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By Alice C. Linsley
Special to Virtueonline
January 10, 2023

Some consider our Anglican house very messy, but an honest assessment of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox houses reveals that they have their own messiness.

In recent months I have felt a shift within Anglicanism. Most of the messiness is being brushed to the corners where it is likely to remain for a good while. Nevertheless, it is trash and inevitably trash is taken to the rubbish heap.

New structures are in place that cannot be denied: GAFCON, the Anglican Church in North America, concordats between the Continuing Anglican jurisdictions, growing orthodox Anglican jurisdictions that never were in communion with Canterbury, Anglican journalists (like David Virtue) who doggedly track and call out falsehoods, and the archived records that reveal the systematic attack on Anglicans who resisted the dangerous innovations of heretics, revisionists, and blundering bureaucrats.

One does well to pray that the aftermath of the "Anglican Wars" will bring greater tidiness.

Perhaps now that the heretics among us have been exposed, we can move on to conversations about what it means to be an Anglican disciple of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church: "...for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized." (1 Cor. 11:19)

What is an Anglican?

Anglicans are a diverse group. Some regard the Thirty-Nine Articles as their Confession. Others regard the Articles as important to Reformed theology but take the universal Creeds as the only proper reflection of the catholic Faith.

Some use the Book of Common Prayer as a resource out of which they pick prayers and rites. Others uphold the liturgies of the 16th century through the mid-20th century as the historic Anglican formularies which are not to be tampered with.

Some are content to read Scripture apart from the received Tradition and others insist that Scripture must be read within the boundaries of Sacred Tradition.

Some Anglicans ordain women to the priesthood and believe this practice does not impinge on the Gospel. Others believe this innovation stabs at the heart of the Gospel since the priesthood ultimately is about the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ.

There also is a range of aesthetic expression in Anglican churches. Some maintain the elegant architecture of the great cathedrals. Some churches are scrubbed clean of embellishments and resemble Puritan places of worship. Some are warehouses with big projection screens and platforms for praise bands. These variances express different theological perspectives, yet all claim to be "Anglican."

The Anglican Way is broad, but it is not without definition. It is defined by catholic dogma, Scripture, and our reformed history. It is reformed, not Protestant. It is evangelistic, not Evangelical. It holds the authority of Scripture as primary, but it is not fundamentalist.

Many who are new to the Anglican Way are former Protestants. They enter through parishes that offer evangelical-style worship. Many are not familiar with the older catholic expressions of Anglicanism that shaped the faith of people like C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Evelyn Underhill, and even G.K. Chesterton, a very Anglican Roman Catholic. Many are too young to have experienced the richness of the historic Anglican formularies. They only know the prayer book issued by ECUSA in 1979 or the modified version used in most ACNA churches.

I was exposed for the first time to the Book of Common Prayer (1928) in 1969 when a college friend gave me a copy with my name engraved on the front. Six years later I became an Anglican in Isfahan, Iran through the ministry of a humble Church of England missionary priest who built up the small persecuted body of Iranian Anglicans and who also served an English-speaking expatriate community.

I was formed by the historic liturgy, and I am sad that many younger Anglicans have had no exposure to its theological and scriptural depth. I am reminded of something Basil the Great wrote in A.D. 372: "The elderly lament as they compare the former time with the present; the young are even more pitiful because they do not even know what has been taken from them." (Epistula 9:2)

A long-time Anglican who loves to teach. An anthropologist who observes patterns in societies and communities.

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