Wednesday, January 17, 2007


FitzSimons Allison (Bishop) and Willliam McKeachie (dean), make the argument below, against their opponents, that the Anglican church's commitment to the beliefs of the Reformation in the 39 articles underscores the church's theological belief system. They give credit not to Henry VIII but to his daughter Queen Elizabeth 1 for "having laid claim to Protestant freedom while at the same time maintaining Catholic order"

I lifted the piece below from TitusOneNine.

They have forgotten, for instance, that the Reformation of the Church of England dates not from King Henry VIII but from Queen Elizabeth I a quarter century later. Her predecessor, Queen Mary, had tried to restore England to a medieval and papal form of Catholicism from 1553 to 1558. It was only under Queen Elizabeth that the Church of England laid claim to Protestant freedom while at the same time maintaining Catholic order.

Today’s re-appraisers (in academic circles they would be called revisionists of history) as quoted by Adam Parker have willfully forgotten that the ecclesiastical formularies of the Elizabethan Settlement - the traditional Book of Common Prayer, the confessional Thirty Nine Articles of Religion, and the series of sermons known as the Homilies - are the very bedrock of Anglican identity, unity and well-being. They cannot be ignored or replaced by sentimental “bonds of affection” devoid of theological doctrine.

Such willful amnesia leads these revisionists to misappropriate Henry VIII as the “founder” (an old canard repeated twice in “A House Divided”) while ignoring the biblical Reformation that did not begin until the reign of Henry’s son Edward VI and was not secured until Elizabeth’s reign.
Henry VIII may, for his own sinful ends, have separated the Church of England from the Papacy, but late-medieval Roman Catholicism required longer, indeed required the blood of the Protestant martyrs, to be reformed.

When biblical doctrine is forgotten as being essential to true unity, the alleged diversity celebrated by today’s revisionists quickly exposes itself as tyranny against biblical Christians. Richard John Neuhaus has identified this sleight of hand in his dictum: “When orthodoxy becomes optional, it soon becomes proscribed.”

Dozens of Episcopal Church dioceses today, in which biblically faithful Christians are marginalized, manifest this tragic irony. Dozens of Episcopal bishops in such dioceses have willfully forgotten that the original Episcopal consecration vows administered until the late 20th century included explicit assent to the following questions:

- Will you then faithfully exercise yourself in the Holy Scriptures, and call upon God by prayer for the true understanding of the same: so that you may be able by them to teach and exhort with wholesome Doctrine, and to withstand and convince the gainsayers?

- Are you ready, with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God’s Word; and both privately and openly to call upon and encourage others to the same?

The forgetfulness, indeed total disappearance, of such commitment since the new Episcopal Prayer Book was adopted in 1979 has caused many Episcopalians to seek the cover of overseas Anglican bishops in order to remain faithfully rooted in the Catholic order and Protestant freedom of the Anglican Reformation.

Kevin Wilson’s claim that under Queen Elizabeth “no one agreed on theology” is nothing but another example of forgetfulness and denial. The disagreements in that era were minuscule compared with those of Episcopal bishops today who have turned their backs on the theological content of the very vows they swore at their consecration.

For her part, Barbara Mann has forgotten, in her claim that we are not a confessional church, the Thirty Nine Articles of Religion as integral to the well-being of Prayer Book Anglicanism and “established” by the bishops, clergy, and laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America in 1801. Her false claim allows her and others like her to accommodate the church to the world, rather than the world to Christ, against which St. Paul strongly warned in his Epistle to the Romans.

Such amnesia leads Barbara Mann to reduce matters of theological substance to a “power struggle.” As George Marsden has observed: “Without theism … the only effective arbiter of contested moral claims is power.” Thus these revisionists ironically expose their own motivation: they have taken power and have proscribed orthodoxy!

But nothing more clearly exposes forgetfulness of the biblical substance of the Christian Faith than Steve Skardon’s “willingness to reconcile scripture with contemporary society” or Barbara Mann’s assertion that the Holy Spirit and its influence change as people change. This willful amnesia about the Christian faith divorces such revisionists from the biblical assurance that the Word of God, Jesus Christ, is the same yesterday and today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).
To forget, or rather suppress, the indisputable fact that the Episcopal Church has lost a third of its membership in little more than 30 years (the period of its lemming-like dash to accommodate itself to a post-Christian world), while attacking the leadership of one of the very few dioceses in the Episcopal Church to have grown dramatically in the same period, is bad enough.

But what is not merely forgetful but simply false - and implicitly but also falsely attributed in “A House Divided” to the Rev. Jan Nunley, who has denied it - is the assertion that “African primates were instrumental in getting a resolution passed at the 1988 Lambeth Conference condoning polygamy.” Though polygamy is a fact on the ground among some tribes in Africa, its active practice by converts to Christianity has never been condoned.

Thus the condescending dismissal of some of the most faithful, thoughtful, and evangelically successful bishops in the Anglican Communion, as though they are intellectually and culturally primitive simply because they happen to live in Africa and Asia, is based not on forgetfulness but falsehood. So much by way of dismissal also, no doubt, of Jesus’ own original disciples.
The Diocese of South Carolina, as represented by our retired bishops and our bishop-elect, has not and will not forget or compromise our heritage and well-being - Episcopalian, Anglican and biblically Christian.

The Rt. Rev. C. FitzSimons Allison is the 12th Bishop of South Carolina (retired). The Very Rev. William N. McKeachie is dean of the Diocese of South Carolina and rector of the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paula


Anonymous said...

I didn't know the Anglicans had such solid theological roots. All the more the sadness of the modern departure from the pure doctrine, particularly in the Wastern church.

Bolivian Beat said...

Yes very our enthusiasm to not portray ourselves as a confessional church, we have given the impression that we somehow don't have clear doctrines.