The Anglican Itch

The Church of England and the Anglican “communion” have always fascinated me. I received my M.Div. from an Episcopal Seminary, and wrote my dissertation and first book (I am working on several seconds) on bishop John Jewel, the leading theological light of Elizabeth I’s first decade, and the chief defender of the 1559 Elizabethan Settlement. My brother William is a rector of the Faith Reformed Episcopal church in Baltimore. I have loved reading Anglicans, from Cranmer to Mascall, from Ridley to Dix, they are all grand and often edifying reads (especially the second of each pair). I have a picture of Edward B. Pusey on my office door, right next to a picture of the grand library at Pusey House, in Oxford. But I should note, and it was purposeful, that I did not include Bishop Jewel among those that I liked to read.

You should also notice that neither Ridley nor Cranmer would have any truck for Mascall or Dix (nor the other way round). The reason for this is that both Mascall and Dix were Anglo-Catholics, men who saw the Reformation as a colossal monstrosity. They would not have disagreed that late medieval Catholicism needed reform, but they would have had a church more like Henry VIII’s than Edward VI’s or Elizabeth I’s. Mascall himself was ready to go to Rome had not death taken him first. As anyone who looks at Anglicanism knows, it is broad enough to take in anyone along the theological gamut from Cranmer to Mascall, and it seems wholly a broad church, liberal in the best sense. But Jewel ripped the mask off for me, for he, as well as Cranmer and Ridley would never have countenanced such as Mascall and Dix. In reading the Bishop of Salisbury I saw that what Jewel, Ridley, and Cranmer wanted, and what they got, were completely different things: Jewel wanted a church like Zurich’s, Reformed and well-ordered, and adhering to the standards of theology current there. Instead what he got was what he called a “leaden mediocrity.” Jewel nonetheless took up his pen in defense of this not-so-golden mean, and in so doing made an ecclesiastical wasteland which would eventually come to encompass anything: from believing that which was held by everyone, everywhere at every time, it has turned into that which can be believed by anyone, anywhere at any time. It was in the Church of England’s birth that this antinomy emerged, that is, in the 1559 Settlement. Though the term was unknown, raison d’etat governed what was birthed out of parliament. Elizabeth got exactly what she wanted (see Norm Jones wonderful text, Faith by Statute).

This brings me to a rather curious post at The Conciliar Anglican. Here we have a modern Anglican, clearly not an Anglo-Catholic in the mold of Mascall or Dix, who wishes to keep his flock from bolting Anglicanism for Orthodoxy, and holds forth on why they should stay. After reading his essay, and correcting his mistakes and misreadings of what Orthodoxy teaches and says, it seems more an apology of why one should leave Anglicanism as quickly as possible.

First, his take on what Orthodoxy teaches about Scripture is special pleading and begged questions, especially the rather poisonous assertion that “. . . the decisions of the Church through the ages, the icons, the canon laws, the architecture, and even the music are in some sense inspired and must be weighed against the biblical witness when establishing doctrine.” From what Orthodox writer he took this I know not, for none would have said such a thing. Scripture taken with these earlier items (though I don’t know what he means by “music” unless it is to say hymnody) form the basis of our life. He seems completely to have missed the quote he took from Fr. Hopko: Tradition is the life of the Church. If I can flesh this out, or better put it, Incarnationalize it, we would say that Tradition is the continuous presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in His Body, the Church.

Both Christ and His Church predate Holy Scripture, whether the Old or the New Testament. Let us confine ourselves here to the New Testament. I believe it was in dom Gregory Dix that I first every read that the Church came to see the expiatory nature of the crucifixion through the expiatory nature of the Eucharist. It was the rule of Faith as found in the Eucharistic Liturgy that informed the rule of faith about Christ’s death. But what came first, the Eucharist, or Holy Scripture? Obviously the Eucharist. Who gave us this first as an unwritten rule? It was Christ Himself who handed this over to us. Thus tradition (which literally means “that which is handed over”) exits first in Christ (who is handed over to us by the Father), and then in what He leaves as a deposit with the disciples, and then they to those who come after them: “O Timothy! Guard the deposit entrusted to you” (I Timothy 6:20).

The Fathers of the Church recognized that this deposit was more than Scripture, but certainly never “against the biblical witness.” You can find the term “rule of faith” meaning something other than Holy Writ in Ss. Irenaeus, Athanasius, Basil the Great, inter alios, and especially in Tertullian. How did the Church know what books to include in the ‘canon’? Because they already had a canon, the apostolic deposit. There is no conflict between the two unless you come at Scripture with assumptions wholly other than those found in the Apostolic Church, which sadly, is what so many in Protestantism do. They come about as a reaction to late Medieval Catholic abuses, take up what they believe is the raw data of Christianity, and then read into it their own assumptions, which brings me to my next point, but the articles fourth, namely justification by faith alone.

As most Orthodox I know could tell you, the Bible does talk about justification by faith alone, and the phrase is actually used in the New Testament, once (never in the Old). I have asked my students where it is and get the same litany of answers every time: Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, John, Hebrews. And then finally they look and ask “Where?” In James.

That we are not justified by the works of the law, that is by some covenant of “this do and live” is obvious, for works in that context bespeaks having some sort of claim or binding obligation against God. But as also any informed Orthodox will tell you, we cannot obligate God, for the problem is not a lack of merit or lack of doing good (though this is a problem and we do sin constantly in deed, word, and thought), but that we are cut off from Life. It wouldn’t matter if I never sin, I am still cut off from God and am in need of Life, meaning I need to be united to and with Christ, who is Life Himself.

When St. Paul puts works in opposition to faith, it is not to say works have no value, nor that we cannot please God, but that we cannot obtain God’s mercy through them. Justification by faith (which is the same as saying “being made righteous by faith”) is not the same as justification by faith alone, for even St. Paul admits that faith is in need of love, faith is less than love, and that faith to move mountains is inadequate without love. On top of that, as he says in Galatians, love completes faith’s imperfections. Thus Fr. Jonathan’s assertion in the last part of his essay is correct, the Orthodox have no doctrine of forensic justification; but I would have to say “So? We are being condemned for not holding to something the Scriptures don’t teach?” For the Orthodox the doctrine of forensic justification, that justification is an act of God whereby I am declared righteous based on the merits of Christ, is a sixteenth-century interpolation on the Gospel, based upon an epistemology completely foreign to the ancient world. Who prior to the Reformers taught this? Granted, justification by faith alone was taught before this: it was taught by the heretic Marcion who denounced the place of the sacraments in salvation, but I hardly call that a catholic pedigree.

Fr. Jonathan also goes on about the filioque (the phrase added to the Creed that the Spirit proceeds “from the Father and the Son”), but I find this also a bit perplexing (N.B., he links to another article he wrote in the matter). The only verse in the Bible that speaks of the Spirit’s procession (John 15:26) says only that he proceeds from the Father. There are any number of books on this matter, indeed legion, of Rome’s shifting on this, and its confrontations with the Orthodox Church. I will just note one thing. Since the Scripture speaks only passingly on this, but the Fathers of the Church sought to put this in the Creed as simply “proceeds from the Father” as the means thereby to establish that the Spirit draws His divinity as does the Son from the Father, why make the addition of the superfluous filioque to the Creed, when it is clear that this is not something “affirmed at all times, everywhere, and by everyone.”

Fr. Jonathan then goes on to say that since the offending term lacks conciliar authority it should be dropped, and indeed Anglicanism worldwide has moved in this direction. So what exactly is he arguing in saying that the filioque is a reason to stay Anglican? But even more perplexing is that he wishes to pontificate on this and is wholly ignorant of the Orthodox position. First, when he explains his take on the filioque it is nothing but an explanation along economic and immanent lines: that Christ sends the Spirit from the Father with respect to the economy of salvation. Every Orthodox affirms this, and our point has to do not with the sending of the Spirit in the work of salvation, but the eternal origins of the divinity of the Spirit.

His confusion seems heightened when he quotes William Sherlock on the matter that there should be a union of person as well as nature in the Trinity. Why? What he (Fr. Jonathan) fails to see is that the imposition of the filioque at the Council of Toledo in 589 (not 587) had a confusion of person and nature at its very root. To posit that generating divinity is a mark of divinity (what the council was doing), they first made the Spirit a lesser deity (what person of the godhead does the Spirit then generate so that He has authentic divinity bona fides?), but also they made generating a property of divinity and not the property of the Father. Fr. Jonathan fails to see that what is shared, what is common, is natural. Thus the Spirit, not sharing in this shared property, is naturally not God. What he doesn’t seem to get is that the Creed clearly is speaking about the procession from all eternity of the Spirit, that is, the source of His divinity is solely from the Father. Again, though, I am not always sure what he is arguing for in his post on the Creed he says “All churches in the west today, Catholic or Protestant, that continue to recognize the authority of the Nicene Creed also continue to recite it with the filioque clause included,” but by the end of the article he is asserting that Anglicans have agreed to delete it. I will pick this up at the end of the post.

Lastly, Fr. Jonathan talks about “the need for Reformation.” So, does everything the Church has affirmed stand subject to the dictum (the Protestant canon of truth and doctrinal authority) semper reformanda? He says as much, that “in every era there will be heresy in the Church that will need to be corrected through reform, through returning to first principles, through returning to the Scriptures and the mind of the early Church.” But the whole section is fraught with, again, special pleading (“Some Orthodox…”) He builds his case around what he thinks some Orthodox mean by schism, and then attacks his straw man, to assert what the Orthodox teach when he has no idea what it is the Orthodox do teach on this matter.

First, the link he cites never asserts what he says it does. Secondly, there is a great deal of difference between schism and defection from the faith. There have been Patriarchs (e.g., Nestorius and Pyrrhus) who have defected from the faith, but these men are not the Church, nor do they represent the Church which condemned them and their teachings. This is an aside to the larger point: reformation. The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth, the living body of the living Christ, vivified by Him through the Spirit. If Christ’s promise that the Spirit will lead us into all truth and that He will remain with us forever are to mean anything than we need to know who and what the Church is. By his own admission, Anglicanism ain’t it. Its needed reformation, that is, it needed to be reconstituted by severing itself from the Church itself (the Elizabethan Settlement made it a point of oath that no bishop’s authority anywhere but in England could be recognized). Further, as Chesterton said, Tradition is not the dead faith of the living, but the living faith of the dead. Why? Because Tradition is rooted in the Life of Christ, and it is this continued life that exists in the Orthodox Church, the Faith delivered once and for all to the saints.

Many Anglicans take such pains to keep themselves Anglicans. I know of one who now would rather keep the term Anglican than the term Catholic. But at bottom it comes down to whether you want to stand with the Church catholic, or with those who seek to define themselves in opposition to it: “Oh, we are just like the Orthodox, except we have freed ourselves from idolatry (i.e., we don’t worship icons).” Yet ultimately these are not rejecting idolatry, but the definition of idolatry that the Orthodox (and Catholic) Church has accepted down to this day that icons are not idols, i.e., they want to accept their own definition of idolatry so that they can justify their declension from the Orthodox faith (to be fair, Fr. Jonathan is not, as best I can tell, an iconoclast). This is nothing but Catholicism and Orthodoxy on Anglican terms, which isn’t Catholic or Orthodox at all. It’s kind of like the wife who says, “I will submit to my husband when he’s right.”

But the case of the Anglican church is indeed more dire than this. At the beginning of my essay I mentioned both Cranmer and Dix, who faithful Anglicans can look to both as teachers of the Anglican patrimony. But of course there are a great many others in Anglicanism who would see those who hold to them as nothing but reactionaries, conservatives who have been left behind by the Zeitgeist. If Anglicanism is anything, alas it is nothing, for what am I to believe about the real presence of Christ in the Eucharistic elements? If I am an Anglican I can believe anything I wish. What about apostolic succession? Anything I wish. What about baptismal regeneration? Again, anything. What about priestesses in the Church? Many faithful would denounce it, but the vast majority see nothing wrong with it. So what if it breaks catholic order? We can simply unilaterally decide, apart from the rest of the Church, that it’s OK. If Fr. Jonathan wants to say that this is not Anglicanism—well, based on what? Sadly, certainly not Anglicanism. For if the Eucharist and bishops and baptism are all optional with respect to their catholic meaning, how can holy orders not fall under that same rubric?

Again, I have a debt to Anglicans. I know that many are faithful who have suffered mentally and emotionally to try to keep their faith intact. My points here are not that good and faithful people are not to be found among the Anglicans, but that Anglicanism itself suffers from a lack of true catholicity. There are certainly catholic and orthodox people within it (I need only think of my brother), but is it where the Orthodox Catholic Church is to be found?

44 comments:

  1. re: ‘both Christ and his Church predate scripture’. I would have to challenge that, I think; on the grounds that Christ’s Church began with the descent of the Holy Ghost on the day of Pentecost (or ‘Whitsunday’ – for the benefit of Anglicans) – on the disciples in the Upper room .
    This *post-dated* the Scripture referred to many times by Our Lord Himself in the Gospels: (I hope you will forgive the lack of citations?) – I come to fulfill the Law; not one word of the Law shall pass away; Isaiah prophesied rightly; &c.
    The Gospels, of course, themselves were written several decades after the earliest Epistles – Paul to the Galatians, for instance, late 40-early50 C.E. in which Paul makes reference God’s Promise to Abraham and Sarah (c.3).
    Both Paul, and Our Lord Himself make considerable use of the Psalms – the most vivid example being, I suppose, “My God, My God, why hast thou deserted me?”

    The point being, of course, that all the quotes and/or references are taken from writings prior to the existence of the Church.

    1. I think it’s pretty clear that what’s meant here is the whole of the Christian Scriptures, not only the Old Testament. Of course, if sola scriptura believers are willing to jettison the New Testament, then certainly, yes it is true that all the Scriptures would pre-date the Church.

      Then again, following what the Orthodox Church believes, the Church actually does predate all of the Scriptures, because the Church is eternal. Why? Because Christ is the Church, and the communion of the Church is precisely the communion of the Holy Trinity. Pentecost was therefore not the Church’s actual beginning, but rather the full extension of that communion into human persons.

      1. And really, everyone back to Abraham and the long-suffering Job constitute the one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church (who all pre-date the written Scriptures, even of the Old Testament). They were God’s people then, and experienced the fullness of that Faith under the preaching of John the Forerunner in Hades, prior to Christ’s resurrection.

  2. Would you distinguish between Anglicanism as it exists in the Anglican communion–in the Episcopal Church, and the ACNA, etc.–and as it exists in the continuing movement?

    1. Matthew, some of this has been touched on below. I am not intending to be sarcastic, but comparing these various groups is akin to walking through a bizarro world house of mirrors dressed in reflective rhinestones. Each in some way reflects the distended and amorphous catholicity of the other, but none comprehend the icon in any true way. The continuum is a vast array of beliefs (and William Tighe can speak to this no end), a menagerie probably as diffuse, though with a patina of piety, as the spectrum one finds in E’C’USA, that habitude of every fowl spirit and unclean bird. What sets the continuum apart is that by-and-large they have recognized the heretical nature of ECUSA with respect to clear breaches of elements of catholic order, primarily over women’s ordination. I should point out that the Reformed Episcopal left over the question of Anglo-Catholicism, and have only in the past few decades made any common cause with the Anglo-Catholics. They have also, however, flirted with ACNA which as I understand it, takes no real stand on the question of priestesses, allowing various dioceses to create such creatures. As can be seen in some of the responses to Fr. Jonathan below, the formularies for many of the continuum groups are little more than pious advice, and each in various ways and with various fidelity adheres to them. Most in the continuum will have little to do with ACNA over the question of priestesses, even though they see many in ACNA as cobelligerents.

  3. Matthew, I will get back to you on this come Friday. I will be incommunicado for the next 48 hours, visiting an old and dear friend, along with two of my godchildren.

  4. I rarely post long comments, but this has touched a subject that is near and dear to my heart and, I suspect, to that of my Patron Saint, Theodore of Tarsus, Archbishop of Canterbury. I guess it is my “testimony” in support of what Dr. Jenkins wrote in this essay.

    I will always be grateful for much that I gained in my nearly two decades as an Anglican. The quiet but devoted piety that I frequently experienced; the beauty of the texts of the Book(s) of Common Prayer (even of much of Rite II , despite its detractors); the musical heritage; the concern with the propagation of the faith; the pastoral sensitivity; the vision of a Catholicity that was not dependent upon an infallible super-bishop; the ability to walk in procession in a straight line (LOL): these have left a lasting imprint upon my soul. Through them, I found my way to Holy Orthodoxy — in which all that is best in the Biblical-Patristic quest of men like the Caroline Divines finds it home and fulfillment.

    I came to believe, eventually and reluctantly, that the “problem” with Anglicanism was rooted not in its modern aberrations but, as Dr Jenkins notes, in the Elizabethan Settlement itself. The branches are rotting because the roots never sank far enough to reach the life-giving springs of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church (though the quest for this was real and sincere enough). Anglicanism sought to be the Church of the ancient Fathers and Councils, guided by Scripture, Tradition, and sound Reason; but from day one its search was misdirected both by its virulent political and theological anti-Romanism and by its enthusiastic pro-Reformationism. Try though they might, its best and brightest lights (and there have been some wonderful and saintly ones, even up to recent times) were never able to lead it beyond its inherent confusion and contradictions.

    All the recent “developments” within Anglicanism, whether in theology or ecclesiology or morals, are symptoms of its ill-begotten nature, not the causes of a previously unknown illness. They can be traced to the inherent flaws of the original Anglican ethos: a State-mandated reformation that sought to keep diametrically opposed viewpoints united through “articles for the Settlement of Religion” and a liturgy that preserved just enough elements of — as it was blatantly called — the “Old Religion,” innoculated with key elements of the New Religion, so that many could go along with it for patriotism’s sake while construing it so as to soothe their consciences.

    The unified, stately, and pseudo-traditional liturgy covered over the true divides between the members of the Church and State, which were seen as one and the same entity, even though various sub-sets within the Church interpreted the common text of the liturgy differently. But with the demise of that illusion, and the arising of Anlgo-Catholic “embellishments,” followed by progressive “alternative” liturgies, the long-existent chasms between the different sub-sets within the Church were revealed in all their breadth and depth. Now, the various liturgies pointedly represent the various theologies and ideologies of their composers and celebrants. This, in turn, reinforces the message that theology/truth are subjective, which necessitates the imagining of a new role for Scripture and the negating of the value of the Tradition of which Scripture forms a part. This volte-face leads inexorably to the re-casting of the Eucharist as being about the feelings of the recipient, not the Life of the Giver (hence the growing push for communion without baptism, relationships without commitment, etc.).

    Have all Anglicans succumbed to this genetic illness? No, certainly not. Many individuals have risen above it and lived godly, sober, and righteous lives of faith and love. But the longer the illness has to take its course, the more complete will be the devastation it visits upon all who are infected. This is why I, for one, could not look to “continuing” Churches: precisely because they are continuing something that has been fundamentally flawed from the beginning and could not live up to its own idealization of the famous Vincentian Canon. I knew that, ultimately, if I was to “continue” with the genuine, orthodox Church of the Bible and the Fathers, the living Body of Christ, I had to be part of the only ecclesia that could demonstrate unbroken theological sacramental, and historical “continuity” with that Church, i.e., the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of the Orthodox.

    There was a time in history when, due to language, culture, and its struggle under Islamic or totalitarian oppression, Orthodoxy was all but inaccessible to Anglicans who inclined towards it. But that time is past and these are no longer valid excuses for trying (as I did) to “be Orthodox” in Anglicanism since it was “the closest thing to it,” but in a comfortable cultural milieu.

    I respect and pray for those who, in good conscience, cannot take the leap that I did, or whose leap has, in equally good conscience, taken them in a different direction; I sorrow and pray for those who have fallen victim to the creeping rot; and I prayerfully urge those who, from indifference or a preference for the merely comfortable, have continually drawn new lines in the sand as they retreat, General Convention after General Convention, to ask themselves, “Is continued complacency really a viable option in view of eternity?” Let us all beware the fate of those who are “neither cold nor hot” (Rev 3:15-16).

    Please forgive anything that I have over-simplified or in which I have misspoken.

    1. I greatly desire and pray daily that the Orthodox would reach out to the Continuing Anglicans and begin a much more fruitful dialogue that will likely lead to inter-communion than the academic dialogue with the Canterbury Anglican Communion. The Continuing Anglicans hold the best hope for reestablishing the Western Orthodox Catholic Church and taking a large step to creating a united American Orthodox Church.

      Lord have mercy and give us the desire to step out on faith.

      1. I am a Canterbury Anglican who is seriously exploring Orthodoxy. Continuing Anglicanism is not easily accessible here in South Africa, so my natural choice became the Orthodox Church. I pray all the time for the same thing….. For Orthodoxy to dialogue with continuing Anglicanism as there is hope of good fruits there. Sadly, the Anglican Catholic Church says (in their website), that they are simply small fries hence EO is concerned with dialogue only with the worldwide AC.

  5. Since Professor Jenkins also posted this on his own blog, I made my comments there. I will repeat below, for the sake of continuity, although he has already responded in the comments on his blog.

    Professor Jenkins,

    I appreciate your attempt to engage my post and your desire to robustly defend Orthodoxy as you understand it. I won’t try to argue individual points of doctrine with you as I imagine that, given the background you cite, you’re well aware of where we would differ. But for the sake of clarity, I would like to offer a few correctives.

    Firstly, I apologize if it seemed to you that I was trying to suggest that the Orthodox do not value Scripture or hold it as authoritative, nor did I mean to suggest that Scripture is considered by Orthodox to be equally as authoritative as icons and hymnody. My point was merely that the Orthodox tend to view Scripture as part of a much larger body of revelation, all of which is inspired by God and in some sense binding on the conscience. While the Orthodox would insist that Scripture does not contradict these other things, classical Anglicanism asserts that Scripture is the norm by which we judge all else. This, it seems to me (and seemed to the Reformers), is also how the Fathers saw it. We can debate the accuracy of that assertion until the cows come home, of course, but that is where the disagreement lies, is it not?

    Pertaining to the filioque, my point in the original post on the matter was that the filioque is biblically and theologically sound but that it lacks the kind of conciliar basis that it really ought to have in order to be authorized for the whole Church. In Orthodox-Anglican dialogues over the last forty years, Anglicans have repeatedly agreed that if it would allow for greater communion we would be willing to drop the filioque, at least until the matter could be taken up by a council. Nonetheless, the theology behind the filioque, and its interpretation, is a matter which continues to divide us. I offered this point not as an argument for staying Anglican, as you seem to think, but rather, as with all the other issues I brought up, as a marker of where division exists between our traditions. You will notice that I begin the piece by praising various things that Orthodoxy and Anglicanism have in common. My goal in writing this was not to attack Orthodoxy but to challenge Anglicans to know and understand their faith, as per the question I received. If someone comes to the conclusion that the Orthodox Church is the one true Church and that there alone Christ is to be found, I cannot fault them, but I believe that many Anglicans turn to Orthodoxy as a kind of balm for their wounds without actually understanding what it is they are giving up by making the trek across the Bosphorous.

    Finally, your assertion that Anglicans can believe whatever they wish about the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, apostolic succession, and baptismal regeneration is simply false. While there are a great many people who would call themselves Anglican and believe all sorts of things, Anglicanism itself is not created by a popular vote. It is the religion found in the pages of Holy Scripture, as understood and taught and confessed by the Fathers of the early Church, made available to us today by way of the sixteenth century Anglican formularies. The formularies are quite clear on each of the issues you mentioned.

    1. Fr. Jonathan,

      I very much appreciate the gracious tone and clarity of your remarks. Thank you. I hope you will permit me to push back on your last point since I see it as one essential difference between Orthodoxy and Anglicanism. You said in your last sentence that “The formularies are quite clear on each of the issues you mentioned.” The inference here is that the formularies are a binding dogmatic authority for Anglicans, or at least for what it really means to be Anglican. If that is so one would expect to find a common faith, speaking in dogmatic terms at least, among those Anglicans who are in communion with one another. This is indeed what one finds among the Orthodox Churches all of whom submit to the faith and practice of the Ecumenical Councils. However if some Anglicans do not adhere to the authority of the formularies and yet remain in communion with those who do the authority of the formularies, and thereby the specificity of the term “Anglican” which you are defending, is effectively rendered null and void is it not?

      1. Fr. John,

        You are quite right to point to the lack of theological clarity in modern Anglican churches as a sign of deep distress, which is why the Anglican Communion has been in such a state of fury for the last decade, as it has become increasingly clear that not all of us adhere to our previous theological commitments. The question, though, is whether this chaos is caused by Anglicanism or rather by a retreat from Anglicanism. It is my contention that it is the latter. For more than a century and a half, Anglicans have been drifting further and further from the faith that is articulated in our formularies, the faith that was lived, fought, and died for by so many in the centuries before. We are assuaged with Anglo-Catholics who want Anglicanism to be a kind of Romanism without the pope (or for some, perhaps, with the pope but only so long as he imposes no discipline on them), Liberals who like to wear the churchy outfits but have no interest in the doctrine, and Evangelicals who think of the Anglican Church as nothing more than a convenient pond to fish in. The problem with each of these is that their first commitment is to a theology outside of Anglicanism rather than to the faith as taught by Anglicanism itself.

        It is no wonder that our structures are collapsing, given what little faith we have put in them. But the problem lies not with Anglicanism but with the attempt to try to turn Anglicanism into something it’s not, like trying to read a great piece of literature as if it were a phone book. If I may be allowed to re-appropriate a line from Chesterton, Anglicanism has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.

  6. Fr Jonathan,

    So far as I can tell what you are saying is that authentic Anglicanism is an Ivory Billed Woodpecker. What I mean is this: If formulary Anglicanism (FA) = authentic anglicanism and FA is not the binding authority, or even the frame of reference, for any Anglican group (TEC, ACNA, CANA, CoE, etc..) as a whole the situation you are left with is one in which authentic Anglicanism is expressed only in particular parishes or perhaps some dioceses. The parallel I first thought of was iconoclasm but when iconoclasm reigned in the East Roman Empire Maximus the Confessor fled to the West which was still orthodox. The entire Church had not fallen, just the leadership of the eastern half. Correct me if I am wrong but in the case of modern Anglicanism it seems that there is no ark remaining if adherence to FA would constitute such. What part of the Anglican Church (using the broad definition of the term) maintains the authentic Anglican tradition of FA that you embrace? Thanks for the conversation!

    1. What about the Continuing Anglicans? Clearly TEC has committed apostasy with women and homosexual ordination and the ACNA is heretical with its acceptance of women ordination but the Continuing Anglicans left because of these failures. Seems to me they are trying to preserve Holy Tradition.

      1. Yes, but how many Continuing Anglican groups adhere to the 39 Articles? The Anglican Catholic Church, for instance (and despite the touting of the 39 Articles at “The Continuum” blog), has embraced “The King’s Book” of 1543 as its primary doctrinal statement, which espouses a mildly “reforming” Henrician Catholicism.

      2. There are all kinds of things we could say about Anglicanism. The question I am asking Fr. Jonathan is rather specifically related to his two complementary assertions that Anglicanism is not so diverse as to be incoherent and that authentic Anglicanism is the Anglicanism of the formularies. Questions of woman’s ordination, homosexuality, etc., are germain to the broader question of Anglicanism as authentic historic Christianity but not to this particular issue. Dr. Tighe’s response however is a good example of the difficulty one has in discovering what are the binding sources of authority that would help an outsider like me know what is meant by the word “Anglican.”

  7. Fr. John,

    On paper, most Anglican churches are doctrinally orthodox in upholding the formularies. There is some room to quibble over this with the American Episcopal Church, of course, given the way in which the 1979 Book of Common Prayer departs dramatically from its predecessors, but even in that book one still sees broadly the marks of a Reformed Catholicism. The recently proposed Anglican Covenant has raised the ire of lots of folks around the Anglican Communion because of some of the material in the fourth section, regarding discipline, but almost no one has objected to the first three sections which include, among other things, statements of fidelity to the faith articulated by the formularies. ACNA is quite explicit in endorsing the formularies as its standard of faith. Certainly there have been a number of Global South churches that do the same. So, in one sense, everyone is practicing classical Anglicanism (at least in the Anglican Communion – I cannot speak for those churches that have departed from relationship with Canterbury or that never were in such a relationship in the first place). The problem is that in many places, perhaps most places, this claim of adherence to the formularies is done with a wink and a nod. Even in the Church of England today, there are many parishes that do not use the prayer book or anything like the prayer book, despite the fact that the prayer book is our highest source of doctrine next to the Scriptures themselves. None of that abuse, however, changes the fact that these formularies articulate our official doctrine.

    I understand the difficulty that someone from the outside encounters assessing modern Anglicanism, and I’m not immune to the criticism that it is hard to have a conversation with us since we ourselves cannot seem to agree. But I think that it’s a bit misleading to attack Anglicanism for incoherence by pointing to the conflicting thoughts of this or that person, or even the statements of this or that church body, rather than looking at the definitive sources. Why attack the Elizabethan Settlement while ignoring the documents that came out of that settlement which continue to be authoritative statements of Anglican faith to this day? It would be a bit like attacking Roman Catholicism for something some random bishop said or even something some random group like the LCWR said while ignoring the Council of Trent and the encyclicals of the various popes.

    And if I may be so bold as to push back a little, recognizing that I’m writing this on a blog full of fired up Orthodox who certainly will know more about Eastern Orthodoxy than I do, but wouldn’t it be fair to say that in some ways the position of Anglicanism on many of these things is actually clearer than the position of Orthodoxy, at least in terms of authoritative statements? After all, if I understand correctly, there’s really nothing that is binding on Orthodox after the close of the seventh Ecumenical Council in terms of doctrine and no dogmatic statement beyond the Nicene Creed. The Book of Common Prayer, the Catechism, and the 39 Articles may not be exact enough by the standards of confessional Protestant bodies, but they do at least give one a foothold for discovering orthodox Anglican teaching. Where does one go for the definitive statement of Orthodoxy on apostolic succession? Where do we find the definitive statement of Orthodoxy on the Real Presence? The answer would likely be some form of, “In the Fathers and in the Scriptures.” But Anglicans and Orthodox share these two sources of authority, despite our different application of the former. Our formularies bind us explicitly to the first four Ecumenical Councils and largely to the Christological definitions of the latter three. In fact, the beauty of the formularies is that they put the theology of the Fathers and the faith of the early Church into the hands of the common person who will never read the entire library of Saint Augustine’s writings or Saint Chrysostom’s sermons but who nevertheless wishes to be faithful to the teaching of Christ. If I wanted that same thing as an Orthodox, where would I go? Or would I be entirely beholden to the local priest, without any way of checking to see if he’s giving it to me straight or adding his own embellishments? How could I even be sure that I am Orthodox?

    1. Fr. Jonathan,

      Thank you for correcting my impression on Anglicanism’s relationship to the formularies. I understand you to be saying that the formularies are attended to, at least on paper, by most Anglicans. Please accept my apology for misrepresenting you. I admit however that your reply raised another question for me. In your first paragraph you said:

      “The problem is that in many places, perhaps most places, this claim of adherence to the formularies is done with a wink and a nod. Even in the Church of England today, there are many parishes that do not use the prayer book or anything like the prayer book, despite the fact that the prayer book is our highest source of doctrine next to the Scriptures themselves.”

      If your characterization is correct, and I assume it is, the state of things is that Anglicanism is indeed a rare bird, the lovely Ivory Bill, and doubly hard to find because it is surrounded by its commoner but nearly identical cousin, the Pileated. This seems to me to me a different reality than the incoherence I was suggesting earlier but no less troublesome. What I read you to be saying is that many or most Anglicans aren’t Anglicans in much more than name. Which leads me to wonder what you think they are?

      You asked a very nice question in your push back (though I was disappointed by the lack of bird analogies) that I will now attempt to answer. You asked where one finds the sources of authority that articulate what it is to be Orthodox. My answer is your answer, by which I mean that you gave the answer in your own reply above. You said that “the prayer book is our highest source of doctrine next to the scriptures themselves.” Well for us it isn’t the prayer book but the prayers themselves. It is our worship, especially but not exclusively the Divine Liturgy (including the hearing and exposition of the scriptures) which articulates what it means to be Orthodox. You can find the material from the Ecumenical Councils as well as other local councils and the teachings of many of the Church Fathers from every era online but most all that is necessary to be Orthodox is condensed into the texts and actions performed by the clergy and the people during the divine services. The epistle reading in our lectionary for today was the first 11 verses of I Cor. 15 in which Paul says that he has delivered to the Corinthians what he himself received. St. John Chrysostom points out that Paul did not say that the Corinthians learned what he taught them but that they carried what he handed to them. This is an apt expression of how Orthodoxy is got at. One becomes Orthodox by entering honestly and voluntarily into the act of worshipping as Orthodox and having that act of worship exegeted through preaching and instruction.

      P.S. It would be incorrect to say that nothing which happens after the 7th Ecumenical Council is binding on Orthodox, the synodal statements and patriarchal encylicals which the various Orthodox churches produce are certainly binding in their jurisdiction. For instance, each local Orthodox Church has guidelines on how to receive converts which cannot be found in the canonical material of the first millenium simply because there weren’t any protestants then. As a priest yourself you know that a priest is actually rather powerless apart for the authority people choose to give him. They can refuse to come to me for confession if they do not trust or respect me. They can ignore me when I talk, they can stop giving, and if they think something is really amiss they have recourse to the Dean (more-important-priest-than-me) and the bishop at who’s privilege I serve. So yes, I suppose I could simply tell people what I want but as soon as they call me out for it I am at the mercy of the Dean, Bishop and the Synod. More important than this however is that as a priest (I am sure you are sensitive to this too) I am concerned for my own salvation and I promised at my ordination that I would be faithful to preserve intact what I was entrusted with. If I break that promise I am damned. And I’ll be damned if that happens to me! (Do you see what I did there?) Thanks again for the conversation. I am enjoying it.

      1. Fr. John,

        You wrote:
        “What I read you to be saying is that many or most Anglicans aren’t Anglicans in much more than name. Which leads me to wonder what you think they are? “

        That’s a good question. It’s hard to understand the effect that the rise of “parties” within Anglicanism has had over the last century and a half from the outside. The “parties” are where people give their allegiance, and what each party teaches becomes what those raised in a particular parish come to think of as Anglicanism. So, if I grew up in an Evangelical parish, my understanding of Anglicanism would be totally Evangelical and in many ways indistinguishable from Evangelicalism in other Christian traditions. Similarly, if I grew up in an Anglo-Catholic parish of a certain kind, I would understand Anglicanism to be essentially a popeless Roman Catholicism. This would horrify many of the early lights of these parties who only wished to see the Church of England return to Anglican first principles, which are both Evangelical and Catholic (the third party being “Liberal,” which kind of exists as a bizarre form of the other two). But there we are. It is a most unfortunate set of circumstances. But as I said above, I believe the remedy for this is not to turn people away from Anglicanism but to educate them as to what Anglicanism actually is.

        I wouldn’t want to necessarily deny that a person who is a member of an Anglican church but rejects some of Anglicanism’s founding principles is an Anglican, but I don’t know what I would call them to differentiate them. Some people have suggested that we look at the parties in Anglicanism the same way that Roman Catholicism looks at different groups within itself, Franciscans versus Carthusians or Scholastics versus Mystics, as groups that accentuate different things but all hold to a familiar core. I think this is probably achievable, but it would require a great deal of humility on the part of the parties as they exist, along with an acknowledgement of some of the others’ positions as they’re found in the formularies. Anglo-Catholics, for instance, really need to acknowledge that Anglicanism teaches justification by faith alone, but Evangelicals need to acknowledge that Anglicanism teaches baptismal regeneration and the necessity of the historic episcopate.

        I appreciate your response that the liturgy itself is a great source of authority for Orthodox. I’d be curious to know more about how that functions. I think that perhaps this is something that we largely share. Lex orandi, lex credendi. I apologize, however, for my lack of bird metaphors, as I am woefully unversed in the subject. I have at times tried to make theological analogies that involve comparisons with early nineties rap albums, but I seem to be the only person alive with a passionate interest in both subjects.

        I hear what you are saying about the fact that the priest has no real mechanism for making people listen to him, and I was not trying to assert that Orthodox priests would purposefully mislead anyone. My point was merely that without an accessible reference for laity, it can be hard for them to know if what their priest is telling them is legit. I’ve often had lay people say to me, “How do I know that what you’re saying is true and what the Lutheran or Presbyterian or even the other Episcopalian guy down the block says isn’t?” And I tell them that they can test what I say by the Scriptures and by the Fathers, but if they don’t have the time to work that hard to find an answer, they can always test it against the formularies since what they’ll find there is nothing more than the faith found in the Scriptures as taught by the Fathers.

    2. To be honest, while there are a lot of things I could say here, I’ll at least mention this one: It seems to me that you are saying that Anglicanism is great on paper, but in utter shambles in practice, while you think that Orthodoxy is bad on paper, but (presumably) doing just fine in practice.

      I honestly have to wonder how the paper is actually a mark of legitimacy.

      (Mind you, what this actually reveals is that there is a different sense of epistemology and authority here. Protestantism in all its forms—yes, including Anglicanism—places authority in texts, while Rome places it in one man. Orthodoxy places it in the whole Orthodox Church, which means one must be a faithful part of the communion in order to be within that authoritative scope. You can’t just “look it up” and be satisfied that you’re all good.)

      There are other issues here, too, such as why we should believe you against almost all of your co-religionists that your brand of Anglicanism is the One True Anglicanism, as well as how Anglicans can have apostolic succession through a body (Rome) that you would regard as being heretical for at least several centuries. (Does apostolic succession successfully skip multiple generations?)

      But those aside, this one for me is the most critical—if the actual church life of the average Anglican is actually an utter mess (and it seems to me, and apparently to you, that it is), then what good are the formularies? And why should we believe your interpretation of them when hardly anyone else in your communion does? And, further, how can you remain in communion with people with whom you do not share a common faith?

      1. To be fair, Fr. Damick, “officially” speaking, the Orthodox Church acknowledges the Apostolic Succession of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Please consider the following:

        The Patriarch of JERUSALEM, 1923
        The Patriarch of Jerusalem wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury in the name of his Synod on March 12, 1923, as follows:

        “To His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, First Hierarch of All England, our most beloved and dear brother in our Lord Jesus, Mgr. Randall. Greeting fraternally your beloved to us, Grace, we have the pleasure to address to you the following: Yesterday we dispatched to Your Grace the following telegram: ‘We have pleasure inform Your Grace that Holy Synod of our Patriarchate after studying in several meetings question Anglican Orders from Orthodox point view resolved their validity.’ Today, explaining this telegram, we inform Your Grace that the Holy Synod, having as a motive the resolution passed some time ago by the Church of Constantinople, which is the church having the First Throne between the Orthodox Churches, resolved that the consecrations of bishops and ordinations of priests and deacons of the Anglican Episcopal Church are considered by the Orthodox Church as having the same validity which the Orders of the Roman Church have, because there exist all the elements which are considered necessary from an Orthodox point of view for the recognition of the grace of the Holy Orders from Apostolic Succession. We have great pleasure in communicating to Your Grace, as the First Hierarch of all the Anglican Churches, this resolution of our Church, which constitutes a progress in the pleasing-to-God work of the union of all Churches, and we pray God to grant to Your Grace many years full of health and salvation.

        (Signed) DAMIANOS

        February 27/March 12, 1923 Official translation published in The Christian East, vol. IV, 1923, pp. 121-122.

        The Archbishop of CYPRUS, 1923

        The Archbishop of Cyprus wrote to the Patriarch of Constantinople in the name of his Synod on March 20, 1923, as follows:

        “To His All-Holiness the Oecumenical Patriarch Mgr. Meletios we send brotherly greeting in Christ. Your Holiness – Responding readily to the suggestion made in your reverend Holiness’ letter of August 8, 1922, that the autocephalous Church of Cyprus under our presidency should give its opinion as to the validity of Anglican Orders we have placed the matter before the Holy Synod in formal session. After full consideration thereof it has reached the following conclusion: It being understood that the Apostolic Succession in the Anglican Church by the Sacrament of Order was not broken at the Consecration of the first Archbishop of this Church, Matthew Parker, and the visible signs being present in Orders among the Anglicans by which the grace of the Holy Spirit is supplied, which enables the ordinand for the functions of his particular order, there is no obstacle to the recognition by the Orthodox Church of the validity of Anglican Ordinations in the same way that the validity of the ordinations of the Roman, Old Catholic, and Armenian Church are recognized by her. Since clerics coming from these Churches into the bosom of the Orthodox Church are received without reordination we express our judgment that this should also hold in the case of Anglicans – excluding intercommunio (sacramental union), by which one might receive the sacraments indiscriminately at the hands of an Anglican, even one holding the Orthodox dogma, until the dogmatic unity of the two Churches, Orthodox and Anglican, is attained.”

        Submitting this opinion of our Church to Your All-Holiness, we remain, Affectionately, the least of your brethren in Christ,
        Cyril of Cyprus

        Archbishopric of Cyprus. March 7/20, 1923 Published in The Christian East, vol. IV, 1923, pp. 122-123.

        The Patriarch of ALEXANDRIA, 1930

        After the Lambeth Conference of 1930, the Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria found itself able to join in the recognition of Anglican Orders. The decision was announced in a letter from the Patriarch to the Archbishop of Canterbury as follows:

        “To the Most Reverend Dr. Cosmo Lang, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of All England, Greetings in the New Born Christ The Feast of the Nativity, according to the Flesh, of the Redeemer of our Souls being a most suitable occasion for us, as it were, to visit your Beatitude, our friend, by means of a letter, we come to you hereby with a heart that is filled alike with joy, that “unto us is born a Savior, which is Christ the Lord,” and with fervent prayers both for your health and for the peace and stability of the holy Churches of God over which you preside. At the same time, together with our greetings for the Feast, we send you as our gift the news, which we are sure will be good news, to you, that having derived the greatest gratification from the accounts which it has received, both of the marks of honor which were rendered in London, alike by your Grace and by the general body of your Church, to the office which is ours, and also of the happy results which by the favouring breath of the Holy Spirit have emerged from the contact of the Orthodox Delegation with the Lambeth Conference, our Holy Synod of the Metropolitans of the Apostolic and Patriarchal Throne of Alexandria has proceeded to adopt a resolution recognizing the validity, as from the Orthodox point of view, of the Anglican Ministry. The text of that resolution is as follows: “The Holy Synod recognizes that the declarations of the Orthodox, quoted in the Summary, were made according to the spirit of Orthodox teaching. Inasmuch as the Lambeth Conference approved the declarations of the Anglican Bishops as a genuine account [1] of the teaching and practice of the Church of England and the Churches in communion with it, it welcomes them as a notable step towards the Union of the two Churches. And since in these declarations, which were endorsed by the Lambeth Conference, complete and satisfying assurance is found as to the Apostolic Succession, as to a real reception of the Lord’s Body and blood, as to the Eucharist being thusia hilasterios [2] (Sacrifice), and as to Ordination being a Mystery, the Church of Alexandria withdraws its precautionary negative to the acceptance of the validity of Anglican Ordinations, and, adhering to the decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, of July 28, 1922, pronounces that if priests, ordained by Anglican Bishops, accede to Orthodoxy, they should not be re-ordained, as persons baptized by Anglicans are not rebaptized.”

        We rejoice to see the middle wall of partition being thrown down more and more, and we congratulate your Beatitude that under God you have had the felicity of taking the initiative in furthering that work. May the Lord Who was born in Bethlehem give to you and to us the happiness of its completion.

        In Alexandria upon the Feast of Christ’s Nativity, 1930 Your Beatitude’s Beloved Brother in Christ,
        Meletios of Alexandria
        
February 27/March 12, 1923 Official translation published in The Christian East, vol. IV, 1923, pp. 121-122.

        1. Yes, I am indeed familiar with these documents from the high point of Orthodox-Anglican relations. They’re not the first nor the last word on the subject, however, and have about as much force within Orthodoxy as the much more fully signed-onto decrees of the Council of Florence.

      2. AJ

        Several items should be pointed out: 1) these letters all circulated around the Patriarch Meletios, someone spoken about among the Orthodox with lowered eyes (he was probably a Mason – – and I don’t mean a brick layer), and a great deal of hemming and hulling. He was also a pronounced ecumenist, whose aims are even still questioned in our more irenic day. But all of that aside, 2) if we move to more sanctified grounds, namely the lives and thought of bishop St. Raphael and Patriarch St. Tikhon, we find men who were very interested for a while in relations with Anglicans. I would recommend looking into their reactions, for they were ready to “sign off” about Anglican orders, only to find that the Anglicanism presented to them by the Anglo-Catholics bore little resemblance to the whole of the communion. A very good book on this from someone inside of the Episcopal church who eventually left is F. J. Kinsman’s Salve Mater. An equally good read is his Reveries of a Hermit. Kinsman was Episcopal bishop of Delaware, but came to see that Episcopalianism (Anglicanism) was not catholic at all. He noted that he wondered why some of his episcopal brothers were holding out to the Orthodox that they shared with them the same faith. Ultimately it all foundered (Orthodox/Anglican rapprochement) on the reality that so many of the Anglicans did not see the Eucharist as a sacrifice propitious for the living and departed, and that their ministry was not a sacrificial ministry (that is, for some of the same reasons that Rome denies the validity of Anglican orders).

  8. Hi Father Andrew,

    Let me say first that I am a fan of your podcasts and relish the opportunity to have such an interaction with you.

    You said:
    “It seems to me that you are saying that Anglicanism is great on paper, but in utter shambles in practice, while you think that Orthodoxy is bad on paper, but (presumably) doing just fine in practice.”

    Anglicanism is great because it is true, on paper or in practice. And to the extent that Christians practice and hold what Anglicanism holds, they remain in union and communion with Christ at its fullest. For the last hundred and fifty years, Anglican churches have been besought by theological parties that seek to overemphasize one part of what it is to be an Anglican Christian over another, but that does not mean that Anglicanism has ceased to exist or that it only exists on paper.

    Moreover, I would not say that Orthodoxy is totally fine in practice. I do not wish to cast aspersions, but there are plenty of ways in which the Orthodox Churches appear to be imploding on themselves today, particularly in America. Primates and bishops being deposed, overlapping jurisdictions, financial scandals, sexual scandals, cover-ups, monasteries that practice new age spiritualities, supporting of a corrupt government in Russia, and all the rest. All is definitely not well in the Orthodox churches, but I do not believe that these things make Orthodoxy invalid since they are not at core what Orthodoxy is. Likewise, I do not understand why the scandals that are befalling Anglican churches would somehow invalidate the truth of Anglicanism. If the standard is that whoever has the pure Church wins, we are all doomed, at least this side of the eschaton.

    I find what you describe as “differing epistemologies” to be an interesting, if somewhat oversimplified, distinction. Leaving Rome aside for the moment, it may very well be true that Reformational churches accept the authority of Scripture as ultimate in a way that Orthodoxy does not. It does seem to be true that western Christianity in general puts more stock in statements of faith than does the east. But I’m puzzled by your statement that Orthodoxy places authority within the whole Church, as opposed to in any sort of binding doctrinal sources. Anglicans would certainly agree that there is no one super bishop to tell us what it all means, nor even one super council of bishops, but only the Holy Spirit speaking within the life of the Church to guide us into all truth. Nevertheless, at some point or another that guidance has to take form, as it did in the development of the Nicene Creed and the Christological definitions of the Councils. But it seems that what you are saying is that Orthodoxy does not actually have a voice with which to make authoritative statements. The authority to speak lies with everybody, which effectively means that the authority lies with nobody.

    But this is all, perhaps, tangential, since you stated that your most critical questions are these:
    “If the actual church life of the average Anglican is actually an utter mess (and it seems to me, and apparently to you, that it is), then what good are the formularies? And why should we believe your interpretation of them when hardly anyone else in your communion does? And, further, how can you remain in communion with people with whom you do not share a common faith?”

    I am afraid that I do not understand what you are asking in the first question. What do you mean by “actual church life”? And why would the truth or falsity of the faith taught by the formularies be affected by it?

    As to the question of why you should trust my understanding of Anglicanism over anybody else’s, my answer would be that you should not and do not have to trust anything that I say because the formularies largely speak for themselves, but it is helpful to see them through the lens of early Anglicans, particularly the great Anglican Divines of the seventeenth century. And what I have always tried to do, albeit sometimes poorly, is to let their light shine through. If you do not believe me, then believe Lancelot Andrewes. Believe Jeremy Taylor. Believe Richard Hooker, Richard Field, and John Jewel. Believe Elizabeth I, James I, and Charles I. Believe William Laud. Heck, believe John Jebb, William Reed Huntington, and Michael Ramsey. Even at our lowest points, there have always been saints who have defended the faith, even at the point of a sword. But mostly, just look at the formularies themselves. The arguments that I make for various points of Anglican doctrine are explicitly linked to what has been gifted to me through the formularies by my forefathers in the faith and the way in which centuries of Anglicans have understood those formularies and the teaching of Scripture that they reveal.

    The last question you ask is perhaps the most crucial, how I can remain in communion with those who do not share a common faith with me. Ultimately, I cannot. Nor can any of us, if and when it becomes clear that there are two or more faiths being practiced in what is supposed to be the One Church of Jesus Christ. That said, the rooting out of heresy in the Church is a slow process with lots of difficulties, false starts, and moments when it can seem as if all is lost. If the history of the early Church teaches us anything, it teaches us that. The western churches were out of sync with the east long before 1054, but it took a long time to make that schism final. Moreover, if we go back much further, we find times when the Church was overrun by one sort of heresy or another. Certainly there were times when there were more subscribers of arianism than of orthodoxy, for instance. Would it have been fair at that point in time to say that arianism must be true Christianity because they had the advantage of numbers? Or would it not have made more sense to say that the true faith is what is revealed in Scripture?

    Make no mistake, I am not arguing here for some sort of invisible Church of true believers. Anglicanism affirms that the Church is a visible, tangible, organic reality. When heresy creeps in to infect the Body of Christ, it cannot be allowed to stand. It must be defeated. But that work of standing up for the truth is not accomplished in an afternoon. It is done slowly, in the Lord’s time. If the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion totally abandons the doctrine of classical Anglicanism, I will have no choice but to leave. But until that time, I am called to be faithful to the truth as the Church has received it, even and especially when it is in peril.

    1. Just a few brief points in response:

      1. While it is of course true that Orthodoxy’s little corner in North America has its problems (magnified by the Internet), and there are also scandals, etc., elsewhere in the Orthodox world, this is not really the same thing as the near total-apostasy that is apparent in many sectors of the Anglican communion. Even Arianism was far more Christian than much of what your own co-religionists have written about.

      2. Orthodoxy most certainly does have a voice to speak authoritatively, and it is primarily represented by our episcopacy. That said, they can in fact err, and it is the whole of the Church that rights them when they do. Is it neat and tidy? No, not at all. But it is nevertheless how the Holy Spirit has actually worked.

      3. The rooting out of heresy in the ancient Church was not accompanied by a continuation of communion. Once heresy is recognized, communion is broken. One does not cure heresy by remaining in communion with it. Heresy must be repented of, because it actually puts one outside the Church. I’m honestly not sure at what point an Anglican can actually recognize heresy against Anglicanism (accepting for a moment your thesis that there is indeed a One True Anglicanism, which my betters have demonstrated to my satisfaction has since Henry VIII never been true), so long as core Christian dogma is repudiated, sexual depravity sanctioned, etc. Your example of Arianism is apt, though perhaps not for the reason you may think: The reason why there were so many breaks in communion during the Arian years is that people actually cared about doctrine and knew that heresy is deadly. You would seem to think that the Orthodox and the Arians ought to have remained in communion until such time as Arianism was finally defeated. But that’s not what happened. Anathema actually does mean something.

      This is what I mean by “actual church life,” the wholesale endorsement of anti-Christian doctrines, the rejection of traditional morality, and so forth, coupled with capitulation to it by means of toleration. This is not merely moral failing, scandal or a few slip-ups in doctrinal precision—this is officially sanctioned apostasy from Christ. You are what you’re in communion with. The toleration of heresy is its sanction, something amply demonstrated by the Fathers. This may not yet be clear to you, but it’s pretty clear to numerous other ex-Anglicans I know (who I must believe are also familiar with the formularies).

      4. I notice that you didn’t address my point about apostolic succession. It’s one I’m genuinely interested in: How do Anglicans derive apostolic succession through a church (Rome) they regard to have been heretical? Or is apostolic succession somehow independent of the orthodox, catholic faith?

      1. The list format does make it easier to respond, but I’ll try to resist the urge to remark on every passing comment. I think that it is probably coming close to the point when we begin to talk completely past each other, but perhaps one more round will be helpful for further clarification.

        I’m curious to hear more about the item you bring up in your #2. The bishops speak for the Church, but when they err “it is the whole of the Church that rights them.” How exactly does this take place? When you say the whole of the Church, do you mean other bishops? Clergy? Laity? And if so, what determines who has the authoritative voice? After all, presumably the majority of bishops could err at a given time. What standard are they judged against? And how exactly does one know when the matter has been settled?

        I am sure that you know former Anglicans who have converted to Orthodoxy or to Rome who do not think Anglicanism has any content to it. That is likely why those folks converted. I know former Orthodox who have converted to Anglicanism who very much believe that it has content. That’s neither here nor there really. One of the points I was trying to make in my post is that many of the folks who abandon Anglicanism for Orthodoxy or for Rome either were never really presented with good Anglican teaching or, more likely, never really accepted it. This does not invalidate their choice to move, per se, but I have to say that I have greater respect for the convert who says, “I simply could not believe in justification by faith any longer” than the convert who never believed in it in the first place. Many of those who are making their way into the ordinariates were already Roman Catholic–sometimes more Roman than actual Romans–in everything but name.

        In terms of your question about Rome, I don’t really understand why the faithfulness or lack thereof of another church would affect the apostolic succession of the Church of England. Anglicanism has never suggested that the Church of Rome was not actually a Church, simply a Church in error. Do the monophysite churches have apostolic succession? Does the Nestorian Church? Apostolic succession is about two things, an organic and tangible link with the apostolic Church, which is traced back through the laying on of hands, and the apostolic faith, which is given from one generation to another, enshrined in the liturgy, guarded by the bishops, etc. I suppose that there could come a point where a body that has bishops who are rightly ordained cannot claim succession on the grounds that it no longer has the apostolic faith. But this strikes me as a very odd question to be posed by an Orthodox. I always thought that the east was a little less concerned about magic hands and a little more concerned about faithfulness. Does the Roman Catholic Church have valid orders today in the eyes of the east?

        1. When you ask “How exactly does this take place?” with your subsequent questions, it seems to me that you are again looking for an external system of authority. But there is no such system in the Church. It is like asking my body who exactly puts the antibodies in charge when they take care of a virus. No one does, but my body does what it does by virtue of being what it is. That is why the Church functions—not because it has an institution or documents, etc., but because it is the Church. The problem with externalized systems of authority that are absolutely infallible and by which everything else is judged is that they fail to pass their own test (e.g., sola scriptura and the papacy are not in the Bible) and they also fail to pass the historical test (where were the formularies or papal supremacy in the 2nd century? the 3rd?).

          Regarding the Anglicans I know who have converted to Orthodoxy, most of them are former Episcopal and/or Continuum clergy (including a bishop of the latter), hardly folks unschooled in what the CoE and its children are about. In any event, I don’t think they would say that Anglicanism has no content, only that it is content rather to have numerous competing contents, conflicting and malcontent, and has been so pretty much since shortly after Anne Boleyn dumped Sir Thomas Wyatt. I can understand that your particular tribe must feel quite fenced in within the AC, but simply saying “read the formularies” isn’t going to convince me that you are the True Anglicans even while I see five centuries of internal debate precisely on that point, swelling to a particularly apostate pitch in recent days. I am convinced that what is now happening in the AC is simply the logical outcome of the doctrinal pluralism that has existed since the beginning. How you haven’t anathematized almost all your episcopacy is beyond me, though I believe if you don’t do so soon, they may well do the favor for you.

          In any event, RC orders are not recognized as true within Orthodoxy, because they don’t function within Orthodoxy. Ordination is a gift that exists within a community, not a special power that adheres to an individual no matter where he goes or what he teaches. Apostolic succession isn’t about “magic hands”; indeed, I find that accusation curious, since it seems to me that it is precisely what you must believe, that the “magic” of apostolic succession was able to persist for centuries in heretical Rome, keeping enough of the spark to transmit the magic to Henry VIII’s episcopacy, who restored the true Church, which lay sleeping all those years and suddenly awoke.

          Orthodoxy, by contrast, regards apostolic succession as requiring not merely the physical succession of ordinations back to the apostles, but also the maintenance of the Orthodox Catholic faith. A heretic loses his ability to ordain anyone, since he has put himself outside the Church. The branch theory is nonsense, because it posits that heretics can be true bishops, but bishops of what? They have left the Church, and they cannot oversee in a Church in which they are not members.

    2. Citing the support of the “corrupt Russian government” as an error of Orthodoxy is absurd and displays a degree of intellectual dishonesty. Raising Elizabeth I to saintly status is rather alarming as well.

  9. I am enjoying this discussion, and as an ex-Anglican, I am intrigued by the exchanges I have seen so far. If I may, I’d like to interject here a few points from a first hand point of view (these have nothing to do explicitly with higher theology, but are simply my observations while I was in the Anglican Communion versus what I have witnessed as an Orthodox Christian). When I was in the Episcopal Church, my catechumen’s class was marked by three events. First, the priest who was giving the class dropped the bible on the floor and stood on it. He then proclaimed “Remember, this is only a book. Only a collection of writings.” It was a far cry from the reverence I had been taught when I was part of another communion for the scriptures. Second, When asked about confession, the same priest said (and I received a similar sentiment from other clergy) “Well, God hears your confession, and you can pretty much tell him. I can council, but It’s not necessary. ” Then asking about the mysteries most especially communion, he said when I asked if there was any transformation at all in the elements presented “Well, you can believe it if you want, but there is no scientific proof that it changes.” That lead to a question of belief. If I believed that it was the Body and Blood of Christ, and the person beside me does not even believe in the resurrection, and we receive the came communion, is there any consequence. He responded “It’s not mine to say.” It was because of this and other inconsistencies and contradictions that I found my self spiritually confused, and, after a while, an ex-Anglican. When I came to Orthodoxy, I saw that people kissed the Gospel, that confession was seen as a necessity, and that the mysteries were direct communion with the living God, especially in the Eucharist. I asked the priests and the laity about these things, and overall, even now, I can ask any Orthodox priest or or lay person about these, and there is a consistent answer to all of it. It is not simply because of study. In the West, Theology is still seen as an intellectual exercise. In the East, it is experiencing God, and allowing God to be God. I am by saying this condemning no one (that’s God’s business). I am simply relaying my experience. And I still hear the same things today, from friends in the Anglican Communion and the Orthodox Church. To me, you can argue rights, rites and letters all day. But in the end, it is the common belief and the preservation of that belief that truly makes a church.

  10. Sometimes I find that the comments given by the Orthodox about other Communions, particularly in the West, and because they are often given by disaffected ex-members of these other Communions, tend to boil down to simply a sycophantic, resounding “gong” – you know, “we (Orthodox) have preserved the faith, we are the Church,” but if you have not love… “gong, gong…”

    And I don’t mean by “love” saying, “well, we point out your faults and lack of Catholicity and Apostolicity because we love”, “we regale ourselves at Parish barbecues railing against the speck in your eye, but it’s out of love” (and by the way, you may have guessed I’m an Anglican and am heartily aware that the ‘speck’ in our eye is kind of more of a boulder).

    The Church is the body of Christ, yes? Not simply the place where the Faith has been preserved the best the longest, but rather Christ’s life accomplishing His work here, in time, through his Body. The Church, as his Body and Bride, comprised of people and animated by His divine life, (ought to) heal and bring salvation to creation.

    Please tell me if this is crazy, and I apologize if it’s poorly expressed, but if Christ is the Great Physician who heals our greatest wound, and we (or just you, the Orthodox) sacramentally represent Christ – I just can’t imagine the Physician’s only job being diagnosis.

    You know, I’m certain there’s more to healing than telling the patient, “dude, you’re sick, you’re totally sick. Irreparably broken, wow, look at that festering wound, man…. I’m not really sure you’re gonna make it if that goes untreated.”

    I don’t know where I fall in this Anglican/Orthodox thing or dialogue – but I do know that if you Orthodox are the Church, and by extension, possess in a uniquely special way the Life of the Physician – and we Anglicans, and all your other brothers and sisters are limping along a bit… you better move from diagnosis to treatment and from clanging and gong-ing to love, cuz all I hear is usually just more rending of the cloak if you know what I mean.

    1. Alas, not every piece of writing can be a Summa. (Indeed, I would argue that none really can.) This particular website has as its primary purpose to examine various bits of theology—especially non-Orthodox theology—from an Orthodox perspective. It is about comparison and contrast. That is a necessarily limited scope, and the scope is even more limited when looking at a particular post.

      There is no lack, however, of Orthodox writing, preaching, etc., that is not about diagnosis but about prescription. But one cannot expect everything from every piece. If you are interested in learning the basics of Orthodoxy (or even more), there are of course many possibilities one could recommend. What interests you?

  11. Fr. Andrew,

    It is perhaps a lost cause, but I’ll press once more on the question of how the Church corrects the errors that creep up within the hierarchy. I am not looking for an “external authority,” but merely an explanation. You said that in the event that the bishops err, “it is the whole of the Church that rights them… Is it neat and tidy? No, not at all. But it is nevertheless how the Holy Spirit has actually worked.” That’s a statement that ought to be able to be demonstrated to be true. How has this happened? Is there an illustrative example? You point to the example of antibodies working within the body to attack a virus, but in that example there is a clear process that can be analyzed and understood. Who are the antibodies in the Church? How do they recognize a virus? How can anyone know when they have gone from sick to healthy?

    1. You’re still trying to point to a specific process or infallible figure, but there isn’t one. What exactly can authenticate the Church, Whose Head and chief Member is Christ? The antibodies of the Church are those whom the Spirit fills and chooses. They may have an office, but they may not. They may write texts, but they may not.

      In any event, as far as examples go, they are numerous, but here are a few: The robber councils of 431 (the one led by John of Antioch, not Cyril), 449 and 869 (among several) were both corrected by subsequent synods, while the Council of Florence (1439) was essentially corrected by an uprising of the laity (the sad fate of Isidore of Kiev comes to mind). Likewise, iconoclasm was largely fought by monks, not bishops. And of course even Arianism itself wasn’t really finally solved by Nicea. Looking at all these events together, there is no single authority that one can point to that may consistently be shown never to have erred and always to have solved the problem of heresy—except the Holy Spirit Himself.

      Even the Apostles themselves do not appeal to some external authority—whether written or in an office—but rather to the Holy Spirit. Does that mean that all appeals to the Spirit are authentic? Of course not. But there is likewise no such epistemological certainty with texts or offices, either. We don’t get that in this life, which is probably part of why the Church itself is a creedal object of faith.

      You insist that you’re not looking for a method, but I honestly just cannot believe you.

      1. Well, if you’re not willing to give me the benefit of the doubt, I suppose there’s really nothing else to say. Thank you for the opportunity for conversation. May God bless you and keep you.

  12. Question: does the term/idea of the “merits of Christ” meet St. Vincent’s canon? Do the Orthodox have a view on it? If the “merits of Christ” is a western idea, when did it first spring up?

    These are questions I have been researching for some time with little to no luck.

    1. It was thought for a while that this was a concept related to Indulgences and should be eradicated from the liturgy. But then it was shown that “merits” was found in some of the most ancient Collects of the Western liturgical tradition. The problem should not be with the term, but with viewing the term through 15th century Reformation/Counter-Reformation lenses.

      1. @Continuing to Orthodoxy (not sure where this comment will show, there wasn’t a reply button underneath your comment…) But, as I understand it, it’s not so much unknown as it is difficult to translate accurately into English. Roughly, it comes across as “holiness, sanctity or righteousness.”

  13. Fr. Jonathan,

    As a postulant in the process of deciding where to attend seminary, I’m wondering, where did you attend seminary? You said that you went to an Episcopal Seminary. Do you have any suggestions of what schools an Orthodox Classical Anglican like myself should look at? Thank you.

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