By Robin G. Jordan
Those who identify themselves as Anglicans fall into two groups—nominal Anglicans and convictional Anglicans. Basically the first group is Anglican in name but not in conviction. The second group is Anglican in both name and conviction. In this article we will examine what distinguishes convictional Anglicans from nominal Anglicans.
It must be pointed out that those in the first group may believe that they are Anglican in conviction. This mistaken belief is in part a result of the nineteenth century Catholic Revival which sought to change the essential character of the Anglican Church from Protestant, Reformed, and evangelical to unreformed Catholic. Its adherents and their modern-day successors have persuaded a segment of the Anglican Church that the unreformed Catholic teaching and practices which they espouse are Anglican, that is, consistent with the longstanding character of the Anglican Church, but in fact such teaching and practices have more in common with Roman Catholicism than they do with "the true Profession of the Gospel and the Protestant Reformed Religion Established by Law" of the 1688 Coronation Oath Act.
What then are the distinguishing characteristics of genuine convictional Anglicans?
1. Convictional Anglicans hold to the divine inspiration and plenary authority of the Holy Scriptures. They believe that church doctrine and traditions are subject to the authority of the Bible. Where church doctrine and traditions disagree with Scripture, church doctrine and traditions must give way to Scripture. They also reject the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox claim that it is impossible for church doctrine and traditions to disagree with Scripture. They affirm with Article 20 that “it is unlawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God’s Word written” or to expound one passage of Scripture so that it contradicts another. They also affirm with Article 21 that general councils “may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God.”
2. Convictional Anglicans subscribe to the principles of doctrine and worship laid out in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion. As a formulary of the Anglican Church, they believe the Articles have authority second only to the Holy Scriptures from which they derive their authority. They concur with the Jerusalem Declaration that the Articles contain “the true doctrine of the Church, agreeing with God’s word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.
3. While they may use other forms of service in their worship gatherings, convictional Anglicans fully accept as true the doctrine and principles embodied in The Book of Common Prayer of 1662. In their interpretation of the Prayer Book they understand such doctrine and principles in a sense consistent with the teaching of Scripture and the Protestant, Reformed, and evangelical character of the Anglican Church. In their worship gatherings in whatever forms of service they use, they seek to apply such doctrine and principles.
4. Convictional Anglicans cherish the heritage of the English Reformation and the Protestant Elizabethan Settlement. They recognize the biblical teaching and the Protestant, Reformed, and evangelical character of the Anglican Church as their true patrimony—a patrimony that should be maintained at all costs. Convictional Anglicans may also be described as "heritage Anglicans."