Skip to comments.What is Anglicanism?
Posted on 07/01/2005 12:29:15 PM PDT by sionnsar
Again by email from a third party I have received a remarkable essay by the Rev. Charles Erlandson of the REC; this one is on What is Anglicanism and is a very good starting point for our consideration of the future of orthodox Anglicanism. I believe we are in Fr. Erlandson's debt for his contribution to this:
What is Anglicanism?As Fr. Erlandson asks, do we want to dilute Anglicanism to the point that it is indeed meaningless? Or do we want to strive to regain our heritage and the fullness of the historic Faith? I cannot tell you how much I have appreciated his articles.
It has been proposed by some Anglicans that Anglicanism holds that:
1. Scripture is infallible.
2. the traditions of the Church, while not infallible, are authoritative where they do not contradict Scripture.
3. Christ is present in a special way in the celebration of the Eucharist and
in the elements, bread and wine, of the Eucharist
4. Baptism of infants and adults by immersion or sprinkling, as the rite of Christian initiation
5. to the Nicene and Apostles Creed
6. to the threefold ministry of Bishops, priests and deacons in apostolic succession.
7. that Salvation is found in Christ alone and comes by grace through faith
8. that women are called to some form of ministry under the authority of male headship, though we disagree as to whether that is to be "ordained ministry"
The first point, that Scripture is infallible, is the starting point for true Anglicanism, and one with which I wholehearedly agree. The 2nd point is, I believe, perhaps also the 2nd most important point for Anglicans - indeed, Christians - to affirm: "The tradition (while not infallible), it is authoritative where it does not contradict Scripture." This is what Cranmer and Jewel, Hooker and Andrewes, Simeon and Keble, etc. would all have affirmed.
Now if we truly affirm this 2nd point, it is decisive for Anglicanism and each of us individually, because it will act as a guide in a wide range of issues. Should we baptize infants, have bishops and the 3-fold ministry, adhere to some descendant of the ancient liturgies, believe that Christ is present in the Eucharist in some special way, and ordain only males to the priesthood and episcopacy? The unbroken (East and West; Roman Catholic and Anglican; Evangelical and Catholic Anglican; until very recently, of course) Tradition which is not contrary to Scripture in any of these matters, equally and universally affirms all of them.
Because various orthodox Anglicans want to deny the clear teaching of the Tradition on many of these points, they are not in accord with what the English Reformers thought or desired and threaten any notion of a truly Anglican identity that is not a merely lowest common denominator Christianity. If we can dispense with Tradition on all of these points and still be Anglican, then being Anglican is a very divisive and individual form of Christianity that will continue to allow "diversity" and "comprehension" to have ever-expanding boundaries. Methodologically, even orthodox Anglicanism, allowing such a principle of the rejection of Tradition, would not have much of a reason not to allow Baptists and non-denominational Christians to be considered Anglicans.
In other words, the 2nd point (on Tradition) is on a collision course with the 8th point (that women's ordination is permissible.) Anglicans, if they are to have integrity and a coherent identity that means anything, are going to have to make a choice between the 2nd and 8th point: together, they are incompatible.
As far as the 39 Articles, I personally treasure them and think we should retain them (at least until Anglicanism is united enough to have a council to revise, amend, or supercede them), but the question we might ask is: "Do we value the 39 Articles because we are Anglicans and the English Reformation is our starting point? Or do we value the Articles because the same minds who produced the BCP and wrote the 39 Articles firmly believed that they were simply preserving the catholic faith and the Tradition that was the normative interpreter of Scripture? In other words, there was a Reformation not for the hell of it but because there was a patristic consensus worth reforming and which Rome had imperially begun to destroy."
Some have argued that Anglicanism is Christianity planted in the British Isles and similarly planted by the English church elsewhere in the world. But this is a merely historical, structural, or nationalistic definition of Christianity. The question is: "Is there anything distinctive about Anglicanism, other than the fact that it in some way historically proceeded from the English Church?" If this is the only or primary definition of "Anglicanism," then Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists are "Anglicans" because they have certainly proceeded from the English Church. If this is the only definition, then why continue to extend any kind of "Anglican" identity into other nations, since "Gallicanism," "Romanism," and "Deutschism," etc. would have equal claims. Why not just say that we are "Christians?"
The question "What is Anglicanism?" is our first order of business. If our identity as orthodox Anglicans is still so diverse to allow what I have included above - and some other obvious departures from Tradition - then Anglicanism will have one of 2 destinies. First, it can seek its historic mission to be a catalyst for true ecumenism and unity by seeking a deeper unity based on Tradition (the consensus fidelium, or other related terms). It can choose to return to its Reformational and ancient patristic roots, seek the mind of the Fathers, and humbly seek a greater unity with Roman Catholics and the Eastern Churches, based not on their terms but on the common ancient Catholic faith.
Alternatively, Anglicanism can choose to reject Tradition (for example, by ordaining women priests) and allow in an even greater degree of diversity and innovation. Supporters of women's ordination might respond by saying that they support women's ordination precisely because the unbroken tradition for almost 2000 years (East and West; Roman Catholic and Anglican; Evangelical and Catholic Anglican; until very recently) has been in direct contradiction with Scripture.
I want all Anglicans to ponder this momentous claim very carefully. What supporters of women's ordination are saying, therefore, is that the entire Church has wildly misintepreted Scripture for 2000 years and cruelly excluded women from a ministry that God has ordained for them. If the Church should have been ordaining women priests for 2000 and hasn't, then we all have a lot of repenting to do.
However, again, consider the stupendous character of this claim, that somehow ECUSA (for example) in the 1970s got it right regarding the correct interpretation of the Bible concerning women's ordination, while the entire church of the past and the vast majority of the Church today has got it wrong. Mind you, this is the same ECUSA that allowed Pike, Spong, and others to go undisciplined, and the same 1970s that brought us the sexual revolution and feminism. Before anyone assembles a lynch mob or Inquisition, I am not saying that supporters of WO and supporters of homosexuality (for example) are in identical positions. But I am saying that the American culture of the 1960s and 70s, including ECUSA, that produced clear violations of Scripture and Tradition is the same culture and church we are being asked to have gotten it right regarding women's ordination. Furthermore, the first ordinations of both women deacons and priest in ECUSA were clearly illegal and suggest and American willingness to go it alone and proceed without a true conciliar spirit.
Another astounding claim that supporters of women's ordination must make in order to overthrow point #2 about Tradition being authoritative unless in contradiction to Scripture is that they must make the dramatic claim that the Bible is so crystal clear about women's ordination that the entire Tradition must be wrong. So we trust the united early Church to be able to tell us which books belong in the Bible; to produce the Creeds we live by; to define the nature of Christ and the nature of the Trinity, but on a point where they had greater unanimity than on almost any other point, they got it all wrong, and somehow we enlightened late 20th/early 21st century Christians have got it right.
What I am suggesting is that such a hermeneutic is desperately off track, and ultimately it comes down not to whether or not we accept the Bible but who gets to interpret or what controls do we have on interpretation. Especially, when the plain sense of the Old and New Testament teachings is that women should not be ordained, the claims of supporters of women's ordination that Scripture overthrows the entire Tradition on the point is astounding. Even if supporters of women's ordination cannot accept this stronger claim that I would wish to make, they must in essence say that Scripture is not only open to a range of interpretations on the matter but speaks with a clarity virtually unknown on any but a handful of teachings and practices that as faithful Christians we are compelled to overthrow Tradition.
I believe that this a completely unsupportable claim. Consider the following points that certainly seem on the surface to support an all-male priesthood:
1. From the beginning, God intended male headship.
A. God has chosen to reveal Himself as a male in both the Old and New Testaments. The relationship between the Father and the Son is also presented in terms of exclusively male imagery.
B. He sovereignly chose to create Adam first and to create Eve as his helpmeet. It is through Adam, as the head of the covenant, that we fell, and not Eve.
C. All of the priests of the Old Testament were males.
D. When God chose to become human, He chose to become a man, specifically.
E. When Christ chose His 12 apostles, He chose all men, in spite of the fact that there were women who were close to them and whom He treated with dignity.
F. When Judas was replace by Matthias, the apostles chose a man.
G. When the first deacons were elected and ordained, all 7 were men. It is important that they were Gentiles because the ordained ministry was now open to Gentiles, and yet the Church did not ordain women.
2. Theological Reasons
A. God has revealed Himself as a male, and it must be a male who represents Him before the Church.
B. Man is to be the head of the woman, and the woman is the glory of the man, because the woman was made from the man (I Corinthians 11:3-9; Ephesians 5:23)
C. Women are not allowed to teach or have authority over a man because Adam was formed first (I Timothy 2:12-13.) Paul ties his reason for men leading the church back to creation: this is not a merely cultural thing.
D. The qualifications for overseer (presbyter, bishop) is that a man must be the husband of one wife and he must rule his own household well (I Timothy 3:1-4.)
All of these points that seem to strongly suggest an all-male priesthood must not only be vague or in dispute but so clearly teaching women's ordination that we are compelled to reject the entire Tradition on this point.
Finally, if Anglicanism is so broad that it includes all that is currently affirmed by some orthodox Anglicans (women's ordination; lay presidency; the parish as the basic unit of the Church, and not the diocese or bishop; a rejection of any ancient liturgical usage [I am talking here not of BCP revision but of American and English churches who are worshiping in a way that uses no form of Prayer Book or revised ancient liturgy at all] and more), then the 2nd alternative (the first being a return to an Anglicanism that understood itself not as innovators but as preservers of the ancient patristic, catholic consensus) is that Anglicanism is a virtually meaningless term today, and we should all drop the name Anglican and just become generic Christians of some sort who are united only by a belief that the Bible is infallible. However, this has been tried for several centuries and has produced greater division, and not greater unity.
Perhaps we need to restore what I like to call "The Catholic Face of Anglicanism."
May the Holy Spirit of Christ inspire our deliberations together.
Leave me put it this way, a delicate reference to an indelicate expression:
I am convinced that precisely the same response is manifestly in order to these two propositions:
1. We should abandon historic Tradition and the inerrant authority of Scripture
2. The Supreme Court ruled rightly in deciding that economic benefit is sufficient public interest to justify invoking eminent domain against private property owners.
And I'm utterly against the second proposition in terms just recently used in a Freep poll on the subject, where a simple 'No' failed to suffice.
I am 100% with you.
As per the female ordination, I have been talking with a friend of mine about this. The points outlined in the article will be helpful in backing my points up.
Am tired of RCCers reducing it all to King Henry VIII (thanks to RCC teaching I did not know there was a deeper history to it beyond that one event)
I get tired of it too. But it serves as a useful warning: if they are trying to evangelize you with such a complete lack of understanding, what's the probable quality of what they're selling you? Are such as these what you're being asked to sign up with? (Said with all due respect to the good Roman Catholic FReepers who are not like this.)
I have long since quit responding to those remarks. It says everything about the commenters, and nothing about me.
I'm reminded of a situation during my college years, when I was dating a Pentecostal gal. Her church had a troupe that was putting on a play in their churches across the state. When they came "near" (an hour and a half away) that summer, I went.
Of course afterwards, I was invited backstage. One guy from the troupe asked, "So what church do you go to?"
I answered, "St. Jude's."
He (noticeably) stepped back a little and said, "Oh, you're Catholic."
I said, "No, I'm Episcopalian."
He half-stepped back again. End of conversation.
Not a good witness. Unlike the (wiser) elders of her church, who warmly welcomed me to their church in full knowledge of my being an Episcopalian. I felt comfortable with these people, though their worship service was so different and missing so much that was important to me.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.