The Anglican Communion

From The Anglican Communion: A Guide, by the Anglican Consultative Council and The Anglican Digest:

The following article was printed in the Messenger of Summer 1992… Its [reprinting in the October 2008 Messenger was] particularly timely in view of the reformation and realignment for good in the
Communion that has been chronicled in this and past issues over the last fifteen years.

The Anglican Communion is a world-family of Churches. There are more than 70 million Anglican Christians, in 29 autonomous Churches spread across 160 countries in every continent. Anglicans speak many languages and come from different races and cultures. Although autonomous these Churches are unified through their history, their theology, and their relationship to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Anglicans trace their roots back to the early Church and their separate identity to the post-Reformation expansion of the Church of England and other Episcopal or Anglican Churches. Historically there were two main stages of the development of the Communion. From the 17th century Anglicamism was established alongside colonialisation in the USA, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa. The second stage began in the 18 th century when missionaries worked to establish Anglican Churches in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

Central to worship for Anglicans is the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. In this offering of prayer and praise are recalled the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, through the proclamation of the Word and celebration of the Sacraments.

Worship is at the very heart of Anglicanism. Its styles vary from the simple to the elaborate, from Evangelical to Catholic, from charismatic to traditional or indeed form a combination of these various traditions. The Book of Common Prayer, in its various revisions throughout the Communion, gives expression to the comprehensiveness found within the Church whose principles reflect, since the time of Elizabeth I, a via media in relation to other Christian traditions.

Oxford Movement

A religious reformation begun at Oxford University in 1833, also known as the Tractarian movement and Puseyism. It aimed at and effected spiritual, doctrinal, and liturgical renewal in the Anglican Communion by returning to the Church Fathers and seventeenth-century Anglican theologians.

In pamphlets and treatises, such as the ninety popular and controversial Tracts for the Times, and in sermons, poetry, lectures, and articles the movement relentlessly attacked secularism (religious indifference), liberalism (the view that reason alone can cure all evil) and Erastianism (the idea that final authority in religious matters belongs to the state) of university, church, and country.

Affirming doctrine and devotion, the movement promoted the Holy Catholic Church as a super-natural, divinely authorized institution, a visible unity on earth possessing sacraments and unbroken apostolic succession of bishops.

The movement’s leaders were noted for their intellectual, moral, and spiritual stature and for their personal attraction and influence: John Keble, poet of Anglican devotion; Richard Hurrell Froude, zealous apologist for Catholic truths; Edward Bouverie Pusey, devout, erudite aristocrat; John Henry Newman, acknowledged leader and genius of the movement who [largely wrote the tracts and] developed its foundational position, the Via Media.

Reaching its zenith in 1938, the movement, though antipapal, was increasingly attacked by church and university for its Romanism. Nonetheless, it survived Newman’s conversion to Rome (1845) and spread fragmentedly to urban centers, there emphasizing social, pastoral, and liturgical matters [as free Christian education of boys in exchange for their voices in choirs] over doctrinal ones. Besides bringing many converts to Catholicism, the Oxford movement was a renaissance of catholicity in the universal Church.

Mary Katherine Tillman
Encyclopedia of Catholicism

Fifty Days of Easter

April 2008

Someone telephoned a week or so ago, after reading the notice posted at the door of New Parish Hall, and asked, “What are the Fifty Days of Easter?” It occurred to me that others might likewise be wondering about the designation.

Originally the resurrection and ascension of our Lord, as well as the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost according to his promise, were all part of a fifty-day celebration of the establishment of the Church. Only in the fifth century – in accord with piety’s way of drawing out and distinguishing between matters of faith – were these three elements separated into distinct observances, so holy days on the liturgical calendar.

Having passed thru another Easter, we are now drawing near Ascension Day. The term and the idea says, quite plainly, as the traditional scriptures for the day clearly indicate, that sometime following our Lord’s resurrection he was “taken up” or “carried up” into heaven. While the two stories differ substantially as to when the happening occurred, it is perfectly plain that Jesus is ultimately glorified and that in him we have immediate (right hand) access to our Father God.  See Acts 1.1-11 and Luke 24.49-53.

The concept of Jesus being taken into heaven is not easy to understand.  Indeed, even one of Anglicanism’s better known bishops, John Robinson, said some forty-five years ago that the idea of a “three storied universe” in which such happenings could occur was so offensive that no twentieth century thinking person could embrace it. Well, despite his fine work in other New Testament studies, the bishop had it entirely wrong in this case. In the last analysis, the ascension of Jesus is not something that rests on human ability to comprehend.

Rather, like God coming down in an earthly son at Christmas and his rising from death at Easter, it is a divine glorification of all that God intended in him. Put another way, it is the theological truth that things have come full circle: Christ has come from God! Christ has returned to God! Christ is forever with God, making intercession for his faithful followers!

Even more astounding, the faithful who lay hold of all this in the present fifty days are those who thereby, like the disciples at the first Christian Pentecost, receive power from on high, the Holy Spirit, according to the Lord’s promise.  Given the Parish’s sense of spirit, devotion to the apostles’ teaching, and steady growth, his promise seems surely to be resting upon on us as well (Acts 2.40-41).

Saints and Souls

Scripture allows of no difference between saints and souls. Even so, tradition has caused some distinction to be drawn between the two terms.

Early on the former was synonymous with martyr, one who witnessed to Christ even unto death, and such persons were usually memorialized in local congregations on the anniversary of their death.

By the fifth century there was a feast in the East of “all saints” on Friday of Easter Week, and by the eighth century it was likewise celebrated in Rome, principally in the former Roman Pantheon, then dedicated for Christian worship as the Church of Saint Mary and All Martyrs.

Soon after, Pope Gregory moved the celebration to November 1 as a holy day of obligation.  From earliest time, those who endured torture for the faith, the ‘confessors,’ were also treated with great respect, many of whom were acclaimed as saints by local congregations after death. The theology and piety behind it all sought simply to emphasize the bond between those who had gone to be with Christ in heaven after trusting in him even unto death and those still witnessing steadfastly in his Name on earth.

Likewise from earliest times, Christians remembered the souls of all their dead. Third century African theologian, Tertullian, even spoke of an intermediate place of rest where the faithful awaited final judgment. This concept led to the thought that some sort of purification was necessary before seeing God, so the notion of a kind of purgatory.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church this state was viewed as one needing prayer and growth, whereas in the Roman Church it was looked upon as confining and requiring release. Whatever, since the eleventh century the feast for such souls has been set as November 2nd, with the prayer in the Roman Church that they “may rest in peace.”

Because of Protestant distaste for purgatory and Masses for the dead growing out of what they perceived as misguided tradition contrary to Scripture, the day has been largely one of optional observance in Anglicanism. This latter reaction is rather strange, for its originator, Tertullian, was in fact champion also of the notion that Scripture and tradition are coterminous, i.e. two sides of the same coin so to speak, a key element in Anglican thought. The readings and prayers are guides to the theology behind All Souls’ Day: Christ is the hope of the living and the dead!

May the faithful face death with fixed hope in him! Actually then, the Feast of All Souls compliments that of All Saints, proclaiming that all who love God are united in communion with Christ, whether living or dead.

Attention, response, and attendance will enable us to give God, Christ, and all faithful departed
souls our best remembrance on these occasions.

– JR Hiles

Believing is Receiving

The sixth chapter of John’s Gospel presents the Lord’s powerful teaching with regard to Christian Faith and the Eucharist.

Speaking symbolically, he says I am the living bread which comes down from heaven; if anyone eats this bread, he will live forever!

Clarifying this, he goes on to say that attainment of such eternal life is achieved by ‘believing’ the whole truth about himself revealed in Scripture, which is then confirmed mentally by feeding on the tokens of bread and wine offered at the Altar.

Immediately after saying this, and speaking quite matter-of-factly, he goes on to say, in effect, He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood in [true] holy communion, will have a concrete earthly experience of that eternal life here and now.

With this he is making plain that mental acceptance of spiritual truth about himself is just not enough. It must be accompanied by the ‘physical identification’ of the believer with his life, death, and resurrection indicated in biblical revelation.

In other words, such receiving completes believing! And those who receive not only tokens bread and wine, but feed upon his actual body and blood, actually share in the intimate communion that exists between the Father and the Son, indeed God’s own life in him.

Put still another way, receiving brings believing to completion.

Sadly, we read, many in the throng about him found both aspects of this teaching too “hard” to accept. Deep down these would be followers were unable to believe that Jesus was really from heaven (they knew Mary and Joseph) – to accept an incarnate God (who confronted them face-to-face, calling for response) – to grasp the mystery of divine love expressed in sacrificial death (the cross looming in the distance). Accordingly, many in the throng “drew back and no longer went about with him.”

Sad as this is, the Lord hereby presents would be followers as well as real disciples with a stark reality check: committed discipleship will never be easy, and always costly; real Christianity will never, ever be primarily a numbers game; the true Church will always experiences fall-off, a separation of goats from sheep.

On wondering about the disposition of the Twelve, Jesus, asks: Will you also go away? Responding for all, Peter says, in essence, “Never!” These are words of eternal life, spoken by the Holy One of God! Believing is receiving!

– JR Hiles
Adapted from a sermon, 08/27/06