Thursday, September 17, 2015

What is Anglicanism Without Doctrine?

In the US, we have seen the successive separation from ECUSA of the the REC, Continuing Anglicans, AMiA and then the various factions that make up the ACNA. All were over doctrinal issues, and none of those who left are officially recognized by Canterbury as part of the Anglican Communion.

Now, with the last Lambeth conference a failure, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has announced a conference of global Anglican leaders that (for the first time) includes the spiritual leader of the ACNA. The Daily Telegraph reports:
The Archbishop of Canterbury is preparing to gamble his legacy on a high-stakes plan to overhaul the 80 million-strong worldwide Anglican church in what he sees as a “last throw of the dice” to avert a permanent split over issues such as homosexuality.
His aides liken it to a plan to have “separate bedrooms” to stave off divorce within the AC, allowing different factions to have different doctrines while retaining some ties to the CoE.

ACNA Abp. Foley Beach says he’ll decide whether or not to attend after consulting with the other GAFCON allies. However, journalist David Virtue argues that going would be a mistake:
First of all, if there is no "common doctrine," Anglicanism itself is meaningless. What does it mean to be Anglican if two different versions of the same faith are tolerated! To be an Anglican means a specific identity, a specific theological outlook. The Scriptures and the Gospels, the Apostolic Church, and the early Church Fathers are the foundation of Anglican faith and worship that make up the Anglican Communion.

The Church of England is part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It worships the one true God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It professes the faith that is uniquely revealed in the Bible and set forth in the Catholic Creeds (the statements of faith developed in the Early Church that are still used in the Church's worship today). The Church is called to proclaim that faith afresh in each generation.

So the question must be asked again, can the two groups, orthodox and heterodox, live under the same roof and still call themselves Anglican? I think not. It is impossible. Most TEC bishops have denied the creed in one form or another, the worst case being John Shelby Spong who was never disciplined for his outright heresies. Walter Righter, Gene Robinson, and Katharine Jefferts Schori -- the latter has denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus and calls personal conversion a Western heresy.

For nearly two decades, the Global South primates and the GAFCON bishops have argued, pleaded, and fought with TEC to repent of its heresies. They have steadfastly refused to do so.
Without a confessional (like Lutherans or Presbyterians) or a central authority (like the RCC), the Church of England and its children have been notoriously squishy on doctrine throughout their 450+ year existence as a Protestant church apart from Rome. Some of this was the direct consequence of efforts to end civil war after the conflicts over the Tudor succession.

Our central doctrinal statement — the 39 articles — reflect the famous “Elizabeth fudge” of trying to be both Reformed and Catholic. Since that time, the (latitudinarian)  “broad church” was an attempt to hold together a range of Christian beliefs. However, in the 16th century, both the Reformed and Catholic faith were recognizably Christian and (largely) based on Biblical teaching, as were the subsequent evangelical and Anglo-Catholic interpretations of Anglicanism.

Virtue is right that the doctrinal innovations of the past three or four decades are not the same church as those who hold to the earlier interpretation of the Anglican faith. We no longer share a prayer book, ecclesiology or governance, so if we don’t share a doctrine, how is this “one faith”. So while the current (and previous and next) archbishop don’t want the divorce of the Anglican Communion to fracture on their watch, they are powerless to mend the irreconcilable differences.

The Telegraph makes clear that some of the Church of England will be leaving to join ACNA, GAFCON and the majority of the world’s Anglicans. If the modernists get Canterbury, perhaps the traditionalists can claim York, the other historic see of the CoE. From an architectural standpoint, it would be more than a fair trade, and the seat is currently held by an Africa-born bishop sympathetic to the Global South.

No comments: