Although today’s United Episcopal Church has made great strides in unity with ACC, back in 1980 Bishop Doren was careful not to bind the UEC to the St. Louis Affirmation, allowing the “spirit” rather than “letter” to prevail. Recently, the presiding Bishop of the United Episcopal Church outlined something resembling a Solemn Declaration. It must be said this was merely a passing comment by the UEC’s archbishop and not a formal intent. Nonetheless, what was outlined made the gist of a terrific solemn declaration, a genre of confessionalism that historically marks North American orthodox Anglicanism.
Of the St. Louis Congress, Archbishop Peter Robinson said, “Really all that needed to be done in 1977 was to reaffirm the Traditional High Church POV [point of view]. Simply stated…”
“1. This Church affirms that Holy Orders of deacon, priest and bishop are, according to Scripture, to be conferred only on suitably qualified men.
2. The Thirty-nine Articles of Religion are to be interpreted in accordance with the first six Ecumenical Councils of the Church.
3. This Church accepts as its standard of worship only those editions of the Prayer Book conformable to the Book of Common Prayer, 1662.
4. This accepts the traditional moral teaching of the Church affirming in particular the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death; and the sanctity and indissoluability of the marriage vows between one man and one woman.”
Using Bishop Robinson’s four points, I composed an XYZ solemn declaration integrating +Peter’s comments with the SD’s of other traditional Anglican churches, mostly, APA, ACC, and UK-TAC. A preamble is always a nice addition, but it’s really icing on the cake. I am sympathetic with something that asserts England’s ancient origins along lines found in the TAC Concordant, “Established in our particular identity of history, character and purpose within the constant tradition of the Church from its arrival in the British Isles in the earliest Christian centuries”. I would probably finish the preamble by including this statement on British origins with the two bullets from the Affirmation’s preface regarding salvation by Jesus Christ alone and St. Vincent of Lerins, but replacing the Vincentian canon with Andrewes’ Formula to keep doctrine safely in the primitive era.
However, the more knitty-gritty is the body of the Declaration itself, and this was mostly lifted from the original 1893 SD with as little alteration as possible. I’ll likely play around with this fictitious SD for a bit. Notice the bold portions which mark clarifications to the 1893 original:
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
WE, the Bishops, together with the Depuites from the Clergy and Laity of the XYZ, assembled in Provincial Synod, make the following Solemn Declaration:
WE declare this Church to be, and desire that it shall continue in full communion with all Traditional Anglicans throughout the world, as an integral portion of the One Body of Christ composed of Churches which, united under the One Divine Head and in fellowship of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic, Reformed and Protestant Church, hold the One Faith revealed in Holy Writ, and defined in the Creeds, known as the Nicene Creed, Athanasius’ Creed, and Apostles’ Creed, as maintained by the undivided primitive Church in the undisputed Ecumenical Councils; receive the same Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as containing all things necessary to salvation; teach the same Word of God; partake of the same Divinely ordained Sacraments , through the ministry of the same Apostolic Orders; including Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, to be conferred only on suitably qualified men; and worship One God and Father through the same Lord Jesus Christ, by the same Holy and Divine Spirit Who is given to them that believe to guide them into all truth.
And we are determined by the help of God to hold and maintain the Doctrine, Sacraments and Discipline of Christ as the Lord hath commanded in His Holy Word*, and as the Church of England hath received and set forth the same in the Book of Common Prayer of 1662, and only those editions of the Prayer Book conformable to it; and the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1562 interpreted in accordance with the first six Ecumenical Councils of the Church; and to transmit the same unimpaired to our posterity.
*This accepts the traditional moral teaching of the Church affirming in particular the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death; and the sanctity and indissoluability of the marriage vows between one man and one woman.“
Some comments on the bold above. Though most belong to Lord Peter, I took liberty to add some modifications based upon previous TAC SD’s. The term “traditional Anglicans” replaced the original “church of england throughout the world”. Though I don’t wish to give a wink to the ACC’s altered St. Louis version, and I personally believe these terms are synonymous (traditional Anglicans would know themselves as the church of england abroad), I changed the phrase to dismiss any misconception that communion with radical liberals in Canterbury or elsewhere was necessary to being ‘orthodox’. When in doubt, I went with the bulk of Continuing SD’s.
Haverland has discussed what terms mean. What does ‘traditional’ mean in the Anglican context? What does “orthodox”? I thought the question was interesting, so I pulled some explanations from the St. Louis churches. (of course they would point to the Affirmation). The TAC concordant gives a two-part definition, incorporating the non-jurors’ relation to the East and the patristic father St. John Damascus:
1.2. The term ‘Traditional’ as used in this context refers to that living witness of the Spirit within the Church by which her continuity is assured from age to age. It is described in a letter of 1718 AD from the Eastern Patriarchs to the English Non-Jurors: “We preserve the Doctrine of the Lord uncorrupted, and firmly adhere to the Faith He delivered to us, and keep it free from blemish and diminution, as a Royal Treasure, and a monument of great price, neither adding any thing, nor taking any thing from it;” and by St. John of Damascus: “We do not change the everlasting boundaries which our fathers have set, but we keep the Tradition, just as we received it.“
TAC’s Preamble also provides a few reference points to better flesh out ‘Tradition’ which suggest not only the Apostolic and Patristic foundations of the Church but a possible consensus today:
DETERMINED to maintain the unbroken continuity of our tradition within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ from its inception to the present day, especially as expressed in the precepts of the Ecumenical Councils of the Undivided Church;
ESTABLISHED in our particular identity of history, character and purpose within the constant tradition of the Church from its arrival in the British Isles in the earliest Christian centuries, and as expressed in its traditional formularies; and
REMAINING in Communion with all such Churches, Provinces and Dioceses throughout the world which have been established in and are faithful to the same constant tradition, to which the historic Chair of St. Augustine at Canterbury is called to bear witness:
Evidently, ‘traditional’ has something to do with the churchmanship of the non-jurors and its attempted rapprochment with Greeks. There is also a tendency among ‘traditionalists’ to make the 1549 rather than the 1662 BCP the basic text for interpreting BCP revisions. This would be acceptable given Traditionalists actually stayed within the framework of the theology outlined in the 1549, considering the canons in Edward’s second year. Unfortunately, too many self-professed ‘traditionalist’ abuse the 1549 as a spring board for the Anglican Missal and Roman ritual addition. This includes intercessions of saints, reverences to icons, altar relics, etc.. That said, I believe the 1549 has been an ongoing and necessary reference point for old high churchmanship, and I see nothing wrong with this statement given it’s taken with sobriety.
I named the three creeds just to be consistent with other continuing SD’s but this was probably the least wanted modification since ‘creeds’ should be plainly understood. Lord Peter mentions the 1662, and this should be enough to clarify possible discrepancies with American use.
The rest is self-explanatory. Archbishop Robinson’s rationale for qualifying the 39 articles with a specific number of general councils can be read here. I had most trouble finding a place to insert Robinson’s moral principles on marriage. These are found in the third section of the St. Louis Affirmation. There is no existing SD that bothers to clarify moral principles, leaving such re-assertions for subsidiary documents. Most continuing SD’s handle this by making reference to the St. Louis Affirmation. Instead, I used an asterisk and just let it ‘hang’ at the end. This is something that deserves more thought, and I’d be inclined to add other moral transgressions that are pervasive since the 1950’s, better summing the ‘central error of 1977’, not stopping with either divorce or WO.
“Orthodoxy” is a term much batted around these days. Haverland suggested its often vacuous meaning. I’m always fond of rigorous definitions. It certainly indicates a kind of churchmanship. Perhaps “orthodoxy’s” can be first credited to Bishop Laud who scribbled “o” before the names of non-puritan divines in the 17th century? Possible elaboration might require a look into Laudian canons, especially the subscription formula used by Laud giving the Archbishop the unpleasant appellation of ‘disciplinarian’. Orthodoxy in this sense would be those who could affirm historic formula, including the 39 articles.
The Anglican Church-USA (ACIC) roughly equates “traditional” to “catholic” while reserving the term “orthodox” for “evangelical”. This is probably the most simple clarification, especially when considering the earliest continuers called themselves “Anglican Orthodox”. The ACIC claims approval for the same doctrine and standards for catholics and evangelicals, yet ascribes differences of ceremony to the liberty of ‘style’. However, ceremonial style can impinge upon doctrine, especially when ceremony with various sacramentals and icons ascribe a local grace to the ornament. Sacramentals is usually the backdoor way medeival Roman Catholic and Eastern theology creeps into the church. In such cases, the theology of the 1549 BCP is compromised (as noted above).
Another route to demystify “orthodoxy” would be to weigh and distill a common denominator from extant Solemn Declarations. In this case, it would be pretty close to Laud’s canons–BCP, 39 Articles, Ordinal–combined with the more recent Quadrilateral. Solemn Declarations are the modern link to the 1571 and 1584 subscription canons. The 1584 articles correspond to the basic formula of BCP plus 39 articles. Meanwhile, the 1571 canon touches the main points of the Quadrilateral. Therefore, SD’s already are brief statements of historical orthodoxy, closely related to Anglican canon. Indeed, ‘traditonal’ and ‘orthodox’ ought to overlap if it wasn’t for abuses taken with Anglican ceremony.
Solemn Declarations are unique to North American Anglicanism. They conveniently locate a church within a history of Anglican faith and order that goes back to Tudor canon. If North American Anglicanism is ever to ‘regather’, various Solemn Declarations may slowly converge upon plain and clear terminology rather than, as some do, mollify theological differences with ambiguous language. For the most part, the 1893 Declaration is standard with the best SD’s sticking close to it. But, even the 1893 can benefit by clarifying the condition for male clergy and specifying the 1662 against the 1979, etc.. Questions regarding the standard prayer book and nature of holy orders seem to be the two biggest issues for modern Anglicans, impairing communion and sparking splits. Certainly any modern SD needs to address these problems,and Bishop Peter Robinson’s summation does well in this regard.
Anyway, the imaginary Solemn Declaration for UECNA shows how easy they are to compose. Comparing contemporary examples was very helpful in this respect.