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March 5, 2021

What I Wish the Bishops Had Said

Filed under: Anglicanism,Ethics — William Witt @ 1:12 am

I wish to preface the following as carefully as I can. I am a member of the ACNA; I know many of its bishops, and I have the highest respect for them. It pains me to find myself in disagreement with them. In light of recent heated controversy, I at first thought it would be best not to contribute further to the acrimony. However, I have reluctantly come to conclude that I need to clarify my own position because of misrepresentations, indeed outright lies, that have begun appearing on the internet. I would beg that none of what follows should be considered an “in your face” affront to those who wrote the College of Bishops statement.

My real concern with the ACNA College of Bishops statement on Sexuality and Identity is that difficult issues in the church need to be addressed through extended charitable public conversation, not simply through edicts delivered from on high. It is not helpful simply to lay down the law. If the bishops had released a pastoral letter saying the following, I think it would have been more helpful:

1) A conversation needs to take place and clarification is needed about how the church ministers to celibate Christians who “experience same-sex attraction.”
2) The adjective “gay” seems to be used with different understandings, and that is leading to confusion.
3) Those who use the adjective to describe themselves claim that it is simply an adjective, and has value in the pastoral context.
4) Some who do not use the adjective are concerned that it is defining an “identity” that is in competition with Christian identity.
5) Both sides need to be clear that our identity is in Christ, but also that Christian identity can be expressed using different vocabulary.
6) Orthodox Christians can and do disagree about many things, but when such issues are not church-dividing, we need to exercise charity and assume the integrity of those who view things differently.
7) Those who use the term “gay Christians” need to be aware that some are confused because of the way that the term is used in the secular culture. They need to be clear that their identity is in Christ and Christ alone, and they need to exercise caution in their use of language so as not to confuse or scandalize others.
8) Those who are uncomfortable with the term need to recognize that those who use it are committed to Christ above all and to being faithful Christian disciples. They are clear that their identity is in Christ alone, and they have affirmed repeatedly that they are committed to traditional Christian sexual morality and are trying to do the best they can to minister to sexually broken people. Those who use the term “gay Christian” are clear that they are using the term as a descriptor for Christians who experience same-sex attraction who are either committed to celibacy or are in opposite-sex marriages. While their vocabulary might not be that which others would prefer, the church needs to support them and to understand that they are members of Christ’s body about whom we must not say “We have no need of you.” We need to be clear that Christ died for sexually broken people, and that we are all sexually broken people. We need to preach the gospel in such a way that it will be heard as “good news” to all, whatever might be the particular sins and temptations with which we struggle. (more…)

Why I signed “Dear Gay Anglicans”

Filed under: Anglicanism,Ethics — William Witt @ 12:25 am

I have hesitated to say anything public about the current discussion concerning the ACNA College of Bishops Statement on “Sexuality and Identity,” which has become acrimonious very quickly. However, in recent days I have become more concerned as cases of “false witness” have begun to appear in regard to those who signed the “Dear Gay Anglicans” response. To say nothing might seem to confirm the truth of the suspicions.

Before addressing the ACNA College of Bishops Statement on “Sexuality and Identity: A Pastoral Statement from the College of Bishops,” it is important to be clear that my position on sexuality and sexual ethics has not changed. I first came to teach at Trinity School for Ministry two years after my entire church was taken over by my bishop because of our challenging the bishop over the ordination of Gene Robinson, who became the first sexually-active gay bishop in the Episcopal Church. I often point out that I did not leave the Episcopal Church. I was kicked out.

On my blog I posted an essay in 2012 on “The Hermeneutics of Same-Sex Practice: A Summary and Evaluation.” I still stand by every word I wrote in that essay.

I teach the introductory course in Christian Ethics at TSM, and in that course I affirm and teach the church’s historic position on sexuality. TSM has a doctrinal statement which every faculty member has to affirm every two years, and I affirm it without hesitation.

I first began reading the ACNA College of Bishops Statement “Sexuality and Identity: A Pastoral Statement from the College of Bishops” with a certain amount of hope. The “Preamble” of the Document outlines a biblical theology of sexuality with which I am in fundamental agreement. I would want to add to the one-sentence statement that “God established marriage between male and female to fill the earth through procreation (Genesis 1:28).” The crucial theological account of the purpose of marriage occurs not in Genesis 1 but in Genesis 2 where it becomes clear that “man” and “woman” are created as complementary opposites whose primary purpose is to provide companionship for one another. Certainly the document is correct in its overall summary of the biblical account of marriage – that God intends marriage as a lifelong exclusive commitment between one man and one woman, that a key (not the exclusive) purpose of marriage is raising and caring for children, and that marriage between man and woman is parallel to the union between Christ and the Church. I am a member of ACNA (among other reasons) because it affirms the historical biblical, catholic, and evangelical understanding of marriage.

The document also correctly affirms that human sinfulness is universal and is manifested in a variety of ways, including sexual brokenness and temptation. Among personal friends and family members, I would say that adultery (inevitably accompanied by divorce) is one of the worst offenders – continuing to create ongoing trauma and pain even for the grown children of those who have had to live through it in their families. A quite serious related area of sexual sin not mentioned in the document would be that of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse within a marriage, and sexual harassment or abuse by those in positions of authority in work places, social organizations, and, even in the church. Certainly ACNA as well as other churches and church related organizations have begun to take steps to recognize and address these issues in recent years. The point here is that sexual sin is not limited to those who experience same-sex attraction, and heterosexuals need to recognize and acknowledge our own sexual brokenness if we hope to be heard when we address concerns related to same-sex orientation.

I especially appreciate that the document correctly acknowledges that there are Christians who experience same-sex attraction, and who intend to lead lives of Christian chastity, while also acknowledging that only a minority of such people change their orientation. A very important acknowledgment is that “conversion therapy” is unhelpful and indeed “distressing” and “traumatizing.” Throughout much of the 1990s, many traditional Christians placed their hopes in “conversion therapy” as a catchall solution to the problem of homosexuality, a solution based more on dubious principles of Freudian psychology than on either biblical or historically Christian understandings of spiritual formation. The failures of “conversion therapy” in recent years, including public exposure of abusive and bizarre “therapies,” has tended to discredit those in the churches who uncritically supported it. That it abused and traumatized so many should be a cause for repentance.

The first part of the document concludes by acknowledging that there are members of ACNA who experience same-sex attraction, who want to be faithful to a biblical ethic, who find themselves not belonging in “progressive” denominations, but who feel “alienated” by fellow orthodox Christians. The bishops acknowledge that there are those within ACNA who are “Christians with same-sex attraction,” who “experience same-sex attraction,” that some of these (an acknowledged minority) may experience a change of sexual orientation, that others will experience only a “change of will,” while others will face an “ongoing struggle” along with a hope for the resurrection. All three are told that they are “fighting the good fight to become more like Jesus,” and are advised: “Please hear this: we love you, respect you, and pray that this statement will encourage you.” The document concludes with a single paragraph calling for “care and sensitivity” for those struggling with same-sex attraction.

I want to be absolutely clear that I am in fundamental agreement with this first half of the COB document. Why then wouldn’t orthodox Christians within ACNA, whether “experiencing same-sex attraction” or not, be encouraged by this document? I confess that I was disappointed at the material that followed. This should have been the point for some discussion of what such pastoral care and sensitivity would look like. Instead, the document shifts to a fourteen-paragraph discussion about the term “gay Christian” and why this term should not be used because it causes “confusion.”
(more…)

May 5, 2019

New Essay on the Anglican Spirituality of Thomas Traherne

Filed under: Anglicanism,Spiritualty — William Witt @ 6:16 am

Here is a link to an essay on the Anglican spiritual divine Thomas Traherne, which I just posted to my list of “Pages” on the right of my blog. This was originally published in Pro Ecclesia: A Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology, Vol. 25, No. 4, Fall. 2016. I thought this might be suitable for the Easter season.

February 11, 2019

American Evangelicalism and Anglicanism

Filed under: Anglicanism,Ecumenism,Theology,Trinity School for Ministry — William Witt @ 11:20 pm

(The following is based on a talk I gave as part of a TSM panel, addressing the question “What is Evangelicalism?)

River Baptism

I teach at “Trinity School for Ministry: An evangelical seminary in the Anglican tradition.” What does that word “Evangelical” mean? In what sense am I an Evangelical Anglican? There are at least three ways in which the word “Evangelical” could function in relationship to Anglicanism. First, it could simply be pointing to the Reformation heritage of Anglicanism. Like Lutheranism or the Reformed tradition, Anglicanism traces its roots to the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, including such definitive markers as the three (or five) solas: sola scriptura, sola gratia, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria. The term could also refer to a particular movement within Anglicanism that focuses on Anglicanism’s Reformation identity. An extreme version of this kind of Evangelical Anglicanism would understand pristine Anglicanism to have existed for the short number of years during the reign of Edward VI between Cranmer’s second Prayer Book of 1552 (definitely not the 1549), and the beginning of the reign of Queen Mary. Definitive identity markers would include the 1552 BCP, the 39 Articles (1563) and the Book of Homilies (1547, 1562, and 1571). Much later Anglicanism (beginning with the Caroline Divines and perhaps Richard Hooker) would be interpreted as a “falling away” from these original pristine touchstones. I intend rather to use the term to refer to a more recent distinctly American phenomenona – North American Evangelicalism of the mid-20th and early 21st centuries. This is the context of my own upbringing, but also the church background of the majority of TSM’s faculty and students. What might an orthodox 21st century North American Anglicanism have to offer this American version of Evangelicalism?

I will begin with a bit of autobiography. I was raised a Southern Baptist. During my high school years, I got involved for a short period of time in what was then called the “Jesus Movement,” and attended a Friday night service every week where people raised their hands and sang in tongues. I was also involved in the youth group of a Southern Baptist megachurch. At the same time, I discovered the writings of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, and in a two-year period read all of Lewis’s major published writings.

I attended an Evangelical liberal arts college in Denver where I majored in philosophy. Evangelicals were not writing theology at this time, but they were interested in apologetics, and I thought that philosophy would be a handy tool for apologetics. I discovered Thomas Aquinas, but Aquinas at this time was being read primarily as a philosopher. During my senior year in college, I discovered the writing of Wolfhart Pannenberg, but I was interested in Pannenberg because of his value for apologetics. Pannenberg defended the historical verifiability of the resurrection of Jesus. Pannenberg was the first “real theologian” I ever read, and I called myself a “Pannenbergian” for awhile. I used terms like “proleptic anticipation of the eschaton.”

Toward the end of my time in college, a number of theologians produced a document called The Hartford Appeal, a criticism primarily of trends in liberal Protestant theology. In the collection of essays that the participants entitled Against the World For the World: The Hartford Appeal and the Future of American Religion, Peter L. Berger and Richard John Neuhaus, eds. (NY: Seabury, 1976), Richard Mouw of Fuller Seminary contributed the essay, “New Alignments: Hartford and the Future of Evangelicalism.”

In that essay, Mouw identified three groups of American Evangelicals existing at the time.

1) Fundamentalism was a group that came into existence in the early twentieth century in opposition to and as a rejection of Liberal Protestantism in the mainline churches.

2) NeoEvangelicalism was identified with successors of Fundamentalism who broke with its narrowness in the mid-twentieth century: Billy Graham and the journal Christianity Today were two of its cultural identifiers.

3) In contradistinction from both Fundamentalism and NeoEvangelicalism was “Confessionalism,” identified with members of historic Reformation denominations who did not trace their roots to American sources: Lutheran, Reformed, Episcopal, Mennonite. These groups sometimes formed an uneasy alliance with Evangelicalism although they did not share its historic roots, and each had its own distinctive confessional identity. (more…)

June 20, 2015

Yes, Virginia, There is Such a Thing as Fundamentalism or The Subject Matter of Christianity is the Subject Matter of Christianity

Filed under: Anglicanism,Ecumenism,Theology — William Witt @ 5:00 am

Melancholy Much of what I have written on my blog has been addressed against what is called either (depending on which side of the Reformation one hangs one’s hat) Liberal Protestantism or Catholic Modernism. (One of the advantages of being Anglican is that one can embrace either heresy. When Anglican Evangelicals go bad they become liberal Protestants. When Anglo-Catholics go bad, they become Modernists.) Within the parameters of the church, I consider liberalism to be the greatest heresy today because it denies the central subject matter of the Christian faith as taught in the Scriptures, and summarized in the ecumenical creeds: the doctrines of the Trinity, the incarnation of God in Christ, the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Numerous essays on my blog address this heresy in one way or another. Even the issue of same -sex sexual unions, which is the key issue of controversy dividing the Western churches these days, I regard as church dividing precisely because I see an inherent connection between affirming same-sex activity and denying key doctrines of Christian faith. It is not a coincidence that the leading advocates of SSUs have also been functional unitarians and/or panentheists. (I think of people like retired Bishop John Spong, the late Marcus Borg, and Sallie McFague. Despite a caginess that makes her hard to pin down, I think it clear that Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori is solidly in this camp.) There are, of course, exceptions, including some theologians whom I have admired and who have influenced me: Stanley Hauerwas and George Hunsinger, in particular. However, they really are exceptions. Precisely because Scripture is so clear on this issue and it is tied so closely to the doctrine of creation (and, I would add, even the doctrines of the Trinity and ecclesiology), where one stands on SSU’s predictably indicates where one stands on creedal issues.

Advocates of theological liberalism/modernism in the church regularly refer to those who disagree with them as “fundamentalists,” and I have been the recipient of this accusation myself. John Spong’s book Rescuing the Bible From Fundamentalism is a typical example. The joke is, that for theological progressives, a “fundamentalist” is anyone who believes more of the Christian faith than the one using the epithet. For Spong, Jerry Falwell and Billy Graham were “fundamentalists,” but so was Karl Barth, and New Testament scholar N.T. Wright. If a fundamentalist is anyone who believes more than Bishop Spong, then the term is vacuous. To refer to N.T. Wright as a fundamentalist is just another way of saying that one disagrees with him, and, because he does not affirm one’s views, he must be either evil or foolish or both. The fundamentalist accusation saves the time of actually having to address the arguments of someone like Wright. (I have used Wright as an example precisely because his position is ambiguous. Wright’s “New Perspective” work on the apostle Paul has led him to be labeled a dangerous “liberal” by some advocates of a traditional Reformation reading of Paul.)

That a term can be misused does not mean that it cannot be used meaningfully at all. That Karl Barth and N.T. Wright are not fundamentalists does not mean that there are no such people. What is a fundamentalist? Historically, the term originated early in the twentieth century with the publications of a series of books entitled The Fundamentals, written by a number of conservative Protestant theologians in response to the rise of liberal Protestantism. With the separation of J. Gresham Machen from Princeton Seminary, the founding of Westminster Seminary and the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, fundamentalism became associated with conservative separatist Protestantism. In the mid-twentieth century, the rising movement then known as Neo-Evangelicalism (associated with Billy Graham and institutions such as Fuller Seminary and Christianity Today magazine) distanced itself from fundamentalism as a conservative Protestant movement that was more academic, more ecumenical, and open to aspects of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. With the rise of the (political) religious right in the early 1980’s and the social and political division of the culture wars of the late twentieth century that divided not only political parties but also religious denominations, internal divisions over issues such as the inerrancy of scripture and women’s ordination, clear-cut divisions between what were now called conservative Evangelicals and fundamentalists once again tended to blur.

To describe fundamentalism by its history in this way could lead to the impression that fundamentalism is restricted to a particular historical phenomenon within a specific religious tradition – that of conservative Protestantism. To do so would be to fail to locate the theological nature of fundamentalism, and would view it as an isolated phenomenon – which would be a mistake. Fundamentalism is not so much a particular movement within the specific religious tradition of Protestantism as a type that has appeared not only within Protestantism, but in other Christian traditions as well.

Fundamentalism has at least two characteristics: first, it is a distinctly modern phenomenon. It appeared at a time when Christian identity was threatened by the rise of modern secularism that has its origins in the Enlightenment, and when secularism was perceived to have infiltrated even the Christian churches. And, second, fundamentalism is reactionary. Fundamentalism identifies itself in terms of that which it rejects as much as or more so than what actually defines it. Once one recognizes that fundamentalism is both modern in origin and reactionary, it becomes evident that fundamentalism is not simply identifical with conservative or orthodox Christianity; one can also speak of fundamentalism outside of the narrow historical parameters of twentieth and twenty-first century American Protestantism.

How to identify fundamentalism? I have found the following three descriptions to be at least helpful. (more…)

September 12, 2014

Anglican Reflections: What About Priests?

Filed under: Anglicanism,Theology — William Witt @ 12:01 am

Lamb of GodThe New Testament uses the words episkopos (“bishop”) and presbyteros (“elder”) to refer to those who exercised office in the church, along with diakonos (deacon). It uses the word hiereus, equivalent to English “priest” or Latin sacerdos to refer to Old Testament and Jewish priests (Matt.8:4; John 12:51, Acts 5:27, Heb. 7:14), to the High Priesthood of Jesus (Heb. 4:14), and to the priesthood of the entire church as the people of God (1 Peter 2:9, Rev. 20:6). The New Testament never uses the word hiereus to refer to persons who hold office in the church.

Nonetheless, Anglicans have continued to use the word “priest” to refer to those who hold the office of presbyter, to the consternation of some. Richard Hooker wrote that he preferred the word “presbyter” to “priest” because he would prefer not to offend those who are troubled by the word. The Anglican Reformers rejected the notion of eucharistic sacrifice, and so rejected any notion of priesthood that implied sacrifice. As Richard Hooker asked, “Seeing then that sacrifice is now no part of the church ministry how should the name of Priesthood be thereunto rightly applied?” Hooker believed that the term “priest” was permissible in reference to one “whose mere function or charge is the service of God,” and specifically in reference to the celebration of the eucharist: “The Fathers of the Church of Christ with like security of speech call usually the ministry of the Gospel Priesthood in regard of that which the Gospel hath proportionable to ancient sacrifices, namely the Communion of the blessed Body and Blood of Christ, although it have properly now no sacrifice.” In the end, Hooker did not think the word itself is very important: “Wherefore to pass by the name, let them use what dialect they will, whether we call it a Priesthood, a Presbytership, or a Ministry it skilleth not: Although in truth the word Presbyter doth seem more fit, and in propriety of speech more agreeable than Priest with the drift of the whole Gospel of Jesus Christ.” (Laws 5.58.2-3.)

There are two key aspects of ordained ministry that touch more directly on the “priestly” aspect of ordination in Anglican tradition than the use of the word “priest” as equivalent to “presbyter.”

(more…)

August 19, 2014

Anglican Reflections: What About the 39 Articles?

Filed under: Anglicanism,Theology — William Witt @ 8:33 pm

CranmerBroadly speaking, the 39 Articles stands within the tradition of Anglicanism as “reformed catholicism,” or, more specifically, a reforming movement within the western catholic church. (This contrasts with more radical Reformation movements, such as the Anabaptists, and, arguably, the Puritans,who viewed themselves as completely breaking with western catholicism to return to the pristine Christianity of the New Testament.)

The Articles are largely an ecumenical document, the majority of whose statements fall broadly within the parameters of “reformed catholicism.”

Arts. 1-5, 8 affirm historic creedal Nicene and Chalcedonian Christianity.

Arts. 9-10,12-13,15-18 affirm the positions of a moderate Augustinianism. Even art. 17 does not teach a specifically Calvinist doctrine of predestination. There is nothing about negative predestination (reprobation or double predestination). The election that is described is corporate and “in Christ.” (“In Christ” was added to the original 42 Articles.) “Arminians” such as Richard Hooker were able to affirm this article, to the chagrin of strict Calvinists.1

Arts. 6, 7, 11 affirm the sufficiency and primacy of Scripture as well as justification by faith, which are commonly held Reformation positions, although even here, an argument could be made that the position on Scripture is consistent with that of the patristic church, of Eastern theologians such as John Damascene, and Western theologians such as Thomas Aquinas. Anglican theologians such as Cranmer, Jewel, and Hooker make clear that (contrary to the Puritan hermeneutic), Anglicans do not understand the “Scripture principle” in a “regulative” sense.

The “controversial” articles are those articles, especially beginning with Art. 19, “Of the Church,” in which the position of the Church of England is set over against that of other contemporary Reformation-era churches, usually the Tridentine Roman Catholic position, but sometimes that of other Reformation churches, usually those of the Radical Reformation. (Arts. 38-39 are addressed against Anabaptists).

Which of the articles have been “controversial” in the history of Anglicanism and today? Art. 22, repudiating purgatory and icons; Art. 25, concerning the number of sacraments, and seemingly forbidding elevation of the consecrated host; Art. 28-29, which seem to reject any notion of bodily presence (not simply transubstantiation, but also the Orthodox or Lutheran positions) and elevation of the host; Art. 31, which appears to reject any notion of eucharistic sacrifice. Generally, Evangelical Anglicans have tended to be happy with these articles, and Anglo-Catholics unhappy. Conversely, Art. 27 seems on a literal reading to affirm baptismal regeneration, a position not embraced by a good many Evangelical Anglicans.2

(more…)

July 8, 2014

Anglican Reflections: What About Apostolic Succession?

Filed under: Anglicanism,Theology — William Witt @ 9:05 pm

Four_ApostlesApostolic succession has had three different meanings in the history of the church.1

(a) In the second century, apostolic succession was important (over against gnosticism) because of the issue of historical continuity. A historical succession of bishops was one of the four marks distinguishing catholic Christians from their gnostic opponents. Those churches that recognized the canonical authority of Scripture, interpreted and summarized Scripture by the Rule of Faith, and worshiped in word and Sacrament were the same churches that could trace their history through a succession of bishops from the apostles. This is the argument used by Irenaeus in Against Heresies 3.3,4. The focus here is on succession of bishops as an assurance of orthodox teaching.

(b) The bishops are successors of apostles in the sense that they continue to exercise various functions exercised by the apostles: teaching, preaching, celebrating the sacraments, ordination.

(c) The most controversial understanding of apostolic succession is that the “grace” of ordination is handed down from the apostles from one generation of bishops to another through the laying on of hands.

(more…)

July 7, 2014

Anglican Reflections: What About Bishops?

Filed under: Anglicanism,Theology — William Witt @ 12:07 pm

I received the following question in my email and thought it worth sharing my response:

I am having a hard time wrapping my mind around the defense for episcopal church government. I can see the case for a plurality of elders in the New Testament, but this would seemingly lend itself to either a Presbyterian or Congregational polity. What is the best defense for the role of bishops? Can we defend it from the New Testament? And how do Anglicans account for the plurality of elders, such as revealed in Philippians 1:1?

The following is my own argument, but is a summary of arguments that can be found in numerous sources. A bibliography occurs at the end.

BishopAlmost immediately after the Reformation, Anglicans acknowledged that the distinction between bishops and presbyters is not clearly articulated in the New Testament. Episcopacy was still defended, and a number of similar arguments have been used and repeated, beginning at least from the time of Richard Hooker.

The first issue has to do with the difference between exegesis and hermeneutics, that is, the difference between what Scripture meant in its original historical setting and how the church applies Scripture to its life today. The fundamental difference between Richard Hooker and his Puritan opponents had to do with the issue of contemporary application. Both Hooker and the Puritans agreed that Scripture was the final authority for Christian doctrine and practices, but they differed on what that meant for the contemporary application of Scripture. The Puritans subscribed to the “regulative” principle of biblical interpretation: whatever is not specifically commanded in Scripture is forbidden. Accordingly, they were opposed to such practices as the exchange of wedding rings, written liturgies (such as the Book of Common Prayer), hymns (apart from the Psalms), vestments, and bishops, insofar as the Puritans noted correctly that the New Testament makes no inherent distinction between presbyteroi (presbyters) and episkopoi (bishops). To the contrary, Hooker embraced a permissive understanding of biblical hermeneutics: whatever Scripture does not explicitly forbid is permitted. Moreover, Hooker distinguished between matters of doctrine and morals (which are unchangeable), and matters of civil and ritual law (which are changeable by the church). The famous distinction between moral, civil and ritual law is not original to Hooker; it can be found in Thomas Aquinas, in the Lutheran Confessions, and in John Calvin. Hooker also insisted, however, that the distinction meant that churches were free to adopt ecclesiastical practices that were not explicitly commanded in the New Testament as long as they were not forbidden. This included written prayers (liturgical worship, including the Prayer Book), practices such as exchanging wedding rings, and retaining the historic catholic practice of the three-fold order of bishops, priests, and deacons – even if that order is not explicitly commanded or found in the New Testament. (more…)

January 8, 2014

The New Church of England Baptismal Liturgy

Filed under: Anglicanism — William Witt @ 7:14 pm

My brief (for me) comments on the new Church of England baptismal liturgy.

Evil is horizontal language. Sin is vertical language. An atheist can reject evil. Sin always has reference primarily to God. Dropping the language of sin is carried through to soteriology. The baptized no longer turn to Christ as “Saviour,” but simply “turn to Christ.” They no longer “submit to Christ as Lord” and Christ is no longer identified as “the way, the truth, and the life.” The extent of Christology is that the baptized “trusts” in Christ and promises to “follow him for ever.”

It is interesting that the baptismal prayer omits all language of sin. The apostles’ creed is dropped in preference to vague promises to trust God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The prayers again omit any reference to sin or forgiveness of sin.

This strikes me as a Nestorian (or adoptionist) Christology an Abelardian soteriology, a Pelagian anthropology and an ethics that has only the second table of the law.

The formula itself does at least contain the traditional trinitarian names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but if we take seriously the principle of lex orandi lex credendi, it is questionable whether this is even a Christian rite of baptism because the content of the faith in to which the person is baptized is not Christian faith.

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