Crossing the Thames

Blog not in vain! A recent website has been launched by a friendly circle of English Use/BCP churchmen (both from the Continuum and Communion proper). The site, Thames River Beach Party (TRBP), aims to add an extra voice to the choir for the preservation and articulation of classical Anglicanism. For those contemplating a swim across a foreign river,  either the Tiber or Bosporus, TRBP asks you first try a dip in the Thames.  Brrr! The TRBP’s tentative preamble says:

“We want our readers to learn about the Anglican tradition; the history, the devotion , the beauty of liturgy and worship found in the prayer book(s), the wisdom of the Anglican Divines and other great thinkers of the English church and her offspring.

Our hope is that a return to tradition will bring an Anglican revival, that will lead to an Anglican reconciliation, which will bring about the restoration of the Christian faith as the main societal element of the English speaking people (Anglosphere).”

Anglican Rose has eagerly joined the said venture. We are also asking a priest and bishop to join the endeavor, advising and mentoring us. Rather than adopt a confession of belief, we decided to forward a ‘sensibility’, quoting the very divines who’ve stood on this same Beach long before us. May the following words prosper you!


“We and our people — thanks be to God — follow no novel and strange religion, but that very religion which is ordained by Christ, sanctioned by the primitive and Catholic Church and approved by the consistent mind and voice of the most early Fathers.”

— Queen Elizabeth I


“I believe there is no liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid scriptural rational piety than the Common Prayer of the Church of England. And though the main of it was compiled considerably more than two hundred years ago, yet is the language of it not only pure, but strong and elegant in the highest degree.”

— John Wesley


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

— The Elizabethan Canons


“As for my religion, I dye in the holy catholic and apostolic faith professed by the whole Church before the disunion of East and West, more particularly in the communion of the Church of England, as it stands distinguished from all Papal and Puritan innovations, and as it adheres to the doctrine of the Cross.”

— Thomas Ken


“One Canon of Scripture which we refer to God, two Testaments, three Creeds, the first four Councils, five centuries and the succession of the Fathers in these centuries, three centuries before Constantine, two centuries after Constantine, draw the rule of our religion.”

— Lancelot Andrewes


“We do not suffer any man ‘to reject’ the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England ‘at his pleasure’; yet neither do we look upon them as essentials of saving faith or ‘legacies of Christ and of His Apostles’; but in a mean, as pious opinions fitted for the preservation of Unity. Neither do we oblige any man to believe them, but only not to contradict them.”

— John Bramhall

We will see where this riparian study takes us? For now it is an open discussion. Welcome all, and pray some fireworks fly!

15 responses to “Crossing the Thames

  1. I hope that you will not mind that I am quite amused that you have labeled the canon of 1571 as “reformed” when it reflects exactly the view of St Vincent of Lerins and just those authorities to which Elizabeth I and bishops Andrewes and Ken appealed. If anything was ever “according to the whole,” i.e., catholic, this is most precisely it.


    • Dear Lee,

      I am not sure what 1571 canon you are talking about unless it’s the uniformity act which officially recognized the Ordinal? Are you talking about the articles ‘reformed in doctrine’, or the canon as in the injunctions interpreting the Articles? I assume we are talking about injunctions and their relation to Articles…

      The 1559 was basically a carry over from Edward’s injunctions. Very little was added. Edward, for the most part, simply carried forward what was done by Henry in 1538. The 1538 canons are a reflection of the Ten Articles, practically applying what these articles say with respect to church discipline. The ten articles are as patristic as the Lutherans were patristic. I have no qualm calling Lutherans ‘reformed’. By this I mean Luther and Cranmer were both ‘reformers’ or students of the ‘new learning’ which is not the same as Gardiner’s more direct and uncritical translation of patristics. If the English Reformation, as it is commonly called, was merely a return to five centuries of learning, why didn’t Gardiner’s view of the Mass prevail? Gardiner was the divine who favored the East over the Germans. In the end, Henry and Cranmer went with the Germans. However, this does not say either Germans or English neglected a degree of ‘resourcement’. The injunctions principle concern deals with veneration to saints and reform of the calendar. Remember, this was enough for the East to reject ‘reformer’ overtures.

      But this gets back to the very word ‘reformation’. What does it mean? The reformation, in both Germany and England, even with Calvin, sought to reform the church back to primitive tradition. Where the cut-off line was for orthodoxy, the degree of resourcing of patristic divines, and what transgressed the necessary reading of scripture was subject to a degree of opinion. England turned out the most conservative in this respect– one part due to catholic sensibility, the other part due to practical exigency. I see deformity in ‘reformation’– whether we speak of Calvinist, Anglican, or Lutheran– related to the degree ‘anabaptist’ elements were incorporated, assimilated, or otherwise tolerated. . Amongst protestant camps most harmed and infected by anabaptism were, of course, the Swiss.

      The relation to Anabaptism is an interesting one. For example, Swiss memorialism hardened the Lutheran position of the sacrament, forcing Luther to give a defense of a literal verba‘, based both on scripture and Constantinople II. The nature of apologetics is to give answer to heresy. Luther did this reluctantly against the Swiss. He was not happy going beyond plain reading of verba, preferring silence. A similar phenomena happened over adiaphora and church rites, the Swiss camp adopting a radical iconoclasm vs. Lutheran/Anglican indifference.

      While such controversies boiled on the continent, Mary began a restoration of Romanism in England. After Mary’s death, English exiles returned, but as students of the Swiss not Germans, bringing with them Anabaptist iconoclasm via Zwingli, resulting in an anticlerical, antisacramentology that threatened England’s Erastian order. This is an important point because the social classes which supported iconoclasm in the 16th century differed from those in the 15th. It was distinctly a continental transplant. Anyway, England responded in kind. An example of this ‘response’ was the change in opinion over episcopacy. During Elizabeth’s reign episcopacy was largely argued like Lutheran ‘superintenedency’/’wellbeing’, but by Hooker’s debut it began to be called an ‘essence’ or true mark of the church. So in conflict with Puritanism there is a constant re-evaluation of continental reformed ideas (mostly Calvinist), giving England, in part, a more conservative nature. Similar developments occurred in Lutheran Germany, but never went as far as England in terms of catholic restoration or civil war. I am not saying patristics were ignored. Not at all, but keep in mind all ‘reformers’ — Calvinist and Lutheran included– vigorously appealed to pre-schism Fathers. Nor was the continental influence zero. What we might call ‘reformed’ changed over time, Lutherans leading the movement and then Calvinists providing a ‘change of guard’ (but for the worst in my opinion).

      Nor could I say England wasn’t the most perfectly ‘reformed’ church of all, at least this was Hooker’s contention. But ‘reformed’, I believe, was understood (on all sides) not as innovation but returning and recovering ‘primitive’ practice, with high and low views, England taking a ‘high’. Anyway, when talking of ‘reformed’, I likely should distinguish between Anglican, Swiss, and German appropriations, none of which could be equated to modern orthodoxy (post seven councils) but more properly a ‘reconstruction’ of pre-schism orthodoxy. This is where we get into subjective factors between divines, whether German, English, or Swiss; the English being most comprehensive. But, this is further a function, in part, of fencing off the Anabaptist infection, aka., puritanism, the pivotal moments occurring when Crown intervened against Parliament, even Convocation. The nature of Erastian order demanded such, and with the Crown there is also a factor of sentimentality– continuing the dignity in England’s ritual, her beauty of Kingship, and orderly procession amidst public adore. Anyhow, by ‘reform’ I do not exclude continental thinkers, nor would I deny England’s claim for “perfect reformation”, given recognized lines of national exigency plus learned resourcement.


    • Lee,

      I believe the “reformed” meant in reference to the Elizabethan Canons [of 1571] is meant in relation to the non-scriptural accretions that had previously and dutifully propounded by clergy under the influence and interference of the post-Schism See of Rome, thereby greatly vexing the faithful of Great Britain. Thus, the canon quite is reformative (or restorative) in a historical sense. I for one, and I believe most of the authors over at Thames River Beach Party also, do not believe the quoted canon is “Reformed” in a Calvinist sense.


      • Nor is it reformed in a sense of following the Germans. It was a return and that deliberately so to the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Church of the first five centuries. That was something which the Germans found quite impossible to do and equally so for the followers of Calvin. Neither of them could see the forest for the trees, but with the Calvinists being less able to distinguish between what had been their from the beginning and what had been added and corrupted by Rome. Nor could either see that it was Germans, first under Charles the Great but also later in the eleventh century whose influence corrupted Rome. After all it was essentially three German popes who attempted to turn the whole of the Western Church into one giant Cluniac monastic system.

        Elizabeth had the advantage of her father in that she had been taught to read and speak Greek as well as Latin at an early age. She also read Hebrew and made it a lifelong practice to read one chapter in the Old Testament in Hebrew and one in the New in Greek every day of her life. Without her reign Anglicanism would have been a small footnote in history. But she came to the throne as William Haugaard points out in his book, Elizabeth and the English Reformation, with a well thought out religious policy from which she never departed throughout her entire reign. As the entry for Elizabeth in the British National Dictionary of Biography points out, she would have prefered to continue with her sister’s bishops with the exception of Bonner. He got a bad rap because the Spanish inquisition imported by Mary centered in London. But their refusal to serve and the lack of other men of mark, meant that she had to make do with the returnees and essentially train them herself. It was not ideal, but few things are in the midst of such a great spiritual upheaval.

        Our problem at the moment is on the same magnitude and, unfortunately, we have no great men, no Elizabeth, and no shining saints. That means that we are going to have to capture the movement of reform one mission and parish at a time until we have a diocese that can serve as a model for others. But to do so we need to focus on what is truly Anglican and Catholic on the same basis of the canon of 1571 and Elizabeth’s letter to the Emperor. But mostly we need to follow her lead and teach from Holy Scripture as interpreted by “earliest bishops and Catholic fathers.”

        It would also help, Death, if you would use your skills to loot the internet and post the best illustrations of real Anglican usage that can be found from blogs such as that from Allen Barton and from Flickr. What we see makes a much greater impact than what we merely read about. But I believe that you already know that.



      • I thought the ACC leadership was going head-long toward Orthodoxy, hoping for autocephalous recognition with ROC? Don’t you therefore already have more than a diocese? Isn’t there already a movement? I am not saying I agree with this, but they pretty much conform to what you are speaking about– seven councils, seven sacraments, and priority of patristics, etc..? I found the canon of 1571, and it’s not the articles you are talking about.


      • Hi Death,

        Your post is very helpful. The “other councils” statement leaves things open ended, especially for the fifth and sixth universal synods (via a second witness, i.e., the Book of Homilies). It also gives a starting point to discuss the possibility for a seventh, justifying the Affirmation’s assertion.

        As you know, many of my concerns involve questions ‘conformity’, so any statement that represents the ‘voice of the english church’, namely royal or convocation gatherings, is appreciated and well-received. While I think the seventh remains debatable it seems classical Anglicanism has a certain ‘warmness’ toward it, with continuers and anglo-catholics (as exemplified by Moss) favoring the seventh as part of a spectrum of thought within the larger church.

        Yours is the best definitive statement so far supporting latter councils. I personally view the fifth and sixth as important christological statements while the seventh can be irenically viewed as an apologia for art in church. If this is all the seventh council does, perserving art in the church, then wonderful. But it goes further, and I still disagree with Easterners that blessed icons are ‘sacraments’, objectively and effectively conveying grace, ‘said and done’, to Christians, as if the icons are living prayers of intercession, etc.


      • One of the issues with the Seventh Council is just what it means in rubber-meets-the-road application. For Roman Catholics, if can mean lighting candles and praying before a kitchy scared-heart-of-Mary statue. And, for Orthodox, it can mean a lot kissing and bowing and scraping. Thus, I believe Anglican reserve towards the Seventh Council has much to do with a reasonable concern for what a formal ratification of the Council could turn into among the English.

        Personally, I do prefer to enumerated the Seventh, as we are not iconoclasts, and also the Fifth and Sixth Councils, but only with qualifying language that emphasizes Anglicanism historic “underlining” of the first four councils.


  2. *”Thus the canon quoted is ‘reformative’ …”


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

    The above is precisely the canon of which I wrote.

    In all parts of the Continuum, Anglicanism as evidenced in the classical prayer books and other standard Anglican formularies including the Articles must be known, taught and conformed to.

    I? I am an antique’s antique. Retired, but not yet dead or willing to give up the fight for true Anglicanism and true Christianity.


    • Hello Lee,
      What I am trying to accomplish at Anglican Rose, for my own sake and anyone else who may be interested, is a defining classical “Anglicanism”. I believe a person can do this given they read the canons, articles, and prayer books together as a single movement, giving weight to Anglicanism’s ‘formative period’– the 16th to perhaps the late 18th or early 19th centuries. I have tried to make the point that one cannot insist on a simple ‘one-to-one’ ratio between classical Anglicanism and Orthodoxy without dismissing canons and Articles, mainly because Anglican divines did not uncritically embrace the Fathers. Indeed, they gave a weight to Catholicism but not without scripture as a final rule. Consequently, there is a critical appraisal of such matters as ‘the lesser sacraments’, images, and invocation of saints. These are not just ‘medieval accretions’ but rather exemplify Anglicanism’s critical relation to late antiquity, particularly the latter councils (aka,. the seventh). While not the same pruning of Luther or Calvin, Anglicanism begins to draw a line at around the sixth or seventh century AD. We can debate the reasons.

      Secondly, due to the laxity in discipline, beginning in the mid-18th century, “learned men” have been able to push the theological envelope against Anglican standards. This has resulted in vast, ‘fuzzy’ areas where Anglicanism mistakenly appears granting ‘liberty’ to diverse belief when in fact belief has been utterly neglected or jettisoned. The result has been the birth of theological parties which today are finally breaking into independent denominations. If a person wants to twist Anglican standards into a mandate either for Romanism or Orthodoxy, the St. Louis Affirmation, sadly, provides the means,

      “In affirming these principles [that of St. Louis; sic., seven sacraments, seven councils], we recognize that all Anglican statements of faith and liturgical formulae must be interpreted in accordance with them”

      Thus, the Affirmation is a higher standard than even our classical documents? I would say the primary distinctive of the Continuum is that they are ‘seven council, seven sacrament’ churches. While this sounds wonderful (the number seven is kind of magical, and we all love liturgy, mystery, and aesthetic); the Affirmation is actually a rejection, or at least weakening, of justification. This is alarming because Justification is the theological basis for many of our other articles, especially amending church rites (e.g., changing Sarum to BCP) as well as the basis of the national church itself. Without Article 11 you neither have Article 34 nor Article 25– i.e., you neither have a theological premise for supremacy nor a prayer book!

      Thus, I would say our principle difference with the East and Rome is the relative weight we give Tradition– authoritative yet not infallible. Behind all this is the doctrine of Justification by faith. So much is at stake regarding uncritical embrace of the seventh council as well as lauded ‘seven’ sacraments. This is why we don’t put salt in the mouths of converts, etc. Nor do we treat icons as ‘windows to heaven’. Where apparent catholic practice continued, it is usually argued not on theological grounds but church order. So, my point is Anglicanism is not a one-to-one ratio with so-called Orthodoxy. The mindset is different. And, I would say men like Hooker and Jewel stood with Luther and Calvin on the centrality of Justification.


      • Charles,

        Since I was at St Louis I think I can safely say that most of us there would not raise the Affirmation to the level of the major documents of the Christian faith or even to the level of those of the Elizabethan settlement. Those who wrote it were not trained theologians but devout Christian men who were attempting to stand against the apostasy of our times to the very best of their abilities.

        I was also at the Denver consecrations and was appalled whenthe door opened and the four bishops elect walked through with three of them in Roman cassocks and rochets instead of the more classic and historic Anglican rochets. To me it was one of the first signs of their own lack of faith in the Anglican expression of Catholic Christianity. Indeed their lack of Christian charactor began to show almost immediately when two of them decided that neither the laity or any other bishop could be trusted with the task of maintaining a Catholic Christianity among us. Waterson simply had a major mental breakdown and poped. The infighting which followed created major openings for that ‘roaring lion’ and many, too many fell victim to him.

        But Anglicanism continued to be possible and even flourished in many parishes and some dioceses. It did so by the intelligence and spirituality of individuals, bishops, priests, deacons and laity who found places to worship and who kept up the fullness of the prayer books services. And they did so because they had faith and once you really have it and live by it, it is not so much a theological issue anymore. Indeed, without faith, the kind which justifies, they would not have been able to do any of these things.

        Incidentally, do you know Thomas Oden’s book on justification? I have yet to find a copy myself, but it is on my list of things to read. I understand that he goes through a series of pre-Reformation theologians in a manner that should prove that justification by faith was the teaching of the Church before the late medieval decline.

        The task of an Anglican cleric is to be a Catholic in quire and at the altar and an evangelical in the pulpit and in the street. In fact, if he does not preach the gospel with his life before his words, there is no real possibility of his being “according to the whole.” Francis could have lived out his life as a rich cloth merchant’s son, but it was the necessity of being an evangelist and preaching repentance and faith that drove him to creating the friar’s minor. The radical demands of the gospel, the whole gospel, drove him into the streets and out of his father’s house. He had, to his own best understanding, to follow Jesus. We must do likewise.

        P. S., I am glad that you had the bunnies blessed. I really like rabbits but my cats have other ideas.


      • Charles,

        While I agree that the formularies of the Elizabethan Settlement must carry a certain, distinctive weight lest Anglicanism simply dissolve into a thousand churches to worshiping the idol of private judgment, I am also glad that nothing in the Act of Supremacy commits Anglicans loyal thereto solely to an enumeration of only Four General Councils.

        Indeed, the Act states that, “the first four General Councils” are authoritative in exposing heresy and no “matter or cause” is to be considered heresy except “such as heretofore have been determined, ordered, or adjudged to be heresy by the authority of Canonical Scriptures, or by any other General Council wherein the same was declared by the express and plain words of the said Canonical Scriptures ….” Thus, the use of the phrase “other” General Council, indicates that the Church recognize the authority and scriptural orthodoxy of more than the first four.

        Moreover, the 39 Articles, which followed after the Act of Supremacy, through their referent incorporation Book of Homilies, already recognized six general councils. Subsequently, Anglican divines beginning with the Carolines began to suggest that nothing in the dogmatic definitions of the first seven councils is to be feared. And more recently, C.B. Moss argued that, as the Anglican Communion has never acted inconsistently with the Seventh Ecumenical Council, its orthodoxy has been recognized in fact, if not expressly.

        All this is to say then, that the St. Louis Affirmation’s enumeration of Seven Councils does not necessarily stand outside the trajectory of Classical Anglicanism, which has never tied itself to an exclusive enumeration of Council, even if it has given an irrevocable imprimatur of importance to the first four.

        Moreover, the St. Louis Affirmation is most certainly was not walking in lock step with Orthodoxy, as not only does Orthodoxy regard the Seventh Council as General but also the Eight Council, which was held in Constantinople in 879-80. Indeed, many Orthodox also count the Palamite Councils of the 14th Century as important clarifications of orthodox doctrine even if they may not, strictly speaking, be General Councils.


  4. Charles, When speaking with the Eastern Church there is always a little matter of translation. They use the word ‘sacrament’ in quite a different way that we Westerns have done since the Reformation period. But then most of us don’t recognize that at one point Western theologians counted more than twenty things as ‘sacraments.’

    When Anglican theologians speak of Baptism and Communion as Sacraments generally (i.e., universally) necessary for salvation they do so because they were instituted by our Lord himself albeit they both have Old Testament and Jewish antecedents.

    The Western problem with the Seventh Council was that for a very long period of time the only translation of its central theological edict was erroneous. It said the exact opposite of what the council had ruled and Western theologians rightly knew that such was unacceptable. On the other hand, the lighting of candles before icons or the graves of the saints is one of the oldest of Christian form of devotions. It goes back to a time shortly after Polycarp.


    • Hi Lee,

      To tell you the truth, I really like the idea of the entire Church being a ‘sacrament’. In a sense it truly is a sacrament. I think the language of ‘sacrament’ was cleaned up by Anglicans/reformers because the abuses of Rome which boiled down to how ‘sin was forgiven’. Thus, the latter sacraments (be it twenty or five, etc.) were distinguished from the greater two. Rome has a very broad view of what constitutes the “keys” that ‘bind and loose’ (relics, monastic vows, prayers to saints, pilgrimages, rosaries, etc.). English divines clarified that sin could only be forgiven through what Christ himself instituted– the preached Word and those sacraments which proclaimed His death. Until this point, whatever rite the Pope decreed possessed a power to remit sin. This even came down to the Pontifical tithe. How sin is remitted is still a very important point, in my mind, especially when dealing with modern-day apologetics of either Romans or the Greeks.


  5. And the reason for stressing the Four against the Seven is that with the fifth the disciplinary canons were at odds with what was ordered in the New Testament. I very strongly believe that this is a very important distinction and one that should always be emphasised.


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