Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Why Anglican? Anglican Values

Canterbury Cross

This is not exhaustive and none of these is unique to Anglicanism. But, taken together, they begin to give a picture of what the Anglican tradition of Christianity is about. Among other things, Anglican Christianity is:

Biblically Focused

"The Holy Ghost rides most triumphantly in his own chariot [i.e., Scripture]."
Thomas Manton (1620-1677)

"The first [proposition] is this: If we believe in God at all, it is absurd and impious to imagine that we can find him out by our own reason, without his being first active in revealing himself to us. Therefore all our discovery of him is his self-manifestation, and all rational theology is revealed theology."
Austin Farrer (1904-1968), Saving Belief

Rooted in Tradition

Recognizing that the Holy Spirit's inspiration is not limited to scripture, Anglican Christianity looks to a broader foundation in the tradition of the Church, particularly the first five centuries:

"One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries, and the series of Fathers in that period – the centuries that is, before Constantine, and two after, determine the boundary of our faith."
Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626)


However hobbled by human sin, reason is an essential means of understanding what God has revealed to us:

"The Holy Ghost is not a bird of prey sent by God to peck out the eyes of [humans]."
Nathaniel Culverwel (1619-1651)

"And this is the second proposition: If God does reveal himself to us, we cannot acknowledge or master what he reveals without the use of reason. Therefore all his self-manifestation is also our discovery of him, and all revealed theology is rational theology."
Austen Farrer (1904-1968), Saving Belief

Centered in Worship and Prayer

Anglicans do theology "to the sound of church bells, for that is what Christian theology really is all about – worshipping God the Savior through Jesus Christ in the theology of the apostolic age."


"Christ said 'this is my body.' He did not say 'this is my body in this way'. We are in agreement with you as to the end; the whole controversy is as to the method. As to the 'This', we hold with firm faith that it is. As to the 'this is in this way', (namely by the Transubstantiation of the bread into the body), as to the method whereby it happens that it is, by means of In or With or Under or By transition there is no word expressed [in Scripture]. And because there is no word, we rightly make it not of faith; we place it perhaps among the theories of the school, but not among the articles of the faith...We believe no less than you that the presence is real. Concerning the method of the presence, we define nothing rashly, and I add, we do not anxiously inquire, any more than how the blood of Christ washes us in Baptism, any more than how the human and divine natures are united in one Person in the Incarnation of Christ."
Lancelot Andrewes (1555-1626) Response to Cardinal Bellarmine (via The Byzantine Anglo-Catholic)

"The Eucharist demonstrates that material reality can become charged with Jesus' life, and so proclaimed hope for the whole world of matter....The matter of the Eucharist, carrying the presence of the risen Jesus, can only be a sign of life, of triumph over the death of exclusion and isolation...If the Eucharist is a sign of the ultimate Lordship of Jesus, his 'freedom' to unite to himself the whole material order as a symbol of grace, it speaks of creation itself, and the place of Jesus in creation."

Catholic and Protestant/Evangelical

"Our special character and, as we believe, our peculiar contribution to the Universal Church, arises from the fact that owing to historic circumstances, we have been enabled to combine in our one fellowship the traditional Faith and Order of the Catholic Church with that immediacy of approach to God through Christ to which the Evangelical Churches especially bear witness, and freedom of intellectual inquiry, whereby the correlation of the Christian revelation and advancing knowledge is constantly effected."
William Temple (1881-1944), Encyclical, Lambeth 1930

Liberally Catholic and Generously Orthodox

Anglican Christianity seeks to embody a liberal catholicity/generous orthodoxy. It is catholic/orthodox in its commitment to the consensus of the first centuries as expressed in the early councils and the creeds. It is, as Charles Gore wrote, "conspicuously orthodox on the great fundamentals of the Trinity and the Incarnation. [Anglicanism] accepts the ecumenical councils as criteria of heresy." It is liberal/generous in its ability to reexamine how that consensus is applied in concrete historical contexts: ". . . standing ready with the whole treasury of Christian truth unimpaired to meet the demands which a new age makes upon it with its new developments of character and circumstance."

Anglican Christianity avoids the extremes "represented by a dogmatism that crushes instead of quickening the reason of the individual, making it purely passive and acquiescent, and on the other hand by an unrestrained development of the individual judgment which becomes eccentric and lawless just because it is unrestrained."

Passionate, but Patient

Anglican Christianity is characterized by what Rowan Williams calls a "passionate patience" that is reticent to declare too handily exactly how God is to defined or to presume too easily to know what God desires in all instances. Continuing with Williams, "There is in the Anglican identity a strong element of awareness of the tragic, of the dark night and the frustration of theory and order by the strangeness of God's work." [ . . . ] "The result is a mixture of poetry, reticence, humility before mystery, local loyalties and painful self-scrutinies."


  1. Greetings! My main problem with Anglicanism is the limitation of the tradition to the first five centuries. It seems to be arbitrary. There were heresies after and before, as well councils, great theologians and so on. What changed? How the Church from the 7th century is different from the one in the 4th century, that it lost its authority to authoratively shape the Christian creed. Or perhaps I misunderstand the notion of tradition somehow... Could you please recommend some writings on this question?

  2. Thank you for commenting, MK. You raise some good questions. I don't know that Anglicans necessarily "limit" tradition to the first five centuries. But, it is safe to say they have historically given those early centuries a certain priority. It is also true that representatives like Charles Grafton, Charles Gore, and C. S. Lewis were suspicious of what they considered to be later theological innovations such as papal infallibility, the Immaculate Conception, etc.

    It is also clear though that Anglicans have embraced and been influenced by later tradition. Richard Hooker and others were influenced by Thomas Aquinas, for example.