Friday, October 19, 2007

Anglicanism and the 39 articles

I wrote nothing for this blog in Oct. 07 but the following post from my AUSTRALIAN POLITICS blog in October 07 had a considerable element of personal commentary in it so perhaps deserves a place here

Bishop: Anglicans must abandon Anglicanism in order to save it

Or something like that. Decoding theologians is hard work. The take-home message below seems to be that the Sydney diocese is divisive and a big problem and it should give up its old-fashioned adherence to the Bible. The Sydney diocese is the only one that is true to the heavily evangelical principles of the Church of England's original 39 "Articles of religion" of 1563. It is also the only diocese that is flourishing and growing. Just that one diocese accounts for a third of Australia's churchgoing Anglicans. So how come it is the problem? Is it not the other dioceses -- which are fading away -- that are the problem?

Tribalistic tendencies are preventing the Anglican Church of Australia from presenting a united front to the nation and only a comprehensive "makeover" will render it a viable force. Warning of the potential for "anarchy" and highlighting the "political naivety" of church leaders, bishop and scholar Tom Frame says market research is needed [Good Lord! Market research to dictate what is taught!! How pathetic can an alleged Christian get? A real Christian would look to the teachings of Christ] to improve the denomination's profile and boost creative planning.

Bishop Frame, director of St Mark's National Theological Centre in Canberra, has set out his thoughts on the future of the church in a book, Anglicans in Australia, released as final preparations are made for the three-yearly general synod, which begins in Canberra on Saturday. "Both clergy and laity have a poor understanding of Anglicanism, and in many places commitment to the church is weak and faltering," Bishop Frame writes. Highly critical of the in-fighting between the church factions - evangelical, liberal and Anglo-Catholic - Bishop Frame says Anglicans "need to develop and retain a clear focus on the world and its redemption rather than focusing on the church and its structures".

Anglicans are the second-largest group of Christians in the country after the Catholics. According to last year's census, there are 3.7 million adherents. But attendance has been slipping for years and latest national attendance figures, from the National Life Survey of 2001, show 178,000 attend weekly. [less than 5%] Archbishop Peter Jensen's Sydney diocese is a notable exception to the trend.

Bishop Frame's Anglicans in Australia is a history of the church, and while he does not offer a plan for wholesale reform, he casts forward to the likely fate of the institution if trends persist. "I believe that in a generation's time, the Anglican Church of Australia will continue to exist as a national entity, although it will remain internally fractured by theological differences entrenched in diocesan identities." One of these is the ascendance of the evangelical viewpoint, which emphasises the authority of the Bible above all else, including the church traditions of Anglicanism.

But he warns Sydney will face an identity crisis when its leadership finds "the abandonment of Anglican structures and customs leaves little in church life that is distinctly or demonstrably Anglican. Ecclesiastical anarchy and theological incoherence is a distinct possibility." [Adherence to the 39 articles is "abandonment of Anglican structures and customs"??? Pure projection. It is the "modernizers" who have "abandoned Anglican structures and customs"]


Below are some of the great old 39 articles that have defined Anglicanism since 1563. They remain a pretty good statement of evangelical Christianity to this day. The Christian message doesn't need changing. It is hypocritical bishops who need to embrace it. They are just men in dresses otherwise -- or "whited sepulchres" [whitewashed tombs] as Christ vividly called their equivalents in his day:

Article 6:

Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation.

Article 20:

The Church hath power to decree Rites or Ceremonies, and authority in Controversies of Faith: And yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God's Word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree any thing against the same, so besides the same ought it not to enforce any thing to be believed for necessity of Salvation.

Article 21:

General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes. And when they be gathered together, (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God,) they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of holy Scripture.

Article 22:

The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping, and Adoration as well of Images as of Reliques, and also invocation of Saints, is a fond thing vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God. ["fond" at the time meant roughly "insane"]

Article 24:

It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have publick Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments in a tongue not understanded of the people.

Article 38:

The Riches and Goods of Christians are not common, as touching the right, title, and possession of the same, as certain Anabaptists do falsely boast. Notwithstanding, every man ought, of such things as he possesseth, liberally to give alms to the poor, according to his ability.