What is Reformation Anglicanism?
By Bishop Steve Woods
Perhaps the easiest way to describe Reformation Anglicanism is simply by defining the words. By “reformation,” we mean that expression of the Christian faith that arose in the 16 th century, commonly called the Protestant Reformation, which sought to reform the church according to the teaching of the Bible and the practice of the early church. By “Anglican,” we mean those Christian reforms that took place in England during the Protestant Reformation.
Reformation Anglicanism is Gospel-centered
Of the many things that could be said about the English Reformation, one aspect that is consistently overlooked is that is would not have been possible were it not for the experience of men and women receiving the good news of Jesus Christ in a personal and transformative way.
Take for example the experience of Thomas Bilney, who recounted his own conversion in the following words: At the first reading (as I well remember), I chanced upon this sentence of St. Paul (O most sweet and comfortable sentence to my soul.): ‘It is a true saying and worthy of all men to be embraced, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the chief principle (1 Timothy 1:15). This one sentence, through God's instruction and inward working (which I did not then perceive), did so exhilarate my heart, being before wounded with the guilt, of my sins, and being almost in despair, that immediately I felt a marvelous comfort and quietness, insomuch ‘that my bruised bones leaped for joy' (Psalm 51:8). Through what would eventually become one of Cranmer's famous “comfortable words,” Bilney learned that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” and that meant that Christ Jesus came into the world to save men like him. This is good news, that Bilney found in the Scriptures is the Gospel, something that William Tyndale said “makes a man's heart glad and makes him sing, dance, and leap for joy.”
The scriptures teach us of Christ alone reconciling sinners to God by grace alone and not by works, for God's glory alone and received simply by faith alone. Reformation Anglicans are passionate about the Gospel not only because the Reformers were, but because we believe the Gospel still heals bruised bones, still makes the sad and sorrowful leap of joy, and still gives victory over sin, death, and the devil reconciling the child of God to himself and leading God's people in liberty.
Reformation Anglicanism is Catholic
A caricature of the Reformation Anglicans is that they ignore the patristic witness and the contributions of the undivided church in favor of the Protestant Reformation of the 16 th century. Not only could this not be further from the truth but this is also a serious misreading of the English Reformation.
The English Reformers very much saw themselves in continuity with the patristic church. This is why Cranmer begins many of his homilies with support from such early church theologians as Athanasius, Augustine, John Chrysostom and many others. Cranmer's implied point is that there is Patristic support for the theological points at the heart of the Reformation.
The English Reformation did not believe it was charting a new course but rather recovering an old one. The English Reformers believed that the Medieval church had lost its way and therefore needed to be re-formed. Modern Reformation Anglicans see themselves, like their forbearers as reformed catholic Christians in continuity with the historic church and bearing the doctrine and substantial marks of early Christianity.
Reformation Anglicanism is Confessional
The Articles of Religion were passed by Parliament in 1563. It is clear by the preface to the Articles that these were to serve as the measuring stick for English Protestant Orthodoxy or as we might say, Anglican Orthodoxy.
The preface reads as follows: Articles whereupon it was agreed by the Archbishops and Bishops of both provinces and the whole clergy, in Convocation held in London in the year of our Lord 1562, according to the counsel of the Church of England for the avoiding of diversities of opinion and for the establishment of consent regarding true religion.
As can be seen from the above, the Articles of Religion were meant to establish orthodoxy within English Protestantism. Clergy in the Church of England, to demonstrate their orthodoxy subscribed to the Articles of Religion.
The significance of the above is as follows: one did not become a Cranmerian. Unlike the Lutherans, there is no such thing as a Cranmerian Church . Rather, one subscribed not to the teachings of Thomas Cranmer (or Ridley, or Parker, or Hooker, etc.) but one subscribed to the Articles or Religion. Reformation Anglicanism is informed by the various personalities of the English Reformation but it is identified by a confession of faith of the Protestant Church of England. Some may rightly ask “but what of the Book of Common Prayer?” To which we respond: the doctrine is the seed, the devotional (Prayer Book) and institutional life (Ordinal) is the flower. The Book of Common Prayer is the fruit of the scripturally founded, Gospel-centered doctrine discovered in the Articles.
From here we note three things:
That Reformation Anglicans are “confessional” does not imply they are not catholic. Explicit in the Articles is an embrace of the early councils and creeds grounded not upon their institutional authority, but rather because “they may be proven by certain warrants of Holy Scripture” (Article VIII). We note with pleasure that the Jerusalem Declaration of the GAFCON movement “upholds the four Ecumenical Councils and the three historic Creeds as expressing the rule of faith of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.”
Reformation Anglicans judge authentic Anglicanism according to conformity to the historic confession of the Church of England. Again, the Jerusalem Statement: “We uphold the Thirty-nine Articles as containing the true doctrine of the Church agreeing with God's Word and as authoritative for Anglicans today.”
Reformation Anglicans embrace the ordinal and historic prayer books of the settled church (1559, 1662) as authentically showing forth the fruit of the doctrine contained in the Articles. Again, we stand in line with the Jerusalem Declaration which notes: “We rejoice in our Anglican sacramental and liturgical heritage as an expression of the gospel, and we uphold the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as a true and authoritative standard of worship and prayer, to be translated and locally adapted for each culture.”
As many of us seek to recover our great Anglican heritage we must first acknowledge that as a work of recovery, we are as men stumbling about in a room that has been neglected for quite some time. As a room that has been neglected for quite some time, the primary work is to help turn the lights on, uncover the furniture, and dust off the paintings. We must re-familiarize ourselves with this tradition.
Reformation Anglicanism is not a historical fetish. Rather, we see in the English Reformation and the 39 Articles of Religion a clear, vibrant, and costly articulation of the saving power of the Gospel as proclaimed by our Lord Jesus and set forth in the Holy Scriptures. In this time of global Anglican turmoil, Reformation Anglicanism acts as an anchor rooting us within faithful, historic, Gospel-centered Christianity. It is the Gospel-centrality that exalts the glory of God, the grace of Jesus Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit that we cherish above all else. Reformation Anglicanism is simply a gracious reminder that Anglicans who cherish such things do not need to look beyond their own tradition to be resourced for mission both now and in the future.
[The Rt. Rev. Steve Woods serves as the first Bishop of the Diocese of the Carolinas, a diocese of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), as well as Rector of St. Andrew's Anglican Church in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.]
IN LOVING MEMORY
Dale Muir (age 86) went to be with his Lord, Thursday, March 27, 2014. His wife Gladys passed away in July of 2013. Gladys was our organist for several years, first at our mission church in Frankfort, then at our present location. Dale played his guitar and sang at a Father/Son Breakfast and in church. Dale and Gladys will be greatly missed.
5th Sunday Pot Luck was March 30, 2014. Many delicious dishes were enjoyed.
The St. Andrew's Preschool after 17 years of ministry to families in our church and community will be closing after this school year. God has richly blessed this outreach by touching the lives of so many children and families. The Staff and PS Board are most grateful to the church for the use of the building and some supplies, to the Guild for some rummage items given, and especially, to the Christ Church Trust for their financial support and backing.
Early April Women's Guild Meeting took place the 6th.
FINAL SOUP SUPPER & SERVICE is Wednesday, April 9, 2014. Soup Supper 6:30 p.m. Service 7:30 p.m.
Thank you to all the ladies who brought salad or bread, and especially, thank you to all those who were hostesses and made the soups.
No Dress Rehearsal Palm Sunday. Play postponed until May or June. However, there will be a brief Cast Meeting during Coffee Hour Palm Sunday, April 13. Play will be a Fund-Raiser for Love INC.
Hand Chime Practice 1st & 3rd Thursdays through June directed by Sunny Stiklius.
The Women's Guild is collecting favorite recipes of every lady or gentleman in order to make a Church Cookbook. Anyone needing their recipes typed, please give them to Sunny Stiklius or send them via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org by April 15, 2014.
Those who wish to purchase lilies for Easter in honor or memory of loved ones, please turn in forms and money in Envelopes provided in Narthex by Palm Sunday. Thank you!
April 13 & 27 6:00-7:00 p.m.
ST. ANDREW'S PRESCHOOL BOARD ANNOUNCEMENT
Preschool Sale of Equipment mid-May
PALM SUNDAY, April 13, 2014
The Preschool & Sunday School will wave palms and sing.
GOOD FRIDAY, April 18, 2014
Stations of the Cross at 3:00 p.m.
Good Friday Service at 7:30 p.m.
EASTER SUNDAY, April 20, 2014
Easter Egg Hunt 9:00 a.m.
Breakfast at 9:00 a.m.
Holy Communion Service at 10:30 a.m.
ANNUAL PARISH MEETING
April 27, 2014 following church. There will be a Pot Luck meal prior to the meeting with chicken and drinks provided.
All reports need to be turned in to the church office for duplication no later than Palm Sunday, April 13th.
Saturday, May 3, 2014, at 9:30 a.m.
June 11-13, 2014 in Blue Bell close to Philadelphia, PA.
MISSIONARY OF THE MONTH
Please be in prayer for Judy King, retired missionary in the Amazon region of Brazil. Judy has not been well. You may send he cards at: Box 477, Rapid City, IL 61278.