Thursday, October 12, 2006

Anglican Formularies—let us cease to avoid, undermine or deny them & let us affirm them instead!

---------a discussion starter for charitable persons---------------

One of the regrettable features of the Anglican Way recently has been the attempt on both right and left (not to mention the center) to avoid, undermine or deny what is so clearly stated in the Anglican Birth Certificate about IDENTITY. On that certificate are the Formularies—Book of Common Prayer, Ordinal & Articles of Religion—and they are an inescapable and real part of the original and continuing identity of not only the Church of England but also of the Anglican Way in the global Family of Churches (with eighty or so million members). The three Formularies were written by the same team, led by Archbishop Cranmer.

If ever the Anglican Way is to come out of its present crisis and assume a stable form that is recognizably Anglican then it surely must take its original identity seriously into account.

Let us briefly note ways used in the present, especially in America, to dismiss the content of the Anglican Birth Certificate. And let us do so in order to learn how to re-create and preserve Anglican identity in a suitable form for today and tomorrow.

1. Goodbye to The Book of Common Prayer

The ECUSA way was to create a book of varied services with varied doctrines and mischievously call it The BCP, 1979. So Episcopalians of all kinds engage in corporate denial of the truth in using it, and meanwhile the real BCP (editions 1789-1928) is sent to the archives (though OUP still prints it!).

The usual (western) Anglican method is to create “A Book of Alternative Services” of one kind or another, and then make this for all practical purposes the Formulary, while retaining the real BCP in the canon law.

A method used by some Anglo-Catholics is to use The Anglican Missal or another of like kind, wherein the Reformed Catholic Faith of the Anglican Way is changed into a pale copy of Tridentine Catholicism. In contrast, in England the modern Roman Missal is used in some Forward in Faith parishes instead of an Anglican rite.

2. Goodbye to The Form and Manner of Making Deacons…Priests…and Bishops

The ECUSA way was to create new services for ordination and put them into its (so-called) BCP, 1979. Thus women’s ordination and changed emphases in the doctrine of ordination are incorporated as part of the new Formulary of 1979.

The usual (western) Anglican method is to place ordination services within “A Book of Alternative Services” and then treat them as if they were the real thing, even though canon law points to the classic and historic Ordinal as the Formulary.

A method used by some Anglo-Catholic Continuing Anglican groups is to use the words of the traditional Anglican text but to add to it elaborate ceremonial taken from the Tridentine Rite so as by this to change the doctrine of the priesthood into one that is more like that of Rome.

3. Goodbye to The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion

The ECUSA way was to send this statement of Reformed Catholicism off to the archives as historical documents without any role as Formulary after 1979.

The usual (western) Anglican method is to claim that the Articles were probably good and right for their time but do not have much relevance now. So they are accepted as right for their time of origin and useful as an indication as to where the Church of England once stood.

A common Anglo-Catholic way is to reject them as “Protestant” – as apparently in The St Louis Affirmation of Faith of 1977.

To reject the Formularies is effectively to deny the content of the Birth Certificate of the Anglican Way. It is to create something new and different whether that be (as with ECUSA) a radically progressive religion or (as with some full-blooded Anglo-Catholics) a pale imitation of Roman Catholicism as it was before, or even as it is, after Vatican II.

To recover meaningful identity Anglicans of all kinds need to move definitely towards the Formularies, to engage with them, in worship, doctrine and discipline so that the Anglican Way is identifiable and has an identity. That is, it is like a sold wheel with a common hub, with spokes going out from it to the fixed perimeter. Right now too many spokes go on and through the perimeter into a kind on ecumenical or evangelical-charismatic or Roman no-man’s land and the Anglican Way is without clear identity!

If the classic Formularies are not clearly present in the proposed Anglican Covenant (by which all member Churches will be bound in bonds of peace and truth) then there is little hope for a common identity for the present, disordered Anglican Communion of Churches.

(see further The Anglican Formularies and Holy Scripture, available from )

The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon MA., D.Phil (Oxford)

1 comment:

Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

Very thought provoking, especially for us newcomers to Anglicanism.