Gleaning - What is Reformed Anglicanism?
Daniel Sparks, a friend of Reformed Anglican Fellowship and pastor of St. Paul's Reformed Episcopal Church (Greenfield, Indiana) has recently written a upgrade to the "About" page of our website which asks the question "What is Reformed Anglicanism?" The text, which he prepared for the edification of his parish is below. If there are other parishes that wish to print it out, permission is granted. Thank you Daniel.
“Anglican ” means simply that we trace our roots back to the Protestant Reformation when the Church of England (which used to be called “Angle -Land ”) rejected the authority of the pope and the teachings of the Roman Catholic church. Later as the Church of England began to expand beyond the borders of Great Britain, it was no longer appropriate to call the new churches “the Church of England, ” so they began to be called “Anglican. ”
Is an Anglican church just a British church?
No . Currently there are approximately 80 million Anglicans world -wide, making us the third largest Christian communion in the world after Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. This also makes us , by far , the largest historically -Protestant church in existence today. Since the Anglican Church is well established on every continent in the world (with the possible exception of Antarctica) and is made up of people from all races, cultures , and nationalities , our outlook is global versus national , with our largest (and increasingly most significant) churches being found in Africa and Asia.
How do Anglicans worship?
One of the things that made the Church of England unique during the Reformation was their desire to reform the church by changing all that was un biblical while keeping all that was biblical. Liturgical worship (reading, praying, confessing , and singing Scripture) has been the practice of the New Testament Church for thousands of years, and was the practice of the Old Testament Church before that. For instance, the Apostle Paul recites several liturgical statements of faith in his letters. These statements (Phil 2:5 - 11; Col 1:15 -20; 2 Tim 2:11 -13) were most likely said by the first churches weekly to remind themselves of what they believed. Although our liturgical prayers may differ among some branches of the Anglican Communion, many are products of thousands of years of the teaching of the Church.
As traditional Protestant and Reformed Anglicans, we hold that as we pray, so we believe. We believe that Scripture is God ’s inspired and inerrant word and is the chief instrument through which God teaches His people. For this reason, approximately 90% of our Prayer Book is taken directly from Scripture. We also believe that we are part of the continuing Christian story. That story doesn ’t begin with 21st century America , nor will it end with us. Through liturgy , we not only connect with the wisdom of God ’s word but with the wisdom of faithful believers throughout the ages and other Anglicans all over the world. That helps prevent believers in any one time period, or any one country from wandering too far from the Christian path. It also helps our worship to transcend both culture and time.
True Biblical worship is God -centered not man -centered, so you will not find any performers on a stage or special music in our service : we come as one body to hear, respond , and sing to our God in union together, giving all our attention to him alone with reverence and awe (Hebrews 12: 28 -29). The role of the minister in Anglican worship is not that of a celebrity speaker, but as one who has been called to bring and give voice to the Word of God. His words are authoritative only insofar as they conform to the Word of God. He wears robes not because he is special but as an act of humility because his individuality (taste in dress or social class) is not the focus —the content of his words, namely the Gospel and person of Christ alone , is the focus .
If Anglicans are Protestants, why do they sometimes refer to their ministers as “priests”?
“We [Anglicans] have Bishops, Priests and Deacons, but the Priests are Presbyteri not Sacerdotes ... in the New Testament and the Prayer Book [Book of Common Prayer], it is essentially pastoral, never mediatorial, but always concerned with the work of preaching, teaching, and guiding the flock. The minister is a prophet from God to the people, and not a sacrificing or mediating priest ” (p. 321 )
“The Roman Catholic Church gives her ‘priests’ power to ‘offer sacrifices.’ But this is entirely absent from our [Anglican] Ordination Service ... there is nothing sacerdotal provided in the ministry of our Church, it seems clear that the word ‘priest ’ can only be equivalent to ‘presbyter, ’ and, as such, expresses the evangelistic and pastoral ministry associated with the Presbyterate in the New Testament. ” (p. 319 -20 )
The word “presbyter ” derives from Greek πρεσβύτερος (presbyteros), meaning “old man ” or “elder. ” In Old English , this was pronounced “pr ēost ” and later became “priest ”. This is not the same word as the Latin term sacerdos /sacerdotes, literally “one who presents sacred offerings ” (sacrifices).
From The Principles of Theology: An Introduction to the Thirty -Nine Articles by the Rev. Dr. W.H. Griffith Thomas, Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford
Do all Anglicans believe and practice the same way?
No, unfortunately not every branch of the Anglican church has remained faithful to our original beliefs and piety. Anglo - Catholicism (also known as Tractarianism, Puseyism, or the Oxford Movement ) arose in the mid 1800 ’s, several hundred years after the English Reformation and is a departure from the original theology of the English Reformers, the Thirty -Nine Articles of Religion, and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer . As Roman Catholic ritualism became popular, adherence to the authority of Scripture and the doctrines of grace weakened, opening the door , not only to Roman Catholic teachings , but also to liberalism . The Episcopal Church in the United States is one such branch whose faith, piety , and morality no longer reflects that of Scripture or historic Anglicanism.
What is a Reformed Anglican?
- Reformed Anglican subscribes to the Thirty -Nine Articles and is committed to understanding them as originally intended in 1553. This understanding of the faith is essentially the same as believed by other Reformed churches throughout Europe at that time. [See http://tinyurl.com/fivesolas for a video lecture series on “The Five Solas” of the Reformation, taught from a n Anglican perspective in full agreement with the Thirty -Nine Articles.]
- Reformed Anglican is committed to reading the Daily Office or Holy Communion from the Book of Common Prayer (1662 or equivalent), every morning and evening as the Lord permits. [See http://reformedanglican.us/daily -office for an online version of the Daily Office. ]
The Reformed Anglican does these things because they are consistent with the law of God and the grace which God has shown to his chosen people. By means of this grace, Reformed Anglicans understand and repent of their sin, love the Word of God, preach the Gospel to the lost, feed the poor, pray in faith for those who suffer, and confidently wait for the consummation of this world in the Lord ’s return for judgment.