By Robin G. Jordan
If the Prayer Book and Liturgy Task Force and the Bishops’ Review Panel are not preparing a service book to meet the needs of congregations on the twenty-first century North American mission field, what are they doing? The answer is pretty obvious. They are preparing a liturgy to be used along side of To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism to promote a form of Anglo-Catholicism that is not far removed from Roman Catholicism and which in a number of key areas both in its teaching and its practices conflicts with the Biblical and Reformation beliefs and convictions of authentic historic Anglicanism.
What is at stake is not just the place of authentic historic Anglicanism in the Anglican Church in North America but that of the Bible and the gospel. Historic Anglicanism fully accepts the authority of the Bible in all matters of faith and life of the Church. On the other hand, the form of Anglo-Catholicism that are embodied in Texts for Common Prayer and To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism gives a large place to tradition—a place so large that it displaces the Bible from its central place in the faith and life of the Church. Not only is the Bible removed from its proper place but so is the gospel.
The English Reformation restored the Bible and the gospel to their central place in the Church’s faith and life. The Anglican formularies reflect their central place. In its endorsement of Texts for Common Prayer and To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism the College of Bishops rejects both the English Reformation and the Anglican formularies and with them the Global Anglican Future Conference’s call to return to the Bible and the Anglican formularies. With the unreformed Catholic teaching and practices that it espouses in these two documents, the College of Bishops essentially rejects the gospel.
- Rather than affirming that we need only one mediator Jesus Christ as revealed in the God’s Word, the College of Bishops maintains that we need priestly mediators.
- Rather than affirming that Jesus Christ on the cross offered himself for the sins of the world once and for all time as revealed in God’s Word, the College of Bishops maintains that our Lord through the priest goes on offering himself at the Eucharist.
- Rather than affirming that the Lord’s Supper is a memorial and proclamation of Christ’s saving work as revealed in God’s Word, the College of Bishops maintains that the Lord’s Supper is a continuation of his atoning sacrifice.
- Rather than affirming that we appropriate the benefits of Christ’s saving work directly by faith as revealed in God’s Word, the College of Bishops maintains that priests dispense these benefits through the sacraments.
In other words, the College of Bishops espouses a “different gospel” from that revealed in God’s Word.
Post-modernism may countenance the proclamation of numerous gospels. The Bible countenances only the proclamation of the one true gospel. .
The Episcopal Church is not the only Anglican jurisdiction in North America straying from the truth under the leadership of its bishops. The Anglican Church in North America is following right behind it.
What is happening in the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church in North America, and other Anglican jurisdictions in Canada and the United States points to a serious weakness of North American Anglican Church—its proclivity for extreme ideologies that do not fully accept the Bible as a functioning rule of faith and life. As the GAFCON Theological Resource Group has pointed out, liberalism is not the only major challenge to the authority of the Bible and the Anglican formularies in the twenty-first century. Anglo-Catholicism is also a major challenge to their authority in this century.
Where these ideologies prevail, the Great Commission is ignored. In the case of Anglo-Catholicism the perpetuating of a particular cultus is substituted for the spreading of the gospel and the proselytizing of new converts to its beliefs and thinking for the making of disciples of Jesus Christ. Tradition is elevated to the same level as the Bible and ultimately above the Bible. This is what is happening in the Anglican Church in North America. This is why the Prayer Book and Liturgy Task Force and the Bishops’ Review Panel with the support of the College of Bishops is preparing the kind of service book that they are presently putting together. This may not be the rationale that they offer to those who question what they are doing or even the rationale in their own minds for what they are doing. But it is in the final analysis what they are actually doing.
With To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism and the Prayer Book in preparation the College of Bishops is mocking the Global Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, the GAFCON Primates Council, and the Jerusalem Declaration. The GFCA and the GAFCON Primates have themselves to blame. They were not paying attention when Bishop Jack Iker, a leading Anglo-Catholic in the Anglican Church in North America, upon returning from the first GAFCON conference, assured Anglo-Catholics that the Common Cause Theological Statement, not the Jerusalem Declaration, would be guiding the faith and life of what would become Anglican Church in North America. With To Be a Christian: An Anglican Catechism and the Prayer Book in preparation the College of Bishops is belying the Anglican Church in North America’s purported commitment to the Jerusalem Declaration. The GFCA and the GAFCON Primates have ample grounds to shift their support from the ACNA to a network of Anglican clergy and congregations genuinely committed to the fulfillment of the Great Commission, the teaching of the Bible, and the doctrine of the Anglican formularies.