After a fairly long post on the recent Brockton Consultation, the question remains by what doctrinal standard shall the Continuing movement rally itself? Will it be a strict or nominal reading of the St. Louis Affirmation? What will be the status of the 39 Articles? Some traditionalists mistrust the Thirty-Nine Articles because they believe the Settlement too inclusive of Puritanism and therefore unstable. Hardwick’s historical method instructs the proper reading of Articles precluding these worries.
When push comes to shove, either the Affirmation or Articles have to give way. A couple scenarios unfold regarding the Continuum’s future based on how the Thirty-Nine articles might be treated. If the Affirmation is read a nominal way, then the ACC will harden and isolate itself against any rising whiff of Protestantism. In this scenario, the APA and/or UEC might take a lead midst the ACC’s self-paralysis, reclaiming the 39 Articles for Continuing Anglicans as well eventual dialog with GAFCON churches. But, if a strict reading of the Affirmation prevails, then the ACC will remain the center of a the Continuing movement. The ACC will continue its ecclesiastical embargo against ACNA partners on the basis of an exaggerated view of apostolic succession neither found in the Articles nor the Ordinal. AB Haverland said– again and again– the 39 articles have no normative authority in the ACC.
Another possibility is the thirty-nine articles are simply confused by Tract 90, placing the Continuum in basic theological alignment with Trent. In either case, the maligning of the Articles would isolate and neutralize the Continuum, so how the thirty-nine articles are treated will determine if continuing movement will ever arise as a leaven for the future North American Anglicanism. A longtime continuing churchman, Mr. Stephen Cooper, said of the Denver Bishops had no intention to keep the thirty-nine articles:
“The Continuers who formed in 1977 Congress did well in seeking to rectify this situation, but they labored under a like deficiency. They rightly stood for the 1928 BCP, but they excluded the 39 Articles. This marked a break with faithful Anglicans world-wide and with the Continuers‟ own spiritual fore-fathers of the previous century. The high-church bishops among those at the first Lambeth Conference in 1867 proposed a resolution stating their commitment to the faith “defined by the first four General Councils, and reaffirmed by the Fathers of the English Reformation.” The Continuers‟ failure to take this stand allowed for latent disagreement among them about whether they truly meant their position to be Anglican – i.e., consistent with the English Reformation and its governing Formularies. This gave an opening to those of their bishops who tacitly rejected the English Reformation. These bishops, under the name of continuing Anglicans, immediately set up separate and decidedly un-Anglican systems and doctrines. Thus began the self-defeating syndrome that has discredited and kept a stranglehold on the Continuum ever since.” (p. 1-2, Continuing What?: part VI)
Robinson 2 Hardwick: A couple years ago I contacted Bishop Robinson inquiring about UECNA standards, wanting to know their relative ranking. AB Robinson’s answer was surprising. Without hesitation he placed the 39 articles on top, then prayer book, and last Andrewes’ formula. I recall in between these three points, Robinson included other well-known documents like Homilies, 1604 canons, etc. However, the order of the first and last shocked me because it was an answer I was not accustomed to hear within the Continuing church, namely, particular formulae preceding so-called catholic tradition. Furthermore, when it comes to embracing Anglican particulars, modern Anglicans usually prefer the Prayer Book before acknowledging the Articles. This is likely a prejudice stemming from late-19th century liberal Catholicism which “dispersed” authority away from the confessional statements of the Settlement toward less definitive liturgical forms of Creed and Eucharist. At the Reformed Catholic blog, the Reverend Charles Erlandson recently said:
“A second commonly mentioned stylistic characteristic of Anglican identity is the fact that authority in Anglicanism is a dispersed authority. As delineated by a statement of bishops to the 1948 Lambeth Conference, authority is dispersed or distributed among Scripture, tradition, creeds, the ministry of the word and sacraments, the witness of the saints, and the consensus fidelium, liturgy being the crucible in which these elements of authority are unified. This notion of dispersed authority is important because depending on how highly these authorities are valued and how they are valued relative to one another, Anglicanism might be described in very different terms; this is especially true if Scripture is seen as only one among many dispersed authorities of equal importance and its normative authority thereby diminished.”
Liberal Catholicism tends to radicalize the ‘incarnation‘ by equating knowledge to mystical experience, sacramental union, and real presence. When confronted by more systematic counter-reformation or certain tridentine dogma, Anglicanism is left with nearly zero rejoinder aside from a lipid or rearguard pleas for ‘comprehension’. This tends to buckle because it refuses to sort out contradictions. The Reverend Charles Erlandson explains,
“Stylistic definitions by their very nature also tend to be vague. For example, when the idea of comprehension is enlarged from meaning a comprehension of both Catholic and Protestant principles (a generally useful stylistic definition) to meaning the kind of comprehension or toleration in which contradictory ideas are all seen as true, then a common, clear identity becomes difficult to maintain, and clear norms are undermined.”
Worst, unbridled Incarnationalism opens unbridled ‘experience’ as a parallel source of doctrine, justifying “charismatic reception” or the ‘holy spirit’ acting in ways sometimes very differently from scripture or catholic history. We might wonder if Christ’s incarnation wasn’t circumscribed by forms of humiliation, predestined forthe Cross, suffering under the law, etc.. Normally, incarnation is constrained by the moral law which dictates blood for sin. Consequently, revelation is likewise constrained by Logos, or what God chooses to show mankind. Anyway, Bishop Robinson’s strong conviction in the articles, even by making them above BCP as a source of doctrine, was refreshing because it didn’t strum the well-worn harp of catholic mysticism. If the Articles are given the kind of priority Robinson suggested, how should they be interpreted? I recently came across some advice that reminded me of this conversation with the UECNA bishop while reading Hardwick’s History of the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, 2nd ed. (1863). Hardwick doesn’t believe the Articles are a substitute for Catholic faith. Nor, does he pit the two against each other. Indeed, Hardwick insists the reformers’ intent to restore primitive doctrine,
“They [reformers] did not wish to break away in a schismatic temper from the rest of Christendom, but only to extinguish the unlawful jurisdiction of the proud and bold usurper, and, by following in the footsteps of the primitive church, to rescue for their nation many a pure and evangelic element of faith, of feeling, and of ritual” (p. 10)
However, the birth of articles coming from a national synod does not make them less catholic:
“Nor in asserting this great principle of national independence did our legislators overstep the powers which had been claimed and exercised by the domestic synods of the best and purest ages. Till the founding and consolidation of the papal monarchy such bodies had been always held not only competent but morally responsible for the correction of all heresies and errors which sprang up in a particular Church.” p.4
The Articles provide a map through the enormities of the Roman church as well as the Radical reformation. They also rule out certain Swiss teachings typical with Zwinglianism. However, the problem has been reading doctrine into the articles that is otherwise absent. Anglo-catholics often blame the Articles’ comprehension on secular politics. There are likely numerous ways to legitimize the articles, yet Hardwick seems conscious of pitfalls. The Articles cannot be read in isolation. Hardwick suggests a historical method of interpretation, and we should consider this method especially if the Articles are to be normative:
“First, to weigh the history of Reformation movement in the midst of which the Articles had been produced. Secondly, to read them in this light, approximating as far as possible to the particular point of view which had been occupied by all the leading compilers. Thirdly, to interpret the language of the formulary in its plain and grammatical sense (i.e., the sense which it had borne in the Edwardine and Elizabethan periods of the church), bestowing on it ‘the just and favorable construction, which ought to be allowed to all human writings, especially such as are set forth by authority. Fourthly, where the language of the Articles is vague, or where (as might have been expected of their history) we meet with a comparative silence in respect of any theological topic, to ascertain the fuller doctrine of the Church of England on that point, by reference to here other symbolic writings– the Prayer, Book, the Ordinal, the Homilies, and the Canons. Fifthly, where these sources have been tried without arriving at explicit knowledge as to the intention of any article, to acquiesce in the deductions which the ‘the catholic doctors and ancient bishops’ have expressly gathered on that point from Holy Scripture; in accordance with the recommendation of the Canon of 1571, in which subscription to the present Articles had been enjoined upon the clergy.” p. 221
Hardwick’s interpretative method is very similar to Edward H. Browne’s instructions on discerning the minds of the original compilers. Browne also ranks high a knowledge of the controversies of the time, requiring a cleric to be something of a historian, while listing catholic tradition towards the end. Browne advises:
“In the interpretation of them [the Articles], our best guides must be, first, their own natural, literal, grammatical meaning; [second] next to this, a knowledge of the controversies which had prevailed in the Church, and made such articles necessary; [third] then, the other authorized formularies of the Church [like the BCP]; after them [fourth], the writings and known opinions of such men as Cranmer, Ridley, and Parker, who drew them up; [fifth] then, the doctrines of the primitive Church, which they professed to follow; and lastly, [sixth] the general sentiments of the distinguished English divines who have been content to subscribe to the Articles, and have professed their agreement with them for now 300 years. These are our best guides for their interpretation. Their authority is derivable from scripture alone.” (p. 16, An Exposition of the 39 articles)
An amazing feature of Hardwick’s canon is the regard for the Reformation period. It’s pure fiction to distance the protestantism of Anglican divines by treating them aloof from events on the continent. Hardwick documents the official conferences between held by Henry’s delegates with Lutherans, “to weigh the history of Reformation movement in the midst of which the Articles had been produced”. This occurred at an early phase of Article development, and therefore it left an indelible mark. The Henrician church established a lasting impact by Saxony:
“No one can deny that the compilers of the Forty-Two articles in the reign of Edward VI drew largely from the Lutheran formulary probable that such derivation, instead of being direct, took place entirely through the medium of the Anglo-German channel.” (p. 61)
Ironically, a study of the Reformation provides the most powerful argument against calvinist influence since the bulk of the Articles predate the rise of Geneva’s influence. Thus, the late-Henrician and early-Edwardine become a reservoir for conservatism that Elizabeth and Stuarts apparently drew upon. Few traditional Anglicans take advantage of these histories because their assumption is Cranmer or the Tudors appeased Zwinglians. The 1625 Declaration warned Anglicans to read the Articles in their “plain and grammatical sense”. The grammatical approach, in addition to the intertextual comparison with other confessions, was another hedge against puritanism, “when they [supports of the Declaration] urged that ‘calvinism’ is not accordant with the letter of the articles, and cannot be deduced from them by any of the rules which judges commonly apply to the interpretation of a legal document” (p. 206). The convenience of royal seal is usually lost upon Anglicans who are accustom to ‘free church’ where the faith of the Christian prince is suspect of flimflam or ‘compromise’. Hardwick recommends writings “especially such as are set forth by authority” deserve special attention. In the case of the Reformation church of England, being ‘set forth’ meant a document had royal approval. Authoritative texts are therefore easily recognized by royal warrant, the foremost being (in the order of their genesis) 39 Articles, canons, bible, ordinal, prayer book, and two books of homilies. Against our own prosperity, we flippantly disregard what nursing parents of old worked to establish in our church, namely, articles of belief for the sake of concord and quiet. The last two points generally follow Frere’s Rule of Analogy. The prayer book is never taken alone but measured by both explicit and implicit texts. Explicit includes the faire mentioned above but also less recognized texts such as the homilies and canons. The homilies are really the next best thing to a national catechism, containing much practical and hortative material. Injunctions likewise shed light on certain theological points. Both the 1604 and 1640 canons provide surprisingly long rationale for bowing at the Name, reverencing altars, and crossings. It was often the case when prayer book revision was politically unfeasible corrections were made to rubric through canons. Many of the changes in the 1662 were put into the 1559 acts. A good example being the ornament’s rubric. It is curious this St. Vincent’s rule or the allusion to the 1571 canon comes at the end as our final security when other means are less perceptible. The Affirmation also invokes the Vincentian canon. But the ACC understands this to include a wide swath of post-patristic tradition. Anglican divinity appears a bit more skeptical, limiting ‘reliable centuries‘ to undisputed ecumenical councils with little confidence beyond the seventh century. Later Anglo-catholics attempt to extend reliability well into the medieval period, thereby opening questionable theological doors which undermine the very reason for the Articles. Consequently, the reformation applies the test of six centuries keeping whatever is “consonant” with that period in the Western Church. For this reason Andrewes’ formula is usually more clear than St. Vincent’s. Conclusion: I’ve found this historical method to be fairly accurate. It is certainly is better than the ‘incarnation’ or ‘apostolic’ kind that liberal catholics prefer. This latter sorts is quick to discard the Settlement as peculiar, adopting minimalist ‘experiental’ Creedal approach that leaves huge gaps in Anglican theology against the counter-reformation, or is some cases radicalism, that is typically filled in by neo-marxism or Roman Catholicism. Finally, the Affirmation vs. Solemn Declarations will eventually come to a head. Either the Affirmation’s take on sacraments will be read nominally or the 39 articles will become Tract 90. Historical method instructs us how the Book of Articles are read in order to preclude both Newman’s error and Puritan embellishment. Confidence in the Settlement is the gateway by which the rest of the Continuing movement might unfetter itself from intransigent aspects of St. Louis and thereby influence and inspire larger North American Anglicanism in a leaven-like fashion.