Monday, November 30, 2015

For the Sake of the Gospel

By Robin G. Jordan

Clergy and congregations in the Anglican Church in North America faithful to the Bible and the Anglican formularies and standing in the Reformation heritage of the Anglican Church have reached a critical juncture. The decisions that they make over the coming months will impact the cause of the gospel in North America as well as determine their own future and the future of biblical Anglicanism in North America.

What the Anglican Church in North America’s College of Bishops is seeking to pass off as “Anglicanism” is in reality a form of unreformed Catholicism, which conflicts with the Protestant Reformed faith of authentic historic Anglicanism. This form of unreformed Catholicism has its origins in the nineteenth century Catholic Revival and the Anglo-Catholic movement and has received fresh impetus from the twentieth century Catholic Resurgence and the Convergence movement. It is antithetical to the Biblical and Reformation theology of classical Anglicanism.

What is involved are not secondary matters—matters of indifference over which Anglicans may agree to disagree—but the gospel itself. The College of Bishops in the teaching and practices that it has mandated or sanctioned to date is imposing upon the Anglican Church in North America a sacramental system at the heart of which is a different gospel from the New Testament gospel. It is a sacramental system that the Anglican Reformers rejected on firm Scriptural grounds in the sixteenth century.

This sacramental system and the false gospel associated with it are inseparable. One comes with the other. There is no way around it. While the leaders of the Anglican Church in North America may subscribe to the creeds, they have in the most critical area of all embraced false teaching and are propagating such teaching.

Their acceptance of the creeds does not mitigate their propagation of a false gospel. It is not something that can be excused or overlooked. It is a very serious matter.

How can the Anglican Church in North America be hailed as a Biblically faithful orthodox Anglican alternative to the Anglican Church in Canada and the Episcopal Church in the United States when in fact it is not? Doctrinally and liturgically it does not make the grade. Until it does, it should not be recognized even as an Anglican province in formation, much less that its leaders should be given a seat in Anglican councils.

If we are honest with ourselves, North America right now has no jurisdiction that is Biblically faithful, theologically orthodox, fully Anglican, and mission-oriented. There are clergy and congregations that, if they were brought together into a single organization, would meet these requirements. The challenge is bringing them together into such an organization.

As long as they are comfortable in their present situation, experiencing no difficulty or uncertainty, they have little motivation to form a new jurisdiction or any other kind of ecclesial organization.

I suspect that what they are presently experiencing is the lull before the storm. Right now they have breathing space.

They are inclined to think the way that things are now will be the way things will always be. They have not given a lot of thought to the ramifications of final authorization of the Anglican Church in North America’s proposed Prayer Book and how it will impact the jurisdiction, their diocese or network, and themselves.

Being comfortable in one’s present situation also tends to encourage complacency and a false sense of security. When harmful changes are introduced at a slow enough pace so as not to disturb the equilibrium of a local church, it is more likely to come to terms with these changes than it is to resist them.

These dynamics make this stage in the life of the Anglican Church in North America and the local churches in that jurisdiction a particular dangerous one. I believe that it is a serious mistake to underestimate the harmful effects of present developments in the ACNA upon the jurisdiction and the local church. It is not a time to let down one’s guard.  

What makes this stage even more dangerous is the tendency to dismiss as alarmists those who draw attention to the implications of what is happening and to listen to those who down play its seriousness. This proclivity is essentially a defense against the anxiety and discomfort that such warnings may cause.

The final authorization of the proposed Prayer Book will be the game changer. The breathing space will disappear. Clergy and congregations will no longer be able to enjoy the doctrinal and liturgical latitude that enjoyed before its adoption. The canons require conformity to its doctrine, which includes the doctrine of the jurisdiction’s catechism. The canons do not provide any wiggle room.

I do not recommend that clergy and congregations in the Anglican Church in North America who are faithful to the Bible and the Anglican formularies and stand in the Anglican Church's Reformation heritage wait until they reach such a tipping point to organize. The advantages of organizing far outweigh the disadvantages. Banding together with other Anglicans with whom they share a doctrinal and liturgical affinity will transform this wing of the Anglican Church in North America. It will open their eyes to the possibilities for the future of authentic historic Anglicanism in North America.

The Catholic Revivalist wing of the Anglican Church in North America, I anticipate, will seek to discourage the organization of the jurisdiction’s Confessing Anglican wing. While it is leaderless and disorganized, it represents no threat to the Catholic Revivalist hegemony in the jurisdiction. The Catholic Revivalist wing has to date shown no inclination to make a bona fide effort to accommodate or comprehend genuine Anglican thought and practice in the jurisdiction. This is clearly evident from the jurisdiction’s governing documents, its ordinal, its catechism, and its proposed rites and services.

The Anglican Church in North America’s Catholic Revivalist wing cannot be expected to welcome the emergence of a major nexus of biblical Anglicanism in the jurisdiction.  It is willing to tolerate the presence of confessional Anglicanism in the jurisdiction as long as its influence is weak and its adherents are dispersed throughout the several dioceses of the jurisdiction.  At this stage the activists in Catholic Revivalist wing are content to create an environment in which biblical Anglicanism and its adherents will have little likelihood of flourishing, anticipating the eventual disappearance of confessional Anglicanism and its adherents from the jurisdiction. The unreformed Catholic teaching and practices mandated or sanctioned in the jurisdiction’s Ordinal, Catechism, and proposed Prayer Book are not accidental.

Biblically faithful, orthodox Anglicans cannot hope to survive, much less flourish in their present disorganized state. While they are likely to face opposition to their organizing, banding together is not just essential to their survival and the survival of confessional Anglicanism but most importantly it is necessary to safeguard the truth of the gospel.  

Five Ways to Lead in Times of Fear

“I’m not sure there is a safe place in the world today.”

The comment was from a friend, a strong Christian and an active church member.

Her voice seemed tinged with fear. I understand fully. It is a natural reaction to the events of the days in which we live.

Most of you who visit my blog are church leaders. People look up to you. They look to you for calm and assurance. And they look to you for God’s perspective in this mess. What can you offer? Though the answer to that question could fill volumes, allow me to suggest five ways to lead in times of fear. Read more

John 3:16 and Man’s Ability to Choose God

It is ironic that in the same chapter, indeed in the same context, in which our Lord teaches the utter necessity of rebirth to even see the kingdom, let alone choose it, non-Reformed views find one of their main proof texts to argue that fallen man retains a small island of ability to choose Christ. It is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Read more

Spirit Guide: The Lord’s Leading in the Cessationist’s Life

It’s not uncommon for me to hear of Christians claiming that God led them to this or that by means of a dream or vision or word from the Lord. When I probe what they mean by that, more often than not it’s just their way of saying they had an idea or imagined a scene.

Only occasionally has the person insisted that they literally had a supernatural experience of direct revelation like Paul going to heaven (2 Cor 12) or Peter’s trance (Acts 10). Dismissing those claims as spurious hogwash is fairly uncomplicated (see the cornucopia of articles on this blog by searching “Strange Fire” or “prophecy” or any other charismatic sounding term).

What deserves more leniency is the acknowledgement that the Spirit prompts us and guides us in our everyday lives. After all, those “who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:14Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). Read more

10 Ways to Leverage Christmas To Reach More Unchurched People

You’re probably wondering if there’s anything you can do to leverage Christmas better to reach the people in your community who normally don’t attend church. I’m with you.

The conversation is even more important as our culture becomes more and more post-Christian. As the general population thinks less about the Christian faith, Christmas provides a unique opportunity to reach people who no longer ordinarily attend church.

After all, there is now only one time of year left in our culture when people still celebrate something Christians hold dear—and that’s Christmas.
,br/> What surprising is that many churches don’t really leverage Christmas to make the impact it could.

Over the years at Connexus Church, where I serve, Christmas has proven to be not only our best attended service each year, but the service in which the greatest number of unchurched people attend. Although, theologically, Christmas will never be bigger than Easter, practically, our Christmas outreach is always bigger than Easter simply because the culture is paying attention. Read more

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thoughts on the Holy Spirit and Historic Anglicanism

I originally posted this article a little over five years ago. A number of the observations made in the article are even more relevant today than they were then. Since that time the Anglican Church in North America has released a number of doctrinal statements in the form of Ordination Rites, a Cathechism, Eucharistic, Baptismal, and Confirmation Rites, and a statement on the use of blessed oils. In these formularies the ACNA has officially laid out its position on a number of key issues. 

By Robin G. Jordan

Liberalism is much more prevalent in North American Anglicanism than we realize, even outside of the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church. Because liberalism has taken more radical forms in the last 30 years, we are apt to ignore its common garden varieties.

The evangelicals who remained in the Protestant Episcopal Church after 1873 like Philip Brooks defected to Broad Church liberalism. The Church of England evangelicals who adopted Anglo-Catholic doctrines and High Church practices in the late 1800s were also liberals. E. J. Bicknell whose A Theological Introduction to the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England was first published in 1919 and which has been widely used in the United States was a liberal Catholic. Archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Lang who brought about the acceptance of Anglo-Catholicism in the Church of England in the 1920s was a liberal Catholic. Major supporters of the ordination of women in the 1980s were liberal Catholics.

We are not likely to regard these groups as liberal today. The radicalism of contemporary liberalism in the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church in recent years has tended to make the liberalism of the past more acceptable. Only traditionalist Anglo-Catholics and conservative Evangelicals like myself are likely to consider the supporters of women’s ordination in the global South Anglican provinces and the new Anglican Church in North America to be liberal.

The late William Barclay who once described himself as a "liberal evangelical" but was a theological modernist, wrote a very popular series of Bible commentaries, The Daily Study Bible. Barclay not only embraced Bible criticism but he also rejected the miracles in the Bible. In his Bible commentaries he offers naturalistic explanations for Jesus’ feeding the five thousand and walking on the Sea of Galilee and other miracles or he dismisses them as myth. For example, Barclay did not believe in the virgin birth. I am acquainted with at least one very conservative traditionalist Anglo-Catholic Continuing Anglican church that uses Barclay’s commentaries in its study of the Bible. The church’s priest, who firmly believes in the doctrines of the sacrifice of the Mass and Transubstantiation, has used in his homilies explanations of the miracles in Bible that sounded very much like Barclay’s. They downplay the supernatural. He and his congregation, which is very socially conservative, take a liberal position on the supernatural in the Bible. One might be prompted to ask how they can accept these two Catholic doctrines, which affirm the operation of the supernatural in the Eucharist and yet deny the operation of the supernatural in the Bible? However, they do, as do a number of Episcopalians do in the Episcopal Church. These Episcopalians are also liberal on social issues. They do not see any inconsistency between their acceptance of a supernatural explanation of the Eucharist and their rejection of a supernatural explanation of the miracles in the Bible.

The members of the new Anglican Church in North America are loath to admit the existence of liberalism in that body. However, it does exist in that body as it exists in other Anglican bodies in North America. North American Anglicans who may be social conservative on such issues as abortion, euthanasia, divorce and remarriage, and homosexuality may be liberals on other issues. We cannot assume that since they are social conservative on these issues, they are conservative on all issues. This applies to North American Anglicans in the Anglican Church in North America as well as to those outside that body. The Anglican Church in North America may be more conservative in certain areas than the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church but it is not the bastion of conservatism that its members would like to believe that it is.

A case in point is how loosely a substantial number of those who identify themselves as evangelicals in the Anglican Church in North America sit to the tenets of classical Anglican evangelicalism and to the Protestant faith of the reformed Church of England and her formularies. The arguments I hear supporting this looseness frequently are liberal arguments. They are also arguments that historically have often been made by the opponents of classical Anglican evangelicalism—Anglo-Catholic and liberal.

Self-identified evangelicals in the Anglican Church in North America are not the only group in that body that shows the influence of liberalism. So do Anglo-Catholics. They tolerate the use of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and the ordination of women in that body. Indeed they use the 1979 Prayer Book themselves and at least one Anglo-Catholic bishop, Archbishop Robert Duncan, ordains women.

In the latitude that the Anglican Church in North America permits in certain areas, it is more liberal than its members are willing to admit. Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic tolerance and even acceptance of charismatic practices and Pentecostal theology is itself a form of liberalism. From a historical perspective the shift in attitude toward charismatic practices and Pentecostal theology represents a far-reaching and even radical change for Anglicans. Due to the excesses of sixteenth century Anabaptism and seventeenth century Separatism historic Anglicanism has tended to shy away from what historically been referred to as “enthusiasm.”

Historic Anglicanism does not altogether reject the charismas, or manifestations of the Holy Spirit:
The holy Ghost doeth alwayes declare himselfe by his fruitfull and gracious giftes, namely, by the worde of wisedome, by the worde of knowledge, which is the vnderstanding of the Scriptures, by faith, in doing of miracles, by healing them that are diseased, by prophesie, which is the declaration of GODS mysteries, by discerning of spirits, diuersities of tongues, interpretation of tongues, and so foorth. All which giftes, as they proceede from one spirit, and are seuerally giuen to man according to the measurable distribution of the holy Ghost: Euen so doe they bring men, and not without good cause, into a wonderfull admiration of GODS diuine power (1 Corinthians 12.7-11).[1]
Historic Anglicanism takes the position that the Holy Spirit was not promised and given “onely to the Apostles, but also to the vniuersall Church of Christ, dispersed through the whole world.”
For vnlesse the holy Ghost had beene alwayes present, gouerning and preseruing the Church from the beginning, it could neuer haue sustayned so many and great brunts of affliction and persecution, with so little damage & harme as it hath. And the words of Christ are most plaine in this behalfe, saying, that the spirit of truth should abide with them for euer, that he would be with them alwayes (he meaneth by grace, vertue, and power) euen to the worlds end (John 14.17, Matthew 28.20).
Also in the prayer that he made to his Father a little before his death, he maketh intercession, not onely for himselfe and his Apostles, but indifferently for all them that should beleeue in him through their words, that is to wit, for his whole Church (John 17.20-21). Againe, Saint Paul sayth: If any man haue not the spirit of Christ, the same is not his (Romans 8.9). Also in the words following, we haue receiued the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father (Romans 8.15). Heereby then it is euident and plaine to all men, that the holy Ghost was giuen, not only to the Apostles, but also to the whole body of Christs congregation, although not in like forme and maiestie as hee came downe at the feast of Pentecost.[2]
Please take note of this last sentence, which I have italicized to emphasize it. “Heereby then it is euident and plaine to all men, that the holy Ghost was giuen, not only to the Apostles, but also to the whole body of Christs congregation, although not in like forme and maiestie as hee came downe at the feast of Pentecost.” The Holy Spirit is given to the entire Church but not “in like form and maieste” as the Spirit came down at the feast of Pentecost. The Spirit is not given to us in the same mode and stateliness of manner as the Spirit was given to the disciples gathered in the upper room. We cannot expect to hear from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and divided tongues as of fire are not going to appear to us and rest on us. We cannot expect to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gives us utterance (Acts 2:3-4).

This view conflicts with classical Pentecostal theology that posits a baptism with the Holy Spirit apart from water baptism and insists speaking in tongues to be sure evidence of that baptism. Classical Pentecostal theology bases its position upon several descriptive passages in the Acts of the Apostles. The problem with basing a doctrine upon descriptive passages is that it seeks to draw universal norms from particular events. It presumes that the author of the descriptive passages was establishing a precedent, which may not actually be the case. There must be clear evidence that it was the author’s intent to establish a precedent with these passages.

Historic Anglicanism sees Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon him as a dove (Matthew 3:16 and parallels) as the norm for Christians. At the same time it recognizes that the Holy Spirit may be given apart from baptism, either before or after baptism, or the Spirit may not be given at all. To insist that the Holy Spirit is always and exclusively given at baptism would be to “so expound one place of Scripture, that it may be repugnant to another” (Article 20). The coming down of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and Cornelius and his household are Scriptural examples of the giving of the Holy Spirit apart from baptism, and Simon Magus and the Samaritans are Scriptural examples of baptism without the giving of the Holy Spirit. The thief on the cross is a Scriptural example of a person who is regenerate but has never been baptized. For this reason, historical Anglicanism rejects the ex operato opere view of the operation of the sacraments and the doctrine of baptismal regeneration. It finds no basis in Scripture for Anglo-Catholic-Roman Catholic sacramental theology.

In his magnum opus, Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Richard Hooker articulates the historic Anglican position on the manner of the efficacy of the sacraments as the means of grace. Whatever benefit is received through them is received “from God himself—the Author of the sacraments—and not from any other natural or supernatural quality in them.” He is very pointed in emphasizing that their operation is not automatic or unconditional.
…they contain in themselves no vital force or efficacy; they are not physical but moral instruments of salvation, duties of service and worship; which unless we perform as the Author of grace requireth, they are unprofitable. For all receive not the grace of God who receive the sacraments of his grace.[3]
Historic Anglicanism lays particular stress upon the work of the Holy Spirit in “the inward regeneration and sanctification of mankind.”
The Father to create, the Sonne to redeeme, the holy Ghost to sanctifie and regenerate. Whereof the last, the more it is hidde from our vnderstanding, the more it ought to mooue all men to wonder at the secret and mightie working of GODS holy Spirit which is within vs. For it is the holy Ghost, and no other thing, that doth quicken the minds of men, stirring vp good and godly motions in their hearts, which are agreeable to the will and commandement of GOD, such as otherwise of their owne crooked and peruerse nature they should neuer haue. That which is borne of the Spirit, is Spirit (John 3.6). As who should say: Man of his owne nature is fleshly and carnall, corrupt and naught, sinfull and disobedient to GOD, without any sparke of goodnesse in him, without any vertuous or godly motion, onely giuen to euill thoughts and wicked deedes. As for the workes of the Spirit, the fruits of Faith, charitable and godly motions, if he haue any at all in him, they proceed onely of the holy Ghost, who is the onely worker of our Sanctification, and maketh vs new men in Christ Iesus. [4]
Historic Anglicanism rejects the claim of the Roman Catholic Church that the Pope has a particular gift of the Holy Spirit and that whatever the Pope decrees is an undoubted truth and an oracle, or divine revelation, of the Holy Spirit.
But here they will alledge for themselues, that there are diuers necessary points not expressed in holy Scripture, which were left to the reuelation of the holy Ghost. Who being giuen to the Church, according to Christs promise, hath taught many things from time to time, which the Apostles could not then beare (John 16.7). To this wee may easily answere by the plaine wordes of Christ, teaching vs that the proper office of the holy Ghost is, not to institute and bring in new ordinances, contrary to his doctrine before taught: but shall come and declare those things which he had before taught: so that it might be well and truely vnderstood. When the holy Ghost (saith he) shal come, he shall leade you into all trueth (John 16.13). What trueth doth he meane? Any other then hee himselfe had before expressed in his word? No. For he saith, He shall take of mine, and shew vnto you. Againe, he shall bring you in remembrance of all things that I haue tolde you (John 16.15). It is not then the duetie and part of any Christian, vnder pretence of the holy Ghost, to bring in his owne dreames and phantasies into the Church: but hee must diligently prouide that his doctrine and decrees bee agreeable to Christes holy Testament. Otherwise in making the holy Ghost the authour thereof, hee doeth blaspheme and belye the holy Ghost, to his owne condemnation.[5]
Any claimed revelation from the Holy Spirit must be tried by the test of the Holy Scriptures. This applies to the claims of various groups that they represent a new movement of the Holy Spirit in the twenty-first century. Article XIX of the Forty-Two Articles of 1553 ringingly condemns those who claim their personal revelations from the Holy Spirit supplement or supplant the Holy Scriptures.
“Wherfore thei are not to be harkened vnto, who affirme that holie Scripture is geuen onlie to th weake, and do boaste theimselues continually of the spirit, of whom (thei sai) thei haue learned soche things as thei teache, although the same be most euidently repugnaunt to the holie Scripture.[6]
In the rhema-logos controversy of the twentieth century the late David Watson, a Church of England minister and a charismatic Christian leader, urged charismatic Christians in the Church of England to hold and maintain the historic Anglican position that all personal revelations from the Holy Spirit, like all human thoughts, should be submitted to Scripture. Historic Anglicanism takes Scripture with full seriousness as a functioning rule for faith and life, and fully accepts its authority. It recognizes that, while the Bible had human writers, the author of the Holy Scriptures is the Holy Spirit. God is not going to reveal through the Holy Spirit to a latter-day prophet something different from what He has already revealed through the Holy Spirit in the Bible. God does not change His mind or contradict Himself.

For historic Anglicanism the surest evidence that a Christian has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him is the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s regenerating and sanctifying work in his life.
O but how shal I know that the holy Ghost is within me! Some man perchance will say, forsooth, as the tree is knowen by his fruit, so is also the holy Ghost. The fruits of the holy Ghost (according to the mind of S. Paul) are these: Loue, ioy, peace, long suffring, gentlenes, goodnes, faithfulnes, meekenes, temperance, &c. Contrariwise, the deeds of the flesh are these: Adultery, fornication, vncleannesse, wantonnes, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, debate, emulation, wrath, contention, sedition, heresie, enuy, murder, drunkennes, gluttonie, and such like (Galatians 5.19-23).
Heere is now that glasse, wherein thou must behold thy selfe, and discerne whether thou haue the holy Ghost within thee, or the spirit of the flesh. If thou see that thy workes bee vertuous and good, consonant to the prescript rule of GODS word, sauouring and tasting not of the flesh, but of the spirit, then assure thy selfe that thou art endued with the holy Ghost: Otherwise in thinking well of thy selfe, thou doest nothing els but deceiue thy selfe. [7]
Historic Anglicanism takes to heart our Lord’s words that a tree is known by the fruit it bears.
For as the Gospel teacheth vs, the spirit of Iesus is a good spirit, an holy spirit, a sweete spirit, a lowly spirit, a mercifull spirit, full of charitie and loue, full of forgiuenesse and pitie, not rendring euill for euill, extremitie for extremitie, but ouercomming euill with good, and remitting all offence euen from the heart. According to which rule, if any man liue vprightly, of him it may be safely pronounced, that hee hath the holy Ghost within him: If not, then it is a plaine token that hee doeth vsurpe the name of the holy Ghost in vaine. Therefore (dearely beloued) according to the good counsell of Saint Iohn, beleeue not euery spirit, but first try them whether they bee of GOD, or no (1 John 4.1). Many shall come in my Name (sayth Christ) and shall transforme themselues into Angels of light, deceiuing (if it bee possible) the very elect. They shall come vnto you in sheepes clothing, being inwardly cruell and rauening Wolues (Matthew 24.5, 24). They shall haue an outward shew of great holinesse and innocencie of life, so that ye shall hardly or not at all discerne them. But the rule that yee must follow, is this, to iudge them by their fruits (Matthew 7.20). Which if they be wicked and naught, then is it vnpossible that the tree of whom they proceede should bee good.[8]
Historic Anglicanism rejects the Roman Catholic view that confirmation is a sacrament that adds to, supplements or completes baptism. Historic Anglicanism’s view of confirmation is found in Alexander Nowell’s Catechism which Nowell prepared at the request of Convocation in 1563. Convocation subsequently gave official sanction to his Catechism in 1570. The exclusive use of Nowell’s Catechism was enjoined in the proposed Canons of 1570. The Canons of 1604, adopted during the reign of James I require its use in grammar schools and universities.
M. It is so. But whereas thou didst say before, that children, after they were grown more in years, ought to acknowledge the truth of their baptism, I would thou shouldest now speak somewhat more plainly thereof.
S. Parents and schoolmasters did in old time diligently instruct their children, as soon as by age they were able to perceive and understand, in the first principles of Christian religion, that they might suck in godliness almost together with the nurse’s milk, and straightways after their cradle might be nourished with the tender food of virtue towards that blessed life. For the which purpose also little short books, which we name Catechisms, were written, wherein the same, or very like matters as we now are in hand with, were entreated upon. And after that the children seemed to be sufficiently trained in the principles of our religion, they brought and offered them unto the bishop.

M. For what purpose did they so?
S. That children might after baptism do the same which such as were older, who were also called catechumeni, that is, scholars of religion, did in old time before, or rather, at baptism itself. For the bishop did require and the children did render reason and account of their religion and faith: and such children as the bishop judged to have sufficiently profited in the understanding of religion he allowed, and laying his hands upon them, and blessing them, let them depart. This allowance and blessing of the bishop our men do call Confirmation.

M. But there was another confirmation used of late?
S. Instead of this most profitable and ancient confirmation, they conveyed a device of their own, that is, that the bishop should not examine children, whether they were skilled in the precepts of religion or no, but that they should anoint young infants unable yet to speak, much less to give any account of their faith; adjoining also other ceremonies unknown unto the Holy Scripture and the primitive church. This invention of theirs they would needs have to be a sacrament, and accounted it in manner equal in dignity with baptism; yea, some of them preferred it also before baptism. By all means they would that this their confirmation should be taken for a certain supplying of baptism, that it should thereby be finished and brought to perfection, as though baptism else were unperfect, and as though children who in baptism had put upon them Christ with his benefits, without their confirmation were but half Christians; than which injury no greater could be done against the divine sacrament, and against God himself, and Christ our Saviour, the author and founder of the holy sacrament of baptism.

M. It were to be wished therefore that the ancient manner and usage of examining children were restored again?
S. Very much to be wished, surely. For so should parents be brought to the satisfying of their duty in the godly bringing up of their children, which they now for the most part do leave undone, and quite reject from them; which part of their duty if parents or schoolmasters would at this time take in hand, do, and thoroughly perform, there would be a marvelous consent and agreement in religion and faith, which is now in miserable sort torn asunder; surely all should not either lie so shadowed and overwhelmed with the darkness of ignorance, or with dissensions of divers and contrary opinions be so disturbed, dissolved and dissipated, as it is at this day: the more pity it is, and most to be sorrowed of all good men for so miserable a case.

M. It is very true that thou sayest….[9]
Historic Anglicanism recognizes the laying on of hands as an apostolic practice but not as an apostolic ordinance.
ALMIGHTIE everlyvyng God, whiche makest us bothe to will, and to do those thynges that be good, and acceptable unto thy Majestie, we make our humble supplications unto the for these children, upon whome (after the example of thy holy Apostles) we have laied our handes, to certifie theim (by thys signe) of thy favour, and gracious goodnes toward them, let thy fatherly hande we beseche the ever be over them, let thy holy spirite ever be with them, and so leade them in the knowledge and obedience of thy worde that in the ende they may obtaine the everlasting lyfe: through our Lorde Jesus Christe, who with the and the holy Ghost liveth and reigneth one God, worlde without ende. Amen. [10]
We do not come across the idea of confirmation as “a special means to convey the graces of God’s Holy Spirit” until the Catholic Reaction in the reign of Charles I. Bishop John Cosin, while rejecting the Roman Catholic view that confirmation is a sacrament describes confirmation in sacramental terms.
We pray for others, (as now in this action we shall do for you that come to be confirmed) we implore God’s blessing upon them who pray, and thereby we do actually bless them, because our prayers and the imposition of hands in those prayers, are an especial means ordained by God to procure the that blessing from Him upon whom by this solemn rite we present unto Him for this purpose. [11]
Cosin goes on to claim the support of the Patristic writers for his view of confirmation.
And therefore the ancient bishops and fathers of the Church everywhere in their learned, godly, and Christian writings impute unto it those gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, which doth make men and women Christians, as they were at first in their baptism, but when they were made such there, assisteth them in all virtue and armeth them the better against all the several temptations of the world and the devil, to resist the vices of the flesh. [12]
Bishop Jeremy Taylor describes conformation in similar terms, implying that confirmation is a sacrament in all but name.

In his third series of notes on the Book of Common Prayer Cosin appears to take a different view of confirmation.
Confirmation (thought it be very behoveful) is not absolutely necessary to salvation, being not Christ’s own institution, as the Sacrament of Baptism is; for it was instituted only by the Church, in imitation of the apostles….[13]]
After citing his sources, Cosin writes:
…confirmation in the Church was appointed in imitation or instead of the imposition of the hands used by the apostles, Acts viii, which abundantly proves it not to have been of divine right…..[14]
Cosin further writes:
That confirmation of children after baptism was not accounted to be of absolute necessity, it is plain from the use of old, in receiving some such to Communion, and to sacred orders also, who had never been confirmed….[15]
He concludes:
When the children of Christians had learned Christ’s religion, they were brought to the church, and were presented to the bishop, and professed openly their faith, and said they would live and die in it. Then the bishop and all the people prayed for them; and the bishop laying his hands upon them, commended them to God. This was the ratifying of their profession, made by others in their name at their baptism; and for that cause was it called confirmation; for they promised, that neither tribulation, nor anguish, nor persecution, nor famine, nor nakedness, nor fire, nor sword, nor life, nor death, should ever make them deny their faith.[16]
The idea that confirmation is a special means by which the graces and the gifts of the Holy Spirit are conveyed can be traced to an early misinterpretation of the New Testament and a subsequent misunderstanding of the teaching of the Prayer Book. For a discussion of how this idea developed and what the Prayer Book actually teaches, please see the accompanying article, “An Anglican Prayer Book (2008): The Catechism and the Order of Confirmation,” which was originally posted on Virtue Online.

A careful examination of the writings of Cosin and Taylor shows that, while they make frequent references to the Holy Scriptures, they rely too heavily upon the Patristic writers in interpreting the text. Where the Patristic writers erred, they erred. For them the rule of antiquity outweighs the rule of Scripture. Instead of submitting the opinions of the Patristic writers to Scripture, they submitted Scripture to the opinions of the Patristic writers. While we can benefit from reading their writings, we need to be cognizant of their peculiarities and read their writings critically.

Interestingly in his monumental A Body of Divinity: Being the Sum and Substance of the Christian Religion, Archbishop James Ussher, who was widely respected in the reign of Charles I for his scholarship, makes no reference to confirmation, except to describe it as “superfluous.” [17]

As J. I. Packer draws to our attention in Keeping in Step with the Spirit, we may account for the experiences that charismatic Christians attribute to baptism in the Spirit without positing “a distinct post-conversion, post-water baptism experience, universally needed and universally available to those who seek it”, as does classical Pentecostal theology. [18] God may make himself know in new ways in the life of a Christian at different phases in his faith journey. A second experience is not essential to explaining such manifestations. For a helpful, friendly Evangelical assessment of the charismatic movement, see Chapters 5, 6, and 7 of Keeping in Step with the Spirit. [19]

One of the sins that beset charismatic Christians is the sin that beset the Corinthian pneumatics. They came to see themselves as superior to other believers and see those who had not had a second experience like theirs as incomplete or weak Christians. Their sin was the sin of hubris, or pride, they became puffed up with themselves, and indulged in all kinds of behavior that by the measure of being known by one’s fruits revealed that they at best were immature, carnal Christians and might not have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them at all. In fairness to charismatic Christians it must be noted that other Christians are also prone to this sin. The belief that they have received “a second blessing,” and therefore are more evidently God’s elect than those who have not received this blessing, however, does make charismatic Christians particularly susceptible to this sin.

In Baptism Michael Green shows that the passages of Scripture usually cited as justification for the Pentecostal doctrine of a baptism in the Holy Spirit are insufficient to bear the exegetical weight put upon them. Green, however, does not dismiss out of hand the experience that charismatic Christians call “baptism in the Holy Spirit.” Rather he objects to the use of the term baptism. He stresses that baptism, repentance, and faith, and the gift of the Holy Spirit jointly belong together in Christian initiation.[20] Green suggests that “release in the Spirit” is the better term.
What happens, of course, is that we discover in actual experience what had been there potentially all the time in our baptism. It is a case of possessing our possessions…For years we may go on in our Christian life with little experience of his gifts and little expectancy of his power. And then, through God’s goodness, we suddenly wake up to what we have been missing, and we claim in experience that part of our baptismal heritage in Christ which had hither to lain largely unnoticed and unused. This may or may not be accompanied by the gift of tongues. [21]
Green notes that there is little support in the New Testament for the claim of the early Pentecostals that the gift of tongues is the primary evidence for baptism in the Spirit. He further notes that Paul himself does not claim that everyone has the same gifts (1 Corinthians 12:30). Rather he teaches that God apportions the spiritual gifts to each member of the Body of Christ as he wills, and God gives these gifts not to the individual member for his or her personal gratification but to the whole body of Christ for “the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7). [22]

This arguably includes the gift of tongues. Without interpretation tongues is not edifying to Christ’s Body or to the outsider. Praying in tongues only serves to reinforce and strengthen the faith of the individual member of Christ’s Body. As one charismatic Episcopal priest of my acquaintance pointed to my attention, it is a gift given to those who are weak in faith so they may overcome their lack of faith. When the weaker members of the Body of Christ are strengthened in this way, the whole Body of Christ is better able to serve Christ and to fulfill his great commission. It is a crutch for the weak and not a mark of the spiritual elite. The priest in question spoke from own personal experience. For years he had struggled with alcoholism.


[1] “Homily on the Coming Down of the Holy Ghost for Whitsunday: AN HOMILIE CONcerning the comming downe of the holy Ghost,and the manifold gifts of the same. For Whitsunday,” The First Part, The Elizabethan Homilies of 1623, Short-Title Catalogue 13675, Renaissance Electronic Texts 1.1 (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1994). electronic edition on the Internet at: 
[2] “Homily on the Coming Down of the Holy Ghost for Whitsunday,” The Second Part.
[3] Richard Hooker, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity V, lvii, 4 (Volume II, pages 257f.) Cited in Philip Edgcumbe Hughes, Theology of the English Reformers, (Abington, PA: Horseradish, 1997), page 171.
[4] “Homily on the Coming Down of the Holy Ghost for Whitsunday,” The First Part
[5] “Homily on the Coming Down of the Holy Ghost for Whitsunday,” The Second Part
[6] Edgar C. S. Gibson, The Thirty Nine Articles of the Church of England, Volume I, (London: Methuen & Co., 1896) p. 78, electronic edition on the Internet at:
[7] “Homily on the Coming Down of the Holy Ghost for Whitsunday,” The First Part.
[8] “Homily on the Coming Down of the Holy Ghost for Whitsunday,” The Second Part.
[9] Alexander Nowell, “The Fourth Part. Of Sacraments,” A Catechism Written in Latin by Alexander Nowell together with the Same Catechism Translated into English by Thomas Norton, (Cambridge: The University Press, 1853), pages 210-212, electronic edition on the Internet at:
[10] “Confirmation, or laying on of hands,” The Prayer Book of Queen Elizabeth 1559, electronic edition on the Internet at:
[11] John Cosin, “Appendix II. On Confirmation,” The Works of the Right Reverend Father in God, John Cosin, Lord Bishop of Durham, Volume the Fifth, Notes and Collections on the Book of Common Prayer, (Oxford: John Henry and John Parker, 1860), page 526, electronic edition on the Internet at:
[12] Ibid., page 527.
[13] John Cosin, “Third Series in M.S. Book,” The Works of the Right Reverend Father in God, John Cosin, Lord Bishop of Durham, Volume the Fifth, Notes and Collections on the Book of Common Prayer, page 484.
[14] Ibid., page 485.
[15] Ibid., p. 485.
[16] Ibid., page 487.
[17] James Ussher, A Body of Divinity: Being the Sum and Substance of the Christian Religion,(Birmingham, AL: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2007), page 371.
[18] J. I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit, (Grand Rapids, MI: Fleming H. Revell, 1984), page 170.
[19] Ibid., pages 170-270.
[20] Michael Green, Baptism, (London: Hoddar and Stoughton, 1987), pages 129-136.
[21] Ibid., page 136.
[212] Ibid., pages 13

Weekend Roundup: Six Articles

Five Questions about the Pastor’s Piety

Thee Gospel Reformation Network asked Scott Oliphint to respond to the following questions on holiness in pastoral ministry and church leadership. Read more

10 Reflections on Today's Preaching

I I make no claims to be an extraordinary preacher, and I’m always hesitant to make any comments on another person’s preaching. Nevertheless, I share my opinions here in hopes of helping all of us continually think about how we can improve. Read more

What if I preach a bad sermon?

Every preacher has preached a bad sermon. If you think you haven’t, then you probably have preached a bunch of bad sermons. It will happen to all of us. Sometimes it won’t just be bad, but a disaster! When a sermon doesn’t go well, most of us get very discouraged and if the despair is great enough, it might cause us to question whether we should continue to preach at all. Read more

Why You Should Go Cold Turkey

After a number of years where I hadn’t done much stranger evangelism (not an unwelcome break mind you!), it’s now a regular part of our new church plant’s evangelism training program. Getting back into this kind of evangelism has reminded me of some of its benefits. Here are five reasons you and your church should give this a go. Read more
The author of this article is referring to the practice of cold calling--unannounced drop-in visits to people in their home or workplace, one of a number of forms of stranger evangelism. Lane Corley who is a church planter and pastor in southeastern Louisiana tells the story of an older Baptist preacher, one of his mentors, who regularly made door to door visits in his community. He would introduce himself and ask whoever answered the door if he could pray for them. Often as not the door was slammed in his face. But he persisted. His church is mostly filled on Sunday mornings with people whom he visited. When asked why they go to his church, folks say the same thing. He show that he cared for them. When they face one of life's difficulties, they remembered the preacher and his concern for them. Door to door visitation works in some communities; it may not work in others. How people react to door to door visitation and how productive it will prove will vary from community to community.

On the other hand, doing what one church does here in Murray, Kentucky is counterproductive. It sends teams to the local university armed with the paperback New Testament. Members of the teams corner students and shove a New Testament into their hands. Most of the New Testaments are thrown away once the student is out of the sight of the team member. The aggressiveness of the team members is what puts off the the students. They feel like the team members are trying to shove the Christian faith down their throats. Even more counterproductive is the approach of a second church. It sends a team of "evangelists" who harangue passing students. Students generally avoid the part of the university where the team has stationed itself or they walk quickly by. Both approaches reinforce negative stereotypes of Christians with the millennial generation.
The Christian Century No One Predicted

“The twentieth century,” according to Scott Sunquist, “surprised the religionists, the historians, and the politicians.” Read more

How the mitres have fallen: bishops' headwear is personal choice, says C of E

Issue of what bishops should wear on their heads briefly takes centre stage at synod as Essex vicar asks for guidance on the donning of mitres. Read more
For readers who are unfamiliar with the British colloquial term "tat," it is an abbreviation of the word "tatty" and refers to cheap and tasteless trinkets and other forms of rubbish and junk. It is the kind of rubbish or junk that crafty Cockneys peddled to unsuspecting tourists in central London.

Whether clergy should be free not to wear vestments is an important issue. Here in western Kentucky vestments are associated with the Roman Catholic Church and are off-putting to a large segment of the population except for Anglo-Catholics, High Church Lutherans, and Roman Catholics who are accustomed to vestments. These three groups comprise a very tiny segment of the population.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Reformation Already Undermined in North America?

By Robin G. Jordan

The sermon that Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, Preacher to the Papal Household, gave at the inauguration of the Church of England’s Tenth General Synod, has sparked controversy in the Anglican Church.  This controversy is related not only to his remarks about human sexuality but also to those about the doctrine of justification by faith and the supposed Anglican via media “between Roman Catholicism and Reformed Christianity.” The full text of the sermon can be found here.

As Lee Gatiss correctly points out on the Church Society blog, the Anglican Church is not both Reformed and Catholic. It is Reformed Catholic, which is an entirely different thing. The idea that the Anglican Church embraces two extremes is a theory that Tractarian leader John Henry Newman cooked up in an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile his increasingly Roman Catholic views with the Protestant Reformed faith of the Church of England. He eventually rejected the idea.

I prefer not to use the term “Reformed Catholic” because Catholic Revivalists apply the term to what are unreformed Catholic teaching and practices. I prefer the term “Protestant” because it cannot be reinterpreted in this fashion. It leaves no doubt as to the true character of the Anglican Church.

Catholic Revivalism in the North America Anglican Church has moved beyond the stage of mixing together “Reformed and Roman,” marrying “some bits of Reformed theology” with "the errors of Antichrist (as Cranmer termed them)."  In the case of the Anglican Church in North America, it blends Rome with Constantinople and adds a dash of Azusa Street to the mixture. Reformed theology, even “bits of Reformed theology,” is blacklisted.

While the Anglican formularies may be mentioned in the jurisdiction’s fundamental declarations, the faith and doctrine revealed in the Bible and taught in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571 and the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal of 1662 are disregarded in the jurisdiction’s other formularies—its catechism and its proposed Prayer Book.

The beliefs and convictions of Anglicans who are faithful to that faith and doctrine and stand in the Reformation tradition of the Anglican Church officially have no standing in the Anglican Church in North America. They are not recognized as the beliefs and convictions of a legitimate school of Anglican thought nor are they recognized as a valid alternative to the unreformed Catholic teaching and practice countenanced in the jurisdiction’s formularies. The status of Anglicans who hold these beliefs and convictions is in limbo. 

Formulary Friday: Undermining the Reformation

Lee Gatiss considers some recent surprising threats to the Reformation heritage of the Church of England.

Is the Reformation over? Was it a mistake? These are questions we may ask ourselves a number of times over the next two years, as the 500th anniversary of Luther’s 95 Theses approaches in October 2017. I found myself wondering about them after the recent fiasco surrounding the Lord’s Prayer “advert”, and after General Synod. Read more

Photo credit: Catholic News Service/Paul Haring

Why Controversy Is Sometimes Necessary

I recently watched as a young mother acted quickly and decisively to end a squabble among two preschool boys. She acted righteously and quite effectively, and then she turned to her two charges and set down the law: “It is never right to fight.”

Sorry, Mom, I understand what you were trying to do, but that moral instruction will not serve those boys well as they grow into maturity. Their challenge will be to learn when it is right to fight, and how, as the Bible commands, to fight the good fight of faith.

What about the church? Is it ever right for Christians and churches to engage in controversy? Of course, the answer is yes—there are times when believers are divided over serious and consequential questions, and controversy is an inevitable result. The only way to avoid all controversy would be to consider nothing we believe important enough to defend and no truth too costly to compromise.

We know that Christ cares deeply about the peace of His church. In His prayer for the church in John 17, Jesus prays that His flock will be protected by the Father and marked by unity. But, as Christ also makes clear, His church is to be united and sanctified in the truth. In other words, there is no genuine unity apart from unity in God’s revealed truth. Read more

Farewell Franchise Ministry

Why is megachurch pastor John Mark Comer ditching conventional church-growth wisdom? Two words: mission and millennials.

You find the entrance to John Mark Comer's office at the back of a hip coffee shop in Portland, Oregon. Stop for a moment to savor a couple shots of freshly roasted espresso pulled by a man who looks like a logger with sleeve tattoos and an iPhone. Leave the cup in the bin, then make your way through the renovated warehouse. When Comer welcomes you into his small office, note the view of the Pearl District, the stuffed deer head on the wall, his retro bicycle, and that mid-century couch under the window.

Only the Bible on the desk and the theological books on the shelves suggest this is still a pastor's space. Comer's warm welcome and gesture toward a comfortable seat open a lively conversation.

Comer came of age in the ministry spotlight, taking over Solid Rock, a megachurch in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon, when he was only in his late 20s. From early on, Solid Rock had the makings not just of a large church, but a very large church, even in the "post-Christian" Northwest.

I'd heard that the church was restructuring. People on the fringes gave me conflicting reports—some said the church was splitting, albeit amicably. Others reported that it was just expanding to more locations. Still others claimed it was planting new, unrelated churches.

Each version turned out to be both wrong and right. I sat down with Comer to get the story straight. Read more

Why Churches Choose to Die – Rainer on Leadership #178 [Podcast]

On today’s episode, we discuss how churches—intentionally or not—choose to die. Whether it be elevating negotiables to the status of non-negotiables or just refusing to face reality, churches often choose to die rather than choosing to change. Read more

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 24:13 — 22.2MB)

Rural vicars ‘drowning’ amid battle to keep empty churches open

Clergy warn they are 'drowning' under pressure of maintaining medieval buildings as Church of England debates future of rural parishes

Rural clergy warned they are close to "drowning" under the pressure of maintaining multiple medieval buildings with dwindling congregations as the Church of England considers radical plans to scale back its ancient parish network to cope with decline.

But the bishop overseeing a review into the future of the 16,000 Anglican places of worship warned against “Dr Beeching-type cuts” with thousands of little-used parish buildings effectively closed.

The Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Rev John Inge, insisted that such a mass closure would send out a signal that the Church and Christianity itself had “had their day in this country”. Read more

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Wayfaring the Anglican Way

I originally posted this article almost 5 years ago. The photo shows the wooden poles that mark the safe route for pilgrims to the holy island of Lindensfarne across the mudflats at low tide. Lindensfarne is a tidal island off the northeast coast of England. It was a center of Celtic Christianity in the seventh century. It was also the base for the evangelization of the North of England, Mercia, and other parts of the British Isles.  

By Robin G. Jordan

Peter Toon popularized the phrase, “the Anglican Way” with his book with same title, “The Anglican Way.” I read the book what seems a very long time ago—back in the early 1980s. I think the title stuck more in my mind than the contents—the Anglican Way.

In this article I begin an exploration of the Anglican Way, as I understand it. I may touch upon some things about which Peter wrote. However, if my readers are anticipating an encapsulation of Peter’s book they will be disappointed.

The Anglican Way is not a metaled road like the roads the ancient Romans built, several courses of gravel, stones, and sand, topped with paving stones, running in a straight line and taking the shortest route between two points. Roman roads were constructed to facilitate the rapid deployment of Rome’s legions.

The Anglican Way is more like the track ways of prehistoric Britain. In some places one sees a single track; in other places, several tracks have been worn into the ground, running parallel with each other and leading in the same direction. These tracks may merge later on to form a single track again. Here and there a path may veer off and become another track way. Great Britain is crisscrossed with prehistoric track ways as it is with Roman roads and modern highways. The Anglican Way follows a particular route but it does not always confines itself to a particular track. This characteristic of the Anglican Way is disconcerting to those who like order and tidiness, everything having a place and everything in its place.

What then marks the particular route that the Anglican Way takes—why does it go in a particular direction and not another?

The Bible is the most important route marker. The Catholic Creeds, the early Church Councils where their teaching agrees with the teaching of the Scriptures, the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal are also important route markers. As long as we are following particular route that they mark, we are treading the Anglican Way. We wander from the Anglican Way when we wander outside these markers.

The Bible determines the direction in which the Anglican Way goes. God has given us the Bible not only to mark the route but also to show us its beginning and its destination. The Bible is not only our map and compass, but it is also our guide.

The Bible does not work like a GPS unit. It does not say, “Turn here; turn there.” It does give us directions. They are sometimes exact directions. But often as not they are just general directions. God has given us His Holy Spirit to help us make sense of the directions and to enable us to follow them. It is not that the directions are unclear but we are prone to misreading them and going our own way.

North Americans who are accustomed to modern highways in which the route and the track are one and the same may have difficulty grasping the concept of a route that in some places has more than one track. Those who hike and backpack on backcountry trails should on the other hand have no problem. They have walked trails like what I am describing many times.

The Anglican Way does not demand an ultramontane uniformity in all things—everyone marching in perfect step, turning at the same time, blinking their eyes as if they were a one person. On essential matters such as the gospel it does require oneness of mind, unity of thought. On non-essential matters it permits freedom of conscience. As the Bible teaches, it teaches that we should show leniency in our judgment of others and their motives. As the apostle Paul wrote the Church at Ephesus, we are to be imitators of God as dear children, walking in love as Christ has loved us and given himself for us (Ephesians 5:1-2).

A lot of the conflict and confusion that we see in the contemporary Anglican Church centers on not only the authority of the Bible but also on the nature of essential and non-essential matters. There is no agreement on what is important and what is not. One group wants to make all matters secondary matters; another group wants to make them primary matters.

Discerning matters that do make a difference from those that do not is a challenge. Some matters may in isolation be matters of indifference but in conjunction with other matters may cease to be matters of indifference. This point is often missed in the debate over these matters.

The Anglican Way is foremost a way of being followers of Jesus the Nazarene, of practicing godliness and pursuing holiness. It is a way of discipleship that seeks to be faithful to the teaching of the Bible. In the Bible we find the teaching of the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus himself—the teaching of God. This teaching is not as the modernists tell us our reflection upon the divine but God’s revelation of his mind to us. In the Bible God has spoken and through the Bible God continues to speak. God is not a babbling infant whose utterances we must struggle to decipher. He speaks very clearly on those matters that relate to how we should live in harmony with Him and with each other.

The Anglican Way is also a way of being God’s temple, of being his people in whom his Spirit dwells, of being the new humanity that God has created. It is a way of being fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, of being a part of the church of which Jesus is the Head and of the body of which he is the Savior.

We walk the Anglican Way not in isolation from each other although circumstances may force us to do so. We journey to the heavenly Jerusalem in the company of fellow pilgrims and travelers. We bear each other’s burdens. We lend our strength to the weak and faltering, knowing our strength comes from God, and is not for us alone. Christ is our companion on the journey and our destination.

We do not forget that we are strangers and sojourners in the land, as were our forefathers before us. We remember that our Lord had nowhere to lay his head. He was even buried in a borrowed tomb. We give food to the hungry and water to the thirsty. We take in the stranger. We clothe the naked and visit the sick and those in prison. We are mindful that what we do to one of the least of these, we do to him.

Our Lord has given us a charge. As he called the apostles to him and made them fishers of men, we are to do likewise. We are to swell our company with those who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and who believing have life in his name. God has shown us his grace and in doing so made us stewards of his manifold grace.

This is the Anglican Way. To some it may seem rather spare. The English Reformers, however, did not strip away what had overgrown the primitive and apostolic faith to let a new overgrowth to take its place. They sought not only to restore the pristine simplicity of that faith to the English Church but also to keep the Church from loosing it again. To this end they gave the Church the Thirty-Nine Articles, the Prayer Book, and the Ordinal. When we misinterpret their teaching, depart from that teaching, subtract from it, or add to it, we wander from the Anglican Way and take another path. We may walk the same route of the Anglican Way for a time but eventually that path will lead us away from its route and into a different way.

May Our Hearts Be Unfeignedly Thankful

The observance of the Thanksgiving holiday has its roots in English traditions dating from the Protestant Reformation. It reflects the Christian view that we should be always show gratitude toward God for mercies that he has shown us. The theme of being thankful and giving thanks runs through the Bible. The Book of Common Prayer in its 1662 edition contains a number of special thanksgivings as well as the General Thanksgiving.

Here are 10 Bible verses that reflect that theme. They are taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible.

1. Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

2. Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Psalm 107:1).

3. Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20).

4.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful (Colossians 3:15).

5.  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6).

6.  Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2).

7 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Colossians 3:17).

8.  Enter his gates with thanksgiving,  and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! (Psalm 100:4).

9.  And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. (1 Chronicles 29:13).

10.  I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers (Philemon 1:4).

Nine Reasons Christians Don’t Evangelize

I’ve been a professor of evangelism for almost twenty years. Over the years, I’ve continually considered and asked why most believers never do evangelism. Here are nine of the reasons I’ve discovered, given in no particular order. Read more

Thursday Roundup: Seven Articles

The Fruits of the Spirit

When we look at a tree and see bad fruit, we conclude it is a bad tree (Matt. 7:17-20). When we look at the same tree and it has good fruit, new fruit, we conclude the tree has changed. There’s not just new fruit but a new tree. This is what God does for His people in regeneration. He doesn't just change the fruit; He changes the tree. Read more

Happy Thanksgiving

As Francis Schaeffer used to remind us, the devil rarely gives us the luxury of fighting on one front only. We see a monster in front of us wanting to devour us, and we back away in dread. But if we’re not careful, we might walk into the jaws of another monster right behind us. We usually fight on two fronts at once. Read more

The Sin Of Gratitude

What follows is a manuscript of my Thanksgiving Eve mini-sermon from Luke 18:9-14. Read more

5 Reasons Grateful Leaders Make the Best Leaders

Ever notice the leaders you’re most attracted to tend to be the most grateful? At least that’s true for me. Grateful leaders make the best leaders. And yet being in leadership can make you ungrateful...quickly. Read more

5 Reasons We Should Sing Passionately and Loudly in Church by Keith Getty

Each week, upwards of 100 million people in America make it a point to attend church, listen responsively to the sermons, and pray sincerely. But when it comes time to sing the hymns, the level of engagement drops hugely and seems to be continuing in its decline, quite dramatically. Read more

5 Ways Your Church Mission Loses Power

The mission of the church is powerful. It guided the everyday ministry of Jesus on planet earth. It guides Jesus as he build his church today, through us. It’s recorded variously in all of the gospels but most commonly referenced in Matthew chapter 28.... Read more

Study: Thankfulness still priority at Thanksgiving

For Americans, Thanksgiving is about faith and family, and not much else, a new study shows. Read more

Thanksgiving: A healthy heart

Don't you love it when science and medicine catch up with the Bible? Read more

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Seven Revolutionary Principles from the Small Church that Founded America

Struggling churches can learn a lot from the integrity and perseverance of the church members who sailed on the Mayflower and changed the world.

The Pilgrims didn’t plan to change the world. But they did, anyway.

They began as a small church that wanted to worship God according to the dictates of their own conscience. They ended up founding a nation and sparking a revolution. This week, Americans celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. While many of the stories of the Pilgrims are well-known and mixed with a few myths, here's one not-so-well-known fact: it was a small church that founded the United States of America and changed the world.

Their story began in the small town of Scrooby England. A tiny group of Separatists found themselves under constant persecution because they refused to worship in the manner they were ordered to by King James and the politically corrupt Church of England.

The problem with the Church of England wasn’t that it was big, but that they used their size to intimidate and gain political power, instead of blessing people and promoting the Gospel.

So a handful of believers in a small church decided to leave.

Here are seven principles we can learn from the integrity and perseverance of these brave Pilgrims.... Read more

Also see
The Pilgrims
I posted this article not because I agree with Karl Vaters' take on history but because his article emphasizes the importance of standing up for one's beliefs and persevering.

3 Reasons Leaders Are Disappearing

Are we facing a leadership crisis in the church?

If your ministry education is well behind you and are now a leader in a Christian organization, it’s easy to assume that the way ministry preparation worked for you is the same way it will work for the next generation of Christian leaders. But several factors in the culture and the church are colliding to make a perfect storm for the young adults currently considering ministry. If we're serious about the continuation of our mission, it’s important that we understand the times we face and the ways we can help. Read more

What Is Thanksgiving Day?

Thanksgiving is an American holiday that stretches all the way back to a time long before America became a nation. The Pilgrims landed in 1620. They faced brutal conditions and were woefully unprepared. Roughly half of them died in that first year. Then they had a successful harvest of corn. In November of 1621 they decided to celebrate a feast of thanksgiving.

Edward Winslow was among those who ate that first thanksgiving meal in 1621. He noted:
“Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we gathered the fruit of our labors. …And although it be not always so plentiful as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodness of God, we are so far from want.”
In addition to the fowl eaten that first Thanksgiving, the Indians also brought along five deer as their contribution to the feast. Presumably they also ate corn. Read more

Also see
5 Reasons Giving Thanks is Always God’s Will
Are You a Thankful Person?
But Where Are the Nine?
What Comes After Thanksgiving?

A Selection of Prayers for Harvest Thanksgiving

After the General Thanksgiving, which is always used at times of thanksgiving for the blessing of the harvest, the following Thanksgiving may be said:

O Lord God of Hosts, you dwell in the high and holy place, and yet you watch over the lowly; you make the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and send rain on the just and unjust; by your mighty power you order all things in heaven and earth. We give you heartfelt thanks that you have safely brought us to the season of harvest, visiting the earth and blessing it, and crowning the year with your goodness. We praise you for the fruits of the ground which you have bestowed upon us, filling our hearts with gladness. For these and all your mercies we praise and magnify your glorious name; beseeching you to sow the seed of your Word in our hearts, and pour upon us the continual dew of your blessing: so that we may abundantly bear the fruits of the Spirit, and at the last great day be gathered into your heavenly storehouse; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, is all honour and glory, now and for evermore. AMEN.

For the Collect of the Day the following Collect may be said:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us the fruits of the earth in their season; grant us grace to use them to your glory, the relief of those in need, and our own comfort, through Jesus Christ, who is the living bread which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world; to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, is all honour and glory, now and for ever. AMEN.

Immediately before the Blessing at Morning and Evening Prayer and at the Lord’s Supper the following prayer may be said:

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we give you thanks and praise that you have again fulfilled your gracious promise, that while the earth remains, seed-time and harvest will not fail. We bless you for the kindly fruits of the earth which you have given for our use. Teach us, we pray, to remember that we do not live by bread alone; and grant that we may always feed on the true bread from heaven, Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit, be all honour and glory, now and for ever. AMEN.

Midweek Roundup: Eight Articles

Eight Struggles Pastors Face: A Thanksgiving Story

Pastors are struggling. Yet most pastors love their ministries and churches; and they are committed to both. But they still struggle. Read more

When You’re The Pastor But Not The Leader

I was talking with a 25 year old pastor recently. He is frustrated with the church where he serves. He was brought to the church because they wanted him to help the church grow again — or so the search committee convinced him — but they see him as too young to make decisions on his own. Read more
This is not an uncommon situation in small churches and can be a factor in why they are not growing. A pastor is an important agent of change in a church and positive change is what small churches need to grow.
Proverbs: Written to Christ, for Christ

Connecting Christ and the Proverbs isn't so easy. How do we read the book of Proverbs as Christians in a way that would distinguish us from how a Jew might read the same book? Also, why then was the book of Proverbs written? Read more

A Compassionate View: King’s View Assembly of God

In Ione, Calif., a lot of people know Pastor Dan Epperson, and not just because he’s the mayor and there’s a picture of him and his wife on a billboard leading into the rural town of 4,500. Many people know him as the pastor of “the church that cares for kids.” Read more
For what is your church known in your community? This is an important question. Some churches are known in their communities for the wrong reasons; others are not known at all. When your church is mentioned in a conversation, what comes immediately to mind? You can learn more about Rural Compassion on the Convoy of Hope website.
20 Truths from Pioneering Movements by Steve Addison

Jesus founded the greatest movement this world has ever seen. How do we join in? Read more

The Prince of Puritans: John Owen [Free Download]

The latest issue of Credo Magazine is online. This issue seeks to introduce readers to the theology and writings of one of the giants of the faith, John Owens. Learn more

The Colonists’ New Religious Mystery

Sorry, Pilgrims: Jamestown’s spiritual life is suddenly much more fascinating. Read more
The Prayer Book used at Jamestown would have been the 1604 Prayer Book, which, like its predecessor, the 1559 Prayer Book, was substantially the 1552 Prayer Book.
Historic Day for Catholics of Anglican Heritage As Pope Francis Names First Ordinariate Bishop

The Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter will be the first of the ordinariates established for former Anglicans to have a bishop. Read more
"Bishop-elect Lopes, however, is not a former Anglican." He is also celibate. However the Roman Catholic media chooses to spin this development, it represents another step toward the full assimilation of the former Anglicans in the Anglican Ordinariate into the mainstream of Roman Catholicism. A married clergy is an important part of the Anglican patrimony.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Life Boat for North America’s Confessing Anglicans?

By Robin G. Jordan

The Catholic Revivalist vision of the Anglican Church in North America is not that of an orthodox Anglican alternative to the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Church of Canada but that of a "Catholic" alternative to these provinces. This vision of the ACNA is reflected in the jurisdiction’s governing documents and its working ecclesiology as well as its doctrine and practices.

Under the provisions of the ACNA constitution the Provincial Assembly, the largest and most representative body in the jurisdiction, has a largely consultative role, much like similar bodies in the Roman Catholic Church. It cannot initiate legislation nor can it modify the legislation presented to it for ratification. It may make recommendations but the way the business sessions of the Provincial Assembly are conducted, its delegates are given no opportunity to appoint a committee for that purpose on their own initiative, much less to consider a recommendation of a group of delegates working outside its official structure.

In the Provincial Council bishops and other clergy are represented in numbers disproportionate to the numbers of bishops and other clergy in the jurisdiction. The clergy have as many representatives as the laity. A provision permitting the cooption of additional members of Provincial Council permits the bishops and other clergy to add more Council members from their order. The diocesan bishops are de facto permanent members of the Provincial Council despite the canonical provisions requiring the rotation of Council members.

The College of Bishops has in a number of critical areas encroached upon the role of the Provincial Council, the official governing body of the jurisdiction, and usurped its authority and powers. Key decisions are not made in the jurisdiction’s Provincial Council which includes lay members but in its College of Bishops which consists solely of bishops. The College of Bishops has significant input into the makeup of the various provincial taskforces and their activities. Very little if anything is done without the College of Bishops’ foreknowledge and approval.

The doctrine and practices mandated or sanctioned in the ACNA Ordinal, its Catechism, and its proposed Prayer Book originated with the College of Bishops. They have the finger prints of the College of Bishops all over them. They reflect the theological outlook of the Catholic Revivalists who occupy the place of power in the Anglican Church in North America and dominate its College of Bishops.

This kind of system is not one in which historic Anglicanism can flourish or meaningful reforms can be made. It is the kind of system that will stifle Confessing Anglicans who are faithful to the Bible and the Anglican formularies and stand in the Reformation tradition of the Anglican Church. It is also the kind of system that historically has stymied reformers. Those who see glimmers of hope in the Anglican Church in North America, I fear, are drowning men clutching at straws.

While some may dismiss me as being overly-pessimistic where the Anglican Church in North America is concerned, one has only to look at the history of the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation, the history of the nineteenth century Reformed Episcopal Church, and the more recent history of the Continuing Anglican Movement to draw similar conclusions. I believe that the time will come and indeed is now here when Confessing Anglicans will be faced with the choice that the sixteenth Protestant Reformers faced. If they were to bring the Church into line with the teaching of the Holy Scriptures, their particular branch of the Church would have to break with the Church of Rome. In the case of Confessing Anglicans, if they are to remain faithful to the Bible and the Anglican formularies and to continue in the Anglican Church’s Reformation heritage, they must separate themselves from the Anglican Church in North America. They must establish a second province, one that is a part of the ACNA but has its own formularies and form of government distinct from that of the ACNA or is completely independent of the ACNA.

Based on the experience of the American Episcopal Church, I believe that the second option is the most workable of the two options. Catholic Revivalists do not look favorably upon jurisdictions whose self-understanding is protestant and reformed, that are within the mainstream of classical Anglicanism, and which give a full part in their doings to the laity. They are not likely to go along with the formation of a second province within the Anglican Church in North America, especially a second province that has its own doctrinal foundation, its own catechism, its own Prayer Book, its own bishops, and a synodical form of government.

Photo credit: Wales Online/OGL