Gary Jenkins: Athanasius contra Ecclesiam Anglicanae

From its birth in 1559, the Church of England trumpeted latitudinarianism in the early church as the basis for its existence, and now for the more catholic minded among them they all wonder why ”˜Anglicanism’ has become, like mystery Babylon the great, the “hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.”

There are many good, loyal, God loving people within Anglicanism, both those still looking to Canterbury, and those who have abandoned those in communion with ++Rowan Cantaur for putatively more pure forms. Ultimately, however, the anti-Catholic notions of 1559 will catch up to them. Why? Because allowing or accepting anything means holding to nothing. Kinsman can have the final word: “In the Episcopal Church, some of the most conspicuous examples of applied individualism in ministerial free-lances are to be found in ”˜Catholic parishes.’ This is inevitable. Those who believe they possess the Catholic priesthood and the Catholic episcopate are bound, by conditions of the Episcopalian system, to act as priests-at-random and bishops-at-large . . . . Congregational methods seemed ”¦ a travesty on the true work of Bishops and Priests in the Church of God, to illustrate the effort to ”˜raise an altar on one’s own centre of gravity’ and to be ”˜a little Holy Catholic Church, all by one’s self.’ I could never view every minority of one as an Athanasius, or feel that the one criterion of Catholic truth was that it should be held by only one person! I was never on of those Anglo-Catholics who can think of themselves each as Athanasius contra ”“ Ecclesiam. Ego contra: ergo Athanasius!”

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Analysis, Theology

11 comments on “Gary Jenkins: Athanasius contra Ecclesiam Anglicanae

  1. FrKimel says:

    This is an excellent piece. Jenkins touches on a point about the English Reformation that eventually became decisive for me personally–the incompatibility of my catholic views on eucharistic sacrifice and real presence with the views of the English reformers and their heirs. The Episcopal Church allowed me to preach and teach my peculiar opinions in my parishes, but I always knew that my clerical successors could well teach, with equal authority, just the opposite. Eventually this permitted diversity even on critical theological doctrines became intolerable for me. I could not be “a little Holy Catholic Church, all by one’s self.”

  2. TACit says:

    To think that 80 or 90 years ago an ex-Episcopal bishop become Roman Catholic wrote, “….the doctrines of Baptismal Regeneration, the Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist, of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, of the sacramental character of Confirmation and Penance. All these doctrines the Church [b]tolerates[/b]….”. This seems to presage Fr. Neuhaus’ dictum that where orthodoxy is merely tolerated, orthodoxy will sooner or later be proscribed.
    Thanks for posting this excellent article (which I have not yet finished reading).

  3. Ratramnus says:

    This is a fascinating and informative piece. As a Protestant Episcopalian my thoughts are: yes, but the other way around; Romish Catholicism came to be tolerated not because anything went (placing scripture above tradition is assuredly a position), but because its practitioners thought it was true Anglicanism and insisted on it.

  4. IchabodKunkleberry says:

    In the article, the author cited the acutely perceptive quote from
    the work of Frederick Joseph Kinsman, which captures the difficulty
    for Anglicanism, namely :

    “To tolerate everything is to teach nothing”

    I did a bit of online “digging” to find out more about Kinsman
    and his thoughts.

    Having been born and raised Anglican, and having served the
    Episcopal Church as bishop of Delaware for many years, his conversion
    to Roman Catholicism must have caused great consternation.
    I found online his work “The Failure of Anglicanism“. Although
    the title may irritate some, the content is addressed with the utmost
    respect to the Presiding Bishop of that time. His Letter of
    (dated July 1, 1919) is contained therein, and makes some
    observations, the incisiveness of which could only come from an

    In spite of the greatest unwillingness, I have come to feel that the
    interpretation of the Anglican position which connects it chiefly
    with the Protestant Reformation is the one more consistent with
    its history viewed as a whole; and that its dominant tendencies
    are increasingly identified with those currents of thought and
    development which are making away from the definiteness of the
    ancient faith towards Unitarian vagueness.

    Regarding the Anglican propensity for compromise, Mr. Kinsman
    writes :

    I have come to believe that this habit of compromise involves
    increasing surrenders of truth, …

    Rather remarkable, having been written more than 90 years ago.

  5. William Witt says:

    Once in awhile, one comes across these attempts to interpret the Anglican Reformers as Zwinglian in their eucharistic theology, whether by those of catholic leanings (who are attempting to do demolition work) or by low-church Evangelicals, hoping to score points against Rome.

    It does not work. Neither Cranmer nor Jewel (and certainly not Hooker) were Zwinglians, and they repeatedly go out of their way to make this clear. What they rejected was transubstantiation, particularly the notion that the substance of bread and wine ceased to exist as bread and wine after consecration. It is not terribly clear what they meant by “spiritual presence,” whether a presence through the Holy Spirit (as in Calvin and Eastern Orthodoxy), or rather “something else.” Most commentators interpret them as “virtualists” or “receptionists,” who believed that Christ communicated himself really and truly in his full humanity and deity, in the very act of eating and drinking, when the communicant received the consecrated bread and wine, with faith.

    What they clearly believed was: the risen Christ is really present, in his full humanity and deity, when the elements are received with faith, and, in participating in the Lord’s Supper, Christians genuinely participate in Christ’s risen life through the process of eating and drinking. Both Cranmer (against Gardiner) and Jewel (against Harding) were emphatic that they disagreed about the manner of Christ’s presence, not the reality of Christ’s presence.

    The focus is on union, specifically, union between the risen Christ and the church. The point of any talk about change is to focus on the final causality of the Eucharist, that the final goal is the union of Christ with his church, and the change that takes place in Christians as a result of that union, rather than a theory about how bread and wine are changed to bring about the union.

    Bread and wine are not changed in such a manner that they cease to be bread and wine.

    Apart from accompanying faith, receiving the Eucharist has no spiritual benefit for the recipient. That is, unbelievers receive the bread and wine, but they do not share the benefits of “feeding on Christ.” If the purpose of the Eucharist is that the church might become the body of Christ, by being united to the risen Christ, unbelievers do not become the body of Christ because they are not united to Christ, even if they do eat and drink consecrated bread and wine.

    The above are central themes in Anglican eucharistic theology, and can be traced through the history of Anglicanisn, including nineteenth century Anglo-Catholics. Anglicans, historically, have affirmed real presence. Generally, Anglicans have not been Zwinglians. Generally, Anglicans have not affirmed transubstantiation.

    One of the more interesting books that has been published on this subject lately is George Hunsinger’s The Eucharist and Ecumenism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    Hunsinger carefully distinguishes between Zwinglian and Reformed models of eucharistic presence, and suggests (correctly in my opinion) an affinity between Calvin’s model of eucharistic presence through the Holy Spirit and Eastern Orthodoxy. Hunsinger also notes numerous affinities between Reformed theology and Aquinas, and also correctly notes an affinity between the Reformed model and Cranmer.

    Hunsinger points to the possible significance of Peter Martyr Vermigli on Cranmer, who embraced the language of “transelementation” that he found in Theophylact, an eleventh century archbishop of Bulgaria. The model actually goes back to Gregory of Nazianzus and Cyril of Alexandria. Vermigli borrows the imagery of an iron rod thrust into fire, which is transformed by participation, but does not lose its reality as iron.

    Hunsinger documents that both Martin Bucer and Thomas Cranmer use the language of transelementation. Cranmer uses not only the language of transelementation, and the image of the burning iron, but also refers to Theophylact by name, indicating an almost certain dependence on Vermigli. Cranmer also cites Cyprian, saying that “the bread is changed,” not by subtraction, but by addition of “another property,” so that the bread is now not only physical food for the body, but “spiritual food for the soul.”

    I was pleased to discover that Hunsinger has noted the connection with an Eastern Orthodox epicletic understanding of real presence, [url=]something I have written about[/url]. However, I am grateful to Hunsinger for noticing the connection to Orthodoxy in the person of Theophylact through Peter Martyr Vermigli, of which I had been unaware.

    Hunsinger suggests that the Reformed model is not perfect, having a tendency to a Nestorian separating of the elements themselves from Christ’s presence in, and through them, or, as others have suggested, a too radical separating of sign and thing signified. I would suggest, at the same time, that the danger of both transubstantiation and Lutheran ubiquity is a tendency in the other direction, a “monophysite” confusion of divine and created realities, whereby Christ’s humanity destroys the created reality of the substance of bread and wine (Roman transubstantiation) or confuses the natures as Christ’s humanity becomes omnipresent (Lutheran ubiquity). Hunsinger suggests that a more thorough embracing of Orthodox transelementation would preserve Reformed concerns [and I would say “Anglican” as well], emphatically affirming real presence without necessitating destruction of the substance of bread and wine (as in transubstantiation).

  6. Cyril says:

    I am sorry that this is done in haste, but I hope it makes some sense

    Jewel, Martyr, Cranmer et al., believed that Christ was present in his full humanity to those who believed? You have appealed to Martyr and Jewel, et al., and to Martyr and Jewel et al., you shall go!! I have not looked at Hunsinger’s book, but that’s OK, I have looked at Martyr. First, Martyr on Theophylact: Hunsinger skews the text, for Martyr notes in his 1549 Disputation (Day 6) that the bread and wine are changed into the virtue of the body and blood of Christ (in virtutem Christi coporis et sanguinis transelementari). So, this hardly washes with what you wish. Further, by the time we get to the 1562 Dialogue on the Two Natures in Christ (dedicated to Jewel) Martyr has thrown Theophylact over (doesn’t even cite him) for a full embrace of Theodoret of Cyr (that Hunsinger labels Theodoret of Cyprus) and his Eranistes. The human body of Christ, confesses Martyr, has to stay in heaven: there is no communication of the Word to the human nature. You can look up the 2009 Zwingliana for an article on Martyr’s use of Thedoret to deny that Christ’s human body ever leaves heaven. In a letter posted to Calvin Martyr is precise that the benefits of Christ’s body are realized only in the eschaton.

    Jewel took this exact track in his Reply to Harding (Works I. p. 483). The Challenge sermon in its sixth article attacks the notion that the physical body of Christ or Christ’s human nature (and here we see Jewel’s poor understanding both of Aristotle and Aquinas, something John Rastell jumped on when debating him) cannot leave heaven. In his Challenge, he asserted that no one in the first 600 years of the Christian era taught that ‘Christes bodye ys reallye, substaniallie, corporallie, carnaillie, or natrurallie in the Sacrament’. If you look at Jewel Works, I, about pages 470-480, you can see plainly enough that what Jewel gives with his right, he removes with his left. Jewel listed four ways Christ corporally, really and substantially resided in the believer: by his nativity (i.e., the Incarnation), by faith, by baptism and by the Eucharist. To explain this Jewel used the language of instrumentality, that Christ is in the Christian naturally by means of the sacraments, but that does not entail ‘that Christ is naturally in the sacrament’ (cf 473). Further, “Thus much of these words corporally, naturally, &c.: whereby is meant a full perfect spiritual conjunction, excluding all manner of imagination or fantasy; not a gross and fleshly being of Christ’s body in our bodies, according to the appearance of the letter. Otherwise there must needs follow this great inconvenience, that our bodies must be in like manner corporally, naturally, and fleshly in Christ’s body.” This mirrors Martyr’s letter to Calvin.

    Jewel’s assertions that Christ is fleshly, really and substantially present in the Christian is the exact figure as was in Hooper, Martyr, Cranmer and even Zwingli. As regards the presence of the body of Christ in the elements, that union with Christ was effected only on a spiritual plane. Jewel’s use of instrumental language is a merely an omnium-gatherum of words that has only an accidental relationship with Calvin’s early use.

    That Cranmer and Martyr were Zwinglians I would commend not only MacCulloch’s book, but also the series of tracts produced by Dix and Richardson under the auspices of the Church Quarterly Review (1948) and reprinted by Dacre Press. You should also look up the immense amount of work done on Martyr in the last fifty years beginning with Joe McClelland’s “Visible Words.” There was just a companion volume to Martyr’s works published by Brill, and also some years ago a collection of essays on Martyr and the European Reformations. The companion volume was in celebration of fifty years since McClelland’s work and represents the conference convened in Montreal to celebrate it. There were Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox, and Presbyterians all contributing. But, ad fontes. I will give you two citations that Dix has from Cranmer which offers his putative “Bucerianism” (the Eucharistic theology higher than which cannot be thought without becoming Lutheran)
    (a) ” And here is diligently to be noted that we ought not irreverently and unadvisedly to approach unto the meat of the Lord’s table, as we do with other common meats and drinks, but with great fear and dread, lest we should come to that holy table unworthily, wherein is not only represented, but spiritually given unto us very Christ himself “. (Italics Mr. Timms’s).
    (b) ” In the holy communion we ought not to receive the bread and wine as other common meats and drinks, but as things changed into a higher state, nature and condition, to be taken as holy meats and drinks, whereby we receive spiritual feeding and supernatural nourishment from heaven, of the very true body and blood of our Saviour Christ, through the omnipotent power of God and the wonderful working of the Holy Ghost”

    But if this is some high Prot dogma, what if this one from Bullinger and one from Zwingli (that is, if you still think Zwingli a Zwinglian). We could also cite, as Dix does, passages from Hooper:

    (iv) ” Furthermore, the Lord’s body is not only that spiritual body of the Lord, to wit the church of the faithful, but that very body which the Lord took of the Virgin, and offered up for our redemption, and that now sitteth at the right hand of the Father. To be short, the bread of the sacrament in the supper is the Lord’s body; it is, I say, the sacrament of the true body which was given for us. Whosoever, therefore, putteth no difference between this, the Lord’s mystical bread and profane meat, but cometh to Christ’s table as he would to a table of common and gross meat, and acknowledgeth not that this heavenly meat. differeth far from other human meat, neither cometh after that sort as the Lord hath instituted but followeth his own reason; (page 13) surely he maketh no difference of the Lord’s body, but eateth and drinketh his own damnation “.
    (v) We assert therefore that the body of Christ is not so eaten carnally and grossly in the supper as they insist, but we believe the true body of Christ is eaten sacramentally and spiritually in the supper by the religious faithful and holy mind, as Saint Chrysostom also thinketh “.

    What is the substantial difference then between Cranmer and Zurich, unless you think there is a difference between Zurich and Zurich. We can certainly note that Bullinger was not identical to Zwingli (Paul Romer has a two part article in the Lutheran Quarterly on this, I think from 1988), but that hardly turns him into some crypto Orthodox. I would commend to you as well the work of Torrance Kirby, “Zurich Connection” on the relationship between Zurich and Elizabeth’s church. You seem to want it both ways. Jewel wasn’t a Zwinglian, but then, Zurich wasn’t Zurich either?

    And wherever do you get that the Orthodox hold that the physical body and blood of Christ are not in the elements? Have you ever seen what happens in an Orthodox church if some of the consecrated wine is spilled? If it is done so on a carpet, the carpet is burned, as well as any vestments or clothes. If on tile, then the rags to wipe it up are. It is no “spiritual presence”, however much it is effected by the Spirit: “And send your Holy Spirit to make this bread which we bless the Body of Thy Christ. And to make this cup the precious blood of Thy Christ. Making the change by the Holy Spirit.”

    All of this is beside the point of the essay, which is that being catholic doesn’t mean getting to choose what I want catholic to mean and then jumping up and down and saying “I’m catholic.” The article wasn’t about the Eucharist. It was about the rule of faith, which clearly Protestantism’s is not that of Irenaeus. You need to do better than a word/concept assertion to make it so. And Jewel never mentions episcopal continuity, in fact he flatly denied any need for it apart from order, and asserted against the Puritans in his last work in 1571 that there was no such thing as an apostolically dictated form of Church polity. The essay was about how we read and think about theology is dictated by our ecclesiology. Thank you for your comments on my essay and proving my point.

  7. William Witt says:

    If one reads Jewel’s Apology of the Church of England, it is clear that the entire structure of the essay is a summary of the Regula Fidei. Specifically, the entire essay is structured around the creed. Jewel does not simply “choose what he wants what [he] wants catholic to mean.” His summary of catholicity is the same as that of the 2nd century church over against gnosticism: 1) canon of Scripture; 2) Rule of Faith (as summarized in the creeds; 3) episcopal succession; 4) worship in rule and sacrament; Jewel argues (correctly) that the C of E retains all of this.

    You are absolutely right that the Anglican Reformers denied a “carnal” presence. It is probably correct to interpret this to mean that they denied a local presence “in the elements,” affirming instead, what has been identified as “virtualism.” Cranmer stated (in response to Gardiner):

    “I never said of the whole supper that it is but a signification or a bare memory of Christ’s death, but I teach that it is a spiritual refreshing wherein our souls be fed and nourished with Christ’s very flesh and blood to eternal life.” PS 1:148

    Cranmer drew a parallel between baptism and Eucharist:

    ““For as in every part of the water in baptism is whole Christ and the Holy Spirit, sacramentally, so be they in every part of the bread broken, but not corporally and naturally, as the papists teach. . . .And where you say that in baptism we receive the spirit of Christ, and in the injury to sacrament of his body and blood we receive his very flesh and blood; this your saying is no small derogation to baptism, wherein we receive not only the spirit of Christ, but also Christ himself, whole body and soul, manhood and Godhead, unto everlasting life, as well as in the holy communion.” PS 1: 24, 25.

    Cranmer insisted that the disagreement was about the manner of presence, not the reality of presence:

    “For we be agreed, as me seemeth, that Christ’s body is present, and the same body that suffered . . . [W]e be agreed also of the manner of his presence. For you say that the body of Christ is not present but after a spiritual manner and so I say also. And if there be any difference between us two, it is but a little and in this point only, that I say that Christ is but spiritually in the ministration of the sacrament, and you say that he is but after a spiritual manner in the sacrament. And yet you say he is corporally in the sacrament. ” PS 1:91.

    Jewel contains similar statements:

    “[W]e feed not the people of God with bare signs and symbols but teach them that the sacraments of Christ be holy mysteries . . . that Christ’s body and blood indeed and verily is given unto us, that we verily eat it; that we verily drink it.” John Jewel, Works 1:448.

    Then, of course, there is Richard Hooker, who was a disciple of Jewel, who was a disciple of Cranmer. Hooker insists that all sides agree on the following:

    (1) “the real participation of Christ and of life in his body and blood by means of this sacrament”; (2) “that the soul of man is the receptacle of Christ’s presence.” Disagreement, he believes, is centered on only one question: “whether when the sacrament is administered Christ be whole within man only, or else his body and blood be also externally seated in the very consecrated elements themselves.” The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, Bk 5, ch. 67.2.

    The literature on the Anglican Reformers is voluminous, and, there have of course, been those, like Dom Gregory Dix, and Richardson, and now McCulloch. Contrary to Dix and Richardson are Stephen Neill, Geoffrey Bromiley, C. W.Dugmore, Stephen Sykes, the authors in Paul Ayris’s Thomas Cranmer: Churchman and Scholar (Boydell Press, 1999), and, more recently, Gordon Jeanes (although, I think, Jeanes does not quite get it right, either).

    The back and forth arguments over the meaning of the texts is tedious, and nothing is going to be resolved on a blog. Those who are interested may read the texts for themselves, and make up their own minds.

    Certainly the Reformers can be criticized for less than adequate understandings of Aquinas, as, of course, can be Trent. I think it fairly clear that Cranmer, Jewel, and Hooker (all three) missed the significance of the role of the Holy Spirit in Calvin’s own assertion of “spiritual presence.” But it is also certain that they intentionally distanced themselves from a “merely symbolic” interpretation, and, while rejecting transubstantiation, clearly affirmed that Christ is indeed present, in his full deity and humanity, and that “spiritual presence” does indeed mean “real presence.”

    Readers can look at the texts for themselves, including the secondary literature debates if they have the appetite, and make up their own minds.

  8. Hunsinger says:

    To Cyril;
    Thank you for pointing out my mistake about Theodoret, I was unaware that I had made it. Fortunately, as it turns out, there is no figure known as “Theodoret of Cyprus,” so I hope what I wrote will not be too misleading. The materials I cite in the footnotes do refer to the proper figure by his proper name.

    As to content, I would like to learn more about how I may have “skewed” the texts in which Peter Martyr draws upon Theophylact, as you allege. You seem to assume that the views of Theodoret and Theophylact are incompatible. Peter Martyr, however, obviously did not think so, since he refers to Theodoret not only in his “Dialogue on the Two Natures of Christ,” but also in his 1549 “Treatise” as well as in the “Disputation.”

    He takes both Theodoret and Theophylact to teach much the same thing, namely, that the gifts of bread and wine are converted into Christ’s body and blood not by “subtraction,” as it were, but by elevation and enhancement. The bread and wine are glorified or transfigured without ceasing to be bread and wine.

    Since no theologian in the patristic period supposed that the consecrated gifts became Christ’s body and blood in a crudely literal sense, everyone understood that they were truly present in the form of bread and wine in a way that was spiritual. Later writers, like Peter Martyr, expressed the point by resorting to some such terminology as “substance” or “virtue” (as Aquinas had already done before him). None of them, early or late, denied what was later regarded as the “local presence” of Christ’s human body in heaven.

    The absence of Theophylact in Peter Martyr’s “Dialogue on the Two Natures” does not seem sufficient for your claim that Peter Martyr had “thrown him over.” He found it useful to draw upon Theophyact when discussing the eucharist but not, apparently, when discussing the Incarnation. I can’t see a repudiation here, especially since he seemed to see no conflict between Theophylact and Theodoret in his earlier writings.

    But if I am missing something, I am happy to be corrected.

  9. Cyril says:

    Dr. Hunsinger,
    At the moment I have time for but a brief reply. I will probably get your book, as I am very interested in the question. I believe the absence of Theophylact is telling in the Dialogus for the simple reason that the Dialogus is not a dialogue on the Incarnation per se, but against Johannes Brenz’s particular doctrine of ubiquitarianism. This, PMV believed, was predicated upon a misreading of Cyril of Alexandria and Chalcedon. PMV appealed to Thedoret in order to battle Brenz, and thus the abandoning of Theophylact, and indeed of any notion of Theopaschism. In 1549 PMV was still hedging it seems to the side of consubstantiation as a variant of remanence akin to that of Pierre d’Ailly (whom Luther had noted as his initial inspiration). This is tenuous, and I am happy to be taught better. PMV certainly had abandoned this by the time he left England, no doubt influenced by Nicholas Ridley on this count. Thus Theophylact was a great foil for his Oxford interlocutors, but against Brenz he would have been counterproductive. You are correct that no one denied that Christ’s physical body remained in heaven, though, while not a Roman Catholic (nor of the Unia), I am not sure that I can say that St. Ambrose did not see a change in the elements (and an aside, many Latins will ask what is the difference between transelementari and transubstantiation as verbal realities). The one place where I am temperate in my remarks has to be PMV’s monumental Defensio contra librum Gardineri. I went through the text some years ago (its 700+ pages), but I cannot remember Theophylact in it. Lastly, I do not think at all that Theodoret and Theophylact to have held the same views about the Eucharist. I would recommend Paul Clayton’s work on Theodoret (an Oxford title) which shows that he even descended from the Eucharistic views of Theodore of Mopsuestia.

    If you wish, send me your email address via the energetic procession website (once I have it I will delete your post), and we can continue this anon. Thanks for your thoughts, and, like you, I am happy to be better taught.

  10. Hunsinger says:

    Thank you for this thoughtful and learned reply. Let’s continue the discussion by e-mail.
    You may reach me at:

  11. Ratramnus says:

    Thank you all for an intelligent, learned, and civil discussion of the question. As a layman and a historian with an informed lay knowledge of the era and the theology, i have been entertained and informed.