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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

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Critique of the Equivocating Statements Made by the Bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church, Part One

The task before me and the mountain of evidence against the bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church makes it difficult to decide where to begin. However, in the following discussion I shall attempt to outline the arguments made by the Reformed Episcopal Church for discarding their adherence to the reformed and evangelical tradition in favor of a merger with Anglo-Catholicism. In my opinion this departure also constitutes a departure from the very Gospel itself since there can be no middle way between truth and error, nor can there be more than one Gospel of Jesus Christ. I would further like to distinguish between what I would call "Christian" in the sense of biblical and universally accepted doctrine and so-called "christians" who claim a broad consensus based on a very minimal doctrinal content and deny the essentials of the very Gospel itself as defined by Holy Scripture and as that Gospel was preached and taught by the English and Continental Reformers during the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation. While this task is daunting, complicated and difficult to tackle, I shall give it my very best effort.

In preparation for this critique you might want to read the following two articles produced by the bishops of the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America: "True Unity by the Cross," and "Statement of Anglican Belief and Practice: A Joint Statement by the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America concerning Anglican Belief & Practice." Please note that the first article on true unity was produced last year, 2006. Also note that the bishop who ordained me, James West, is a signatory of the document.

The problem with the REC's position on the merger is that it sacrifices the essentials of the Christian faith in favor of a minimalistic view which only includes the Apostles' Creed and other universally accepted doctrines while at the same time rejecting the Evangelical and Protestant fundamentals which are universally accepted by all Protestants. There can be no union with churches which reject the Evangelical nature of Holy Scripture and the essential doctrines of the Protestant Reformation because these doctrines are derived from Holy Scripture.

Of course the REC claims that it has not forsaken the Gospel, denied the authority of Scripture or placed tradition ahead of Scripture on the three legged stool of Scripture, tradition and reason within the Anglican tradition. But anyone reading the two documents, "A True Unity of the Cross" and the statement of joint belief and practice with the Anglican Province of America can see that this is not true. A bold claim is made on page two of the "True Unity" document that makes an immediately disparaging remark about the motives of those who would oppose a merger with Anglo-Catholics:

"For so long we have watched tragic fragmentation develop among the Anglican family in this part of the world. The cause has been largely due to the erosion of the Gospel and faithfulness to God’s Word in the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada. Unfortunately most of the splintering has been needless. Group after group has formed around personalities, instead of the Gospel. The result has been the proliferation of around fifty (at last count) different Anglican jurisdictions mostly too small to number. Instead of joining already established churches such as the Reformed Episcopal Church and the Anglican Province of America, others have been created."

While this sounds noble and the tone seems irenic and reasonable at first, I would ask you to look closer. First of all, it is suggested that those who disagree with the REC and APA are somehow automatically and by default centering around personalities with charismatic leadership rather than around the Gospel. This would assume that the REC and the APA are in fact preaching the Gospel, which I would deny, especially regarding the APA. Now this is just an ad hominem attack against those who openly disagree with the merger since common sense and reason shows that it is not necessarily or by default true that new churches and splinter groups begin because they are following "personalities" rather than the Gospel. I might mention that both the REC and the APA are open to this charge as well since the leaders who founded both churches seem to have been charismatic personalities.

Might it be that other continuing Anglican churches disagree strongly with compromising with Anglo-Catholics in the so-called "middle way" of Anglicanism? Why is it that unity must come at the cost of sacrificing the principle of sola Scriptura and misreading the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion by a hermeneutic that did not exist until nineteen century Tractarianism came along?

Going a bit further in the document, the REC bishops say:

"In the past, divisions caused by false teaching have allowed true believers to unite around the Truth of God’s Word, starting with the great Ecumenical Councils. Those Councils that crafted the foundational creedal statements of the Church united Christianity. Heresy divides. Orthodoxy unites."

At first look this too sounds like a noble cause. But as you read on you will discover that the only issue of "orthodoxy" the REC and the APA seem to be concerned about is the homosexuality issue. This leads one to believe that the only false teaching that should concern us is the immorality of practicing homosexuality, ordaining homosexuals, etc. But this begs the question, "Might there be doctrinal issues other than moral ones that are just as important to true Christianity?" The faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3) would include the doctrine of Scripture alone as the final word in all matters of faith. The faith once delivered to the saints would also include the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which Paul's epistles to the Romans and the Galatians establishes firmly. Thus, since Anglo-Catholicism openly and vehemently rejects both these doctrines, they cannot make a claim to be preaching the "Gospel." There is only one Gospel and to preach another gospel is to promote heresy and division and an unorthodox version of Christianity which is no Christianity at all.

Next the document goes through a lengthy discussion claiming to base unity on biblical principles as it is taught in John 17 where Jesus prays for the unity of his disciples and followers. Unfortunately, this lengthy discussion is a mere rabbit trail designed to get the uninformed on board, to misdirect the issues toward "unity" or ecumenical concerns. Unfortunately, the "biblical" principles mentioned nowhere include the doctrine of justification by faith alone, which is considered to be "necessary doctrine" by one no less formidable giant of the Reformed Anglican Church than Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. To prove this let me just briefly cite from an article by Archbishop Cranmer called "Necessary Doctrine":

"Now they that think they may come to justification by performance of the law, by their own deeds and merits, or by any other mean than is above rehearsed, they go from Christ, they renounce his grace: Evacuati estis a Christo, saith St. Paul, Gal. v., quicunque, in lege, judificamini, a gratia excidistis. They be not partakers of the justice, that he hath procured, or the merciful benefits that be given by him. For St. Paul saith a general rule for all them that will seek such by-paths to obtain justification; those, saith he, which will not knowledge the justness or righteousness which cometh by God, but go about to advance their own righteousness, shall never come to that righteousness which we have by God (Rom. 10:1-4); which is the righteousness of Christ: by whom only all the saints in heaven, and all other that have been saved, have been reputed righteous, and justified. So that to Christ our only Saviour and Redeemer, on whose righteousness both their and our justification doth depend, is to be transcribed all the glory thereof."

(From Necessary Doctrine. Please click on the web view if you do not see the sermon appear directly.)

Obviously, Cranmer considered justification by faith alone to be an essential and necessary doctrine, as anyone reading this sermon can tell. Furthermore, the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion plainly state the doctrine of justification by faith alone and there can be no other interpretation acceptable:

"11 The justification of man
We are accounted righteous before God solely on account of the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ through faith and not on account of our own good works or of what we deserve. Consequently the teaching that we are justified by faith alone is a most wholesome and comforting doctrine. This is taught more fully in the homily on Justification." (From Article 11).

What is more Articles 9 through 18 deal with the sinfulness of humankind, the loss of free will in matters of faith through the fall and how good works relate to one who is justified by faith alone. These articles are to be understood as an essential matter of faith and the Articles of Religion are to be taken as a Protestant "confession" of the faith of the Church of England.

King Charles I made this statement and all ministers of the Church of England were required to sign off on this document yearly:

Extracts from the Declaration of

His Majesty King Charles I
...the Articles of the Church of England... do contain the true doctrine of the Church of England agreeable to God's Word... no man hereafter shall either print, or preach, to draw the Article aside any way, but shall submit to it in the plain and full meaning thereof: and shall not put his own sense or comment to the meaning of the Article, but shall take it in the literal and grammatical sense.


However, the REC and the APA say that the meaning of the Articles is open to interpretation and otherwise equivocate and evade the plain truth of the matter. I will now cite from "True Unity" to again demonstrate the obvious departure of the REC and APA from the historical confession of faith:

"Questions have been raised about matters touching the Articles of Religion. In Anglicanism there have been evangelical and catholic ways of interpreting the Articles. According to the historic preface to the articles in the early 17th century, however, it seems that a normal, grammatical and historical interpretation of the Articles of Religion was the intended hermeneutical method. This approach would re-enforce the essential/non essential distinction. It would not commend an exclusively evangelical or catholic interpretation. At times, a literal/grammatical interpretation would allow for both, but always stopping short of Roman Catholic and more extreme Protestant dogma.

"Some articles describe teachings as not found in “Holy Writ,” meaning anywhere in
Scripture (Article 28). In other articles it is stated that a teaching is not commanded by Christ, which means it could be allowed but not required because it is based on some other part of the Scriptures (Article 25). Certain teachings are condemned as “repugnant to the plain words of Scripture” (Article 28)." (From pages 11 and 12 of "True Unity." )


At first this appears to concede to the plain meaning of the text of the Thirty-Nine Articles of religion. However, notice the qualifying statement that, "In Anglicanism there have been evangelical and catholic ways of interpreting the articles." This sounds like the English Reformers were somehow open to Roman Catholic views. However, this is totally and completely misleading as any objective reading of the historical situation of the English Reformation shows. The Anglo-Catholics are here essentially admitting that most of their views come from Roman Catholicism, by the way. But even more deceptive is the deliberate confusing of the term "catholic" with Roman Catholicism. Wait a minute. Do not Protestants also adhere to the "catholic" creeds? Of course they do. But this does not in anyway mean they are open to Roman Catholic views. Here we are seeing the deliberate hijacking of the term "catholic" to mean what it never meant to the English Reformers and is in fact a deliberate misrepresentation of the intent and plain meaning of the Thirty-Nine Articles.

One wonders if the the plain meaning of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion is considered "extreme Protestant dogma" in the view of the REC and APA, especially since Anglo-Catholic views are condemned right along with the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox views known to the Reformers? The Articles of Religion obviously commend an "evangelical and protestant catholic "view but NOT an Anglo-Catholic or Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox view of things. The document is obviously thoroughly PROTESTANT but keeping what is universally accepted among all in the matters of the creeds, the deity of Christ, etc.

At this point I will take a brief intermission. I will issue part two and three in the coming days where I will deal with the REC and APA view of Scripture and tradition and how the REC has completely forsaken sola Scriptura. I will also further critique their outright denial of the Thirty-Nine articles on issues of sola Scriptura and a more subtle and deceptive use of the term "adiaphora" and a supposed compatibility of evangelical practice with Ango-Catholic practice at some "secondary" level of worship. Please forgive this cliff hanger but I do not wish to make the posts so long that it becomes impractical to read it all in one sitting.

The peace of God be to all who love the Scriptures as the only rule of faith and practice!

4 comments:

Augustinian Successor said...

Bro. Charlie!

AMEN AND AMEN AND AMEN ...!

Soli Deo Gloria .....

In Christ,
Jason+

Augustinian Successor said...

Bro. Charlie,

Your analysis is very perceptive in that you correctly diagnosed the problem by pointing out the eminent reluctance of the REC and APA to be confessional Anglicans (i.e. to be faithful to the 39 Articles of Religion, Homilies and writings of the Reformers and true successors), pushing instead the cultural and moral agenda to the forefront as the basis of Christian unity, despite an appeal to the creeds and a common ecclesial heritage.

This is fatal since it involves the confusion between Law and Gospel, doctrine and morality, etc. which is an anathema to the cause of the Reformation which gave birth to the Anglican tradition. In other words, the fight on the cultural and moral front over issues like homosexuality is not so much grounded and anchored in the Word of God as containing the Gospel of Justification by Faith Alone, but a conservatism which is derived from the Word God without the same Gospel. What you have is Synergism, Legalism, etc.

The battle that the Church is called upon to engage in is first and foremost THEOLOGICAL, the sum, basis and boundary-marker of all what the Church believes and practices. And Christian theology is informed, shaped, suffused and sustained by none other than the doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone, the article by which the Church stands or falls and the hinge upon which true religion turns.

The REC *is* an apostate church, having progressed from apostatising ... in fact, in this light, we can conclude they are no better, like the APA and the other so-called Anglican groups than the LIBERALS, having jettisoned the Gospel of Jesus Christ and betrayed the cause of the Reformation - something which both liberals and conservatives have in common. This means without actually assuming the same belief contents, these conservatives share the same ethos as the liberals, the same mindset and form. So, it's no surprise that like the liberals, the conservatives would breach the very same moral standards they claim to espouse and uphold. It won't belong before the true colours start to appear. In fact, it is already showing ...

Charlie said...

Thanks for your input, Jason. Honestly, I don't know how God worked in my life. I started out with the heretical pentecostal/charismatic movement. Since then God led me from Arminianism to a solid understanding of the Protestant Reformation and the 5 solas. Scripture alone is the final authority and that concept has revolutionalized my Christian faith!

Augustinian Successor said...

"Scripture alone is the final authority and that concept has revolutionalized my Christian faith!"

Indeed, Bro. Charlie, more than we realise, actually ... the reason why we see so many so-called conservative Christians, even so-called "Reformed" have departed from Scripture is simply because these do not hold to Scripture alone! Simple as that.

Thank you for much needed Anglican voice and ministry. Let us continue to fight for the Anglican faith.

Blessings to you, Rev. Charles Ray!

In Christ,
Jason

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