Saturday, September 22, 2012

Anglican Myths 9: "Anglo-Reformed"

This ninth post in the series "Anglican Myths" begins to expose myths on the "other side" of Anglicanism.  In former posts in this series, the thrust of energy has been directed at "Anglo- Catholicism" in its varying forms.  I do not think that Tractarians are the sole possessors of myths in contemporary Anglicanism.

The term "Anglo-Reformed" is a rather new term (from what I can tell).  It implies a conservative, "Evangelical" identity (depending on how you define that term) and what was known as "Low Churchmanship".  This group is generally set on the 1662 BCP or at least saying that publicly.  It is a small group in the American continent.  Obviously there are varying shades of this type of churchmanship, as there are on the "Catholic" side.  Generally speaking, and I might get this wrong, please correct if so, Anglo-Reformed are five-point Calvinists, Low Churchmen, in the sense of either adopting the classical Anglican ceremonial system and vesture (I would agree with them that this is right and proper) or ditching classical ceremonialism for "pop religion", which, granted, is more of an issue in Britain than the Americas.  There can be "conforming" Anglo-Reformed, meaning those who are communicants of one of the Churches of the Anglican Communion or "non-conforming" Anglo-Reformed who "sojourn" in Baptist or Presbyterian churches.  I don't intend to comment on the pros and cons of these ideas.

Now, I wish to present what I understand English Reformed Christianity to be.  English Reformed Christianity is, quite simply, the Church of England.  It is "Reformed" for two reasons.  First, it is a reformation of the late medieval Church in England, in this sense it did not begin a new church or sect, as later Dissenters did.  In the second sense, it generally followed the Swiss Reformation rather than the German (although with initial Lutheran influence).  This is mostly ascertained through the doctrines of the Church of England, as found in the Articles of Religion and Prayer Book, which generally follow Swiss patterns over German, especially in sacramental theology.  It is important to remember that "five-point Calvinism" is a 17th century development and not naturally descriptive of all Reformed Christianity.  Secondly, it is important to remember that genuine Reformed Christianity adopts a "bene esse" approach to church polity, meaning that each national Church has the right to order itself appropriately.  That is to say, neither the English Church, with bishops, or the Church of Geneva, with presbyters, "unchurched" each other for having the "wrong" government.  Divine Right Presbyterianism/Episcopalianism came much later.  It is also important to remember that the retention of bishops is not a solely English (or Reformed) practice.  The Churches in Hungary and Poland both retained bishops and are both Calvinistically Reformed.  The Church of Sweden also retained bishops as a Lutheran church.  This is not to de-value English episcopacy but to show that most Reformation Christians have viewed church polity as a matter of adiaphora.  To clear up matters, what I understand English Reformed Christianity or Anglicanism to be is this: the national, episcopal Church of England.  This Church is a non-ritualistic, liturgical Church of the Reformed tradition, adopting Reformed sacramentology, a normative approach to worship, retaining episcopacy, and generally predestinarian but not officially "five-point Calvinist".  To define further, much has been made of 'Anglican comprehensiveness" in the past century.  I agree that there is a certain degree of comprehensiveness to our formularies but this is not a universal comprehensiveness but a Protestant comprehensiveness, meaning it comprehends varying shades of Magisterial Protestant belief, excluding Anabaptists.

Anglo-Reformed types ironically err in similar ways to Anglo-Catholics, not by erring in doctrine but in agreeing with Anglo-Catholics that the English Church and her daughters is not a Protestant and Reformed Church.  How so?  Anglo-Reformed types harp on the fact that Anglicanism is Reformed but what they understand "Reformed" to mean and what English Reformed Christianity (=Anglicanism) is are two radically different things.  Because they do not actually accept English Reformed theology, they subscribe to the myth that Anglicanism is not Protestant and Reformed by passively agreeing with the Tractarian assertion.  Another way of viewing this problem is to say that Anglo-Reformed types do not necessarily (although sometimes) err doctrinally, meaning, they generally accept what the Articles of Religion teach, although going beyond what they teach in some respects.  However, I would say that Anglo-Reformed generally err prescriptively, meaning they admire and desire the forms of liturgy proposed by Geneva and consequently prescribe these forms on English Reformed Christianity as some "test" of genuine Reformed Christianity and consequently give strength to Tractarian criticisms of English Protestantism.

Essentially, both sides misunderstand respectively what "Reformed" is and what "Catholic" is and, consequently, gravely misunderstand what Anglicanism is.  Anglo-Catholics err in linking Catholicism with recusancy, Romanism, or Easternism, and not linking it to the primitive doctrine of the early Church as proclaimed by the Reformers and enshrined in our Formularies.  Anglo-Reformed err in limiting Reformed Christianity to only one shade, that of Geneva, and prescribing this form on Anglicanism.

18 comments:

aaytch said...

Several things wrong with this article.

1. You say "Anglo-Reformed" might be characterized as "ditching classical ceremonialism for "pop religion". No. Pop religion is the stuff of "three-streams" convergent Anglicanism.

2. You say "English Reformed Christianity is, quite simply, the Church of England." No. The Church of England is nearly as corrupt as American Anglicanism. Its majority is either Anglo-Catholic or Liberal; not Reformed at all. The scent of its heritage as following the Swiss Reformation is almost gone.

3. You say "it is important to remember that 'five-point Calvinism' is a 17th century development, and not naturally descriptive of all Reformed Christianity." No, it was not. It was formalized in the 17th century, but its development is clearly seen in the 16th, and it is naturally descriptive of ALL Reformed Christianity.

4. You say "genuine Reformed Christianity adopts a "bene esse" approach to church polity, meaning that each national Church has the right to order itself appropriately." If this were true of modern Anglicanism, there would be no problem. The fact is that the Anglo-Reformed contingent is not accepted anywhere among established Anglican churches.

5. You say "most Reformation Christians have viewed church polity as a matter of adiaphora." This is true of most Reformation Christians, but it is NOT true of established Anglicans... except the Anglo-Reformed.

6. You say "Anglo-Reformed generally err prescriptively, meaning they admire and desire the forms of liturgy proposed by Geneva and consequently prescribe these forms on English Reformed Christianity." If this were true, the Anglo-Reformed would have no reason for existence. They exist to reintroduce BCP liturgy to the Reformed community.

Morgan said...

Interesting article. I'm in the Episcopal Church so I don't have any personal interaction with the type of Anglo-Reformed you're describing. From what I've read on the internet, though, there seems to be a pretty broad spectrum of people who emphasize being both Anglican and Reformed. There's a massive gap between Sydney Anglicans (who, along with CofE evangelicals, can rightly be accused of adopting many aspects of "pop religion") and those who seem to be Presbyterians with prayer books.

In any case, I agree with the more ecumenical use of the label "Reformed". That is, if "Reformed" can be used to describe the Anglican formularies (which I think it can), then "Reformed" does not equal Dordtian Calvinism.

Charlie J. Ray said...

This article ignores the fact that Article 17 teaches double predestination, which means that all the logical deductions drawn from that by those who formulated the Lambeth Articles of 1595 and the Irish Articles of 1615 were justly based on the Augustinian theology of both Luther and Calvin. Furthermore, there were English observers at the Synod of Dort in 1619 who upheld the findings of that synod.

In short, the attempt by "moderate" Calvinists (i.e. Amyrayldians and 4 pointers) is completely misplaced. Futhermore, the English Reformation was completely Protestant and Calvinist in the 5 point since of the term. Archbishop Thomas Cranmer was in contact with Lutherans who held to a strict predestination and with Puritans who held the same view. I might also mention that Augustus Toplady translated Jerome Zanchius' work, Absolute Predestination (A Lutheran!). In short the reason I say the English Reformation is Protestant and modern Anglicanism is not is that modern Anglicans have gone off into either Anglo-Catholicism or liberalism.

I would also argue that the high church Carolingian and Arminian theology following Bishop Laud were in cahoots with the Jesuits as Toplady asserted.

I'm always amused when compromisers and dissimulators pretend tolerance while showing intolerance for the English Reformation, which is completely Calvinist in doctrine and Zwinglian on the sacraments. Although I could be persuaded that some Lutheran emhasis on the law and gospel distinction and justification by faith were emphasized by Cranmer in the 42 Articles and retained in the 39 Articles.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Low church does not necessarily adopt the church growth disregard for normative worship as Sydney seems to be doing. Nor does low church necessarily adopt the regulative principle of worship. But one thing is clear. Anglo-Catholics are in violation of both the normative principle and the regulative principle.

"Anglican" worship which cuts the 1662 Book of Common prayer is not "Reformed" Anglican worship. The 1928 and 1979 revised services books are heretical in that the former is Anglo-Catholic and the latter is openly liberal and pelagian. The 1662 BCP should be in use in any legitimate Anglican congregation. (Article 19).

aaytch said...

It is possible that Ussher was ultimately broken by Laud and Bramhall, not only politically but also in his personal Calvinistic faith. That is consistent with the thesis that the Arminians (multiple sub-species) simply won the war for the heart of the Anglican Church. That war was lost long before the English Civil War. The cornerstone of Anglo-Catholicism, Methodism and Liberalism (which are its three streams) was laid with the martyrdom of Cranmer.

The only thing that Anglo-Reformed can claim is salvage rights to Cranmer's Reformed Book of Common Prayer, and his 42 Articles (not the revisionist 39). Anglo-Reformed refuses the title "Anglican" (with a big "A") in much the same way as Cranmer refused the title "Catholic" (with a big "C).

wyclif said...

A huge amount is misinformed, a-historical braying going on here in the comments by a couple of Puritans who should probably shove off, stop trying to remake Anglicanism in their own dissenting image, and join a Presbyterian or Baptist church. Full stop.

wyclif said...

Oh, one other thing: if there is something to take issue with in this article, it is to refer to the tiny, miniscule sliver (as far as I can tell, it is two or three men-- how's that for a movement?) of Internet champions of the view described as "Low Churchmen." Actual low churchmen, such as J.C. Ryle or W. H. Griffith Thomas, would be scandalised to be grouped with these divisive men hammering their keyboards in fury with no connection to any Anglican parish. In reality, they are Puritans who can't even accept the American Prayer Book tradition (1790-1928). It's probably more accurate to classify them as a variety of anglophile fundamentalists.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I don't believe it is possible that Bishop Ussher converted to Arminianism since the Irish Articles are clearly Calvinist and were never changed.

Also, since the Anglican communion has mostly gone over to the Anglo-Papists, the liberals, and the high church Arminians who plot with the Jesuits and other miscreants, it does not follow that the English Reformers were "really" high church Arminians and dissimulators. Obviously, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer's theology was influenced by the Lutherans in regards to his view of double predestionation and the law/gospel distinction. But Cranmer also had Reformed and Zwinglian influences in his theology of the sacraments. Cranmer's theology was also influenced by the Puritan Calvinists. And isn't it odd that Cranmer outright denied the Lutheran doctrine of real presence and was burned at the stake for denying the papist doctrine of transubstantiation?

Yah, just because modern Anglicanism is apostate doesn't mean that the English Reformation was Arminian or Papist or even Anglo-Catholic.

Sola fide is even mentioned in Article 11's Latin translation.

The Hackney Hub said...

I'm having a hard time following the logic of some of the comments here. I will try to respond as ably as I can to each one.

Morgan, I agree with you that the more ecumenical and broad use of the term 'Reformed' is envisioned here, not a Dortian formula. However, I do think that Anglican sacramental theology firmly places us in the Swiss or Reformed camp as opposed to the Lutheran camp in the Magisterial Reformation traditions.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I should add that the American capitulation to 19th century Anglo-Catholicism manifested itself in the promotion of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. Furthermore, the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as it is to be interpreted by the plain and Protestant meaning of the 39 Articles of Religion is the basis for Anglican Formularies, not the 1928 BCP. The 1928 BCP is heretical as is the 1979 book of revised services.

I should add that the high church Arminians are in cahoots and league with the Tractarians for the most part and that's why there is so much animosity toward those who uphold the original intention of the English Reformers and the Formularies.

Furthermore, redefining "Evangelical" and "Reformed" so that they are reconcilable to Arminianism and Anglo-Papist doctrine is about like saying Papists are Calvinists or Lutherans are Baptists.

aaytch said...

Both the High-churchmen and the Anglo-Catholics from whom they try to maintain a polite distance, reject the Reformation as the rest of the Reformed community define it. At the core of that definition we find the 5 Solae, which if I'm not mistaken Laud repudiated. You're welcome to dispute me.

Now all the Solae say is that the claims of Christianity are axiomatic, a set of matter-of-fact statements about what God did and continues to do apart from the will or operation of man, and apart from man's second guessing. The Creeds accomplish the same thing. In short, those who reject the Solae are rejecting the Creeds. That's how I see it.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Good point, Hudson.

The Hackney Hub said...

I'm seeing a lot of claims being made but not much support being offered for those claims.

Mind you, the 1662 BCP was drafted by High Church Laudians.

Charlie J. Ray said...

The 1662 BCP is a revision of the most Reformed prayer book, namely the 1552 BCP. And the changes are minor. The 1928 revised book has prayers for the dead and other departures from the Reformed faith. Prayers of oblation? Please....

It's common knowledge that the Formularies are composed of the 39 Articles and the 1662 BCP. I would suggest you give Samuel Leuenberger's book, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer's Immortal Bequest, a read.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I always dissent from heresy:) The fact of the matter is the 1662 BCP is still Calvinist, not Arminian. Laud was cut off before he could do more damage.

The Hackney Hub said...

I've read his book. It doesn't change the fact that the 1662 BCP was drafted by High Church bishops.

aaytch said...

I prefer to think that the 1662 BCP was preserved because the Lord blinded the eyes of evil men.

Charlie J. Ray said...

The 1662 BCP is word for word the same as the 1552 except for small exceptions. Since Cranmer edited the 1552 BCP, it logically follows that he is the architect who is responsible for the 1662 BCP. The same can be said for the 39 Articles. The basis for the 39 Articles is the 42 Articles, which Cranmer personally wrote. And it might be said that Archbishop Matthew Parker helped to preserve Cranmer's work. Parker can hardly be called a high church Arminian.

Also let's not forget the 1662 BCP included the black rubric.

Charlie