A Checklist for Finding a Classically Anglican Parish

So you’ve studied, read, and prayed, and you’ve come to the conclusion that classical Anglicanism is the truth. So now you want to join a church that’s part of the classical Anglican tradition. How exactly do you do that? It isn’t as easy as it should be.

First of all, the Anglicanism that most people are exposed to around the world today is not purely classical Anglicanism. It is Anglicanism that has been filtered through the lens of the nineteenth century and the rise of church parties. Often, the flavor of churchmanship in a particular country is determined by which set of missionaries first established an Anglican presence there. And in theologically mixed churches, like the Church of England and the Episcopal Church, individual dioceses and even individual parishes can be radically different from one another, depending on whether they would call themselves Anglo-Catholic, Evangelical, Broad Church, Liberal, Charismatic, or something else entirely. This does not mean that you will not encounter classical Anglicanism in a church that comes from one of these party perspectives, but it is often the case that a church’s party affiliation trumps its affiliation with Anglicanism. You show up expecting to hear preaching and teaching that reflects the principles of the 39 Articles and instead receive teaching from the Roman Catholic Catechism, the Heidelberg Catechism, or whatever slick book the individual priest happens to have been reading that week.

This presents a huge problem for lay people who have been learning about classical Anglicanism and assume, quite understandably, that if it says “Anglican” or “Episcopal” on the sign outside than it is going to teach the Anglican faith inside. I get notes on a regular basis from frustrated lay people who want to know how they can find a parish where they can become classical Anglicans and not merely Anglicans in name. There are people out there hungry for the Gospel as Anglicanism historically preached it, and yet nominally Anglican churches are often woefully ill equipped to respond to these seekers when they walk through the front door on a Sunday morning.

This problem is compounded in North America because a succession of schisms in the last hundred years has produced numerous church bodies claiming to be authentic Anglicanism all occupying the same space. How does one navigate the alphabet soup between TEC, ACNA, AMiA, REC, ACC, and others?

I’m afraid I don’t have a very good answer to this question. The divisions amongst us are shameful, as are the ways in which we have allowed Anglicanism to be co-opted and held hostage by various theological movements. The first order of business for Anglicans around the world today ought to be a strenuous effort at theological education that trains clergy to understand and teach classical Anglicanism.

But in the mean time, how can a lay person determine whether any given parish is the right place to be? Well, first and foremost, I would look at the parish website. Then, I would pay the parish a visit, preferably on a Sunday morning, although a week day service may also provide a good opportunity since the place will be less crowded and the priest may have more of an opportunity to speak with you. Any priest worth his salt will want to meet with you after you have attended worship, to get to know you and to allow you the opportunity to ask questions about the parish. When you get to that stage and you’re sitting in the priest’s office, here are a few questions that I would ask if I were in your shoes:

1) Do you believe that Jesus Christ physically rose from the dead and that it’s only through faith in Him that our sins are forgiven and we come to be saved?

It is appalling that we live in an age when we cannot take the answer to this question for granted, but there we are. If the answer to this is anything other than an unqualified “yes,” turn around and walk right back out the door. This is a good question to ask because it saves you time on having to ask a whole bunch of other questions about the creeds, the scriptures, etc. If the answer to this question is yes, you can be pretty well assured that the answers to all those other questions will be the right ones.

2) Does the worship in this parish come straight out of the Book of Common Prayer and do you view the prayer book as an authority over what you can and cannot teach?

It is not necessary for every single service to be a prayer book service. In fact, there are certain special services, like the Stations of the Cross or the blessing of a home, that require a different book. Nevertheless, the basic content of a normal Sunday service ought to be coming from the Book of Common Prayer, even if it has been augmented to include a few extra things that are consistent with it. The style of worship may vary dramatically. One parish may have a praise band while another has an organ and a vested choir. One may have incense and extra processions while another may have a long, expository sermon or a chance to receive the laying on of hands for healing. All of that is secondary. The use of the prayer book, both as an essential form of worship and as an authoritative source of doctrine, is mandatory if the parish is going to be able to claim to be authentically Anglican.

3) Do you believe in the faith as it is taught by the 39 Articles?

Here you may find that the priest wants to start to explain or make certain distinctions about his understanding of the theology of the Articles. This is fine, up to a point. The Articles have been understood in more than one way over the centuries, and it is possible for people to have a good faith disagreement over the interpretation of one point or another within them. What you want to beware of is the priest who says that the Articles were a nice document that formed part of our history but that they do not have any relevance or authority today. Similarly, watch out for interpretations of the Articles that go beyond the plain grammatical sense of the words themselves.

4) Do you believe in justification by faith alone?

Again, there are multiple ways to articulate this doctrine, so be prepared for the priest to offer an explanation. The priest may very well want to move from the topic of justification into the less well defined topic of sanctification, which is fine. The thing to be cautious about is the priest who is unwilling or unable to affirm that he believes in the doctrine of justification at all.

5) Do you believe that Holy Baptism really does wash away our sins and make us one with Jesus? Do you believe that in the Holy Eucharist Jesus Christ is really and truly present and that we really and truly receive His Body and Blood?

There should be no quibbling about the first of these. Baptism either saves or it doesn’t, and if the priest believes that it doesn’t then what the priest teaches is not Anglicanism. On the second question, as to Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, the priest may wish to explain or to offer some caveats about how he understands the Real Presence. What you need to be assured is that he believes, unequivocally, that Jesus is present in the Eucharist and that when you come forward in faith you truly partake of His Body and Blood. Any hint that this is all symbolic or that it is just meant to remind us of what Jesus has done for us and not to actually give us Jesus, and you can bet that classical Anglicanism has no place in that parish.

In the current state of Anglicanism, if you can get good answers to all of the above, you’re way ahead of the curve. Nevertheless, as a bonus question, you may wish to ask this:

Bonus: Do you believe in the necessity of bishops in the Church?

I say “bonus” not because I think that the answer to this is unimportant, but because it is so very difficult to find Anglican clergy today who will give a full-throated defense of this basic theological principle, even if they are sound, classical Anglicans in every other way. Now, very few Anglican priests will tell you that having bishops is bad, and most will tell you that maintaining the historic, apostolic succession is a good thing, but they may lose their nerve when the question comes around to whether or not having bishops is essential. Some small amount of equivocation on this point shouldn’t rule the parish out for you, especially if the answers to all the questions above have been the right ones. After all, whether the priest believes in the absolute necessity of bishops or not, if he is an Anglican he has to be in relationship with a bishop somewhere, which means that your connection as a lay person to the historic episcopate is secure. Still, if you get a priest who is willing to say, without a doubt, that episcopacy is necessary in the life of the Church, it is time to celebrate, because you have found yourself a truly authentic, truly Episcopalian, truly classical Anglican.

Respect the Priest

All of that said, I wouldn’t recommend walking into the priest’s office with a print-out of this and a pencil to check each item off. It’s best to allow for these questions to come up in the flow of a natural conversation. Remember, the priest is trying to find out as much about you as you’re trying to find out about him. After all, it’s a big deal for him if you decide to become a part of his parish, not just because it means one more body in the pew that he can count towards the average Sunday attendance, but because it means one more person whose soul he is responsible for. He is quite literally placing himself under judgment by welcoming you in, so be kind and avoid being adversarial, even if the answers you get to these questions are not what you would hope to hear.

Common Prayer

The last and most important thing to do before joining that new parish of your dreams is to pray about it. Ask God’s blessing upon the priest you have spoken with, upon the people of the parish, upon the bishop, and upon you that you may have the clarity with which to see whether this is God’s calling for you or not. In the state of things today, you may have to drive some distance to get to a classically Anglican parish, but it is worth it if you can be assured that you are in a place where the Word is truly preached and the Sacraments are truly celebrated and received.

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About Fr. Jonathan

Your average traditional crunchy Christ follower with a penchant for pop culture, politics, and puns.
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28 Responses to A Checklist for Finding a Classically Anglican Parish

  1. Javier says:

    Fr. Jonathan:
    Blessings! Thanks for the great recommendations you have given. It is very wise that the searcher for Classical Anglicanism feels in the heart that he found what he or she was looking for, I mean, happiness and truth in the heart.

    Javier

  2. kiwianglo says:

    Dear Father Jonathan. Much as I liked your post, I really believe that ‘Classical Anglicanism’, like ‘Classical Roman Catholicism’, has had to die – in order to live: as part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ.

    Much as I love the 1662 Mass – and am allowed to preside at its celebration on a fairly regular basis for early Sunday morning congregations – I no longer believe that it is the only way of offering the Eucharist in an Anglican context.

    The 39 articles, though containing useful parameters for the ‘Faith, once delivered…’, are not necessarily the only way forward into the mysteries of our spiritual journey with Christ in the Gospel. We now have to apply Good Pope John XXIII’s principles of ‘semper reformanda, that require an openness – under the guidance of the Holy Spirit – to new fields of mission, which today include the acceptance of women as co-heirs with men in the preaching of the Gospel and the administration of the Church.

    There is also a desperate need to include in the mission all who are presently on the margins – including LGBTQ persons, whose sexual orientation is different from what has long been perceived as the ‘norm’, the only way of being – absolute male or absolute female..

    Scientific discovery, under God, is an ongoing task to which the Church – as well as the created order – is being called to understand. The Holy Spirit did not go to sleep after the writing of the scriptures – or the compilation of the 1662 Prayer Book, but is alive and active, ‘searching the mind of God’ – waiting for the Church to respond to her call towards enlightenment.

    Jesus once said this: “They will know you’re my disciples by your love”.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Fr. Ron,

      Thank you for your reply. I am not sure, however, that you understood the thrust of what I was trying to say.

      One of the main purposes of this site is to recover the long lost notion that Anglicanism is a coherent theology that has particular doctrinal and liturgical underpinnings. This historical Anglicanism can be seen clearly not just in the formularies but also in the writing of many Anglicans during at least the first 150 to 200 years after the Elizabethan Settlement. This vibrant tradition ran afoul at some point – I cannot pinpoint for you exactly when, but the situation came to a head during the nineteenth century. But regardless of when or how it happened, Anglicanism was redefined as a structure in which multiple competing theologies could co-exist despite contradicting each other. This happened long before the great debates in the Anglican Communion today, though I have no doubt that this departure forms the root cause of these debates and fractures. The fact is, liberal or conservative, global north or global south, virtually all of us have been formed in this second a-historical, contradictory Anglicanism, as were our immediate forefathers. This makes the idea that there was ever another Anglicanism difficult for us to accept.

      I would not say that a person has to use the 1662 BCP to be authentically Anglican. Churches around the world have revised the BCP to their setting, and to the extent that their BCP is consistent with 1662 that is fine. I would agree with the notion that the Church must be always reforming, but not the implicit suggestion that the Church must always be radically changing her doctrine or practice. The purpose of reformation is not to do a new thing. The purpose of reformation is to look back to the original and try to shed the layers of novelty that have separated us from the Church of the apostles. That is the kind of reformation I am interested in.

      So yes, a priest can throw the BCP and the Articles out the window and continue to call what he is doing “Anglican,” and in the contemporary context he’ll pay no penalty for it. Honestly, I have no argument with someone who wants to do a new thing. My only argument is with the notion that the new thing is in any way still Anglican. That word is not endlessly malleable. It has content that cannot be discarded.

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  5. Jason Miller says:

    Does the CofE’s Common Worship count to you as BCP worship?

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Great question, Jason. The short answer is that I’ve not spent enough time with Common Worship to say, though I’m inclined to say yes given the reality that the only other option in England is 1662. Although, I would say that the 1928 attempted revision seems to bear a greater resemblance to the classic book. If I were in the C of E, I imagine I would either use the 1928 book or the 1662. But Common Worship at least keeps the patterns of worship, albeit with some augmentation. What concerns me some though are places like the wedding service where it appears that Common Worship departs somewhat from BCP theology. But that’s only my impression from a cursory glance. I could be wrong. What do you think?

  6. I disagree about your point #3. I quote my (very Anglican Catholic) rector from his document on the matter on the status today of the 39 articles:

    It is important to understand that this was a political solution to an internal conflict that threatened the survival of the nation. The Articles of Religion (“Thirty-Nine Articles”) were a document which established legally what constituted “non-conformity” for the purposes of prosecution in the secular courts, that is, the legal boundaries of conformity to the Use of the Book of Common Prayer (what an individual did and said publicly, not what one believed). The Thirty-Nine Articles, however, are a specifically English legal document, not a theological statement of world-wide Anglicanism.

    Through the centuries there have been those with Protestant leanings who have tried to use the Articles of Religion as an Anglican confessional document like the Lutheran Augsburg Confession (1530) and the Calvinist Second Helvetic Confession (1566). On the other hand, John Henry Newman in his famous “Tract Ninety” showed that the Thirty-Nine Articles can easily be interpreted as being completely consistent with the decrees of the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation Council of Trent (1545-1563). This clearly demonstrates both what a brilliant legal document the Articles of Religion are and what an unsatisfactory and unworkable theological statement they are…which is exactly what Elizabeth intended!

    http://stpaulsparish.org/education/documents/thirty_nine_articles.pdf

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Hello, Matthew. The position that your Rector is sketching out is a classical Anglo-Catholic position, adopted in part by the later days of the Oxford Movement. Tract 90 is an example of this, although it is significant that Tract 90 was one of the last things that Newman ever wrote as an Anglican. Clearly, his trajectory towards Rome had already been set, and the theology he espouses in Tract 90 reflects that.

      I don’t want to deny the good things that the Anglo-Catholic movement has brought to worldwide Anglicanism and to me personally. The emphases of the Oxford Fathers on returning to Patristic study and recapturing the understanding of the Church of England as truly Catholic are good, sound, and were wholly needed in the Anglicanism of their day. Nevertheless, the very sixteenth and seventeenth century figures whom Newman and his companions turned to for support on the notion that Anglicanism is and has always been truly Catholic–Hooker, Andrewes, Laud, etc.–all of them upheld the 39 Articles and the theology contained therein as essential and truly Catholic teaching, not by re-interpreting them as Newman attempted to do but by embracing them in their plain sense.

      It is true that the Articles are not like the confessions of continental Protestants, nor do they make sense without the context of the other formularies, particularly the prayer book, but it is absolutely not true that they were simply meant to provide a political and not a theological standard. Clergy were required, and are still required in the C of E, to swear that they believe in the Articles and that what the Articles articulate is the Catholic faith. There are political dimensions here, of course, as there always are, even in Ecumenical Councils. Nonetheless, the Articles provide important doctrinal teaching, even though they are often misunderstood.

  7. Dear Fr Jonathan,
    Thank you for your response. I have to confess (ha, ironic word) that as a practicing Anglican Catholic in TEC at St Paul’s Parish, Riverside, Illinois, that at best I am intrigued by the 39 Articles, but in truth I don’t see any actual relevance or necessity for them today. Newman’s basic point (and my rector’s) is that there was nothing particularly unique to Anglicanism contained in the 39 Articles. If true, that does not strike me as a particular “Oxford Movement” position to take — no, it strikes me rather as merely a Catholic position!

    I’m not sure if your response is to the two paragraphs I quoted from my rector, or to the entire piece. But the very next paragraph after what I quoted seems to disagree with your perspective. Although there perhaps is not disagreement (I’m not sure):

    “While it is not the Articles of Religion, the Anglican Church does indeed have an official theology. It
    is the theology of the undivided Catholic Church. The 1534 Act of Supremacy which ended any
    Papal authority in England specifically stated that nothing in that act shall be construed as in any way altering or diminishing the full Catholic doctrine, faith, and practice of the Church in England. Unlike Reformation Protestantism, Anglicanism has never understood itself to be a distinctive church with its own unique doctrines and theology. It has always understood itself to be nothing more than a branch of the world-wide Catholic Church which traces its roots in Roman Britannia to the Apostolic Age. In the words attributed to Geoffrey Francis Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury (1945-1961), ‘We [Anglicans] have no doctrine of our own.We only possess the Catholic doctrine of the Catholic Church, enshrined in the Catholic Creeds, and those creeds we hold without addition or diminution.'”

    In Christ,
    Matthew

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Hello Matthew,

      I did read the full piece that your rector wrote and I was attempting to respond adequately, but perhaps failed. It is a very well written piece, as are a number of the other pieces on the site. I have no doubt that your parish is a fine place where you are receiving good and wholesome Christian teaching and formation. But I firmly disagree with the notion that Anglicanism has no unique doctrine (though that is an oft repeated claim in the last century) or that the 39 Articles are so broad as to be irrelevant.

      The formation of Anglicanism took place in the midst of a good deal of turbulent back and forth during the early sixteenth century, but it did not reach its maturation until the Elizabethan Settlement. To deny the place of the Articles while elevating the Act of Supremacy is to effectively cut off Anglicanism before it actually begins. Anglo-Calvinists, as I call them, sometimes attempt to pull off a similar trick by pointing to the writing of Cranmer and the continental reformers he imported as being definitive for Anglicanism rather than the formularies and their historic working out in the century that followed their adoption. I believe that both approaches profoundly misread history in order to arrive at pre-conceived theological conclusions.

      Anglo-Catholicism recovered many good and true things within the Anglican tradition as a whole, but modern Anglo-Catholics often fail to see the ways in which classical Anglican high churchmanship diverges from Anglo-Catholic assumptions. William Laud and Lancelot Andrewes would be quite surprised to find modern Anglicans ignoring or attempting to ignore the Articles.

      Nevertheless, what your rector celebrates as Anglicanism’s mere catholicity actually is what makes Anglicanism unique. Anglicanism is an attempt to reform the Church towards a more original, authentic expression of the Christian faith. The formularies, including the Articles, provide a framework for doing just that. The understanding that classical Anglicanism arrives at actually is the patristic, scriptural, Catholic faith. But in so much as other Christian traditions have not come to the exact same understanding, Anglicanism remains unique. All Christians of all traditions believe that what they teach is the original faith untouched by error. The question is not who is unique and who is not. We’re all unique, otherwise we’d all be in communion. The question is, who is right.

      If you want to see more about the 39 Articles, I wrote a more extensive piece on the subject here:

      http://conciliaranglican.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/ask-an-anglican-the-39-articles/

  8. I think you will find, if you read Anglican history, that the Oxford Fathers were the first to systematically deny the authority of the Articles of Religion as THE statement of Anglican theology. An excellent example of this is King Charles’ I Declaration, which is often prefixed to the Articles of Religion, in which he declares that the Articles contain the teaching of the Church of England and that all clergy are not permitted to teach otherwise.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Hi Jordan,

      I think it’s fair to say that the Articles are a formulary of Anglicanism and that they really cannot be denied by anyone who wants to make a claim to teaching historical Anglican theology, but it goes a little too far to call them “THE statement of Anglican theology.” They are not a comprehensive confession, nor do they make any sense without the prayer book. As Archbishop Bramhall put it in the seventeenth century, long before the Oxford Movement, “We do not suffer any man to reject the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England at his pleasure; yet neither do we look upon them as essentials of saving faith or legacies of Christ and of His Apostles; but in a mean, as pious opinions fitted for the preservation of unity. Neither do we oblige any man to believe them, but only not to contradict them.”

      Moreover, it’s not until very late in the Oxford Movement that the Articles start to be pushed aside, and even then it is more through an implausible re-interpretation of what they say rather than an out and out rejection of them. It’s really only some modern Anglo-Catholics and most modern liberals who go that far.

  9. Joshua Bovis says:

    Jonathon,
    You wrote, “Baptism either saves or it doesn’t, and if the priest believes that it doesn’t then what the priest teaches is not Anglicanism”.

    Respectfully, if this is the case then the 39 Articles must not be Anglican, nor affirm ‘Anglicanism’.

    Article XXVII makes the point very clearly that it is the inward, spiritual reality which baptism signifies that is the essence of the sacrament. It is a ‘sign of Regeneration or new Birth’, which echoes the theology of conversion (John 3, Romans 6).
    The Baptism that saves is not the baptism of water, but the inward baptism which the Holy Spirit gives to the heart which comes through faith.

    Article XXV defines the sacraments as indeed being ‘badges or tokens’ of the fath – but they are not only this. They are also ‘sure witnesses of grace’. That is, they testify not only to our faith but to the work of God in Christ. And these signs are effectual, but this is not to confuse the sign with the thing itself.

    The same principle is found in Article XXVIII in regards to the Eucharist. It upholds the distinction between the sign and the thing signified by refusing any explanation of how Christ is present in Eucharist and ‘overthroweth the nature of the sacrament. Which is why the Articles insist that the Eucharist elements are not to be ‘reserved, carried about, lifted up or worshipped. These acts are indicative of mistaking the sign for the thing itself which distorts our understanding of the way God works in the world by attaching his operation to objects.

    The notion that the sacraments confer grace, that the sacrament of baptism saves people is not supported by the 39 Articles and is very much in line with the Spirit of the 16th century Reformation. So I would put that if a Anglican Priest is saying that the sacrament of Baptism saves, is abrogating what the Articles and Scripture affirm.

    in Christ
    Joshua

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Hi Joshua,

      I’m afraid I have to disagree with both your interpretation of the Articles and of Holy Scripture. Article XXVII does indeed say that Baptism is “a sign of Regeneration or New-Birth.” But it is not merely a sign. It is a sign “whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church.” In other words, it is a symbol that does what it symbolizes, a sign that actually effects what it signifies. And that accords with Article XXV’s admonition that sacraments are “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.” They are signs that are effectual, signs that actually do something for us. Through the sacraments, God works invisibly in us to give us life and strengthen us in our faith. This accords also with the definition of sacraments that’s found in the Catechism, that a sacrament is “an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof.” The key part there being “as a means whereby we receive the same.” Sacraments communicate the grace that they signify. They are not mere symbols that make us think good thoughts about Jesus. They actually give us Jesus.

      This is why the prayer book points repeatedly to the fact that we are regenerated through Baptism. For instance, immediately after baptizing a person, whether adult or infant, the priest in the 1662 rite is directed to make the sign of the cross on the person’s forehead and to pray “SEEING now, dearly beloved brethren, that these persons are regenerate, and grafted into the body of Christ’s Church, let us give thanks unto Almighty God for these benefits, and with one accord make our prayers unto him, that they may lead the rest of their life according to this beginning.”

      And, of course, all of this is perfectly in line with the teaching of Holy Scripture in which there are many, many references to the saving and regenerating power of Baptism (Romans 6, John 3, etc, etc…) Furthermore, 1 Peter 3:21 literally says “Baptism now saves you.” Therefore, a priest who denies that Baptism gives us saving grace is not only teaching something entirely contrary to Anglicanism, he is teaching something that is entirely contrary to Scripture.

      I’ll leave off talking about the relationship of the Articles to the Eucharist for a future post in the series “On the Eucharist,” but suffice it to say that something similar can be said there.

      You worry that if we say that Baptism saves or that the Eucharist gives us Jesus that we are “mistaking the sign for the thing itself which distorts our understanding of the way God works in the world by attaching his operation to objects.” I am going to speak more to this as the series on the Eucharist goes on, but in fact the Anglican formularies teach the very opposite of what you’re saying. They teach us that the relationship between that which is material and that which is spiritual is not so easily boxed off. Ultimately, denying that God’s grace can operate through things in the material world leads to a denial of the Incarnation. We are not merely spirits trapped in bodies as the Gnostics believed. We are spirit and flesh, both of which are fallen but nevertheless both of which were created by God for His good purposes, and He will restore both, which is why Jesus comes to us not as an apparition but as a man with flesh and blood like the rest of us.

  10. Joshua Bovis says:

    Thankyou for reply to my post Jonathan. You write,
    “It is a sign “whereby, as by an instrument, they that receive Baptism rightly are grafted into the Church.” In other words, it is a symbol that does what it symbolizes, a sign that actually effects what it signifies. And that accords with Article XXV’s admonition that sacraments are “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.”

    The definition of the sacraments given in Article XXV is critical. Yes they are also sure witnessses of grace – that is they testify not only to our faith but to the gospel itself and these signs work,; yes they are effectual; yesthey are more than tokens, but they are still signs. They don’t confer grace. Scripture is clear that we are saved by grace through faith (EG. Eph. 2:8-10) and also Article XI “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith…”

    I agree that the sacraments are effectual, but as I said earlier – this is not to confuses the sign with the thing itself, which is what the Reformers sought to oppose and refute and is also what the Articles They are also effectual in that they strengthen faith by correlating Christians beliefs with the testimony of our senses.

    Furthermore, 1 Peter 3:21 literally says “Baptism now saves you.” Therefore, a priest who denies that Baptism gives us saving grace is not only teaching something entirely contrary to Anglicanism, he is teaching something that is entirely contrary to Scripture.

    Your exegesis of 1 Peter 3.21 is incorrect.When Peter states that baptism saves, he means that Baptism saves in that it symbolises or represents inward faith in Christ, it does not actually do anything. As Peter states, not as removal of dirt from the body. Baptism saves because it represents inward faith as evidenced by one’s appeal to God for a good conscience, or in other words, by one’s plea for the forgiveness of one’s sins through Christ alone. A plea that is grounded in the resurrection of Christ. Baptism is a visual representation of sign of the fact that Christians are clothed with the righteousness of Christ. It is an outward sign of the internal reality of regeneration which is the result of the Holy Spirit.

    Baptism is sacrament which a person may never receive yet be a true Christian and be saved (the case of the penitent criminal on the cross is a good example of this).

  11. Joshua Bovis says:

    Sorry Jonathan, I forgot to add one more thing.
    What alarms me about your comment:
    “Therefore, a priest who denies that Baptism gives us saving grace is not only teaching something entirely contrary to Anglicanism, he is teaching something that is entirely contrary to Scripture”.

    To say that Baptism gives us saving grace is to say that we are not saved by faith alone through Christ alone by grace alone, but that we are saved through faith plus baptism – it completely nullifies the completed work of Christ once for all sin bearing sacrifice at the cross.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Hi Joshua,

      I’m having a little trouble reading all of your post because I think some of your words were inadvertently omitted, but I do get the gist of it. It seems that your central worry is that by allowing the sacraments to be means of grace we somehow demote faith. Nothing could be further from the case. But let me take one step at a time.

      You write:
      yes they are effectual; yesthey are more than tokens, but they are still signs. They don’t confer grace. Scripture is clear that we are saved by grace through faith (EG. Eph. 2:8-10) and also Article XI “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith…”

      Of course we are saved by grace through faith. But how do we receive that grace? How does God give it to us? It is precisely in Baptism that the Holy Spirit gives us the grace that leads to faith, to repentance, and to salvation. And this is because all of salvation, including faith itself, is a gift from God.

      I’m afraid I cannot see how the sacraments can be both “effectual” and simultaneously devoid of grace. They are effectual only because of grace. The sacraments are not human works. They are God’s work.

      Again, you write:
      Your exegesis of 1 Peter 3.21 is incorrect.When Peter states that baptism saves, he means that Baptism saves in that it symbolises or represents inward faith in Christ, it does not actually do anything.

      Well, we will just have to disagree on that. I believe that if Peter meant to say that Baptism symbolizes inward faith and doesn’t actually do anything, he would’ve written that instead of writing “Baptism now saves you.” Baptism, as Peter points out, is like the flood in the days of Noah in that it destroys sin. But unlike the flood, it doesn’t destroy the sinner in the process, because it unites the sinner with Christ and gives the sinner Christ’s righteousness. So it does not “remove dirt from the body” but rather “appeals to God for a good conscience.” Baptism gives us the grace that produces faith within us. It is through Baptism that we are washed in water and the word, cleansing us of sin so that we are able to have faith at all. This is, furthermore, the near unanimous witness of the Fathers as to what Baptism is.

      You write:
      Baptism is sacrament which a person may never receive yet be a true Christian and be saved (the case of the penitent criminal on the cross is a good example of this).

      The thief on the cross receives saving grace directly from Jesus, through the word that Jesus speaks to Him and the blood that He sheds in his presence. We receive the exact same grace directly from Jesus through the font. These things are not contradictory. If Jesus actually walks up to you and says, “I’ve given you saving grace,” then congratulations, you have it. But see, this is exactly what the Scripture is already doing by telling us that we are saved through the waters of Baptism, because it’s in the waters of Baptism that this very word of Christ is effectually spoken to us. To reject Baptism, then, is not to align ourselves with the Good Thief. It’s to align ourselves with the other thief, the one who mocked Our Lord and tried to talk Jesus into doing things his way instead of God’s way.

      Finally, you write:
      To say that Baptism gives us saving grace is to say that we are not saved by faith alone through Christ alone by grace alone, but that we are saved through faith plus baptism – it completely nullifies the completed work of Christ once for all sin bearing sacrifice at the cross.

      You have this completely backwards. To say that Baptism gives us saving grace is to say that we believe God’s Word. It is to say that we have received faith from Christ and that it is through that faith alone that Christ’s grace alone will save us. It is not “faith plus baptism.” Baptism is not a human work. Baptism is God’s work. It does not simply remind us of what Jesus does on the cross. It is Jesus on the cross. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” says Paul. “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). Baptism buries us with Christ and raises us with Christ. That’s what Paul is telling us. And our faith springs forth out of that, from the uniting with Christ that we receive there.

  12. Joshua Bovis says:

    “Of course we are saved by grace through faith. But how do we receive that grace? How does God give it to us?”

    The answer is in your question, through faith. And God is the one who regenerates us, by his Holy Spirit. People hear the gospel, and God grants repentance and faith.
    In Romans 6:3, Paul is talking about baptism as an outward physical symbol of the inward, conversion of Christians. The Apostle Paul never taught baptismal regeneration nor believed this!
    Of course the NT does speak of Baptism in terms of washing away our sins (Acts 22:16); our clothing ourselves with Christ (Gal 3:27) and even of our being saved by it (1 Peter 3:22, as you mentioned), but these are examples of dynamic language which attributes to the visible sign the blessing of the reality signified. It is inconceivable that the Paul, having spent three chapters in Romans arguing that justification is by faith alone, should now shift his ground, contradict himself and declare that after all salvation is by baptism!
    Union with Christ is by faith, which is invisibly effected by the Holy Spirit and visibly signified and sealed by baptism.

    You write that “It is precisely in Baptism that the Holy Spirit gives us the grace that leads to faith, to repentance, and to salvation. And this is because all of salvation, including faith itself, is a gift from God.”

    I think we will have to agree to disagree as when I read your post, I thought to myself you have it completely backwards. Yet you say I have it completely backwards.

    in Christ
    Joshua

    p.sAlso, perhaps it would help if you re-read my post, in particular where I wrote:
    Scripture is clear that we are saved by grace through faith (EG. Eph. 2:8-10) and also Article XI “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith…”

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Joshua, you wrote:
      In Romans 6:3, Paul is talking about baptism as an outward physical symbol of the inward, conversion of Christians. The Apostle Paul never taught baptismal regeneration nor believed this!

      As with the question of 1 Peter 3 above, the difference between our hermeneutics is that I am arguing based on the plain meaning of the text and you are arguing based on an interpretation of what these authors must have really meant since they couldn’t possibly have meant what they actually said. Paul does not say, “Hey, I’m talking about a symbol here, all of this will happen to you inwardly whether or not you engage with this symbol at all.” What he says is that we were “baptized into Christ’s death.” We could get more specific, the more of this chapter we take up. Paul goes on, for instance, to say that we “were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” If baptism is purely symbolic and God does not actually communicate grace to us through it, what Paul says here makes absolutely no sense, because we haven’t actually been united with Him in a death like His. We’ve merely symbolically shown ourselves to… what? To want to be united with Him? To hope that the faith we have tried to inspire in ourselves by our own effort is sufficient? It is much easier, much simpler, and much better to allow the text to speak plainly. This also has the benefit of aligning our understanding of the scripture, which is prone to our own preconceived judgments, to that of the early Church.

      It is inconceivable that the Paul, having spent three chapters in Romans arguing that justification is by faith alone, should now shift his ground, contradict himself and declare that after all salvation is by baptism!

      You keep trying to set up a false dichotomy between faith and the sacraments. There is no contradiction here for Paul because he believes what classical Anglicanism teaches, that God truly gives Himself to us in and through the sacraments, whereby we receive Him by faith. If Jesus were to walk up to you, in person, right now, and say, “I am giving you grace that will save you,” that would hopefully inspire faith in you to trust that promise, right? Well, that’s exactly what’s happening in the sacraments. Jesus Himself is coming to you and giving you the promise of grace. If you trust in that promise (IE, have faith), then you will be saved by that grace alone, which came from Christ alone. If you reject that promise (IE, have no faith), then you have rejected the grace of Christ which saves you. Baptism isn’t some extra thing that we have to do to get ourselves to Jesus. Baptism is Jesus. It is His Word at work to save us. If we reject Him there, we have refused faith because we have refused to believe His Word.

      p.sAlso, perhaps it would help if you re-read my post, in particular where I wrote:
      Scripture is clear that we are saved by grace through faith (EG. Eph. 2:8-10) and also Article XI “We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Faith…”

      Ephesians 2 is wonderful. Nothing in Ephesians 2 contradicts baptismal regeneration. Nor does anything in Article XI. Perhaps you should look again at the passages in the prayer book that explicitly teach baptismal regeneration, one of which I have reproduced for you in the comments above. Unless you believe that the Articles contradict the prayer book (which they do not), the conclusion is plain. This is the teaching of classical Anglicanism. Now, that in and of itself doesn’t mean you have to believe it. In fact, there are plenty of Anglicans in the world today who would prefer to see Anglican churches move in one direction or another, towards Evangelicalism, Roman Catholicism, Liberalism, Pentecostalism, etc. But you have to acknowledge that in so doing you are distancing yourself from classical Anglicanism and saying that, at least in this particular instance, classical Anglicanism is wrong.

      Really, I’m not trying to bust your chops here, Joshua. I’m sure that you are a faithful Christian man just trying to argue for what you believe to be the truth of the scriptures, and I’m happy to be your brother in Christ. But what you are describing is a sacramental doctrine that has more in common with Baptist theology and modern Evangelicalism than with classical Anglicanism. I think we would have a more fruitful conversation if you were willing to own that as your perspective rather than continuing to argue that the Anglican formularies say something which they do not.

      In His Mercy,

      Fr. Jonathan

  13. runnymeadeuk says:

    Very good. This article deserves wide distribution. God bless you!
    Matthew 6:33

  14. Joshua Bovis says:

    “There is no contradiction here for Paul because he believes what classical Anglicanism teaches, that God truly gives Himself to us in and through the sacraments, whereby we receive Him by faith”.

    Paul believed and taught baptismal regeneration??? This is eisegesis rather than sound exegesis. For example when Paul addresses the division in the church at Corinth in chapter 1. V.17 – Paul regarded the sacrament of baptism of little importance, he cannot remember whom he had baptised and then emphatically adds, “For Christ did not send me to baptise but to preach the gospel”. It is inconceivable for Paul to say this if he believed and practiced what you say he believed.

    Jonathan, I don’t feel like you are busting my chops. I am enjoy dialoguing with you. I simply think you are wrong on what baptism does. Salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone and by grace alone (which interestingly you don’t unpack in your original post). The notion of saying “yes we are saved through faith alone in Christ alone, but the means through we acquire this saving faith is through the sacrament of baptism (which is what I think you are saying) is not what the Reformers taught, nor is it what Cranmer taught. In fact his prayer book refutes this very thing as does Scripture.

    My main point Jonathan is that I think your take on classical Anglicanism is really a 19th century revision of Anglicanism. Classical Anglicanism is Reformed and Protestant and Scripture, the Articles, the BCP and the ordinal make that very clear.

    The Anglican inheritance in both doctrine and church practice is irrevocably tied to the cause of the Protestant Reformation. For all its insistence that it is genuinely catholic, that it was not another church set up as an alternative to that existing at the time but rather the true church reformed, the English church from which worldwide Anglicanism has grown was unambiguously Protestant. It embraced the Reformation doctrines of Scripture, salvation and the church. The five solas, solus Christus, sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura, and soli Deo gloria, all find expression in the Anglican formularies and are expounded in the book of homilies.

    Ever since at least the early seventeenth century there have been attempts to suggest true Anglicanism is not really Protestant and that aligning the English church with the continental Reformation is a mistake. Revisionist accounts of the origins of Anglicanism have glossed over the way in which, in both doctrine and practice, the English Reformers sought to align their church with the Reformation churches on the continent.

    I believe the Protestant character of genuine Anglicanism must remain non-negotiable (even in the midst of the contemporary alliance between evangelicals and Anglo-catholics against liberalism in the Anglican Communion). Only by denying itself can Anglicanism turn its back on this aspect of its authentic protestant and reformed identity.

    Thankyou for your time Jonathan, I think our dialogue has come to an impasse as your comment “I think we would have a more fruitful conversation if you were willing to own that as your perspective rather than continuing to argue that the Anglican formularies say something which they do not”.

    I would say the exact same thing to you. Which is why your original post on your blog caught my attention in the first place – the idea that baptismal regeneration is classical Anglicanism and priests who don’t teach this are not true Anglicans, I believe is based on a historical template that is not authentic.

    in Christ
    Joshua

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Joshua, you wrote:
      When Paul addresses the division in the church at Corinth in chapter 1. V.17 – Paul regarded the sacrament of baptism of little importance, he cannot remember whom he had baptised and then emphatically adds, “For Christ did not send me to baptise but to preach the gospel”. It is inconceivable for Paul to say this if he believed and practiced what you say he believed.

      Yes, it would be inconceivable, if 1 Corinthians 1 was Paul’s way of saying that he didn’t think that Baptism was all that important. But that’s not what Paul says at all. What he says in verses 10 through 17 is this:

      I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

      He does not say that Baptism is unimportant. On the contrary, he is using the Baptism into Christ to make a point, that we should not worship our leaders, whether Paul or anyone else, but only Christ. We were not baptized into Paul. We were baptized into Christ. Paul’s work is not primarily that of Baptism but of preaching the Gospel, and he is deeply disturbed that people in a community that he established think that because he baptized them they should focus on him rather than on Christ. This accords with Paul’s general statements about Baptism, that it is a sacrament through which Christ comes to us, not a human work through which we show God just how awesomely faithful we can be, as many modern Protestants unfortunately teach.

      The notion of saying “yes we are saved through faith alone in Christ alone, but the means through we acquire this saving faith is through the sacrament of baptism (which is what I think you are saying) is not what the Reformers taught, nor is it what Cranmer taught. In fact his prayer book refutes this very thing as does Scripture.

      We don’t acquire anything. God gives it to us. It’s all about Him, not us. One cannot put all of the Reformers in one boat as there were multiple movements in the sixteenth century, but there were certainly Protestant Reformers who believed in Baptismal regeneration, Martin Luther being perhaps the chief example. I do not know whether or not Cranmer personally believed this. I do know that the prayer book of which he was largely the architect teaches this. Again, I invite you to read what the prayer book rite on Baptism actually says.

      My main point Jonathan is that I think your take on classical Anglicanism is really a 19th century revision of Anglicanism.

      Funny, that is precisely what I was going to say about you (although in the case of Evangelicalism, one can stretch back into the latter half of the eighteenth century.)

      The Anglican inheritance in both doctrine and church practice is irrevocably tied to the cause of the Protestant Reformation. For all its insistence that it is genuinely catholic, that it was not another church set up as an alternative to that existing at the time but rather the true church reformed, the English church from which worldwide Anglicanism has grown was unambiguously Protestant.

      I don’t disagree with any of that, although I think it is a bit facile to lump the entire Protestant Reformation together as if what emerged in every place was exactly the same. The formularies of Anglicanism are not Lutheran, nor Calvinist, nor Zwinglian, nor Baptist, nor Anabaptist. But of course, neither are they Roman Catholic. They are Anglican. The Reformers and Divines would not have called them “Protestant” but rather “Reformed and Catholic.” This suits me just fine. Better to be known for what you are for rather than what you are against.

      [Anglicanism] embraced the Reformation doctrines of Scripture, salvation and the church. The five solas, solus Christus, sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura, and soli Deo gloria, all find expression in the Anglican formularies and are expounded in the book of homilies.

      This is a much larger conversation, but I would say that Anglicanism embraces four and a half of the Reformation solas. Sola Scriptura is not understood in Anglicanism in exactly the same way that it is amongst Lutherans and Calvinists. But, as I said, that’s a much longer conversation. If you look around on the blog, you can find where I’ve written about that topic before.

      Ever since at least the early seventeenth century there have been attempts to suggest true Anglicanism is not really Protestant and that aligning the English church with the continental Reformation is a mistake.

      So am I repeating the claims of the nineteenth century or the seventeenth? I’ll happily own the latter, but that is because the great Anglican divines of the seventeenth century taught exactly what the formularies that came out of the Elizabethan Settlement expressed. They did not reject the Reformation but they did articulate the ways in which Anglicanism differs from what many other Protestant traditions proclaim.

      Revisionist accounts of the origins of Anglicanism have glossed over the way in which, in both doctrine and practice, the English Reformers sought to align their church with the Reformation churches on the continent.

      The Reformers were not all of one mind. Some wanted to push the Church of England in a much more Genevan, Zwinglian direction. Others were more Lutheran. Still others practiced a kind of crypto-papism. Hence, the Church of England swung violently back and forth in the early decades after official separation from Rome. It is only after the Elizabethan Settlement that anything which can be definitively called “Anglicanism” emerges, and while Anglicanism shares a great deal in common with certain other branches of the Reformation, it is a unique tradition.

      The idea that baptismal regeneration is classical Anglicanism and priests who don’t teach this are not true Anglicans, I believe is based on a historical template that is not authentic.

      The Zwinglian notion of Anglicanism that you appear to be embracing has its roots in the crypto-Calvinism of the nineteenth century and possibly the rise of the Evangelical party in the eighteenth. I would submit to you that this approach to Anglicanism is at least as alien to it as the Anglo-Catholic movement that emerged in the mid to late nineteenth century. Both the Anglo-Catholic and Evangelical parties tend to accentuate certain things that are a part of our Anglican heritage without embracing the whole. Incidentally, this can also be said of Liberalism. The problem, of course, is that in the last hundred and fifty years we have gotten used to the idea that Anglicanism is simply whatever we want to make of it, and so whatever tradition has formed us informs how we read the formularies, if we even read them at all. To be classically Anglican in today’s Anglican world is to be very lonely, unless one remembers that the saints are with us.

      In His Mercy,

      Fr. Jonathan

  15. Joshua Bovis says:

    Yes, it would be inconceivable, if 1 Corinthians 1 was Paul’s way of saying that he didn’t think that Baptism was all that important. But that’s not what Paul says at all.
    You state that:

    “Paul’s work is not primarily that of Baptism but of preaching the Gospel, and he is deeply disturbed that people in a community that he established think that because he baptized them they should focus on him rather than on Christ. This accords with Paul’s general statements about Baptism, that it is a sacrament through which Christ comes to us, not a human work through which we show God just how awesomely faithful we can be, as many modern Protestants unfortunately teach.”

    If Baptism is the sacrament that (as you put it) Christ comes to us then why would Paul make it is primary focus, aim and goal to preach the gospel rather than merely baptise people?
    The reason of coruse is that it is through the proclamation of the gospel and people hearing that Gospel, that people come to a saving faith in Christ – not the sacrament of baptism.

    The Church Catechism says that baptism contains two parts,—the outward and visible sign, and the inward and spiritual grace. But the Catechism nowhere says that the sign and the grace always go together.

    The benefit of Christ’s ordinances depends entirely on the spirit and manner in which
    they are used. The Scripture expressly says that a man may receive the Lord’s Supper,
    “unworthily,” and eat and drink “to his own condemnation.” The Articles declare that in such only as receive sacraments “rightly, worthily, and with faith,” they have a wholesome effect and operation. The famous Hooker teaches that “all receive not the grace of God which receive the sacraments of His grace.” To maintain that every child who is baptized with water is at once regenerated and born again, appears to turn the sacrament of baptism into a mere form, and to contradict both Scripture and Articles.

    Wel that is it from me. I have enjoyed our dialogue. Another time. I have your blog linked to mine, so will pop in from time to time if that is ok.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Joshua, you wrote:
      If Baptism is the sacrament that (as you put it) Christ comes to us then why would Paul make it is primary focus, aim and goal to preach the gospel rather than merely baptise people?

      I realize that you’ve set this up as a rhetorical question, but allow me to answer anyway. It is incorrect to say that Baptism and preaching the Gospel are somehow at odds with one another, as the one necessitates the other. In fact, this is the very point that Paul is trying to make in this passage. Word and Sacrament aren’t two different things that have nothing to do with one another. They are both part of the same graceful act of God. Christ opens our hearts through the power of His word and gives us the grace we need to be saved through faith in Him which comes as a result of being reborn in water and the Spirit (John 3). So the problem with your question, as with the dichotomies you’ve drawn above, is that you keep trying to act as if Baptism is a human work rather than a work of God. You cannot baptize without preaching the Gospel. Literally, you can’t do it. When you baptize, you baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (and not, as Paul points out, in the name of Paul or Apollos or anybody else). That in and of itself, even if you said nothing else, is a proclamation of the Gospel, an application of God’s Word.

      The Church Catechism says that baptism contains two parts,—the outward and visible sign, and the inward and spiritual grace. But the Catechism nowhere says that the sign and the grace always go together.

      The Catechist asks, “What meanest thou by this word sacrament?” And the answer is, “I mean an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace given unto us, ordained by Christ himself, as a means whereby we receive the same, and a pledge to assure us thereof.” The visible sign is the means of receiving the inward grace. The two cannot be separated, according to the Catechism.

      But even if that clause weren’t there, it would not imply that the two are completely separate. I can say, for instance, that you, Joshua, have both a body and a soul. Then I can say that you have entered a particular building. The assumption would be that both your body and your soul entered that building, not that one entered and the other is still hanging around somewhere else waiting for a written invitation.

      The Scripture expressly says that a man may receive the Lord’s Supper, “unworthily,” and eat and drink “to his own condemnation.”

      Right. Which makes absolutely no sense if all he’s eating is a worthless piece of bread and some grape juice that’s been sitting out too long.

      The Articles declare that in such only as receive sacraments “rightly, worthily, and with faith,” they have a wholesome effect and operation. The famous Hooker teaches that “all receive not the grace of God which receive the sacraments of His grace.” To maintain that every child who is baptized with water is at once regenerated and born again, appears to turn the sacrament of baptism into a mere form, and to contradict both Scripture and Articles.

      Not at all. I have no contention with the assertion of the Articles that it is through faith that we make use of the grace that’s been given to us. Baptism is necessary for salvation, but it does not automatically equal salvation. The same is true of the Eucharist. If we receive but we have no faith, we will not be partaking of Christ, even though we “do carnally and visibly press with [our] teeth” the sacrament (in the words of both Augustine and Article XXIX). That does not mean, however, that Christ is not objectively present in the sacrament. It is a question of my readiness to receive what He is giving, not a question of His actual presence.

      Wel that is it from me. I have enjoyed our dialogue. Another time. I have your blog linked to mine, so will pop in from time to time if that is ok.

      Certainly. You’re welcome any time.

      In His Mercy,

      Fr. Jonathan

  16. Joshua Bovis says:

    Oh! Jonathan! :) What do you think about these points? I am not trying to bait you. And below is not my work, but comes from the work of the late Broughton Knox, who was the Principal of Moore Theological College (the Anglican Seminary in Sydney, which trains ministers in the Sydney Diocese). But I am interested in your take on this. (And by the way, many Anglican ministers would agree with below and say that they are classical Anglicans).

    • God has created us to obtain knowledge through the avenues of the senses of sight, hearing (and possibly touch as well). The Word therefore, is adapted to the ear, the sacrament to the eye and the other senses.
    • The sacraments have no significance apart from the Word of God and are in fact merely a visible demonstration of the Word. However, while the Word can exist and is complete without the Sacraments, the sacraments are never complete without the Word. For it is the truth which is addressed to the ear which interprets the sign and so makes it intelligible. To put it simply, the Word must explain the sign in order to give understanding of the promise it confirms.
    • The relationship between the sign and the thing signified is not physical or local but spiritual. In other words, when the sacrament is received in faith, the grace of God accompanies it.
    • Thus Christ is present in the sacrament insofar as he is present in the hearts of the believer by faith. In other words, Christ dwells in the hearts of the worshippers by faith. He is present to their personalities by his Spirit, and this is the only manner of his presence in the Supper. (Article 28 – “The Body of Christ is given, taken, and eaten, in the Supper, only after a heavenly and spiritual manner. And the means whereby the body of Christ is received and eaten in the Supper is faith. ”)
    • Christ’s spiritual presence in the hearts of the recipient at the Lord’s Supper is the same as in every other aspect of the Christian life. The Lord’s Supper, with the signs of his death integrated within it, is a very vivid reminder of Christ and his Word and so becomes a deep fellowship with Christ.
    • It is not however any different sort of fellowship from that which the Christian enjoys with the Lord Jesus in his/her daily life outside the congregation. But the Eucharist has the added dimension of being enjoyed in the company and fellowship of others who are enjoying the same fellowship with Christ at the same time.
    • The 39 Articles make it abundantly clear that if the sacraments are received without faith on the part of the recipient, they are as ineffective as is the Word heard and not believed. (Article 29).
    • The Eucharist is a sign of Christ crucified for us. Jesus presence is not indicated by way of a sign, but is experienced through the Spirit.
    • Christ is present sacramentally, (only by a sign). We eat and drink the signs of his atoning death. They remain nothing but signs.
    • To say that the Eucharist serves as a reminder is not inconsistent with the above. Jesus himself said “Do this in remembrance of me.”The basis of fellowship of the Lord’s dinner is his death for the sins of the elect. He designated the food of the meal as a sign of his body given for us and his blood shed for the forgiveness of our sins. As we share in this fellowship, we remember his death for us, we remember his sacrifice of himself which made for our sake, and we remember Jesus our redeemer, our Lord and our coming King. All remembrance of Jesus by a regenerate, Spirit-filled soul is full of precious fellowship. Thus the remembrance is not a bare remembrance. It is not bare, as we are remembering Jesus and his Spirit is present to our spirit whenever we relate ourselves to him our thoughts.
    • It is a heartfelt remembrance of Christ, a remembrance which the Lord’s Supper especially and vividly evokes as we eat and drink together in obedience to our Lord’s command, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

  17. Joshua Bovis says:

    Sorry, I should have posted this in your latest post. Apologies.

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