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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 Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Common Cause?

In recent years there has been an increase in the tendency for continuing Anglican denominations to enter into concordats of common cause. Most disturbing of these is the Reformed Episcopal Church, which was founded upon Protestant reactions against Anglo-Catholicism and the high church movement of the 19th century here in the United States. The Declaration of Principles was supposed to guarantee that the Reformed Episcopal Church would never go in an Anglo-Catholic direction.

However, it's clear that when bishops decide to overrule the foundational documents of a church there is no fidelity to the purpose of the departure from the Protestant Episcopal Church in the first place. The 19th century tractarian movement was a highly divisive movement to begin with. But to make peace with opponents of the very Gospel of Jesus Christ simply because there is "common cause" on moral and ethical issues in the greater ecclesiastical and societal level is to depart from the faith itself.

Furthermore, the Reformed Episcopal Church is supposed to committed to the "doctrines of grace," according to Principle 1 in the Declaration of Principles:
  • The Reformed Episcopal Church, holding "the faith once delivered unto the saints," declares its belief in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the Word of God, as the sole rule of Faith and Practice; in the Creed "commonly called the Apostles' Creed;" in the Divine institution of the Sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper; and in the doctrines of grace substantially as they are set forth in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion.

It might be further noted that Anglo-Catholics in general do not like to use the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion as an authoritative confession of faith and those who do adhere to them tend to re-interpret them in such manner as to make their Augustinian/Calvinist/Protestant statements null and void. Anyone who understands the historical background of the Articles cannot deny that they teach a mild Calvinism and that the doctrine of double predestination was also a part of both Augustine's and Aquinas' theology, which influenced both Calvin and Luther in their understanding of predestination. Furthermore, the statements on sola fide, sola scriptura, and total depravity make it equally clear that the English church was unequivocably Protestant.

Therefore, I can only conclude that the current state of the Reformed Episcopal Church is one of apostasy since it is willing to depart from the historic Anglican faith as both Protestant and moderately Calvinistic in favor of uniting with the Anglican Province of America, which is overtly and clearly Anglo-Catholic and in complete denial of the doctrines of grace that the Declaration of Principles require as a doctrinal commitment.

I might also mention that the Declaration of Principles forbids the use of the altar, transubstantiation, and apostolic succession as the only legitimate understanding of episcopal polity:

  • IV.
    This Church condemns and rejects the following erroneous and strange doctrines as contrary to God's Word:
    First, that the Church of Christ exists only in one order or form of ecclesiastical polity:Second, that Christian Ministers are "priests" in another sense than that in which all believers are a "royal priesthood:"Third, that the Lord's Table is an altar on which the oblation of the Body and Blood of Christ is offered anew to the Father:Fourth, that the Presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper is a presence in the elements of Bread and Wine:Fifth, that regeneration is inseparably connected with Baptism.

I do not understand how a church that began in reaction to Anglo-Catholicism in both its liberal and its conservative expressions, could now plan to merge with a continuing Anglican denomination that is Anglo-Catholic and therefore in denial of the doctrines of grace and the Protestant understanding of the Gospel as expressed in Holy Scripture, the Anglican confession of faith (Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion), and in all of the Reformed/Lutheran confessions of faith. No one who understands church history can deny that the continental Reformers greatly influenced Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, who was also martyred because of his commitment to the Gospel as Protestant Reformers of that time understood it.

It is a terrible sin against Christ and His church to unite with those advocate a gospel of works/merits over against the doctrines of grace. I pray that the bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church come to their senses before it is too late.

4 comments:

DH said...

Hello Mr. Ray,
As an APA layman I am greatly concerned about your presumptions because frankly they are just not accurate. First I know for a fact that we very much believe in grace and are grounded in The Holy Scriptures and the Anglican Formulas of the Classic BCP, the Articles and the Ordinal. This is easily seen in the Concordant with the REC. I only speak for myself here, but I would guess the answer to your question of why the REC would enter into such a union can be found in this document and in the covenant document between the Church of Nigeria, REC, and the APA.
We are not Episcopal Calvinists this is true. But at the same time we are not Rebellious Roman Catholics either. We are simply Anglicans. And this means that we are Catholic, Evangelical, and Reformed. Reformed means we have not thrown the baby out with the bath water. Reforms are intended to correct error not to make something new. I say we adhere to this fully. We are not doing something new and are not doing the same things that were done before the reformation.
I encourage you to examine what those of us who stress the more “catholic” elements of the faith actually believe and why. And also I would encourage you to explore the APA its history and its parishes which have a wide range of broad to very high churchmanship. For example my parish has Morning Prayer on 3 Sundays a month which is usually stereo typed as “Low Church”. Nevertheless we use much are far from it and adhere to the more catholic elements of liturgics and expressions in our services.

Charlie said...

Dear DH,

I would suggest to you that the Anglo-Catholic movement is dishonest and unfaithful to the 39 Articles of Religion, which are clearly PROTESTANT and in no wise "Anglo-Catholic." I have read the concordat between the REC and the APA and I found it ambigous and evasive. The Reformed Episcopal Church began as a reaction against the very doctrines that the APA holds to, namely Anglo-Catholicism.

Anglo-Catholicism is not faithful the English Reformation for several reasons. The first I might mention is the use of the Anglican "Missal" instead of being faithful to the 1662 and 1928 editions of the Book of Common Prayer. I might also mention that the Anglo-Catholic movement practices prayers to the saints, veneration of the saints and other departures from Holy Scripture. The 39 Articles makes it clear that anything repugnant to Scripture is forbidden. The Articles also make it clear that sola Scriptura is the position taken by the English church at the time of the Reformation. Any idea that "holy tradition" is on an equal par with Scripture is just bogus. There is a huge difference between "adiaphora" and outright heresy, which the Articles clearly forbid.

Transubstantiation is also forbidden by the 39 Articles and yet that is clearly taught in Anglo-Catholic parishes, including those in the APA. Again, the APA is mostly Anglo-Catholic and an apostate denomination.

However, my main concern is the doctrine of justification by faith ALONE. You have stated that you believe your church teaches salvation by grace. Well, I would agree. However, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church both make that same claim. However, what is at issue is not grace. The real issue is sola gratia. This isn't a "Calvinist" issue. This is a Reformation issue shared by Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Methdodists, etc. We are either saved by grace ALONE or we are saved by meritorious works plus grace. The position taken by the English Reformers was, is and always will be that of sola gratia and sola fide. By grace alone through faith alone. Any idea that righteousness is infused into the heart rather than imputed or credited to our account by divine declaration is just not faithful to the Gospel of Jesus Christ nor to the English Reformation nor the 39 Articles of Religion.

As a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I admonish you to leave the works righteousness view you've been sold and to cry out to God and God alone to save you by His mercy. Salvation is free, not earned or merited or deserved. Salvation is not kept by doing good works. Salvation is guaranteed by God Himself because of the one sacrifice of His Son on the cross for our sins.

Anglo-Catholicism is dishonest because it seeks to "re-interpret" the 39 Articles of Religion to make them sound other than Protestant. Remember that Satan is a liar and the father of lies. I will gladly defend the same Gospel that Archbishop Thomas Cranmer and the other English Reformers gave their lives defending.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Charlie J. Ray

cjr

DH said...

Respectfully repeating again, the APA fully accepts the authority of Holy Scripture and the Anglican Formulas contained in the classic Book of Common Prayer, the 39 Articles (all of them), and the Ordinal. You claim these are the formulas to be believed and accepted to be true to the English Reformation, so the APA must be true to it according to your definition. This is hardly ambiguous or evasive. We pray what we believe and we believe what we pray. The amount of ceremony in worship does not equate to a works based theology any more than low ceremonial automatically amounts to Calvinism or Puritainism. For sure there are some individuals on the fringes but this is an exception rather than the rule and I would argue that very few of those pushing these limits belong to the APA or the REC.
It seems more likely that you want to take a detailed sectarian position about adherence to faith alone without actually explaining what you really mean by it. I'm saying I can't understand your actual position beyond that you believe Anglo-Catholics, Roman Catholics, and Orthodox are apostates and entirely unchristian. In my opinion such an outright attack of people (instead of a systematic critique of their principles) for simply using this label or that is a very unchristian thing to do. I do not say this to be mean or attack you but to engage you.
Anglican Christian belief is contained in the BCP and the other documents commonly within its cover. For Anglicans, debate and difference has always been allowed within this framework. This was the reason for the 39 Articles after all! You cannot start from secondary statements like the sola's or confessions and then say that because some group doesn't do the same they are un-Anglican or worse apostate. Use them sure, I admire the 5 sola's myself, but the BCP has primacy in matters of doctrine. Perhaps I am mis-reading you? Maybe your argument is that the Formularies are not where Anglicans find unity?

One final question. You admonished me in the last comment. Are you an ordained presbyter of The Church? Do you hold Anglican Orders and if so what jurisdiction do you belong to?
God bless you.

Charlie said...

As a minister of the Gospel I admonish you to obey Holy Scripture. Where I or where I do or do not hold "holy orders" is irrelevant since apostolic authority comes from apostolic "doctrine" and not from an Anglo-Catholic view of "apostolic succession." Where there is no apostolic doctrine, i.e. the Reformation view of justification by faith alone, etc., there is no apostolic authority. Apostate bishops are apostate even if they hold so-called "holy orders."

Secondly, you cannot "admire" the 5 solas of the Reformation while tolerating heresy like infused justification as opposed to imputed justification. I think you have little to no idea what the Reformation was about. It is very uncharitable of you to accuse Protestants of being uncharitable for being faithful to Scripture and to the English and Continental Reformation. After all, the Oxford bishops were martyred for taking a stand against the very doctrines you defend. I'm on very solid ground here.

It is the Anglo-Catholics who are innovators by "re-interpreting" the 39 Articles instead of reading them as they were intended to be read. Anglo-Catholics are basically liars since they either ignore the 39 Articles altogether OR they deliberately misread the 39 Articles. It's rather like the devil saying he believes the Bible is true and all the while he is twisting it out of context and lying about what it says.

You might want to consider reading the Cambridge Declaration, which is posted on the sidebar of my blog. Also, as I pointed out before, the Reformation isn't necessarily "Calvinist" since the many of the Continental Reformers were also Lutheran. There can be no compromising of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel IS the 5 solas of the Reformation. And as I pointed out earlier, the REC Declaration of Principles IS Protestant and in reaction to Anglo-Catholic abuses. Anyone who denies this is simply unfamiliar with Bishop Cheney and other pioneering bishops in the REC.

Sincerely in Christ,

Charlie

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