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Evangelical No More? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Calvin Fox   
Thursday, 12 August 2010 13:52

A true Church is any group of people who confess faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and regularly assemble in His Name to worship God and to hear the Gospel preached and the Scripture expounded.  They are Baptized and observe the Lord’s Supper.  This is a minimalist definition- the basic Essentials of a true Church.

A complete Church would be organized under the leadership of a 3-fold ordained Ministry (Bishop, Priest, Deacon) in historic continuity with the ancient Church. Its Doctrine would be Apostolic and Creedal; its Worship Liturgical and its Ordinances (Baptism and Lord’s Supper) sacramental. This describes a classic Anglican Church.

The Catholic and Reformed Church (an Anglican Church) has historic continuity with the Church of England and the Archbishop of Canterbury and through that it has continuity to the Church in England and those who brought the Faith of the Early Church to the British Isles by the 3rd C

The true, complete, Catholic and Reformed Anglican Church has Liturgical and Eucharistic (Sacramental) Worship according to a Book of Common Prayer which is faithful to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the Doctrine of the 16th C Protestant Reformation (as stated in its 39 Articles of Religion)

 

Anglicanism has a Theological Method that involves what is known as Thomas Hooker’s 3-Legged Stool: Scripture + Tradition + Reason. (Generally, Anglicans take a far more intellectual and academic approach to their Faith than typical Evangelicals, who characteristically are anti-intellectual.)  The application of this method varies greatly.  Simply put, the more Reformed members, like Hooker himself, emphasize Scripture above Tradition and Reason; the more Catholic members emphasize Tradition above Scripture and Reason; the more Liberal members emphasize Reason (which usually includes the values of modern Culture) above both Tradition and Scripture (in that order).  What is crucial to the “Method” is that all 3 “legs” are involved in “doing theology” and the effort is made to keep them in tension with each other.  Being Reformed, I insist that the leg which is Scripture take precedence over the other legs. 

Anglicanism has a Spirituality that flows from all of the above, nurtured

--by a sense of continuity with the ancient Church and its practices

--by its sense of communion with the Holy and Sacred in worship

--by its grounding in classical and historical Theology and in its Theological Method (above) to plumb the depth of God’s  revelation of Himself and to seek His will in all things.  As important as certainty is, Anglican Spirituality has a healthy sense of Mystery and Paradox that is lacking in Evangelicalism

The Anglicanism I consider to be “Classic and Historic” is the Reformed or Protestant Church of England that began in the time of Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury, who died in1556.  Evangelicalism did not become a part of Anglicanism until 200 years later.  The pietist, revivalist, fundamentalist and charismatic movements and much of contemporary Evangelicalism are not historically Anglican (or essential to a true, complete, Catholic and Reformed Church). They are actually alien to the nature of classic Anglicanism.  (I think the current trend of many new Anglican parishes to be charismatic and evangelical is ill-advised.)

Essential Evangelicalism (there are many varieties) is serious about being Scriptural above all else.  A typical Evangelical knows and loves His Bible; but he believes in freedom of conscience and puts great stock in private interpetation.  Therefore, he normally does not consult or submit to the authority of the Early Church Fathers, Councils or Creeds or even to 16th-18th C Confessions of Faith to test his interpretations.  He does however, give much authority to the leading of the Holy Spirit and private personal experience in determining his faith and  practice.  An Evangelical will not submit to the authority of a formal church hierarchy (let alone bow before a Bishop to be confirmed in his Faith) but in practice, many give much authority to non-ordained or independently ordained spiritual Leaders.  An Evangelical is Trinitarian and Orthodox in theory, but in practice, he often comes close to being Unitarian, focusing on Jesus alone. 

Although he insists he believes in Salvation by faith alone, a typical Evangelical believes that a conversion experience is absolutely essential to Salvation and that seeking to lead others to have such an experience (personal evangelism) is paramount. That is the primary characteristic of Evangelicalism.  An Evangelical does believe in the importance of a local assembly of believers, especially for edification and fellowship and organized ministry, but he often does not have a developed Ecclesiology or a very high view of the institutional church.  All this business of historic succession back to the Apostles and continuity with the past is simply not important to him. 

Evangelical worship is decidedly casual ("spirit-led') and Evangelicals are not comfortable with formal Liturgical Worship and they characteristically reject Sacraments outright as unscriptural.  Evangelical spirituality is very personal, subjective, spontaneous, usually verbal and very expressive.  Anglican spirituality is simply alien to the typical Evangelical. Although it can be deeply emotional, it has a reserve, a depth, a quiet humbleness in the presence of the Holy, that is simply missing among Evangelicals generally. Having been an Evangelical most of my life, that lacks what I now find provided in Anglicanism. It should be clear that what I am describing as historic Catholic-Reformed Anglicanism is not characteristic of  today's liberal Episcopal Church.  I have yet to find a Parish in which I am at home.  That may exist only in my head here in my Study and I may have to wait until Heaven to find what I am hungry for.

I have been a confirmed Episcopalian for 28 years, but it has taken a lot of study and reflection over the years to understand Anglicanism and to try to reconcile it with Evangelicalism.  I have finally come to what I have written in the last few Articles posted here on this subject.  I consider myself to be an orthodox, catholic Reformed Anglican Christian. I hope I can move on now to many other pressing concerns.

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Last Updated on Saturday, 14 August 2010 08:15