Shorter Affirmation

Despite appearances to the contrary, Anglican Rose acknowledges the good of the St. Louis Affirmation. The Affirmation was a needed antidote to the 1970’s civil rights mania infecting the church, correcting the tide of feminism by appeal to Tradition.  However, when the Affirmation is taken in a ‘confessional’ sense, it narrows churchmanship on strict anglo-catholic lines (1). Against this insertion of “old catholic” doctrine, the main of continuing churches have kept a broad ethos. Yet, the Affirmation is hardly a solution to illicit Anglican comprehension since the Accord generates its own set of disagreements. A shorter version of the Affirmation better represents the broad orthodoxy (historically characteristic) of the continuing movement. 

Nonetheless, continuing Anglicans typically have three ways to deal with the more sticky points of the Affirmation. First, they might say nothing about the Affirmation in C&C. This approach is typical of UECNA which says no more than “We also accept the Affirmation of St Louis (1977) as a roadmap to safeguarding our Anglican heritage” . Second, they might equally approving the Affirmation with the 39 articles not worrying about theological tensions, and this method is more akin to ACA. Or, third, they could qualify the Affirmation with an ambiguous clause like  “the spirit of St. Louis” (APA).  In each case, the Affirmation generally has a status that is less than the Prayer Book.

A case-by-case basis of how the Affirmation is treated by solemn declaration may be read here, and Bishop Robinson has written an excellent overview on difficulties normally had with the Affirmation. I will try to expand on some of these problems.

The Good: 
An example of the Affirmation’s excellence as a remedy to women’s ordination can be found with the ACA’s abbreviated version. Though the ACA accepts the Affirmation in its fullness, the abbreviated version highlights elements that are essential. This clarifies qualifying clauses, like “the spirit of” in the APA’s Solemn Declaration. The DNE website gives a boiled-down version of the Affirmation composed from short excerpts:


The Nature of the Church: … True religion is revealed to man by God. We cannot decide what is truth, but rather (in obedience) ought to receive, accept, cherish, defend and teach what God has given us. The Church is created by God, and is beyond the ultimate control of man.

Holy Scriptures : The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments (are) the authentic record of God’s revelation of Himself, His saving activity, and moral demands – a revelation valid for all men and all time.

Incompetence of Church Bodies to Alter Truth: We disclaim any right or competence to suppress, alter or amend any of the ancient Ecumenical Creeds and definitions of Faith, to set aside or depart from Holy Scripture, or to alter or deviate from the essential pre-requisites of any Sacrament.


Man’s Duty to God: All people are bound by the dictates of the Natural Law and by the revealed Will of God, insofar as they can discern them.

Family Life: The God-given sacramental bond in marriage between one man and one woman is God’s loving provision for procreation and family life, and sexual activity is to be practiced only within the bonds of Holy Matrimony.

Christian’s Duty to be Moral: We believe, therefore, it is the duty of the Church and her members to bear witness to Christian Morality, to follow it in their lives, and to reject the false standards of the world.


We affirm that the Church of our fathers, sustained by the most Holy Trinity, lives yet, and that we, being moved by the Holy Spirit to walk only in that way, are determined to continue in the Catholic Faith, Apostolic Order, Orthodox Worship and Evangelical Witness of the Traditional Anglican Church.

We repudiate all deviation or departure from the Faith, in whole or in part, and bear witness to these essential principles of Evangelical Truth and Apostolic Order.

The Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the authentic record of God’s revelation of himself, his saving activity, and moral demands; a revelation valid for all men and all time.

We further affirm that no Church body may require as necessary for salvation anything that is not contained within Holy Scripture, nor may it require of its members allegiance to any doctrine, discipline, or practice that is contrary to the same.

Few churchmen would find the doctrine, morality, and method given in this shorter version disagreeable. Too bad a briefer Affirmation like the one above (or a pre-1977 solemn declarationdid not come from the first St. Louis Congress . Nonetheless, it illustrates those essential parts of the Affirmation that ideally hold evangelical and catholic churchmen together. Furthermore, it invokes the necessary hermeneutic to dismiss novelty. If a modest declaration had been the outcome of the St. Louis Congress, perhaps the last thirty years of the Continuum might have been different.  Simply said: the abridged version gives no reason to abstain a signature.

The Bad: 
It was suggested in the previous post (Donlon’s Bubbles), the extent the Affirmation has been theologically received in the continuum is open to debate, especially for the UECNA and FACA-aligned bodies. Where language has been contested just wasn’t over Seven Sacraments but also with: a) Seven Councils; b) Sister churches. Of course, the mode and manner of grace in seven sacraments is probably most damaging to classical Anglicanism. For anglo-catholics, there was discomfort with the Affirmation’s “all sufficient Sacrifice on the Cross” (Bess, p. 99). Nonetheless, significant disagreement exists with less controversial points, mainly, the numeration of ecumenical councils as well as the identity of sister churches.

a. Seven Councils? 
A recent DNE clericus showcased a 2012 lecture by  Fr. Job Serebrov on ACA canons and catholic orthodoxy. At the presentation, the Affirmation was discussed in detail. The lecturer opined the Affirmation’s section I, under ‘The Essentials of Truth and Order’, ought to remove its concluding phrase which casts doubt upon seven councils, e.g., “to the exclusion of all errors, ancient and modern”. Evidently, some anglo-catholics believe that particular clause for dogmatic canon is oxymoronic. If a belief is ‘received’ or otherwise ”ecumenical’, then it must be ‘true’, following the Vincentian principle, “faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all.”, etc.. Douglas Bess likewise noted the oddity of the same clause, but chalked the Affirmation’s inclusion of of the clause to the influence of low and broad churchmen,

“Little attention was paid at the time to the fact that the Affirmation of St. Louis was a compromise document that contained the hidden seeds of future disagreements and ecclesiastical splits. The document had been created by a committee formed by the FCC [fellowship of concerned churchmen], which had engaged in a long process of study and review that resulted in several drafts and revisions. It was not only the seriousness of the document’s intended purpose that made its drafting so difficult, but also the emergence of the age-old tension between Catholic and Protestant interpretations of Anglicanism. The FCC had been organized at the behest of the catholic-minded ACU and Canon Albert J. duBois, but many among the FCC’s leadership, coming largely from the South, were more orientated toward a Protestant or broad to low-church understanding of Anglicanism” (p.98)

However, this proves the Affirmation owns a wider context in its formation than what many anglo-catholics care admit. In fact, the Affirmation is likely closer to the broad, yet conservative, church mindset of PECUSA during the 1960’s. Bess says, “The Affirmation of St. Louis ended up being a manifesto for those who wished to ‘continue’ the Episcopal Church as it had been constituted at some difficult-to-determine time prior to the Minneapolis Convention” (p. 99). This is why the Anglican Catholic Church (ACC) requires the Affirmation. together with Missal and ACC canons, to have supremacy over earlier PECUSA formularies. Haverland insists,

“In short, the Affirmation, the Constitution and Canons, and the authorized Missals all form an interpretative lens through which older formularies must be seen – and in the case of the Affirmation this priority and authority are directly and explicitly asserted.”

It’s with this understanding of the Affirmation’s ‘priority’ over classical standards that Fr. Serebrov makes his criticism of weak language contained in the Affirmation, in this case the seven councils:

“we should seek removal of this rather poorly phrased language from a document that aside from this affirms the Orthodox Catholicity of the Continuum.”

Anglican Rose would certainly agree with the ACA lecturer: parts of the Affirmation are indeed poorly phrased. Anyway, the following conundrum is then posed between Anglican belief and catholic orthodoxy, and Serebrov is brutally honest about Cranmer’s reformation:

“There is one final canonical issue that the St. Louis Agreement’s acceptance of the Seven Ecumenical Councils raises, which is specific to the Seventh Council. What follows is a test of sorts to see whether you absorbed several salient points of my discussion. In reading the dogmatic formula for veneration of images (icons), it is necessary to understand that the Eastern Orthodox Church developed a unique theology of icons that includes prayers to the Saints and not just liturgical hymns describing the Christ-like existence and perseverance of the Saints. However, the earliest Anglican divines imply rejection of the theology of images understood in this light, especially given that veneration requires bowing before an image and kissing it. The first Book of Common Prayer makes this rejection explicit by removing all Sarum prayers to the Saints. Therefore, we must ask if we consider ourselves to be Anglican then how do we interpret the Seventh Council?”

Surprisingly, Serebrov gives a ‘classical’ solution to the seventh council that ought to satisfy both the language of the Affirmation as well as Reformed Anglicanism. His observation is worth remembering. He concludes,

“Remember this is a dogmatic canon so the question of the hour is how do we as Anglicans handle this dogmatic canon? I suggest that there are three options. First, we rethink acceptance of the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Second, we adopt the Eastern Orthodox viewpoint that reads the canon literally and developed an entire theology around it. Third, we treat the canon as written and we venerate icons “with the same relative veneration shown to other material symbols,” such as the cross and the Gospel Book, which is not to bow to these or kiss them. “

Nonetheless, most anglo-catholics would rather have option #2–  deference to the Eastern view– irrespective of what classical Anglicanism previously set forth (2). This rare conclusion by an anglo-catholic priest, “that we neither bow nor kiss icons”, is ironic when compared to the majority of anglo-catholic opinion respecting the seventh council. But does the well-established Caroline (stemming from the 1604 Jacobean canons) custom of bowing to the Altar ruin Fr. Job’s thesis? While Serebrov is indeed sensitive to Anglican standards, he remains vexed by what he considers unnecessary equivocation by the Affirmation, and that’s the relevant point.

The extent “Holy Tradition” ought to be appropriated has been a recurring problem since the beginning of the St. Louis movement, and observers should not forget the ACC itself has been blamed for abandoning the fullness of Marian theology. Whether medieval councils hold similar importance to ecumenical synods remains an open-ended question for St. Louis Affirmation churches since (according to dissident ACC),

“The Roman Catholic Church has continued to call some of the later Councils held in the West ‘ecumenical’ but they have never achieved acceptance by all the Churches. The truth is that it is the quality of faithfulness to Holy Tradition rather the conditions of size and place which is fundamental…[yet] The ACC subscribes and submits itself to the doctrinal decrees of the Seven Councils. The totality of the Tradition of Faith, however, is always larger than the doctrine protected by concilar decree. For the fullness of the Faith we look to Christ, made known to us by the Holy Spirit through the Holy Tradition.”

b. Sister churches?
Another area of periodic disagreement is over the question of ‘which sister churches ought be identified by the St. Louis movement’? The Affirmation urges, ‘full sacramental communion and visible unity with other Christians who “worship the Trinity in Unity, and Unity in Trinity,” and who hold the Catholic and Apostolic Faith in accordance with the foregoing principles’. Yet the Affirmation doesn’t spell the identity of the ‘other Christians’, and apparently this has stirred some dispute as to the ecumenical priorities for the continuing movement.

Probably, the latest disagreement of this kind happened with ACA parishes leaving  for the Roman Ordinariate. In his Sept. 23rd letter, the ACA Bishop of the Missouri Valley, Steven Strawn, justified his tacit approval of the Portsmouth Petition on the basis of the Affirmation’s so-called mandate for catholic unity. This is what he said:

“Of course, I answered that question with a resounding yes, thus joining myself with all of those who signed the petition the week before my consecration. After all, in the Affirmation of St. Louis it is clearly stated, ‘We declare our firm intention to seek and achieve full sacramental communion and visible unity with other Christians who ‘worship the Trinity in Unity, and Unity in Trinity’, and who  hold the Catholic and Apostolic faith in accordance with the foregoing principles”

However, the continuing church in Canada, the ACCC, disagreed with this view. In his Jan. 2012 letter, Bishop Botterill criticized,

“This declaration has been interpreted by some to mean that we seek unity’ with the Roman Catholic church alone– but that is clearly not what the Affirmation says. We seek unity with other denominations and jurisdictions–other continuing Anglican Churches, the various churches of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Polish National Catholic Church, the Nordic Catholic Church, and with the various churches that are in communion with the Roman Catholic Church.”

Are these relations obvious? Surely, ‘catholic’ churches include more than the Roman. But does it include other Anglicans, Swedish Lutherans, or areas of high church Protestantism, say, some Methodists? This is a question that weighs heavily for broad churchmen in the continuum. The APA’s Solemn Declaration commends, “we shall continue in full communion with all traditional Anglican churches throughout the world”.

However, ‘Traditional Anglican’ can incorporate quite a bit. Looking at APA’s ecumenical relations, it would appear the spectrum includes members of the ACNA. The APA’s Unity Report of 2011, presented at the 7th triennial synod,  describes the REC as a “sister jurisdiction” with the APA desirous of ‘maintaining  a degree of communion’ with her. Meanwhile, the REC is a sub-province within ACNA and therefore in partial communion with other bodies that ordain women.

Furthermore, as members of FACA, both ACA and APA recognize the federation’s patronage by orthodox Primates from Lambeth, primarily the Southern Cone. The Southern Cone does not ordain women priests, but it came close in 2010 after women’s ordination was defeated by their second House. Presently, the Southern Cone (consisting of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru) tolerates women deacons in certain dioceses; nonetheless, the Southern Cone’s retired archbishop, Greg Venerables, is the FACA patron.

But a policy of non-involvement hasn’t always been the position of St. Louis Affirming churches. In 2007 the  APA was more patient of partnerships with neo-episcopalians. For example, Bishop Chandler Jones defended APA’s involvement with AMiA and FACA, justifying APA relations to either on the basis of precedent and signs of goodwill:

“Archbishop Haverland also does not mention the critical fact for this discussion that the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA), perhaps for the first time in Anglican history, has reversed its previous position and as of July 2003 has ceased to purport to ordain women to the priesthood and episcopate. The Anglican Province of America consistently and repeatedly affirms the male character of the Sacrament of Holy Orders and sees in AMiA’s decision a vitally-important first step back to Apostolic Faith and Order. God willing, the AMiA will in time come to embrace a fully catholic doctrine of the diaconate as well as of the priesthood and episcopate. A shared common doctrine of the sacerdotium has indeed finally enabled our Churches to restore sacramental communion, a precedent that should be encouraged for the whole Universal Church. It should also be noted that a dispute over the male character of the diaconate could be allowed, if pressed, to affect any jurisdiction’s relationship with Forward in Faith United Kingdom, Forward in Faith North America and the majority of Anglo-Catholic dioceses and parishes worldwide. Most Anglo-Catholics have not allowed the dispute to be a church-dividing impediment.”

Nor should the intercommunion pact between TAC and FiF be neglected, especially since ACA is the largest representative of TAC in the USA. A number of FiF dioceses and provinces received and/or ordained women deacons, but this did not impede TAC’s ecumenicism. Therefore, what constitutes a “traditional Anglican” evidently has a degree of flexibility according the interpretation of “foregoing principles”. Often times that depends on how the Affirmation’s preamble is understood— what is a loyal Anglican? The Preamble only mentions those Anglicans resisting the innovation of women priests but says nothing about cooperation with those bodies that have women deacons.

Finally, Fr. Mark Calvier’s 2006 Report, submitted for unity talks, arks back to the historic broadness of the APA. Clavier notes the of earlier American Episcopal involvement with traditionalists inside ECUSA. That involvement largely mediated by ECUSA’s Presiding Bishop Allin (1974-85) blossomed into several initiatives for parallel provinces and later the Common Cause Partnership, or ACNA; but, again, this demonstrates for many continuing churches a ‘sister church’ sometimes has been an ECUSA related body despite ACC opinion.

“the willingness of the APA and REC to explore ways to live ‘beyond schism’ signal a return to that desire and policy that seemed to perish at the end of Presiding Bishop John Allin’s primacy. Bishops of the REC and the APA now enjoy unofficial collegial relationships with leaders of the network of Episcopal dioceses and parishes opposed to the 2003 General Convention’s policies.” (p.12)

The Affirmation is probably best understood according to the original broadness it was conceived. While serious problems exist with specific language regarding the nature of seven sacraments, most of the document is reasonable and a needed correction to superficial or lazy biblicism. At worst, it recognizes seven sacraments supplanting Anglican commentary on the subject for modern Orthodoxy or Romanism. It also (rightfully) excludes involvement with ‘unfaithful’ Anglicans who ordain women priests, though leaving the question of the diaconate ambiguous, but this enables a route for indirect but wider engagement with Lambeth per Section V. Jurisdictions which, so far, maintain these positions are those in FACA and, tacitly, the UECNA.

The contention that the continuum is best preserved and represented by a broad or ‘central churchmenship’ rather than a revanchist anglo-catholicism has been made by the Presiding Bishop of the UECNA, his grace, Peter Robinson. Bishop Robinson has written a series of articles on the subject that can be read below. Some are:

Broad and Central
Unity Problem
Why Central Churchmanship
Broad Orthodoxy

Unfortunately, the ACC’s growing clout among continuers would attenuate the unpredictable broadness of ACA and APA, leaving their prior ecumenical arrangements with traditional episcopalians a dead letter. I hope to examine this depressing trend in an upcoming article, “Post-Brockton”, and this will conclude my final wails for unity between continuers and larger Anglicanism. From what I can tell, it only beats a dead horse.

  • Bess, Douglas Divided We Stand (Apocryphile Press, 2002) 

(1) Full unity with ACC is based on the Affirmation, together with ACC C&C, as a confessionalist document. There can be no nominal or qualified interpretation. At the 2011 Consultation Haverland said, ” It is not enough for us to ask for a positive statement of faith from each other under current circumstances. We may accept the Affirmation of Saint Louis nominally while undermining its substance by treating some of its vital points as inessential…The ACC is quite clear on this point. While we are happy to talk with anyone, full communion with our interlocutors will require acceptance of a hard-line similar to the one we have adopted, lest bad theology drive out the good that we have embraced. That is what I mean by theological integrity on the basis of the Affirmation of Saint Louis. For us this issue will quickly come forward in all of our ecumenical conversations ”…Concluding another recent statement by Haverland, “Well, it is impossible within the Anglican Catholic Church legitimately to deny the authority of the Seven Ecumenical Councils or to deny that there are seven Sacraments.” This corroborates with what else Haverland said at the Consultation for seven sacraments and councils: “If asserting ‘seven and seven’ is in some sense an Anglican novelty, we are, again, not concerned” Robinson has said, “Sadly, the Affirmation of St Louis has been misused to attempt to re-engineer Anglicanism into a species of old Catholicism.”
(2) At a Keynote Address in 2006 for the FCC, Haverland describes how his version of ‘central tradition’ works: ““Anglicanism can only continue in a form that is clearly both Catholic and Orthodox and which submits Anglican formularies and all that is peculiarly Anglican to the higher authority of the consensus of the central Catholic Tradition…How many sacraments are there? Anglican formularies suggest that there are ‘two only’. Many Anglican theologians say, ‘There are two only that are generally necessary for salvation, but there are five others.’ But Rome and the Orthodox and the Affirmation of St. Louis all say clearly and unambiguously, ‘seven’. So seven is the answer. So too with the number of ecumenical councils. So too with the real, objective presence of our Lord in the Eucharistic elements quite apart form the subjectivity of the recipients of the sacrament. So too with the invocation of the prayers of our Lady and of all saints. ” (p. 5). Haverland’s ‘central Traditon’ should be contrasted to Peter Robinson’s ‘center tradition’.

2 responses to “Shorter Affirmation

  1. Makes one wonder how we all get along so well of late.


    • hello Fr. Reeves,
      I’m pleading that folks consider the common good of pan-Anglicanism rather than their individual denominations. The fact that continuing churches (both pre- and post-1977 jurisdictions) are willing to accept a “federation” on terms acceptable to the ACC essentially marks the demise of the historic broad church basis in the continuum that prevailed from 1968 until 2006.

      As a consequence, the ecclesiastical elitism defined by the Athen’s Statement which views Orders in Lambeth basically ‘null and void’ will likely rule, leaving the continuing movement increasingly isolated and alienated from larger North American Anglicanism, namely, the FiFNA-REC coalition inside ACNA. Thus, the UECNA and the FACA churches are being locked into the ACC’s own pattern of self-ostracization as they combine into ACC intercommunion arrangements. This is a tragic conclusion to an otherwise noble attempt to preserve 1950’s episcopalianism– a ‘center churchmanship’ that might inform and shape larger Anglicanism at a time of tremendous soul-searching. With the exception of a few parishes and clergy that have already left for ACNA, I don’t expect the continuum to have further impact.

      In so far as allegedly broad churchmen keep feeding this erroneous idea that the continuing movement began in 1977, the St. Louis Affirmation is symbolic of such, and the Chamber’s succession is definitive of continuing Anglicanism, the ACC has finally buried Deerfield Beach and will ultimately bury those that follow her into a grave of obscurity. I don’t see the point of being pleased by this last whimper as smaller churches rally around the ACC’s reaction to ACNA and the Ordinariate. My final hope is the ACA-APA alliance will grow dissatisfied with ACC stonewalling on a ‘SCOBA-modeled’ federation, leaving the ACA_APA to become the new pole of unity based upon FACA rather ACC principles.

      I’m approaching my final post on this subject which will expound these points, called “post-Brockton”. Following that last article, Anglican Rose will take a hiatus until early 2015. I realize history can turn in unexpected ways, and a better sense of the overall well-being and direction of North American Anglicanism will be had by then. However, in all my investigations, the only healthy area and bright spot is the FiFNA-REC coalition which the continuum could support if FACA was given new life. But, FACA ties are a deal breaker for ACC which expects ecclesiastical isolation coupled with an apocalyptic end for ACNA. I believe the die has been cast. I’m beating a dead horse. There are more permanent and rewarding things to do: Queen Ann’s, nonetheless, this jeremiad needs to be given.


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