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

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Episcopalian, Anglican, and Evangelical: What Do These Terms Mean?

Episcopalian, Anglican and Evangelical: What Do These Three Terms Mean?

By Charlie J. Ray

The Ritualists represent themselves as Catholics, and say they are eager to revive the traditions and worship of the Primitive Church. This representation is contrary to the fact. The Church of England took that course at her Reformation; all that was pure, primitive, and Catholic, both in worship, faith, and order, she retained. She cast off only the fictions, idolatry, and error by which Roman Priest--craft and Italian ambition had disfigured the Apostolic faith. But the Reformation and the works of our Reformed Church is denounced by Ritualists as mutilated, Anti-christian, and a pestilent heresy, while, in fact, the Ritualists are merely reintroducing the ceremonies and dogmas which our fathers cast off as idolatrous and superstitious. When therefore they call themselves Catholics, they mean Romanists. – Bishop J. C. Ryle

Recently the Central Florida Diocese of the Episcopal Church had its forty-first annual convention at the Lakeland Center in Lakeland, Florida. I attended that event as a lay delegate representative for my local church or congregation, which is Christ Church, Longwood, Florida. The following Sunday our congregation had its own annual business meeting, which is the usual practice. During that meeting several members of the congregation were visibly upset because of a minor change made on the new church sign purchased by the vestry. The problem with the sign, according to the dissidents, is that it removed the word "Episcopal" from the sign.

As a way of explaining myself to both the members of our congregation and to those who read my blog, I want to tell the story of the evangelical side of the Anglican Communion world-wide and particularly of the evangelical side here in the United States. Unfortunately, the story is a long and complicated one. However, I will try to be as brief as possible in giving a historical and theological background for the issues at hand.

First of all, many Episcopalians are woefully uninformed about the polity of their own denomination. The Anglican Communion is a loosely organized association of local congregations around the world. The geographical area where that particular group of congregations reside is called a "province." So with that understanding we can see that The Episcopal Church is the title given to the province of the Anglican Communion here in the United States. So in general terms all who reside here in the United States and are part of the province called The Episcopal Church are called "Episcopalian" due to their membership in this province.

To make matters even more complicated there is now a new province here in the United States called the Anglican Church in North America. This new province, depending on who you ask, is officially Anglican and on an equal status with The Episcopal Church. In other words, there are two Anglican provinces here in the United States sharing the same geographical location. The complication, however, is that the Anglican Church in North America has not yet received full approval from the Anglican Consultative Council nor from Lambeth, the seat of the council of primates or leading bishops from the provinces of the Anglican Communion around the world. But since the Archbishop of Canterbury has no real political or ecclesiastical authority to force any of the consecrated primates or archbishops to follow his instructions, they are free to ordain and consecrate ministers around the world as they see fit.

To further complicate matters, the provinces of the Anglican Church of Canada, The Episcopal Church, and the Church of England in the United Kingdom have all gone in a theologically liberal direction. This is to say that the three provinces are either openly or secretly pushing progressivism. In other words, they wish to change the Anglican Communion and the secular and political governments of the entire world to reflect their ideas of social justice. To them the center of authority is not the Bible but human reason in the here and now. Eternal and transcendent revelation into the human realm via the Holy Scriptures and the divine man, Jesus Christ, is impossible in their view and therefore the Bible is merely a human book and is merely culturally relevant to its own place in history and time. To progressives and liberals, Jesus is merely a good teacher but not actually divine. He was sincere in claiming to be God but sincerely misled. Therefore, in their view the Bible contains things which are misogynist (against women), homophobic (against those born with a homosexual orientation), and judgmental (against those who practice progressive sexual ethics of any sort). So the progressives or liberals are willing to dissimulate and work secretly to undermine Scriptural authority. They wish to bring in openly homosexual ministers, bishops and deacons and they wish to push for homosexual rights in the church and in the secular realm, including making homosexual marriage not only legal world-wide in secular governments but also in the Anglican Communion. Furthermore, their agenda is to coerce all citizens of all countries globally to move toward their views of "tolerance", which is code for progressivism. In short, theological liberalism adopts a this-worldly socialism and tries to coerce all others to accept their views at any cost. It is a highly militant movement that has more in common with paganism than with biblical Christianity. Unfortunately, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is in my estimation either openly or at least secretly part of the progressive party. The evidence for this is there for anyone willing to look at his track record.

It is difficult to summarize briefly the various aspects of complicated state of affairs in the Anglican Communion and in the province of the United States. Things have moved so rapidly that the Lambeth Conference at Canterbury has been unable to keep up with the pace. The new Anglican Church in North America is legitimately Anglican as far as polity goes and has even been endorsed and received into full communion by the Sydney Diocese of the Anglican Church of Australia. Notice that I used two separate links. The Sydney Anglicans website is distinct from the website of the national provincial church, which is the Anglican Church of Australia. (See the Anglican Church League. The Sydney Anglican Diocese drew up this resolution accepting their full communion with the Anglican Church in North America: Resolution).

Traditionally, the Anglican Communion at large is supposed to be a mix of three main streams or traditions; the three traditions are the Anglo-Catholic tradition, the Evangelical tradition, and the Charismatic tradition. However, since the advent of Tractarianism in the 19th century, the Anglo-Catholic tradition has patronized the other two traditions and even dominated them by force and coercion. Charismatics in particular have roots in common with the Evangelical tradition but because their emphasis is on the subjective and ecstatic experiences of individuals they have no problem embracing Anglo-Catholicism. Anglo-Catholicism itself is divided into two major branches, the one being theologically and morally conservative and the other being theologically, sociologically progressive and liberal. (See Anglo-Catholic Social Theology).

The battle for the heart of Anglicanism is not a new one. From the time of the English Reformation and the break of Church of England from the dominance of the Roman Catholic Church there have been various parties within the Anglican Communion. Some have tried to push the idea that the Anglican Communion is a via media between Rome and Geneva, that is between the Roman Catholic Church and the Protestant Reformation as it is expressed in the Reformed or Calvinist side of the Protestant Reformation. While this is somewhat of an oversimplification and raises issues of its own, for the sake of brevity I will not go into all the details. However, the very heart of the English Reformation was something of a combination of Calvinism, Zwinglianism, and Lutheran theology, despite some remaining Roman Catholic conservatives who tried to keep the English Reformation within a Roman Catholic paradigm. Even after the original English Reformers were burned at the stake under the reign of Mary Tudor, there remained a strong Evangelical and Protestant party in the Church of England. When Elizabeth I came to the throne the English Reformation once again moved forward.

In particular the formularies of the Church of England became the doctrinal standards for the Anglican provinces world-wide, established under the colonization policies of England. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty-nine Articles, and the Ordinal were the official doctrine and practice of Anglicans everywhere. However, this all changed when the Tractarian movement started in England under the leadership of John Henry Neuman, John Keble, Edward Pusey, Isaac Williams and others. While the Church of England and the Anglican Communion did have some high church and Arminian elements prior to the Tractarians, none of them were openly papist or Roman Catholic. Neuman's Tracts for the Times were an attempt to re-interpret the obviously Protestant and Reformed nature of the Thirty-nine Articles and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer to make them more favorable to a Roman Catholic view. Neuman was dishonest in doing this and in fact capitalized on the emphasis on doctrinal minimalism as opposed to the more Puritan emphasis on spelling out detailed confessional and theological statements of faith and catechisms. Those who emphasize minimalism are unwittingly playing into the hands of 19th century Anglo-Catholicism and their Lambeth Quadrilateral, which calls for a doctrinal commitment to an emphasis on: 1. Holy Scripture (no mention of Scripture as the final authority in doctrinal matters). 2. The Creeds. 3. The Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion. 4. The historic episcopate locally adapted. While all this on the surface looks good, the Anglo-Catholics intended to downplay Scripture and exalt the church above it and the emphasis on the two sacraments was really a way to bring people to accept the other five "sacraments" that are really not sacraments. Also, point four shows that tradition is the guiding factor since the "historic" episcopacy does not and never did exist. Episcopacy is merely a preference that the Church of England and the Anglican communion prefers but apostolic succession and any historical proof of a continuous line of bishops all the way back to Peter is questionable.

Evangelicals rallied against Tractarianism in the 19th century. Leaders like the English bishop, J. C. Ryle and the American bishop, George David Cummins, who founded the Reformed Episcopal Church, said that Tractarianism was not biblical and was in fact divisive. For example, regarding the Tractarian movement, Ryle said:

The Ritualists represent themselves as Catholics, and say they are eager to revive the traditions and worship of the Primitive Church. This representation is contrary to the fact. The Church of England took that course at her Reformation; all that was pure, primitive, and Catholic, both in worship, faith, and order, she retained. She cast off only the fictions, idolatry, and error by which Roman Priest--craft and Italian ambition had disfigured the Apostolic faith. But the Reformation and the works of our Reformed Church is denounced by Ritualists as mutilated, Antichristian, and a pestilent heresy, while, in fact, the Ritualists are merely reintroducing the ceremonies and dogmas which our fathers cast off as idolatrous and superstitious. When therefore they call themselves Catholics, they mean Romanists. (Bishop J. C. Ryle).

Apparently, the reason for the separation of Evangelicals from the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1873 was not that they were merely forced out by heavy handed Anglo-Catholics, though that was certainly in the mix. The real issue is that the American Evangelicals rejected Anglo-Catholicism as ritualistic and idolatrous. The Tractarian high churchmen in return disciplined any Evangelical for sharing pulpits with other Evangelical denominations and sharing communion with other Evangelical denominations. This was due to the Anglo-Catholic emphasis on the historic episcopate rather than on biblical and apostolic doctrine. The reasons given for Bishop Cummins' separation from the Protestant Episcopal Church are given in his letter to the Anglo-Catholic bishop of the diocese of Kentucky, Benjamin Bosworth Smith:

NEW YORK, November 10, 1873.
Rt. Rev. and Dear Bishop:--Under a solemn sense of duty, and in the fear of God, I have to tell you that I am about to retire from the work in which I have been engaged for the last seven years in the Diocese of Kentucky, and thus to sever the relations which have existed so happily and harmoniously between us during that time.
It is due to you, and to my many dear friends in the Diocese of Kentucky and elsewhere, that I should state clearly the causes which have led me to this determination.
I. First, then, you well know how heavy has been the trial of having to exercise my office in certain Churches in the Diocese of Kentucky where the services are conducted so as to symbolize and to teach the people doctrines, subversive of the "truth as it is in Jesus," and as it was maintained and defended by the Reformers of the Sixteenth Century.
On each occasion that I have been called upon to officiate in those Churches, I have been most painfully impressed by the conviction that I was sanctioning and endorsing, by my presence and official acts, the dangerous errors symbolized by the services customary in Ritualistic Churches.
I can no longer, by my participation in such services, be "a partaker of other men's sins," and must clear my own soul of all complicity in such errors.
2. I have lost all hope that this system of error now prevailing so extensively in the Church of England, and in the Protestant Episcopal Church in this country, can be or will be eradicated by any action of the authorities of the Church, legislative or executive. The only true remedy, in my judgment, is the judicious, yet thorough Revision of the Prayer Book, eliminating from it all that gives countenance, directly or indirectly, to the whole system of Sacerdotalism and Ritualism: a Revision after the model of that recommended by the Commission appointed in England under Royal Authority, in 1689, and whose work was endorsed by the great names of Burnet, Patrick, Tillotson, and Stillingfleet, and others, of the Church of England--a blessed work, which failed, alas! to receive the approval of Convocation, but was taken up afterwards by the Fathers of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States, and embodied in the Prayer Book of 1785, which they set forth and recommended for use in this country.
I propose to return to that Prayer Book, sanctioned by William White, and to tread in the steps of that saintly man, as he acted from 1785 to 1789.
3. One other reason for my present action remains to be given. On the last day of the late conference of the Evangelical Alliance, I participated in the celebration of the Lord's Supper, by invitation, in the Rev. Dr. John Hall's Church, in the City of New York, and united with Dr. Hall, Dr. William Arnot, of Edinburgh, and Prof. Dorner, of Berlin, in that precious Feast. It was a practical manifestation of the real unity of "the blessed company of all faithful people" whom God "hath knit together in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of His Son Jesus Christ."
The results of that participation have been such as to prove to my mind, that such a step cannot be taken by one occupying the position I now hold, without sadly disturbing the peace and harmony of "this Church," [i.e. the Protestant Episcopal Church] and without impairing my influence for good over a large portion of the same Church, very many of whom are within our own Diocese.
As I cannot surrender the right and privilege thus to meet my fellow-Christians of other Churches around the tables of our dear Lord, I must take my place where I can do so without alienating those of my own household of faith.
I, therefore, leave the communion in which I have labored in the sacred ministry for over twenty-eight years, and transfer my work and office to another sphere of labor. I have an earnest hope and confidence that a basis for the union of all Evangelical Christendom can be found in a communion which shall retain or restore a Primitive Episcopacy and a pure Scriptural Liturgy, with a fidelity to the doctrine of Justification by Faith only, Articulus stantis vel cadentis Ecclesiae, a position towards which the Old Catholics in Europe are rapidly tending, and which has already taken a definite form in "The Church of Jesus," in Mexico.
To this blessed work I devote the remaining years of life, content if I can only see the dawn of that blessed day of the Lord.
I am, dear Bishop, faithfully yours in Christ,
My address for the present will be No. 2 Bible House, New York.
Amazing that the bishops in today's Reformed Episcopal Church have in fact become Anglo-Catholics or at least Anglo-Catholic sympathizers and participate in the very rituals that Cummins, Rev. Charles Cheney and other Reformed Episcopalians could not tolerate. The Evangelicals were not only forced to participate in high church sacerdotalism when in attendance at other churches in their diocese but they were forbidden by their Anglo-Catholic bishops to share the pulpit and communion with other Evangelicals in other denominational churches. The sort of situation exists today. Any Evangelical who dares to say that historic apostolic succession is unbiblical or merely a traditional preference which has no real authority is shunned and often attacked by the Anglo-Catholic hierarchy and powers that be. Sadly, this is true of the Reformed Episcopal Church today. Where once the REC stood hand in hand with Evangelicals the REC now defrocks Evangelical deacons and presbyters who uphold Scriptural authority as the only final and binding authority. Any Evangelical who dares to say that Anglo-Catholicism is sacerdotal idolatry is accused of being associated with Harold Camping, who says people should withdraw from organized denominations altogether. Camping's view is not the Reformed position since the Reformed Confessions uphold the organized church as a secondary authority which is to be submitted to Holy Scripture as the measure of necessary doctrine.

The problem as I see it is that when there is a combination of a high church ecclesiology and theology with a socialistic liberal theology what you wind up with is not only sacerdotalism but a sanctified sacerdotalism which sees homosexuality not as sinful but sees homosexuals as an oppressed minority and blessed of God rather than under God's just judgment and wrath. (See Romans 1:18ff; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). In other words, instead of the church submitting to Scripture we have the Scriptures submitted to the church. What happens when the church decides what Scripture really says, as opposed to the plain meaning of the text itself, is that if and when the church goes off into an accommodation to culture mode then the culture decides what is right and wrong rather than the culture being prophetically called to repentance in accordance with God's word. Instead of condemning sinful behavior as sinful the church now calls evil good and good evil. (See Isaiah 5:20-21). Rather we should be looking to Scripture to guide individual Christians and congregations as the final authority in all matters of doctrine and behavior. (Isaiah 8:20).

If the recent forty-first convention of the Central Florida Diocese of the Episcopal Church proves anything at all, it is that loyalty to denominations and the "historic episcopate" rather than loyalty and allegiance to Holy Scripture leads to the embracing of open immorality. Bishop John Howe has proved that he is more concerned with being loyal to an apostate denomination rather being faithful to God and to the Gospel. This is what we can expect when the emphasis is on apostolic succession, external communion and fellowship rather than emphasizing a true and lively faith and being truly born again as a true child of God. This can only happen if the Gospel of justification by faith alone is the center of our preaching and teaching. This can only happen if the cross of Jesus Christ is the center of our theology rather than ecclesiastical concerns and an idolatrous centering on human authority on earth rather than submitting to our Father who is in heaven.

The peace of God be with you!


Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost;
Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen.



1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Short answer: Uh, not much.


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