If we take a short trip back in time to the beginning of the twentieth century and tour the parish churches of the Church of England, the first thing that we will notice is that a number of the ceremonies and ornaments that modern-day clergy and others assure us are thoroughly “Anglican” are found only in English parish churches where the clergy are Ritualists bent on making the Church of England like the Church of Rome even in defiance of the canons of the Church and the laws of the land. If we cross the Atlantic to the United States and tour the parish churches of the Protestant Episcopal Church, we find the same thing—Ritualists bent on making the Episcopal Church like the Roman Catholic Church. The difference between the United States and the United Kingdom is that clergy in the Episcopal Church are not required to accept the authority of the Thirty-Nine Articles as clergy are in the Church of England. The Episcopal Church also has no canons regulating ceremonies and ornaments in that denomination. The Ritualists defeated a proposal in the General Convention, which would have established such regulations in the Episcopal Church in the previous century. Having left the door wide open the Episcopal Church was at the mercy of any group that could gain hegemony in the denomination and lead the denomination in whichever direction it chose. We have seen the results in the closing years of the twentieth century and the opening years of the twenty-first century.
Doctrines that are erroneous and unscriptural can ride piggyback on ceremonies and ornaments into the Anglican Church in this century as they did in the nineteenth century. They can also provide a smokescreen behind which erroneous and unscriptural doctrines can be introduced into the Anglican Church. In the nineteenth century the Ritualists frequently claimed that they were seeking to beautify the worship of the Church of England and to make it more appealing to the lower classes. Their real intention was to transform the Church of England into a facsimile of the Church of Rome and to bring the Anglican Church into the orbit of the Roman Catholic Church.
Ceremonies and ornaments make a doctrinal statement. They are not theologically-neutral. They have long-standing associations with particular doctrines and cannot be separated from these teachings.
Congregation and clergy that upholds the Thirty-Nine Articles “as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s word and as authoritative for Anglicans today,” as does the Jerusalem Declaration, will keep away from ceremonies and ornaments that are associated with doctrines and practices that the Articles reject as erroneous and unscriptural. In matters of worship the teaching of the Scriptures and the faithful testimony of the Articles to the teaching of the Scriptures will be their guide. They will adopt and apply the principle that where a ceremony or ornament in their own denomination or in another denomination is associated with such doctrines and practices, it should be avoided. They will bring how they worship into line with what they believe. There will be no discrepancies between their worship and their beliefs.
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