Today I encountered an article that was rather concerning. It was written by Dr. Winfield Bevins, and posted on Anglican Pastor entitled, “Whatever happened to the Anglican Via Media?”. It is in essence it is a plea for Anglican unity. The article I found to be concerning in that:
1. The definition of the Via Media offered in this piece is theologically inaccurate. The Anglican Church is Protestant and Reformed, as evidenced by the theology of the BCP, the Ordinal and the 39 Articles. The definition of Via Media being between Rome and Canterbury was coined by the Tractarians (who were trying to justify their attempt reshaping Anglicanism into the image of Roman Catholicism.)
2. The Promotion of a theologically ‘multi-streamed’ Anglicanism. One would be at great pains to see how the BCP, the Ordinal and the 39 Articles endorse the notion that one can be theologically Evangelical; or theologically Liberal, or theologically Anglo-Catholic or theologically Charismatic and all four can claim to be authentically Anglican
3. The Promotion of false unity – The unity promoted by Bevins is not true unity, it is organisational unity that stresses unity based on the least common denominator, the term ‘Anglican’ (whatever you hold that to be), i.e. the thing that we can all agree on, which is “We are all Anglicans”.
It reminds of how some years ago the Archbishop of Canterbury in a conversation with the Church Of Ireland Gazette, stated he saw the Anglican Church in North America as being (in his words):“a fellow member of the church of Christ in the world,” but added the “ACNA is a separate church. It is not part of the Anglican Communion.” His comments are indicative of the thinking that defines being an Anglican organisationally and institutionally rather than theologically.
This article has done the same thing. Instead of the basis of unity being the Scriptures, the BCP, the ordinal the 39 Articles and the creeds, the basis is now something else entirely, a new focal point of unity and what that something else is, is labelled ‘Anglican.
For example Bevins states:
Regardless of which camp you are in, Anglicans are united in the essential “catholic” doctrines of the Christian faith.
I would stop him and there say, “Yes and the essential ‘catholic’ doctrines are those expressed in the BCP, the Ordinal, and the BCP, which are Protestant and Reformed”
However further on writes:
The Catholic, Evangelical, Broad, and Charismatic divide is just the beginning of the diversity within Anglicanism.
This leads me to ask the question, why would the ABC, Benfields or any Anglican define being Anglican in such a way that it leads to the Scriptures, the BCP, the 39 Articles and the creeds being bypassed?
Sadly I suspect the reason is one of avoidance.
Shifting the focal point of Anglican Unity from the BCP, the Ordinal, the 39 Articles and the Creeds will:
- Avoid accountability. It will ensure that no-one within the Anglican Church will have their theology and praxis critiqued in light of Scripture, the BCP, the Ordinal and the 39 Articles. It means that those within the Anglican Communion whose theology and praxis is aberrant will not be accountable.
- Avoid offending people; particularly Bishops, Priests, Deacons and to some extend laity within the Anglican Communion whose theology and praxis are dissonant from the Scriptures, the BCP and the 39 Articles.
- Avoid having to actually deal with the white elephant in the room – that within the Anglican Communion we have very different belief systems in operation, with incompatible views of what the Gospel is; the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ and regarding the authority of the Scriptures.
So if an Anglican church has a priest who believes that the Holy Spirit is a woman, whose Bishop that declares Jesus death was not propitiatory, an Archdeacon who believes Jesus resurrection was not physical, the Rector’s Warden who believes that there is no need for repentance, the Vestry who believe that all are saved and one can live how they like as long as they are faithful to their own spiritual journey (however they define their journey); the Assistant Curate who believes that the Scriptures are not the Word of God written; the postulant who thinks that the 39 Articles are really just the 39 Artifacts; none of this matters. ‘Anglicans’ can continue to thumb their nose at the Scriptures, the BCP, the Ordinal, the Creeds, and in good conscience say they are a true Anglicans and are all united as Anglicans because “this is just the beginning of the diversity within Anglicanism”.
This diversity is in reality one big fudge, for the only way it will be maintained is by no-one saying anything about anything or by saying that everyone is correct, which sadly is what this article is saying.
The Principal of Sydney’s Moore Theological College, the Rev Dr Mark Thompson wrote:
The Anglican Church has always been confessional in nature, as witnessed by the history of subscription to the Articles, which began in the time of Cranmer and continues around the world today.
Long may this continue!
As Andrew Brashier says in his very good response to Bevins entitled Holding the Centre, or Moving Goalposts:
As to teachings that go beyond the boundaries of our common center we must state in unison, thus far and no further.
Could not say it better myself.