Two events somewhat naturally coalesced in the life of this blog, that being the anniversary of three years of writing and the arrival at two hundred posts. I delayed the commemoration of the former till the latter came closer. Now that we have come to that point, I wanted to thank all of the readers of this blog for three years of conversation. Many amazing things have happened due to the presence of this blog on the wild and wacky pages of the Internet.
When I started this blog the essential questions I was asking were the same as the ones that I ask now. The manner in which I address them has changed slightly and perhaps some of the conclusions I have reached are slightly different, yet, the essential problem remains the same as it was three years ago. In honor of the spirit of continuity, I post below one of the first pieces I released on The Hackney Hub.
A bit of background information, for those who cherish such, I had registered this blog under another name ("Soli Deo Gloria", hence the old URL) before changing the name. I was curious about the nature of the pre-Tractarian Church of England at that time, which led to the research that created this blog. One of the early pieces that defined the scope of the blog was "The Curious Case of the Old High Churchmen" (which has since been revised to "The English High Church Tradition", lamentably still not ready for public consumption, in my opinion). It was around that time that I became aware of a group of churchmen writing just prior to and contemporaneously with the Oxford Movement, known as the Hackney Phalanx, from which the name of this blog is derived.
Here's to three more years...
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.