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Thursday, February 23, 2023

An Anglican I Remain


Dr. Alice C. Linsley

I make no apology for being an Anglican Traditionalist. However, I will be an apologist for the Anglican Way of Christianity.

Our confession as Anglican Christians is Christ crucified, risen, and coming again. Until His arrival, we make disciples, strengthen one another, and receive Him in the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist. The kerygma and the Nicene Creed express Anglican dogma, and the Bible informs and shapes our doctrine and practice. We require nothing to be believed that is not attested by these our authorities. That is why we reject innovations, be they from Rome, the Episcopal Church, or the Church of England.

Unfortunately, some who call themselves "Anglican" have departed from this confession, aimlessly wandering the trails of modernism, process theology, feminism, and social activism. These give Anglicanism a bad name. They leave a foul smell wherever they go. It is no wonder that some seek to escape the reek. 

Some Anglicans who have left for greener pastures include G. K. Chesterton, John Henry Newman, and more recently Michael Nazir-Ali, and Gavin Ashenden. Their departure to Rome meant gain for Roman Catholics and loss for Anglicans. However, the Roman pasture has not proven to be much greener.

Recently an Eastern Orthodox friend asked me, "Why not just head east, and become Orthodox?" Here is my response:

Because our history, our ethos, some doctrines are quite distinct. As you know I spent 6 years with the Antiochian Orthodox and value those years because they renewed me after the Anglican "wars". They also connected me with sacred Tradition whereby I can identify dangerous innovations.

The friend replied that it didn't make sense that people choose to be outside the One True Church, and had I tried the Western Rite, to which I replied:

The tendency to triumphalism among some Orthodox is troubling. It is so contrary to the Orthodox emphasis on humility as a primary virtue. Also, the Orthodox exclusive use of the Septuagint for study and as the text behind the Divine Liturgy is a problem since it leans into the Greek perspective of the soul rather than the biblical Hebrew understanding of the Soul-Body unit. Further, a detailed study of the planting of Christianity in the British Isles reveals a patrimony easily as old as that of Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome, and Constantinople. With the Great Schism of 1054, Constantinople became the seat of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Byzantine liturgy, which I prefer greatly to the Western Rite, developed contemporaneously with other early liturgies of the Church and is not objectively superior to them, only different.

The friend then pointed to brilliant men who left the Anglican Way for Orthodoxy, including Jon Braun, Peter Gilquist, Patrick Henry Reardon, and Stephen Freeman. She asserted that these men were "on a search for the truth. For the TRUE Church."

It should be noted that some Orthodox are not orthodox in every aspect of their theology. David Bentley Hart and Alvin Kimel, both former Anglicans, are examples. Kimel has waffled a great deal over the years. He was a priest in the Episcopal Church who left for Rome and then converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. He and Hart have been promoting apocatastasis, a belief that the restoration of creation to a condition of perfection will involve escape from eternal separation from God for those who have willfully rejected God.

The departure of great Anglican thinkers for either Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy suggests that Anglicanism is a natural pad for launching people in different directions. However, it seems that former Anglicans rarely go to Protestant denominations because what we have found satisfying in Anglican Christianity is lacking among Protestants. We are conscious of divine mystery, the efficacy of the Sacraments, the importance of sacred tradition in the interpretation of Scripture, the beauty of holiness expressed in reverent worship, the wisdom of the Church Fathers, and the necessity of the universal Creeds.

A Crisis of Authority and the Burden of Central Authority

The confusion within Anglicanism is the result of a crisis of authority. Our collegial polity has been weakened by a club mentality among the bishops. None wish to give offense to their fellow members. When they should have stood in defense of the Faith once delivered, they showed themselves complacent. Complacency leads to decline and decline leads to decadence.

Some who were raised by modernist Anglican clergy wandered far from the orthodox faith and led others astray. Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne are examples. Both were raised in the Church of England. They put forward a view of God as one affected by temporal processes. In Hartshorne’s process-based conception God always changes. This is not the orthodox view of God as eternal and immutable.

For Anglicans the authority of Scripture and Tradition is central to our identity. While we share a rich heritage of reason and intellectual acumen, we do not disregard these authorities in favor of philosophical speculation about God and humans. That is fatal to our identity.

Some Anglican clergy dabbled with spiritualism. James Pike was raised Roman Catholic and became an agnostic. After WWII, Pike and his second wife, Esther Yanovsky, joined the Episcopal Church and Pike became an Episcopal priest. He was charged with heresy three times, though the charges were dropped. He rejected the central dogmas of the Christian Faith touching on the Incarnation and the Trinity. In October 1966, he was formally censured by his fellow bishops, but he was never deposed. That same year his son James Jr. committed suicide, an event that prompted Pike to try to communicate with his dead son using a medium.

The crisis of authority within Anglicanism is also demonstrated in the liturgical revisions of the Episcopal Church in the 1970s. The Episcopal priest and theologian, Urban T. Holmes, understood that ECUSA's liturgical revisions drew more on Process Theology and modern philosophy than on Scripture, Tradition, and the Church Fathers. In reference to the Episcopal Church 1979 Prayer Book, he wrote, "It is evident that Episcopalians as a whole are not clear about what has happened. The renewal movement in the 1970s, apart from the liturgical renewal, often reflects a nostalgia for a classical theology which many theologians know has not been viable for almost 200 years. The 1979 Book of Common Prayer is a product of a corporate, differentiated theological mind, which is not totally congruent with many of the inherited formularies of the last few centuries. This reality must soon ‘come home to roost’ in one way or another."

Holmes added, "The church has awakened to the demise of classical theology."

If Holmes believed that "classical" or orthodox theology is not viable, he should have left the priesthood.

Hoping to Escape the Chaos

The crisis of authority in Anglicanism has led many to seek refuge with other sacramental bodies. The departees have gone to churches where authority is either centralized, as with the Pope and the Magisterium, or is sustained by synods of Orthodox bishops who resist modernism and innovation. Within those churches, there are rebellious persons who try to impose their will. There are feminists campaigning for women priests. There are reactionaries demanding the Latin Mass as their right. There are theological and liturgical debates, and jurisdictional conflicts among the Orthodox ethnicities. The necessary imposition of ecclesial authority tends to homogenize and invariably some people will resist conforming.

Anglicans excel at resisting homogenization. It comes of our history under Rome, the bloodshed of the 16th century in England, and the iconoclasm of the Puritans. Some regard the Thirty-Nine Articles as their Confession. Others regard the Articles as important to Reformed theology but take the universal Creeds as the only proper reflection of the catholic Faith. Some use the Book of Common Prayer as a resource out of which they pick prayers and rites. Others uphold the liturgies of the 16th century through the mid-20th century as the historic Anglican formularies which are not to be tampered with. 

Some Anglicans ordain women and believe this practice does not impinge on the Gospel. Others believe rightly that this development stabs at the heart of the Gospel since the priesthood ultimately is about the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, and this innovation breaks with catholic tradition, and is without the consent of the Church worldwide. 

There also is a huge range of aesthetic expressions in Anglican churches. Some maintain the elegant architecture of the great cathedrals. Some are scrubbed clean of embellishments and resemble Congregational places of worship. Some are warehouses with big screens and platforms for praise bands. These variances express different theological perspectives, yet all claim to be “Anglican”.

Let us consider also the great intellects who remained Anglican in the face of this crisis of authority: C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Evelyn Underhill, William Temple, Austin Farrer, Matthew Green, and John Stott. Additionally, the Anglican Way of Christianity has many millions of adherents in Africa and Asia where there has been less pressure from their cultures to adopt modernism, feminism, and innovations that break with tradition.

I remain an Anglican in good company! An Anglican I remain against the currents.

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