By Robin G. Jordan
What are the characteristics of the genuine Anglican Way? How do we distinguish those who are authentically Anglican from those who, while they may identify themselves as Anglican, are following a different faith tradition?
1. They hold the Christian faith as professed by the Church of Christ since primate times and particularly as set out in the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed.
2. They recognize all the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as inspired by God, as having plenary authority in all matters of faith and practice, and containing all things necessary for salvation.
3. They recognize the historic Anglican formularies, including the two Books of Homilies, as the longstanding standard of doctrine and worship of the Anglican Church.
4. They believe that justification is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ, that every human being is wholly enslaved to sin, and that only by God’s prevenient grace, which is the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit, are human beings given the faith that results in justification.
5. They recognize only two sacraments ordained by God—Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
6. They recognize that the threefold ministry of deacons, presbyters, and bishops has antecedents in the New Testament and that the offices of presbyter and bishop were originally one office which evolved into two offices in post-apostolic times. They further recognize that, while the office of bishop may benefit the life of the church, the office of bishop is not essential to the existence of the life of the church. Consequently they recognize as a part of Christ’s Church other Protestant denominations that “do not have an episcopal ministry and do not require episcopal ordination of clergy” even though they themselves practice episcopal ordination.
7. They embrace an “evangelical comprehensiveness,” the bounds of which are set by the principles of doctrine and worship laid out in the Thirty-Nine Articles.
These seven characteristics are the distinguishing characteristics of the genuine Anglican Way.
With its fundamental declarations taken from the Common Cause Partnership’s Theological Statement the Anglican Church in North America has put forward its own revisionist redefinition of the Anglican Way.
How does it differ from the genuine Anglican Way?
1. With their choice of language the fundamental declarations essentially negate the historic Anglican formularies as the Anglican Church’s doctrinal and worship standard.
2. With their choice of language they also do not exclude the existence other sacraments beside Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Note the absence of “the” and “only” in the statement, “We confess Baptism and the Supper of the Lord to be Sacraments ordained by Christ Himself in the Gospel.”
3. Like the Chicago Quadrilateral that the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops adopted in 1886 when Anglo-Catholicism was at its height in the Episcopal Church and Anglo-Catholic bishops dominated the House of Bishops, the fundamental declarations assert that the episcopate is an essential part of the apostolic deposit and therefore absolutely necessary to the unity of the Church. With the Chicago Quadrilateral the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops “unchurched” the Protestant denominations that did not have the episcopate and did not practice episcopal ordination. Like the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches the fundamental declarations maintain that “the episcopate is of the essence of the very existence of the life of the Church.” As the late Peter Toon drew to his readers’ attention, this position excludes a very large segment of Anglicans who hold that the episcopate is “of benefit to the life of the Church” but is not essential to its existence. It excludes the English Reformers and the benchmark Anglican divine Richard Hooker. It also excludes the seventeenth century Caroline High Churchmen who, while they believed that God had blessed the reformed Church of England with the benefit of the episcopate, recognized the orders and sacraments of the Continental Reformed Churches that did not have bishops.
This revisionist redefinition of the Anglican Way permits those occupy the place of power in the Anglican Church in North America to take that denomination away from the genuine Anglican Way in the direction of the unreformed Catholicism of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches. The College of Bishops’ endorsement of Texts for Common Prayer, including its latest additions, and To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism show that they are indeed taking the Anglican Church in North America in that direction. In the process they are denying official standing to the beliefs and convictions of those who are true to the genuine Anglican Way and to the practices associated with these beliefs and convictions, excluding them from the Anglican Church in North America.
Exclusion does not have to involve the actual shutting of Anglicans faithful to the genuine Anglican Way out of the Anglican Church in North America. It may involve taking steps to discourage what they believe and practice from flourishing and spreading. This is what happened in the Episcopal Church and is now happening in the Anglican Church in North America. Texts for Common Prayer and To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism are being used for this purpose. No room is being made in what is expected to become the official Prayer Book of the Anglican Church in North America for the beliefs, convictions, and practices of Anglicans loyal to the genuine Anglican Way.
There are sufficient grounds for the GAFCON Primates to intervene on the behalf of Anglicans in the Anglican Church in North America true to the genuine Anglican Way. There are also sufficient grounds for Anglicans outside of Anglican Church in North America faithful to the genuine Anglican Way to reconsider their recognition and support of the Anglican Church in North America.
There is also ample reason for Anglicans in North America loyal to the genuine Anglican Way, in and outside the Anglican Church in North America, and others who share their beliefs and convictions to form a second province within the ACNA or independent of that body, depending upon what would best serve the gospel. The bounds outside which those occupying the place of power in the ACNA are taking that body are the bounds of the gospel. The bounds of the “evangelical comprehensiveness” set by the doctrinal and worship principles set out in the Thirty-Nine Articles are essentially those bounds. One of the fundamental purposes of the Thirty-Nine Articles was to safeguard the truth of the gospel. The sacramental system of the Roman Catholic Church and its views of apostolic succession, the sacraments, the priesthood, and grace and justification that Texts for Common Prayer and To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism are establishing as the official doctrine of the Anglican Church in North America lie outside of those bounds. They fundamentally teach a different gospel. The formation of a second province is not only essential to securing a future for the genuine Anglican Way in North America but also and more importantly it is essential to the preservation and propagation of the gospel in North American Anglicanism.
Disconnected from the doctrinal and worship standard of the historic Anglican formularies, North American Anglicanism has shown a tendency to gravitate toward extremes—Anglo-Catholicism and liberalism. These extremes do not fully accept the Holy Scriptures as the ultimate rule and standard of faith and practice. They do not profess and proclaim the true gospel.