Skip to comments.Anglicanism: Protestant or Catholic
Posted on 08/20/2007 6:16:40 AM PDT by Alex Murphy
Anglicanism is the most debated form of Christianity. It is judged in a variety of ways not only by outsiders and spectators, but also by Anglicans themselves. Even for a person who has spent a great part of his life in the world of Anglicanism, it is not easy to disentangle the knot of misunderstanding about Anglicanism.
A first point of discussion is whether Anglicanism should be considered part of Protestantism. In many of its expressions, particularly among those who are called AngloCatholics, Anglicanism shows striking resemblance to Roman Catholicism. Today we can even find Anglican churches in which the interior differs in no way from that of a Roman Catholic church. Anglican churches in which The Lord's Supper is again considered the sacrifice of the Mass; in which the priest wears Catholic vestments; and in which nearly all the Roman Catholic devotions such as benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, recitation of the rosary, and veneration of Mary and the saints have been introduced.
However, by far the majority of Anglicans find this all as strange as does a Dutch Protestant. In any case, whatever judgement may be formed of AngloCatholicism from the viewpoint of the Roman Catholic Church, the official conduct of Anglican churches should not be measured by AngloCatholic criteria: this would, a priori, render a proper understanding of the activities of these churches impossible. As opposed to AngloCatholic Anglicans there are many other Anglicans whose vision of the nature of the Christian religion, the Church, the sacraments, and the gospel is typically Protestant. As a result of their insular formation many Anglicans scarcely know how much of the Reformation heritage they share in their faith, thought, and actions.
It may be true that Anglicans generally do not like to be called Protestant, and that Anglicanism as it presents itself today should not simply be considered part of Protestantism. On the Catholic as well as on the Protestant side there is a fairly recent widespread opinion that Anglicanism is closer to the Roman Catholic Church than to the Reformation. This notion had its origin in the nineteenth century Oxford Movement, which was a Catholicizing revival. It has left permanent traces in the total picture of Anglicanism today, but in the form it has assumed in later AngloCatholicism, it has remained a foreign and isolated element in the world of Anglican churches. [webmaster's note: John Keble's sermon that started all this, National Apostasy Preached at St. Mary's, Oxford, on July 14, 1833.]
As a result of the lively activity and propaganda displayed by AngloCatholicism for over a century, many people have come into contact with Anglicanism by way of AngloCatholicism. Consequently, many of these people have the impression that Anglicanism belongs in principle to the Catholic type of Christianity and that it has been influenced by the sixteenth century Reformation and Protestantism only accidentally and superficially.
Such a neoAnglican vision is untenable. It is contrary to the historical facts, if all the facts, documents and data are taken into consideration. This neoAnglican vision is based on a onesided, arbitrary interpretation of the ecclesiastic and religious events which took place during the troubled and confused reign of Henry VIII. It also disregards the distinct Reformation characteristics of Anglican preaching and writing in the sixteenth century, to the present day. Moreover, it is based on serious misconceptions of the deepest essence of the Reformation, and of the real content, purport, and intention of the teaching and theology of the Roman Catholic Church.
On the other hand, in reaction to liberalism and lawlessness on the part of AngloCatholics within the Protestant Episcopal Church, many abandoned the denomination, and established independent jurisdictions which were staunchly AngloCatholic in theology and practice, but of a conservative nature in other respects. None of these independent Churches, however, are recognized by Canterbury or any other of the national Churches of the Anglican Communion.
Finally freed from the restrictions of Canon Law and church custom, these AngloCatholics were able to establish Tractarian parishes along ultraMontagne ritualist lines, furnishing their own Romish clergy as well, most of who had not been ordained in the P.E.C.U.S.A. or trained in her seminaries. Ostensibly, they claimed to have broken with the mother church over the use of the 1928 BCP and the introduction of the 1979 BCP, which they regarded as heretical.
But instead of retaining the 1928 BCP, these AngloCatholic groups wasted no time in introducing a novelty of their own and insinuating it upon an often unwitting laity. The Anglican Missal, and AngloCatholic version of the Roman Mass in English, quickly supplanted the Book of Common Prayer in the majority of parishes of the splinter Churches, and in many instances its use was made mandatory.
Paradoxically, those who claimed it necessary to split from the P.E.C.U.S.A. because of the introduction of a new Prayer Book became the promoters of a liturgy completely foreign to orthodox Anglican usage. The Anglican Missal is not really a substitute for the Prayer Book, as it contains only the liturgy for the Mass and rites incidental to the celebration of the Mass, such as making "holy" water and prayers for the dead. Along with the introduction of the Missal, the AngloCatholic clergy convinced their lay constituencies that the Missal was really the 1928 Book of Common Prayer with "proper" rubrics added to restore "catholic" orthodoxy to the liturgy destroyed by the Protestant Reformation and to correct "errors and flaws in the 1928 BCP." Of course, since AngloCatholicism insists upon having the Holy Communion (Mass or Holy Eucharist, as they call it) every Lord's Day, gullible congregations were tricked into accepting this substitute for the Prayer Book without complaint. They were not even aware they had been robbed, given paste for the gem of our Protestant Anglican heritage.
When first introduced by AngloCatholic clergy (illegally) to American congregations, the Anglican Missal was publicly condemned by over thirty bishops of the Church and forbidden in their Dioceses. High Church bishops, such as Dr. Manning of New York and Dr. Parsons of California were very outspoken in their rejection of the Missal as a "perversion and misrepresentation" of the Prayer Book. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church soundly rejected the Missal and condemned its use as a threat to Anglicanism in the country.
The origins of the Anglican Missal, in its British and American versions, cannot be dealt with herein. It is sufficient to say that it has never been an approved service book of the Anglican Communion, and itself bears little relation to the Book of Common Prayer. Yet, because of the ignorance of Epicopalian believers, regarding their own precious Book of Common Prayer, even conservative churchmen have been duped into accepting a lie. In their desire to protect their orthodox Christian heritage, they have unwittingly sacrificed a priceless portion of that heritage.
Yes, the 1928 BCP may still be found in the pews of these AngloRomanist churches: this is the unkindest cut of all, as it is a bold sham. One poor lady was even told that the Missal was really the Sarum Use of Salisbury Cathedral, which her monsignor regarded as the "purist" liturgy of Christendom!
The notion of many Reformed Protestants that Anglicanism was never really "reformminded" and thoroughly Protestant is, like the neoAnglican vision, based on a one sided judgement which sees the situation only from a Puritan viewpoint. But, as is evident from classical sixteenth century Anglican theology, it is impossible to explain the struggle between Anglicanism and Puritanism under Elizabeth I as a secret nostalgia for the Roman Church, or as an attempt to arrive at a compromise without principle.
If the Anglican Reformation ran a different course from that of the Lutheran and the other Reformed churches, this must be attributed not to after effects of Roman Catholic influences, but rather to certain typically English circumstances, to certain traits in the English national Character, and to the practical, humanistic character of English religiousness.
The bishops who laid the foundations of Anglicanism during the time of Elizabeth I were not striving for an unprincipled compromise between Romanism and Protestantism. In their writings there is not a trace of Romish sympathies. When they battled Puritanism, they were concerned about protecting the Church against premature and shortsighted abolition and against disorder and liturgical dissoluteness. As far as the episcopal government of the Church, the liturgy, and the sacraments were concerned, it is out of the question that the Anglican bishops of the time included anything of a Romish origin. Elizabeth I had no other aim than to give the Reformation movement its own austere form and style. But the Anglican Reformation never reached a static position where nothing could be changed or revoked. More than did Lutheran and Reformed Protestantism, Anglicanism succeeded in realizing the universal Christian ideals of the reformers. Yet, it also preserved a certain openness to the Catholic and the Reformed interpretations of the the faith. It has taken seriously the principle "ecclesia catholica semper reformanda" - the church catholic, always reforming. By nature Anglicanism has a wide vision. Moreover, it has a great reverence for what has grown slowly, what has been tried, what has been generally accepted - in short, for tradition (not to be confused with the Catholic concept of tradition).
It cannot be denied that in the course of time the vision of the true nature of the Reformation and of Protestantism has for many Anglicans been clouded. The rise of a pietistic subjectivism and liberal individualism has influenced many Anglicans to view Protestantism as a negative, destructive force which lacks repsect due to ageold Christian tradition and community values. To a great degree, AngloCatholicism has succeeded in wiping out the last traces of Anglicanism being related to the Reformation. This has in turn produced a kind of ecclesiastical and theological schizophrenia within worldwide Anglicanism, leaving the Communion deeply divided and to a great degree incapable of dealing with the many divisive issues of twentiethcentury Christianity.
AngloCatholicism, once embraced as a remedy against rationalism and humanism, has proved inadequate to the job. Historically foreign to the true tradition of English and American churchmanship, it has become exactly what it initially sought to combat: it is liberal, lawless, and radical in the extreme.
Anglicanism must be called back to its Reformation foundations and historic theology: without such a reclamation of its Protestant heritage, it is in danger of disappearing altogether. The ultimate decision for Anglican believers will not lie in choosing a Protestant or Catholic indentity, but in choosing between Papal and biblical Christianity.
---The Rev. Dr. James I. Packer is professor of Theology at Regent College, in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is also a senior editor, Visiting Scholar, and Institute Fellow for Christianity Today. This article is drawn from The Protestant Alliance
Anglicans are Protestants. Period. There is no debate here. There are only dreamers who want to pretend that Anglicans aren’t what they are.
If it’s not a Catholic Church, it’s Protestant. End of story.
Correct. I was raised in a church of "Anglo-Catholic" leanings and taught that the Anglican Church was truly apostolic. Fortunately, late in adulthood, I discovered that that was simply wrong. After much study, like John Henry Newman, I became Catholic (Thanks be to God!).
... or Orthodox.
True, what is fascinating about this article is that I pick up a fear by the author that High Church Anglicans are slipping towards reunion.
Kind of interesting.
Here’s one that’s pingworthy.
There is the special use Anglican rite in the Catholic Church.
Metaphysical & New Age. Protestant?
Greek Orthodox. Protestant?
Russian Orthodox. Protestant?
Christian Science. Protestant?
(Just to mention a few "Churches")
Oh Al! You poor man. I'm afraid you are becoming dotty in your old age.
Ah, well, yes and no. You can't really understand Anglicanism except as a mix of the two, with more or less "protestantism" in one place or another. That, and you can't really understand the "why" of that without a good grounding in English history, and the rationale (a mixture of religion and geopolitics and succession crises) behind the various wars fought between, say, 1400 and 1700.
Certainly in terms of polity and practice, Anglicanism is very much more Catholic than not. Anglicanism does, in fact, claim the Apostolic succession, and I believe that Rome accepts that to a point. As far as Anglicans are concerned, confirmed Catholics can be "received" into the Anglican Communion, whereas those from denominations must be confirmed.
In terms of theology, what passes for Anglicanism in one province may be much different than in some other province of the Anglican Communion. But no matter what province, you'll almost never see strict adherence to ideas like the "TULIP", which is the sort of thing that typically informs a real "protestant" viewpoint.
I think there may be a bit of confusion over what a ‘Protestant’ is. The Reformation was not a move away from scripture, but a call to return to it as the primary and in some ways sole source of Christianity. (Feel free to correct me if you believe I’m wrong on this, but explain why)
Groups that seek to ‘rewrite’ or create their ‘own’ Bible are not Protestant. I would question whether they should be called ‘Christian’, since a Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ, and groups which seek to add/change His teachings are no longer following Jesus, but rather their own leader/prophets, etc.
They have every right to exist and people have every legal right to follow whatever religion they choose, but if a group does not follow Christ, it is strange and in many ways deceitful for them to seek to use His name.
Reg, I understand your point that ‘not Catholic’ does not automatically = Protestant, but many of the groups you cite should not be considered ‘Christian’.
In the end though, is it the ‘denomination’ that we belong to which determines our salvation, or is it our knowing and being known by Christ, and our willing acceptance of Him as Lord and Saviour?
“Ah, well, yes and no.”
No. It is just “NO”.
“You can’t really understand Anglicanism except as a mix of the two, with more or less “protestantism” in one place or another. That, and you can’t really understand the “why” of that without a good grounding in English history, and the rationale (a mixture of religion and geopolitics and succession crises) behind the various wars fought between, say, 1400 and 1700.”
Thanks, I have all that. That’s EXACTLY why I know Anglicanism is Protestant. It has a tendency to claim some catholicity, but it possesses none.
“Certainly in terms of polity and practice, Anglicanism is very much more Catholic than not.”
Certainly not. Monarch as head of the Church? Not Catholic. Women priestesses and bishopesses (is that even a word?)? Not Catholic.
“Anglicanism does, in fact, claim the Apostolic succession, and I believe that Rome accepts that to a point.”
Nope. The Catholic Church, and some Anglicans to (before they converted to Catholicism), has always denied it.
“As far as Anglicans are concerned, confirmed Catholics can be “received” into the Anglican Communion, whereas those from denominations must be confirmed.”
That only hints at what we have, not at what Anglicans pretend to have. Donatists did the opposite. Augustine remarked that the Donatists refused to recognize Catholic baptism, while Catholics accepted the Donatists’ baptisms as valid. The Catholic Church always recognizes what is true even if it is not politically beneficial to it. So the Anglicans got something right on “receiving” Catholics? So what? That doesn’t prove that Anglicans have valid orders. It only proves that Anglicans recognize Catholics do.
“In terms of theology, what passes for Anglicanism in one province may be much different than in some other province of the Anglican Communion.”
Then how can they claim “catholic” as a mark of their sect? You’re proving my point for me.
“But no matter what province, you’ll almost never see strict adherence to ideas like the “TULIP”, which is the sort of thing that typically informs a real “protestant” viewpoint.”
No. TULIP is a strict Calvinist/Reformed approach. It is NOT the only Protestant approach. Anglicanism is a form of Protestantism. The Via media (which is a myth anyway) is Protestant, not Catholic.
Thanks for proving my point! I always like when someone who denies the truth goes so far to prove it!
Gee--that was one of the first things Martin Luther did. So I guess that means that the Lutherans and all those spinoffs from them "are not Protestant".
You haven't made a "point." You've made a claim, which you have not supported.
For example, what, in your view, defines "Protestant," or "Catholic?" You haven't said. How can we evaluate your claims without knowing their basis?
“You haven’t made a “point.” You’ve made a claim, which you have not supported.”
Then thanks for proving my unsupported claim!
“For example, what, in your view, defines “Protestant,” or “Catholic?” You haven’t said. How can we evaluate your claims without knowing their basis?”
I don’t care if you can evaluate my claims or not. Anyone who thinks Anglicanism somehow is and is not Catholic at the same time is not able to evaluate much of anything. The burden to prove that Anglicanism is Catholic is yours. To prove the opposite is not my burden. Can you for instance prove that women priests are a Catholic idea? Can you prove that women bishops is a Catholic idea? If not then you’re doomed to failure anyway.
Have a nice day!
You wrote: “Groups that seek to rewrite or create their own Bible are not Protestant.”
So where does that leave all of those self-admitted Protestant groups that cut the Deuterocanonicals from their new Bibles?
Since you offer no basis on which to evaluate your claims, you really don't bring anything other than shouting to this thread. Is that really what you want?
The burden to prove that Anglicanism is Catholic is yours.
Well, no. To review the bidding, you made the following (unsupported) statement: "Anglicans are Protestants. Period. There is no debate here. There are only dreamers who want to pretend that Anglicans arent what they are."
The burden of proof is on you, sir -- at least to define your terms, if not to defend your statement.
Since you've now confirmed your unwillingness and/or inability to back up what you say, I guess we can safely ignore your claims from here on out.
Thanks for playing.
BTW ... you're older.
Hmmm .... I wonder what they used as the primary source in the early decades/centuries before any of the New Testament was even written.
That would be the Old Testament Scriptures and, of course in the Diaspora, that would be the Septuigent. The Reformers, however, was fascinated with the new Hebrew learning and so deleted much of the Septuigent from their canon. The Reformers were so eager to get rid of the Vulgate and so caught up in the novelties of the new Scriptural scholarship, that they bought the bill of goods that Erasmus sold them: a Greek Testament based on inferior manuscripts. By and large the Vulgate in use in the 16th Century was a better translation than the vernacular translations based on the best Greek mauscripts available.
As for al_c, I suspect he was just pulling someone's chain. Certainly, he knows better. :-)
It is important to note that Catholicism in England pre-dated any missions from the Bishop of Rome and when Augustine of Canterbury arrived on a papal mission, he found many Celtic bishops who considered themselves fully Catholic and in full communion with the rest of the church. Catholicism in Britain pre-dated Papal claims in the same sense that it did in the eastern Orthodox world. The suppression of Catholicism by the protestants was not limited to severing ties with Papal authority but focused on the elimination of the sacramental form of worship, the Mass, the Saints, fasting, the Christian calendar - anything which the protestants linked to Catholic “superstitions”.
The point of this is that Anglo-Catholicism continued to exist under Protestant ecclesial rule and achieved a significant revival during the Oxford movement. Anglo Catholics and Anglo Protestants share many traditions from their common period, but it seems unlikely that their pathe will remain eclesiastically in common. With the current implosion of much of the Anglican communion the evangelical protestants are simply moving in one direction and the traditional Anglo Catholics in another.
So, if the author is simply arguing that the Church of England and Kate Schori and Vicky Gene's Episcopal Church are protestant, there is no argument. If he is arguing that the continuing Anglican churches are not part of the Anglican communion, he is also correct. We are not in communion with the CofE or TEC. However his claim that Anglicanism is not Catholic is simply historically ignorant. Only protestant Anglicanism is protestant, and even protestant Anglicans run the gamut from those who are similar to Luther to full bore Puritans to New Age Wiccans, Spongian agnostics and apparently, one Muslim priestess.
I yeild to your greyness, O.R.
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Traditional Anglican Poster's Comment: [Simply a polemic? My Anglo Catholic perspective is in post 27 --Huber]
ROTFL Oh yeah? I can remember making fun of a young man in my subdivision loading animals onto a boat before he even got it down to the docks - and that was during my first retirement. You?
Tell that to John Henry Newmann, probably the most prominent Anglo-Catholic that Britain ever produced.
Different issue. The difference between Newmann's conclusion and that of the continuing churches is not along Catholic/Protestant lines but more along Catholic/Orthodox lines. To my knowledge, an Anglo-Catholic church, within the Apostolic succession but outside of both the Holy See and the Church of England did not exist in Newmann's time. While there are some doctrinal difference between Rome and the Eastern Churches in addition to that of Papal Authority (see "filioque"), each considers the other part of the historical and Catholic church.
Or would you call the Orthodox church "protestant"?
Well, when I was Episcopalian, I was taught that the Episcopal Church DID have a valid "Apostolic succession", and that church WAS the same as that which existed in Newmann's time.
And I never mentioned the word "Orthodox" at all. The Catholic church acknowledges that the Orthodox churches DO have a valid Apostolic succession.
Do the Orthodox/Oriental Churches consider the Anglo-Catholics to be Apostolic?
Marking for later read.
So one could argue the validity of apostolic succession, but that is a historical rather than a theological argument, and certainly NOT a protestant argument.
In our case, we have only been independent from TEC, etc since 1977. The eastern church, which has been around for 2,000 years, doesn’t move that quickly. (How many years did it take from the Schism in 1054 until constructive dialog with Rome?)
This prof is a bit nutty on the issue of Anglo-Catholics.
I used to be one, so I'm apparently a good deal better informed than he is (or pretends to be). He glosses completely over the early history of Queen Elizabeth and the Anglican Church, and he misrepresents a good deal of later history (e.g. the Oxford Movement and the Tractarians).
He clearly has an axe to grind. I would not take him seriously if I were you.
The validity of apostolic succession is the one thing that constitutes a valid church. And the original argument was whether "Anglo-Catholics" were Catholic. Without a valid apostolic succession, the answer is simply "no, they aren't".
I'm not sure what this prof's particular motive is in publishing this screed, but he is totally dishonest about the historical background, and that's enough for me to write him off right away.
J.I. Packer is apparently highly respected in the Evangelical wing (and I recall we have one of his books in the parish library). This doesn't sound like what little I've read of his, so I just have to wonder what's up. Or... maybe he genuinely dislikes Anglo-Catholicism, rather like David Virtue.
After spending all of my life as a Baptist, I switched to an Anglican Church and to me it is much more Catholic than Protestant! JMO!
The Orthodox need to answer that one, so I will ping a few. (We may have to wait a bit for an answer from K.)
I have also been told that they perceive some of the Orthodox phronema in Anglicanism. But again, that's for them to say.
Thank you for the answer, Huber. Thank you for the Orthodox ping, sionnsar.
I would say the same thing about the Lutheran church if I were raised a Baptist and then became Lutheran: “Much more Catholic than Protestant.” But the reality would be that it was founded and led by Protestants, grounded in Protestant doctrines, has deliberately NOT associated itself with the Catholic Church and DOESN’T want to be Catholic. That’s Protestant. That’s isn’t Catholic. It might seem more Catholic than Protestant to me if I started out from an extremely low church sect like the Baptists, but that wouldn’t change the fact that the Lutherans (and Anglicans) are still Protestants.
Even this Anglican parish is still PROTESTANT: http://www.s-clements.org/flash.html
They even say the Rosary!!! They’re still Protestant.
I think he either is out of his area of expertise or has let some sort of emotion cloud his judgment.
And you would be rather self-consistent in saying so.
The Deuterocanonicals were NOT formally recognized until Trent, AFTER Luther sided with the scholarly school of thought which rejected their canonicity. Until Luther various loyal Roman Catholic scholars doubted whether they should be included in the canon. The very reason they are called “deuterocanonical” instead of just canonical is because even Rome recognizes their 2ndary authority to the rest of scripture.
Also, the word “catholic” has the definition of “universal.” All non-Roman Catholic churches consider themselves a part of Christ’s universal church, as do of course the Anglicans. So yes, as they understand the term universal, Anglicans are Catholic. Of course those submitted to the Bishop of Rome say they alone are The one and only universal church.
To the rest of us this seems so much arrogant nonsense.
One would be well served not to dismiss J. I. Packer. This guy is an extremely well qualified and distinguished professor (well into his 90s now I believe) and is definitely an expert in Reformation history; he would be able to back up every assertion he makes. Packer has many volumes to his credit, including translations of reformation era books.
From what I know of the English Reformation, Anglican roots have more to do with a compromise between Lutheran and Reformed ideas—along with a heavy Roman Catholic appearance and polity...ALL very English of course, than the more commonly asserted via-media between Roman Catholicism and Reformed Protestantism.
It’s complicated—and varies a lot between parishes and provinces.