Has Anglicanism ever been a ‘confessional’ church? Confessional churches, like Rome, have the advantage of presenting a clear statement of belief to both clergy and laity that might assist both apologetics and catechism. Such confessions typically go beyond the universal creed, delineating how faith is received by a particular church. Even amongst Continuuing Anglicans, fairly distinct understandings based on derived patrimonies from Denver consecrations persist. Too often R. Rev. Chamber’s Bishops (with perhaps the exception of Doren) took catholic necessity as licence to recast Anglican patrimony against the Settlement, leaving bystanding Continuuers to make enormous choices with respect churchmanship.
Christianity itself is a confessional faith. In England, if one admits a theological basis to the national church (i.e., equality of bishops, faith of the prince, the ‘rock’ as the gospel, etc.), the Anglican reformation indeed began under a ‘test act’– e.g., the oath of Supremacy. Licencing of clergy was controlled by the King, and in 1537 and 1543 Henry published Catechisms expecting conformity not only to royal prerogatives but likewise ‘true doctrine’ expressed therein. England’s ‘confessional orthodoxy’ further developed during the period 1559-1689, whereupon a distinctly Anglican Settlement for religion emerges (i.e., the 39 Articles, Prayer Book, and Injunctions).
Protestant Settlement or Catholic Tradition:
While the Anglican Settlement ended by the 20th century, subscription as a practice was not abandoned. Anglo-Catholics continue to licence clergy conditioned upon a public vow or profession of faith. For example, the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) requires an oath from all clergy and lay workers, “I do solemnly engage to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Anglican Catholic Church”. What is this ‘Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship’? It is assumed clergy and lay workers know it. Regarding the 39 Articles, Arch-Bishop Haverland says,
“The Articles are not theologically detailed or systematic. Historically, the purpose of the Articles was to distinguish the CofE from certain beliefs of the late medieval Roman Catholic Church and other beliefs fround in the radical Reformaiton, particularly among Anabaptists. For this reason the Articles treat specific controversial issues rather than to present an elaborated theological system…therefore [they] have no normative authority in this Church” (p. 149-150, Anglican Faith)
Amongst Continuum Churches the main features of the Elizabethan settlement are understood through the St. Louis Affirmation, “In affirming these principles [essentials of Truth and Order], we recognize that all Anglican statements of faith and liturgical formulae must be interpreted in accordance with them” (Section 2). Therefore, the Continuers filter the Settlement through ‘catholic tradition’ where seven ecumenical councils are the starting point. Archbishop Haverland says, “Insofar as the Articles seem in tension with the central Tradition of the Undivided Church, it is not essential to attempt to reconcile them with that Tradition, for they have no independent authority in this Church. The Affirmation of St. Louis, to which the ACC officially subscribes, settles this issue” (Anglican Faith, p. 151)
But what is Catholic Tradition? The assumption behind ACC statements is that the Settlement did not adequately sum ‘catholic tradition’ as received by the divines and articles in the period, 1559-1689. Indeed, the 1995 Athen’s Statement (ACC) contends, “The fundamental cause has been a crisis of authority within Anglicanism, having its origins in the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century and the tensions of the Elizabethan ‘Church Settlement’….in the days of Elizabeth I the Church Settlement provoked deep crisis of conscience…It may therefore be said that the Church Settlement did not really work in England even under Elizabeth, and it certainly does not work in England or anywhere else today”. The result, according to the Athen’s Statement, was an ‘insidious Congregationalism’ which St. Louis corrects by proclaiming Catholic truth.
St. Louis says catholic tradition is “set forth by the ancient catholic bishops and doctors, and especially as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church, to the exclusion of all errors, ancient and modern”. This is somewhat open-ended. The lines of succession from the Denver consecrations (Mote, Morse, Doren), for instance, disagreed upon content and reception (canon and doctrine) of catholic tradition. This led to separatism amongst St. Louis churches. As the Athen’s Statment smartly points out, “Anglicans generally have forgotten that they sink or swim with their bishop”.
Thus, while St. Louis purports to clarify or, in some cases transcend, the Settlement, the Affirmation itself contains plenteous ambiguity to demand further articles and declarations. This ambiguity revolves around the question of ‘reception’. The claim of reception is mentioned in the Athen’s Statement,
“Therefore, when the Congress of St. Louis met in Sept. 1977, at stake was not merely the continuation of traditional Anglicanism in a cultural sense, but access to valid sacraments…It was most careful to proceed canonically– i.e., pursuant to the canons and precepts of the seven ecumenical councils of the undivided church and the canonical tradition derived there from– in taking those actions necessary to preserve the Catholic Faith and Apostolic Order as received by and from the Church of England in the days of its orthodoxy.” (section 4).
But to what extent did the English Church received or understood ‘catholic truth’? The ACC seems to believe catholic truth was suppressed during the Settlement. Each St. Louis church in turn had to similarly gauge the extent of reception. ACC canons, for instance, provide a cut-off point for England’s ‘days of orthodoxy’. This is very significant because it more precisely defines the ACC’s official relation to the Settlement. Regarding doctrine and canon received, canon 2.1 says,
“This Church submits itself and subscribes to the Seven Holy Oecumenical Councils of the undivided Primitive Catholic Church and their Doctrine, Definitions, Letters, Epistles, Acts and Decrees, both doctrinal and synodal, and the Letters and Decrees of the Regional Councils or Synods and of the Fathers received, accepted, and affirmed by the same Oecumenical Councils, all as received in the Church of England through the year 1543, as well as the Canons, Canonical Acts and Decrees, and the Rulings Canonical thereof or made therein, and the Canonical principles expressed therein, as have been accustomed and used in the Church since their adoption and which have neither been expressly altered or amended by positive action of this Church or fallen into and remained desuetude, to wit.”
Comparing Canon 2.1 to the Athen’s statement, it is a reasonable that ‘catholic truth an order’ is understood in the ACC through the lens of Henrician reforms. Much has yet to be said about this period of reform but sufficient to say the Henrician church was not Roman or Greek.
Henry’s 1543 Catechism is commonly misunderstood as a retraction of the Ten Articles. There is something about royal prestige which prevents such a statement. Rather, Henrician doctrine forms a system of thought based on Augustinian justification and sacraments. The 1543 Catechism says nothing contrary to the 1537 Instruction of Christian Man nor the Ten Articles. However, there is a refutation of both Romanism and Lutheranism in both, explaining why preparation for Mantua in 1537 commenced while talks with Lutherans in 1538 ceased. Nonetheless, Henrician documents provide a framework for later Settlement, and they cannot be divorced from later development any more than from ancient catholic precedent. Either Henrician articles are orthodox or not. The ACC says they are, rather incoherently approving the Reformation while denouncing the Settlement?
The legacy (and confusion) of Mote, Morse, and Doren still reverberate within Continuuing churches, lending distinctive characters to each province by disagreement on canons. But liturgists should note– canons touch many parts ceremony and therefore also theology. The Vestment (1590’s) and Altar (1630’s) controversies are testiments to such. Each Bishop have left their mark, “Anglican sink or swim with their bishop”.
Behind Chamber’s Succession is forty-year debate on Patrimony. Too often what might otherwise be authentic Anglican patrimony is cast down from the heights of ‘theology’ to the low context of culture: e.g., language, poetry, or ornament. This is one way to disarm a potentially legitimate claim. The ACC would likely have as little to do with the Settlement as possible, opting instead for the an imagined undercurrent of 17th century Roman recusancy or Bp. Gardiner’s mid-16th century catholic party. However, this sort of discrimination assumes Cranmer, Tudor, and Caroline divines sorely failed in their resourcement of Patristics, etc., thus creating an identity crisis that pretends resolution by ‘foreign appeal’ (i.e., Rome or Constantinople).
Such ‘foreign appeal’ amounts to selecting another lineage of doctrinal development essentially alien to Anglican thought. More than ‘jurisdiction hopping’, Continuuers risk loosing the inheritance of theology most substantive of Patrimony. Presently, ACC is headed in a bull-rush towards Eastern Orthodoxy, leaving the Settlement behind as a ‘cultural’ or ‘historic’ accident. However, it can only coherently accomplish this by either:
- A theologically consistent renunciation of Henrician standards.
- Proceeding in ignorance or dishonesty toward same standards
Differences between churchmanship stemming from the Denver consecrations can be known by analyzing UECNA, ACC, and APCK constitutions/canons, revealing how each interpret St. Louis with respect to the Settlement and reception of pre-reformation Catholicism. With the ACC a somewhat “pained relation” toward Protestantism exists. Despite relative denial of Anglican formulas, the ACC admittedly has more comprehensive and finished set of canons than sister Continuuing churches. Lastly, freed from the alleged troubles of Settlement, the ACC claims a ‘clarified’ theology, but this is very questionable when Henrician articles make up the core of Elizabethan doctrine? For the most part this technically is ignored. Divergences between Denver Bishops may soon close with the ‘rapid merger’ planned by UECNA.
Next posting will regard the central tenant of the 1543 Henrician confession. For now, the Henrician formularies may be read or downloaded at Formularies of Faith put forward during the Reign of King Henry VIII. Also, needed background on Tractarianism vs. Anglo-Catholicism.