At core of Anglican conflict, a 1,900-year-old tradition

Canon law expert Perry says, however, that the 39 Articles also spell out that a priest must be appointed by the local bishop to be allowed to preach within a diocese, something the Network churches have relinquished by voting to split.

“The notion that a parish could be freestanding and claim to be Anglican is perverse in the Anglican structure,” he said. “It just wouldn’t exist.”

Liberal Anglicans also argue that theological understanding continues to evolve.

“It’s an ongoing revelation,” Niagara Archdeacon Michael Patterson says.

And there is no requirement that the revelation be the same for everyone, says Perry, adding that a founding principle of the church was that, unlike the Catholic Church from which it split in the 16th century, there is no central authority decreeing the beliefs that define an Anglican.

Says Perry, “Somebody once said that the good thing about the Church of England is that it doesn’t tend to interfere with your religion.”

In fact, he says, the openness to diversity of opinion has traditionally been its strength, enabling it to span divergent cultures around the world.

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Anglican Church of Canada, Anglican Provinces

20 comments on “At core of Anglican conflict, a 1,900-year-old tradition

  1. R. Eric Sawyer says:

    I know it is almost past commenting on, but it never ceases to be a source of wonder how much of a lie can be snuck past folks if it is only wrapped in a very little bit of truth.
    Of course diversity of culture is strengthening and allowed. Those very articles confirm it. What they do NOT confirm is that the cultural diversity may in one place embrace the Bible as authoritative, and in another place hold that it may be re-written to support whatever our current “understanding” is.
    Revelation may indeed be different: in no place save the Incarnation of our Lord has His fullness dwelt. But that does NOT mean that He speaks out of both sides of his mouth, or that His opinion wavers across the map to such a degree that we cannot rely on what He has said to understand what He is saying.
    He is further correct that there is and was no central human authority to define anglican belief. But that is because that understanding of authority, which we are to stand beneath, was always invested in Holy Scripture. Again in the Articles, and more emphatically in the first of the appointed homilies.
    How can anyone (even those who disagree with me) believe that men such as Cranmer, Lattimer and Ridley went into the flames so as to provide a church that would not interfere with anyones religion?

  2. Dan Crawford says:

    Says Perry, “Somebody once said that the good thing about the Church of England is that it doesn’t tend to interfere with your religion.”

    Uh-huh. It does, however, interfere with the practice of your religion, especially if it is the religion most people know as orthodox Christianity.

  3. Br. Michael says:

    Every good lie must have a smattering of truth.

  4. paxetbonum says:

    I am sad at Packer’s comment that the episcopate has outlived its usefulness when the local congregation is at odds with its bishop. Didn’t we just celebrate the feast of George Herbert who faithfully served a rural out of the way parish at the height of his brilliance, obediantly. There must be something to be said for obedience to those whose authority we are under even when we disagree with them vehemently. It simply doesn’t make sense to me to upend 1900 years of church governance over these theological disagreements, no matter how fierce the disagreements.

  5. Sherri says:

    Which is more important – the church government or the church teachings, its reason for being? Or is its reason for being merely structural? I’m not trying to be facetious or smart alecky – it just seems like we’ve reached the point where these questions have to be answered.

  6. paxetbonum says:

    There have been vastly diverse teaching concerning human sexuality over the course of the history of the church. When the Roman Empire was in the marriage business, the church wasn’t. Thats why the church doesn’t develop a theology of marriage until the council of Trent in the west. Just check out Joseph Martos’ classic on the sacraments “Doors to the Sacred.” Compare this to another sacrament – ordination which has as a significant piece of it the ordering of the church and order in the church. I think both are significant points. I simply think the question about human sexuality is very peripheral in the grand scheme of things. I think we are witnessing the ultimate burnout of a modernist approach to scripture and faith. I am much more interested in the resurrection, the incarnation, the trinity, the two natures of Christ, and what the gospel is calling us to do and be as faithful Christians than I could ever be about what Jesus thinks about gay people. It just isn’t at the heart of the message of Jesus. I can’t wait for us to have something different to deal with like prayer book revision (which will require little revision next time).

  7. Jim the Puritan says:

    I think the problem, #4, is that the apostles taught in scripture that we are to have nothing to do with someone who calls themselves a brother or sister but practices or teaches things contrary to scripture, including sexual immorality. Scripture says we must not even eat with such persons. The apostles I think never thought that such a definition of false Christians would apply to their successors, but here we are and scriptural teaching is clear.

  8. jobeena says:

    I read the story. Dr. Packer is no where reported to have said that the episcopate has outlived its usefulness when a local congregation is at odds with its bishop and I would be totally shocked if he ever did say such a thing. What the reporter says is, “in such a situation, Packer says, the strict geographic definition of Anglicanism doesn’t work, and may have outlived its usefulness”.

  9. Br. Michael says:

    According to Irenaeus the principle function of bishops was to safeguard the faith and insure its correct transmission to subsequent generations. It was not because they had hot hands and could magically make new clergy and consecrate bread and wine.
    If bishops are not the guardians of the faith, as the Bishop of Rome is showing himself to be, then what need have we of bishops?

  10. Br. Michael says:

    What I meant was that the Pope is showing himself to be a strong defender of the faith and filling the role of bishop as Irenaeus said bishops should.

  11. Philip Snyder says:

    #6 – Can you show me where there “have been vastly diverse teaching concerning human sexuality over the course of the history of the church?” I only know of one teaching on sexuality in the history of the Church. Sexual intercourse belongs in the confines of a male-female marriage. The Church has celebrated marriage and Paul calls it a Sacrament (a mystery). Aquinas taught on it. Augustine taught on it. In none of their works can I find anything except the traditional teaching on marriage. Please show me the scriptural or traditional warrant for your charge that there have been lots of different teachings on human sexuality in the Church.

    Phil Snyder

  12. EpiscoPresbyBaptist says:

    Funny – there would never have BEEN and Anglican church if someone hadn’t first decided to split with the powers-that-be of the day. It’s irrational to say that a tradition, Anglicanism, originating from a church split, cannot itself experience a split.

  13. Ed the Roman says:

    Thats why the church doesn’t develop a theology of marriage until the council of Trent in the west.

    Of course! That’s why Paul had nothing to say about men marrying their father’s widows, and bishops were to be husbands of one, and marriage was upheld against the Gnostics and the Albigensians: because there was no theology of marriage until Trent.

  14. Nikolaus says:

    [blockquote]Canon law expert Perry says, however, that the 39 Articles also spell out that a priest must be appointed by the local bishop to be allowed to preach within a diocese, something the Network churches have relinquished by voting to split.[/blockquote]
    Perhaps someons needs to explain to this so-called “expert” that if the denomination was more diligent at following Holy Scripture and the Articles, the Network would not have voted to split!

  15. New Reformation Advocate says:

    This relatively superficial article puts the liberal/reappraiser side in the limelight and gives the progressive spokeman, Montreal priest Alan Perry both the most quotes and the final word. It also is outdated with regard to the facts, asserting that only 10 congregations have broken away from the national church when actually 17 have done so (and counting). In other words, it’s not only biased reporting, it’s just not very competently done.

    This shallow piece also involves a very distorted interpretation of the significance of the teachings of St. Ignatius of Antioch. It’s true that Ignatius insisted vehemently on the necessity of unity with the bishop. But it’s also true that he insisted equally strongly that certain doctrines were non-negotiable essentials and that orthodox faith was just as important as catholic order. For instance, Ignatius vigorously attacked the heresy of Docetism (that Christ only appeared to be human, but really wasn’t) that was a real threat in his time. If Ignatius were around today, there is no doubt that he’d angrily blast those who are twisting and misusing him to defend heresy.

    If Fr. Perry really believed that upholding church polity trumps all other considerations, then how does he justify being an Anglican after all? Logically, he should submit to the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Montreal as the true spiritual descendant of Ignatius.

    As for Perry’s flippant remark about it being one of the good things about Anglicanism that it “doesn’t interfere with your religion,” all I can say is that this sort of joke seemed funny the first time I heard it about 25 years ago. But it stopped being funny a long, long time ago. Now it’s just irritating, and even sickening.

    Perry’s weak, non-interfering form of religion simply capitulates to the reigning views dominant in the surrounding culture. It amounts to a “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach to religion. And his championing of “diversity” rings hollow, when he has no tolerance for the breakaway groups and sees no place for them in “Anglicanism.”

    Actually, this issue doesn’t go back just “1900 years” to the time of Ignatius in the first decade of the second century (who was martyred in Rome around AD 107, some say 115). It goes back to New Testament times in the first century, when heresy on the part of church leaders was already a major problem (e.g., Galatians and 2 Cor. 10-13; see also Luke’s dramatic story of Paul’s farewell speech to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20, where he predicts that some of them will become wolves in sheep’s clothing after his death and ravage the flock with their false teaching). By casting the issue as primarily one of maintaining catholic church order instead of catholic truth, this article is implicitly taking the liberal side.

    Authentic, historic Christianity maintains a careful balance between the four marks of the Church spelled out in the Nicene Creed: i.e., that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. But to pit the marks of oneness and catholicity against the marks of holiness and apostolicity, as the liberal representatives do in this article, creates a monster, a church that is only half Christian.

    David Handy+
    Passionate advocate of High Commitment, Post-Christendom style Anglicanism

  16. Larry Morse says:

    #15. I am instructed usefully. LM

  17. robroy says:

    One of the positive aspects of such superficial, biased articles appearing in the newspaper is that it gives an opening for people to write letters to the editor about the subject. The newspaper opened the hornet’s nest, so to speak. One of my acts of differentiation is to write letters to the editor. I, like Larry, was educated by Father Handy’s comment #15, but I had already sent a letter off to the newspaper. What I said basically was that it is the height of hypocrisy for people cite one ancient canon whilst breaking other canons right and left. Something obvious to us but pinning the very appropriate label of hypocrites on the likes of these is necessary for the public to see them for the wolves in sheep clothing that they are.

    So the Robroy list of differentiation:
    1) Start a petition for clarity with regards to costs of litigation. (Which everyone should go sign [url= ]here[/url]. I don’t have Kendall’s signature, yet.)
    2) Write letters to the editor.
    3) Organize protests when Katherine Jefferts Schori comes to town.

    I am waiting on the last one, but when she does come to my neck of the woods, expect to see a guy on the 10 o’clock news with a sandwich board sign saying, “Ms Schori – quit persecuting Christians.”

  18. Adam 12 says:

    Since we are invoking the 39 Articles – how about a look at the presenting symptom…

    XX. Of the Authority of the Church.
    The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain any thing that is contrary to God’s Word written…

  19. New Reformation Advocate says:

    Bravo, robroy (#17)! I love the pragmatic way you think. I appreciate the kind words from you and Larry Morse (#16) about the educational value of my #15. But I’m the teacher, visionary type; I’m not so good at the actual implementation of all my ideas. That’s why it takes a team approach, where we can all work together to get things done, using our various gifts and passions.

    But I must admit that I relished imagining a surgeon like you wearing a sandwich board of the type you described to protest ++KJS as the persecutor of faithful Christians that she is. You’re not only practical; you’ve got guts and fire in the belly. I love it!

    David Handy+
    So proud of the NRAFC cabinet

  20. rob k says:

    No. 5 – The Church’s reason for being is that it is the Body of Christ. Ita has the Sacraments. Teaching is one of its duties.