"The Preachers chiefly shall take heed that they teach nothing in their preaching, which they would have the people religiously to observe and believe, but that which is agreeable to the Doctrine of the Old Testament and the New, and that which the Catholick Fathers and Ancient Bishops have gathered out of that Doctrine." A proposed canon of Elizabeth I, 1571

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Location: Bedford, Texas, United States

I am a presbyter in the diocese of Fort Worth, Texas (Anglican Church in North America). I serve as Chaplain at St. Vincent's School and as a canon of St. Vincent's Cathedral Church in Bedford, Texas. In addition to my parish duties and teaching Religion classes in the school I am also the Middle School Social Studies teacher.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Network and the Common Cause Partners

One of the more exciting aspects of the present "realignment" of Anglicanism in North America is the prospect of reunion between the various traditionalist Anglican bodies in our country that have previously separated from the Episcopal church (many of which are not in communion with Canterbury) and the Anglican Communion Network dioceses (which are in communion with Canterbury). At its national gathering in a couple of weeks the Network will discuss signing onto two documents meant to foster that much-hoped-for reunion. I like the idea very much, and most of what is in these documents seems quite wise to me.

A couple of (what I hope are) minor problems:

*First, I am not sure why we need to have the caveat that "We believe the teaching of the Seven Ecumenical Councils in so far as they are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures, and have been held by all, everywhere, at all times." (Emphasis added. What could one object to in the documents of these councils that might not be "agreeable" to Holy Scripture, or fall short of the Vincentian Canon? Surely Rome and the East have no such objections, nor do I. What might be at issue here?)

*Second, as an Anglo-Catholic I am nervous about the strong statement endorsing the 39 Articles of Religion "as foundational for authentic Anglican belief and practice and as correctives to doctrinal abuses." (Emphasis added.) Granted, the majority of the Articles are salutary and could serve as an effective check on some pernicious heresies, but at least a few of the Articles could potentially be used by Low Churchmen to suppress traditional Catholic liturgical practices (e.g., the veneration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Reserved Sacrament, etc. See the final paragraphs of arts. XXV and XXVIII. Other liturgical problems could arise from art. XXII.). The Articles encode a strongly "Reformed" interpretation of the Faith as normative (e.g., art. XVII, among others), and a good number of Anglo-Catholics I know could not sign onto them without some pretty creative hermeneutics!

I would, if anyone cared to ask me, insist on protections for the traditional Anglo-Catholic understanding of our faith and practice before signing off on this clause. I note that a clause in the proposed "Covenant Declaration" declares the intent "to create a unity in the essentials of our Anglican faith that respects our varied styles and expressions." (Emphasis added.) This clause was surely included to insure that both Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics will be welcome to continue their customary practices and "expressions" in our reunified future. Excellent. But language should be included in the seventh paragrah of the proposed "Theological Statement" that insures any future disciplinary use of The 39 Articles will model this tolerant spirit between the Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic parties of orthodox Anglicanism. The potential for harm is too great if we do not.

The two documents under discussion are reproduced below. A story placing them in context may be found at the ACN web site.

Proposed Theological Statement of the Common Cause Partners

We, the representatives of the Common Cause Partners, do declare we believe the following affirmations and commentary to contain the chief elements of Anglican Reformed Catholicism, and to be essential for membership.

1) We receive the Canonical Books of the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Scripture as the inspired Word of God containing all things necessary for salvation, and as the final authority and unchangeable standard for Christian faith and life.

2) We confess the historic faith of the Undivided Church as declared in the Catholic Creeds.

3) We believe the teaching of the Seven Ecumenical Councils in so far as they are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures, and have been held by all, everywhere, at all times.

4) We hold the two sacraments of the Gospel to be ordained by Christ Himself, Baptism and the Supper of the Lord, and to be administered with unfailing use of Christ’s words of Institution and of the elements ordained by Him.

5) We accept the 1549 through the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and its ordinal as the foundation for Anglican worship and the standard for doctrine and discipline.

6) We believe the godly Historic Episcopate to be necessary for the full being of the Church.

7) We affirm the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion as foundational for authentic Anglican belief and practice and as correctives to doctrinal abuses.

Proposed Covenant Declaration of the Common Cause Partners

We intend by God’s grace:

• to partner together in a renewed missionary effort in North America and beyond, driven by our passion for Jesus and His Gospel.

• to ensure an orthodox Anglican Province in North America that remains connected to a faithful global Communion.

• to create a unity in the essentials of our Anglican faith that respects our varied styles and expressions.

• to build trusting relationships marked by effective coordination, collaboration, and communication.


Blogger Adam said...

Anglo-Catholics are in the wrong group, according to the documents you've provided here. It only speaks of two sacraments. I doesn't say anything about the ordination of women, which has been my biggest "huh?" about Anglo-Catholics in the Network from the beginning. It just doesn't make sense for the Catholics among us to join up with this Network. Never has.

10:56 AM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Adam, I am clearly more comfortable with the Network than you--or many other AC's I know--are. As for the sacraments, it speaks of two "great sacraments of the Gospel" (aka--the Dominical sacraments) but doesn't deny the existence of other sacraments. This clause essentially maintains the distinction between the two "sacraments of the Gospel" and the five other "sacramental rites" presently encoded in the Catechism of the 1979 Prayer Book (page 858-861). We accepted that division 27 years ago as tolerable, and this way of talking seems to be a "done deal" to me. It doesn't bother me much, as long as no one tries to stop the administration of the other five "sacramental rites."

As for WO, my own diocese and Quincy and San Joaquin have already lived in a state of "impaired communion" with the other member dioceses of the Network for decades because of this issue. If we could live with that tension for all that prior time, what has changed since GenCon03 that makes these otherwise "orthodox" dioeses (leaving aside WO issues) of the Network unworthy of our continued communion (albeit "impaired" to some degree) at the present time? Why adopt a hard line "no more fellowship" policy against Pittsburgh, SC et al, when many other provinces of the Anglican Communion we are trying so hard to remain a part of also ordain women to the priesthood? If we chose to be in communion with only those who retain the all male priesthood, then we will be part of a very small province in North America that is only in communion with a dozen or so other Anglican provinces around the world (and we would not in communion with Canterbury--the blog "Canterbury Tales" by Peregrinator listed them on April 1st, if you care to look there).

The Network is clearly dominated by people of Evangelical commitments, Adam, but they seem to be willing to work with Anglo-Catholics and all parties are to be able to preserve their distinctive practices and emphases within the Common Cause. (I would like protections to be more clearly spelled out in writing with reference to this 39 Article question, as stated above). I think it is better to try to maintain the breadth of the orthodox Anglican tradition across the Evangelical/Catholic divide than to try to "purge ourselves" of our Evangelical Anglican brothers and sisters, particularly when the mission of the Gospel has already been so compromised in Anglican circles already. We need all the help we can get in these trying times, and that requires being "as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves."

2:35 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:38 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Let's try that again


2:39 PM  
Blogger Julian said...

Although it's nice that orthodox Anglicans are getting together, I am deeply disappointed that the Network has come up with such a narrow definition of "orthodox Anglican" as the statement you posted. Seriously, we don't need to be *that* afraid of "inclusivity." Better cast the net a bit wide. I understand that at this point it's hard to define ourselves without drawing some lines... but there shouldn't be a huge statement of faith I have to sign in order to be recognized as a Christian who happens to be part of the Anglican Communion. I think the authors might need to look at the big picture a bit more.

Before I get to my issues, Texanglican, there might be good reasons for the caveats about the Ecumenical Councils. You wouldn't actually want to elevate the Nicea council forbidding kneeling on Sundays to the same level as the Creed? Tradition doesn't usually conflict with Scripture and in fact is necessary for interpreting Scripture,, but I think it is important to recognize that ultimately, Scripture comes first.

About the 39 Articles: I totally agree, and I am both surprised and dismayed that they actually put this in there. What is said about orthodox Christianity in the 39 Articles hasn't been said in catholic tradition already? The 39 Articles have a decidedly Protestant bias, and this is disturbing. IMHO there should be little to distinguish
Anglicanism from "orthodox, catholic Christianity" except our ecclesiology. Why exclude people unnecessarily? We could learn a thing or two about inclusivity from the "heretics" on this one...

Finally, my old pet peeve: Prayer Book. 1) The Prayer Books should *not* be the basis of worship, doctrine, and discipline. 2.) Even if they were, there should be no reason to exclude the current Prayer Book except for Protestant bias.

I think it is a serious mistake to try to define Anglicanism by the Prayer Books rather than our ecclesiological structure as a communion and perhaps our ideals. The Reformers who created the early Prayer Books did *not* do so primarily in order to create a "distinctively Anglican" rite. They
did it because they thought it was important to preserve, promote, and in some cases restore the catholic faith to the best of their ability, that's something that Anglicans of all stripes still try to do. It's ultimately the ideals behind the Prayer Books, not the words on the pages, that makes the Prayer Books Anglican. It's all too easy to try to identify one's denomination in terms of liturgy - and often it works just fine - but then think about the Uniate Catholics - or Church of the Ascension. Liturgy can be strongly associated with denominations, but ultimately doesn't necessarily define them. The fact that the Prayer Books have become a much loved rite in of themselves should not mean that they should define the limits of Anglican practice.

As for doctrine, I don't see the need to include the Prayer Book as an authority. What is said in the Prayer Books that isn't said in Scripture and Tradition? The fact that the PBs are derived from authority does not mean that they should themselves become authoritative. Speaking personally, I got quite sick at Nashotah of people proof-texting from the Prayer Book. It's a case of "lex orandi lex credendi" taken too far. (Please, if you're going to proof text, at least do it from the Bible.) Liturgy is an important witness to what has been believed, and no doubt it shapes what people belive. But it's no good to equate each new edition of the Prayer Book with an overhaul of an Anglican rule of faith. It's a recipe for new splinter groups every time there's a new Book.

In fact, I get the feeling that the Network has already painted itself into a corner on this one: if the Prayer Books are the standard, they must exclude the 79 Prayer Book if there is anything in in that they don't think should be authoritative for Anglicans. Here, again, is a strong Reformed bias. I'm not against the entire Protestant project here: e.g. I think it was a good idea to make the distinction between the Dominical sacraments and whatever others. But what could they think is wrong with the current Prayer Book? Subjective and sentimental arguments about aesthetics, familiarity, or patronage aside, how is the current Prayer Book inferior to the earlier ones? In terms of catholicity, the current Book is much superior, and therefore IMHO likely to be a better expression of the Anglican ethos.

Seriously, ;-p they need to get over the Prayer Book ...

5:29 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Thanks for the comments, Julian. Some interesting points made. One does wonder why the Prayer Books considered authoritative stopped with 1662.

6:59 PM  
Blogger The Rev. David Beckmann said...

My two bits regarding the Prayer Book business: The problem with the 1979 book is primarily in the Ordinal and Catechism. See Peter Toon's writings here. There was a watering down of commitment to the Word of God. It just smacks too much of accommodating modernism as over against being a result of biblical reflection upon 1662.
We in the EMC understand Anglicanism as Reformed Catholicism and our bishops are more of the Anglo-Catholic mold. There are many of us, however, who are more, what has been called, Evangelical (I don't like using Evangelical because of current nuances; I use the word Reformed without the Catholic, though I have no problems with what is meant by Reformed Catholicism - just struggling with the labels). Our Church is in total agreement with the 39 and, personally, I'd like to see the 39 to be reestablished more as a statement of Anglican faith as it was originally used. At the same time, I think the idea of our all finding our common faith in the creeds to be very beneficial. This means I am concerned about the Network's document as well. While recognising the 39 as representing historic Anglicanism at its root, at the same time the willingness of historic Anglicanism to include Arminian and Anglo-Catholic elements is, I think, a strength we do not want to lose.

9:14 AM  
Blogger father wb said...

Re: Prayer Book. I tend to agree with Peter Toon, though I do use the 1979. But it is pretty clearly (1) much less beautiful (cf. the Star Wars Canon), (2) includes that anomalous phrase "and also with you" (a pet peeve of mine) (3) is a revision in a decidedly accomodationist direction, in terms of enlightenment type thinking, rationalism, etc.

Re: Eccumenical Councils: I share your concern, Tex. And if we can cope with 1 Cor. 11 (re: women wearing veils), then surely we can cope with the disciplinary canons of Nicaea forbidding kneeling.

Re: 39 Articles. I've thought about this a good deal. What I think would help would be an explicit allowance of an interpretation of the 39 Articles along the lines of Tract 90. Or maybe it doesn't need to be explicit. So long as we understand that they don't have to be read such that Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, relics, etc. are illicit within Anglicanism.

2:40 PM  
Blogger An Anglican Cleric said...


You mentioned the "veneration of the blessed Sacrament" rather than the "adoration of the blessed Sacrament." I'm not sure if this was intentional, but either way it is, I believe, the correct turn of phrase.

The Romans might say "adoration of the Sacrament" because in Aquinas the bread and wine in their natural substance do not remain (which is contra many of the Church Fathers).

Anglicans (including those of the High Church tradition such as Andrewes and Cosin, and those of the Anglo-Catholic movement--Keble and Pusey explicitly) stated that the bread and wine remain. The bread and wine are the "Sacrament" of the "Body and Blood."

As Pusey states, even if we say that the Body and Blood are "in, with, and under" the bread and wine, these words affirm the existence of the bread and wine. So, if the bread and wine are the "Sacrament" how can we righly say we "adore" them? We cannot. It is best to say that we "venerate" these holy mysteries (when we speak of the Sacrament) of Christ's Body and Blood. We adore Christ is who unseen, while we venerate those outward and visible signs that convey him to us. I think a great deal of confusion and reluctance about this practice would vanish if we used terminology that was more in line with the 7th Council and not so conforming to the scholastic philosophy of the Roman Church of the 13th century.

6:00 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Agreed, Anglican Cleric. I recalled that the article prohibited "lifting up" the Sacrament "to be gazed upon", which I believe was referring in its original context to the lifting of the Sacrament up at the consecration so the faithful could venerate it. Of course, the same prohibition would also exclude Tridentine style Adoration as well (which I don't believe should be prohibited, myself, either). Either way, it is dangerous to put too high a disciplinary value on the Articles. They could too easily become a club for unwise Low Churchmen (should any appear on the scene) to use again Anglo-Catholics, thereby weakening orhtodox Anglicanism considerably.

6:29 PM  
Blogger Christopher+ said...

“We receive the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1562, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as the normative expression of the fundamental principles of the Anglican Way, and of its response to particular doctrinal issues controverted at that time.”
I believe this language may well be in the final form - It helps.

9:09 PM  
Blogger texanglican said...

Thanks, Father C. I am glad that someone involved in the process of forming these statments has taken our concerns into account.

10:51 PM  
Blogger Death Bredon said...

I hate to be so jaded and cynical, but the document sounds like "St. Louis Lite" to me.

But, best wishes!

10:37 PM  

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