- This Council, as the previous six, was called by the Emperor – in this case to oppose iconoclasm; and it came to be regarded as the seventh Ecumenical Council by both the Orthodox Churches and the Roman Catholic Church.
- The doctrinal decree of this Council not only assumes the veneration of the Cross and the Gospel Book but also of the icons of our Lord, the BVM, angels and saints. To deny the duty of veneration is to be under the anathema (see Galatians 1: 8) – this is obviously a very serious matter.
- The veneration of icons of our Lord is related to and justified by the doctrine of Jesus as One Person, made known in two natures, divine and human, and specifically because of his truly becoming man.
- There is most certainly a development of doctrine involved in veneration of icons for it did not exist in the apostolic age or in the centuries immediately following the apostolic age; the question arises as to whether it was for its own time a healthy and/or necessary development, and if so, also, whether it remains so everywhere for all time.
- Veneration can so easily become idolatry and the latter can only be prevented by sound teaching and good examples. An ancient question remains: Is it pastorally viable always and everywhere?
- No official national or provincial Synod of the Church of England or any other Anglican Province has defined orthodox doctrine so as to include the doctrine and devotion required by Nicaea II.
- Official Anglican statements have consistently emphasized the doctrine of the first four Councils on The Trinity and the Person of Christ, and less consistently they have pointed to the Christological definitions of the fifth and sixth Councils.
- The plain sense of the historic Anglican Formularies, in particular The Thirty-Nine Articles, is to forbid the doctrine and devotion required by the doctrinal decree and anathemas of Nicaea II ( see Articles XXI, XXII, XXXIV). For Councils may and do err and the Scripture is the final authority for faith and morals in the Reformed Catholic Way.
- The second Homily in The Second Book of Homilies (see Article XXXV) specifically rejects veneration of icons and images.
- Notwithstanding the clear sense of the Reformed Catholic tradition of the Anglican Way, individual theologians (e.g., my former teacher Eric Mascall) and small Anglican groups ion the USA today (e.g., the Anglican Catholic Church and the Anglican Mission in America) have embraced the doctrinal decree of the seventh council, even (strangely) when they do not actually practice the veneration of icons and images of our Lord, the BVM, the angels and the saints. (Note that The Affirmation of St Louis of 1977 of Continuing Anglicans also requires commitment to the Seventh Council but not all Continuing Groups have made it part of their constitution or canon law.)
- Those who use The Anglican Missal (with its many additions to the BCP from the old Roman Missal) tend to embrace the seventh Council for justification for the intercession of saints and of the BVM found in the Missal.
- Some who define themselves as Anglo-Catholics often seem to think that they have to embrace the Seventh Council in order to be seen as genuine “Catholics” even though they have not studied the decree and anathemas of the Council.
- In the light of all this it is obvious that, at best, the doctrine and devotion required by the decree and anathemas of the seventh Council should not be made a part of required Anglican doctrine in the present and future, even as they have not been in the past. For Reformed Catholics such doctrine and devotion is, at best, an extra, not of the essence of the Anglican Way. And where it is seen as an extra then great difficulties arise as to how or if at all to embrace the official, historic Formularies.
We accept the doctrine of the Anglican Way as it is grounded in the holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular, we receive such doctrine as is to be found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer, and the Ordinal (as all three of these are printed in the English edition of 1662, the American edition of 1928 and the Canadian edition of 1962 of The Book of Common Prayer).
Do visit www.pbsusa.org
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)