Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Original Sin of Anglicanism

As we enter into a period of radical change, equal to the Reformation of the 16th century, Anglicans are being asked to consider, to study and to adopt various statements or declarations defining Anglicanism. Documents such as the Common Cause Theological Statement and the Jerusalem Declaration have been proposed and adopted by the reforming orthodox in order to secure the foundations of our faith and common life.

The danger inherent in any Anglican statement or federation is the great original sin of Anglicanism: disobedience to authority. The Jerusalem Declaration addresses this problem in article 13: "We reject the authority of those churches and leaders who have denied the orthodox faith in word or deed. We pray for them and call on them to repent and return to the Lord." Inherent in the rejection of the authority of the heterodox is the acceptance of the authority of the orthodox.

With these foundational statements and articles being written and promoted, our strongest temptation will be to promote and publish these declarations with no intention of actually following them.

This temptation is the strongest for me in the puzzling omission of the last three Ecumenical Councils and in the wholesale acceptance of the 39 Articles. The rejection of the Ancient, undivided church and the acceptance of a Reformation era statement of a local council is highly problematic for a church that yearns to be universal and apostolic.

From the Jerusalem Declaration:
4. We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God’s Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.

From the Common Cause Theological Statement:
7. We receive the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1562, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing the fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief.

From article thirty-four of the 39 Articles: "Whosoever, through his private judgment, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the Traditions and Ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, (that others may fear to do the like,) as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren."

At this point in the life of Anglicanism, the only way forward that I can imagine that will lead to unity and that will prevent disintegration is radical submission to authority. For my part, this would mean the end of reserving the Holy Sacrament. I would have to travel to our new preaching station every Sunday rather than consecrating enough bread and wine for several Sundays.

Also, since I believe that the unwritten reason that the Reformers could not accept Nicaea II and the end of Iconoclasm was that they were Iconoclasts, this would mean that we would have to remove or drape our icons and cease the Benediction and the elevation of the Blessed Sacrament. Without the clear statements on veneration and the place of Holy Objects that led to the Triumph of Orthodoxy in Nicaea II, our services would be impoverished but in true submission to the authorities that have adopted the CC Theological Statement and the Jerusalem Declaration.

I believe that the clergy and laity in churches and dioceses should submit to this authority while petitioning the Primates to include all Seven Ecumenical Councils and to reconsider the wholesale adoption of the 39 Articles, specifically in light of the articles dealing with Predestination and the Holy Sacraments (17, 35 and 38). The voluntary submission of those who yearn for a more catholic and apostolic expression of Anglicanism will only be able to effectively unite and defend an Anglicanism that is rooted in the submission to authority. While I believe that this is also true for women's ordination, that we should suspend all ordinations until the mind of the Communion is united, that is for another article and author.


Anonymous said...

Wow... I just joined one of the Anglican parishes in the diocese. I wonder how much longer Anglo-Catholics will be welcome?

HowardRGiles+ said...

Anonymous, I don't think that either the Statement or the Declaration are moves away from Angl-Catholicism toward Evangelicalism. It is very clear that the Global South has been planted and watered by Evangelical missionaries, but I have never found them to be opposed to any orthodox expression of the Gospel.

Our Bishop has a wonderful ability to express the three streams of Anglicanism (catholic, evangelical, and charismatic)with a fierce determination to use every tool available to us in the service of the Kingdom.

My only warning is that we shouldn't gloss over any point in these statements, but that we should practice obedience and discipline in respecting our Apostles and the path they have discerned for us as a body.

Fred Schwartz said...

Fr. Giles, bless your heart. Ya'll don't get it yet do you? You don't get a choice, you don't get a vote. Radical subission to the self-appointed Primates Council. When they speak for 35 million Anglcians they mean ONLY they speak. Welcome to the new world order.

HowardRGiles+ said...

Mr. Schwartz,
I like that phrase, "new world order,' and I'm hoping that you mean it with all of its conspiracy theory connotations. We could banter back and forth about the political moves of both sides, making broad statements and ad hominem attacks, but to what end?

There must be a clear bottom line, which I think lies across professing Jesus as the only way to the Father, calling everyone into righteousness and the Holy Scripture to be inspired and not open to private interpretation. I think that GAFCON did an admirable job clarifying the essentials of Anglicanism, though I obviously disagree with a few minor points. Frankly, I wish that the Primates were prepared to take as strong an action as KJS has taken, just in the service of the Gospel.

Fathom said...

I'd like to know more about what this all means specifically for parishes in this diocese, San Joaquin, as will be seen by those of us in the pews.

1. Prayer books and hymnals: Will we continue to use the same Episcopal Book of Common Prayer? Same Hymnal?

2. Altar and Elements: Will we be reverting to altars against the wall and celebrants with their backs to us? Will there be changes in how the Elements are described, blessed and distributed?

3. Will parish membership be tightened to exclude divorced, divorced/remarried, opposite sex cohabitation, known non-renounced sinners, etc?

4. Women's participation: Will there be changes in who is allowed to serve as deacon, altar guild, choir member, reader, ELM? Will women be required to wear head coverings? Will women be allowed to serve on vestries?

5. Are there other changes and issues that will likely come as a surprise to congregation members?

The reports we read from international sources imply there are major changes being adopted, yet locally we are being reassured in our parishes that "...nothing is going to change, we are just affiliating with another Province."

Rumors fly about the diocese. It would be good to begin to get some clarification from those who are in a position to know.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure what I said that set Scully off. It's the first time I've commented on this site, and it was just to ask a question. But I'll stay off if questions aren't permitted.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to know, too, Fathom.


HowardRGiles+ said...

An above comment was removed due to its lack of charity.
This is a warning to commenters that we are not here to attack or comment on each other but to discuss the post topics without ad hominem attacks, baiting or name-calling.

Octavius said...

Which question did Tom/anonymous ask and who went off? I guess I missed something.

Anonymous said...

Fr Giles, Please explain why at convention the vote was thrust upon us that the vote was an imperative to assure our Anglican identity and communion with the ABC, now it appears with GAFCON folks are now proposing that this isn't neccesary and quite the opposite. I think the folks in San Joaquin have been duped. Why do the Primates of these far away Provinces believe they have more power to interpret Scripture than anyone else,Don't the folks in Fresno know that most parishioners just care about being at worship with their church family and using the same Hymnal and BCP? This has been a mess created by a few who think they know best and forgot that Christ is TRULY the LORD of all, not humans on this earth.A very sad day for all. I have a hard time believing, that this declaration would be acceptable in this Diocese, Anglican or Episcopal,afterall I think we have divorced clergy here.Where would that fit in?

fathom said...

Several days ago, in comments above, I asked to know more about what this all means specifically for parishes in this diocese, San Joaquin, as will be seen by those of us in the pews.

Perhaps the answer is "we don't know yet?" It's not your reputation to ignore legitimate questions, so your silence on the subject is unusual.

Fr Van McCalister said...

Regarding the uncharitable comment to "Anonymous", who asked what I know was a genuine and sincere question, I am pleased that Howard+ deleted it. There is no reason why - no matter how much we may disagree - that we cannot have lively debates and discussions on these blogs while being civil to one another at the same time. The sarcasm and disrespectful vitriol which comes from both sides of the debate is anti-Christ behaviour. "With [our tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not be this way." [James 3.9-10]

Fr Van McCalister said...


I would liked to have answered your questions right away. However, I simply do not have time to respond to all of the blogs, reporters, calls and e-mails that I receive on a daily basis. So, please do not feel ignored - just recognize that maintaining this blog is just one of a number of things that Howard+ and I do.

That being said, I can only give you a general answer to your five questions: The Jerusalem Declaration's purpose (as I see it) is not to micro-manage dioceses, parishes and altar guilds but to provide a way in which the Anglican Communion can return to Christian orthodoxy. While many of those who initiated the GAFCON movement are Evangelical-Anglicans, there are still a significant number of Anglo-catholics involved as well. The bishops and archbishops are well aware of the fact that there are disagreements over women's ordination and liturgy among those who are biblically conservative and their goal has been to focus on the points of unity that are what most Christians would agree are the non-negotiable doctrines. I would expect that we will see a new or revised prayerbook in North America, once that province is established. However, I am confident that it will be a prayerbook that will embrace both the evangelical and catholic streams of worship that are common in North America. Also, I am convinced that diocesan bishops will be able to maintain their local traditions - so long as they correspond to christian orthodoxy. Remember that one of the goals of Anglicanism is to keep rooted in and continue the catholicism of the Early Church. The beauty of this is that it is both evangelical and catholic in a way that no other denomination represents. I think the GAFCON movement will strengthen that goal not weaken it. Therefore, I do not foresee significant changes in the way we worship but greater opportunity to proclaim the Good News.