Advice From Jewel the Obscure to New Anglican Converts
I am often asked by those new to Anglicanism how to come to know what authentic Anglicanism is, in light of the confused mess that we see in North America, the UK and other places. I hope this helps.
Unlike many ecclesiastical jurisdictions that arose out of the Protestant Reformation only to have passed out of existence and re-formed into new manifestations, the Church of England and its daughter churches have remained in continuous existence since the Reformation.
Her legally established defining standards were finalised in 1571 for the Articles (with attached Homilies) and in1662 for the Book of Common Prayer (and attached Ordinal).
These remain un-rescinded, un-changed, and still definitive. Even GAFCON acknowledges that in the 2008 Jerusalem Declaration.
The problem we have, is this; Anglicanism is large. There are an estimated 90 million Anglicans worldwide. It is the third largest Christian group in the world after Roman Catholicism (1.3 billion) and Eastern Orthodoxy (220 million).
As with every denomination, the older a church grows, the more it accumulates false sons, non-conformist factions and pretenders. Being old and large has allowed Anglicanism’s false sons, factions, and pretenders to grow even larger than many denominations.
It is not that other churches don’t have tumours and parasites also, it is just that our tumours and parasites have grown so grotesquely large that many now block from view the infected host, our historic Anglican faith.
These churchmen behave like aggressive tumours yet have not changed what Anglicanism has self-defined itself to be. However, they have unfailingly repeated that their non-conformities and deviations are “the real thing” long enough to convince many.
To be a conforming confessional Anglican in this day and age, you have to block out the noise and look past the ecclesiastical poseurs.
You have to go to the historic Formularies as they have stood for centuries, as they were legally finalised and established AND you have to go to the primary sources, the English Reformers who wrote the Formularies honestly asking yourself “what did they intend and what was the context of what they wrote?” This is Exegesis 101 level stuff.
What you do not do, is go to the writings of the later false sons, the sly non-conforming children of the Tractarians and those factions who deviated from the original literal sense of the Formularies for your understanding of Anglicanism… again, you go to her martyred fathers, the primary authors of the Formularies and their writings.
The fact that we have had for over 100 years partisan bishops who have failed to enforce, defend, and discipline deviations from the Formularies does not mean that the Formularies, or their meaning and original intent, has changed.
It means simply that we have been plagued with partisan bishops who should never have been consecrated as bishops.
No bishop has the authority to change or depart from the very thing he was charged to protect and defend.
We measure the “authenticity” of the various Anglican jurisdictions, as we have always done, by the degree of their conformity or non-conformity to the Formularies.
Contrary to a popular myth, you are not “Anglican” simply because you use liturgy and have bishops.
Under that standard, you can believe anything and be anything you want. Which is what revisionist “Anglicans” would like you to believe, eliminating the word “Common” from our faith and prayer in favour of a buffet table approach to defining Anglicanism. Sadly, far too many have fallen for that view especially in North America.
If you want to be an authentically Anglican churchman in the modern era, you need to keep your head and not get confused or distracted by the cacophony of myriad misrepresentations that all have megaphones.
Go to the Formularies and the writings of the men who wrote them.
Read them in context according to (as the preface to the 39 Articles clearly state) their literal grammatical sense, using the basic tools of exegesis we all should have learned in Exegesis 101 in seminary.
Be a conforming Anglican and subscribe to them openly and honestly so that you are not one of those who engage in false advertising and misrepresent Anglicanism as a ‘wax nose’ to suit your own theological and liturgical predilections and fancies.
Jewel the Obscure