Wednesday, April 13, 2011

What is the Essence of Anglicanism; or What, Exactly, is Required for Anglicanness?

A friend shared a question he’d be musing on. He’d spent the better part of a month perusing Anglican websites and had, once again, found himself surprised by the tradition’s breadth. He was reminded that some Anglicans are basically Catholic without the Pope while others are so Reformed they’d make the Puritans blush. Some think it’s not Anglicanism without bells, smells, and vestments. Others prefer electric guitars, projection screens, and priests who wear blue jeans. Some love homilies. Others want full-blown exegetical sermons. Some insist upon using words like “sacristy.” Others say, “For the love! It’s a closet with a sink where they store the robes. Get over yourself.” Some speak in tongues. Others don’t speak a word unless it’s directly out of the Book of Common Prayer. Some worship in cathedrals that are a thousand years old. Others worship in incomplete houses. Some think the Thirty-Nine Articles should be seen as the official, enduring statement of belief. Others think it little more than a historical document, a relic of the past. Some believe all seven ecumenical councils are authoritative. Others affirm the first four alone, or even hedge away from acknowledging any ecclesiastical “authority” outside of Scripture. Some see the Archbishop of Canterbury as the spiritual leader of the global communion. Others believe Anglicanism has no central leader. Some ordain women. Others have built their identity around not ordaining women. Some use the title “pastor.” Others are adamant that office be called the priesthood. Some believe geographical dioceses are the bedrock of Anglican polity. Others think that model is outmoded. With that much variance on display in condensed webpage form, it’s little wonder that my friend took a step back and wondered, “What, exactly, is required for Anglicanness?”

Personally, I love that Anglicanism’s identity is ambiguous....

To read more, click here.


Joe Mahler said...

"...Anglicanism’s identity is ambiguous." Which means, Anglican has no identity therefore it is nothing and it is everything. It contradicts itself; it is at war with itself. With no identity, is it even Christian? BUT it's historical documents and doctrine disagree with this.

Carson T Clark said...

Could you rip that out of context any more?

Carson T Clark said...


You may well disagree in the end, but read the post in context before you cast judgment. Robin copied and pasted in probably the least favorable way possible. Frankly, his editing job is simply misleading and deceptive.

Joe Mahler said...


Careful, you don't know how much or how little I read of the article. The point is that Anglicanism is described as many thing and very broadly. Anglo-catholics, Traditional Anglicanism (Reformed) and the Episcopal Church are at extremes from each other. They don't even like each other and yet they all call themselves Anglican. The author of the article mentioned the many variants. He even liked that the "...identity is ambiguous." The sad part of this is that Anglicanism is ambiguous and undefinable if all who call themselves Anglican are in fact Anglican. This is the unfortunate situation due mainly to failed leadership within Anglicanism.

Carson T Clark said...


Hello once more.

FYI - I'm the author.

Just to be clear, my initial comment--"Could you rip that out of context any more?--wasn't directed toward you. The second I did address to you.

"The point is that Anglicanism is described as many thing and very broadly. Anglo-catholics, Traditional Anglicanism (Reformed) and the Episcopal Church are at extremes from each other. They don't even like each other and yet they all call themselves Anglican."

I know many, many Anglicans who disagree (strongly) with one another yet sincerely like one another. Those who don't have some serious fundamentalist tendencies, failing to exhibit the love of Christ.

"The author of the article mentioned the many variants. He even liked that the '...identity is ambiguous.'"

You're quoting that at of context. You can't rip 4 words from the paragraph like that and retain the meaning. Especially those four words.

"The sad part of this is that Anglicanism is ambiguous and undefinable if all who call themselves Anglican are in fact Anglican."

yyyyeah, that's false and is the whole point of the blog post: Given all the diversity, what are those essential elements that *do* define Anglicanism?

Reformation said...

Mr. Clark:

Go back, my good man, in your initial and youthful stages of inquiry into Anglicanism, secure all 55-volumes of the Parker Society series. Read all 55 volumes and, then, return with your divagatory, nubile, and preliminary musings. You're much too young to comment until you've "put some road and mileage behind you." This forum has some of those old sages around. Read up, son.

Ensure, also, that you've read--as I have--all of Calvin's commentaries and the Institutes. (Ditto for this scribe on the Parker Soc set in terms of reading. Have done that homework.) Work in the 58-vol series by Luther (I'm 9 volumes into it.) These are primary sources warranting your inquiry--before saying too much further.

Also, make sure you use the 1662 BCP with regular Bible readings and the singing of the Psalms, as early Anglicans did. Your piety will be deeply shaped by its daily and nightly uses. Again, many readers here have been shaped by that.

Best regards and keep reading (as must I),
Donald Philip Veitch

Reformation said...

Alas, Mr. Carson, I must yield to my own counsel.

This much, the 19th-21st century writers, as secondary sources, are problematic. Work with the originals as suggested, about 160 volumes, as foundational works to connect Canterbury-Wittenberg-Geneva. It's much more complex and far closer than the moderns would suggest. The American bishops have a "reading deficit" is my view, including the bloggers, etc.

Unfortunately, "we all" have to do the "heavy lifting," given the chaos of the modern commentariat. Let us all get on that.

Donald Philip Veitch

Joe Mahler said...


You keep accusing me of quoting out of context, so here is the complete sentence that you wrote, "Personally, I love that Anglicanism’s identity is ambiguous." It pretty much speaks for itself, and I agree with your assessment that it is ambiguous when all definitions of Anglicanism is taken into consideration. Your attempt to define Anglicanism is also ambiguous; Methodists and even Roman Catholics could fit into the definitions that you give. You attempt to find threads that could, maybe, tie all together but in so doing many who do not consider themselves Anglican would fit into your Anglicanism. Remember, many who consider themselves Christian will not see the kingdom of God. No, Anglicanism is not ambiguous at all. It is just that, in truth, not all who call themselves Anglicans are Anglicans.

Robin G. Jordan said...


I ended the intro to your article at a point where I thought that it would have gained the reader's attention that he would follow the link to the article. I do not edit intros to cast an article in an unfavorable light. I look for attention grabbers in articles and use them as intros. Some article do not have anything that really grabs the attention. In the case of news articles I may use the initially summary of the story as the intro and post a link to the details. The type of articles determines the intro.

At the time I posted the intro and link to your article, I planned a critique of the article. However, I wanted people to read your article first and form their own opinions. Otherwise, I could have simply inserted a link to your article in my critique, which might have resulted in the reader taking a look at your article after they had read mine.

Reformation said...

Joe, Robin and Mr. Clark:

A spin-off consideration of the wider narrative under review, again...a Cranmer's view of Sacred Writ in relationship to tradition.

My view is that he, Cranmer, was Lutheran and Reformed (Swiss, French), to wit, that Scriptures were the supreme, governing and regulative authority. Master Cranmer, as an examiner of ordinands at Cambridge, sent many back to the study--for a "few years"--to study Scriptures alone...rather than just the Fathers. Not a bad idea. Reflective of CANTAUR's view of HM's sovereign Word.

This singular point needs meditation, argumentation, and eludication. I think William Whittingham (sp?), 1580ish, Cambridge Prof, reflected a generation of English and Reformed scholarship in that direction (that William was a Calvinist was indisputable is my sense of it).

As to "sola scriptura," Cranmer was on Catholic grounds within the ballpark in terms of the first four centuries of writers. Chemnitz's "Examination of the Council of Trent" warrants a close read on the first four centuries on the sovereign authority of 66 canonical books. This patristic tradition was well known to our careful--albeit weak and human--CANTAUR.

Another spin-off to this? Imagine a modern CANTAUR like Cranmer? Mind-boggling.

Donald Philip Veitch