Reformation Anglicanism: A Vision for Today’s Global Communion

A Manifesto for Reformation Anglicanism

No, Anglicanism was not borne out of the marriages of Henry the Eighth and his break with Rome. The history of Anglicanism is longer than that and Anglicans need to know the rich history that has allowed itself to be steered between the Scylla of Rome and the Charybdis of Geneva, all the while retaining its historical relationship with the Reformation.

 

For those of us who have been engaged in battle on the frontline of Anglicanism and watched with both horror and hope the spiritual warfare that has raged across the globe, you may now find some comfort, consolation indeed inspiration from this new volume on the history of Anglicanism.

It could not be more timely. Anglicanism, as it has been practiced in recent years, has been fraught with ‘heresies distressed’ and the doctrinal and moral wars fought has left the battlefield littered with corpses. The wounded still walk amongst us.

The Anglican ship of state continues to roil but it also continues to move steadily forward, at times listing, but then righting itself and growing as new Anglican beacons are lit to show us the way and reveal to us that all is not lost.

This slim volume by five scholars, two of whom are practicing pastors, is a lighthouse with its beam piercing the darkness, offering hope in what many had come to believe to be a hopelessly divided situation.

Along with Anglicanism’s early history, its later grapple with medieval Catholicism and more recently with post modernism, the book lays out the glory of the four Solas as guideposts for the Church’s faith.

Nobody traces this history more brilliantly than the scholarly former bishop of Rochester, the Rev. Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali. He traces the early history of Christianity as it came ashore on the British Isles in the second century. No, Anglicanism was not borne out of the marriages of Henry the Eighth and his break with Rome. The history of Anglicanism is longer than that and Anglicans need to know the rich history that has allowed itself to be steered between the Scylla of Rome and the Charybdis of Geneva, all the while retaining its historical relationship with the Reformation.

At the heart of Anglicanism, as this book makes clear, is the authority of Scripture. But Anglicans are not fundamentalists. They don’t worship the Bible. For Anglicans, the Bible is ‘Gods word written’ and Hooker’s three-legged stool, now much revisioned by liberals and pansexualists who try to put scripture history and reason on a level playing field, will quickly see that argument demolished. Scripture is always and has ever been the church’s primary source of revelation.

As Ashley Null observes; “The relation of scripture, reason and tradition is more accurately described not as a three-legged stool, but to see Scripture as a garden bed in which reason and tradition are tools used to tend the soil, unlock its nutrients and bring forth the beauty within it.” The whole thrust of Anglican liturgy was to teach people the scriptures. The Church of England would only succeed, Cranmer held, if the English people regularly sat under the transforming power of Scripture and its message expressed in Morning and Evening Prayer and the Holy Communion.” The chief responsibility of Bishops is to “proclaim and defend the apostolic faith as taught by the Scriptures” since Christian fellowship can only be based on a common understanding of saving faith. They show their authentic apostolic succession by what they teach and what they reject.

This book focuses on the continuing contribution that the biblical insights of the English Reformation have made to contemporary Anglicanism. Of course, Anglicanism has developed different strains through the centuries, and certain elements near and dear to the heart of Anglo-Catholics were rejected by Cranmer and Hooker, for example, the role of the bishop in apostolic succession as essential for Anglican ecclesiology.

Anglo-Catholics will not be entirely comfortable with this history, seeing themselves perhaps marginalized and placed on the fringe of Anglicanism but they should not despair. This book condemns only those who have torn the fabric of the communion. Anglo-Catholics and evangelicals have worked well together in the North America following the split in The Episcopal Church. Only one TEC bishop has fled to Rome via the Ordinariate; the rest have joined the ACNA resisting the siren call of Rome and the Ordinariate.

This book advocates, instead, the centrality of the faithful proclamation of the Gospel of grace and gratitude through word and sacrament. Consequently, the editors argue that the office of bishop is the most helpful way to ensure the well-being of the church through promoting and protecting the true Gospel. Cranmer and Hooker would have agreed.

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