Friday, July 2, 2010

A Broad Church

Growing up in the UK, I got quite used to the idea of Evangelicals, Central Churchmen and Anglo-Catholics rubbing along in a certain sort of creative tension. Anglicans were used by the Thirty-nine Articles, the BCP, and the form of ministry, and although there were times when the Evangelicals and the Anglo-Catholics were on screaming terms rather than speaking terms we respected each other even when we thought the other chap was barking mad. Unfortunately the last thirty years have been so traumatic that the Church has become fragmented, and as a result, we need to learn to live toether again.

The Revisionist agenda - women's rights, gay rights, theological revisionism - has polarized the Anglican tradition Revisionist and Conservative camps that really have very little to say to one another. They do not have the same way of doing the theology. Conservatives look at Scripture, then with the help of the Early Fathers and Reason fathom out what is orthodoxy. The more extreme Revisionists start from the position that there is no orthodoxy, but God speaks anew to every generation, and that Scripture, the Fathers are relics of the past that need to be reinterpreted (rewritten?) to reflect modern understandings. It is very difficult to have a debate when you cannot even agree on the rules of engagement.

To my mind, the more sinister is the wedge that has been driven between the Evangelical Anglican and Anglo-Catholic traditions. Both groups accept the authority of the Canonical Scriptures, the Creeds, the historic male Episcopate, and the first four Councils; both are theologically conservative, and both are profoundly concerned with the salvation of souls. This has increasingly pushed them into differing strands of extra-mural Anglicanism - Evangelicals into AMiA, and Anglo-Catholics into the Continuum. For me, the Central Churchman, this is a disaster because in order to be fully itself Anglicanism needs to breath with both lungs - the Catholic and the Reformed. The Evangelicals need to the Anglo-Catholics to hold their feet to the fire about the Fathers, Councils, and Apostolic Ministry, and the Catholics need the Evangelicals to remind them of the centrality and sufficiency of Scripture. When each of the three strands of Anglicanism tries to live on its there is always a danger that it will become a parody of itself.

The fact that we have to some extent grown apart and become astranged means that bring conservative Anglicans back together is going to be a long process. In the mean time, even though we choose to work in different jurisdictions, we should perhaps seek out those from other traditions within Anglicanism and listen to them; not to be converted to their position, but to allow their insights to broaden our perceptions. There is an old adage that "the Church that lives by itself will die by itself," and there is a very great danger that by abandoning the "broadness" of the Anglican tradition we Continuing Anglicans will all somehow cease to be Anglican. So often Christianity - especially Anglican Christianity - is about living with the paradoxes, the greatest of which is the paradox of grace - we are sinners, yet justified. Anglicans live with another paradox - we are "reformed and yet catholic," or, if you prefer, "catholic, yet reformed." This tension between Catholic and Reformed is what has made Anglicanism so creative, and so attractive to so many people. You do not have to choose between the insights of the Reformation and the Catholic tradition, you can embrace both - provided that you can cope with the mess that that sometimes creates.


  1. Hello Bp. Robinson,

    This has the essence of a manifesto, or at least a grand vision. Thank you. I would like to think the basis of unity could be our own historic standards, as you say, the BCP, 39 articles, and ordinal. The problem is fragmentation has led to great diversity in in the above? Hopefully this trend can be slowed down if not halted. Consultative dialogue between bishops is one way. An additional one might be catechism on the household if not parish level. We really need to get back to catechism, and in such integrate our standards as reference points. This presumes educated laity and clergy, but a lot has already been digested for us by men like Bicknell, Burnet, Nowell, etc..(there are many others to add), so it's not really all that impossible. We just need to regain a healthy love of Anglicanism.

    I've gained a lot just using the Articles, Baptismal/Confirmation offices, with short catechism in the prayer book, organizing home catechism Q/A by these touchstones. We don't simply study or prepare for our baptism once, but over and over again. Isn't this the essence of liturgy-- the call and response?

    Anyway, I believe the really tectonic shift depends on what goes on at the parish level. We really need to push an ecclesiology of the home, family, and parish.

  2. It has always been my hope that by a course of obedience to the Book of Common Prayer and its tradition, we would come to realize that the proper churchman was intended to be a Catholic at the altar and an Evangelical in the pulpit. But my early experience with too many who called themselves Evangelicals was that they didn't believe that the words of the prayer book from 1559 onward really meant what they said.

    Since then I have discovered that a great number of Anglo-Catholics had too much of the same disease although in their case it extended to Scripture itself.

    But I still believe that it is important for real Churchmen to be both and hold fast to the totality of Holy Scripture and complete obedience to the prayer book. I am probably a nut.

  3. IMHO, Anglicans proper -- whether denominated Old High Churchmen or Caroline Anglicans, Formulary Anglicans, or whatever -- need neither the Evangelical (crypto-Puritans) nor the Anglo-Catholic (crypto-Old Catholics) as neither of these is really Anglican at all. And rubbing shoulders too long with these quasi-Anglicans just as bad for wholesome Anglican goodness as is rubbing shoulders with Karathine Jefferts Schori or the Wooly Welshman.

    Indeed, such mixing with pseudo-Anglicanism makes one accustomed to the idea that a key component of Anglicanism is latitudinarianism or comprehensiveness. And it is this very latitudinarian or comprehensive view of Anglicanism that came to the fore in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution that has morphed from Low-Churchmanship, to Broad Churchmanship to Liberal/Liberation Churchmanship.

    And history shows that the inexorable result of attempts to comprehend three contrary religions in one communion leads to the debacle that is the contemporary Lambeth Communion. This is so because, once the rot of a comprehension-ism exceeding the bounds of the English Religious Settlement sets in, Anglicanism simply knows no principle of limiting the scope of such ultra-formulary comprehension. Indeed, on what basis can a Broad or Central Churchman--who by definition is willing to be in communion with those who have no regard for the formularies of the Elizabethan Settlement--oppose Priestesses and Praise Bands is enough nominally Anglicans insist upon it?

    In sum, we More-and-Cross Anglicans ought to give up on building a big-tent Continuum and just forget about the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic altogether so that we can get on with the job of being mere Anglicans. Indeed, the best thing we mere Anglicans can do is be Anglican without compromise so that the Evos and Spikes might actually have some place to come home to if and when they come to their senses.

  4. Perhaps evangelicals also emphasize the role of laity (what I meant by 'theology of family, home, and parish) while Anglo-Catholics do much to revive the role of Bishops. A friend told me one of the problems with St. Louis was rushing to get apostolic succession before the proper lay organization and necessary consolidation was established, "What happened? The bishops and clergy took over. They were mostly A-C while the layfolk weren't."

    Matthew, I agree, earlier broad church presupposed common standards. Today we have several competing prayer books and historical articles of faith left largely as 'local option'. I'm not talking about the ACC but ACNA and TEC. One of the problems is they've lost confidence in their own tradition. I know ACNA and TEC are shocked when 1928 parishes grow.

    How to reach the CABLE-TV unchurched or evangelical family from the neighborhood "praise music" congregation? Teach them the prayer book. This is where we get back to a regular catechist method so the laity might then teach their own children, neighbors, and within the church. We should take time to teach the depth and richness of Anglican theology through our standards.

    I can't think of anything that better exemplifies the unity of lay with clergy but teaching so that others might teach. In some ways this is what I think the ecclesiology of evangelicals together with anglo-catholics imply. The Bishop as true shepherd?

  5. What had held Anglicans together here in the USA are the Authorized Version of the Bible, the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, the 1940 Hymnal, the Three Great Creeds (believing them to be statements of fact), and the 39 Articles of Religion (allowing for various interpretations). This permitted Prayerbook Anglicans, Anglo Catholics, and Evangelicals to be members of the same Church. Somewhere secular humanists gained the upper hand. They where not part of the aforementioned three groupings, but crept in while the three groups argued with each other. This has left TEC as an apostate body. From the comments to your various postings, it appears that the three groups will continue to argue while the apostates and Satan continue to destroy the Anglican Church which all three claim to love.

  6. Fr. David,

    I think what you a lamenting is simply the fruition of comprehensive Anglicanism. Indeed, the logical consequence of Prayer-Book, Formulary Anglicanism accepting Evangelicals, despite their failure to submit to many aspects of the English Religious Settlement and accepting Anglo-Catholics despite their discrete refusals to accept certain crucial aspects of the English Religious Settlement is, at the end of the day, the Lambeth Communion as we find it today. Indeed, the Liberal Party of Bishop Jefferts Schori or the current Archbishop of Canterbury represent the true successors of the Broad Churchmen, because only they have followed the Broad Church principle -- toleration, latitude, inclusivism, comprehensiveness, or whatever ever you want to call it -- to its logical end.

    Indeed, once toleration for extra-formulary "Anglicanism" begins, no principled line can really be drawn to contain it. We may look to the Church of the 1950s and bemoan the innovations of Liberal and Liberation Theology, Non-Common Prayer, and the routine acceptance of various forms of sexual perversion within the life of the Church, but it is hard to explain why these things are not Anglican without reference to the Formularies--which called for Creedal and Conciliar Orthodoxy, Common Prayer, Male Orders, and traditional sexual morality. And it is harder still to explain in a principle manner why some aspects of the formularies ought to be binding on all Anglicans and others should not In other words, without Old High Church principles, it is impossible to explain why Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics are OK but Liberals are wrong. Sure, the Liberals are "wronger," but so what? Wrong is wrong.

    In sum, once the Big-Tent Anglican djinni is let out of the bottle, there is no putting back he stopper. Either we are completely Anglican, or we are Anglican not at all. Anglicans in Communion with crypto-Romanists or quasi-Calvinists or psuedo-Secularists are very hollow and unhealthy Anglicans, hell bent on their own extinction. If nothing else, the history of the Lambeth Church show this to be true.

    Let us have no illusion--whether Anglo-Catholic, Liberal, or Evangelical--all three have abandoned either all of, or crucial parts of, the English Religious Settlement. That Liberals have strayed the most is no argument for communion with the lesser transgressors. A non-Anglican is a non-Anglican is a non-Anglican--which is fine and dandy for those that want to be non-Anglican, but is it not something that proper Anglicans ought to be joined with. Indeed, to compromise Anglican principles just a little bit is effectively to betray them altogether.

  7. "Crypto-Puritan?" First time I have read that. It seems that the Anglo-Catholics can be as troublesome as the liberal revisionists. Have no issue with more involved ceremonial as long as the Articles are followed and the Prayer Book (NOT the Missal!)used. BTW, acceptance of the Articles would be NOT according to Newman's "work of art."

  8. Hi Fr. David,

    Given the late-liberals left us with a barebone commonality defined by the Quad and eucharistic theology, we can only work with what's available. Morgan, Victor H. in his article, "The Big Tent of Anglicanism" (North American Anglican Press, issue #1), discusses the problems with typical approaches, be it 'ethos', historical standards, or structural relation to Canterbury. While I think we need to grab for every straw we can get, there also needs to be a kind of truce so we can dialogue. I am greatly encouraged by what continuing Anglicans (ACNA, REC, PCK, ACC) are doing in Orange County. Fr. Hollister has suggested a a similar 'third way' where Anglicans share evening prayer, lectures, and studies. Another approach is rallying around the diaconate, sharing mutual endeavors so familiarity is paved for greater like-mindedness. Meanwhile, my hope is our bishops are able to stall if not reverse the fragmentation that has occurred structurally as well as confessionally.

  9. "Teach them the Prayer Book." I have been doing that for a long time. People from the local "Praise Band" group often like the collects. At the Reformed Church I go to, the usage of the Collects seems to be increasing.
    From the standpoint of confessional Reformed theology, the PrayerBook is eminently useful.

  10. I have a feeling that how Evangelical is being defined here is different to what I am used to. The majority of Anglican Evangelicals I ran into as a teenager were BCP men, who held to the Calvinist view of the Articles, and were probably a lot more loyal to the 1662 Settlement than most other churchmen.

    What I see as problematical are those movements that deliberately sidestep the BCP, Articles and Homilies. That would encompass the "Hoadleyite" type of Latitudinarian and their descendants, and the more extreme manifestations of the Evangelical Movement and the Catholic Revival - mainly, but not exclusively the Anglo-Papalists and the "Jensenites."

  11. Bishop Robinson,

    Indubitably, a distinction must be drawn between traditional Evangelicals and contemporary Evangelicals.

    The later are distinguished today by their penchant for electrified praise bands, use of the 1979 Common Book of Prayer, a mild Charismatic vibe, and the odd priestess here and there. What passes for theology among these neo-evangelicals seems to be the Alpha Course. In sum, the less said about newvangelicals, the better.

    As for Trad Evos, their purported adherence to Church principles has also been a bit a smoke-and-mirrors trick. For example, making Morning Prayer the main Sunday service and ignoring the Ornaments Rubrick altogether are hardly signs of loyalty to the Prayer Book. Moreover, their anachronistic reading of Calvinism back into the Articles of Religion is an entirely the result of latitudinarian laxity and, moreover, the project entails every bit as much special pleading as Newman's Tract XC. (Indeed, I would have thought that Harold Edward Browne and E.J. Bicknell, among many others, had long ago debunked the post-Glorious Revolution, comprehensivist myth that the Articles contain any distinctively Calvinist teaching at all.)

    In sum, both the Trad Evo progeny of the Puritans and the Newvangelican progeny of the Neo-Pentecostals are not now, nor have they ever have been, friends of authentic Church principles. Indeed, the notion Pentecostalism or Calvinism have any place in the English Religious Settlement is just as fallacious, ahistorical, and tendentious an argument--though one molly coddled by Broad Churchman for centuries now--as the notion that Medieval Latin Scholasticism likewise has a legitimate place in Anglicanism proper. Either Anglicanism is discrete and coherent as framed in the 16th century and filled out in the 17th, or it is nothing at all but a religious free for all along the lines of the contemporary Lambeth Communion.