By Robin G. Jordan
I am posting a link to “A Hasty But Comprehensive Response to the Critics of the New FIFNA Declaration," Nathaniel Kidd’s defense of the recent changes in the FIFNA Declaration of Common Faith and Purpose. The Rev. Kidd would lead us to believe that those who draw attention to the changes in the FIFNA Declaration and their implications are engaging in sensationalism. Their criticism of this theological statement is unwarranted.
Kidd’s defense of the new FIFNA Declaration assumes that Henry Newman’s interpretation of the Thirty-Nine Articles in a Roman Catholic direction is an acceptable interpretation of the Articles. The GAFCON Theological Resource Group in The Way, the Truth, and the Life, however, rejects Newman’s interpretation of the Articles. They identify his interpretation of the Articles as part of the Anglo-Catholic movement’s challenge to the authority of the Bible and the classic Anglican formularies in the Anglican Church. Newman disregarded authorial intent and historical context in interpreting the Articles as have subsequent Anglo-Catholics in imitation of Newman. Newman would eventually reject the Articles and become a Roman Catholic, believing that his earlier attempts to reconcile the Articles and Roman Catholic theology were untenable.
Nineteenth century Evangelical and Protestant High Church scholars in the Church of England effectively refuted the claims of the Tractarian and Ritualist movements that they alone represented authentic historic Anglicanism and their churchmanship was the only true churchmanship. Twentieth century scholars have also shown the falseness and inaccuracy of these claims. The Anglo-Catholic movement in the twenty-first century continues to make such claims. They underlie its claim to be a genuine expression of Anglicanism.
Both nineteenth and twentieth century scholars have shown that the Anglo-Catholic movement is essentially an anti-Bible, anti-Reformation movement that seeks to change the identity of the Anglican Church and to make the Anglican Church more Roman Catholic in belief, order, and practice. At one time the hope of Anglo-Catholics was that if they made the Anglican Church sufficiently like the Roman Catholic Church, the pope would accept the Anglican Church back into the Roman Catholic fold.
The acceptance of Anglo-Catholicism in the Anglican Church is confined to one segment of the Church. This acceptance may be attributed largely to the erosion of Biblical authority and the liberalization of the Church.
The late Peter Toon’s observation that the initial Common Cause theological statement went well beyond historic Anglicanism in its affirmation of the teaching of the first seven Councils of the undivided Church is applicable to the new FIFNA Declaration of Common Faith and Purpose. Interestingly a number of the church leaders involved in the Common Cause Roundtable also serve on the FIFNA Council. The final Common Cause theological statement forms the basis of the Anglican Church in North America’s Fundamental Declarations.
The new FIFNA Declaration of Common Faith and Purpose’s assertion that Christ is substantively present under the species of bread and wine is clearly at odds with Article 28. While a segment of the Anglican Church may have embraced the doctrine of transubstantiation under the influence of the Anglo-Catholic movement, this is not sufficient grounds to disregard the doctrine of the Articles as it applies to the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. A segment of the Anglican Church also no longer regards homosexual behavior as immoral and sinful. Are we then on the same basis to reject the teaching of the Bible and the doctrine of the Articles as they apply to God’s moral law?
Forward in Faith in North America may now be representing itself as a teaching organization, rather than a lobbying group. However FIFNA represents itself, the organization promotes Anglo-Catholicism. It unites in its membership Anglo-Catholics who desire to export their beliefs and practices to the global South and change the shape of global Anglicanism. Anglo-Catholicism and liberalism are the two major challenges to the authority of the Bible and the classic Anglican formularies that the GAFCON Theological Resource Group identifies in The Way, the Truth, and the Life.
The observation that the new FIFNA Declaration of Common Faith and Purpose puts Forward in Faith North America at odds with historic Anglicanism, the Thirty-Nine Articles and the Jerusalem Declaration is a valid one. Kidd may wish to gloze over this fact—explain it away. But it is undeniable.