Fr. Dale Matson
The fact is that we are still trying to decide what being an Anglican means. Is Anglicanism Protestant or Reformed Catholic? Where are our roots? Are our roots in the early undivided church or does Anglicanism begin with the Elizabethan Settlement? Is Thomas Cranmer’s Anglicanism as expressed in the Book of Common Prayer [and Administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church according to the use of the Church of England together with the Psalter or Psalms of David pointed as they are to be sung or said in churches and the form and manner of making, ordaining, and consecrating of bishops, priests, and deacons.] the heart of Anglicanism? Is Canterbury still the historic center? If so, then are we looking at Augustine of Canterbury as the first Archbishop (597) of the Church in England? Was Cranmer our Luther? Did Anglicanism begin with the church in England or the Church of England? Was it even later with the addition of the church in Ireland and colonies? Do Anglicans go back to St. Columba (500’s), St. Patrick (400’s) and St. Alban the first recorded British Martyr before 300? What about Pentecost? Is the more Protestant 1662 Prayer Book the norm and standard? If so, is Christ truly present in the sacramental elements of the Mass or is He in Heaven. Is it Sola Scriptura or Scripture, Tradition and Reason? It is Sola Christos and Gratia but is it also Sola Fide [Article XI]? What about the Roman and Orthodox positions?
How wed are we to the 39 Articles? Are the Articles dogma, doctrine or historical guidance? Do we embrace Saints Gregory, Augustine of Hippo and Athanasius to the extent we embrace Luther, Calvin and Melanchthon. Did Jewell and Hooker complete the canon of Anglican thought? If we began with the Protestant Reformation, why do we include so many individuals in our Lesser Feasts and Fasts who died prior to that time? How can a church with no Apostles believe in Apostolic Succession?
The Roman Catholic encyclopedia has an insightful view of who we are. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01498a.htm . The Anglican Covenant is as much a political document as it is one that defines Anglicanism. For me, Anglicanism is still in the process of defining itself with documents such as the Anglican Covenant, Jerusalem Declaration and ACNA Constitution.
This is where I come back to the Anglican Covenant which used language that included “Apostolic” and “catholic” in describing itself in 1.1.1 and 1.1.2., but borrows heavily from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1886, 1888. Both sources are recent in the history of Anglicanism if one sees oneself as a reformed Catholic, which is actually how the Church of England describes itself on its website. “An Ancient Church, Catholic and Reformed” http://www.churchofengland.org/about-us/history.aspx
Here is my primary question. “Who are we”? But to address it, we must first answer a preliminary foundational question. “Where did we officially begin”? I believe the answer to that goes a long way in defining who we are.
And then, a final question, “Who are we becoming”? These are crucial questions that must be addressed in the 21st century. My prayer would be that our answers to all these questions would lead toward repentance and unity once again. At this point it seems as if many are doing what is right in their own eyes and this is leading to increasing friction and factionalism. As we separate from people with whom we do not agree, are we simply finding new issues that further fracture our church? Is schism a curse the Protestant Reformation brought upon itself?
Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen. [Preface of All Saints’ Day]