What Is Real Anglicanism?

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This post is inspired by a series of recent posts by Scot McKnight on the nature of Anglicanism.

If we are to believe Michael P Jensen, the rector of St Mark’s Anglican Church in Sydney, Australia, and a member of the (very) reformed Gospel Coalition, but I hope we do not have to, Anglicanism is just a peculiar variation of Calvinism. No surprise there, for one of the promoters of the Sydney kind of fundamentalist/(ultra)conservative Anglicanism.

Here are the 9 points in Jensen’s article, as sumarised by  Scot McKnight:

1. Since the arrival of Christianity in Britain in the 3rd century, British Christianity has had a distinct flavor and independence of spirit, and was frequently in tension with Roman Catholicism.

2. The break with Rome in the 16th century had political causes, but also saw the emergence of an evangelical theology.

3. Anglicanism is Reformed.

4. Scripture is the supreme authority in Anglicanism.

5. Justification by faith alone is at the heart of Anglican soteriology.

6. In Anglican thought, the sacraments are “effectual signs” received by faith.

7. The Anglican liturgy—best encapsulated in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer—is designed to soak the congregation in the Scriptures, and to remind them of the priority of grace in the Christian life.

8. Anglicanism is a missionary faith, and has sponsored global missions since the 18th century.

9. Global Anglicanism is more African and Asian than it is English and American.

To this skewed theologically and highly subjective view of Anglicanism, McKnight responds by pointing to the essentially catholic (small ‘c’, meaning ‘universal’, historically rooted) fully Trinitarian nature of Anglicanism as presented by the Thirty Nine Articles, the dogmatic basis of the Anglican Communion. He writes:

The first thing to know about Anglicanism is that We believe in the glory of knowing God personally in the face of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit who has created the church.

Here, too, is the order of the first few articles in the 39 Articles:

I. Of Faith in the Holy Trinity.
There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

II. Of the Word or Son of God, which was made very Man.
The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men

III. Of the going down of Christ into Hell.
As Christ died for us, and was buried, so also is it to be believed, that he went down into Hell.

IV. Of the Resurrection of Christ.
Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things appertaining to the perfection of Man’s nature; wherewith he ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until he return to judge all Men at the last day.

V. Of the Holy Ghost.
The Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son, is of one substance, majesty, and glory, with the Father and the Son, very and eternal God.

VI. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.

To the above, McKnight adds today on his blog a few points which another Reformed Anglican, J.I. Packer, a British evangelical theologian teaching at Regent’s College in Vancouver, Canada has presented in a recent article.  Even if the text is dedicated to (the dire straights of) Canadian Anglicanism, it gives enough attention to the ‘nature of Anglicanism’ to be relevant for this discussion. Here is an eight points summary:

Anglicanism is first biblical and protestant in its stance, and second, evangelical and reformed in its doctrine. That’s a particular nuance within the Protestant constituency to which the Anglican church is committed – the 39 Articles show that. Ten, thirdly, Anglicanism is liturgical and traditional in its worship.

I go on to say, fourthly, Anglicanism is a form of Christianity that is pastoral and evangelistic in its style.

And then I say, fifthly, that Anglicanism is a form of Christianity that is episcopal and parochial in its organization and, sixthly, it is rational and reflective in its temper.

Seventhly, I tell people that Anglicanism as a form of Christianity is ecumenical and humble in spirit. Unlike some denominations, we do not claim that Anglicanism is self-sufficient.

Then, eighthly, I tell people that Anglicanism characteristically is national and transformist in its outlook. By `national’ I mean that the Anglican way is to accept concern for the spiritual condition of the national group within which the gospel is being preached. By `transformist’ I mean that Anglicans seek, under Christ, to see the culture changed into a Christian mould as far as maybe.

As you can see above, even from a limited reformed and conservative perspective, Anglicanism does not have to be narrow minded and sectarian, as in its Sydney version or in some versions of American Anglicanism. After all, being an Anglican means, above all, to fully engage on the via media, rather than promote the doubtful ways of neo-reformed fundamentalism.

 

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

4 thoughts on “What Is Real Anglicanism?”

  1. Completely up to you.. It was simply sarcasm based in my opinion that the words real and ‘any religious word or phrase’ do not belong together as they are based upon fairy tales..

    Like

    1. Dear Sir,
      I respect your right to believe in the atheist ‘fairy tales’ and in the old fashioned 18th & 19th century fables of scientism.
      Yet, I think you have to learn to respect those who believe otherwise, if you pretend to be a civilised 21st century person.
      Otherwise you prove to be a sort of Inquisition like agent of totalitarian secularism.
      Intolerance is the last refuge of ignorance and lack of civilisation.

      Like

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