Sunday, February 03, 2008

How can you call yourself an Anglican? Why you're not even in the Episcopal Church!

Perhaps you've heard this line of reasoning before. Of all the attempts to de-Anglicanize members of traditional (non-Canterbury linked) Anglican Churches, it is the most painful to hear. This stance is rooted in the belief that churches bearing the name Anglican must be in communion with the See of Canterbury. If this is true (which I do not believe it to be), I would gladly give up the name "Anglican" and urge the adoption of some modification thereof as the "official" name if we were to be sued by the Church of England or the Episcopal Church. However, historically there have been Anglicans who have been forced from the "official" Church from one reason or another, usually for the sake of conscience. Was the schismatic Scottish Episcopal Church less Anglican because it was not recognized by Canterbury? These godly folk worshipped in house churches and barns rather than in the few "official" Anglican chapels in Scotland. If it was not Anglican, what did it bequeath to the American Episcopal Church with its Prayer Book and Episcopate? Were the Nonjuring bishops less Anglican because they followed their consciences and refused to swear an oath to new royalty when the King they had sworn themselves to was still alive (keeping in mind that they had been imprisoned and persecuted by this same King)? If an essential aspect of a "truly Anglican identity" is being in the good graces of Canterbury (as the Rev'd Dr. Toon seems to believe, although I'm not sure about this), then obviously I disagree, as I have demonstrated in practice for the last decade or so.

Here is my quandary to those who believe that being in communion with Canterbury is a part of the essence of Anglicanism: You are in a town (it could be anywhere in the English-speaking world) with an option between two parish churches bearing the name "Anglican". One is offering a 10:30 Eucharist that is advertised to focus on "the feminist Christ" or perhaps it offers the "Stations of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals" (in place of the Stations of the Cross--I did not make this up). This is the "official" Anglican parish. The second is a parish that is offering a Eucharist celebrated from the 1662 English or 1928 American Prayer Books; the advertisement for the parish says simply that--1662 Eucharist, Biblical preaching. This parish is part of a group that broke with the "official" Anglican Communion some time back (could have been last week, could have been 30 years ago, could have been more than a hundred years ago). Which do you think is truly preserving the Anglican Way in worship, ideals, and heritage? Which is more "essentially" Anglican?


Canon Tallis said...

The real question - or at least it seems so to me - is how you can call yourself an Anglican if you have remained in the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Church of Canada? Or do the words of the Old and New Testaments mean absolutely nothing to you?
And if Holy Scripture means nothing to you - or so little that you can continue to receive communion from those whom St Paul and his colleagues would never have suffered - how can you continue to think of yourself as a Christian under any circumstances?

Rude questions I know, but not quite so rude or intentionally cruel as what -KJS or -RW are doing to those still so simple as to remain in establishment Anglicanism.

Anonymous said...


Surely, substantive fidelity to authentic Anglicanism is certainly more important than a empty formal connection to the Established Church of England.

Anonymous said...

I think the stubborn resilience of the relationship between Canterbury and TEC speaks volumes about the value of relationship in the body. Anglican theology and practice is important, but so is communion in the body. Acts 2 suggests that both faith and relationship are essential to the being of the Church.

Therefore, both Communion Anglicans and non-Communion Anglicans can claim authenticity on some grounds but both must admit deficiency in other areas. From my side of the aisle, we keep the Anglican heritage in tact but we are alienated and isolated by party affiliation from our brethren.

My point is to say that we live in distressing times when lines are unclear and identity is muddled.

So, while I share your frustration at being told I am not really Anglican, the reality is neither side is living in complete conformity to Anglican catholicity.

So, are we Anglicans? Yes! Anglicans in the fullest sense? No. Are they Anglicans? Yes. Anglicans in the fullest sense of the word? No.

The question becomes, "How should we adequately correct the sobering deficiencies?"

The Common Cause Partnership is one good beginning.

But then again I may be wrong.

Rev. Canon Brad Cunningham+

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

Well, I respectfully disagree. The CCP's goal should be the unity of Anglicans in the United States (and un-Catholic practices like WO should be done away with as quickly as possible, contra +Minns), and any sort of unity with the AbpoC is of secondary importance to maintaining orthodox Anglican witness in these United States. I do not see any non-Cantuar Anglican body as lacking in anything because it is not in union with a see that has been occupied by heretics on and off for several decades and where, by CoE law, a future occupant can and will be a woman. When this day comes (as it has in ECUSA/TEC/Whatever) I think we can finally dispense with the notion that union with this see is a mark of "full Anglicanism."

Some of the "official" Communion can with some pride, I suppose, be rightfully called Anglicans due to their union with Cantuar (ECUSA/TEC/Whatever, the Anglican Church of Canada, despite their blatant rejection of all manner of orthodoxy). The more important thing is that it is difficult to call them Christian by any historic use of the term. Gnostic, perhaps, but not creedal Christians.

The CCP is a good start for the union of orthodox Anglicans in the US, but I fail to see lack of union with Cantuar as a "sobering deficiency."

CMWoodall said...


I had thought of replying to your post previous to this one...I'm glad I waited. I see that we agree.

You said, "Rome has erred"

My first thought was, "What of it? Canterbury now specialized in error!"
Oh, and where is the claim that Orthodoxy has erred? [another thread perhaps]

We are neither Cantuar nor Roman, so how do exist as Catholic & Orthodox & Anglican outside of all those streams.

A branch needs grafting and another needs pruning. Off we go...

Rev. Dr. Hassert said...

"You said, "Rome has erred"

And the errors are now given the weight of dogma needed for the salvation of the soul, hence my doubts as to real ecumenical discussion with Rome.

"My first thought was, "What of it? Canterbury now specialized in error!"

True, which is why I can't sign on to the notion that we (in the RE) need to link up with Canterbury. Have we in the RE erred in the past? Yes, in many ways--not in the DoP, but in the way we lived them out in the past (what we cut from the BCP, whereas our partners in the Free Church of England left much much more unchanged and remained close to the English Reformation Articles). What we can do is admit our error by reclaiming the 1662 BCP and the Articles (as we have done) and going forward.

"Oh, and where is the claim that Orthodoxy has erred? [another thread perhaps]"

Has Orthodoxy erred in her official dogmatic teaching (the Seven Councils, which we accept as well) or liturgy? Not that I can really see, which is probably why the REC seems to lose more priests to Orthodoxy while other Anglican jurisdictions lose more to Rome. It is only in documents in the post-Reformation era where she has embraced Roman notions that I must pause and say "Is this what Orthodoxy really believes? Are the Romans right in saying that they really do accept Purgatory and the like?" (See the entry on the Council of Jerusalem.) Also, they reject Augustine outright in most cases and many have a deep mistrust of anything Western, including worship. While I admire the Western Rite Service Book (90% of it ++Cranmer unchanged), as with the Roman Anglican Use, most WR parishes seem destined for oblivion and replacement with Byzantine rites. As someone on The Continuum blog has said "Anglicanism is best preserved by Anglicans."

"We are neither Cantuar nor Roman, so how do [we] exist as Catholic & Orthodox & Anglican outside of all those streams. A branch needs grafting and another needs pruning. Off we go..."

True. I think we can best live out our Christian vocation as Anglicans dedicated to the Truth of the Scriptures and the ancient Church. Our ecumenical relations (as with the CCP) should be based on these principles, not unity for the sake of it, but unity in spirit and in truth.