Considerations to promote better Anglican religion
I begin with two affirmations. 1. The Anglican Way has very much been comprehensive in terms of churchmanship for a long time, and especially since the rise of the anglo-catholic school in the mid-nineteenth century; & 2. The religion of the Anglican Way was, and remains, Reformed Catholicism, and if it ceases to be so, it has lost its purpose in existing.
It was not always clear that Anglo-Catholicism, which began as the Tractarian Movement in 1833, would be an accepted part of the Church of England, for it was first of all perceived as challenging the received position held by all – high churchmen, low churchmen, evangelicals, and latitudinarians – since the settlement of 1662 that the religion of the Church of England was Reformed Catholicism.
The C of E confessed that it was by divine appointment and providence the Catholic Church in and of England; but, at the same time, it stated that it did not share all of the religion of the Roman Catholic Church. It held that in the Reformation it had gone through a period of substantial change in doctrine, worship and discipline (as guided by holy Scripture and the example of the Fathers), and the result was a reformed version of medieval Catholicism – thus the name, Reformed Catholicism. Further, it held that the Church of Rome had sought only to perfect and develop medieval Catholicism.
The new anglo-catholic party in the Church of England, and then overseas, seemed to challenge the very basis of the Anglican Way as Reformed Catholicism by its revival of medieval ceremonial and ritual (via what it saw in contemporary Roman Catholicism in Europe). The extremists of this party sometimes wrote and spoke as if the Reformation was a mistake and the Church of England was built upon a huge error. Thus not a few of its ardent members went to Rome. However, those who followed such as Pusey, Liddon and Keble were able to retain their commitment to the Formularies of the Church of England by giving to them the most generous explanation of Reformed Catholicism (see the anglo-catholic commentaries on the BCP and the Articles of Religion) and, importantly, of adorning this religion with all kinds of ceremonial, ritual, music and vestments. (Not of little of the latter has rubbed off, as it were, on to others in modern times - thus gowned choirs, clergy vestments etc. worn by evangelicals!)
Therefore it was possible and most common right up to the last third of the twentieth century to speak of the comprehensivess of the Reformed Catholicism of the member Churches of the Anglican Communion. At the center of the wheel was the spoke – the Scriptures, Creeds and Formularies – and then there were the spokes representing the various schools, parties, churchmanships, and interpretations of the foundational doctrine, and finally there was the limit, the rim of the wheel. That is there was a definite place and point where the spokes stopped and where churchmanship ended. And, generally speaking, all accepted this limit as being part of what it was to be an Anglican Christian.
BUT, after the liberating effect of the 1960s, the advent of the human rights and the therapeutic movements, the so-called liturgical renewal, and the general liberalizing of culture and society in the West, the Anglican wheel began falling part. Attempts were made to change the hub and the rim in order to allow new and radical forms of churchmanship.
For example, at the liberal end of things, the Episcopal Church threw away the hub and replaced it with a new one in 1979. Other provinces followed a couple of decades later. In contrast, at the conservative end, in the Continuing Church Movement, an attempt has been made to add new parts to the Hub, including five new sacraments and the dogma of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, thus making it no longer Reformed Catholicism.
Looking back over the last fifty years we may say that from Anglo-Catholicism has come Affirming Catholicism (keeping the vestments but with women as priests) and Romanist-Catholicism (using Roman liturgy as Anglicans). From Conservative Evangelicalism has come Open Evangelicalism and Generic Evangelicalism (guided by the nature of evangelicalism generally). From Latitudinarianism has emerged various types of progressive liberal churchmanships. The charismatic movement from the 1970s sometimes got out of control, and liturgy went out of the window. And so on.
For the future, it is difficult to see what can unite the Anglican Movement if it is not the old wheel, cleaned up, polished and strengthened. The so-called “Instruments of Unity” may help and the proposed binding covenant of the Windsor Report may give support, but nothing less than the center of the wheel needs to be recovered and restored.
Meanwhile, let those who desire the majesty and authority of Rome cross the Tiber; let those who desire the glory of the Divine Liturgy and the kissing of icons depart for Constantinople; let those who admire the nonconformity of popular evangelicalism hasten to one of the many forms thereof; let chose who wish to choose their own religion and its content set up their own denomination; and let those who want to follow the way that progressive liberalism points create their own churches where they can experiment at leisure with innovations and their consequences.
Until the Lord of glory returns to judge the world when he will surely bring into real and practical unity all churches into the ONE holy, Catholic Church, let those who intend to be and remain Anglicans determine to be Reformed Catholics, with its genuine solid center and its real limits but also with its genuine comprehensiveness in terms of churchmanship. Right now the Anglican Way is more under attack from those within it but not of it, than it is from the outside!
To this end, I believe it will be fruitful for modern Anglicans seriously to study the classic Formularies – the BCP, the Ordinal & the Articles – to see what is the actual hub of the Anglican wheel.
To help with this may I commend two CD’s containing important books in digital form – 1. Twelve commentaries on the Articles – high-church, low-church & anglo-catholic. 2. Six commentaries on the BCP – again with varied top-class authorship. $20.00 each. Both from www.anglicanmarketplace.com or 1-800-727-1928.
Also, may I also dare to suggest that you watch/listen to four lectures on “Doctrine as Doxology” on the Formularies/ the Hub I gave in Lent in the mother church of the charismatic movement in the ECUSA – St Luke’s Seattle – which are available on DVD, CD and Cassette. See below.
Four cassette tapes of one hour each, $20.00 postage paid from St Luke’s Church (Episcopal), 5710, 22nd Ave NW., SEATTLE WA 98107. (206 784 3119)
Please send check with order and make it payable to the church.
Two DVD presentations or Two CD’s also $20.00 postage paid from www.reason-for-hope.com (Norlynn Audio Visual Services, 1858 Beaulynn Place, North Vancouver, BC, Canada V7J 2T1 Pay at the website in security – firstname.lastname@example.org)
Finally, may I suggest you visit www.anglicansatprayer.org and join in the work of intercession for unity in the Anglican Way in these time of pain and crisis.
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)