Ask An Anglican: Roman Fever

Bradley writes:

I’m 19 years old, and I’m an Episcopalian currently in the Diocese of Dallas.  I’m writing to you because I’m experiencing a crisis of faith in the Anglican church, and I’d love to get your opinion/help.

I was raised baptist, but confirmed in the Episcopal Church on January 9th, 2012 by Bishop Andrew Waldo in the Diocese of Upper South Carolina.  It was an amazing day! I had finally thought I was ‘home’ spiritually…but the recent drift (or rather, the long drift) of the national leadership into lukewarm faith and heresy is very disturbing to me…and it’s causing me to wonder whether or not I should remain an Anglican or ‘jump ship’ for Rome.   I love Anglicanism, I really, really do! And I’d love to remain in the fold, but the claims of the Catholic Church are so compelling, I’m hoping you might respond to them…

First and foremost, I have to commend Bradley on his zeal for the truth at such a young age. It is quite a wonderful thing to see.

Second, before digging into the specific questions that Bradley asks me to address, I should say a word about my own history with the Roman Church. I grew up Roman Catholic, attending Mass weekly, although in a liberal environment in which I very rarely encountered the more challenging claims of the Catholic faith. By the time I found my way into the Episcopal Church, I had long been estranged from Roman Catholicism. It was only really after I became an Episcopalian that I learned to appreciate much of the theological education and development I received as a child.

In the last couple months, this site has gained a fair number of Roman Catholic visitors, some of whom comment regularly, and I value that interaction. So let me state up front that I have a great love for the Roman Catholic Church and I owe it a great deal. My intention is not to cast aspersion on Roman Catholics or to tear down their faith. I am grateful for all that I have personally received, both from my Catholic upbringing and from the experience of reading and interacting with Catholics. Moreover, at the current time, I think the Roman Catholic Church has done more to promote adherence to scriptural norms than almost any other Christian body, often taking difficult stances on moral issues in spite of the cultural consequences. I admire this. Nonetheless, I am an Anglican, not simply because I do not accept all the claims of Rome, but because I believe that Anglicanism is fundamentally true in a way that Romanism is not.

Bradley’s first question is this:

1) The Catholic Church claims to be the Church of Christ, and it has 2000 years of history to back this claim up.  It has taught a common faith for 2000 years and has spread over all the earth, can Anglicanism claim to be the Church of Christ?

The Anglican Communion makes a much more humble claim than that. We do not claim to be the Church in her entirety, though we claim to be the Church in her fullness, having within us all that the Catholic Church is and always has been. What I mean by that is that we do not deny that other Christians truly are Christians. If you have been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and you hold the essentials of faith found in the Nicene Creed, you are a Christian. And if the body that you are a part of upholds the creeds, the scriptures, the sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, and the historic episcopate, than that body can truly claim to be the Church.

Anglicanism is not a Church, but a way of being the Church. So the real question for someone who has come into the Episcopal Church, or into any of the churches of the Anglican Communion, is whether or not the Church they are in is a true Church, truly part of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. The short answer to that question is yes, we are, because the two thousand years that Rome claims are not Rome’s alone. We share that two thousand year history. The Church of England, from which all Anglican churches spring, was not born in the sixteenth century Reformation but has existed in England at least since the late sixth century and goes back possibly even as far as the second century. Those who established the Church of England were in communion with those who came before them, the Fathers and the Apostles. But we can do even better than that, because the faith held by Anglicans is the faith of the early and undivided Church. It is the faith found in Holy Scripture. It is the faith lived and died for by martyrs. And yes, it is a faith that can still be found in Anglican churches all around the world, despite our various problems and ways in which we often betray it.

I have written a more detailed evaluation of the catholicity of the Episcopal Church that can be found here.

2) What is the authority of Anglicanism? I feel like there is no real voice of authority in our church…the Bible has become slave to everyone’s interpretation.  When we’re in a debate about something, who do we appeal to?

The best answer to this question is the one that was offered by the famous early seventeenth century divine Lancelot Andrewes:

One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries, and the series of Fathers in that period – the centuries that is, before Constantine, and two after, determine the boundary of our faith.

This framework is not arbitrary. Rather, it reflects the core conviction of Anglicanism that God’s Word contains all things necessary for salvation and that the Church’s true understanding of God’s Word is assured by appealing both to plain reason and the witness of the early Church. The latter is especially important since the Fathers are much less removed from the culture and time of the Apostles and therefore are less likely to make culturally biased misinterpretations of the faith (though, of course, this is not impossible). Moreover, the earliest Fathers received their teaching from the Apostles themselves. This gives their consensus, which we find most especially expressed in the creeds and ecumenical councils, a special kind of weight.

Rome also claims both the Scripture and the Fathers as authorities, but they add a third layer in the idea of the magisterium or the sacred teaching office of the Church, which resides infallibly in the pope’s teaching on faith and morals and in the Ecumenical Councils, provided that those councils are in communion with the pope, which essentially also brings us back to the papal office. Rome uses a number of arguments to defend their claim from Scripture and Tradition (a couple of which I address here). However, what is often the most seductive argument for the magisterium today is the claim that an infallible interpretive authority is necessary to avoid incoherence. In other words, Roman apologists point to the ways in which various Protestant groups have gone at each other over the centuries, each group reading the same set of Bible verses but coming up with completely different interpretations, and they say, “See, if you don’t have a magisterium to tell you definitively what this all means you end up with chaos! Cats and dogs! Mass hysteria!”

There are a lot of problems with this critique. First of all, it assumes an equivalency between all Protestant groups that simply does not exist. The mere fact that there are Christians who disagree with each other over what the Scriptures mean does not necessitate there being a divinely appointed Scriptural interpreter. Second, from a practical standpoint, this method of running the Church does not seem to work very well at achieving the desired end of unanimity, as the dissent and divisions among Catholics are just as great as they are among Protestants. Third, the claim for a magisterium is on shaky historical grounds and non-existent biblical ones.

But the most important objection to the magisterium hypothesis is that it inevitably leads to a snowball effect wherein the grounding of the faith grows exponentially over time. To take a simple example, in 1854 Pope Pius IX promulgated the papal bull which declared infallibly the doctrine of the immaculate conception, the idea that the Virgin Mary was born without the stain of original sin. The pope did not invent this notion out of whole cloth. The concept developed over the course of several centuries. Nevertheless, by invoking his prerogative to teach infallibly that this doctrine has to be accepted by Catholics, the pope effectively knocked a whole bunch of people out of the Church throughout history. In November of 1854, if you did not believe in the immaculate conception, you were still a good Catholic. In January of 1885, if you did not believe in the immaculate conception you were a heretic.

The Church is a messy place. There is just no avoiding that reality. The Church, much like the world, is made up of sinners. And that means that on this side of the eschaton, we must endure hardships, squabbles, and other sinful acts of division. In the midst of that, we can lose heart. Which is why, when the Roman Church holds out the claim that it can lift you out of the fray, untenable though that claim may be, it is appealing. It sounds like salvation. But ultimately, it leads right back where it started. The Roman Church is filled with the same foibles and divisions that the rest of us are experiencing. That’s not to knock them. It’s just to say, you cannot avoid sin. At some point, you have to come to love the Church the same way that Christ loves her, forgiving her sin and embracing her anyway. Which means that the ultimate answer is Christ Himself, since He’s the only one who can give our hearts rest.

3) Is there proof that the Anglican way of theology/ecclesiology is the Biblical/historical norm?

The answer is embodied in the question. How can we know that the Anglican way is biblical and historical? By looking at Scripture and Tradition, particularly the Fathers. The beauty of our formularies, particularly the Book of Common Prayer, is that they form us in a biblical and patristic worldview. Every individual Christian does not need to re-invent the wheel or read all the documents of the Ecumenical Councils or do a comparative study of the Fathers. But of course, one can do those things, and if it will ease your conscience, I encourage you to do so. I needed my own study of the Scriptures and the Fathers before I was convinced of Anglicanism. I commend you to speak with your priest about how you might do the same.

4) Why do you remain Anglican? What prevents you from crossing the tiber (or another proverbial river)? Do you believe the Episcopal Church has a future in this country?

There is a long answer and a short answer, and since this post is already quite long, I’ll restrict myself to the short answer for now. I am an Anglican because I believe that Anglicanism is the truth. I believe that it preserves, preaches, and teaches the Gospel. I am an Anglican because it is within the fold of Anglicanism that I was given the gift of faith and learned to know and love Jesus Christ as my Lord. I am an Anglican because the path that Anglicanism sets before me routinely kicks my butt and makes me holier than my sinful flesh wants me to be. I am an Anglican because of the great saints of the Anglican tradition who inspire me, from the pre-Reformation English saints like Augustine, Julian, and Anselm, to more modern saints like William Laud, Jeremy Taylor, Richard Hooker, John Henry Hobart, and Michael Ramsey. I am an Anglican because this is where God has placed me, this is where Christ is to be found, and unless and until He calls me elsewhere, I am under His jurisdiction. I am an Anglican because Jesus died for me.

I would like to believe that the Episcopal Church has a future. It is difficult to fathom how, when we ignore rank heresy in our midst while simultaneously attacking the few orthodox leaders who remain. We live under judgment at the moment, under wrath, but that could change. Nineveh repented, after all, and God had mercy upon them. But for those of us who are orthodox Anglicans who remain in the Episcopal Church, our focus cannot be on the institution. It has to be solely on Christ. We need to be about Christ in all that we do. I am an Anglican because I am a Christian. The Episcopal Church may be renewed and grow, or it may destroy itself, but the truth of the Gospel will remain. Christ calls us to carry our cross. It is a burden, but only until we realize that He’s been carrying us all along. I believe that we are called to bear witness to that, even as many of the structures crumble around us. We are called not merely to survive, not merely to persevere, but to thrive even in the midst of desolation, to have joy even in the face of persecution, and to focus ourselves not on the bouncing ball of ecclesial politics but on Christ and His Cross, the world’s one and only, glorious hope.

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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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57 Responses to Ask An Anglican: Roman Fever

  1. Jesse Reese says:

    Interesting. Your Roman Catholic background might perhaps help explain some of the places where I’ve been slightly uncomfortable with what you say (a rarity, but it happens). Perhaps, while moving toward a more classical Anglicanism, we still do tend to be slightly more comfortable with those aspects of Anglicanism that reflect our backgrounds – in my case, Protestant/evangelical; in yours, Catholic. Not that these are equivalent to the divisive “party affiliations” that so often overtake us, but rather simply different shades of classical Anglicanism.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Hi Jesse. I’m fairly hesitant to mention my experience as a Roman Catholic precisely because people tend to make assumptions about why I’ve come to certain theological conclusions. That’s not to say that my upbringing didn’t influence me, just not in the way you’re thinking. I had an incredibly liberal experience of RC. We met in an interfaith center where there were also Jews, Unitarians, Quakers, Methodists, etc. There was no stain glass and no statues. There were no pews and no kneeling. No organ, only guitar music. The great influence this had on me was to mold my taste towards the informal. I couldn’t stand organ music for the longest time and it was one of the biggest hurdles for me in becoming an Episcopalian. I thought the priest “facing east” was the weirdest thing in the world. I knew the Hail Mary, but beyond that I knew very little about the saints. At the point when I came into the Episcopal Church, I wasn’t even entirely sure I believed in the Resurrection.

      If anything, the theological sensibility that molded me in a Catholic direction was coming into the Episcopal Church and experiencing Anglo-Catholicism. I began to make Confession, to go to Mass, and to gain an appreciation for Catholic worship and theology through that experience. That more than anything else is what has made it more challenging for me to accept some of the more overtly Protestant parts of the Anglican synthesis. But it’s also what encouraged me to read the Caroline Divines, the early Tractarians, and so forth, which eventually led me to classical Anglicanism.

      • Jesse Reese says:

        Ah, fair enough: I just noticed a trend in certain places where I tend to lean toward Protestant sympathies and you tend to lean more Anglo-Catholic (though I do have several places that I resist the Protestant impulse, as well). This especially happens when your posts move into the question of other denominations. I tend to be softer on the necessity of “hands-on” apostolic succession for valid sacraments, for instance (though I do see episcopacy as necessary for the “plene esse” of the church), and if I was forced out of Anglicanism, I would look to Protestant denominations first (I believe you said you lean EO once). Nonetheless I would still see eye-to-eye with you on the truth of Anglicanism and the centrality of the historic formularies as our witness to the patristic biblical faith.

  2. Pete says:

    I never tire of this blog. Ever encouraging and convincing, even if I don’t always agree. Bradley, I am 22 and just joined the Anglican fold too (though through ACNA, not TEC, which is fine too) and I have to say I’ve been blessed beyond measure. It’s still weird for me to have Eucharist at the hands of a priest during liturgy instead of Lord’s Supper from a baptist pastor at a service, but I love it. I’m getting into the Anglican rhythm now and pursuing confirmation, by God’s mercy. Like I tell all my Baptist and non-denominational friends who ask me why I made the move towards Canterbury: Anglicanism isn’t the only way, but it sure is the best way.

  3. Pete says:

    Bradley, I’m 22 and also recently made the trip to Canterbury, metaphorically speaking. I come from a Baptist (sometimes non-denominational) background, but I have to say there’s nothing like Anglicanism. It it still a little weird for me to take Eucharist at the hands of a priest and to have a Bishop, when for so long there was rarely Communion from, and a Senior Executive Pastor was my head elder. But I love my new home. I’m getting into the Anglican rhythm now and pursuing Confirmation soon, by God’s mercy. It’s like I tell all my Baptist/non-denominational friends: Anglicanism is not the only way to do church, but it is definitely the best. It is not a communion with more mistakes and blunders than others, it’s just that we’re the most open about them, and unlike our Roman Catholic brothers, our Communion is one that is open to reformation and always striving towards the future while keeping in step with the past (even if sometimes that means letting the not-so-sound theologies speak up in our midst.) I am an orthodox, Christ-worshiping, Bible-upholding member of the one holy, catholic, and apostolic church, and praise the Lord I’m an Anglican while I’m at it.

    I encourage you to do some research online; we’re in good company.

  4. Eugene says:

    Of course, being an Orthodox Christian, I would recommend this link:

  5. Ann says:

    I’m 24 and entered the Episcopal church in February. I also occasionally doubt the church, and wonder if Catholicism or Orthodoxy are more accurate, but I love this church so.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Ann, your experience isn’t uncommon. Anglicans have been pretty bad at explaining why our tradition is true, and RC and Orthodox have done a much better job with their apologetics. Not to mention that Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism are both beautiful and venerable traditions. But don’t lose heart! Anglicanism has gifts and riches and depth that surpass expectation. And right at the center of it is Christ who is the one who called you into the Church in the first place. There is so much to discover here. Don’t swim the Tiber or the Bosphorous without first giving the Thames its due. I have found that the waters are much deeper there than I ever expected.

  6. Cadog says:

    I was received into TEC in April 2011, after several years of study and seven months attendance at a parish nearly an hour’s drive away. While the Roman church has/had some appeal, I never entertained it; Orthodox church would have been more likely. Two things confirmed (no pun intended) my decision: first, that our parish is led by a very orthodox (little “o”) rector and assistant rector, men who teach sound doctrine and exposit from the lectionary readings. Second, and very significantly, this blog. I still remember the peace I felt after reading Fr. Jonathan’s post “When the Church is no longer the Church.” To Bradley and others: don’t let others still your joy — or your church. There are HUNDREDS of THOUSANDS of faithful Anglicans here in the U.S. who are quietly living out their faith, and many MILLIONS around the world, including many bishops of great honor and integrity. I truly believe the liberal and heretical fringe are the minority, but they are the loudest and apparently have been the best organized. Read and re-read Fr. Jonathan’s posts, and find a good parish.

  7. MichaelA says:

    “The Episcopal Church may be renewed and grow, or it may destroy itself, but the truth of the Gospel will remain.”
    I think that is a wise attitude. Not just applied to the Episcopal Church either. The church on earth has many imperfections but Christ is all and in all. Neither we nor the church will be perfect until Christ returns.

  8. Stephen says:

    Very interesting reading, to say the least.
    I have to ask though, would you say that the Lutheran Church is a part of the Church ‘in it’s fullness’? How about the Methodist Church? The Pentecostal Church? The Baptist Church?
    Where would you draw the line?
    All claim to be, but where is your line?

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      That’s a fair question. And fullness is a heavy term. I would say, to be a church at all a body of Christians needs to meet the very minimal standard set out in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral (which you can find a link to on the right under “Anglican Beliefs): the scriptures, the creeds, the two sacraments of the Gospel – Baptism and the Eucharist, and the historic episcopate. It’s that last one that would be a stumbling block for most of the groups you mentioned. But in its fullness, that would require a more comprehensive faith, and I’m not enough of an expert on any one of those bodies to speak that definitively about just how comprehensive they are. What I can say is that where the marks of the Church exist (as found in the Quadrilateral) AND the classical Anglican faith is preached and taught, the fullness of the Catholic Church can be found. And I hasten to add, that has little to do with whether or not a church claims to be Anglican.

  9. Stephen says:

    I fully agree with the Apostoic Succession being a necessity for any claim of membership (read fullness) in the Catholic Church.
    Now here is my stumbling point, and I only bring this up to gain information, not to try to corner you in any way , OK, Father?
    When the Church that you claim mebership in states emphatically that your membership has been cancelled, how do you reconcile that ?

    I appreciate the Anglican Church! (The ECUSA, not so much.)
    In some ways, your Eucharist is more like my idea of a worshipful Mass than our own Mass is at times! I love your music, especially around the Holidays.
    I would love to see the day that the Anglican Church once again gained full membership in the Catholic Church.
    So, please don’t be put off by my asking my question above.

  10. Stephen says:

    Please, take no offense at any question I may pose.
    Not my intent at all.

    According to the leadership of the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church cancelled it for themselves.
    I assume that being Apostolic for the Anglican Church rests with lineage and succession via the Roman Catholic Church? That it can trace It’s roots back via Roman Catholic Ordination of Bishops?
    But Cranmer altered the formula by which a valid Ordination was given?
    (At least that’s the claim, right?)
    So, if the Anglican Church lost It’s claim to Apostolic Succession with Cranmer, has that break been restored at some point or is your position that it was never lost to begin with?

    I’m reading a book now titled Edward the 6th, so this is interesting stuff to me.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Hi Stephen, no offense taken. I just wanted to be clear on where you’re coming from.

      Yes, my claim would be that there is no break in apostolic succession within the Church of England. If you never have, I would invite you to read a document called “Saepius Officio” by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York at the turn of the twentieth century, just after the papal bull was issued that claimed that our orders are invalid. If nothing else, it will give you the other side of the story:

      If the Church is constituted by communion with Rome as the “See of Peter” as the Roman Catholic Church claims than certainly expulsion from that body would equal an end to being a part of the Church in any meaningful way. But Anglicans hold, along with Eastern Orthodoxy and the Fathers of the early Church, that being the Catholic Church has to do with having the whole of the apostolic faith and being in communion with others who have the same apostolic faith. It is not dependent on any one bishop or any one See.

  11. Stephen says:

    Thanks for that, Father J.
    But, was that the claim put forth by the English Monarchy and the English Church prior to the break?
    The Title ‘Defender of the Faith’ didn’t just pop out of no where.
    And, the work that brought that Title about seems to make a link with the Papacy and the Roman Church a little more important.

    And I will take time to read the link you offerered. Thanks for that.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Hi Stephen,

      As far as I can tell, no one was really examining questions of “validity” in the sixteenth century. That seems to be a modern phenomenon, largely coming out of nineteenth century concerns. But yes, the Reformers understood themselves as setting right the English Church that had always been there, not starting something new outside of historical continuity.

      Incidentally, the title “Defender of the Faith” is still one carried by the British monarch. There is, of course, some complication over anything having to do with Henry VIII since he was by and large still a Roman Catholic after the split, save for the authority of the papacy itself. It’s only when Edward comes to the throne that reform begins to happen, and then still only when we reach Elizabeth that the nature of that reform becomes settled.

  12. Stephen says:

    My question doesn’t reside so much with what the Reformers thought as what the source of the link with your Apostolic Succession thought. And that would be the Roman Catholic Church.
    From what I can determine, (and I readily admit I’m far from any sort of expert on the topic), the problem arose with Cranmer and the changes he brought about in Sacramental changes as well as with Ordination changes.

    Cranmer’s understanding of the Episcopacy seems to be Erastian with regard to Church and State. Cranmer, it seems to me, thought that a King could ‘ordain’ Bishops just as easily as could Church Authority. Erastus’s doctrine that the state is superior to the church in ecclesiastical matters seems to have had great influence on Cranmer.

    Also, Cranmer, (if my understanding be correct), did not view the Eucharist as sacrifice and changed the Ordination Rites to reflect his opinions.
    History may tell us that Edward began the more ‘protestant’ reforms, but let’s be honest.
    He was but a child for the majority of his reign and was led around by the nose by Cranmer and a couple others.

    Elizaeth cemented the changes, but it seems that Cranmer bears more of the responsibility for what Rome thought was the genuine break in the Apostolic Succession.
    True, that break wasn’t codified until the late 19th century, but that comes by way of reflection on a past break, not that a break didn’t actually exist until then.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      I find the phrase “the source of the link with your Apostolic Succession” rather curious. The source of our apostolic succession is the fact that our bishops are the inheritors of apostolic faith and order. That Roman missionaries played an important role in the strengthening of that faith and order in the late sixth century hardly seems to change that. Again, the question is what constitutes the Church. If the papacy is absolutely essential to it than all bodies not in communion with Rome are not in the Church, but if the papacy is not esse but benne esse than what makes us the Church must be generated elsewhere. I believe that Anglicans are impoverished by not being in full communion with our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters, but I also believe that Roman Catholics are impoverished for not being in communion with us. It would be to the benne esse of the Church for us to be re-united and certainly it would be more authentic to the call of Christ, but it is not, strictly speaking, essential (at least not this side of the eschaton – in many, if not most ways, our schisms that we self impose are legal fictions that inspire God’s wrath against us, and rightfully so.)

      There was certainly a good deal of emphasis placed on the monarchy by both Cranmer and others, though Cranmer would never have allowed a king to ordain or consecrate a bishop. Early Anglicans erred too much on the side of uniting church to state, believing very strongly in the divine right of monarchs, but they still did believe that the two were separate spheres, united by the protection of the king who had responsibilities both secular and religious to fulfill.

      I certainly don’t think that the moves that took place during the reign of Edward were all the boy king’s doing, but the point is that there was great flux in the sixteenth century Church of England, so much so that it is rather difficult to point to individual figures or statements prior to Elizabeth and make a claim that this is authentic Anglicanism. Queen Mary was, after all, also the head of the Church of England for a time, and her emphasis was laid upon efforts at reunion with Rome, which ultimately failed. The Church of England wasn’t just blinking in and out of existence during all of this. It was the same church that had always been in England, working through a rough patch, until finally the true faith was restored.

      There’s always politics that goes into these things. Rome was not immune from it. In most ways, Rome of the sixteenth century acted as a state with super religious authority as a special backdrop to its claims and machinations. We all have to accept some uncomplimentary parts in our history. But that doesn’t answer the central question here which is what the truth is. The reason I am an Anglican and not a Roman Catholic is not because I think Anglicanism comes from some sort of perfectly holy history and Roman Catholicism emerged out of nothing but corruption and filth. I embrace Anglicanism because in it the true Gospel is proclaimed and preached. I hope and pray for the reunion of all the churches, but I am an Anglican because it is within Anglicanism that Christ comes to me and cleanses me of my sin and covers me with His righteousness.

  13. Fr. Jonathan says:

    Re-reading what you wrote above, Stephen, I see what you’re saying, that Rome lays part of its modern rational for claiming that Anglican orders are invalid squarely at Cranmer’s feet. It would require a much longer conversation to talk about the nuances of what Cranmer did and didn’t believe at various points in his life, but I don’t think it’s necessary to do that now. Anglicans owe Cranmer a great debt as a liturgist and as a theologian, but we are not Cranmerians and his opinions, both good and bad, are not what grounds us. Rome dislikes some of the changes made in the Edwardian Ordinal. That’s fine, except that they developed their distaste for these changes several centuries after the fact. And, as Saepius Officio carefully demonstrates, if the same kind of attention were paid to changes in the Roman Catholic ordinal over the centuries, we would be left to conclude that none of us have valid orders, not even the pope himself.

  14. Stephen says:

    Oh, I understand about the Novus Ordo. We have factions crop up claiming it isn’t valid all the time. The one main difference, as I see it, is that the changes to our Catholic Mass came about via a conclave of our Bishops in union with the Pope.
    What Cranmer Changed, he more or less changed by his own authority.

    It’s like a chain. One with 2,000 links in it. Now, around the 1600th link, the Church of England broke it link and while it is still a chain, (albeit a shorter one) it is a different chain not bound to the original chain.

    Let me ask you this, Father.
    Does your branch of the Anglican Communion view the Eucharist as a sacrifice?
    Are you a Priest because you offer to the Father a Holy Sacrifice for your people or do the People themselves offer a Sacrifice to the Father as a priesthood of believers?
    Or just how is it viewed in your instance?

    • Stephen says:

      s/b ‘broke a link’. Sorry.

    • MichaelA says:

      Stephen, obviously you think that “around the 1600th link, the Church of England broke it(s) link”. Equally obviously, we think the opposite – we have never broken the link, because disagreements with any bishop, even one as senior as the bishop of Rome doesn’t break a link with the entire church.

      In other words, you are basing your argument on premises that Anglicans don’t share, so your conclusion is just not going to resonate with us.

      • Stephen says:

        First off, Michael, these are not ‘my arguments’ but the ‘argument’ of the Roman Catholic Church.
        Also, I’m not trying to change your Faith, OK? I wouldn’t presume on you like that.
        I’m simply discussing with Father J how he sees our differences compared to how my Church sees the differences.
        Let’s face it. None of us are going to change the grander scheme of things here on a Bulletin Board such as this.
        But if we can’t openly discuss, why bother at all?

      • MichaelA says:

        Sure Stephen. I wasn’t meaning to say, “I am right, you are wrong” etc. Just commenting that the differences might lie a bit further back in the chain of reasoning of each side (such a useful word, chain!). Its no big deal.

  15. Daniel says:

    Great blogpost! I would like to add:

    “As Luther once went the lonely way between Rome and Spiritualism, so the Lutheran Church today stands alone between the world powers of Roman Catholicism on the one hand and modern Protestantism on the other. Her doctrine which teaches that the Spirit is bound to the means of grace is as inconceivable to modern people in the twentieth century as it was to their predecessors in the sixteenth. But we are convinced that behind this doctrine stands one of the most profound truths which has ever been expressed in Christian theology.” Hermann Sasse

    My college buddies and I traversed the path away from baptist-ness/nondenominational-ness to confessional Christianity to both Anglicanism and Lutheranism. I have a lot of respect for Anglicans. The only significant difference that I have with them, as a Lutheran now, is Article 28 in the BCP that allows for a spiritual presence interpretation of the Eucharist as opposed to the very articulate instruction in the Lutheran confessions that “this _is_ my body.”

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Hi Daniel,

      Thanks for the Sasse quote. I rather enjoy him.

      There is some division between Anglicans and Lutherans over the Eucharist, particularly in the fine details, but the ground dividing us there may not be as far as you might think, particularly if you’ve been exposed to a lot of modern confessional Lutheran apologetics which tends to go overboard in its condemnation of anything “spiritual.” It is far from finished, but I have written some about how Anglicans understand the Eucharist in a series called “On the Eucharist” which you can find a link to on the sidebar. You might find some of that interesting.

      Generally speaking, the biggest difference between Lutherans and Anglicans is over ecclesiology. In some places, this is a bridge that has been able to be traversed (I’m thinking of things like the Porvoo Agreement between the Church of England and the Scandinavian Lutheran churches which retained episcopacy), but there is a certain lack of ease there still because even Lutherans with apostolic succession simply do not view it in the same light as Anglicans.

      Nonetheless, more that unites us than divides us!

      • Daniel says:

        Thank you, Father, for the reply. I understand what you’re saying absolutely. I do believe that the structure of the Anglican church is admirable (and scriptural) and should be observed in the Lutheran church. I’ll definitely keep looking through this site, I just discovered it and am glad that I did!

        On another note, what do you think of the recent discussions that have occurred between the LCMS, the LCC, and ACNA?

      • Fr. Jonathan says:

        I’m not sure what the LCC is. Generally, I think it’s good when Christians are in communication with each other and working towards union. I know that there are large roadblocks to any such unity between Lutherans and Anglicans, but there are obviously places where we can stand together, and where those places are we should absolutely do so.

  16. Stephen says:

    Are you a priest in the Church of England, Father J?
    Perhaps you have it posted somewhere here, but I thought I would ask.

  17. Stephen says:

    Father J,
    What is your opinion of the Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church?
    It claims to be Roman Catholic via the See at Utrecht but is Anglican in Rite.
    I found their website, but know little about them.
    Would be glad to hear your thoughts.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      I’m afraid I don’t know anything about them, though if their connection is through Utrecht than they are a spin off of the movement known as Old Catholics which appeared in the late nineteenth century as a reaction against Vatican I.

  18. Stephen says:

    Here is their website, if you are interested.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Odd. Well, it appears that for these folks, “Anglican” is descriptive merely of certain leftover aspects of their worship. They appear otherwise to be Roman Catholics by belief who, for some unfathomable reason, are not interested in reunion with the papacy.

  19. Stephen says:

    And would you think that their claim to apostolic succession would be a valid one?
    Also, you mentioned the ‘Old Catholics’. Are they involved in any way with what is referred to
    as the ‘Dutch touch’ ?

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      “Validity” is such a weird concept. If you mean, do they have real bishops, I suppose that they probably do. They probably also have true sacraments and they certainly have the creeds and the Scriptures. I would not deny that they are a part of the Church. But I would say that I see very little reason why anyone would join this church. If you want to be Roman Catholic, you can simply go do that. What is the point of being Roman Catholic in a body that isn’t in communion with Rome?

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Also, I have no idea what the “Dutch touch” is. A quick google search points me to several paint stores and a company that sells blinds. I’m guessing that’s not what you’re talking about.

  20. Stephen says:

    The ‘Dutch Touch’ appears to be a term referring to Old Catholic Bishops playing a role in Anglican Episcopal Ordination back in the 1920’s and forward.

  21. Stephen says:

    Would you happen to know the why that took place?

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      The largest segment of Old Catholics came into communion with the Anglican Communion in the 1920s. At the time, there were many Anglo-Catholics who held considerable stress over Rome’s pronouncing Anglican orders invalid. Old Catholic bishops were invited to participate in ordinations of new bishops both as an ecumenical gesture and so as to provide a second line of succession with which to further claim apostolic validity.

  22. Stephen says:

    Thanks for that.
    That was what I took from reading about the ‘Dutch Touch’ and how it appeared to be a method to regain succession.
    So the question now seems to be, as far as Roman Catholics and Orthodox are concerned, every Anglican Ordination in the future will be invalid because of the involvement of female “bishops”. That action is divisive for both the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, is it not?

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      It is certainly divisive as far as those two bodies are concerned, although there are Anglo-Catholic groups, like the Society of the Holy Cross (SSC) that maintain lists of “valid” bishops. But I think it’s a little bit of wishful thinking when folks say that we were moving towards full communion when the ordination of women happened, just as it is overstatement to say that we have made no progress since. I would invite you to check out the work of ARCIC:

      Some good work has been done on finding agreement about the Eucharist, authority in the Church, and even the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is still a long way to go, but it is easy to get caught in the weeds sometimes and forget just how much we have in common as historical, traditional Christians.

  23. Stephen says:

    I agree that ‘some’ good work has been done on finding agreement over the past 25 years or so, but it never ceases to amaze me how it’s a ‘one step forward and three steps back’ process.
    What we have in common seems to be greatly overshadowed by differences that seem to grow greater with every passing decade.
    How in the world can the Anglican Communion ever reach a consensus with the Roman or Orthodox Churches when It is are busy ripping itself apart at every turn?
    The current dust up in South Carolina being one more example.
    It’s a shame. And a shame that I’m sure effects you in your position much, much more than it does me.
    I have friends who attend Church at a fairly new ACNA congregation in Winchester, Va.
    They seem quite happy there, but I can tell that their having to leave an Episcopal Church where
    he attended since he was a child has hurt him.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      Well, there’s theology and then there’s “facts on the ground.” I know many former Roman Catholics who have come into my parish or others out of frustration with the sex abuse scandal in the Roman Church. That is not a problem with core dogma or with irreconcilable theology, but things like that do muddy the waters when it comes to how people relate to us. I think there’s enough hurt and bad blood to go around.

  24. Stephen says:

    Sex abuse is scandalous regardless of where you find it.
    And as much attention as it gets with regard to Catholic priests guilty of that harm, (whom I think should be tossed into the ocean with a cinder block for a life preserver), it is hardly a scandal that the Catholic Church endures alone.
    The Catholic Diocese of Chicago did a study some years back that showed that something like 80% of the priests guilty of that horrible sin are what are called ‘ephebophiles; , not ‘pedophiles’ as the media labeled them.
    And, that something like 80% of those were homosexual priests with a penchant for young boys.
    It was, by far, a crime of man and young boy.
    Of course, ‘pedophile priest’ has a much better ‘ring’ to it than ephebophile priest, so naturally, that’s the incorrect term everyone uses, incorrect or not.
    Personally, I’d like nothing better than to see the Catholic Church allow priests to marry.
    That would solve a great deal of the problem, IMO.

    • Fr. Jonathan says:

      I don’t think allowing priests to marry would help, though I agree that it would be a good thing. The problem of sex abuse, of one kind or another, exists in all church bodies, but what has been especially troubling to a lot of the folks I interact with is the way in which that scandal was handled by authorities in the Church. Of course, having fallible leaders does not undermine any particular Catholic doctrine, but I can sympathize with my Catholic friends who lament how their leaders operate.

    • learningtotrustgod says:


      The East-rite churches in union with Rome have married priests, but married priests in both churches have to be continent 24 hrs before the liturgy, because of the nuptial nature of the Eucharist.

      In the West, the practise of daily Mass, would require someone to be continent always.

      I do not think married Orthodox priests preside over a daily liturgy.

  25. Stephen says:

    The Roman Church also has married Priests. Not many, but there are some who converted from the Anglican Tradition.
    As part of their conversion and Ordination in the Roman Catholic Church, they also had to agree that should their spouse pass, they would not remarry.
    Around 1980, the Holy See specified that this exception to the rule of celibacy be granted to these individual persons, and should not be understood as implying any change in the Church’s rule of Priestly celibacy
    In other words, an ordained Episcopalian minister would make a profession of Faith and be received into the Catholic Church, and thereupon receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. He would then, even though married, take appropriate training which would enable him to minister as a Catholic priest.
    Also, the Ordinariate has, and will continue to bring more Anglican Clergy into the Catholic Priesthood.

  26. Stephen says:

    To the best of my understanding, it will continue but is on a case by case basis.
    Not as a matter of course, but as exception to standard rule.

    The Ordinary may present a request for the admission of married men to the presbyterate in the Ordinariate.

    If you should care to read more about that process, you may do so by searching:
    Anglicanorum Coetibus which was issued in 2009.

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