Monday, May 18, 2015

Will The Real Anglicanism Please Stand Up?

Are they even Anglican?” “We aren’t Baptists, we’re Episcopalians.” “He’s just a Presbyterian with robes on.” As a Reformation Anglican, you would think I would get used to hearing these kinds of statements. I have to admit, even after over a decade of active leadership in Anglican and Episcopal ministries, it still surprises me when I hear people articulate a monolithic understanding of what Anglicanism is. For this reason, it’s important that we ask the question “What does it mean to be authentically Anglican?” While this question seems straightforward at first, through Anglicanism’s 450 plus years some very different answers have been offered. This series of posts will examine some of the main ways Anglicans have identified themselves through the years.

I must be honest, I am approaching this as a self-identified Reformation Anglican, and I do have a bias as to how Anglicanism should identify itself (not how it does, nor even how it must) and that bias rests on how I define what is meant by “One Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” My case here is not to say, however, that Reformation Anglicanism (as we’ll define it in this post) is the only legitimate Anglican identity, but rather to simply make the case that Reformation Anglicanism is a legitimate Anglican identity, that we do have a seat in the boardroom.

It is also my hope that by more clearly lining out the differences with which Anglicans have approached their faith, we might more clearly think about some of the controversies we face. I have a friend who, due to a childhood illness, does not remember anything before her 7th or 8th birthday. She has built her recollection of her childhood largely off of what her family members have told her. There is a significant amount of institutional amnesia in American Anglicanism and it is my hope that we would build our memory not off of what we may have been taught in confirmation class, but on the facts of history itself. We will begin this series with where Anglicanism began. Keep reading

Also see
Will The Real Anglicanism Please Stand Up? Part II
One problem that I have with the first article is its writer appears to have bought into the notion that there are multiple Anglican identities. This is a revisionist view of Anglican identity. A more historical approach would recognize that the English Reformation and the Elizabethan Settlement gave the Church of England basically a Protestant, Reformed identity. This identity was affirmed by the Coronation Oath Act of 1688. Following the Restoration Arminians in the Church of England would seek to claim that the basic identity of the Church of England, while Protestant, was Arminian. However, the Reformed wing in the Church of England would successfully defend Anglican identity against such claims. Twentieth century revisionist historians would claim that the Church of England would enter an Arminian phase but the historical facts, when viewed in their entirety, do not support this claim. The main onslaught on the Protestant, Reformed identity of the Anglican Church came from the Anglo-Catholic Movement in the nineteenth century, which sought to deliberately change Anglican identity--to "Romanize" the Church of England and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA.  The revisionist view that there are multiple Anglican identities can be traced in part to the rise of Anglo-Catholicism in the Anglican Church and in part to the rise of liberalism. Both movements would promote this view albeit they also promoted the view that their identity was the true Anglican identity. They promoted the multiple Anglican identity view to gain recognition and acceptance of themselves as "a genuine expression of Anglicanism" wherein fact they both represented major challenges to the authority of the Bible and the classical formularies, the doctrinal foundation by which Anglican identity has historically been defined.  They may be compared with intruders who forcibly invade the premises of a house, claim that they are the true heirs to the property, and eject the real heir from the house. To accept the multiple Anglican identity view is to accept a lesser position as one of a number of claimants to the house instead of asserting one's position as the real heir to the house and the sole legitimate claimant. It is also to extend squatters' rights to those who have no lawful claim to the house. 
Photo credit: Pixabay, public domain 

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