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In a piece supporting communion without baptism at the Episcopal Cafe, after providing a litany of people who might wander into our churches, (including “the 8-year-old who comes to church with her best friend after a sleepover, the grandchildren who are only here twice a year when they are visiting their grandparents, the 11-year-old who often comes with his grandmother and has been leaving love notes to Jesus on the altar since he was first old enough to write, but whose parents won’t allow him to be baptized until he turns 18, the teen who is clearly uncomfortable being here, but wants to be with her boyfriend, the anti-church spouse, the Muslim grandmother from another country who is here for her grandson’s baptism, the Jewish son-in-law who comes with the family on Christmas, the ‘spiritual but not religious’ 20-something who has moved back in with his parents after college, and only comes to church on Easter to keep the family peace, the homeless person who wanders in off the street, those who come to share with and honor their loved ones at weddings and funerals”) the author says,

I think God has cherished and adored all these persons since before they were born. Has been in relationship with them, all along. And is longing to be closer to them, speaking to them through our worship, even if they only once step through our doors.

The point the author is making is that because she believes God loves these people, we should offer them the Eucharist.  This is a hot topic in the Episcopal Church lately, and will be coming up for a vote at this summer’s General Convention

Haligweorc responds:

I absolutely believe this [that God loves them]; she’s spot on.

However—what does this have to do with the Eucharist? The author never makes the connection but seems to assume that there is a clear and easy one to be made.

The Eucharist is the food of the covenant community who confess Jesus as Lord. We enter the covenant community by making our own covenant with Christ in the midst of the community: it’s Baptism. The Eucharist assists us in keeping our Baptismal Covenant and helps us to continue to grow into a life of discipleship through it’s nourishment.

This basic Eucharistic theology is found nowhere here. Instead, there seems to be a simple assumption that the Eucharist means that God loves you and wants to be in a relationship with you and that if anyone can’t have the Eucharist at any time it’s the church’s way of saying that God doesn’t love them. That’s not what is going on at all.

Granted—some people may perceive it like that, but this perception does not constitute the church’s theology. We do need to do a better job about teaching the basics of Eucharistic theology—so that both our visitors and our members can grasp what it is that the church both intends and does.

This raises the interesting point of how doctrine, dogma, and theology might not cause problems, but actually solve them!  Many of the struggles we face right now are not caused by too much doctrine, but not enough.  I have heard Dr. Stanley Hauerwas frame the problem roughly this way: If someone studying to be a doctor told their professors that they weren’t  interested in anatomy and physiology, but would rather spend their time studying psychology and human development the professors would tell them, “Tough.  To be a good doctor you need to know anatomy and physiology.”  However, we often have people studying to be priests who say things like, “I don’t think doctrine, theology, and Biblical studies are very important.  I’d rather study spiritual direction and centering prayer.”  Those types of aspirants are very likely hear, “That is fine.  Follow your heart and do what you think God is calling you to do.”  Why is this?  It is because, Hauerwas says, we think doctors can harm people if they aren’t properly trained, but we don’t think a priest can really do much for a person for good or for ill, otherwise we would demand they be properly trained.

The root of many of the difficulties the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion are facing go right to this issue: theological literacy among clergy.  If indeed we depend on priests, and most importantly bishops, to fulfill their ordination vows to be pastors and teachers and to ” to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the Church,”  and to (in the words of St. Paul in Ephesians) “equip the saints for the work of ministry,” what will become of a church whose priests and bishops don’t know, don’t agree with, or don’t teach the Catholic, Biblical, and Apostolic Faith?

John Milbank, commenting on many of the problems in the Church of England says:

Perhaps most decisive is the collapse of theological literacy among the clergy – again, this is partly a legacy of the 1960s and 70s (made all the worst by the illusion that this was a time of enlightening by sophisticated German Protestant influence), but it has now been compounded by the ever-easier admission of people to the priesthood with but minimal theological education, and often one in which doctrine is regarded almost as an optional extra.

Milbank’s offers, in turn, a solution:

The Anglican Church needs to increase the effectiveness of its teaching office, since this is an essential aspect of priesthood and episcopacy. While the operation of the [Roman] Catholic magisterium is still (whether fairly or unfairly) regarded as too draconian by many Anglicans, there is little doubt that Anglicanism has gone way too far in the other direction, and offers its members pitifully little guidance and only partial and sporadic leads on doctrine and practice.

Dr. Derek Olsen concludes his piece at Haligworc by saying, “I think it’s time for a back-to-basics primer on what the prayer book teaches on the Eucharist to provide a real starting point for any discussions going forward.”  I couldn’t agree more… and perhaps that should start in our seminaries.

For one of the more robust but short accounts of Baptism and Eucharist floating around recently, you can’t do much better than The Curate’s Desk’s recent article Responding…to Communion Regardless of Baptism

The Eucharist has been the central act of worship for large parts of Christianity since Christ said “Take, eat, this is my Body.” Somehow, over 2000 years, this has not been a source of tension.  This was the pattern in lean times of persecution and in the bloated years of full-blown Christendom and in every era in between.   Wax or wane Christianity has held, at its core, Baptism as entry into the life of Christ…

Do you believe the Holy Spirit descends upon a person and transforms their very being in Baptism so that they are united with Christ?  Do you believe that Christ is truly present in the Body and Blood we receive at the Altar?  Are the Sacraments God’s action or ours?  I have heard far too many talking of Baptism as an entry rite rather than as transformation just as I have heard too many speak of Communion as a “meal” alone rather than the very Presence of Christ among us…

The Sacraments exist for the sanctification of humanity because we are not just fine on our own.  We need the life-giving encounter with Christ to be fully alive as creatures of God.

This is the crux of the dilemma, in many ways.  Why baptize?  If people are fine as they are and not to be challenged to the life of transformed living in Christ, then the Sacraments are, indeed, irrelevant and can be toyed with to suit the perceived needs of the day.  The Catechism reads, “From the beginning, human beings have misused their freedom and made wrong choices” and we are rescued from that misused freedom (which includes walking apart from Christ) in Baptism.

We must, indeed, understand our relationship to God.  It is a relationship that is defined in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  If we do not see Christ as decisive in the salvation of the human family then our Sacraments do not really matter.  They are an indifferent thing if redemption is an indifferent matter…

A Church that wants to transform society cannot be shy about asking its members to be transformed.  A Church that wants to impart the strength to challenge the systems of oppression and violence better offer more than enlightened self-interest to feed its people.  Sacraments that don’t matter enough to wait, to ponder, to make a loving commitment to receive are not Sacraments that can fuel the Body…

Amen.  Now let’s teach this to our aspiring clergy, and hold them accountable to their ordination vows.  If you don’t like anatomy, you should not be a doctor.  If you do not find theology & Holy Scripture to be nourishing and life-giving, you should not be ordained.

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The Bishop of London recently gave us some wonderful words on the 350th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer.  A few of the brief remarks he gave were, to my mind, axiomatic for a good understanding of the Book of Common Prayer and its place in our little part of the Church:

 It was an audacious attempt to re-shape the culture of England by collapsing the distinction between private personal devotion and public liturgical worship in order to create a godly community in which all and not just the clergy had access to the “pure milk of the gospel”.

The BCP was an attempt to make a heavily Benedictine influenced spirituality of prayer and Eucharist available to all people.  I have heard it called “the monasticism of all believers,” but in the very least in was taking ascetical spiritual practices  from the monastery and putting them right in the bedrooms, kitchens, and parish churches of lay people.

But one of the functions of a liturgy is to preserve words and the possibility of an approach to God which is hard or impossible to express in the language of the street.

It much of contemporary western Christianity, we have forgotten the place of “liturgical language.”  We feel much more comfortable with t-shirts that proclaim, “Jesus is my homeboy,” than we do with fear and awe and reverence.  The Book of Common Prayer was and is a healthy corrective to this leisurely and  “Hey there buddy” approach to God which is so common these days, but would be difficult to find in the Holy Scriptures.

Cranmer distilled his liturgy from his studies of the Christian past and especially of the patristic period – the first five centuries; the springtime of the Church.

In the Preface to the First Book of Common Prayer, of 1549, he appeals to the authority of the “auncient fathers” as a guide in liturgical matters. Queen Elizabeth I, in her letter to the Roman Catholic Princes of Europe, amplified the point “that there was no new faith propagated in England, no new religion set up but that which was commanded by Our Saviour, practised by the Primitive Church and approved by the Fathers of the best antiquity”.

Some might say that what Cranmer did was not so much “write” the BCP, but to compile, edit, and translate it.  Cranmer was not trying to do anything new, per se.  He was trying to make sure that Biblical, Patristic Christianity was meaningfully and vitally practiced throughout England.

This next paragraph was so striking that I couldn’t help but include it here:

In a book published in 1662, Simon Patrick comments on the rites and ceremonies of divine worship and approves “that virtuous mediocrity which our church observes between the meretricious gaudiness of the Church of Rome and the squalid sluttery of fanatic conventicles.” Of course we would be too polite to say such things now but the Prayer Book offers a simple and moderate system for a whole life from baptism to last rites and seeks in its rubrics and ceremonies to embrace the whole person and not merely the cerebellum.

+London concludes with one of the finest single paragraphs about the BCP that I have ever read:

The Book of Common Prayer which immerses us in the whole symphony of scripture; which takes us through the Psalms every month; which makes available in a digestible but noble way the treasury of ancient Christian devotion has a beauty which is ancient but also fresh. If our civilisation is to have a future the roots must be irrigated and the texts which we choose to pass on to our children have the power to create a community which does not merely dwell in the flatlands of getting and spending but which sees visions with prophets, pursues wisdom with Solomon and lives with the generosity of the God who so loved the world that he was generous and gave himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Daily Offices Part I with Bishop Anthony Burton

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From ENS:

It’s Sunday afternoon at the farthest reach of the Diocese of West Texas. Under cotton puff clouds floating lazily in a sparkling blue sky, a handful of parishioners arrive for services at St. James Episcopal Church.

You wonder where they’re coming from. Except for the stone footprint of an old frontier fort, the horizon is unencumbered by any signs of human habitation. The scene is virtually unchanged from what the first ranchers, settlers and soldiers saw 150 years ago.

But arrive they do at their small rock church with a white cross on top, from isolated pockets across the empty landscape, in vans, SUVs and pickup trucks, some caked in caliche dust. There are no sedans or small imports.

The vicar, the Rev. Christopher Roque, arrives with wife Tish and their two children, Matthew and Ethan. They chat briefly with church members congregating at the front door before heading inside for the 3 p.m. Communion service.

He’s wearing a white straw Stetson, leather vest, Levis cinched up with a big silver belt buckle with a Texas star in the middle, tall leather boots, a beautiful silver crucifix and a clerical collar. From a tooled leather briefcase he dispenses today’s scripture readings.

There is no procession or music. Roque walks to the front of the church and starts Rite II.  With his sermon, the entire service is over in 45 minutes.

St. James sits in the crossroads town of Fort McKavett, population 4, some 170 miles west of San Antonio. Besides St. James, the tiny hamlet consists of a post office, fire station and the Fort McKavett State Historical Site.  It’s so remote that you have to drive to Sonora, 41 miles south, for a loaf of bread or tank of gasoline.

On Sundays, “Father Chris” as he’s affectionately known to his parishioners, conducts services at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sonora in the morning, and then treks up to Fort McKavett twice a month for the 3 p.m. Communion at St. James.

“If called to Sonora as rector, it’s conditional that you are vicar at St. James,” Roque said.  “The diocese kind of yokes the two churches together.”

St. James probably would never have existed if it hadn’t been for the presence of Fort McKavett, a prominent cavalry and infantry base active in the mid-19th century.

When the fort closed in 1883, the chaplains left, the services at the base ended and the area was left without a church or Episcopal minister. So “the local residents demanded that the bishop give them their own priest,” Roque said. They founded St. James as a mission in 1884 and formally organized the church in 1889.

A decade later they built their first church, a wooden structure that was so damaged by a twister that the bishop eventually condemned it and ordered all the furnishings removed for safekeeping. The present rock building was constructed in 1941.

“Many prayers have bounced off these walls,” said Bishop’s Warden Jimmy Martin.

St. James was served by supply priests until the minister at St. John’s in Sonora began going up to St. James, leading to the tradition of yoking the two parishes together under the same minister. Roque has served at St. James and St. John’s since 2008.

Smallness does have its virtue, Martin believes. When he’s visited larger churches, he wonders “how many of those people does that priest know personally?”

“We love each other, we share with each other, we know each other very well,” Martin said. “Father Chris knows us very well.  We know everything about each other.”

Martin paused. “For better or for worse.”

“Now we also have a priest,” he said.  “If we need him, we can call him.”

Roque has taken to the area’s rich ranching culture and probably has the distinction of being the only priest in the diocese who helps his parishioners round up cattle.  “It also gives him a chance to meditate and pray…”

“St. James is a staunchly independent and self-reliant church,” Roque said.  If the diocese asks “if there is anything we can do for you, our members will say we’ve been around for over a hundred years.  Just give us a priest and we’ll be all right.”

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I am currently reading  A History of the Church in England by JRH Moorman, and had I known it would be this enriching and illuminating I would have read it much sooner.  If I had my druthers, it would be mandatory reading for all confirmands and inquirers.  One of the most helpful sections comes in the chapter dealing with the Elizabethan settlement during the English reformation.  Specifically, it deals with the unique way that the English reformers approached the reform of the church in their country.  From page 212:

In the eyes of those who were shaping the destiny of the Church in England there was no sense of separation from the rest of the catholic church.  The Church in England was, as the title-page to the first Prayer Book had implied, a part of the catholic church, even though it had repudiated papal jurisdiction.  It was catholic, but it was also reformed.  Its roots ran back to the primitive church, but certain customs and ideas which had clung to it during the Middle Ages had now been cut away.  The fundamental doctrines and constitution of the Church remained the same, but a number of genuine reforms had been carried out, such as the vernacular liturgy, the administration of the Sacrament in both kinds and permission for the clergy to marry.

The key point for me here is that they were in no way trying to be anything other than catholic Christians, and the inheritors of the Holy Traditions of the church as they had been received in England.  They certainly believed there had been some medieval missteps that needed to be put right, but on the whole English “Protestantism” was less about being good protestants and more about being good catholics.  This is markedly different than the way the reformation proceeded on the continent (of Europe).

After the brief, but violent interlude of the Puritan commonwealth, the Caroline divines carried forward the torch of reforming the catholic church in England.  Their work was, again, not about creating a new church, but about being faithful as the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.  From page 234:

The point of view… may be summed up in the dying words of Thomas Ken…, ‘I die,’ he said, ‘in the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolick Faith, professed by the whole Church before the disunion of East and West.  More particularly I dye in the Communion of the Church of England as it stands distinguished from all Papall and Puritan Innovations, and as it adheres to the doctrine of the Cross’…

Theirs was an atempt to get back to the early Church before the accretions of the middle Ages which the reformers had been so anxious to get rid of.  The Anglicans stood between two great religious systems.  On the one side was Rome, active and aggressive under the impetus of the Counter-Reformation, trying to rebuild a Christendom shattered by the cataclysms of the sixteenth century.  But to the Anglicans there could be no return to Rome since the faith which she taught was, in their eyes, impure — corrupted by the ‘innovations’ which were no part of the Holy Catholic and Apostolick Faith’ as taugh by the Primitive Chuch. As Laud said, they could not return to Rome ‘until she is other than she is.’  On the other side were the Calvinists and Lutherans, who had separated from catholic tradition and had magnified certain doctrines out of all proportion.  The Anglicans were equally clear that they could not fall into line with them since they had abandoned things which the Early Church thought essential.  The Caroline Divines, therefore aimed at a Via Media between two extremes; but the Via Media which they sought was not a compromise, a ‘lowest common denominator’; it was a real attempt to recover the simplicity and purity of primitive Christianity. (Bolding mine)

And here we have that famous phrase: Via Media.  It has been bandied about much in contemporary Anglican debates as a way of encouraging compromise, tolerance, and broad mindedness.  However, what we find in the minds and work of the Anglican reformers is no watered-down compromise.  It is a full-throated declaration and a full bodied working out of the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic faith as understood and passed down by the undivided church.  Now that is what I call, “change we can believe in.”  That is an Anglicanism we can believe in

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St. Benedict has influenced the practice of Christianity in Anglicanism as much as any one saint, thinker, or writer that I know of.  In honor of that tremendous contribution, I offer this St. Benedict roundup:

(c. 480 AD – 543 AD) was born at Nursia (Norcia) Italy to a wealthy Roman family, making him liberiori genere, ‘of good birth.’ Tradition gives him a twin sister, Scholastica.

Benedict’s Italy was an unstable province of a collapsing Roman Empire, and throughout the fifth century, waves of invaders weakened the peninsula. First Goth warriors marched along the Via Flaminia and into Rome, sacking it in 410. Others soon followed. Into this fragile, violent world, Benedict (or ‘Bennet’) was born among the Apennine valleys and mountains of central Italy. St. Benedict was married to a young woman, her name is not available, but she had dark brown hair and black eyes with white skin. St. Benedict was not supposed to be married but was any way in 522.

Benedict founded twelve monasteries, the best known of which was his first monastery at Monte Cassino in the mountains of southern Italy. The monastery at Monte Cassino was the first Benedictine monastery (most monasteries of the Middle Ages were of the Benedictine Order). Benedict wrote a set of rules governing his monks, the Rule of Saint Benedict, which was heavily influenced by the writings of John Cassian. The Benedictine Rule, one of the more influential documents in Western Civilization, was adopted by most monasteries founded throughout the Middle Ages. Because of this, Benedict is often called “the founder of western Christian monasticism.” Benedict was canonized a saint in 1220.

The Collect:

ALMIGHTY and everlasting God, we give thee thanks for the purity and strength with which thou didst endow thy servant Benedict; and we pray that by thy grace we may have a like power to hallow and conform our souls and bodies to the purpose of thy most holy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

From Catholicity and Covenant, St. Benedict and the renewal of European Civilazation:

On the feast of St Benedict, +Rowan on Benedict of Nursia, patron of Europe, echoing the conclusion to MacIntyre’s After Virtue:

The Benedictine Rule did not set out to ‘save civilisation’; what it did was to define in itself the components of a certain kind of civilisation. You may recall Thomas Merton’s exclamation on his first visit to the abbey of Gethsemani, that he had discovered the only real city in America. The way in which the Benedictine contribution to Europe has sometimes been discussed is in terms of a kind of withdrawal into enclaves where the memory of civilisation was preserved, not always fully understood – a sort of archive of cultural treasures. But, while this is not completely wrong, it misses out the positive contribution of Benedictinism as a model of active Christian life in itself; Benedict’s monks were creators of community before they were librarians, and the vision of human possibility and dignity contained in Benedictine witness was at least as important as the conservation of classical letters – or rather, it gave to the heritage of classical letters a clear and practical application, animated by faith. If the Rule is to be one of the sources for the conservation and renewal of European civilisation in the centuries to come – granted that these centuries may be every bit as brutally anti-humanist as the so-called Dark Ages – it will be because of this sketch of political virtue, not because of any merely conservatory role.

From a previous post on this blog, Benedict’s influence on the BCP:

…like the Regula [The Rule of St. Benedict], the Book of Common Prayer is not a list of Church services but an ascetical system for Christian living in all of is minutiae…the Prayer Book [is] not a shiny volume to be borrowed from a church shelf on entering and carefully replaced on leaving.  It [is] a beloved and battered personal possession, a life-long companion and guide, to be carried from church to kitchen, to parlor, to bedside table; equally adaptable for liturgy, personal devotion, and family prayer: the symbol of a domestic spirituality — fully homely divinity

— Martin Thornton in The Anglican Tradition, 1984, pp 87

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From the newly discovered Conciliar Anglican:

Classical Anglicanism is minimalistic about all of this. The 39 Articles are fairly clear on several points: that salvation comes through Christ alone, that justification is by faith alone, that works above and beyond our duty to God do not add to our salvation. These points are further elucidated by the Catechism, which moves from law to grace, assuring the cathecumen that he or she cannot fulfill God’s call to live a holy life by will power. In all of this, Anglicanism is consistently Protestant.

And yet, there is little official mention of sanctification. The articles make positive statements about the sacraments as means of grace, that they are “not only badges and tokens” but “effectual signs of grace” through which God “works invisibly within us” (Article XXV). This certainly implies an ongoing need for sanctification, but it doesn’t spell out why or how such a thing should take place, nor does it relate the topic back to justification. The liturgies of the Prayer Book reveal a similar emphasis, highlighting justification, acknowledging sanctification, but without making explicit how exactly we are to think about the whole thing.

The result of this lack of specification has been that Anglicans have often looked elsewhere for their soteriology. John Henry Newman attempted to harmonize justification by faith with the Council of Trent, which remains the approach of some Anglo-Catholics today, though Newman himself eventually found such an approach lacking. John Wesley, of course, took a unique approach which remains alive in Methodism. A large number of modern Anglicans, particularly in Africa, subscribe to a Pentecostal view. The Lutheran view is espoused by contemporary Anglican Evangelicals like Paul Zahl and Alister McGrath. FitzSimons Allison tends more towards the Reformed approach. Even the Eastern Orthodox view of salvation as theosis has had its Anglican proponents through the ages, most notably Charles Chapman Grafton and Michael Ramsey.

Since Anglicanism has never pronounced definitively on this topic, all of these approaches are acceptable. This doesn’t mean that they’re all correct, but merely that one cannot be deemed outside the bounds of the tradition so long as one holds a plausible rendering of justification by faith and an unswerving conviction in the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as savior. The rest remains unsettled, not because Anglicanism is wishy-washy on this topic, but rather because one of the hallmarks of the Anglican approach to theology is a strong reluctance to say anything definitively that wasn’t said definitively by the early Church. The Anglican Reformers were willing to commit to justification by faith because it seemed to them to be plain in the reading of scripture and not in contradiction with the Fathers. But they were not agreed upon anything more, and to insist upon something that is so clearly unsettled is to invite schism and heresy.

Salvation, the Sacraments, and the Church

I would agree with the Anglican Reformers that an absolute dogma on the topic of sanctification is unwarranted when the Church exists, as she does today, in a state of disunity and disarray. We are all in schism. Novel pronouncements only serve to deepen the divide and further damage the Body of Christ. Nevertheless, there are implications to be drawn from the mind of the undivided Church on this matter. The focus of the Fathers upon the divinity and humanity of Christ is not just about our understanding of who Jesus is but also about our understanding of who we are in relation to Him. The creeds are not explicit about the nature of the atonement, and yet they do insist on belief in “One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” The nature and purpose of the Church was a very important topic for the Fathers, just as it is in scripture. Any orthodox notion of salvation, therefore, must make reference back to the Church as the chief means through which Christ’s work on the cross is realized. We are not saved merely as individuals. We are saved through our participation in Christ’s sacrifice by being drawn up into His Body, the Church, as Paul makes clear in any number of places. Indeed, Romans 6, which is a primary text for Luther and for Calvin, speaks explicitly of the death of the old body so that we might be brought into the new life of Christ. That new life is made manifest in the new Body. “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:5).

Furthermore, while there is great latitude in how Anglicans may come to understand the sacraments, our formularies make clear that the sacraments are a means of grace and not merely symbols. As such, while we cannot necessarily say much definitively about how salvation works, we can say boldly, with the full backing of scripture and the Fathers, that the sacraments are a chief means by which saving grace is imparted to us. There is a reticence in pan-Anglican conversation to make too much out of the sacraments, for fear that such talk might unsettle those of a low church persuasion. But a firm conviction about the place of the sacraments in salvation does not necessitate a rejection of justification by faith alone, nor does it behold a person to believe in transubstantiation or any other way of understanding how Christ’s presence in the sacraments is actualized. Nevertheless, it does necessitate putting aside the strange and novel idea that Anglicans have ever believed that the sacraments were simply memorialist ordinances that have no value in and of themselves. Classical Anglicanism understood just what the early Church understood, that Baptism and the Eucharist are means by which God gives Himself to us, that we cannot be united to the Body of Christ unless we are incorporated into the Body of Christ, and we cannot be incorporated into the Body of Christ unless we are willing to receive the Body of Christ when it is tangibly, wholly, beautifully offered to us.

 

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An excerpt from an  interesting article over at Musing of a Hard-Line Moderate concerning the essence of Anglicanism:

It seems to me that the Anglican identity revolves around seven hallmarks. In roughly chronological order as I understand them to have developed, they are:

  1. Sacramental Theology – Whether one affirms all seven sacraments like Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox or only baptism and the Eucharist like many Protestant traditions, sacramental theology has always been a central feature of the Anglican identity. It’s also worth noting that for Anglicans the Eucharist is the climax of their worship services rather than the sermon. 
  2. The Bishopric – Restorationist groups like Anabaptists talk about practicing “biblical Christianity,” or this idea of leapfrogging the better part of church history in returning to the norms of the first century church. At that time there were apostles overseeing local churches. Within the epistles we see them correcting doctrinal error, settling disputes, conducting church discipline, and so forth. Minor problem: The apostles died. That makes it impossible to replicate New Testament polity. What is possible is an unbroken line of bishops, who succeeded the apostles. This practice dates back well into the first century. Anglicans are quick to point out that their bishops’ authority is stems from a direct link to Jesus and the apostles.
  3. Historic Orientation – Clearly the weight of and emphasis upon tradition varies among provinces, dioceses, parishes, and even individuals. Nevertheless, all Anglicans (at least in theory) lean heavily upon tradition–Patristic, Medieval, and Modern–in both doctrine and practice. There’s this innate impulse to look to the wisdom of the past to guide us in the present and maintain continuity in the future, which is most clearly evident in practices like the recitation of the creeds. The Anglican tradition has never sought to be a recreation of first century Christianity. It has sought to simultaneously and faithfully bear witness both to Christianity’s origins and its transmission through time, space, and culture.
  4. English Culture – There’s a never-ending debate about when the Church of England began. Many scholars argue it started in and around the reigns of King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I when Catholic England ceased to exist. This would mean the tradition proper is less than 500 years old even if its roots go back much earlier. We’ll call this the Post-Catholic View. There’s another group who think that a distinctly English expression of Christianity has existed since 35 CE when Joseph of Arimathea is said to have brought the Gospel to Glastonbury. That’s possible–even probable according to some–but ultimately unprovable. If that’s true, however, Christianity in England might well predate that in the rest of Western Europe. Whatever its actual origins, Christianity on the British isles is unquestionably ancient and over time the geographical dynamic lent itself to the development of a uniquely English cultural ethos. Thus, there are those who argue that the Anglican tradition actually preceded the Roman Catholic Church, was sustained throughout the centuries, and merely made official in the Elizabethan Settlement the autonomy that had always existed. Call it the English Christianity View. As is usually the case in such historical discussions, the truth is probably more both/and than either/or. Anyway, what is certain is that a distinctly English brand of Christianity was exported throughout the world. Even in provinces like Israel, Uganda, Japan,  and Brazil, Anglican churches bear a strong, underlying English influence as their name suggests.
  5. Scripture’s Authority – One need look no further than the Great Schism or the innumerable divisions within Protestantism to see that the interpretation and application of the Bible is no simple or easy thing. For its part, Anglicanism has taken an interesting hybrid position regarding Scripture’s authority. On the one hand, I think just about every orthodox Anglican would acknowledge that the Bible is, at the very least, the Word of God and its teachings are, when properly interpreted and discerningly applied, the highest standard for matters of faith and practice. In this way, Anglicans have in a very real way elevated Scripture’s role above that in Catholicism and Orthodoxy. There’s distinct Reformation influence there. At the same time, Anglicans tend to concur with Rome and… whatever the Orthodox equivalent is… that Scripture cannot be rightly interpreted outside of apostolic tradition or the Church. It’s a perspective that makes groups like Baptists, Presbyterians, and Lutherans quite uneasy. I suppose it’s enough to say that Anglicans believe they’ve embraced the best of the Protestant Reformation in regards to the Bible’s authority while distancing themselves from its excesses and abuses.
  6. Prayer Book – Obviously this includes Anglican liturgy… The Orthodox are known for their profession that doctrine and practice are inseparable–that each so informs and flows into the other that one cannot be rightly understood without the other. This is why they so disagree with the West’s abstract and almost mechanical doctrinal formulations. Clearly Anglicanism is more influenced by Western thought for historical and geographical reasons. Yet the Church of England seems to have bridged the east-west chasm a bit. Beginning with Thomas Cranmer’s first prayer book in late 1540s, cementing with the official 1662, and continuing through all the subsequent revisions, the Book of Common Prayer has served as the source of Anglican doctrine and practice. Granted, many today don’t use it during their worship services because they’re trying to make the tradition more accessible to those from non-Anglican backgrounds, but in my experience these people still look to the BCP as their basis for their services.
  7. Via Media – Given the above treatment there’s no need to detail this principle any further other than to say it was conceptually (further) developed by Richard Hooker.

I think this is an interesting start.  I’m curious that he didn’t mention the Creeds or Canterbury.  What do you think?  What would you have included?  What would you have left off?

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From Catholicity and Covenant:

After the Romans had gone back to their own land, the Irish and the Picts, who knew they were not to return, immediately came back themselves and, becoming bolder than ever, captured the whole of the northern and farthest portion of the island as far as the wall, driving out the natives … The enemy pursued and there followed a massacre more bloodthirsty than ever before.  The wretched Britons were torn in pieces by their enemies like lambs by wild beasts (Ecclesiastical History of the English People, 1.12).

Thus Bede describes the experience of Britons at the end of Empire.  This was the world of Patrick.  The opening words of his Confession tell of how the end of Empire found dramatic expression in his life:

I, Patrick, a sinner, a most simple countryman, the least of all the faithful and most contemptible to many, had for father the deacon Calpurnius, son of the late Potitus, a priest, of the settlement of Bannavem Taburniae; he had a small villa nearby where I was taken captive. I was at that time about sixteen years of age … I was taken into captivity in Ireland with many thousands of people.

The events in which Patrick was caught up would shook Christian communities across the known world.  In far off Bethlehem, Jerome would weep at the news of the fall of Rome and ask in his commentary on Ezekiel:

Who could have believed that Rome, founded on triumphs over the world, could fall to ruin; and that she, the mother of nations, should also be their grave?

Following this sacking of Rome itself, Augustine would also write his De Civitate Dei, answering those “who now complain of this Christian era, and hold Christ responsible for the disasters which their city endured”.

And yet, as the Empire crumbled and at the remotest outpost of the known world, Patrick in his Letter to Coroticus tells of a growing church:

the flock of the Lord, which in Ireland was indeed growing splendidly with the greatest care; and the sons and daughters of kings were monks and virgins of Christ – I cannot count their number.

His Confessions similarly tell the story of how the church could grow in a time of instability and discord, even at the ends of the earth:

I am greatly God’s debtor, because he granted me so much grace, that through me many people would be reborn in God, and soon a after confirmed, and that clergy would be ordained everywhere for them, the masses lately come to belief, whom the Lord drew from the ends of the earth, just as he once promised through his prophets.

In a time of economic crisis, of the fall of great powers, of a culture of de-Christianisation, the Church in postmodern societies can look to Patrick – to be encouraged that the grace of the Triune God, not the culture of the cities of this world, is the founding hope of our life as ekklesia and koinonia.

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