Monday, May 14, 2007

What's in a name?

This may be completely inconsequential, but as a traditionalist Anglican priest I always take notice of what conservative Anglicans/Episcopalians call themselves. Our parish is within the Reformed Episcopal Church, but we do not label ourselves primarily as "Reformed Episcopalians," because we've taken note that very few people know what this means--are they Calvinist Episcopalians? Not really, since the Prayer Book and the Articles are not Calvinist, but patristic, Augustinian, and broadly protestant, but by no means Calvinist (indeed, many of the Calvinists of generations past claimed the Anglican Articles did not go far enough and wished to throw them overboard! It is ironic that in the past history of the Reformed Episcopal Church in the United States the Articles were "rewritten" a strongly Arminian manner, while the Free Church of England essentially left them alone). Also, we are in full-communion with the Anglican Province of America and the Anglican Church of Nigeria, and in federation with the Anglican Church in America and the Anglican Mission in America. Our primary bond of unity is found in our common history as Anglicans; the designation of "Reformed Episcopal" is a jurisdictional title. Therefore, the moniker of our parish is "St. Andrew's Anglican Church, a Reformed Episcopal parish." Most classical Anglican parishes do something similar, using the word Anglican as the primary designation with a later description that informs the reader of the jurisdictional link. The word "Anglican" in use in the United States has become a bit of a code word for "conservative" or "traditional" Episcopalian, something that seems to make the mainline body quite angry--they're not real Anglicans, they often say, but counterfeits!

I've noticed that several parishes in the Anglican Province of Christ the King do something similar to what I mentioned above in regards to my own parish--"All Saints Anglican Church, a traditional Episcopal parish of the Province of Christ the King." The Episcopal heritage of the Church in the United States is something that traditionalists sometimes use to demonstrate that we really are Episcopalians, just as much as the "official" and now heterodox body. We have bishops, and we have the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. I've seen the title "Anglican Episcopal" used as well to describe parishes in several jurisdictions. Although we lack communion with the See of Canterbury, we lay claim to the heritage and doctrine of the Catholic Faith as expressed in the Anglican Way via the classical Prayer Books (1549-1928), the Ordinal, and the Articles of Religion. I've noticed that some parishes in the United Episcopal Church and the Reformed Episcopal Church are even bold enough to simply call themselves "Episcopalian" without an "Anglican" qualifier: "St Paul's Episcopal Church, a parish of the. . ." How this must upset the mainliners.

Ah, but what is in a name? I prefer the term Anglican myself. If someone doesn't know what I mean when I say "Anglican" I may fall back on something like "traditional Episcopalian." Yes, we have bishops, but is that enough? The mainline church put all of their stock in the office of bishop, but those bishops turned out to be wolves, not shepherds of the flock. They cast aside the Prayer Book and the Articles, cast aside Catholic order, and cast aside the heritage of the Anglican Church. In the end, all they had was the title "Episcopalian," but that is not enough to be Anglican--it may be necessary, but it is not sufficient. As we continue as "Continuing" or classical Anglicans, let us be mindful that what makes us Anglicans is not just episcopal polity, but the faith of the primitive Catholic Church as expressed in our liturgies and the Creeds.


Jay Hershberger said...

There are a lot of Calvinistic Anglicans in the REC, including a few bishops. The Articles are thoroughly reformational and have a "Calvinistic" thread running in them. The influence of the continental Reformed tradition was felt in England. I agree that some felt the Articles weren't Calvinistic enough--hence the Westminster Assembly during Cromwell's reign. I also agree that the primary focus of the BCP and Articles is Augustinian and Patristic, but I believe that the Articles make room for those who are of a more reformed persuasion (including myself). JI Packer and Bishop Ryle come to mind.

CMWoodall said...

Funny thing, too, that we avoid the term 'catholic' yet rightly claim that we are catholic. Or how we usually don't use the term 'orthodox' but regard it as part of our identity.
Then there is the practice of no designation as in All Saints Church, or Christ Church. I prefer the jurisdictional tag-line after the chosen name. Reminds me of Christian name + surname.

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

The Articles are indeed "patient" of a Calvinist position, but there is nothing distinctly Calvinist about them; there is large overlap in the language of the Articles and the language of the Belgic Confession and the Augsburg Confession. Bishop Browne in his exposition makes the case that the Articles are more Lutheran than Calvinist, and predate some of the more contentious debates in Calvinism. In any case, they do not go into the realm of the Canons of the Synod of Dort nor into the realm of the Westminster Confession. While the Articles may make room for Calvinists, this is a happy accident due to the fact that there was a great degree of overlap between Luther and Calvin and the Anglican divines due to their common background in Saint Augustine.

There are many Calvinist Anglicans in the REC, but REC "Articles" previously in the front of the old prayer books had an Arminian tone to them.


Anonymous said...

I would say that the Anglican Communion traditionally has been patient of a moderate Calvinistic reading of the Articles for reasons of politics and Christian Charity, though the Articles in themselves do not actually bear the weight of such a strained construction.

Indeed, as well demonstrated by Browne, Bicknell, and C. B. Moss, just to cite a few, any Calvinistic reading of the Articles requires as much special pleading as Newman's Tract 90 did in finding Trent lurking with the Articles.

Rather, the Articles renounce the Scholasticism and superstitious liturgical abuses of the Middle Ages in favor of a return to the pre-Hildebrandian, Augustinian synthesis [though an Eastern-leaning construction of the Articles seems quite feasible, perhaps due to their inherent narrowness (only touching on strongly disputed points) or perhaps because the Augustinian synthesis is not that far removed from the Cappodacian synthesis.]

The record is just overwhelming that the purpose of the Articles was to be anti-Tridentine without swinging into the wild innovations of Geneva, which are just as erroneous as the fabricated Roman accretions.

Anonymous said...

It has always struck me as important that the real Calvinists of the time, from Elizabeth I through the first Charles, were not impressed with the Calvinism of either the Articles or the Book of Common Prayer.Indeed they sought the destruction of the Church of England and everything connected with it. Hence Cromwell and all his works. Consequently I have always thought it srrange that later Calvinists have attempted to claim a Calvinist heritage for the Articles and the prayer book.That attempt has always struck me as being about as honest as the things which Schori and her Crewe have to say about the inclusiveness of Anglicanism. With Elizabeth I what I see in Anglicanism is the "doctrine, discipline and worship" of the primitive Catholic Church to the point which Elizabeth and her advisers believed it was possible for the people of her England to bear.