Sunday, June 22, 2008

What defines the "Anglican" faith?

GAFCON is underway in Jersualem, beginning what is likely to be a global realignment of the Anglican Communion. (One or two? Will the orthodox be in communion with Canterbury? How long will it take? Who knows?)

Most of the participants are angry at the progressive wing of the Anglican church for redefining the faith to fit the modern context. To correct this problem, it would be necessary for the participants (and the traditionalists more broadly) to agree on what the "Anglican" faith really is.

The obvious touchstone is the 39 Articles, based on Cranmer's earlier conception and enacted by Parliament in 1571 after the Protestant restoration. The 39 are:
  1. Of Faith in the Holy Trinity.
  2. Of the Word or Son of God, which was made very Man.
  3. Of the going down of Christ into Hell.
  4. Of the Resurrection of Christ.
  5. Of the Holy Ghost.
  6. Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation.
  7. Of the Old Testament.
  8. Of the Creeds.
  9. Of Original or Birth-Sin.
  10. Of Free-Will.
  11. Of the Justification of Man.
  12. Of Good Works.
  13. Of Works before Justification.
  14. Of Works of Supererogation.
  15. Of Christ alone without Sin.
  16. Of Sin after Baptism.
  17. Of Predestination and Election.
  18. Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the Name of Christ.
  19. Of the Church.
  20. Of the Authority of the Church.
  21. Of the Authority of General Councils.
  22. Of Purgatory.
  23. Of Ministering in the Congregation.
  24. Of Speaking in the Congregation in such a Tongue as the people understandeth.
  25. Of the Sacraments.
  26. Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.
  27. Of Baptism.
  28. Of the Lord's Supper.
  29. Of the Wicked, which eat not the Body of Christ in the use of the Lord's Supper.
  30. Of both Kinds.
  31. Of the one Oblation of Christ finished upon the Cross.
  32. Of the Marriage of Priests.
  33. Of excommunicate Persons, how they are to be avoided.
  34. Of the Traditions of the Church.
  35. Of the Homilies.
  36. Of Consecration of Bishops and Ministers.
  37. Of the Power of the Civil Magistrates.
  38. Of Christian Men's Goods, which are not common.
  39. Of a Christian Man's Oath.
The articles are a testament to the Anglican fudge — “both reformed and Catholic.” Articles 1-5 and 8 are an obvious commonality with the apostolic church, both Roman and Eastern.

Meanwhile, at least four of the five solas of Lutheran and Calvinist theology are readily apparent in the articles: Scripture alone (#6), grace alone (#10), faith alone (#11), Christ alone (#18). I don't see Soli Deo gloria ("glory to God alone"), but the 1549 BCP is pretty clear:
through Christe our Lorde, by whome, and with whome, in the unitie of the holy Ghost: all honour and glory, be unto thee, O father almightie, world without ende. Amen.
Still, there’s the question: are the 39 Articles a “confession” on par with the (Lutheran) Augsburg Confession or the (Presbyterian) Westminster Confession.

At GAFCON, apparently two different roles were ascribed to the 39 Articles. As Dr. Robert Monday, dean of Nashotah House wrote:
It was considered a virtual article of faith in the Confirmation class I attended that the Articles of Religion (the 39 Articles) were in no way to be viewed as a confession of faith. …

Such a view denies the obvious role that the Articles of Religion have played in both defining and describing the nature of a Reformed Catholicism that was no longer Roman. The fact that assent to the Articles is still required of those being ordained in the Church of England … makes the Articles the nearest thing to a confession of faith possessed by the Anglican tradition.

But what about the future? Is the future of orthodox Anglicanism to be seen as confessional (as suggested by the authors of "The Way, the Truth, and the Life") or should it be viewed as conciliar, as articulated by Bishop Duncan in his plenary addressh?
Dr. Monday attempts to square the circle, and I’m not sure I follow all his arguments. But one bright line test is clear: are the 39 Articles subject to renegotiation, or are the fixed and the basis of all subsequent Anglican theology? The latter view is what I’d expect from GAFCON attendees, and most laity and clergy of the ACN, Common Cause, 28 Prayer Book and other traditionalist groups.

But does these articles help us solve the Culture Wars that are wrenching the church today — who is qualified to be a priest, what is the nature of marriage, how should the Bible be interpreted today?

It does seem to clearly put the Presiding Bishop of TEC outside the Articles, at least according to her responses to NPR and Time magazine about the uniqueness of Christ:
Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?

We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.
This appears to directly contradict article 18:
XVIII. Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the Name of Christ.
They also are to be had accursed that presume to say, That every man shall be saved by the Law or Sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that Law, and the light of Nature. For Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.
That the TEC leadership rejects John 14:6 is cited by Archbishop Akinola of Uganda as a major sign that
The Anglican Communion has been deeply wounded.… Their Archbishop does not believe the Bible when Jesus says, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.' Another American Bishop has said, 'The Church wrote the Bible, so the church can re-write the Bible.' It is wrong for them to continue to be Bishops and leaders in the Church. Yet, if their church will not discipline them, we will continue in broken fellowship with them. We cannot tolerate such theological corruption.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Four-part harmony

With GAFCON, Lambeth and St Bartholomew the Great, there may not be much harmony these days in the Anglican communion. However, satirist Garrison Keilor harkens back to earlier days when harmony was the hallmark of Episcopalians.† Here is the excerpt relevant to hymnody:
We make fun of Episcopalians for their blandness, their excessive calm, their fear of giving offense, their lack of speed and also for their secret fondness for macaroni and cheese. But nobody sings like them. If you were to ask an audience in Des Moines, a relatively Episcopalianless place, to sing along on the chorus of "Michael Row the Boat Ashore," they will look daggers at you as if you had asked them to strip to their underwear. But if you do this among Episcopalians, they'd smile and row that boat ashore and up on the beach! ....And down the road!

Many Episcopalians are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony, a talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your little head against that person's rib cage. It's natural for Episcopalians to sing in harmony. We are too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. When you're singing in the key of C and you slide into the A7th and D7th chords, all two hundred of you, it's an emotionally fulfilling moment. By our joining in harmony, we somehow promise that we will not forsake each other.

I do believe this, people: Episcopalians, who love to sing in four-part harmony are the sort of people you could call up when you're in deep distress. If you are dying, they will comfort you. If you are lonely, they'll talk to you. And if you are hungry, they'll give you tuna salad!

Episcopalians believe in prayer, but would practically die if asked to pray out loud. Episcopalians like to sing, except when confronted with a new hymn or a hymn with more than four stanzas.
Ruth Gledhill (of The Times of London) reprints the essay this week in her blog, but a quick Google search suggests it dates back at least to March 2007. It might just be an urban legend: the essay is widely attributed to Keilor — who grew up among Lutherans though now is an Episcopalian — but is nowhere to be found on his official website.

The other problem with harmony in TEC is that it’s being driven out of the liturgy. Hymnal 1982 removes the SATB from many of the hymns, including about half of the mass settings and all but two verses of the Vaughan Williams harmonies for Sine Nomine. Meanwhile, for the non-hymnal parishes, the easy listening “contemporary” worship music doesn’t get reused enough for the congregation to learn the parts.

† Given that Keilor is a financial supporter of Barack Obama, Al Franken and, it seems likely that he sides with the TEC in America’s current Episcopalian/Anglican split.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pharisees, tradition and modernism

Todd Wilken (of Issues Etc. fame) has written a stirring defense of traditional theology and practice, entitled “Playing the Pharisee Card”. It is filled with the same intelligent, cutting arguments that Pastor Wilken made for five years on his KFUO radio show against subordinating the church to popular culture, arguments that we will see again with the impending return of Issues Etc. under new ownership.

His piece is intended as a direct analogy to the “race card” or “gender card” used in modern American political arguments as an ad hominem attack to demonize opponents and stifle political debate. As Pastor Wilken writes:
Today, the label "Pharisee" is applied to many Christians just like me -- perhaps you're one of them. We are Christians who cherish God's Word, the Church's historic Creeds, confessions and practices. When we see the Church abandoning these things to follow the latest fads and entertainments, we lament. When we see the Gospel itself being left behind in the Church's rush to mimic popular culture, we are grieved. And when we question the Church's infatuation with the spirit of the age, we are labeled Pharisees.
He continues:
The Pharisee Card is also played in order to discredit Christians who refuse to abandon the historic practices of the Church in favor of the latest innovations. This too works beautifully. Those dealing the Pharisee Card know that, to avoid being labeled a Pharisee, many Christians will tolerate an endless succession of fads in worship, music and ministry. But Jesus never faulted the Pharisees for resisting change. On the contrary, He faulted them for introducing their own innovations and methods in the place of Godís Word.
Wilken notes that Jesus explicitly rejected modernization of belief for its own sake. He quotes from Luke 5:36-39, emphasizing verse 39:
36 [Jesus] also told them a parable: "No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. 37 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. 38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. 39 And no one after drinking old wine desires new, for he says, 'The old is good.' "
By the way, “New Wineskins” happens to be the name of an (orthodox) evangelical renewal movement within the mainline Presbyterian Church USA.

I’m with Pastor Wilken all the way, but wonder if we are on shaky ground for one point. I certainly prefer a parish that maintains traditional music and resists the pressures of the transient popular culture in liturgical music. My favorite Issues Etc. shows were those where Pastor Wilken interviewed Terry Mattingly (author of Pop Goes Religion) and others making exactly this point.

However, most of the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin and the (soon to be) Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh -- as well as AMiA -- have gone to modernized liturgy. Can we say these godly men of undisputed character are erring by bringing electric guitars into the sanctuary?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Issues Etc. coming back

For those who haven’t heard, Issues Etc. is coming back with Pastor Todd Wilken and his trusty sidekick Jeff Schwarz. But the Lutheran radio show about liturgy and worship is not coming back with KFUO, which abruptly sacked the two men back in March.

Instead, there’s plans to launch the show online in affiliation with Lutheran Public Radio and something called Brothers of John the Steadfast. The BJS group is marshalling a blue chip collection of advisors and participants, including Uwe Siemon-Netto (former UPI religion editor), Pastor Martin Noland (formerly head of the Concordia Historical Institute), and Get Religion blogger Mollie Hemingway.

This looks to be a nonprofit foundation and online portal of traditionalists unhappy with the drift of the LCMS. It has the potential to integrate all the efforts that (for continuing Anglicans) are fragmented between VirtueOnline, Stand Firm, and the Anglican Communion Network, among others.

Pastor Noland explains that John “the Steadfast,” Elector of Saxony, was the first German ruler to defend the Reformation, saving the Lutherans from a Hugenot-style massacre. John was also the first to sign the 1530 Augsburg Confession, one of the major pillars of the Lutheran faith.

On the Lutheran Public Radio website, Pastor Wilken offers a glimpse of what is planned, including the reiteration of his old tagline: “As always: Christ centered, cross-focused.” Stay tuned.