Tuesday, October 22, 2013

GAFCON's just another revision of Anglicanism

In the absence of news from GAFCON on Monday (Kenya time) - reasonable since this site tells us it is registration day - actually there was one bit of news, a Tweet from a Kiwi participant said the ANZAC brigade were all going out for dinner together - so let's talk revisionism.

[UPDATE: Here is David Ould's report on Day One].

An exchange or two yesterday here saw that old Anglican blogging canard of 'revisionism' tossed about like a hand grenade from trench to trench in WW1 warfare.

The nice thing about claiming that this or that lot of Anglicans are revisionist is that it is always true!! When I write a draft of an essay or sermon and then seek to improve it by correcting some errors or finding a better way to say something I am, even as (I award the title to myself) the Most Orthodox Preacher in the Whole Wide World, engaging in revisionism.

Guess what? Anglicanism has always been in draft mode. Whether we think of the dear King James Bible and its many improvements before a settled version in seventeen hundred and something  which turned out to be a prelude to the Revised Version and many subsequent English translations, or Cranmer writing the Book of Common Prayer in 1549, wait, improved in 1552, whoops there were further corrections to get to the 1662 version which most (non-Americans) mean by invoking the BCP, or the Thirty Nine Articles which were preceded by the Forty Two Articles, a serious amount of Anglican drafting was going on from the time of the Reformation.

More recently we could talk about various Puritan, Dissenting and Methodist attempts to rewrite the Anglican draft which failed, except not completely since somehow the Evangelical Revival of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth crept into the Establishment and, shock, horror, revived elements of Puritan, Methodist and Dissenting emphasis on Bible teaching, personal holiness and general zeal for discipleship.

Naturally there was a bit of reaction to that piece of revisionism and Newman, Pusey and company got the Oxford Anglo-Catholic Revival Moving from the hothouse of a university city to the industrial heartlands of burgeoning Britain. To the charge that this was a New Revisionism, the Tracts of the Time, all 90 (?) of them, argued strenuously that this was just the meaning of Anglicanism as hidden in the Thirty-Nine Articles. At least Newman had the integrity to see that he was involved in writing tosh and recognised that the Thirty-Nine Articles meant his newly minted It's Not Actually Revised Anglicanism actually meant buying a pair of swimming togs and plunging across the Tiber.

Meanwhile in a far off country Colenso was anticipating bog standard aspects of Twentieth Century Anglican liberalism which ticked our very own George Selwyn off and set in train Lambeth Conferences which could be accurately renamed Half-Hearted Attempts to Define Anglicanism Every Ten Years.

Selwyn incidentally was a master Anglican Revisionist of the First Class. Dissatisfied with the Missionary Church he came to be bishop of, he set about excluding Maori from its governance and founded a Settler Version of Kiwi Anglicanism (which later would be revised again, radically, in 1990). In the process, however, he did do at least one good thing which was to toss his English patrician heritage of episcopal and parliamentary control of Anglicanism out the window in favour of synodical governance in which laity play a determining role.

Of course while all these eighteenth and nineteenth century moves in the British realm of Anglicanism were going on, the Americans were engaged in their own revisionism. Fair enough too. It is hard to pray a collect for the Sovereign if you have ditched the Sovereign.

Through the twentieth century revisionism of things Anglican spread like a virus throughout the globe. Infrequent communion was like a sandcastle before the tide of Parish Communionism. The BCPs' [intentional plural] antiquated versions of the vernacular gave way, both in America and in the Commonwealth, to new versions of liturgy. Neither Hymns Ancient and Modern nor the Book of Common Praise could hold the line on new songs beloved by Anglicans. Trends in robing changed (for good and for ill: are robes meant to be Wearable Art?). Requirements for ordination changed. In a shocking move the Church of England conceded that a theological degree might be as good as a degree in Classics or Mathematics as preparation for ministry. Male DNA as another requirement was hung on to for a lot longer!

Do I expect GAFCON this week to be revisionist? You bet. The draft paper called Anglicanism is always being revised. Do I expect some GAFCONites to charge that those not attending are revisionist? You bet. The latest draft or 'our current draft' always calls in question other versions of the draft.

Why, I even expect some commenters here to charge me with a revisionist view of Anglican history, as outlined with breathtaking speed above :).


Joshua Bovis said...

When I used the term 'revisionists' surely you realised that I was referring to liberals. The terms are referring to the same group within the Anglican communion. Revisionist is simply more accurate as in my experience they are anything but liberal.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Joshua
Yes, contextually I understand your use of the word and that it is a better word than 'liberal' in terms of accuracy of description.

My point is that I am not entirely satisfied that it is a good word to use as, from another perspective, we are all revisers, revision is a fact of Anglican life, and so forth.

Joshua Bovbis said...

I think there is qualitative difference between revision of the forms of Anglicanism and the substance of Anglicanism.

in terms of the forms there is freedom of revision. Article XXXIV speaks to that. But there is absolutely no freedom of revision when it comes to the theology of Anglicanism.

I remember another Peter telling me "Liquid in form, solid in substance".

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Joshua
Am contemplating such liquid v substance matters in a near future post!

Father Ron Smith said...

"Anonymous Joshua Bovbis said...
I think there is qualitative difference between revision of the forms of Anglicanism and the substance of Anglicanism. "

I think Mr Bovbis is right here. It is the basic substance (essence) of Anglican-ism that is important.

The substance of Anglicanism is both catholic and reformed. In other words: attaining to the catholic and apostolic traditions - but without the papal, gafcon, or foca, 'confessional' magisteria.

Like any modern understanding of the dynamic thrust of the Gospel, is it subject to semper reformanda

Father Ron Smith said...

Oh. Here is another of Mr Bovkis'assertions:

'Joshua Bovbis said...
"In terms of the forms there is freedom of revision. Article XXXIV speaks to that. But there is absolutely no freedom of revision when it comes to the theology of Anglicanism."

How can the 39 Artifacts "speak to the need for freedom of revision? (an Anglican characteristic) when they are 'set in stone' for the majority of conservative evangelical Anglicans - (see gafcon, acna, foca, etc.)

Considering the Articles were written for a particular political situation (rejection of Roman papal authoritarianism), they have a remarkable tendency to continue as a barrier to any further revelation in and to the Church for all ages to come - for ever and ever. Amen.

They are not, for instance, to be considered as any sort of static Instrument of Unity in the various Provinces of the A.C.

Joshua Bovis said...


In answer to your question, have a look at Article XXXIV:

Article XXXIV
Of the Traditions of the Church
It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one, and utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men’s manners, so that nothing be ordained against God’s Word. Whosoever through his private judgement, willingly and purposely, doth openly break the traditions and ceremonies of the Church, which be not repugnant to the Word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly, (that others may fear to do the like,) as he that offendeth against the common order of the Church, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate, and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren.
Every particular or national Church hath authority to ordain, change, and abolish, ceremonies or rites of the Church ordained only by man’s authority, so that all things be done to edifying.

Ron, perhaps I was not clear in my post, (apologies if this is the case), but the freedom is to do with forms of worship, not the essence of what Anglicans believe. I believe you think the freedom I am referring to is the latter - this is not the case.

Regarding your earlier comment, I disagree. I think the BCP and the Ordinal and the Articles are crystal clear that the Anglican Church is Protestant and Reformed and you will find that this is affirmed by law established in the Church of England.

Finally, I think your definition of Semper Reformander is incorrect. It refers to the church always reforming in light of Scripture. It does not mean always reforming in ight of human reasoning which seeks to revise Scripture to fit cultural norms in the name of progress.

Paul Powers said...

The ACNA's position on the Articles is somewhat more nuanced than Fr. Smith realizes:

"We receive the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion of 1571, taken in their literal and grammatical sense, as expressing the Anglican response to certain doctrinal issues controverted at that time, and as expressing fundamental principles of authentic Anglican belief."(Article I(7) of the ACNA Constitution).

Andrew Reid said...

Hi Peter,
I wonder if you are confusing "revision" with "reform". Revision in our context would usually mean a thorough change to foundational principles and beliefs, while reform is changing existing practices to ensure alignment with those foundational principles and beliefs. You can debate if I've got these definitions right, but I think we need to differentiate between changes to the foundations and re-aligning ourselves to match those foundations.

It's no secret which groups I think are undertaking revision of our Anglican heritage and which groups are seeking to reform today's church to uphold that heritage.

Anonymous said...

Ron's definition of Anglicanism is historically inaccurate.

Catholic forms but with no authority or substance was not what the early Anglican's had in mind. Both the 39 Articles and the Catechism speak to a confessional Church with authority.

The supreme authority in Anglicanism is Scripture, with reason and tradition placed under Scriptures rule. Reform means to bring us into better conformity with Scripture, not change or ignore Scripture to suit the ever-changing philosophical and moral fashions of a fallen and sinful world.

Anglicanism does have an identifiable theological core, it is not just in constant flux and change. Groups like GAFCON and others are trying to identify and preserve that core,because it is worth preserving.

'Evolution' is a modernist ideology that does not provide a useful model for understanding change in the Church, let alone identify good and bad change. It is, like modernism itself, morally bankrupt, having no basis for moral discernment, nor any acknowledgement that what may seem like random change or "evolution" can in fact be reflective of spiritual warfare in the heavens and in the Church.

We need spiritual wisdom and spiritual weapons to understand and deal with the challenges of the times, not morally bankrupt and spiritually dead modernist ideologies.

Father Ron Smith said...

"The supreme authority in Anglicanism is Scripture......" - down to -

Anglicanism does have an identifiable theological core"
- Shawn -

Am I misinterpreting what is being said here, in the same comment by Shawn? Or is this assertion meant to replace the traditional Anglican reliance upon Scripture, Tradition and Reason? This is what distanced the Church of England from the 'sola scriptura' assertions of other reformers.

In the ACANZP Prayer Book:
"He Karakia Mihiniare o Aotearoa", under the heading "A Catechism" on page 930, with a sub-heading:
"The Bible" - "Te Paipera Tapu", we have the following paragraphs:

(27) Q: Why does the Church value the Holy scriptures?

A: Because the Holy Spirit inspired their human authors and through the scriptures God's word continues to speak to the Church.

(28) Q: How best do we understand the Bible?

A: We understand the meaning of the Bible, the Church's book, with the help of the Holy Spirit, who guides the people of God in interpretation and understanding.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but my comprehension of the English language (and 84 years of being an Anglican) leads me to understand that the word 'guides' has ongoing meaning - in that the Holy Spirit is 'still guiding' the people of God in 'interpretation and understanding' and will continue into the future until the eschaton!

The Word of God is not static, but active, in the interpretation and understanding of what God is up to in God's world of today - not only yesterday. God speaks to the world in every age. For instance, there was a particular word to the world in the Old Testament, but a New Covenant was established in the New

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
If we follow your line of argument then we desperately need from you a means to know when the Spirit is guiding us into new understanding.

In short, and to be blunt, we need to be able to distinguish between Fr Ron or Peter Carrell guiding the church and the Spirit guiding the church. How do you suggest we make that distinction?

Anonymous said...

The Anglican understanding is that Scripture is our supreme rule of faith, and reason and tradition are tools to help us in understanding Scripture. The three legged stool in which Scripture, Tradition and Reason ate equal is a modern invention contrary to the 39 Articles.

This position is in accord with Sola Scriptura.

The Holy Spirit guides us to a deeper understanding of Scripture, but the Spirit does contradict, change or add to Scripture. That is how we discern false revelations and false spirits, by wether or not they agree with Scripture.

Tim Chesterton said...

Historians can correct me here, but I believe I'm right in saying that Thomas Cranmer did not believe that a church could exist without a human authority as its head. Scripture contained all things necessary to salvation, yes, but the head of the Church of England was the King.

Shawn is entirely right that the Church of England in the 16t century was a confessional church with authority. The confession was the 39 Articles and the authority was the King. Later generations of Anglicanism, of course, have revised this somewhat...:)

Father Ron Smith said...

This is a pertinent point you're making, Tim. I wonder how Shawn eqautes that 16th century reality with the different anglican Ptovincial Churches of the 21st century.

Does he believe, for instance, with Cranmer, that the British Sovereign is Head of the Church in non-British Churches today. Remember, as Tim says, the infant Anglican Church was tied to the 39 Artifacts AND the Sovereign.

Tim Chesterton said...

There is an interesting article on Cranmer's view of the authority of the King here:


Here's an important quote:

'Edward VI was crowned by Cranmer on 20 February 1547, and during the ceremony the Archbishop made a telling speech. Having begun by rehearsing some familiar sentiments about the Bishop of Rome, Cranmer then referred to the King’s sword as both spiritual and temporal. Already in this we can detect an echo of precisely that which Cranmer claimed to
have rejected in the Papacy. Could it be that the English Reformer had merely replaced one institution of absolute authority with another? This idea emerges to an even greater extent as Cranmer, in his capacity as ‘a messenger from [his] Saviour Jesus Christ’, proceeded to outline the office of the monarch:
"Your majesty is God’s vicegerent and Christ’s vicar within your own dominions."
As with Henry, so now also with Edward, the King was by implication the Supreme Head of
the Church, next only unto God.'

Note that this article is produced under the auspices of the Church Society, not an organization inclined to be critical of Thomas Cranmer! The article as a whole is very clear that in Cranmer's theology the authority of the King had in a sense replaced the authority of the Pope (Diarmaid McCulloch makes a similar point in his magisterial biography of Thomas Cranmer).

Father Ron Smith said...

So, Tim, do you think that the modern advocates of Cranmer and the 39 Artifactds (Shawn & Joshua, etc.) ought - in order to be consistent with their primitive desire to be at unity with early Anglicanism as it began in the Church of England - to back his understanding of the English Monarch as a replacement for the Pope - having supreme authority over the Church? I'd also be interested in Shawn and Joshua's response to this idea.

Tim Chesterton said...

Ron, I'm not going to tell Shawn or Joshua what they ought or ought not to 'back'. My only point is that it is very simplistic to call the English Reformation a Sola Scriptura movement. By his words and actions Cranmer showed that he believed that the King had authority under God to interpret the Scriptures for his subjects, and that his interpretation was binding on them. This, I think, is a plain fact of historical record.

Note that in later years this even extended to how the Bible was translated. James I gave strict instructions to the 1611 translators that they were to translate 'ekklesia' as 'church' and not 'congregation' as that pestilent fellow Tyndale had done, and to use 'the old ecclesiastical words' - thus ensuring that the 1611 version propped up the Establishment's view of what Christianity and the Church was all about. Once again, this is not 'Sola Scriptura', but 'Scripture, as interpreted authoritatively by the Church's supreme governor - the King'.

Peter Carrell said...

Another interesting royal interpretation, Tim, I believe, was prohibition of the word 'tyrant' for a bad king in the OT!

Anonymous said...

A general response to Tim and Ron.

It would be inaccurate to claim that Cranmer or early Anglicanism simply swapped the Pope for the King. Cranmer's position is not that the King is a separate source of revelation from Scripture, as Tim claims. The RC position, rejected by the Reformation, is that the Pope ambodies a separate authority and source of revelation (in his role as representative of the authority of the Church) over and above Scripture.

Cranmer makes no such claims for the King, but merely recognizes the Kings general authority within his realm, under God. This is not an authority over or even equal to Scripture, nor an authority that can add to Scripture.

Tim's claim then that the early Anglican Church was not Sola Scripturer is incorrect, and based on a misunderstanding of the differing roles of King and Pope.

Contra Ron my goal is not to recreate early Anglicanism, but an Anglicanism obedient to Scripture, not to "Higher Christs" or to the Powers and Principalities of the times.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Contra Ron my goal is not to recreate early Anglicanism, but an Anglicanism obedient to Scripture, not to "Higher Christs" or to the Powers and Principalities of the times." - Shawn -

I'm not quite sure what 'Highers Christs" are. What I am sure of is that Jesus Christ is Lord - Over All - the Bible included.

Tim Chesterton said...

'Cranmer's position is not that the King is a separate source of revelation from Scripture, as Tim claims. '

I did not say that. It is quite clear from Cranmer's writings and actions, though, that he saw the King as having authority to definitively interpret the Scriptures for his kingdom - just as the Pope and the magisterium are the definitive interpreters in the RC tradition. Check out the paper I quoted from, and I would also recommend that you read Diarmaid MacCulloch's excellent biography, 'Thomas Cranmer' (http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Cranmer-Life-Diarmaid-MacCulloch/dp/0300074484), especially the last chapter that interprets Cranmer theologically.

Anonymous said...

"...in Cranmer's theology the authority of the King had in a sense replaced the authority of the Pope..."

I would like to see this point amplified. I think it is clear that Cranmer understood the King as having *civil authority over the Church - just as, if there had been any mosques or synagogues in England in the 16th century, Cranmer would have said the King was 'Head' of the synagogue or mosque. This idea might sound a little strange, but I think 'The Ugley Vicar' has partially discussed it on his blog.
Civil authority is one thing (contested, as all things civil were in the following century). The question is really whether the King could define the content of doctrine. Did Cranmer really say this? If so, he evidently changed his mind in the reign of Mary Tudor.
He is one of Anglicanism's Great Martyrs, y'know.

Martin (martus all' oupo Martyr)

Peter Carrell said...

The point has been made above, Martin et al, that by the time we get to James we have a king who exercises considerable authority indeed over the affairs of the church, notably at the Hampton Court conference, an authority which extends to constraining translation of the Bible itself in terms favourable to the monarchy.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I read that, but claiming royal authority over appointments of bishops etc isn't the same as *doctrinal authority. Just aboput all Europen monarchs claimed this power until it was wrested from them. Arguments over a couple of words in NT Greek in a Bible translation made by Royal command isn't anywhere on the same level as Henry VIII's book on the seven sacraments - not least because 'tyrannos' isn't found in the NT.


Peter Carrell said...

Er, Martin, what was James up to at Hampton when he batted the Puritan requests away, save for the translation of the Bible? Would we have the same Anglican Church if the Puritans had won the day?

Anonymous said...

This discussion was about *Cranmer* and what he taught, not James. There is no doubt that James was highly interventionist and created the disastrous environment of Charles I. But Cranmer died (before James was born IIRC) because he rejected what the monarch of his day, Mary I, was ordering the Church of England to teach as religious doctrine.

Tim Chesterton said...

'Your majesty is God's vice-gerent and Christ's vicar within your own dominions, and to see, with your predecessor Josiah, God truly worshipped, and idolatry destroyed, the tyranny of the bishops of Rome banished from your subjects, and images removed'

(Cranmer's address to King Edward VI at his coronation, 20 February 1547).

To call someone 'Christ's vicar' is papal language. To compare them to King Josiah is to compare them to a king who took more than a civil interest in the reform of religion in his kingdom.

Anonymous said...

"Then the bishop took certain of his friends by the hand. But the bachelor of divinity refused to take him by the hand, and blamed all the others that so did, and said, he was sorry that ever he came in his company. And yet again he required him to agree to his former recantation. And the bishop answered, (showing his hand), 'This was the hand that wrote it, and therefore shall it suffer first punishment.'
Fire being now put to him, he stretched out his right hand, and thrust it into the flame, and held it there a good space, before the fire came to any other part of his body; where his hand was seen of every man sensibly burning, crying with a loud voice, 'This hand hath offended.' As soon as the fire got up, he was very soon dead, never stirring or crying all the while."

('The Execution of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer' recorded by an anonymous bystander)

Cranmer made numerous errors in his life (helping Henry VIII was one of them) but he died well. In comparing Edward VI to a new Josiah, he was also aware that the King was not Jehoiada as well - he saw himself in that role. Josiah did not make the mistakes of Uzziah in 2 Chronicles 26.16-21. I think you are over-egging this Tudor Dynasty Rice Pudding, Tim.


Tim Chesterton said...

Martin, are you aware of how long Cranmer struggled with the dichotomy between his duty to the Queen and his duty to God?

And you have not addressed the language of 'Christ's vicar' that he used.

Anonymous said...

Tim, I have already said (at least twice) that Cranmer made numerous mistakes in his life, some from fear of the terrible ferocity of royal power - who could serve a murderous monster like Henry VIII and not be a little afraid? Cranmer was no Luther at Worms (and neither was Luther an archbishop). But in the end he made the right decision, and that is why we esteem him as one of Anglicanism's Martyrs, along with Ridley and Fisher.

You have not addressed the fact that in the end Cranmer refused to submit to Mary Tudor and recanted his recantation. He retracted numerous things in the course of his life en route to martyrdom.

What exactly he meant by calling Edward VI 'Christ's vicar within your own dominion' I'm not sure, but I rather doubt he meant this as 'papal language' or that the King was the arbiter of Christian doctrine: he certainly believe that for Henry or for Mary. More likely, in keeping with late medieval theories of the state (see Oliver O'Donovan, The Desire of Nations) he meant that the King of England was a *local successor of King David (God's vice-regent on earth) - a conceit that is continued to this day in the British Coronation Service. Cranmer could hardly have allowed that Christian doctrine would be one thing in the Kingdom of England and another in (say) the Kingdom of Sweden.
In any case, young Edward remained firmly under Cranmer's and Somerset's thumb for the rest of his short life.

Martin of Cusa

MichaelA said...

Tim, Cranmer did not believe that the King had special authority to interpret scripture, nor that any interpretation he made was binding on his subjects.

You have cited a number of extracts which don't give any support to this idea, in their plain reading.

Also, it is incorrect to say that Cranmer was substituting the King for an abolute Pope, because neither Cranmer nor most other theologians of his day believed that the Pope had absolute power over anything.

MichaelA said...

Tim, respectfully, its actually you who haven't addressed Cranmer's use of the term 'Christ's Vicar'... ;)

Rather, you have assumed that it carried certain implications which are not inherent in the words.

Tim Chesterton said...

Hi Martin: Yes, Cranmer definitely changed his mind at the end of his life. Did you read the Church Society paper I quoted?


It traces the evolution of Cranmer's thought on the authority of the monarchy quite well, I think.

With reference to the 'Christ's Vicar' address, Elliott comments as follows:

'As with Henry, so now also with Edward, the King was by implication the Supreme Head of
the Church, next only unto God. In a letter to the King of 1548 Cranmer made this explicit in
ascribing to Edward the titles ‘defender of the faith, and in earth of the church of England and
Ireland immediately under God supreme head’. Of particular interest in the speech,
however, is his description of the monarch as ‘Christ’s vicar’. These words were often used
with reference to the Papacy and so we can again notice how Cranmer’s attitude to the King
was in effect to make of him a new quasi-pope

I don't know if you have read Diarmaid MacCulloch's big fat biography of Cranmer, but he also brings out the point that Cranmer could not have envisioned a church which did not have a human authority at its head. He quotes Cranmer's answers to the Doctrine Commission's questions in a document published in 1540. Cranmer sets out his view of the relationship between the prince and the church (I'm quoting from MacCulloch):

'His starting point was the basic character of a Christian polity, royal supremacy in its purest form. God had delivered "...to all Christian princes...the whole cure of all their subjects, as well concerning the administration of God's word for the cure of souls, as concerning the ministration of things political and civil governance"...This basic assumption had an important consequence for ?Cranmer's view of the course of Church history: it was a journey towards the righting of a wrong, the lack of proper authority in the apostolic Church, which had only been remedied when the first Christian rulers appeared, in 3rd century Armenia and the Roman empire under Constantine the Great. The apostles of the first century A.D. had lacked "remedy then for the correction of vice, or appointing of ministers", and had to make do with "the consent of christian multitude among themselves" ' (MacCulloch, pp.278-9).

To be continued...

Tim Chesterton said...


Further quote from MacCulloch:

'Far from holding any doctrine of apostolic succession in 1540, therefore, Cranmer saw the first Christians casting around to create makeshift structures of authority: "they were constrained of necessity to take such curates and priests as either they knew themselves to be meet thereunto, or else as were commended unto them by other that were so replete with the Spirit of God...that they ought even of very conscience to give credit unto them". Sometimes the apostles sent ministers to the people, sometimes the people chose their own. Hence he had no difficulty assenting to the idea that Christian rulers could start the ministry off anew, creating bishops and priests, if they had no alternative...Taking the same line as Henry VIII... Cranmer affirmed that "princes and governors" had as much right as bishops to make a priest, or even, as he had to admit on the analogy of the early Church, "the people also by their election [i.e. choice]". This was going way beyond the cautious statements of the Bishops' Book about royal power in the Church' (p.279).

MacCulloch goes on to say,

'What probably weighed more with Cranmer...was his persistent hatred for the radical reformers... (whose) constant cry was for a return to the Church of the apostles; their perception (in fact, perfectly correct) that the apostolic Church had been ambiguous in its attitude to civil government and their frank hostility to what Constantine had done to Western Christianity, were concrete and immediate worries for the Archbishop. Such radical doctrines affronted his basic belief in the Royal Supremacy. He had to repudiate the radical threat, yet at the same time he wanted to repudiate the traditional authority of the Church...The neat solution was to kill two birds with one stone, by denying any independent authority or identity at all to the Church. In this case, one was then left with the authority of the Christian prince, who could be persuaded and educated in the right use of holy scripture in order to govern his kingdom correctly' (p.280).

Anonymous said...

"... one was then left with the authority of the Christian prince, who could be persuaded and educated in the right use of holy scripture in order to govern his kingdom correctly' (p.280)."

That's exactly the point I've been making all along. A king thus 'persuaded and educated in the right use of holy scripture' - as Cranmer and Somerset sought to do with young Edward but never could with Mary - is very different from a king who tells you *what the Scriptures mean*, overruling episcopal dissent. I really doubt Cranmer thought the king was a substitute for the papal magisterium. For Cranmer 'Head of the Church' was not a teaching office, but a governing one - as Constantine had done.
"You keep using that word 'vice-regent'. I do not theenk eet means what you theenk eet does."

Tim Chesterton said...

Well, actually the word Cranmer and others of his day used is 'vice-gerent' (I know - it surprised me, too), but I assure you I do know what it means. I also think you are being a little too neat when you say that for Cranmer 'Head of the Church' was not a teaching office but a governing one. Cranmer certainly believed that Henry had the right to publish books of official teaching (e.g. the Six Articles) and require his Church to adhere to them, and although he criticised them in private (as we know from copies that have survived with Cranmer's annotations handwritten in the margins), he never did so in public. And I would respectfully submit that if you believe (and teach in published books) that the king has as much right to make priests as a bishop, then this (in 16th century terms) is not just governing authority but also sacramental authority.

As far as the meaning of 'Christ's vicar' - well, I'm not a professional historian, but Diarmaid MacCulloch is, and Maurice Elliott (author of the Church Society paper I referenced) is a specialist in Anglican reformation ecclesiology, so I like to think they know what they're talking about...

But if we go back to the original point, Shawn originally asserted that 'Catholic forms but with no authority or substance was not what the early Anglican's had in mind. Both the 39 Articles and the Catechism speak to a confessional Church with authority.' As it happens, I agree with Shawn, but I think the situation regarding authority is not quite as neat (supreme authority of scripture, interpreted by tradition and reason) as he suggests. In classical Anglicanism according to Hooker, as Shawn suggests, scripture is the supreme authority and reason and tradition are used to interpret it (the three-legged stool with three equal authorities is a 'vain thing fondly invented' by modern Anglican theologians who haven't actually read Hooker). But in Cranmer's day, although he and John Calvin were united in their respect for the Church Fathers (especially Augustine), it was in practice the authority of the King that was the deciding factor, over and over again, as to what was taught in the Church (and Elizabeth and James followed on). So I asserted that yes, Reformation Anglicanism was indeed a confessional church with authority - the Thirty-Nine Articles were obviously constructed as a confession along the same lines as the continental confessions, but note that they were issued by the authority of the King. And when you have the power to suspend Archbishops of Canterbury for ecclesiological reasons (as Elizabeth did to Grindal because he refused to surpress Puritan gatherings), then there is no doubt as to who has the final teaching authority in the Church.

Anonymous said...

"And when you have the power to suspend Archbishops of Canterbury for ecclesiological reasons (as Elizabeth did to Grindal because he refused to supress Puritan gatherings), then there is no doubt as to who has the final teaching authority in the Church."

Well, we are just going round the houses on this one, and you are missing the rather obvious point that in 16th century Europe, whether Catholic or Reformed, bishops held their office of state by royal permission, and it didn't occur to anyone, other than those dangerous Anabaptists, that things could be otherwise. In a polity where people and church are identical, *somebody has to authorise the ministry, and in Europe it was *always the 'secular' ruler who did this, even in pre-Reformation days. (I say 'secular' but in fact kings were always seen as sacral characters and bishops their ministers. The only republic in Europe was the Dutch Republic, and it too claimed powers to authorise the Reformed Church.) It took a civil war the reign of James II to lead to a different modus vivendi. That is why Cranmer could assert that a king could make bishops or priests. King David did the same in the OT. But the king was NOT a bishop or a preacher of doctrine himself. So your statement 'there is no doubt as to who has the final teaching authority in the Church' has the ring of Pravda, not truth.
Anyway, as I have said repeatedly, Cranmer changed and abandoned several of his ideas - and his friends - en route to the stake, and it would be impossible and contradictory to stand by all his views.

Anonymous said...

BTW, the title 'God's vicegerent on earth' was used by the Orthodox Church to describe the Byzantine Emperors. No doubt (!) Cranmer was reflecting this usage.


MichaelA said...

Tim, I'm sorry, but you are reading things into McCulloch and other scholars that are simply not there. You wrote:

"I don't know if you have read Diarmaid MacCulloch's big fat biography of Cranmer, but he also brings out the point that Cranmer could not have envisioned a church which did not have a human authority at its head."

That is true in a way (as a realist, Cranmer saw no other alternative for the European society of his day, and since that was what he had to work with, that was the only thing that mattered). But what you seem to have missed is that that does not mean that Cranmer saw the king as in any sense resembling something like the Pope today, or that he saw the king as having any teaching powers at all.

I think fundamental to your position is a misunderstanding of the medieval understanding of the powers of the Papacy. Cranmer was indeed seeing the Pope's temporal powers over the church as being exercised by the King - he was at the opposite end of the pendulum from his predecessors Anselm of Canterbury and Thomas a Becket, with Robert Grosseteste somewhere in between. But that doesn't mean that any theologian in Europe saw the Pope as having the same powers that present Popes have after the 19th century. Nor does it mean he saw the monarchy as having teaching powers or authority.

"And when you have the power to suspend Archbishops of Canterbury for ecclesiological reasons (as Elizabeth did to Grindal because he refused to supress Puritan gatherings), then there is no doubt as to who has the final teaching authority in the Church."

No, that simply doesn't follow. The Governor-General here in Australia has power to suspend the Prime Minister for political reasons, but that does not imply that the GG has one skerrick of legislative power.

In the same way, the monarch's power to suspend (or for that matter, to appoint) the ABC does not imply that the Monarch has any teaching power at all.

And finally, note also that the very concept of an individual having "final teaching power" was foreign to Cranmer.

MichaelA said...

"BTW, the title 'God's vicegerent on earth' was used by the Orthodox Church to describe the Byzantine Emperors. No doubt (!) Cranmer was reflecting this usage."

Exactly, Martin. It was fundamental to Eastern Orthodoxy that the Emperor had temporal charge of the Church, including even deposing the Patriarch. Yet there was also no doubt that the Emperor had NO teaching authority. When a theological question needed to be resolved, he convened a council of bishops who worked out the answers.