Friday, February 25, 2011

The Heritage Anglican Network: Three Principles of Practice

I have a makeshift bird feeder on my front porch on which I put out wild bird seed for the birds wintering in my area. I have seen slate-colored juncos, house wrens, mourning doves, cardinals, tree sparrows, white-crowned sparrows, mocking birds, robins, and even house finches and rufous-sided towhees. House finches are usually found in the West but the cold weather and the ice and snow must have driven them to the East.

Bird watching is like observing the different groups of Anglicans in and outside of North America. Except for the occasional squirrel all the visitors to my bird feeder can be categorized as birds. If one accepts self-description as a criterion for being an Anglican, all these groups can be broadly categorized as Anglican. Just as the birds that visit my bird feeder belong to different families—warblers, sparrows, etc.—so do these groups. Just as some of the visitors to my bird feeder are difficult to identify and classify, so likewise are these groups. To my knowledge the different species of birds do not interbreed. However, Anglican groups produce all kinds of hybrids.

If one uses doctrine as a criterion, the “true gospel” and the “Protestant Reformed religion” of the 1688 Coronation Oath Act, then the number of groups that can be categorized as Anglican shrinks markedly. If one adds practice as a criterion—the bare unadorned churches, the movable wooden communion tables, and the surpliced clergy of Matthew Parker’s Advertisements and the 1604 Canons, then the number of groups shrinks even further. Of course, the different groups that claim the self-appellation of Anglican at this point will be objecting strenuously to their disqualification as being Anglican. Yet by these standards they are not Anglican—of the Protestant Reformed Church of England and the particular tradition that flows from that Church. They may represent what may have become accepted as Anglican in certain quarters of the worldwide Anglican Church but what they represent is a fiction—a falsehood that has gained tacit acceptance in these quarters.

The Global Anglican Future Conference wrestled with the problem of Anglican identity and produced the Jerusalem Declaration. Anglo-Catholics have not been too happy with the Jerusalem Declaration as it is too Protestant for their liking. Conservative evangelicals have pointed to the attention of GAFCON primates and bishops a number of doctrinal weaknesses in the Jerusalem Declaration from their perspective. The Jerusalem Declaration also does not address the question of practice.

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