Musings of an Anglican/Episcopal Priest

Tag: Anglicanism (Page 1 of 10)

Reading up on Cranmer’s Eucharistic Doctrine

“It has been a common mistake to assume that there was no fourth alternative open to Cranmer besides Catholic, Lutheran, and Zwinglian. There was in fact, a fourth available possibility in Virtualism, the Eucharistic doctrine according to which, while the bread and wine remain unchanged after the consecration, the faithful communicants receive with the elements the virtue or power of the Body and Blood of Christ.  This was the view of the Eucharist affirmed by Martin Bucer, Henry Bullinger, Peter Martyr, and John Calvin.  It has been argued at length by C.W. Dugmore in The Mass and the English Reformers and more recently by Peter Brooks in Thomas Cranmer’s Doctrine of the Eucharist, that Cranmer’s was a high Calvinist doctrine.


Furthermore, however close to Calvin or Zwingli Cranmer’s Eucharistic beliefs were, it must be noted that Cranmer and Zwingli differed in their evaluation of the importance of the Eucharist.  Cranmer, like Calvin, desired a weekly Eucharist, whereas Zwingli settled for a quarterly Eucharist.  On balance, then, I think Cranmer moved from a Catholic through a Lutheran to a Calvinist or Virtualist doctrine of the Eucharist, and that the final stage was accompanied by the strong influence on him of Nicholas Ridley, relying on the Nominalism he found in Radbertus.  Cranmer, it must be insisted, affirmed that by the power of the Holy Spirit, the true consecratory agent in the sacrament, Christ with all the benefits of his passion and resurrection was spiritually present at the Lord’s Table, and that this was known in the hearts of believers by the interior testimony of faith.  Faith did not create the presence–that would be blasphemy.  Rather it confirmed the presence through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Cranmer would undoubtedly have agreed with the statement made by his mentor, Ridley, in the Cambridge debate of 1549.  There Ridley stated that the three practical benefits of the Eucharist were unity, nutrition, and conversion.  (Worship and Theology in England, Book 1: I. From Cramner to Hooker, 1534-1603; 2. From Andrewes to Baxter and Fox, 1603-1690, p. 183 & 185)

Anglican theological distinctiveness

In the recent essay I wrote for The Living Church, “Reviving the quadrilateral” (which interested readers can find here), I made the following remark without explaining it in detail: “Whether one looks to Jewel’s Apology, Hooker’s Laws, or the works of the Caroline Divines, there is clearly an Anglican identity, expressed more clearly in the manner and tenor of interpretation and in the particular sources of authority than through specific doctrines.” I did not really feel the need to defend the statement since I believe it is a widely held understanding, at least among some Anglicans.  I know that I’ve read similar statements in the works of Rowan Williams and Michael Ramsey.  This evening however, I read a very good summary of the idea from Henry R. McAdoo’s Spirit of Anglicanism: A Survey of Anglican Theological Method in the Seventeenth Century (not to be confused with the similarly titled book by Michael Ramsey, Anglican Spirit).

After reading the first chapter of McAdoo’s book, I thought I’d share some of it with you:

The term theological method needs some comment.  There is a distinctively Anglican theological ethos, and the distinctiveness lies in method rather than in content, for Anglicanism, as Chillingworth put it, has declined to call any man master in theology.  There is no specifically Anglican corpus of doctrine and no king-pin in Anglican theology such as Calvin, nor is there any tendency to stress specific doctrines such as predestination, or specific philosophies such as Thomism or nominalism or any other one of the several medieval brands of philosophy.

Richard Montague’s assertion that he was neither a Calvinist nor a Lutheran but a Christian, illustrate the point that Anglicanism is not committed to believing anything because it is Anglican but only because it is true.  Perhaps the most important thing about Hooker is that he wrote no Summa and composed no Institutes, for what he did was to outline method.  What is distinctively Anglican is then not a theology but a theological method. (p. 1)

Anglican Comprehension & Vocation

The Compass Rose, Symbol of the world-wide Anglican Communion

The Compass Rose, Symbol of the world-wide Anglican Communion

There are lots of interesting happenings in Anglican land these days with the inaugural Convention of the Anglican Church of North America on the one hand, while on the other those of us within The Episcopal Church gear up for next month’s General Convention.  This is an especially stressful time for those who belong to or support the group known as Communion Partners as it becomes (in my opinion) less likely that The Episcopal Church will display a broad openness to the proposed Anglican Covenant.  With the close of ACNA’s convention, and their resolution that they are prepared to adopt such a Covenant at the appropriate time, the stage is set for the interesting situation of The “official” Anglican body in the United States (i.e. The Episcopal Church) to reject the Covenant and therefore deeper participation in the global Communion (if not membership in the Communion per se), while the new province being formed by the various splinter groups is waiting in the wings to move into a deeper relationship with the Communion as a whole, and not simply their sponsoring provinces–assuming of course, that the Communion as a whole survives.

Simultaneously, the narrative that seems to have gained momentum within the Episcopal Church regarding so-called “dissenters” is such that those who support the adoption of the Covenant (and, therefore, continued growth into a world-wide Communion rather than a Federation) are seen by some as traitors.  Likewise, those who do not support the liberalization of the denomination are seen as ignorant and often bigoted.  And this conflict is, of course, happening at a most inopportune time when it comes to the health of the Church on much more prosaic and foundational grounds.  As the State of the Church report noted, TEC is loosing the rough numerical equivalent of a Diocese every year to death, even when accounting for total births (and assuming that all those children will remain Episcopalian–wishful thinking indeed).  All of this makes for a very interesting situation.  Not only interesting for those within The Episcopal Church and Anglicanism generally, but also for those engaged in ecumenical conversations with Anglicans.

For example, I have been asked to speak on a panel focused on the topic of the Catholic vocation of Anglicanism.  As I’ve reflected upon how to put this vocation, as I see it, into words, it has been interesting to see it demonstrated by the recent inaugural convention of the Anglican Church in North America.  Leaving aside other questions and opinions for the moment, I find it interesting that the major convention speakers at the ACNA Convention included the well-known evangelical mega-church pastor Rick Warren, as well as the once-was-Episcopalian Metropolitan Jonah of the Orthodox Church in America (I’m finding that there are a lot of people around who “used to be” Episcopalians–you find them in the most interesting places).  This is important, because as I understand it, one of the vocations of Anglicanism is to stand as an interpreter of practice, language, tradition, and of theology between the churches of the Protestant world and the ancient Christian churches, i.e. the various Orthodox churches and the Roman Catholic Church.  I do not believe that this is so much a matter of being a “bridge church” as many have visualized it.  As a late Bishop once told me, the joke in ecumenical dialogues was always “who want’s to live under a bridge!”  And of course, few people want to spend their spiritual lives in a place that is transient.  Instead, I mean that Anglicans, to the extent they serve as a bridge, do so by means of the comprehension that the best of Anglicanism demonstrates.

This comprehension has, of course, been the source of derrision directed at Anglicans from other corners of Christendom: “Come out from Babylon” some protestants might say, “complete the reformation!”  While Roman Catholics (and now Metripolitan Jonah) often exhibit a desire to see Anglicanism purge anything that can be considered protestant or reformed.  Just as some German academic theologians of the past have ridiculed Anglicans for doing theology to the sound of Church bells–and therefore not being rigorous or systematic enough–so have the different parties of Christendom critisized Anglicanism for not being “pure” enough, for not following on what they percieve to be the logical and therefore faithful course of action and fully aligning with one consistent theological camp or another.  If you want to be Reformed, they might say, then be like the Presbyterians.  If you want to be Catholic, other say, then you must look like Roman Catholics, if you want to be Orthodox, you must believe exactly as the Eastern Churches do.  Critics of Anglicanism who are deeply commited to their own taditions–particularly those wedded to a sort of internat consistency within their traditions–are often infuriated by what they see as the greatest Anglican fudge ever: the broadness of Anglicanism.  The rhetoric of such critics is particularly loud (and in some cases obnoxious) now, as Anglicanism is wracked with internal divisions.  “See” they say, “the Elizabethan settlement was bound to fail!  Your church is a hodgepodge, an ecclesiastical Frankenstien’s monster.  You should see that now!  And now that you’ve seen it, won’t you admit your failure and come be like us!”  To a certain sort of Christian, the very existence of Anglicanism is an affront to their religious sensibilities.

But the thing is, Anglicans have not held such diverse views, or striven for comprehension simply for the sake of political or cultural calm: indeed, one could make the argument that the Anglican commitment to theological comprehension has been a most difficult one to keep precisely because there are times when it millitates against peace and calm.  The collect for the commemoration of Richard Hooker puts the Anglican desire for comprehension into words quite well:

O God of truth and peace, you raised up your servant Richard Hooker in a day of bitter controversy to defend with sound reasoning and great charity the catholic and reformed religion: Grant that we may maintain that middle way, not as a compromise for the sake of peace, but as a comprehension for the sake of truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Anglicans hold diverse views on theological matters not because we are striving for peace, but because we are striving for truth.  Anglicans have believed that one must draw the theological circle wide in order to encoumpass enough ways of speaking about God so that what is said may be balanced and countered and not become distorted.  Two examples of this idea of comprehension are related to the sacrament of the Eucharist and the doctrine of the atonement.  In each case, Anglicans as a whole have been reticent (I believe appropriately so) to nail things down too tightly.  Indeed, there is a case to be made that nailing things down too neatly, explaining them too well via one theory, is to be unfaithful and to ignore elements of scripture.  Take the various theories of the atonement for example.  Many protestants gravitate toward the penal-substitution or sacrificial theory of the atonement.  Unlike some contemporary liberal theologians, I do not believe there is anything wrong or dangerous about such a view of the atonement–unless it is held exclusively.  And the same is true of the other views of the atonement–when held exclusively, I believe they begin to distort our views of God, while holding them together as expressing different aspects of the same glorious event, encourages a more three-dimensional view of God’s character.  All one has to do is read the letter to The Hebrews to see the majority of classical atonement theories expressed in the words of scripture–so staying close to the word prevents too great a reliance upon a single theological explanation.

But what does this comprehension have to do with Anglicanism’s vocation in the greater Catholic Church?  I believe it is the comprehension what we’ve (thus far) been able to maintain, that would allow an Anglican to talk to a Rick Warren and understand the tradition out of which he speaks and then turn to a Metropolitan Jonah and express that tradition in a way that makes sense from the perspective of the historic church.  What I am talking about however, isn’t a simple intillectual understanding–I’m not saying that Anglicans are like ecclesiastical translators, nor am I saying that such a role is necessarily needed.  Rick Warren can talk to Metropolitan Jonah perfectly well and they can understand one another on an intillectual level, no doubt.  The importance of Anglicanism is that it allows within itself a degree of expression, bound by the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer, which enables a person to experience worship in a manner that is more or less close to either of these poles of Christianity.  This is why, when the Covenant authors got together in Dallas for our retreat, an evangelical Anglican from England was able to worship in an Anglo-Catholic Church in Dallas and participate in worship–and while he may not have taken part in some of the devotions, I know that he understands them.  The same would be true in reverse as well.  This is not to say that people don’t have their own beliefs about which way is “better” or more faithful–but it is to say that there is a latitude allowed, and a respect given out of a recognition that we are part of one body, whether we like it or not.  And I find that to be a possitive thing on the whole, rather than a negative.

FIRST THINGS: On the Square>>Anglican, or Episcopalian?

By Jordan Hylden

“Are you Anglican, or Episcopalian?” As an Episcopalian interloper studying at a Methodist seminary, I get the question a lot from my puzzled friends. Each time I’m asked, part of me wants to launch into a mini-primer on Anglican ecclesiology–to wit, that Episcopalians are Anglicans, since the Episcopal church is just the American province of the global Anglican communion. Which means that, technically, the question shouldn’t even make sense–it’s sort of like asking, “Are you American, or Texan?” But, of course, I know just what the question means; it does make sense, because it reflects the sad divisions that have roiled the church over the past five years. Quite simply and sensibly, my Methodist friends want to know whether I’m a member of the liberal Episcopal church, or one of the conservative Anglican groups that broke off. And as saddening as it is to admit, I’ve come to think that their common-sense perception is more accurate than my attempts at ecclesiological theory. Their question can only be asked, and answered, because of the reality on the ground in the United States: Episcopalians are one thing, and Anglicans are another.

Popular understanding is usually much wiser than theoretical wishful-thinking, and nowhere more so than here. The divisions in the church have led the American public to attach the meanings to the words Episcopalian and Anglican that they actually bear in their usage–namely, that to be an Episcopalian means to be a member of an pro-gay, autonomous American denomination, more liturgical than most churches but firmly within the theological orbit of liberal Protestantism. To be an Anglican, by contrast, means to be part of a conservative evangelical church with bishops, connected somehow with Africa and opposed to homosexuality. The definitions have by now become quite distinct and firmly fixed in the national lexicon–ask almost any church-going American what the words mean, and you will get an answer something like the above.

Some Episcopalians and Anglicans (myself included) strongly dislike these characterizations…

{read it all}

Unintended consequences: Bishop Nolbert Kunonga & Robert Mugabe

More developments from Zimbabwe.  For those of you who don’t know, Bishop Kunonga has been removed by the province of Central Africa because of his unflinching support for Robert Mugabe.  His replacement is Bishop Sebastian Bakare.  However, Bishop Kunonga has refused to recognize the judgement of his province and has instead formed a break-away group loyal to president Robert Mugabe while using the Anglican Communion‘s sexuality debates as a convenient cover, and one that fits nicely with the regime’s anti-western propaganda.

This is a good illustration of something that Americans are mostly clueless about, i.e. the unintended consequences of our actions on our brothers and sisters around the world.  All one has to do is talk to Archbishop Mouneer Anis of Egypt to learn how Anglicans were treated by Muslims and even other Christians–many of whom openly called Archbishop Anis and his flock heretics because of the actions of The Episcopal Church in the USA (whcih of course had been trumpeted as an example of western decadence in Muslim newspapers).  On the other hand, conservatives have set the stage for movements such as Bishop Kunonga’s.  All of this demonstrates why Archbishop Williams’ warning that if the Anglican Communion were to break up it wouldn’t merely break into two factions, instead it would fracture into inumberable fragments of varying degrees of legitimacy.  The ramifications of such a fragmentation would obviously be more keenly felt in the developing world.  Something for American Episcopalians/Anglicans whether liberal or conservative to consider as we sit self-rightiously in the  midst of our comfortable opression.

THE Anglican Province of Zimbabwe yesterday ordained 33 bishops and deacons to serve in its dioceses.

The province is made up of dioceses that broke from the Church of the Province of Central Africa early this year following disagreements over homosexuality.

Of those ordained, 23 were serving deacons with the remainder being new office-bearers.

Archbishop Nolbert Kunonga said the deacons and bishops should truthfully serve the province and not tolerate homosexuality within the church.

“This is confirmation that we are going ahead with the building of the new province after breaking away from the Province of Central Africa.

“As the Anglican Province of Zimbabwe, we stand guided by the scriptures and will not sympathise with homosexuals.

“I am happy that sanity is returning to the province. This has also seen more people joining the new province upon realising the reasons for us breaking ties with the Anglican Province of Central Africa,” he said.

{Read it all}

Philip Turner: The Subversion of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church: A Response to my Critics | Covenant

I am pleased that my article “The Subversion of the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church” has generated the discussion it has.  A number of the responses simply display the toxic atmosphere that sadly prevents the blogs from realizing their potential for furthering genuine debate.  There have, however, been a number that are serious in their intent and deserve a measured response.

I would particularly like to thank those who, like Bishop Pierre Whalon, recognize that the very survival of both The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Anglican Communion is at issue in the crisis brought on by the Gene Robinson affair.  Meaningful debate on the issues both TEC and the Communion now face is of vital importance if either or both are to emerge from the present conflicts as coherent expressions of Catholic Christianity.

Unfortunately, meaningful debate receives little support from the current atmosphere in the church—an atmosphere that does little to encourage either a careful and informed reading of TEC’s history or of its Constitution and Canons.  It is also an atmosphere that produces unrealistic assessments of our present circumstances, often accompanied by wishful thinking and uninformed speculation about possible future states.

As much as I appreciate the tone of Bishop Whalon’s response to my paper, I am forced to say that it evidences both wishful thinking and uninformed speculation.  Having said that, however, I wish to add that, in an odd way, his comments both tend to support my basic conclusions, and (even more oddly) indicate that there is more common ground between us than one might initially think.

{Read it all}

The Rt. Rev. John C. Bauerschmidt: A Statement Regarding the Formation of a new Anglican Church

Many of you will have read in the newspapers of the formation of a new “Anglican Church in North America” earlier this month. The new body is the result of agreements reached between a number of churches and organizations, gathered under the “Common Cause Partnership”, all of which have their origins in either the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada.

Some have wondered about the status of this church, and about its intention to seek recognition as a province of the Anglican Communion. A basic principal of catholic Christianity is that it is not self-authenticating; its credentials cannot be established by the mere assertion of them. Christian faith looks to authorities, as well: the Scriptures, principally, but also Creeds and Councils that articulate them reasonably and traditionally, and all of which communicate the Gospel and act as a standard by which faith is recognized and acknowledged. Anglicanism itself represents a distinctive witness within the Christian faith, with its own markers and measures. A particular church (any particular church) always looks beyond itself in some way in the key points of its existence, and others will evaluate it accordingly.

However we view this new church in terms of these things, we must recognize that membership in the Anglican Communion is not something claimed unilaterally or seized by force. Sharp elbows may be useful in any number of contexts, but are hardly edifying or effective in this one. A request to be admitted as a province must be approved by the Primates’ Meeting and then acted upon by the Anglican Consultative Council, two of the Instruments of Communion that have developed within Anglicanism to help bring coherence to its life. The constituent bodies of the Anglican Church in North America are not known for a willingness to pay much heed to any of the Instruments of Communion. It is even doubtful that they are much interested in any authentication that looks to the existing structures of the world-wide Communion. Their witness is predicated on a self-proclaimed unwillingness to wait for these structures to work.

{Read it all}

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