Christendom, The Reformation, And Baptist Polity: Part I

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Introduction

            Separating the concepts of the religious and the political in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries may be impossible; it is a theological and historical swamp.  However, of all the groups represented at the Reformation, the problems in the Church of England were propagated by some of the most audacious political power plays of the era.  Consequently, it was precisely these kinds of political maneuvers that fueled further endeavors by German and Swiss Reformers.  This would ultimately drive some within the Puritan sects of the Church of England to separate entirely in search of reformation from the Reformation, in turn forming the General Baptist movement.

            Saying the Reformation is the historical context within which the Baptist church developed, though, is much like saying that Europe is the geographical context of someone driving in Berlin.  “The Reformation,” as a historical term, encompasses much more than a particular set of doctrinal qualms, political quagmires, or ecclesiastical debates.  McGrath is helpful in navigating the use of the term “Reformation” and all of its ancillaries in recent scholarship.  In its broadest sense, “Reformation” incorporates the four elements of the western European movement that began with Martin Luther’s protest in 1517 in Wittenberg: Lutheranism, the Reformed tradition, the Radical Reformation, and the Counter-Reformation.[1]

            Within this context, the Counter-Reformation and the Radical Reformation, those concerning the Roman Catholics and Anabaptists respectively, fell outside of the “magisterial Reformation”: a phrase which draws attention to “the manner in which the mainstream reformers related to secular authorities, such as princes, magistrates, or city councils.”[2]  According to McGrath, the term magisterial Reformation is increasingly recognized in scholarship as a reference to Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Anglicanism collectively.[3]  Consequently, the English Reformers who influenced John Smyth were representative of the Reformed tradition which sought to reset the boundaries of magisterial authority within the church, but had “relatively little interest in doctrine, let alone one specific doctrine.”[4]  This state of affairs was unacceptable to Smyth, whose Puritan leanings were known by the time of his ordination, and so one of the foundational thinkers of the General Baptist movement in England began to seek a more radical reformation outside of the magisterial Church of England.  He sought a reformation that removed magisterial interference in religious choice and expression.

            John Smyth and his colleague, Thomas Helwys, were among the first English thinkers to insist that the magistracy had no right to impose religious beliefs or practice on its population.  This contradicted those magisterial thinkers who hoped to create some form of theocracy with a continued union of the Church with the State.  The lives of Smyth and Helwys, then, become important indicators of the true nature of issues facing early Baptist polity.  Common theological concerns over adult baptism drew Smyth and Helwys to the Netherlands during English persecution, but internal fights, which would cause splinter groups to break fellowship, were especially common during their shared time among the radical Reformers.  Those conflicts, which were rarely theological, were driven predominantly by differing views about the extent to which the magistracy ought to be involved in settling affairs of the Church.

            A rejection of the episcopacy continues to be theologically important for congregational churches, but is, in fact, historically subsequent to the political factors that were inexorably tied to the episcopacy’s ecclesiastical significance during the magisterial Reformation.  If the beliefs of Smyth and Helwys were truly indicative of the early Baptists, then early Baptist polity was primarily a political reaction to the magisterial Reformation.[5]  Somewhere along the way, however, the episcopacy became guilty by association and came under theological fire, and as that theology of ecclesiastical liberation evolved so did the ethos that sundered congregational polity from the episcopacy.  This series will explore early Baptist polity as it occurred within the context of the English Reformation; it will attempt to demonstrate that early Baptist (congregational) polity as conceived by John Smyth and Thomas Helwys functioned primarily as a political critique of the magisterial Reformation and only subsequently as a theological amendment, and that the subsequent theological amendments following the death of John Smyth served only to further polarize already alienated factions within the English Reformation.


[1] Alister McGrath, Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought, (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 1998), 158.

 [2] Ibid., 159.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., 161.

[5] This, of course, presumes that the agenda of the Reformation broadly was to, “make European culture more Christian than it had been” by “rerooting” what was seen then as the traditional imposition of the Church by the State.  See Scott Hendrix, “Rerooting the Faith: The Reformation as Re-Christianization.” Church History, 69 (Sep. 2000): 560-564.

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19 Comments

  1. The episcopacy wasn’t guilty by association, it was lost by the Reformers, and only after that happened were they forced to argue against it (the alternative being to admit their own illegitimacy). Or at least, that’s one historiographical perspective

    Reply

  2. Shawn,

    I guess I have never really looked into the political theology of the Lutherans and the Calvinists. How do they compare to what came to be the Hooker’ian vision of Ecclesiastical Polity?

    Also, does it seem as if the Magna Carta was largely ignored during the English reformation or if it wasn’t, how was it used?

    Reply

  3. Adhunt,

    That depeds. Is episcopacy just picking three people to funtion in three ways? IF so, baptists could have that tommorrow. If its more than that, then probably not and then it might not be so clear that the Anglicans did so.

    And even if they did so, given their widespread theology and practice now, it seems like they don’t elieve it anyway. So its rather moot.

    And none of the Reformed bodies received their orders from them anyhnow.

    Reply

  4. Perry,

    Greetings, welcome to the blog!

    The fact that purposeful pains were taken to maintain Apostolic Succession, both in the beginning and in the Elizabethan Reconstruction, seems to me to demonstrate how important the Episcopacy has been to Anglicanism. The Episcopacy is a necessary and indispensible aspect to all historic Anglican ecclesiology.

    Your other point is, frankly, ad hominem. I could perhaps say something like: “Considering widespread Roman Catholic practice, it seems that they don’t believe in protecting children from sexual abuse” – but in the end that doesn’t amount to an argument.

    The overwhelming majority of Anglicans worldwide are faithful to the Tradition. Just as judging the RCC by the loose beliefs and practices of American Roman Catholicism is not indicative of the faithfulness of the Church as a whole it is rather moot to point out the mixed bag of Western Anglicanism. Indeed, if you took Augustine seriously you’d appreciate that the Church is always a mixed body with faithful, heretics, and all of us in between.

    Thanks for commenting though. Feel free to challenge us. I need the mind exercise.

    Tony

    Reply

  5. Tony,

    I think that out of all the Protestant derivations the Presbyterian church and the Lutheran church bear the greatest resemblence to Anglicanism in ecclesiastical matters. Obviously, I would point to McGrath and his discussion about the Magesterial Reformation as a source. In terms of specific Anglican/Epicsopal ecclesiology and how they relate, I must confess ignorance. It’s a topic that I am interested to research, however.

    The Magna Carta was foisted onto the monarchy by the people, and the monarchy spent several centuries trying to bury it. Henry VIII certainly ignored it. In fact, it was the RCC that tried to incite rebellion against Henry’s desires invoking the Magna Carta, ironic.

    Shawn

    Reply

  6. Perry,

    I’m not sure I’m getting the whole picture here. It seems like you and Nathan are saying that there is no Protestant sect that maintained the episcopacy when the Anglican Church obviously has.

    So, are you arguing that it was lost at the Reformation ala Pope Leo XIII’s papal bull, Apostolicae Curae? It, interestingly enough, seems only concerned with enumerating the political reasons that the line of holy orders was broken with the actions of the English monarchy – which plays nicely into the framework of understanding the emergence of congregational or “free” church polity from out of a magesterial reformation.

    Or do you intend to say that the Anglican church never sought to preserve the episcopacy? In which case, I am with Tony. Either way, the Anglicans (and all in communion with them, which includes the Orthodox church) has been careful to demonstrate its apostolic succession.

    Thanks for coming over and engaging in discussion. I’m glad you’re here!

    Shawn

    Reply

  7. Adhunt,

    We need to get clear. Epsicopacy and Apostolic Succession are not co-extensive ideas. The latter entails the former, but not the converse. It is uncontroversial that the CofE preserved episcopacy, but it doesn’t follow that they preserved Apostolic Succession. That entails a belief in sacerdotalism and Anglicans are not now and were not then of one mind with respect to a sacerdotal priesthood.

    Consequently, it isn’t clear whether Anglicanism counts as a body of the Reformation or something much older. The Articles of Religion can be read in more than ne way and the English text is not the official binding text but rather the Latin. In the Latin, it is far less clear that it is a Protestant document.

    Actually, my second point is not an ad hom and here is why. Since intention and doctrine is part of episcopacy and apostolic succession, a defect in it is entirely germane to preserving it. For example, if like the REC, one thinks of it as preferable but not of divine right, then it isn’t necessary to preserve it in outward form and this is because such a view implies that it is a later accommodation rather than an apostolic institution.

    As I am not Catholic, it doesn’t concern me much one way or the other the argument you put forward regarding sexual abuse. But that is definitely fallacious since it turns on non-relevant factors regarding the truth of their belief, whereas mine did not. And so there is no comparison and hence no reductio here.

    Anglicans permit women deacons, priests and bishops which is a clear departure from the tradition. Even in those provinces that do not permit them, there is still open communion with such, which is about as acceptable as open communion with Arians.

    I do take Augustine seriously, but that doesn’t mean swallowing him whole. In any case, there is a significant difference for Augustine between unseen members of the saeculum which overlaps with the temporal church who are materially heterodox and open widespread formal heterodoxy. Consequently, Augustine will be of no help to establish the point you wish.

    Reply

    1. Perry,

      I am well aware that there is a difference between the maintenance of Episcopacy and Apostolic Succession. My point is that every bishop in the Anglican Communion has become Bishop by the laying on of hands of at least three other bishops who have maintained the Succession of bishops through and since the English Reformation.

      Now if Apostolic Succession is a magic grace controlled by the whim of a Pope then, given the Bull, we do not have such a charism; but if, as had long been the convention, it pertains to the laying on of hands by three or more bishops already so consecrated then we do indeed have Apostolic Succession. Moreover, there have been various understandings of what Apostolic Succession is and how it functions. For Tertullian, A.S. had to do with the teaching of the Apostles and not really a grace conferred and carried on. The point seems to be far more about preventing the heresies of the Early Church from claiming legitimacy than it does about even the consecration and charism of bishop – though for our own sake I think it providential that we kept the Succession.

      And so, it is possible, depending on how one tells the tale to locate the identity of Anglicanism both before and after the English Reformation. Certainly I would not want to deny, for instance, the line of Canterbury spanning unbroken to Augustine, nor the novum of Cranmer’s earliest liturgical work. I don’t really have the time or desire to make a full defense of Anglican identity though I could point to several significant works and historical peculiarities that set it apart from most other Reformation churches.

      As to our widespread practice I agree that the variance at times is far more than is acceptable or desirous in a Church, but at the same time I think it reveals the strength and possibilities of Episcopacy, and specifically our Episcopacy. Rather than the wonderful history of Christian Anathema, Bulls, et. al., we have, for whatever providential reason, mostly maintained a “Gamaliel Test” in matters of practice and doctrine. We have tended to let things work themselves out over time. Now, I wish certain persistently heretical bishops had been disciplined, and our Liturgical Rites been maintained with more uniformity, and many other things, but thank God that the keeping of His Church is not left only to me!

      As to Women priests and bishops (there have been and should be more women deacons in Orthodoxy), I also don’t wish to enter into a full debate about such a thing. I will perhaps only comment that it is obvious that there are elements and doctrines both in Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy which have grown over time and have been Traditioned. This is a right and good and inevitable thing that Churches Tradition and are Traditioned, but what has been rightly emphasised in Anglicanism at least since Hooker is the proclivity and ability for self deception to mar even the Spirit’s own progressive sanctification of a Body, even THE Body.

      The tendency in Orthodoxy has been to locate the authority for Traditioning in the unique and exclusive identity of Orthodoxy as THE ONE true Church and in the RCC to locate it in the authority of the Pope and the church’s exclusivity. In Anglicanism we do have a bit of a Reformation bug in us, often to our detriment, sometimes to our glory, that says that our Church can error because of our fallen state and so we will need Renewal and even Reformation from time to time. I prefer to locate Women’s Ordination along this plain of Traditioning as process as well as some fair and judicious historical investigation and iconoclasm of what really was the practices of the so-called “Early Church.”

      But again, I don’t really want to legitimate Anglicanism over against other Churches per se, so much as I want to locate it in the ongoing work of the Spirit.

      As to “Intention” I find such a concept to be odd and completely unnecessary in regards to the reception of Grace. One’s own intention need not be fixed to receive Grace – otherwise what would become of paedobaptism!? And so the reality of low-church-calvinist-evangelicals in Anglicanism is no barrier to Apostolic Succession as the “intention” is built into the very structure of the Church especially as it revived the Episcopacy after having been forced into Presbyterianism.

      And finally I disagree with your interpretation of Augustine. The point is not that it is to be expected that there are accidental and secret heretics in the temporal Church but that we Commune even with the open heretics: Christ with Judas is a perfect example as is Christ’s parable about the Tares and Wheat.

      Peace,
      Tony

      Shawn,

      I am also curious about your relationship with the Orthodox. I agree with Perry, if they are allowing you to Commune they are obviously going against their canons.

      There have historically been “warm” relations with most Orthodox Churches but we are not in any sort of formal Communion.

      Now, there is a massive amount of overlap and I would point you in a couple directions.
      – There have been three “official” Anglican/Orthodox Dialogues of progressively more intensive discussion. The most recent is so moving that I must confess as to being overcome by emotion reading it. It was almost like I was hearing what it meant to be a part of the Church for the first time. You can find all three online or in print.

      “The Vision Before Us” is an incredibly convenient book which outlines all of the various Ecumenical Dialogues taking place between Anglicans and other Churches. A truly great book to go through.

      I have a special interest in Ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox and Pentecostal churches and I hope by God’s grace to participate in such discussions.

      Reply

  8. Shawn,

    Either Anglicanism isn’t a Protestant sect or it hasn’t maintained it.

    I think your reading of Apostolicae Curae is mistaken. The key issue there was whether the Anglicans had maintained a sacerdotal intention or not. This was the entire point of the Nag’s Head Fable. Without preserving the proper doctrine in that respect, there was no more apostolic succession.

    If they did and Rome is wrong, it is hard to see how sacerdotalism fits in with Classical Protestantism since it was a key point that they rejected against Rome.

    I am confused as to why you think the Anglicans are or ever have been in communion with the Orthodox since they aren’t now and not at any time in the past. The Orthodox have never formally recognized Anglican orders and do not even recognize Catholic orders for that matter. Anglicans are not permitted for example to take communion in Orthodox Churches.

    Reply

  9. Perry,

    I appreciate you spurring on my endeavors, and want to answer in length. However, I am not ashamed to admit when I have waded out into deep waters, and I, my friend, am not sure how to answer your challenges (I have only been Episcopalian for a year, and my education comes from the broader, evangelical protestant traditions). Consequently, I am going to begin researching – can you tolerate a discussion protracted over several days/weeks?

    To begin with, though, I think that documents like these…

    http://orthodoxanglican.net/downloads/romania.pdf

    have lead me to believe that Orthodoxy (fringe sects of Orthodoxy perhaps?)is in communion with Anglican/Episcopal churches. Additionally, I have good relationships with those from the Greek Orthodox Church in my town, and have always been welcome to take communion with them. So, forgive my reluctance to accept your points without further scrutiny. Your claims do not match my personal experience thus far. However, I can certainly entertain the idea that my personal experience has not been representative of the broader traditions.

    Blessings,

    Shawn

    Reply

  10. Shawn,

    Sure, we can discuss this over time. I’m in no hurry.

    As for your local Orthodox parish, if laymen are saying that you can partake of the Eucharist, they are in clear violation of their own canons. I seriously doubt your local priest would knowingly permit you to do so and even less the bishop. Usually priests inform the congregation that the Eucharist is reserved for Orthodox Christians who have prepared themselves to receive.

    My wife for example was received from TEC and upon chrismation was required to renounce all of the false teachings of the Episcopal church. She was not permitted to take communion before either.

    The Orthodox do not recognize validity outside of their church. The documents you refer to were part of an effort by mainly Anglo-Catholics to gain recognition of Anglican orders over and against Rome.

    Some of the Orthodox patriarchates did recognize Anglican orders, but others did not and the whole thing fell through since there was no unanimity among the Patriarchates.

    One of the reasons it fell through was because once it became apparent that the representatives in the dialog were high churchmen and didn’t necessarily represent the faith of the CofE since low church non-sacerdotal readings were perfectly acceptable as well.

    And even more so no, since the TEC ordains women, the Orthodox most certainly do not believe that the TEC has valid orders.

    Reply

  11. Perry,

    Frankly, your questions raise a lot of issues that have been issues for me all of my academic career (admittedly brief thus far). Simply, I understand the position driving the need for creedal/polity/sacerdotal purity within Christian sectarianism. However, I also see a clear ecumenical tone in the New Testament, and I just don’t know how to bridge that gap (because one group, the RCC for instance, demanding that everyone fall into line just isn’t working). Surely, when Paul wrote that the Spirit of God brings unity, he wasn’t talking about unity just within the Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or Protestant churches. He was talking about the holy, catholic Church.

    So, your interaction is welcome and appreciated, but I think I am going to have to reply to these issues with a post at some point. Please, continue to contribute your opinion to our site. I think you’ll find all of the theophiliacs appreciate the honest questions and challenges that our readers bring.

    Shawn

    Reply

  12. Shawn,

    Your point about Paul I think turns on the assumption that the respective traditions you mention are wrong. I am not sure why your gloss of the NT material gets to assume that without question or demonstration. Likewise to speak of the “holy catholic church” in the way you do seems to assume an ecclesiology that none of the others accept and presupposes that they are false. I also do not see how the sin of schism from the church is possible on such a view. As for what is working, I’d make a friendly suggestion to consider similar cases with say the Nestorians and Monophysites. Do you think it is acceptable to open communion with them as well or no? If not, why not? If not, is your model “working” or no?

    Reply

  13. Adhunt,

    Your point serves to substantiate tactual succession at most, but by itself it is insufficient to demonstration that the CofE has maintained episcopacy in terms of apostolic succession.

    Talking about the Roman view of grace as “magic” is rather pejorative and frankly a strawman, as Rome recognizes orders outside of its communion as valid, such as the case with the Orthodox.

    As I noted above, the mere laying on of hands is insufficient for apostolic succession since the latter entails the notion of sacerdotalism. For the Apostolic Fathers, of which Tertullian is not one, it is true that apostolic succession entails a passing on of teaching, but it isn’t less than tactual succession either. If you wish to maintain that there is no grace conferred then I’d suggest two problems. First, you are going to run into the biblical material where Paul for instance certainly talks as if it does. Second, you will only be able to maintain the thesis that the CofE maintains apostolic succession by equivocation since neither Rome nor the Orthodox hold such a view. Such a victory seems Pyrrhic.

    Moreover, if you wish to restrict it to a succession of doctrine, one wonders why a threefold ministry is necessary as well as wondering how certainly doctrines aren’t demonstratable by scripture or legitimate tradition. Likewise, it seems implausible that Rome and the Orthodox and pre-Reformation CofE preserved the doctrine of sacerdotalism but the post-Reformation CofE did not and that the idea of only doctrinal succession succession said doctrine.

    In any case, it isn’t clear from what you’ve said that you wish to claim the idea of apostolic succession for the CofE. On the one hand you seem to want to deny sacerdotalism and that episcopacy is of divine right and on the other that the CofE has maintained apostolic succession, even though that concept entails the former two.

    As a former Anglican, I am well aware of the gloss to understand the history of English Christianity in the way you suggest. Even if we go with that though, post Reformation Anglicanism is a mix. Either it seems to me you must maintain that it is a Protestant sect or it isn’t. If it is, then sacerdotalism and apostolic succession go out the window. If it isn’t, then intention is directly relevant to the validity of orders.

    As this is a blog conversation, I am not asking for an exhaustive defense. As for works, I have a fairly extensive personal library of Anglican works. Perhaps you think there is some principle work that is the best your tradition has to offer that you’d suggest.

    As for the Gamaliel test, it is far too wide to be a sufficient condition as the Mormons out number Episcopalians in the US and by mid century out number global Anglicanism. Besides, where now has the doctrinal succession gone?
    As for women deacons, I know of no such thing. I know that there have been deaconesses which by the canons of ecumenical councils must be past the age of menstruation or widows and were largely limited to convents. That is hardly comparable to the sacerdotal office of a deacon. Moreover, I am aware of some far left Orthodox laymen who argue that deaconesses are female deacons. This is part of the wider strategy in various traditions to push female deacons through as a camel’s nose for women’s ordination. In any case, you can count such people on one hand.

    All of that said, female priests and bishops are a clear deviation from scripture and tradition, no to mention homosexual marriage or ordaining openly homosexual clergy to the highest ranks. I do not say this to be mean, as a former Anglican I am well aware how painful such truths are to those of a more traditional disposition, but this does not make them truths nonetheless. Here there is no succession of doctrine or practice as even the most ardent and educated advocates of WO and homosexual ordination admit.

    As for what you mean by traditioned, it seem stop imply some kind of doctrinal development. Of course the Orthodox reject such idealistic theories, though Rome endorses some form of one. Moreover your gloss seems to presuppose that doctrine is something deduced or derived. You are certainly free to view it in this way. But I’d offer that doctrine is handed down, not deduced. The former entails a religion of tradition while the latter a religion of reason. It seems clear to me that what the Apostles had in mind was the former and not the latter.

    As for the ongoing work of the Spirit, I recall an anecdote from I believe Fr. Florovsky when dinning with an Episcopal bishop who remarked that women’s ordination was a new move of the Spirit. Fr. Florovsky remarked in his thick Russian accept, “I have no doubt that it is the work of a spirit, but which spirit is it?”

    If you find the notion of intention odd, then Augustine’s writings against the Donatists must strike you as extremely odd as the idea was a key component in his argument against them. The doctrine of intention has to do not with the reception as with the office holder performing the rite. How those are disposed to receive is another matter entirely. Moreover, in infant baptism two gifts are given, one according to nature and the other to person. The first requires no assent on the part of the recipient and the latter does, which is why it does not become active until such a time as the person employs it later in life. Anglican theologians of the high church tradition linked this with conversion.

    If intention is unnecessary though, then I think you’ll be endorsing an ex opera operato theory far stronger than even Augustine. In which case it’d be hard to see not only how it constitutes a succession of doctrine as well as fending off any charge of sacerdotalism since such an idea will entail it.

    The reality of low churchmen denying that the CofE is sacerdotal and altering ordinals to make that point, as was the case with the Edwardine BCP for example, is actuallyquite relevant.

    As to open heretics, I quite disagree. Augustine himself went to great lengths not to commune with open heretics such as the Arians. He explicitly denies that it is permissible to commune with such people, even if they are part of the official church. We could add to this the testimony of Athanasius, the Cappadocians, Leo and Cyril among others. And the case of Judas doesn’t wash, as Judas error was moral and not theological.

    Reply

  14. Tony,

    Regarding the Orthodox in my community – I apologize for leaving the impression that I have participated in the Eucharist – I have not. I have several Orthodox who are colleagues, friends, and students. We all have very cordial relationships and they have been very open and welcoming of me as TEC. So, whether or not they would serve the Eucharist to me has not been tested in practice. Again, sorry for the miscommunication (I seem to be doing a lot of that late, grrrr).

    Regarding your other points, I think the ecumenical dialogue that you and Perry have referred to has some how worked out as more substantive in the personal relationships I enjoy. I know that you have both affirmed that while the Orthodox Church has entertained talks to one degree or another there has been no official position decided by the Orthodox Church.

    Perry,

    I must apologize. I have been guilty in the past of rhetorically framing my posts in order to be provocative.

    I do not mean to say that schismatic groups within the church are not in danger of judgment. I do not mean to say that there is not a clearly delineated historical account of the differences that drove these groups to separate. If anything, I meant to communicate that it grieves me that these issues have yet to be resolved. It grieves me, in the case of Nestorianism for instance, that we latch on to certain modes of communicating truth and offer no flexibility to differing perspectives. While I am not advocating Nestorianism, I can “walk in their shoes” and with little effort understand how their differences may have only been semantic. In other words, I believe Christianity has more than just orthodoxy to validate it – there is also an orthopraxy which validates it.

    I’ll try to write a little more technically in order to dodge these types of miscommunications.

    Shawn

    Reply

  15. Perry,

    Thank you for your continued thoughtful responses.

    I’m going to try to keep the ship steered toward the general theme of the original post which I’m assuming will be further elucidated in Part II.

    As to whether Anglicanism is sacradotal and/or whether it intends to be sacradotal I think are possibly answerable questions. If I can at least assert by historical precedent that they are will that be at least barely sufficient enough to allow for the continued possibility of Anglicanism’s Apostolic character?

    1 – I think we should consider a few historical events in Anglicanism’s history. A) At the time of the Reformation the C of E took pains to maintain the Episcopacy in keeping with the Tradition of the ‘laying on of hands.’

    B) It maintained the general shape of Christian devotion as the normed norm for inclusivity, that is the rule of lex orandi lex credendi as opposed to a Confession or Catechism.
    1) The shape of this devotion in the form of the BCP has the implicit necessity of the three-fold structure of ministry
    2) Even incredibly late and slightly ‘liberal’ BCP’s such as the ’79 are given to an even hightened sense of sacradotalism in the priesthood giving even a Rite of Confession and one for the Visiting of the Sick.

    So the truest rule by which to judge intention, as with any Church, is in how it worships and by what it says it believes. Historically even against the broader Reformation movements Anglicanism built into its own structure the sacramental priesthood and continues to maintain such a position even in its latest Prayer Book revisions.

    * * *

    In regards to books I’ve found Charles Gore’s book on “Roman Catholic Claims” to be incredibly helpful. Obviously the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Polity. In more recent times Michael Cantaur’s “The Gospel and the Catholic Church” is excellent and more recently, and this is especially relevant to discussions of intercommunion, is Ephraim Radner’s “Hope Amongst the Fragments: A Broken Church and Its Engagement with Scripture” and “The End of the Church: A Pneumatology of Christian Division in the West” and finally, if you can get past the thick influence from Continental philosophy, Graham Ward’s “Cities of God”

    Reply

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