Reformed Churchmen

We are Confessional Calvinists and a Prayer Book Church-people. In 2012, we remembered the 350th anniversary of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer; also, we remembered the 450th anniversary of John Jewel's sober, scholarly, and Reformed "An Apology of the Church of England." In 2013, we remembered the publication of the "Heidelberg Catechism" and the influence of Reformed theologians in England, including Heinrich Bullinger's Decades. For 2014: Tyndale's NT translation. For 2015, John Roger, Rowland Taylor and Bishop John Hooper's martyrdom, burned at the stakes. Books of the month. December 2014: Alan Jacob's "Book of Common Prayer" at: January 2015: A.F. Pollard's "Thomas Cranmer and the English Reformation: 1489-1556" at: February 2015: Jaspar Ridley's "Thomas Cranmer" at:

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ten Elements of Historic Anglicanism

Ten Elements of Historic Anglicanism

It is important to begin with two comments:

1) This paper was inspired by something J.I. Packer wrote in 1995
‘Speculating in Anglican Futures’. I have added to it, but Dr Packer must not be blamed for my additions, or the final form this brief paper has taken.

2) I need to define ‘Anglicanism’. You will notice that I qualify it as ‘historic’ Anglicanism. What do I mean? I mean the Anglican way – the way of the Church of England as defined by the three historic documents:

the Book of Common Prayer (1662); the Ordinal (for Bishops, Priests and Deacons); the 39 Articles of Religion. We find the doctrines, beliefs and ethos of historic Anglicanism in these documents.

Let me now turn to these ten elements.

First and foremost this Anglicanism locates its final authority in matters pertaining to salvation in the Holy Scriptures.

Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation (Article 6).

This places final authority for faith and salvation in “Holy Scripture”. By contrast the church is the “witness and keeper of holy writ”, but not the source of “Holy Writ”. The articles recognise that various “rites” need to be authorised and adjudication given in matters of “controversy” and the church has “power…and authority” in such things (Article 20). Nonetheless, churches may err and have erred within history; they are not infallible.

So, to begin, Holy Scripture is the basis and touchstone of faith.

Thus the church must defer to the Bible in all matters relating to salvation and, indeed, in the ultimate in all matters relating to rites, ceremonies and controversies. Thus the Anglican Church is biblical as to the basis of its authority.

At ordination the minister is given a Bible as the instrument of ministry. The Bishop’s charge in the Ordinal, along with the questions and answers, make it abundantly clear that Christian ministry has the Bible as the basis and means of ministry.

Second, Historic Anglicanism is protestant. Article VI states, “…whatsoever is not read therein,” that is, in the Bible, “is not required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of faith.” The church upholds the right of the individual to read and understand the Bible for his salvation, as opposed to salvation truth mediated to him by the church. This is not to deny the importance of the minister in teaching, explaining and applying the Bible. Nonetheless, the hearer of the word takes the responsibility to accept, modify or reject the minister’s teaching.

Third, this church recognizes that great truths of biblical revelation have been secured in creeds and confessions at moments of high theological controversy. Significantly, Articles I-V affirm the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ, which were in dispute in the early centuries. Thus “historic” Anglicanism is committed to views on Trinity and Christology that are catholic, that is, “according to the whole” church, as opposed to heretical or sectional teachings. Our word “catholic” is derived from two Greek words – kath holike, meaning “according to the whole”. That is to say, what the “whole” church has “always” believed based on the teaching of the Apostles of Christ in the New Testament. The creeds – the Apostles’, the Nicene and the Athanasian – are important as expressions of “catholic” Christianity, to which “historic” Anglicanism has committed itself.

However, fourth, “historic” Anglicanism is reformed, articulating the great biblical insights of the reformers Luther, Calvin and Cranmer that sinners, which all people as the offspring of Adam are, are righteous before God “only for the merit of Christ the sacrifice for sin, not on account of their works or deservings” (Articles 9, 11).

Wherefore that we are justified by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort (Article 9).

Only two sacraments or effectual signs of grace – Baptism and the Lord’s Supper – are recognized, both of which were ordained by the Lord Jesus Christ, both of which take their character from the gospel.

Sacraments ordained of Christ be not only badges or tokens of Christian men’s profession, but rather they be certain sure witnesses and effectual signs of grace and God’s good will towards us, by the which He doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm, our faith in Him (Article 25).

These sacraments, however, are seen as having a significant place in this church. Both are subject of significant liturgies, that of the Lord’s Supper reaching great heights of theology and devotion. Their high place within Anglican order is secured by the simple instrumentality whereby the one called and sent to teach the congregation – the priest / minister – is the one who administers these effectual signs.

Fifth, this is a liturgical church. Anglicanism employs liturgy to several ends:

•to secure regular acknowledgement from the church that sinner are saved only in Christ;
•to express the congregation’s adherence to the catholic faith in the use of the historic creeds;
•to express the need of the congregation to hear the Bible in both Testaments read systematically, giving a special place to the Psalms as articulating biblical piety;
•to provide for prayer which is carefully crafted theologically and which reflects international, national as well as local needs.
Liturgy is not used for art’s sake (that is, aesthetically), but for truth’s sake (that is, theologically), in order to retain the Bible, the catholic creeds and the reformed confessions at the centre of the church’s faith and witness.

For more on this important article--a good summary--see:

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