Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Late Peter Toon Foresaw the Present State of the Anglican Church in North America

By Robin G Jordan

The second Anglican Church in North America is following in the footsteps of the first Anglican Church in North America—Anglo-Catholic ideologues occupying the place of power, entrenching their views, and excluding those who do not agree with them. This development points to the unhealthy state of North American Anglicanism. Disconnected from the Biblical and Reformation doctrines and convictions of the reformed Anglican Church, it gravitates toward extremes—liberalism in the Episcopal Church and Anglo-Catholicism in the Anglican Church in North America. Only an embattled group of clergy and congregations in North America are sticking faithfully to the genuine Anglican Way.

The late Peter Toon popularized the phrase, “Anglican Way” in his writings. The Common Cause Partnership appropriated the phrase and used it in the coalition’s theological statement. The coalition identified what it considered were seven elements that characterized the Anglican Way. It would make acceptance of these elements requirements for membership in the coalition and subsequently the Anglican Church in North America.

Dr. Toon would criticize the original draft and the final version of the Common Cause Partnership’s theological statement. Among his criticisms of the final version was that it included a commitment to a doctrine of the episcopate that put “a particular spin to the 1662 Ordinal” and prohibited "the comprehensiveness that has always been part of the genius of the Anglican Way." It excluded “most Anglicans worldwide today,” he pointed out, and excluded “the millions of evangelical Anglicans who have been faithful Anglicans over the generations.” [1]

Dr. Toon argued that in order to have “a new, orthodox Anglican province on American soil,” “it must be set solidly on the rock of Scripture as the primary Formulary and then on the historic Anglican Formularies as a secondary foundation and guarantor of a truly Anglican identity.” [2]

The genuine Anglican Way, as Dr. Toon would point out, did not, like the nineteenth century Protestant Episcopal Church, and I would add the twenty-first Anglican Church in North America, outlaw the bene esse view of the episcopate. [3 ] In this view the office of bishop is recognized as ancient and allowed by Scripture and even beneficial to the well-being of the Church but not essential to its existence. The same view takes the position that apostolic succession is not a succession of bishops but in the words of Bishop John Jewell, “a succession of doctrine.” A bishop is not a successor to the apostles due to his consecration or pedigree but because of his faithfulness to apostolic teaching.

Dr. Toon would further point out that no Anglican province was bound by the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral unless the document was adopted by a synod of the province. While the Lambeth Conference might have endorsed the document, it was not binding upon the provinces of the Anglican Communion. The Lambeth Conference was a conference of bishops, not a synod of bishops, and could make only recommendations to the Communion’s provinces. [4 ]

Dr. Toon believed that Canon A5 of the Church of England provided a more than adequate doctrinal foundation for a new, orthodox Anglican province in North America.
“The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal.”
This canon, Dr. Toon would point out, shows that the Anglican Way is fundamentally “a particular way of reading, interpreting and receiving the truths of Holy Scripture as the Word of God written.” [5 ]

Dr. Toon maintained that if one wished to discern what were the principle characteristics of the Anglican Way, one should examine the historic Anglican formularies, including the two Books of Homilies. When these characteristics were compared with what the Common Cause Partnership considered to characterize the Anglican Way, there was a notable disparity. [6 ]

With the Statement on the Global Anglican Future the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans would recognize the words of Canon 5A as expressing  the doctrinal foundation of Anglicanism—what defines core Anglican identity.

Three years before the formation of the Anglican Church in North America Dr. Toon recognized the lack of a commitment among the leaders of the Common Cause Partnership to the kind of comprehensiveness that is itself a distinctive characteristic of the Anglican Way. The past nine years have shown that Dr. Toon’s observations were prophetic. In doctrinal statement after doctrinal statement those who occupied the place of power in the Common Cause Partnership and now occupying that position in the Anglican Church in North America have moved that denomination further and further away from the genuine Anglican Way in the direction of unreformed Catholicism.

While the genuine Anglican Way permits a degree of High Churchmanship, it holds in common with great Protestant Reformers of the sixteenth century that the Scriptures are “sufficient to govern all believers in matters of faith and practice and that the scriptures teach that justification is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ.” It stresses “a robust federal, or covenant theology” and holds that “man's will is wholly bound in sin,” and that “only the regenerating grace of the Holy Spirit” can “give the faith that results in justification. [7] It recognizes only two sacraments that have a visible sign or ceremony commanded by God—Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The five other rites that the Roman Catholic Church receives as sacraments—confirmation, absolution, matrimony, ordination, and anointing of the sick and dying with oil, the genuine Anglican Way recognize as in part developments from “a false understanding of apostolic practice” and in part representations of “states of life allowed in the Scriptures.” [8]

From its endorsement of a radical revision of the Ordinal to the recent statement on blessed oils and their use the Anglican Church in North America’s College of Bishop has shown an unwillingness to comprehend in the denomination the Biblical and Reformation doctrines and convictions of the genuine Anglican Way. It has made a laughingstock of the evangelical Anglicans who gave their support to the denomination, showing that it has no respect for what they believe.

[2] Peter Toon, “The Articles of Religion - One of the Formularies of the Anglican Way”
[4] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[8] The 39 Articles: A Re-statement by Philip E. Hughes ©1988

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