Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Identity Problem

The eternal question for Anglicans seems to be a question of identity. Who are we as Anglicans? It seems as if this question is not going away anytime soon, due to competing varieties of Anglicanism on the North American continent, in particular. There are four distinct Anglican identities available for the religious consumer on the American religious market. There is the "official" Episcopal Church, aka Affirming Catholicism with Broad to High Ceremonial, Conservatives not welcome. There is the Continuum, or those Anglicans who left the Episcopal Church in 1976 due to the ordination of women to all three of the historic orders and the publication of the new Prayer Book, which they felt was not authentic to Anglicanism. Next there is the Anglican Church in North America, which is the conservative version of the Episcopal Church. Anglo-Catholicism + Broad to High Ceremonial, a few charismatics and convergentists to make it diverse. Lastly, there is the Anglican Mission in the Americas, which is mostly like the ACNA but has more (what the British would call) open evangelicals, i.e. Arminians.
In my last post, I looked at the idea of churchmanship throughout the centuries. However, modern Anglicanism does not reflect historic churchmanship because of one crucial event in the life of Anglicanism. That movement? The Oxford Movement forever changed the landscape of Anglicanism because it widened the possibilites for Anglican identity. How so? Well, before the Movement, Anglicans were firmly convinced that they were Protestant Christians. Sure, in the beginning there were Catholic dissenters who did not agree with the Henrician and Edwardinian reforms but by the time of the Restoration in 1660, Anglicanism was thoroughly Protestant, albeit, in a different manner than Continental Protestantism. Anglicanism was a Protestantism defined by the Book of Common Prayer and Ordinal, and the Articles of Religion. The classifications of "high church" and "low church" have changed meanings over time, in different contexts, but overall they have to do with the level of ceremony that a person or parish desires in the celebration of the liturgy. The Protestant concept of adiaphora comes into play here, because according to the Reformers, ceremonial was a matter of adiaphora or "indifferent matters" which did not affect one's salvation. What did the Oxford Movement do to nullify this common identity that Anglicans had before? I would argue that the infamous Tract 90 destroyed the confidence in the Articles, although it was not received by the English at the time of its publication. It gave Anglo-Catholics a plausible interpretation of the Articles and some talking points which over time were used to convert others to their line of thinking. It had more disasterous effects in the United States, where there was no Evangelical party to counterract the staunch Anglo-Catholicism of the Tracts. The Reformed Episcopal Church was the Evangelical party in the Episcopal Church, but when it departed in 1873, all that was left in the PECUSA was the Anglo-Catholics and Broad Churchmen, which led to the chaos we experience today in TEC.

What do we need then? We need a renewal of classical and confessional Anglicanism in North America. We need High and Low Churchmen, united by the Book of Common Prayer, the Ordinal, and the Articles of Religion to stand up and proclaim the Gospel. We need a revival of true Anglicanism in America. Transubstantiation, Benediction, Rosaries, and Requiem Masses are not part of historic or Classical Anglicanism. We are a Gospel people, united by a Gospel Prayer Book. Let us join in prayer together for the revival of biblical, confessional Anglicanism in America.


Canon Tallis said...

I think you need to read = and then re-read "Men and Movements in the Episcopal Church." The only one of the first bishops in this country who might be considered a classical prayer book Anglican was Seabury. The others, while being in orders, were so little Anglican that the model for their first BCP was the Liturgy of Comprehension made up in the days of William and Mary to appease the English non-conformist. It would have been thrust upon the English Church except for the courage of the lower house of Convocation. But it was also the model which that outrageous old rogue Cummings used when he started up the "Reformed Episcopal Church." He was such a model Anglican that while he was very careful about passing on his own episcopal orders, he accepted into the ministry those who had no ordination by bishops and allowed them to function as priests. And that meant that while the baptisms they performed were legit, none of the few celebrations of Holy Communion which they performed were valid or sacramental. They have improved since but they sill have a black gown remnant which can not be ignored.

I would agree that we desparately need a revival of classical prayer book Anglicanism but we have too many for whom Anglicanism is a matter of their own invention, a problem since the first Elizabeth, without any basis in the text of the foundational Anglican documents beginning with Holy Scripture itself. We need Churchmen who are not embarrassed by their faith, their religion as the Cambridge Platonists so clearly were or of the full practice of the primitive Catholic faith which all of the classical prayer books require and which is so plainly refused by those who call themselves 'Evangelicals.' But we also need Churchmen who have not allowed themselves to be seduced by the baroque inventions of the Roman See which the papists attempt to palm off as 'Catholicism." That may not seem like a great thing to ask, but for the moment it would seem all but impossible to supply.

Jordan said...

Canon Tallis,

I have read other histories of the Episcopal Church and I agree that the foundation of the TEC is too reliant on the Liturgy of Comprehension. For this reason, I do not advocate the use of the 1928 American BCP for it has truncated the Daily Office due to the influence of the Liturgy of Comprehension.

I do have to come to the defense of the REC because earlier High Churchmen accepted the validity of other Protestant ministers but not of Dissenters. The REC fofllowed in the steps of the Latitudinarians

Jordan said...

and accepted the validity of all Protestant ministers.