Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Friday, September 16, 2005

Is Anglo-Catholicism Compatible With Reformed Anglicanism?

The controversy caused by the Oxford Movement continues today in the merger of the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America. Moreover, the Reformed Episcopal Church is primarily a low church communion that has elements that are moving in a more Anglo-Catholic direction, while the Anglican Province of America is primarily an Anglo-Catholic denomination.

There are extremes on both sides of the issue: the low church side, representing Evangelical theology, and the high church side presenting traditional liturgy and Reformed Anglicanism. How far do we depart from the intentions of the original English Reformers in the direction of freedom and liberty and leaving behind the weekly celebration of eucharist and the holy communion liturgy? Apparently, one of the issues that sparked off the Oxford Movement and the Anglo-Catholic Tractarian movement was that morning prayer was the only service being celebrated on Sunday mornings and that service does not provide for a sermon. Not only was there no communion being administered but there was no preaching and no instruction being given. On this point we are indebted to the Anglo-Catholics for restoring an emphasis that the English Reformers would have wanted to continue, including a celebration of the liturgy and eucharist on a weekly basis.

However, the negatives of the Anglo-Catholic movement are many. Tract 90, written by John Henry Newman, is the most controversial of these tracts because it clearly showed the blatant dishonesty of the Anglo-Catholics regarding the original intent of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion as a thoroughly Protestant confession of faith from the Anglican perspective. While they were right to call the Anglican Church to be faithful to the traditions passed down by the English Reformers, their emphasis on continuity preceding the Roman Catholic Church's influence on English church dating to the 3rd or 4th century caused them to push Romish-like doctrines that were explicitly rejected by the English Reformers. In fact, many of these Reformers, including Archbisop Thomas Cranmer, were martyred by the Roman Catholic monarchs and elements of the Roman Catholic Church. Newman's Tract 90 caused a tremendous public outcry, as it well should have.

In light of these historical facts and in light of numerous public web pages establishing the theology and practice of the Anglican Province of America, it is astounding that the Reformed Episcopal Church would enter into a concordat and a planned merger with the APA to progressively occur over a ten year process. Why would that be surprising? It is most certainly surpising since the REC was first established as a split from the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America, known today as ECUSA, on the basis of the controversial elements of Anglo-Catholicism as we will see below.

Apparently, the blatant dishonesty of John Henry Newman and other Anglo-Catholics in reinterpreting the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion to fit their presuppositions is continued in redefining the Reformed Episcopal Church's Declaration of Principles. And if there is any doubt as to cause of the schism of the REC from the PECUSA:

  • "And perhaps even a few more than that might have known that the Reformed Episcopal Church was the result of a Protestant and Evangelical secession movement led by Cummins to contest the growth and dominance of Anglo-Catholicism in the Episcopal Church in the nineteenth century."
  • [See page 2 of cited source below].
  • "On the surface, the Reformed Episcopal schism of 1873 was the culmination of an internecine battle between two factions--the Evangelicals and the Anglo-Catholics--each wanting desperately to direct the future of the Episcopal Church. Beneath that surface, however, the differences that polarized these factions represented deep-seated tensions and anxieties that permeated American culture. The Reformed Episcopalians, as we shall see, were at the center of a fierce struggle between the rationalist impulse of the Evangelical mind in the nineteenth century (so well anatomized by Herman Hovenkamp, Theodore Dwight Bozeman, and James Turner) and the Gothic Romanticism of the Anglo-Catholics, between classical Protestant dogma and gaudy Catholic ritual, and between symbols of Whig republicanism and the ambiguous antimodernism of an industrial consumer culture."
  • [From: FOR THE UNION OF EVANGELICAL CHRISTENDOM: THE IRONY OF THE REFORMED EPISCOPALIANS by Allen C. Guelezo, (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994), page 3].

I suppose that new issues make strange bedfellows. With the advent of theological liberalism taking over the Episcopal Church USA these days and the threat of total apostasy, it seems that conservative Anglo-Catholics wish to make peace with secessionist Evangelical Episcopalians in order to fight against the modernist and postmodernist liberal theology taking over the mainline American Episcopal province. The culmination of the new conflict has been the consecration of Gene Robinson, an openly gay man who is practicing a homosexual lifestyle, as bishop of New Hampshire in the ECUSA, 2003.

While I'm sympathetic to these concerns, it is a travesty that dogmatic theology from the English Reformation is forgotten over the issue of liberal theology. Both doctrinal issues are an equally serious affront to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm also sympathetic to Reformed concerns where the liturgy and sound theology of the 1662 Prayer Book are left behind in the name of church growth, evangelism, and the charismatic movement. While we ought to reject the Romish emphases of the Anglo-Catholic movement and the liberal theology that would totally reject the Gospel and apostolic doctrine, we should never reject the Gospel as the English Reformers have passed it on to us from a sound interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. It would do us well to remember that the very denomination emphasizing Anglo-Catholicism has now taken a totally apostate direction and accepts liberal theology from below.

Be that as it may, the merger of the Reformed Episcopal church with the Anglican Province of America is an affront to the Gospel and to those who have gone to great lengths to preserve the principles of the English Reformation. At the same time, there are elements of the low church side of it that need to be confronted as well. As Anglicans and Episcopalians we ought to desire to preserve the traditional liturgy of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer. There are good reasons that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer formulated the Prayer Book services the way he did. For one, the Prayer Book preserves the teaching of the original apostles and the worship of the primitive church while at the same time rejecting Roman Catholic innovation and the later Anglo-Catholic re-emphasis of these innovations. I might also mention that the Eastern Orthodox Church has similar innovations that are based more on human traditions than the apostolic traditions that are recorded for us in Holy Scripture.

Moreover, I oppose innovations that are unsupportable from Scripture, including the ordination of women. The Anglican Communion is in disarray and on the way to disintegration unless there can be a centralized leadership that is committed to traditional Anglican worship, the Protestant Reformation in England, and to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as it is finally and ultimately taught in Holy Scripture. The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion are meant to be a confession of the faith of the Anglican church and not merely a general statement that can be re-interpreted any old way we like, whether it be Anglo-Catholics, Evangelicals or Charismatics doing it. We Anglicans and Episcopalians should wholeheartedly agree with the principle of semper reformanda ecclesia, the church always reforming. Today and in times past there has been a terrible tendency for innovative errors and false doctrines to creep into the church, whether it be from liberal theology or the traditions of men. Let us pray for the church!

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