Where Do We Go from Here?
On 29 January of 2000, Archbishops Moses Tay of Singapore and Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda consecrated two American clerics as missionary bishops to provide a lifeboat to disaffected clergy and members of the Episcopal Church USA. The Rt Revd John Rodgers, ThD was one of those men. The work started was known as the Anglican Mission in America.
Rodgers earned his ThD under the tutelage of Dr Karl Barth in Switzerland before embarking on a pastoral, then educational career within the Episcopal Church. He was Dean of Faculty at Virginia Theological Seminary and later, Dean & President of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania.
Rodgers was one of the key speakers at the first GAFCON conference held in Jerusalem of 2008. This article and the two others which will follow are from Rodgers’ address to the gathering. We print this in light of the similarities of the times in 2000 and 2022. Rodgers was tasked with offering an idea of a way forward for Global Anglicanism much like the GSFA and GAFCON archbishops are having to face now.
He is still active at 91 years of age.
Bishop John’s address follows.
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” (Acts 2:42, ESV)
The task assigned to me is to suggest how we as faithful Anglicans are to protect and live out in common life and mission, the precious inheritance of Apostolic Christianity which has been given and entrusted to us by God. We are to do this at a time when portions of the Anglican Communion are no longer faithful to that inheritance and trust and in which the Communion’s instruments of unity and oversight have not proven capable to protect and advance this gift and calling.
We need a brief description of what faithful Anglicanism is in order to indicate what we need to do to prove faithful in our situation. Faithful Anglicanism is an expression of reformed Catholicism. The Anglican family has its roots in the Western Catholic Church. From the early days of the Church we existed prior to a relationship of obedience to the Bishop of Rome under whose oversight and care we Anglicans subsequently came. As such we are part of the Catholic Church. At the Reformation of the 16th Century, in obedience to the Apostles’ teaching, we found that in good conscience we could no longer remain in submission to unreformed papal authority, doctrine and practice in a number of areas and centrally in the application of God’s grace to sinners, as the 39 Articles make clear. Thus we were reformed by the Apostolic Word. Hence Anglicanism is reformed Catholicism seeking in all things to be faithful to the Word of God written. As the Anglican family expanded around the Globe five abiding marks of faithful Anglicanism arose. These are: 1, a common faith, 2, a common celebration of the Word and the sacraments of the Gospel, 3, a common ministry, 4, a common mission and 5, a common global family or communion. Each of these marks has become problematic to one degree or another, resulting in a loss of unity in the Anglican Communion as a whole and in parts of the Communion resulting in internecine warfare. What we, as faithful Anglicans, need to do, can best be addressed in the context of a brief comment on each of the five marks.
II What we need to do
1. A Common Faith
Faithful Anglicanism is above all biblical. Canon A5 of the Church of England states: “The doctrine of the Church of England is grounded in the holy Scriptures, and in such teachings of the ancient Fathers and Councils of the Church as are agreeable to the said Scriptures. In particular such doctrine is to be found in the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, the Book of Common Prayer and the Ordinal.” From 1571 until the 20th Century this would be an accurate description of the official Faith of Anglicans and remains the official Faith of many of the Provinces to this day, though in some of those Provinces they are neglected in education and practice In many of the Western Provinces the Articles exercise no actual authority and are often contradicted by the prevailing popular theology taught in the seminaries and in the congregations. Since the Articles assert and apply the Authority of Scripture, affirm the Catholic Creeds which are scriptural, and center in the great themes of grace to sinners as found in the Apostles teaching ( Articles 9 through 12 ), to neglect the Articles invites a fall from the Gospel, from Scriptural faithfulness and into biblical ignorance. Therefore the Articles need to be restored to their proper prominence in stating the Common Faith of Anglicans.
There will need to be ways in which the Scriptures and the interpretative perspective of the Articles can be addressed to contemporary issues arising within the Communion, such as is done in the Lambeth Conference resolutions. These, along with the Articles, will need to have genuine authority in the Communion. There will also need to be a process of discipline that can address departures in doctrine and ethics from the plain teaching of the Scriptures, the Creeds the Articles and the common mind of the Church. Only by such clarity and discipline can the faithful unity and mission of the Church be maintained and furthered. We dare not be vague for there is no unity except in Christ as He is known and confessed in accord with the Apostles teaching.
(A word concerning the meaning and authority of the Anglican Formularies (the 39 Articles taken in conjunction with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, its rubrics and the Ordinal) is in order with reference to this mark and the next one. Some Anglicans of Evangelical and of Anglo-Catholic tendencies find that the Formularies are unduly limiting with respect to sacramental understanding and practice. Rather than causing further division or using a “Tract 90” type of hermeneutic to ease the difficulties, in this writers opinion it would be preferable if we let the Formularies be read in their plain historical intent and meaning and give the local Bishop the authority to grant such latitude in their application in the diocese as would ease these difficulties, provided that in such teaching and practice nothing in the clear teaching of the Scripture is contradicted and the nature of a sacrament is not overthrown.)