and the divine authority of the Bible. The church must point to God in all things. When the church becomes much more interested in its own authority and worth, not that it does not have authority or worth, it ceases in its ministry to God and to God's elect and becomes puffed up, arrogant, and vain. This is how I would view Laud and Hobart. When the high churchman teaches Biblical doctrines, he does well. I like the high churchman have an affection for the Book of Common Prayer (1552, 1559, 1662). But the Prayer Book does in no wise replace or supersede the Bible. It is a good manual and instructor for Christian services but should not be thought to contain all public prayer as some high churchmen (e.g. Hobart) insisted. Of course Laud was brutal in pushing his vision of the church even to ignoring the rubrics in the placing of the communnion table during Communion.

To put it mildly, its difficult to find an acceptable high church practice that differs from the low church that I would find acceptable.

I have learned somewhat slowly that many things that are considered indifferent matters, and to me are indifferent, are not to others. These things are often introduced as being just simply preferences and later come to find out that they are more to the one who introduced them. Vestments are in fact a good illustration. Popish vestments are introduced only later to find out that there is a theology behind each piece of them.

Joe Mahler said...

High Church/Low Church divide

Though I do not believe that the two can co-exist well together in the same ecclesiastical body. There will be friction, but they are both truly Anglican when they accept the BCP and the Articles of Religion. It would be better for the high churchmen to have their own ecclesiastical body and the low churchmen to have their own ecclesiastical body. If an Anglican low church is not available, I could participate in an Anglican high church. But my preference is for the low church. But Arminianism is not an Anglican option and too many high churchmen have been seduced by it.

Robin G. Jordan said...


I tried to respond to the second comment you left yesterday but I hit a key and my entire response vanished. This is my second attempt. I stayed up past midnight writing it, which accounts for its length and rather didactic or preachy tone. I recognize my shortcomings. The challenge is rectifying them.

While do not wholly agree with your analysis, I understand you concern. At the same time Ritualism and Arminianism are not the same as papalism and Romanism. Ritualism involves the attaching of great importance to ritual, that is, to religious ceremonies and observances, to the performance of ritual acts, to the prescribed order for performing religious services. What is confusing is that the Ritualists or the Ritualist movement is the name also given to the later Tractarians or post-Tractarians who sought to revive pre-Reformation Medieval practices and introduce nineteen Roman Catholic usages and customs into the worship of the Church of England and the Protestant Episcopal Church. Their views are also referred to as “Ritualism.”

The Laudian High Churchmen may be described as ritualists in the first sense. They set great store in ceremony, observances, and ritual. They sought to revive practices from the first five centuries of Christianity, mistakenly believing that because they were so ancient and were found in the writings of the early Church Fathers they must be apostolic. They also had some curious notions about the practices of the early Church. They, however, were not Ritualists in the nineteenth century sense albeit their critics and detractors may have sought to portray them as such.

Arminianism, as we both know, involves adherence to the doctrine of Jacob Arminius, a Dutch Protestant theologian who rejected John Calvin’s views especially on predestination. Arminius and his followers issued the five Remonstrances, which led to the Synod of Dort and the now famous TULIP of Calvinism. Arminians come in all shades and colors as do Calvinists. Reformed theology also predates Calvin and his Institutes of the Christian Religion. Calvin built on the work of the earlier Reformed theologians like Martin Bucer and Henry Bullinger and made use of their illustrations. Thomas Cranmer was an early Reformed theologian in his own right and not a disciple of foreign Reformed theology, as he would be portrayed in the nineteenth century. Classical Anglicanism is grounded in the Bible and early Reformed theology. (Cont'd.)

Robin G. Jordan said...

Papalism involves adherence to a particular ecclesiology; a papist is an adherent of the Pope or of papal power. Papistry refers to papistical views or policy. Romanism involves the acceptance and the promoting of the acceptance of Roman Catholic beliefs and practices.

It is an oversimplification to equate ritualism, Arminianism, papalism, and Romanism and to lump them together. This may have happened in the past but intellectual honesty and good scholarship demands that we must be more precise. I cannot in good conscience myself muddle these distinct groups with each other. It goes against my training as a historian and a teacher, among other things.

Roman Catholics may be semi-Pelagians and Arminians may be semi-Pelagians but its does not follow that Roman Catholics are Arminains or Arminians are Roman Catholics. The only thing that we can say is that both groups are semi-Pelagians. They both allow that man plays a part in his own salvation but admit that a man’s salvation is not completely his doing. (Cont'd.)

Robin G. Jordan said...

I live in western Kentucky, which has a small population of Roman Catholics and a large population of Arminians. Both populations have very different views of worship and the sacraments. They also have very different concepts of justification and sanctification. The Arminians are themselves divided into several distinct groups with different views of worship and the sacraments and different concepts of justification and sanctification. These groups include Baptists, Nazarenes, Wesleyans, and Pentecostals. They in turn are divided into sub-groups that have different opinions on these matters. To make things even more confusing the area also has Reformed Baptists and Cumberland Presbyterians. If you want to learn more about the beliefs of the Cumberland Presbyterians, google “Cumberland Presbyterian.”

I do not believe that we can make inferences about the pre-Tractarian High Churchmen on the basis of the inferences that we can make about post-Tractarian High Churchman. The evidence does not support these inferences and the body of that evidence has been growing. A number of scholarly works have been produced in recent years, and I have posted reviews of these books. Unfortunately they are priced out of the range of the average academic and certainly out of the range of a retiree like myself.

I agree that opposition to the Tractarian movement from the High Church party in the Protestant Episcopal Church was weak but I gather from my own reading that it was not entirely non-existent. High Churchmanship in North America, while similar to High Churchmanship in England and Ireland, was also different. The Tractarian movement may have found more fertile ground in the Protestant Episcopal Church than it did in the Church of England. It was certainly the case here in Kentucky. The Tractarian movement caught the imagination of Episcopal clergy especially in northern Kentucky, in the Louisville area, which to this day has one of the largest concentrations of Episcopal churches in the state. In the Louisville area may be found one of the more extreme Anglo-Catholic Continuing Anglican parishes, which offers benediction and novenas as well as daily Masses.

Kentucky’s Roman Catholic population, which is more substantial than I one time thought, is also concentrated in the northern part of the state. Kentucky’s Roman Catholic population, however, is not as substantial as that of southern Louisiana where in some areas the Roman Catholic Church is erecting new parishes and opening new parochial schools. In other areas Roman Catholic churches are filled to capacity at all Masses on Saturday and Sunday and parochial schools have waiting lists.

St. Leo’s Catholic Church in Murray, Kentucky appears to be experiencing this boom in attendance. The church building was dismantled to its roof and frame. A large addition was added to one end and a bell tower at the opposite end. A second large addition was added to one side—an expanded gathering area, or narthex, and a small addition was added opposite it on the other side—a Lady’s chapel. Until the renovations are completed, Masses are celebrated in the parish hall.

I believe that you draw attention to some important issues and I hope to address these issues in future articles. If you have any particular issues that you would like me to address, email me. I cannot promise you that I will write an article addressing that issue but I will keep it in mind. A number of my articles have been prompted by readers’ comments. They have suggested intentionally or unintentionally ideas for articles.

Joe Mahler said...


My comments on the high churchmen are in the nature of general trends. It would be difficult to deny that high church bishops such as Laud and Hobard were authoritarian. This authoritarianism is found in just about all high church ecclesiastical bodies, such as, the RC, Eastern Orthodox, and other episcopal churches throughout the world. It would equally be difficult to assert that all high church bishops/presbyters are abusive. The problem in history comes in when they decide to protect their ecclesiastical polity against those who differ with them. A thoroughly Protest and Reformed high church bishop presents no problem in doctrine to the low churchman except in the doctrine of the church. When the high church ecclesiastical doctrine take prominence in the mind of the high churchman, you get your Lauds, Hobarts, and those Episcopal bishops who did nothing to stop the Tractarian movement in America.

Now again a high church polity is much closer to the Roman view that is the low church polity. The Protestant Arminianism is much closer to the semi-pelagianism Roman Catholic. The highly ritualistic and ceremonial high churchman is much closer to the ideas Roman worship. All of this can and often did come together in the high church bishops and clergy. If viciously or even honestly attacked human nature often takes over, and many become more sympathetic and open to Rome.

Laud, well, he was something else. I doubt that he was a papist and I doubt that the offer of cardinal was more than political, maybe even for the purpose of getting him killed. It may have worked. But his tactics against those who opposed him were un-Christian at best. As am aside, I liken Riches of the REC with Laud.

But to drive home my central point, high churchmen and low churchmen cannot co-exist in the same ecclesiastical body without undue friction and even animosity.

The distinctions between papist, romanist, while exist technically in emphasis, I know of no romanist who is not a papist or of any papist who is not a romanist. Though the terms Arminians and semi-pelagian are directed rightly toward different peoples, that is, Protestants and Roman Catholics, yet the doctrine is essentially the same. There are distinctions but not enough that semi-pelagianism may be rightly attributed to both groups.

It is true that the low churchman who uses the BCP is a ritualist and so is the high churchman. But the high churchman demand for the exclusive use of the rite in public worship makes him a ritualist in more the same sense as the Roman Catholic. You may say that the seeds of Romanism are planted among the high church.

Robin G. Jordan said...


To satisfy my curiosity, what do you consider a Low-Church polity? You have my email address. Send me your thoughts on the matter.

I also would appreciate any idea that you might have for articles. I was reading your response to Jordan and I saw a potential article in what you wrote.

Reformation said...

Heading for "Higher" ground in developed and better insights from the Reformation. Whatever "classical Anglicanism is," it ain't and won't fly. Heading for better-read thinkers and it sure ain't in Anglicanism of the last century. Much safer.

Cheers as I view weakness in the rear-view mirror and speeding off from the scene of immaturity, incapacity, and provincialism. "It is what it is."

Reformation said...

What the heck is "classical Anglicanism" and where, tell me, in the West is it?

The question is rhetorical and I know the answer.

bearflagrebel said...

Teacher! Teacher! me! me! :)

Answer: In England adiaphora in ceremony was defined by ecclesiastical law. This in turn had implicit or direct sanction by royal seal. Thus, I would think 'low church' practice would follow most closely the 1566 advertisements understood, perhaps, through the 1604. However, complicating this somewhat was Ordinary interpretation and discretion of standards. Furthermore, there might be carry-over of custom. However, official Anglican adiaphroa should be equally distinguished from both English Presbyterianism and Roman Recusancy. The former generally did not recognize ecclesiastical law in ritual. Consequently, it is very disturbing to hear Anglicans demand all ceremony be 'biblically prescribed'. This is basically Calvinistic regulativism, and it's foreign to Anglican appointed standards. With respect to soteriology, low church would probably be infralapsarian if not english-amyraldian, based on the reception of Dort through the British delegation. Perkins called such soteriology "lutheran" but it is moderately calvinistic.

I appreciate Jordan's rigor with history. thank you.

sincerely, Charles

bearflagrebel said...

please delete my redundancies.

Vivian Ruth Sawyer said...

Some of us just want a place to worship and take communion, and have none. Would you have us give up church altogether? Or join another apostate Protestant denomination that doesn't offer a proper Eucharist? The threats to Anglicanism were written by the Amglican HOB in permitting apostasy in the first place. We now are homeless and are not to blame for that.