By Robin G. Jordan
Some of my readers may wonder why I have lately been advocating the formation of a second province within the Anglican Church in North America rather a second province independent of that body. The Anglican Church in North America has a school of thought that that wishes to appropriate the label “Anglican” solely for itself and to redefine Anglicanism as only encompassing what it believes and values. This school of thought would like to see congregations and clergy that are Evangelical and low-church in tradition and committed to the Protestant and Reformed doctrine and principles of the Anglican formularies withdraw from the denomination, leaving it free to characterize and portray the departing congregations and clergy as not genuinely Anglican. This is one of the reasons, if not the principal reason, that the ACNA leaders who belong to this school of thought have not made room for other schools of thought beside their own in the denomination.
This school of thoughts which has its roots in the nineteenth century Oxford Movement has sought to reshape Anglican identity from Protestant to unreformed Catholic for the past 182 years. It has sought to exclude Evangelicals and others who do not share its beliefs and values from the Anglican Church.
If congregations and clergy that stand in continuity with the English Reformers form their own province within the Anglican Church in North America, the formation of this province will deny the same school of thought of what it covets. It will not be able to claim that it alone represents authentic Anglicanism. Indeed its true nature will be exposed – a movement to weaken the authority of the Bible and to undo the effects of the English Reformation in the Anglican Church.
This school of thought’s claim to be a theological strand within Anglicanism is very tenuous at best. Its argument that true Anglicanism is a form of unreformed Catholicism relies on false logic and sophistry. The description of the Medieval English Church as “ecclesia Anglicana,” or “English Church,” in Latin documents is a flimsy basis for making such a claim.
Claiming its antecedents include the Remonstrants and the Caroline High Churchmen does not qualify it as such a theological strand nor does selectively citing the works of Bishop John Jewel and benchmark Anglican divine Richard Hooker. The Remonstrants were clandestine Roman Catholics who secretly celebrated the Latin Mass and plotted the overthrow of England’s Protestant monarchs. The Caroline High Churchmen regarded the Anglican Church and themselves as Protestant and upheld the Thirty-Nine Articles as the Anglican Church’s confession of faith. Archbishop John Bramhall whose writings are sometimes quoted out of context as laying out the core argument against the Articles was a stalwart defender of the Anglican Church against its Roman Catholic critics, referring to the Articles in his defense of the Anglican Church . Both Jewel and Hooker were Biblical and Protestant in their stance and Evangelical and Reformed in their doctrine.
The concerted effort upon the part of the adherents of this school of thought to not only revive pre-Tridentian Roman Catholic teaching and practices in the Anglican Church but also to introduce post-Tridentian Roman Catholic innovations in doctrine and worship point to its true nature. Having failed to bring the Anglican Church into the orbit of the Roman Catholic Church in the nineteenth and twentieth century, it now seeks to reshape the Anglican Church along the lines of an imaginary golden age of Christianity—the purportedly undivided Church of the early High Middle Ages before the East-West schism in the eleventh century.
Essentially this school of thought views classical Anglicanism as not fully “Catholic.” On the other hand, by the standards of classical Anglicanism, the same school of thought is insufficiently reformed and consequently falls short of being regarded as genuinely Anglican. It may have expropriated the Anglican name but it has not assimilated the Anglican genius.
Leaving this school of thought to exclusively take the Anglican name for itself would not serve the cause of the gospel in North America. As Roger Beckwith and James Packer point out in The Thirty-Nine Articles: Their Place and Use Today, one of the functions of the Articles of Religion is to safeguard the truth of the gospel.
At the present time the adherents of this school of thought have sought to push those who do not share their beliefs and values out of the Anglican Church in North America by denying official standing to what they believe and value. They may become more aggressive in this effort if the formation of a second province in the denomination threatens to check their aspirations.
At that point the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans will not be able to continue to ignore what it happening in the Anglican Church in North America. Otherwise, it will place itself in the untenable position of countenancing the persecution of Anglicans faithful to the teaching of the Bible and loyal to the doctrine and principles of the Anglican formularies through its failure to intervene after committing itself to a policy of intervention.
The formation of a second province within the Anglican Church in North America, a second province which in its doctrinal foundation is fully aligned with the Holy Scriptures and the Anglican formularies, is essential to the furtherance of the gospel in North America, as well as to the preservation of Anglican identity and orthodoxy. Organized into their own province, congregations and clergy that are Evangelical and low-church in tradition and committed to the Protestant and Reformed principles of the Anglican formularies will be able devote their full attention to the central task of Christ’s Church—making disciples. They will no longer have to navigate their way through a denominational environment that is barely tolerant of their presence and is decidedly unsupportive of their beliefs and values.
The formation of a second province within the Anglican Church in North America with such a doctrinal foundation gives those who claim that they are moderate and are committed to a policy of comprehension an opportunity to demonstrate that they are indeed what they claim they are. To do nothing and not to take a stand is to tacitly support the extremist element in the denomination. Demonstrating the truth of their claim requires pushing for much needed reforms in doctrine, governance, and worship in the denomination, distancing themselves from the extremist element and repudiating the policies associated with that element by their actions, not just their words.
The formation of a second province independent of the Anglican Church in North America should be considered only as an option at the stage when the extremist element in the Anglican Church in North America become overt in their effort to force congregations and clergy not sharing their beliefs and values out of the denomination. At that stage the extremist element will not be able to shift the blame for its actions on the departing congregations and clergy and will have to accept responsibility for the damage that it has inflicted to the Anglican Church in North America’s public image.
At the same time maintaining the status quo in the Anglican Church in North America is not going to secure a future in that denomination for congregations and clergy who are Evangelical and low-church in tradition and are committed to the Protestant and Reformed doctrine and principles of the Anglican formularies. They will eventually disappear as the processes of attrition and assimilation take their toll. Their only hope for a future in that denomination is in a second province with its own doctrinal foundation, constitution, canons, ordinal, service book, catechism, bishops, and synodical government.